Testes stem cells an al­ter­na­tive to em­bry­onic

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - THE PULSE Com­piled by Dr Chris­tine White

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

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