Alzheimer’s Disease May Be More Prevalent Among African-Americans

A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center reviews research that suggests that the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease among older African-Americans may be two to three times greater than in the non-Hispanic white population and that they differ from the non-Hispanic white population in risk factors and disease manifestation. The study results are published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

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Lisa Barnes, PhD

“The older African-American population is growing at a rapid pace, and the burden of aging-related cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease will continue to present a tremendous challenge,” said Lisa Barnes, PhD. “This study highlights the importance of research among minority groups within the communities in which hospitals serve.”

Barnes is the primary author and director of the Rush Center of Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and professor of Neurological Sciences and Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center.

“The lack of high-quality biologic data on large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities poses barriers to progress in understanding whether the mechanisms and processes of Alzheimer’s disease operate the same or differently in racial and ethnic minorities and, if so, how, particularly in the high-risk African-American population,” said Barnes.

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that 20 percent of the population ages 65 and older was a racial or ethnic minority member. Current projections suggest that by 2050, 42 percent of the nation’s older adults will be members of minority groups. Among those ages 85 and older, 33 percent are projected to be a minority.

Read the entire release for more information on the study.

How Calcium is Involved in Irregular Heartbeats

heartbeat_thinkstock_edited-1Researchers at Rush have identified the underlying mechanism of calcium-triggered cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. The discovery, described in the Jan. 19 issue of Nature Medicine, has major implications for the development of molecularly designed drugs specifically targeted at this form of arrhythmia.

The study was led by Wayne Chen, PhD, professor of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush and professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of Calgary-Libin Institute. Michael Fill, PhD, professor of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush, collaborated on the research.

Cardiac arrhythmias can cause dizziness and fainting, or in severe cases, sudden death. While many factors, including genetics, contribute to the development of arrhythmias, research has shown that a common cause of cardiac arrhythmias is calcium overload. Calcium overload disrupts the finely controlled electrical activity governing contraction of heart muscle.

Calcium is stored inside cardiac cells, much like skeletal muscle cells, in preparation for contraction. The protein responsible for release of calcium is known as the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2), or the calcium release channel, which acts like a safety valve that prevents calcium overload.

Read the news release.

‘Designer’ Fiber May Ease IBS Symptoms

MutluEce_edited-1A newly-developed, “designer” dietary fiber with an added potential prebiotic effect may eliminate the side effects of current treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10 to 20 percent of the population, disproportionately women.

The collaboration between a gastroenterologist at Rush and a carbohydrate chemist at Purdue University led to the development of the new product, a natural starch derived from a mixture of seaweed and starch in which the release of starch fiber in the gastrointestinal tract can be delayed, slowed and controlled to occur in the colon, rather than in the stomach and upper intestine.

“This new product prevents the discomfort and bloating associated with current fiber therapies, while getting our new fiber into the colon and specifically distal colon where traditional fiber products typically do not reach and where many diseases of colon-like cancers develop,” said Dr. Ece Mutlu, principal investigator the phase II trial that will begin at Rush in January 2014. “This can provide an effective treatment for IBS, decrease the risk of colon cancer and possibly inflammatory diseases like colitis,” she added. The study seeks 200 people who have been diagnosed with IBS and constipation.

In an earlier Phase I study with 60 patients suffering from constipation, the newly designed fiber was shown to be safe, better tolerated and with fewer side effects than currently available fiber treatments for constipation, and it had a positive effect on intestinal microbiota composition by promoting the growth of “healthy” bacteria in the colon.

Read the news release.

Digging Deeper Into Hereditary Cancer

UshaLydiaDr. Lydia Usha, director of the Rush Inherited Susceptibility to Cancer (RISC) program at Rush, is currently investigating genetic causes of cancer in patients who tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations but still developed breast or ovarian cancer and have a known mutation in one of these genes in the family.

The results may help explain why patients who test negative for a genetic predisposition to cancer may still develop cancer. Usha is examining the idea that certain people have the familial BRCA mutation in some tissues, but not in their blood. She hypothesizes that these patients have had BRCA-positive chimeric cells in their body since birth, making these cells more susceptible to developing cancer. Usha and her team are recruiting patients and testing their cancer tissue for the familial mutation.

“This is important because we know that some drugs are more effective in treating patients who have breast and ovarian cancers with these specific mutations,” Usha said.

Read the entire story.

MRSA Study Slashes Deadly Infections in Sickest Hospital Patients

Dr. Mary K. HaydenUsing germ-killing soap and ointment on all intensive care unit patients can reduce bloodstream infections by up to 44 percent and significantly reduce the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in ICUs, according study results published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The REDUCE MRSA trial, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, was conducted in two stages from 2009-2011. It tested three MRSA prevention strategies and found that using germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients was more effective than other strategies.

“The strategy that proved to be most effective was perhaps the most straightforward: All patients were bathed daily with chlorhexidine antiseptic soap for the duration of their ICU stay and all received mupirocin antibiotic ointment applied in the nose for five days,” said Dr. Mary K. Hayden, associate professor of infectious diseases and pathology at Rush University Medical Center, and one of the co-authors of the study.

Read the entire news release.