Testes stem cells an alternative to embryonic
STEM cells from adult testes could provide an alternative to embryonic stem cells in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. Scientists have obtained large numbers of adult stem cells from mouse testes, and shown that they can form working blood vessels in mice as well as become heart, brain and muscle cells in the laboratory. Their findings are reported this week in Nature . The usual role of these socalled ‘‘ spermatogonial progenitor cells’’ (SPC) is to generate the cells that will eventually become sperm. According to the authors, SPC are also a readily available source of stem cells with the same ability to form new tissues as embryonic stem cells, but without the ethical issues surrounding the use of embryos. If the findings hold true in humans, say the authors, male patients could have their own testicular stem cells collected to generate a range of tissues to help them fight disease. Nature 2007;doi:10.1038/ nature06129 (Seandel M, et al) BUMPER pads are supposed to protect babies inside the cot or bassinet, but new research in the JournalofPediatrics warns that bumpers do more harm than good. Researchers examined the records of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which holds information on injuries and deaths related to commercial products. Of the cases that were reported to the commission between 1985 and 2005, there were 27 accidental deaths of children aged one month to two years that were attributed to suffocation or strangulation by bumper pads or their ties. There were also 25 non-fatal injuries in infants attributed to bumper pads. Of the deaths in which there was a formal investigation, 11 infants probably suffocated when their faces rested against the bumper pads, 13 infants died from being wedged between the bumper pads and another object and three infants died from strangulation by bumper ties. As the risk of accidental death outweighed the benefits of preventing minor injuries, the study concluded that bumper pads should not be used. JPediatr 2007;151:271-274 (Thach BT, et al) CHILDREN with allergies are much more likely to develop asthma if they live in an economically developed country, according to new research in the AmericanJournalof RespiratoryandCriticalCareMedicine . The findings are based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood, involving nearly 9000 children aged eight to 12 years from 22 countries. Parents were surveyed about their children’s respiratory symptoms, children were tested for allergies using blood tests and skin-prick tests and the results were compared to the gross national income per capita (GNI) of the country from which they were collected. Children living in affluent countries with allergies were four times more likely to have asthma than their non-allergic counterparts, whereas in nonaffluent countries, children with allergic reactions were only 2.2 times more likely to have asthma. AmJRespirCritCareMed 2007;176:565-574 (Weinmayr G, et al) CHOLESTEROL testing could begin in babies as young as 15 months to prevent heart disease later in life, say the authors of a study in the BritishMedicalJournal this week. High cholesterol that runs in families (familial hypercholesterolaemia, or FH) affects around one in every 500 people, and carries a high risk of death from heart disease. Lowering cholesterol levels reduces the risks, but there is currently no accepted screening method for identifying affected people. Researchers analysed 13 published studies on cholesterol levels involving 1907 people with FH and 16,221 controls without FH. Screening for FH was most effective when done in early childhood (1-9 years), detecting 88 per cent of affected individuals. The authors suggest that children could be screened when they receive routine vaccinations at about 15 months of age. For every affected child, there is one affected parent. Following screening across both generations, treatment of the parent could begin immediately and treatment of the child could begin in adulthood. BMJ 2007;doi:10.1136/ bmj.39300.616076.55 (Wald DS, et al) WOMENwho have their first child before age 20 are at a higher risk of chronic diseases and death when they reach middle age, finds a new study in the JournalofHealthand SocialBehavior . The findings are based on 4335 women born in the United States between 1931 and 1941. They were first interviewed in 1992 (at ages 51 to 61) and then followed until 2002. Interviewers asked about their health, level of education, marital status, wealth, how many children they had and the age of each child. Women who first gave birth before age 20 were 1.4 times more likely to die during the study period than women whose first child was born after age 20. Women who had a child before age 20 also had higher rates of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. The author suggests that having a baby at a young age could lead to a lower economic status in mid-life, which is known to have a negative effect on health. JHealthSocBehav 2007;48:254-266 (Henretta JC) FASTING or eating half as much as usual every other day may shrink fat cells and boost the breakdown of fats, according to a new study in the JournalofLipidResearch . While the safest way to maintain or lose weight is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, some prefer the alternate day fasting (ADF) diet — eating as much as you want one day and fasting the next. Scientists studied the effects of the ADF diet on 24 male mice for four weeks. Mice that fasted completely on alternate days lost body weight and their fat cells shrank in size by more than half. Fat under the skin — but not abdominal fat — was broken down more than in mice that did not follow the diet. Mice that reduced their food intake by half on alternate days showed a 35 per cent reduction in fat cell size, but no decrease in body weight. More studies are needed to assess the long-term effects of the ADF diet, say the authors. JLipidRes 2007;48:2212-2219 (Varady KA, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Bumpers: Best left off the cot