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Dairy farmers can get sexed semen for native cattle breeds within India – Times of India

Chandigarh: For the first time, dairy farmers will now have the option of sexed semen for desi cattle breeds like Sahiwal, Gir and Red Sindhi cows and Murrah buffaloes. Sexed genetics, which is used to produce offspring of a desired sex, was not available for these breeds till now. ABS India (ABS), a division of Genus Plc, on Thursday launched ‘sexed dairy genetics’ in Chandigarh. The technology is designed to deliver more high-value pregnancies to dairy herds countrywide. Priced differently for different genetics, ABS Sexcel will be available to the Indian dairy farmers at approximately 30-40% less than the import price of the sexed semen. At a press conference to announce the launch, British deputy high commissioner, Andrew Ayre said, “It is an important day for the UK and the Indian dairy industry to extend Sexcel benefits to Indian dairy farmers, helping them to double their income by 2022 as targeted by the government.” Arvind Gautam, managing director, ABS India said it would give farmers a new option for achieving their desired genetic blueprint and would help them profit through genetic progress. “We have a unique product and trial results are very effective. For the first time, sexed semen of indigenous cattle breeds like Sahiwal, Red Sindhi and Gir cows and Murrah buffaloes is available in India.” Rahul Gupta, head (production) of the company added, “Dairy farmers may now breed their cows with the sexed genetics specifically designed to produce more female cows using this new technology. The technology produces female sexed semen through a new, cutting edge, laser-kill technology.”

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Dairy farmers can get sexed semen for native cattle breeds within India – Times of India

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Why some baby bees are destined to become workersor queens – Science Magazine

By Giorgia GuglielmiAug. 31, 2017 , 2:13 PM

The saying you are what you eat is particularly true for female honey bees, which grow up to be either small, sterile workers or large, fertile queens depending on their diet. Previously, many researchers thought that something in the food fed to young queensa secretion called royal jellywas what made the difference. Now, a new study suggests its signaling molecules in the grub of young worker bees that keeps their sexual development in check. That diet, a mixture of pollen and honey called beebread, is shot through with a special kind of microRNA (miRNA), noncoding RNA molecules that help regulate gene expression. To find out whetherthese miRNAs were the culprit, scientists added them to the diet of larvae raised in the lab. These larvae developed more slowly, with smaller bodies and smaller ovaries than larvae fed food without the supplement, the team reports today in PLOS Genetics. The researchers also found that one common, plant-derived miRNA in beebread switches off a gene that helps larvae turn into queens. After being eaten with food, the miRNAs might enter the bees gut and spread throughout the rest of the body, where they could help regulate key genes, the scientists say. Although plant miRNAs alone arent likely to turn queens into workers, queens-to-be probably dont want to eat the commoners bread.

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Why some baby bees are destined to become workersor queens – Science Magazine

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Kansas researchers looking at new wheat varieties – San Francisco Chronicle

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Research at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center could revolutionize farming not just in Kansas but around the world.

Scientists there use advanced breeding techniques to isolate sought-after qualities. Different than genetic modification, breeding selects wheat varieties that need less water, can grow in extreme heat, or are durable against disease and pests in process that can take nearly a decade. Researchers at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center hope to reduce that time so farmers can grow better wheat, faster, said Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations.

This year, the wheat streak mosaic virus ravaged wheat crops in western Kansas. A tiny mite that remained active during an unusually warm winter spread the disease over a larger area than before. Within a few years, a variety of wheat resistant to the virus will be in the hands of farmers, Harries said.

But even as researchers develop tougher wheats, Mother Nature catches up. Disease evolves and climates change.

“We’re always striving to improve the yield,” he said.

This year, a consortium of international geneticists will likely finish sequencing wheat’s genome.

Similar to the Human Genome Project that mapped human genetics, the project, which began in part with the center’s research, will lay out the fundamentals of the wheat gene so scientists can more easily identify desirable traits.

It’s not just farmers that benefit from Kansas Wheat research. Varieties are being developed that are naturally sweeter, so bakers and food companies can use less sugar to sweeten doughs.

The Capital-Journal reports that researchers are also talking to the growing number of people who have celiac disease. Those with the condition are unable to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. With clues unlocked in the wheat genome, the institute hopes to locate the specific portions of the protein that cause the reaction and breed it out or silence it, Harries said.

“That’s the protein that makes bread rise, so we’re not trying to make it ‘gluten free,'” he said. “We’re trying to make it ‘celiac safe.'”

To find the wheat qualities farmers and consumers want, researchers not only turn to wheat currently being grown, but they also have a store of ancient grains the wild grass varieties bred together to form modern wheat. Scientists collected the grains from places such as Syria, Iraq and Israel.

“We go treasure hunting for traits from those relatives and cross them into modern bread wheat,” Harries said.

With all these different types of wheat on the market, Harries said the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center sees a revolution coming in the way wheat is grown, sold and processed. Currently, farmers growing consumer grain sell it to the elevator at harvest, which turns it over to a company in the food industry.

In future, farmers may contract directly with a certain company to grow a specific type of wheat.

A farmer with 100 acres may grow 50 acres of consumer wheat, 25 acres of sweet wheat and 25 acres of celiac-safe wheat, Harries said.

“Ultimately that will change the way we grow wheat.” he said.

These advances in wheat are years away, but they begin in tiny pots in the institute’s more than 35,000-square-foot, $11 million facility. That’s where Heartland Plant Innovations research associate Tyler Suelter and a team breed new wheat varieties using a doubled haploid technique that can shave years off the breeding process.

Suelter said it sounds complex, but it’s really an acceleration of traditional breeding.

The process involves producing plants that have all the same genetics. When a variety is identified, scientists emasculate the plants, leaving only the female reproductive system.

Maize is used to pollinate the plant so an embryo is produced. Since the embryo wasn’t pollinated with wheat, it has half the number of chromosomes. Breeders will later double the count, so the plant has two copies of identical chromosomes a process that takes generations with typical breeding.

The research has produced nearly 100,000 doubled haploid variations and reduces the amount of time it takes to breed a new wheat variety.

“The time savings comes from how long it takes to grow the plants out. With (traditional breeding), you grow out several generations, and each takes six months,” Suelter said. “With doubled haploid, you basically fix those traits in a single generation.”

___

Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

An AP Member Exchange shared by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

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Kansas researchers looking at new wheat varieties – San Francisco Chronicle

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Women forces to be reckoned with in agriculture – Bizcommunity.com

Women have had to face many challenges within the workforce, particularly in the agriculture sector, which has traditionally been dominated by men. This changing, however, as more women are establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with within the industry.

Although in different parts of the business, both women are focused on making the company and industry more sustainable. Nkala started her career at McCain South Africa through the company Graduate Trainee Program in 2004. Since then she has been promoted into different positions including being the first ever female production manager at the Springs plant, a position she holds today. Vorster followed her interest and passion for genetics and extension to McCain South Africa, where she is currently the only female Agronomist.

Both women have pioneered different techniques and implemented strategies to help McCain South Africa become more sustainable as a business.

Pumeza Nkala

Educating colleagues and employees on water became incredibly important. By making people aware of the drought and its effect, we were able to ensure that water usage was handled effectively and efficiently, explains Nkala. The water reduction strategy looked at technical elements like water cascading, process refinements and different process technologies. The result of this is that each of the plants now has a dedicated water usage team that reviews water usage results daily and proposes gap closing measures.

Since implementing this strategy there has been a 42% reduction in water wastage at the Springs plant and a 23% reduction at the Delmas facility over the past two years.

Ineke Vorster

As an agronomist, she plays an important role within the business. She looks at how varieties can help to optimise yields on the field and in the factory. This is made possible when crops are planted in the correct place and in the correct way. If the soil isnt perfect or the conditions are not favourable there could be a negative impact on the crops and this, in turn, will affect stock and what consumers will be able to buy. Not only could this affect the business and consumers, but the farmers as well.

Vorster goes above and beyond to ensure that the farms are sustainable and that the landscape can handle the planting in order to preserve and look after the growing crops and farms. I absolutely love everything about my job, the trial work is quite repetitive and you need to constantly look for answers and solutions. By actively being out there in the fields, you pick up on things that can sometimes be missed in theory, says Vorster. She says that it is the interaction with farmers, field officers and trying to find a solution to problems that they are facing that really gives her a thrill.

Both Nkala and Vorster want to encourage young women to follow their dreams and to not let anything stand in their way. We have all faced challenges in our lives but it is how you overcome them and rise above them that really matters. If you love what you do and are following your passion every day it really does make a difference, so dont settle for anything less than what you want, concluded Vorster.

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Women forces to be reckoned with in agriculture – Bizcommunity.com

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Human Stem Cells Fight Parkinson’s Disease in Monkeys – Scientific American

LONDON (Reuters)Scientists have successfully used reprogrammed stem cells to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys, raising hopes the technique could be used in future to help patients with Parkinsons disease.

Since Parkinsons is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical.

Now, for the first time, Japanese researchers have shown that human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be administered safely and effectively to treat primates with symptoms of the debilitating disease.

So-called iPS cells are made by removing mature cells from an individualoften from the skinand reprogramming them to behave like embryonic stem cells. They can then be coaxed into dopamine-producing brain cells.

The scientists from Kyoto University, a world-leader in iPS technology, said their experiment indicated that this approach could potentially be used for the clinical treatment of human patients with Parkinsons.

In addition to boosting dopamine production, the tests showed improved movement in affected monkeys and no tumors in their brains for at least two years.

The human iPS cells used in the experiment worked whether they came from healthy individuals or Parkinsons disease patients, the Japanese team reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

This is extremely promising research demonstrating that a safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinsons can be produced in the lab, said Tilo Kunath of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research.

The next step will be to test the treatment in a first-in-human clinical trial, which Jun Takahashi of Kyoto University told Reuters he hoped to start by the end of 2018.

Any widespread use of the new therapy is still many years away, but the research has significantly reduced previous uncertainties about iPS-derived cell grafts.

The fact that this research uses iPS cells rather human embryonic stem cells means the treatment would be acceptable in countries such as Ireland and much of Latin America, where embryonic cells are banned.

Excitement about the promise of stem cells has led to hundreds of medical centers springing up around the world claiming to be able to repair damaged tissue in conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons.

While some treatments for cancer and skin grafts have been approved by regulators, many other potential therapies are only in early-stage development, prompting a warning last month by health experts about the dangers of stem-cell tourism.

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Human Stem Cells Fight Parkinson’s Disease in Monkeys – Scientific American

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Is the 1k facial that helps you retain your summer glow worth it? – Telegraph.co.uk

Evans applies a creamy layer of plant stem cells followed by an ultra-sound treatment, which pushes the nutrients into the skin 4,000 times deeper than they would reach by hand. Then the gloopy soothing mask which contains vitamins and minerals in an alginate base. It covers the eyes, nose and mouth before setting into rubbery contours for 20 minutes; Im feeling like the jelly inside a mould, setting for a party.

Just to ramp up the sci-fi element, Evans attaches galvanic currents at the top which make my forehead tingle and improve blood flow. It might feel a bit lonely behind the mask, but Evans is massaging my neck and shoulders, and Sandra Felicio, one of her colleagues, is suddenly at my feet, providing a reflexology treatment.

Once the mask is peeled off, theres still time for a facial massage with a copper wand for stress reduction and gentle face lifting, and an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) PL laser treatment which stimulates collagen, evens out skin tone, and gets to work on pigmentation spots caused by sun damage. After 150 minutes of dedicated work, I now know how my car feels in the MOT garage.

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Is the 1k facial that helps you retain your summer glow worth it? – Telegraph.co.uk

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I Tried a Bunch of DNA Tests and All I Got Was a Bunch of Useless Data – Gizmodo

Illustration by Sam Woolley/Gizmodo Media

As a young child, every morning at sunrise I would wake up to tap dance on the patio outside my moms bedroom door, much to my poor moms chagrin. These sunrise salutations became an enduring family story, as did my habit of getting up with the sun.Imagine my surprise, then, when a DNA test recently suggested that I am, in fact, a night owl.

This personal insight came to me via SlumberType, a new DNA analysis app that looks at 10 different genetic variants associated with sleep in order to model your genetic chronotype, or, as the company puts it, where you fall along a spectrum of morningness to eveningness. SlumberType is one of more than a dozen new DNA products in the new DNA app store recently launched by the consumer genetic testing startup Helix. The apps, which rely on DNA sequencing results the user purchases from Helix, range in purpose from the simply entertaining to those intended to helping people sleep, eat and exercise better. But as you might imagine, the secret to a good nights sleep is a little more complicated than DNA alone.

The idea behind SlumberType, Ron Andrews, the CEO of its parent company, Exploragen, told me, is to help people get a better nights sleep by understanding what genetics might say about their natural tendencies. The companys scientists combed through dozens of studies on sleep, and chose genetic variants most strongly associated with sleep to build a formula for modeling peoples individual chronotypes. Andrews said his test helped him realize that hes a bee, (a morning person) and adjust his sleep patterns accordingly. My own results had suggested I am at the far end of the spectrum, my peak activity hours falling in the wee hours of the night. I am typing these words, by the way, at 5:00 a.m., after falling asleep at my laptop working at the oh-so-late hour of 9:00 p.m.

In the past decade, DNA sequencing has gotten really, really cheap, paving the way for an onslaught of direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies that purport to offer the answers to everything from what wine you might like to the type of exercise optimized for your body.

Typically consumer DNA tests require that you spit in a tube, send your saliva into a lab, and a few weeks later get back a one-time report. Helix, though, has a different vision. For an initial fee of $80, the company sequences whats known as the exome, the 20,000 or so most important genes of the human genome. Its a far more extensive test than the genotyping companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com perform. Customers can then pick and choose what pieces of information they might like from their genome, purchasing third-party DNA apps from the Helix store. These apps include those labeled entertainment, like Insitomes ancestry app designed to determine what percentage of your DNA is from Neanderthals. It includes health apps from partners like the Mayo Clinic to help inform people what genetic diseases they may carry. And it includes app advising people on lifestyle choices like exercise and nutrition, the category of testing that has received the most criticism from scientists. The idea is that customers will return to the DNA app store again and again throughout their lives.

Ive previously reported on the pseudoscientific nature of many lifestyle DNA tests. The premise easily inspires skepticisma simple spit test that tells you how to best live your life? Many tests rely on either incomplete science, or an incomplete understanding of how much your genetics relate to who you are.

But I was still curiouscould I glean something useful from these tests, something Id never considered? I tested out a handful of DNA wellness apps from Helixs app store, as well as from Orig3n, another consumer genetic testing company that offers lifestyle DNA tests. On the whole, I found myself besieged by so much (often conflicting) information that it was hard to make any sense of what it really meant. I was sold on the promises of unlocking a whole new level of information, for a truly personalized approach to my health, but what I unlocked instead was a data-driven headache.

One gene in Orig3ns Bliss test confirmedthat I am indeed a morning person, reassuring me that SlumberType had been wrong. Other tests contradicted facts I know to be true, such as the test that told me I have naturally high levels of B12; earlier this year, I started taking vitamin B supplements after a blood test at my doctors office revealed my levels of vitamin B were extremely low. Individual tests also seemed to sometimes contradict themselves, as did the test that informed me I was both not at risk for obesity (hooray!) and prone to obesity (damn) based on different genes.

One genetic variant suggested I may have lower levels of the bad kind of cholesterol. Another indicated higher cholesterol levels than the recommended levels. One test said I metabolized caffeine and alcohol normally. Another said I was fast to metabolize caffeine and slow to metabolize alcohol. While there seemed to be no agreement on whether I can taste bitterness in food, my taste buds assure me that I can.

In 2008, an European Journal of Human Geneticsarticlesuggested that direct-to-consumer genetic tests are often little better than horoscopes that tell people information they were already predisposed to believe. Like a horoscope, I found myself nodding along to information that already fit into my pre-conceived notion of self, and tossing aside anything that didnt.

Most of this stuff is bogus, Eric Topol, a geneticist at Scripps Research Institute, told me as he scrolled through Helixs DNA app store on the other end of the line. I can find hardly any science that backs most of this up. Its going to give genomics a bad name.

There are plenty of explanations for the inconstancies I found in my tests. In some cases, the science was simply shaky, based on studies that were too small, too few or too narrow to extrapolate for the general population. When it comes to nutrition, several experts told me that there is simply not enough research to back up the majority of the many nutrigenomics tests now on the market. (There are a few exceptions. For example, the genomics behind genes that result in lactose intolerance are well-studied.) Different tests look at different genes to tell you the same piece of information. And methods of interpretation vary. SlumberType, for example, built an algorithmic model of my chronotype based on several genetic variants. Orig3n, on the other hand, simply tells users about all of the individual genes they have and what each variant might mean, which is why some of the results seemed contradictory.

The other hitch is that we are, of course, more than the sum of our genetic partsmy tendency towards sunrise is based on more than just the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that comprise my DNA code. Children and elderly people generally rise early; teens stay up late at night. Gender, diet, ethnicity, exercise and other environmental factors can all play a role.

Ive been worried for many years that in the public discourse there is this message that we are our DNA, UC Berkeley geneticist Rasmus Nielsen told me. The biggest problem is that this stuff is marketed as actionable and there is no evidence of that. If theyre selling snake oil, its because of this implicit claim that you can somehow improve your health.

Test that give consumers information about disease must go through the FDA approval process, but otherwise consumer genetic testing has so far evaded regulatory approval. The biggest risk in getting a genetic palm reading is likely to your bank account. But critics point out other troubling possibilities. For one, the growing market of pseudoscientific tests might give consumers a misunderstanding of genetics.

The privacy you give up when giving out your genetic information is a concerna court of law could compel companies to hand over your DNA. And, as all genetic testing companies point out in their fine print, while the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act protects against health insurers requesting your genetic data, it does not prevent providers of life, disability or long-term care insurance from doing so when a test has already been done.

Nielsen also told me tests doling out fitness and dietary advice could wind up encouraging people to adopt lifestyle habits that are not really right for them. Many tests suggest that users seek out the advice of a doctor before making lifestyle changes, but often its in the fine print, or somewhere equally easy to miss.

Even if the information is useful, some studies have suggested consumers dont actually change their behavior based on genetic tests anyway.

Its hard to know if these tests are safe without knowing how people are really using them, said Neilsen. In general, you have to ask if its really good to have more information if you dont really have the skills to use that information?

For me, utility was the biggest sticking point. I had a deluge of data about my health and fitness, but there were so many data points I had no idea how to make sense of them. Some results were intriguing, such as the suggestion that a deleted GSTM1 gene means I need to eat more cruciferous vegetables to help my body make up for a lacking enzyme that helps with detoxification. Most of the time, though, the information just wasnt useful.

This isnt to say there are no genetic tests that are worthwhile. Tests like that for the BRCA gene, for example, can help a woman make important decisions about her own health, and parents-to-be often benefit from finding out whether they are carriers for serious genetic disorders.

Some of these things have value, said Topol, pointing to the hereditary cancer test set to debut in the Helix marketplace soon. But cholesterol, you dont need a genetic test for that. It doesnt matter if you have a gene variant. Either you have high cholesterol or you dont.

Robert Green, a Harvard geneticist and advisor to Helix, told me that while he doesnt think every DNA app on the market is useful or scientifically valid, he does think that the explosion of the consumer genomics market will help to educate consumers and ultimately to democratize DNA.

There is a tension between building on legitimate science and marketing things that stray so far from the science or imply lifestyle utility that hasnt been proven, he told me. There is an explosion going on in personalized genomics and its not going to slow down. I dont think we can stop it, so I think we have to start going in the other direction.

Green said he anticipates the field being messy for a while. In the end, though, he sees lifestyle products like those Helix and Orig3n offer as relatively harmless ways to start learning about genetics.

James Lu, co-founder and chief science officer of Helix, was upfront about the limitations of what his companys genetic testing can tell you.

Historically there has been this perspective that DNA is this book of all answers, a Magic 8 ball, per se, he said. Science has categorically proven thats untrue.

His hope, though, is that as the field progresses, the apps in the Helix app store will be able to do a better job contextualizing information to help consumers make sense of what all that data means.

Were going to have to merge DNA and other information together to provide complete answers, he said. Its still the early days. I think a lot of the problems we see in the field will resolve themselves.

Some of the products I tried did give me useful information about how to read my results. DNAFit offers several fitness and nutrition products through the Helix app store. When you get your results, before revealing them the company guides you to a page that explains everything about who we are is comprised of the interaction between two factors how we are born (our genetics), and what we do (our environment and lifestyle). Understanding your genetics, it says, can help you to change the second part and achieve a happier, healthier you.

In the end, though, information is only valuable if we can make sense of it.

DNAFits fine-print reveals something that reads closer to the truth: Genetic Information is subject to significant limitations; some of the interpretations that we provide may not be applicable;Genetic Information reported has not been clinically validated.

In the end, what use did learning I have genes that indicate I am a night owl really do? My genes are part of who I am. But who I am is not a night owl, no matter what any DNA test might say.

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I Tried a Bunch of DNA Tests and All I Got Was a Bunch of Useless Data – Gizmodo

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NorthShore University HealthSystem now gives patients option for genetic testing during annual checkups – FierceHealthcare

To better manage patient health, healthcare systems are looking for innovative ways to managehealth risk.And to better manage patient health, NorthShore University HealthSystem is encouragingpatients to add a genetic test to their annual physical.

While NorthShore gauges patient interest in taking the test and helps patients choose what types of screening they may want, patients must pay for any testing themselves, according to an article in Business Insider. The hospital uses an algorithm that scans a patients EHR information to determine the appropriate tests. Because those tests tend to be relatively specific and the science behind the testing changes constantly, the hospital expects such testing to be done annually, rather than as a one-time screening.

As healthcare providers take on more risk for patient health in the context of value-based care, facilities like NorthShore feel a need to be more proactive about keeping patients healthy, rather than focusing solely on treating them when they become ill, Peter Hulick, M.D., the facilitys director of the Center for Personalized Medicine, told the publication

Some analysts have already dubbed the advent of consumer genetic testing a turning point for the practice of precision medicine, which uses genetic data to attempt to predict conditions to which patients may be prone, such as cancers that carry a known hereditary risk. Whether precision medicine warrants the positive buzz remains an open question, however, especially as labs responsible for genetic testing have come under scrutiny for aggressive marketing efforts and alleged kickback schemes.

Some of the questions surrounding the efficacy of genetic testing stem from the relative novelty of the field, so part of NorthShores mission in adding the tests lies in fleshing out the type of value such tests may have, according to the article.

Scientific data aside, the tests have been good for patient satisfaction, according to Hulick. He says offering the option of genetic testing has generated positive feedback, even among patients whose histories did not indicate a need to do any testing.

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NorthShore University HealthSystem now gives patients option for genetic testing during annual checkups – FierceHealthcare

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Liverpool Women’s Hospital to increase genetic testing of babies – Liverpool Echo

Liverpool Womens Hospital is to expand its ability to genetically test newborn babies 12-fold.

The NHS Foundation Trust will be able to screen all infants for inherited conditions or illnesses and plan for early treatment as part of a major new IT project.

IT firm Novosco will introduce the computing system which also contribute to a major population health programme in Liverpool – analysing genetic information by location, identifying and enabling work to prevent localised health issues.

The role of genetics in healthcare is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of development for Liverpool Womens.

It provides a regional clinical genetics service covering a population of around 2.8 million people from across Merseyside, Cheshire and the Isle of Man.

Chief executive Kathryn Thomson posted on the trusts website: To discover that you or any child you have or plan to have may be at risk of a genetic disorder which could cause disability or a rare condition is traumatic.

People are sometimes shocked and anxious and wonder what the future might hold.

They need as much information and support as possible to help them cope.

That is why the often unsung work of our clinical genetics team is so important, providing diagnosis and supporting families when they need it most.

Novosco managing director Patrick McAliskey said: We are delighted to secure this contract which will enable the trust to take genetic testing to the next level and play an important role in the identification and prevention of conditions and illnesses in new-born babies and the wider population.

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Liverpool Women’s Hospital to increase genetic testing of babies – Liverpool Echo

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Reprogrammed cells relieve Parkinson’s symptoms in trials – Nature.com

B. Bick, . Poindexter, UT Med. School/SPL

A depletion of brain cells that produce dopamine is responsible for the mobility problems seen in people with Parkinsons disease.

Japanese researchers report promising results from an experimental therapy for Parkinsons disease that involves implanting neurons made from reprogrammed stem cells into the brain. A trial conducted in monkeys with a version of the disease showed that the treatment improved their symptoms and seemed to be safe, according to a report published on 30 August in Nature1.

The studys key finding that the implanted cells survived in the brain for at least two years without causing any dangerous effects in the body provides a major boost to researchers hopes of testing stem-cell treatments for Parkinsons in humans, say scientists.

Jun Takahashi, a stem-cell scientist at Kyoto University in Japan who led the study, says that his team plans to begin transplanting neurons made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into people with Parkinsons in clinical trials soon.

The research is also likely to inform several other groups worldwide that are testing different approaches to treating Parkinsons using stem cells, with trials also slated to begin soon.

Nature breaks down the latest research and what it means for the future of stem-cell treatments.

Parkinsons is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the death of cells called dopaminergic neurons, which make a neurotransmitter called dopamine in certain areas of the brain. Because dopamine-producing brain cells are involved in movement, people with the condition experience characteristic tremors and stiff muscles. Current treatments address symptoms of the disease but not the underlying cause.

Researchers have pursued the idea that pluripotent stem cells, which can form any cell type in the body, could replace dead dopamine-making neurons in people with Parkinsons, and thus potentially halt or even reverse disease progression. Embryonic stem cells, derived from human embryos, have this capacity, but they have been the subject of ethical debates. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are made by coaxing adult cells into an embryonic-like state, have the same versatility without the associated ethical concerns.

Takahashis team transformed iPS cells derived from both healthy people and those with Parkinsons into dopamine-producing neurons. They then transplanted these cells into macaque monkeys with a form of the disease induced by a neuron-killing toxin.

The transplanted brain cells survived for at least two years and formed connections with the monkeys brain cells, potentially explaining why the monkeys treated with cells began moving around their cages more frequently.

Crucially, Takahashis team found no sign that the transplanted cells had developed into tumours a key concern with treatments that involve pluripotent cells or that they evoked an immune response that couldnt be controlled with immune-suppressing drugs.

Its addressing a set of critical issues that need to be investigated before one can, with confidence, move to using the cells in humans, says Anders Bjorklund, a neuroscientist at Lund University in Sweden.

I hope we can begin a clinical trial by the end of next year, says Takahashi. Such a trial would be the first iPS cell trial for Parkinson’s. In 2014, a Japanese woman in her 70s became the first person to receive cells derived from iPS cells, to treat her macular degeneration.

In theory, iPS cells could be tailor-made for individual patients, which would eliminate the need to use drugs that suppress a possible immune response to foreign tissues.

But customized iPS cells are expensive to make and can take a couple months to derive and grow, Takahashi notes. So his team instead plans to establish iPS cell lines from healthy people and then use immune cell biomarkers to match them to people with Parkinsons in the hope of minimizing the immune response (and therefore the need for drugs to blunt the attack).

In a study described in an accompanying paper in Nature Communications2, Takahashis team implanted into monkeys iPS-cell-derived neurons from different macaques. They found that transplants between monkeys carrying similar white blood cell markers triggered a muted immune reaction.

Earlier this year, Chinese researchers began a Parkinsons trial that used a different approach: giving patients neural-precursor cells made from embryonic stem cells, which are intended to develop into mature dopamine-producing neurons. A year earlier, in a separate trial, patients in Australia received similar cells. But some researchers have expressed concerns that the immature transplanted cells could develop tumour-causing mutations.

Meanwhile, researchers who are part of a Parkinsons stem-cell therapy consortium called GForce-PD, of which Takahashis team is a member, are set to bring still other approaches to the clinic. Teams in the United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom are all planning trials to transplant dopamine-producing neurons made from embryonic stem cells into humans. Previously established lines of embryonic stem cells have the benefit that they are well studied and can be grown in large quantities, and so all trial participants can receive a standardized treatment, notes Bjorklund, also a consortium member.

Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, favours transplanting iPS-derived neurons made from a patients own cells. Although expensive, this approach avoids dangerous immunosuppressive drugs, she says. And because iPS cells are established anew for each patient, the lines go through relatively few cell divisions, minimizing the risk that they will develop tumour-causing mutations. Loring hopes to begin her teams trial in 2019. This shouldnt be a race and were cheering for success by all, she says.

Lorenz Studer, a stem-cell scientist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who is working on a trial that will use neurons made from embryonic stem cells, says that there are still issues to work out, such as the number of cells needed in each transplant procedure. But he says that the latest study is a sign that we are ready to move forward.

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Stevenage-based Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult gets 12 million … – Comet 24

PUBLISHED: 18:08 31 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:08 31 August 2017

Mia Jankowicz

The Gene and Cell Therapy Catapult is due to open in Autumn 2017. Picture: Daniel Buman

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The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult is making its home at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus in Gunnels Wood Road, and is due to open in autumn 2017.

Now an extra 12 million in government funds will go towards fitting out the buildings second floor.

The centre had already attracted 55 million of funding in 2014 from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy).

The extra funds will double the centres capacity and at full capacity it is predicted to bring 1.2 billion in revenue by 2020.

Chief executive officer Keith Thompson explained to the Comet that Stevenage was a good fit for the site, with the towns closeness to airports as well as the presence of other scientific expertise all big positives.

We went through a very rigorous search across the UK for our site, said Mr Thompson.

Theres a strong pedigree of pharmaceuticals around the area.

Stevenages workforce also stands to benefit, with the potential creation of around 180 support jobs.

The Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult has a mission to accelerate the UKs cell therapy industry and to make Stevenage an industry world leader.

Currently, one problem holding up cell research globally is the low availability of the large numbers of cells needed to perform large-scale clinical trials.

The 7,200-square-metre facility will allow UK businesses that are developing new cell therapy treatments to use its labs to manufacture cells for clinical trials at a large scale.

Cell and gene therapies are showing potential worldwide to combat numerous illnesses.

At the frontier of medical science, cell therapy is a technique which involves the injection of living cells into the human body in order to repair the direct causes of genetic diseases.

For example, the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult played a large role in the creation of modified cells that are trained to recognise a certain protein in leukaemia cells, and then attack and destroy the cancerous cells.

To find out more visit http://www.ct.catapult.org.uk.

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News of NoteGene therapy to protect the heart; boosting chemo with cardio drugs; reversing memory loss – FierceBiotech

Could junk DNA protect our hearts?

Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute reported that they successfully used gene therapy to lower cholesterol in mouse models of familial hypercholesterolemia. The gene they used, called LeXis, was once considered junk DNA because it seemed to serve no purpose. But when the researchers gave the mice LeXis and then fed them a high-cholesterol diet for 15 weeks (think cheeseburgers and fries), their cholesterol went down, artery blockages opened up andless fat appeared to build upin their livers. The research was published in the journal Circulation. Release

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) causes bone marrow to leak blood, which in turn impedes the proper delivery of chemotherapy. So they tried mixing chemo with experimental drugs designed to treat heart and blood vessel disorders, and the results were promising. In mouse models of AML and in human tissue samples, the heart drugs stopped the leaks and the chemo became more effective, the researchers reported in the journal Cancer Cell. They believe the findings may point to a potential new combination of treatments for AML. Release

Researchers at Columbia University have completed mouse studies suggesting that a hormone produced by bone cells, osteocalcin, may be useful in reversing memory loss that occurs as part of aging. They gave aged mice continuous infusions of the hormone for two months and observed improvements on two different memory tests. Similar results were seen when the mice were given plasma from young mice, which have naturally high levels of osteocalcin. They plan to do more research to determine whether their findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, can be translated to drug therapies for people. Release

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‘Hit-and-run’ gene therapy nanoparticles could enhance CAR-T … – FierceBiotech

Personalized cancer treatments known as CAR-T cells (chimeric antigen receptor T cells) have dominated the headlines lately, thanks to Novartis tisagenlecleucel, which won an early approval from the FDA for the treatment of leukemia on Aug. 30. But CAR-T treatments are labor-intensive and expensive to make, and they can attack healthy tissues in the body, leading to dangerous side effects.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have developed a tool that they believe could address both those shortcomings of CAR-T and other forms of cell engineering. They have invented nanoparticles that deliver proteins to cells, which in turn edit those cells genes temporarily. Lead author and bioengineer Matthias Stephan describes it as hit-and-run gene therapy, and he believes the technique will streamline the manufacturing of cell-based therapies.

Heres how it works: The nanoparticles home in on specific cells, such as the T cells in the immune system. They then deposit messenger RNA (mRNA) to those cells, which triggers short-term changes in the proteins the genes produce. The technology does not permanently change the DNA, but it makes enough of an impact on it to produce a therapeutic outcome.

RELATED: Can CAR-T cancer treatments be fine-tuned to avoid toxic side effects?

Whats more, the nanoparticles can be freeze-dried and then activated with a small amount of water. They really let you fulfill all your wishes as a genetic engineer because you can pack in all your different [gene-therapy] components and further improve the therapeutic potential of your cell product without additional manufacturing steps, Stephan said in an article posted on Fred Hutchs website.

Stephans team proved out their concept by testing the nanoparticles in three different cell-engineering applications, one of which was CAR-T. Currently, CAR-T treatments are made by giving T cellsgenes that teach them to destroy cancer cells. The Fred Hutch scientists used their nanoparticles to remove a different gene from T cellsone that normally prompts them to attack healthy tissue.

Then they tried enhancing the CAR-T cells in a different manner. They temporarily gave them genes that have the potential to make central memory T cells, which are able to survive over the long term, remembering their cancerous targets and attacking them should they ever resurface.

The scientists tested their engineered CAR-T cells in mouse models of leukemia and found that the animals that received them lived twice as long as mice that got conventional CAR-T cells. They also tested the nanoparticles in two other cancer-related applications of gene therapy.

Despite all the excitement over CAR-T, concerns about side effects continue to dog the field. A dangerous immune reaction known as a cytokine storm has been seen in trials of both Novartis treatment and Axi-Cel, a CAR-T from Kite Pharma, which is being acquired by Gilead. The third player in the CAR-T field, Juno Therapeutics, saw its late-stage trials delayed when some patients died of neurological side effects.

Fred Hutch scientists have been working on other techniques for improving CAR-T. In December, a set of researchers there who receive funding from Juno announced positive results from a trial of a fine-tuned CAR-T treatment in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Instead of using just one type of CAR-T, the team combined two specially selected cell subtypes into one treatment. They also announced they had identified biomarkers that they believe can be used to predict which patients are likely to have severe reactions to the treatment.

Stephans team is now collaborating with several companies to fine-tune CAR-T treatments for cancer, according to Fred Hutch. And they believe their freeze-dried nanoparticles may prove useful in developing treatments for a range of other diseases, too, including HIV and blood disorders caused by defective hemoglobin.

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A ‘historic’ cancer treatment designed by Penn researchers just got approved by the FDA – The Daily Pennsylvanian

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Penn Medicine researchers made huge strides in the medical world Wednesday when the Food and Drug Administration approved a gene-altering cancer treatment that they designed. It’s the first of its kind to be approved.

The therapy is marketed as Kymriah and made by Novartis, but was originally developed at Penn by Carl June, a Penn Medicine professor in immunotherapy, and his team, The New York Times reported. The treatment, which is the first-of-its-kind in the United States, uses the patient’s genetically altered immune cells to fight the disease.

The FDA called the gene therapy a “historic” act.

Timothy Cripe, an oncologist with Nationwide Children’s Hospitalin Columbus, Ohio, referred to the research as the “most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime,” The Washington Post reported.

The treatment is meant for children and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, especially those who don’t respond well to traditional treatment methods.

According to the New York Times, the first child to receive the therapy was Emily Whitehead in 2012. Whitehead was severely ill from leukemia in 2012, but after treatment, has been free from cancer for more than five years.

Penn researchers have been working on approving this treatment method for years. In 2011, the results of the CAR-T cell therapy, as the treatment was initially called, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine by June and his team. It was the first demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to create serial killer T cells targeting cancerous tumors, according to a press release by the Penn medical school.

A year later, the University partnered with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to continue research on immunotherapy research. At the time, the collaboration was the largest academic-industry agreement in Penns history.

In 2016, Penn Medicine, along with five other peer institutions, partnered with The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy after receiving a $250 million grant to develop new techniques for cancer treatment.

Novartis said the gene-therapy would cost $475,000 and would be available at an initial network of 20 approved medical centers, as the treatment is hard to administer.

I have to keep pinching myself to see that this happened, June said to The New York Times. It was so improbable that this would ever be a commercially approved therapy, and now its the first gene therapy approved in the United States. Its so different from all the pharmaceutical models. I think the cancer world is forever changed.

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Gene therapy using ‘junk DNA’ could lower risk for heart disease – UCLA Newsroom

FINDINGS

Scientists from UCLA and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute successfully used a gene that suppresses cholesterol levels as part of a treatment to reduce plaque in mice with a disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia. In a preclinical study, researchers found that the gene, LeXis, lowered cholesterol and blockages in the arteries, and the treatment appeared to reduce the build-up of fat in liver cells.

Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited condition characterized by extremely high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (commonly referred to as bad cholesterol) and an increased risk of early heart disease.

The LeXis gene belongs to a unique group of genes that until recently were considered junk DNA because scientists believed they served little purpose. However, evidence from the human genome project led to the discovery that genes like LeXis are actually active. The study of these genes,now referred to as long noncoding ribonucleic acids, or lncRNAs, is a rapidly evolving area in biology.

Researchers wanted to test whether a single injection of LeXis could slow the development of heart disease. To do so, they gave the mice either LeXis or a control gene, and fed them a 15-week diet consisting of food high in sodium and cholesterol the mouse equivalent of fast-food hamburgers and french fries. Researchers then measured the progression of heart disease.

In the next phase of the study, researchers intend to confirm the findings in larger animals and test the therapy in combination with currently available treatments.

Although previous research has shown that lncRNAs can be important, this is the first study to show that they could potentially be used to treat a human disease using gene therapy. Junk genes could one day offer a framework for treating people with familial hypercholesterolemia and other conditions that are otherwise very difficult to treat.

The papers authors are Xiaohui Wu, Zhengyi Zhang and Dr. Tamer Sallam of UCLA; and Dr. Peter Tontonoz, Marius Jones and David Salisbury of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study waspublished onlinein the journal Circulation.

The research was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the American College of Cardiology; and the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine UCLA Cardiovascular Discovery Fund.

Learn more about the cardiovascular research theme at UCLA.

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First gene therapy to treat cancer gets FDA approval; UM only Michigan hospital to use it – Detroit Free Press

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Dr. Gregory Yanik, clinical director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, works with Maryam Rasheed of Macomb Township. Maryam was part of a clinical trial using gene therapy to successfully treat her leukemia.(Photo: Sophie Masson/Michigan Medicine)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationapproved on Wednesdaythe first-ever gene therapytotreat children and young adults withleukemia.

Called Kymriah, but better known as CAR T-cell treatment, the therapy is being hailed by doctors as revolutionary. Itinvolves genetically modifyinga patient’s own T-cells, which thencantarget and kill a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemiacells.

This new treatment has the potential to change the face of cancer therapy for years to come, not just in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia but in other cancers in which a patients own T-cells can be collected, genetically modified and redirected to kill a patients tumor,” said Dr.Gregory Yanik, clinical director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Mottwas one of a few hospitals nationally to take part inclinical trials of the treatment.

“This allows us to turn patients own cells into a powerful weapon to fight the disease a weapon that does not rely on chemotherapy but takes a whole new approach to attacking childhood leukemia, Yanik said.

The CAR T-cell treatmentoffers new hope for children like Maryam Rasheed, 10, of Macomb Township.

Maryam was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 4, when her family was seeking refuge from religious persecution in Turkey, said Maryam’s mother, Asmaa Rasheed.

Maryam Rasheed (right) with her brother, Rashid, and sister Samantha. Maryam, 10 of Macomb Township, survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia.(Photo: Rasheed family photo)

“My country is Iraq,” Asmaa Rasheedsaid. “It wasnt safe. We are Christian. It was so hard over there in Baghdad. We run away to Turkey.

“We take her to hospital the first timebecause … she stopped eating, stopped walking, stopped talking. We bring her to emergency. The doctor decided to take her bone marrow to do tests. Then the results came back, and she have leukemia.”

Maryam underwent her firstchemotherapy treatment in Turkey.

“Over there, it was so hard,” Rasheed said. “The doctors dont speak English over there. We know English a little bit. We speak Arabic.”

Maryam Rasheed of Macomb Township undergoes treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She is now in remission.(Photo: Rasheed family photo)

Rasheed stayed with her daughter for two months in the Turkish hospital. A few months later,the Rasheed family was able to immigrate to the U.S. and settled in Michigan.

But Maryam’s cancer returned. She was treated at Children’s Hospital of Michigan with more chemotherapy and radiation. In 2013,her younger brother, Rashid, proved to be a match for a bone marrow transplant.

Still, the cancer wouldn’t relent.

The Rasheed family learned of a clinical trial for CAR T-cell therapy under way atMott. It was the family’s last chance,Rasheed said.

Maryam Rasheed, 10, of Macomb Township holds up her arms joyfully. She’s surrounded by her sister Samantha (left), brother, Rashid, and baby sister Annabell.(Photo: Rasheed family photo)

“There was nothing to do,” her mother said.”In Detroit, there was chemo, radiation, bone marrow transplant. It returned back three times. She lose her hair three times. It was so hard for her and my family.”

She remembers the date Maryam started the clinical trial at Mott: Dec. 17, 2014. Maryam spent Christmas and her seventh birthday in the hospital.

“I think we waited like 100 days,I dont remember exactly, and they did a bone marrow test, and the medicine, it work!” Rasheed said.

“It was like a dream, you know, like light coming from far away when youre in the dark. Theres nothing else we could do. But the CART-cell was like a shining light from far away.”

Maryam has been in remission two years, andis starting fourth grade next week at Shawnee Elementary School in Macomb Township.

“Now, shes start her life, and doing everything a little kid is doing,” said Rasheed, who says she hopes the treatment helps other children, too.

So does Yanik.

“Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children, accounting for approximately25% of all childhood cancers,” Yanik said. “This particular therapy utilizes a childs own immune system to target their leukemia.”

Theclinical trials focused on the 15% to 20% ofchildren whoseB-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia had either relapsed or who had residual leukemia cells in their bone marrow after treatment.

“Historically, such patients would have an estimated cure rate of approximately 10%,” Yanik said. “The two trials were groundbreaking. In the most recent trial, 52 of 63 patients with childhood leukemia successfully entered complete remission with this therapy.”

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. got the FDA approval for the gene cell therapy, whichinvolves drawing blood from childrenwith B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The T-cellsin the child’s blood are thenshipped to a lab where they are genetically engineered so theywillseek outa particular protein in the leukemia cells and attack. Patients are then infused with the modified blood, and the T-cells go to work to find and kill the leukemia.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the therapy will cost $475,000 for the initial treatment, with additional treatments administered at no cost.

Although 83% of the children in the clinical trials for CAR T-cell therapy went into remission, Yaniksaid it’s too early to tell howcurative treatmentswill prove in the long run. And, its use will be limited to only a few medical centers in the U.S.

“The University of Michigan is the only site in the state and within this region that is licensed to administer these cells for childhood leukemia,” he said.

Offering the treatment at a large medical center like U-Mis essential, said Dr. Rajen Mody,a pediatric oncologist at Mott, because of the severity ofpotential side effects.

“It can cause serious side effects, especially within the first 21 days,” said Mody, who is Mott’s director of pediatric oncology. “Patients can have high fevers, bleeding complications, trouble breathing, infections. … Thats why a hospital like the University of Michigan is the ideal place. … Patients who undergo this treatment are usually so sick after an infusion of the CAR-T cells, that they can’t be safely treated at smaller hospitals.”

Dr. Rajen Mody, a pediatric oncologist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.(Photo: University of Michigan)

Yanik is hopeful that successful treatment with CAR T-cell therapy in children with leukemia will open the door for similar therapies targeting other cancers.

“Aseparate CAR T-cell trial targeting diffuse large-cell lymphoma was recently completed with the results in that clinical trial now under review at the FDA,” he said. That trial alsoincluded adult patientsat the University of Michigan.

Mody called the gene therapy revolutionary.

“This is clearly a life-saving and potentially curative therapy,” he said.”Its being tested in other types of leukemia and solid tumors. Its too early to say whether its going to work as well for other cancers…. We are not there yet.”

Still, he said, it’s made all the difference for Maryam and her family.

“She was one of the lucky ones coming from Iraq, and with all the things she has survived. And then coming here and surviving this,… she clearly has some goodluck.

“I think she should do very well. Patients who actually survive the first six months and still have CAR T-cells detected in their systems tend todo very, very well.”

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

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Man describes new FDA-approved gene therapy for leukemia that changed his life – fox4kc.com

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lucas Novick, 27, has been in a battle with leukemia since his freshman year of college.

“I was having headaches that were so bad that they were causing vomiting pretty regularly and I couldn`t see straight well enough that I felt safe driving myself to school,” Novick said.

Since 2009, Novick has endured a number of treatments including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The treatments have taken a physical and mental toll on Novick’s body.

“The transplant that was supposed to save my life also nearly took it from me,” Novick said. “The damage chemotherapy did to my body when I was first treated in 2009 and 2010 was such that I was walking with a cane after my 21st birthday. It did so much damage to my hip joints that they were replaced in 2011.”

But after Novick’s leukemia returned for a second time, he went to Children’s Mercy Hospital where doctors were performing an experimental treatment.

“The approval of the CTL019 product for pediatric patients with relapsed refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia is really exciting for us,” Doctor Doug Myers, of Children’s Mercy Hospital, said. “We`ve spent a lot of time working on ways to get the immune system into the fight against cancer because we think it can decrease toxicity, decrease the amount of chemotherapy and radiation that we use for these cancers.”

Dr. Myers said the treatment helped Novick, a musician, back onto the stage and has held his leukemia awayfor two years.

“Those are really special rewards for us in this field that have seen so many failures of this type of therapy in the past. To see this go forward, move forward, do well enough for a pharmaceutical company will pick this up and take it the rest of the way, that`s a really special time for us,” Dr. Myers said.

While doctors believe it’s too early to call the new treatment a cure, many agree this is the first step to a new generation of cancer treatment.

“I know at the end of the day that this is the future of medicine,” Novick said.

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Stem Cell Factor Tied to Reduced Risk of Cardiac Events, Death – Doctors Lounge

Category: Cardiology | Internal Medicine | Pathology | Pulmonology | Journal

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High levels of SCF linked to lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, heart failure, stroke

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THURSDAY, Aug. 31, 2017 (HealthDay News) — High levels of stem cell factor (SCF) are associated with reduced risk of mortality and cardiovascular events, according to a study published online Aug. 26 in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Harry Bjrkbacka, Ph.D., from Lund University in Sweden, and colleagues examined the correlation between circulating levels of SCF and risk for development of cardiovascular events and death. SCF was analyzed from plasma from 4,742 participants in the Malm Diet and Cancer Study; participants were followed for a mean of 19.2 years.

The researchers found that participants with high baseline levels of SCF had lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality and reduced risk of heart failure, stroke, and myocardial infarction. There was a correlation for smoking, diabetes, and high alcohol consumption with lower levels of SCF. After adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, the highest versus the lowest SCF quartile remained independently associated with lower risk of cardiovascular (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.43 to 0.81) and all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 0.68; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.81) and with lower risk of heart failure (hazard ratio, 0.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.31 to 0.8) and stroke (hazard ratio, 0.66; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.47 to 0.92) but not myocardial infarction (hazard ratio, 0.96; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.72 to 1.27).

“The findings provide clinical support for a protective role of SCF in maintaining cardiovascular integrity,” the authors write.

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The Genetics of Male Infertility | The Turek Clinics

High technology approaches to fertility, including ICSI, are really a two edged sword: they allow us to treat severe male infertility, but they may alter natural selection in that decisions regarding sperm and eggs are made in the laboratory and not by nature.

Dr. Paul Turek

Among the 15% of couples who experience infertility, about 40% of the time the infertility is due to male factors. About half of male infertility cases are due to defined reasons, including varicocele, infection, hormone imbalances, exposures such as drugs or medications, x-rays, tobacco use and hot tubs, blockage of the reproductive tract ducts, and previous surgery that has left scarring. Another cause of male infertility that has been underestimated in the past, but is now gaining in importance is genetic infertility. The reason for its increased importance is that our knowledge about genetics is growing so quickly. Men who may have had unexplained infertility in the past may now be diagnosed with genetic causes of infertility through recently available testing. In fact, this field is progressing so quickly that genetic infertility has already become one of the most commonly diagnosed reasons for male infertility.

Developed in the early 1990s, assisted reproduction in the form of IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is a revolutionary laboratory technique in which a single sperm is placed directly inside an egg for fertilization. This technique has opened the door to fertility for men who formerly had few available treatment options, as it allows men who were previously considered severely infertile or sterile the possibility of fatherhood. However, with ICSI sperm are chosen by laboratory technicians and not by nature and because of this, it is not clear what barriers to natural selection are altered. Thus, along with this technology comes the possibility of passing on to a child certain genetic issues that may have caused the fathers infertility, or even more severe conditions. Another reason to know whether male

Infertility is genetic or not is because classic treatments such as varicocele repair or medications given to improve male infertility. In fact, Dr Turek was one of the first to publish on this issue, showing that varicocele repair was not effective in improving fertility in men with genetic infertility. Because he recognized these issues early on, Dr. Turek, while at UCSF in 1997, founded the first formal genetic counseling and testing program for infertility in the U.S. Called the Program in the Genetics of Infertility (PROGENI), Dr. Tureks program has helped over 2000 patients at risk for genetic infertility to navigate the decision-making waters that surround this condition.

Men with infertility should be seen by a urologist for a thorough medical history, physical examination, and appropriate medical testing. If genetic infertility is a possibility, then a genetic counselor can help couples understand the possible reasons, offer appropriate genetic testing, and discuss the complex emotional and medical implications of the test results. The approach taken early on by Dr. Turek is outlined in Figure 1. Just like the medical diagnosis from a urologist or fertility specialist, information about family history plays a critical role in genetic risk assessment. This approach to genetic evaluation, termed non-prescriptive, has been the corner- stone of Dr. Tureks critically acclaimed clinical program that now has over a dozen publications contributing to our current knowledge in the field. It is important to note that a lack of family history of infertility or other medical problems does not eliminate or reduce the risk of genetic infertility. In fact, a family history review will often be unremarkable. However, family history can provide crucial supporting in- formation toward making a genetic diagnosis (such as a family history of recurrent miscarriages or babies born with problems). Dr. Turek has published that having a genetic counselor obtain family history information is much more accurate than simply giving patients a written questionnaire to fill out and bring to their visit. A genetic counselor can also discuss appropriate genetic testing options and review the test results in patients in a meaningful way.

When speaking to Dr. Tureks genetic counselor about genetic testing, keep in mind that he or she will not tell you what to do. Genetic counselors are trained to provide information, address questions and concerns, and support you in the decision making process. A genetic counselor does not assume which decisions are most appropriate for you.

Among the various infertility diagnoses that men have, some are more commonly associated with genetic causes. Diagnoses that can have genetic causes include men nonobstructive azoospermia (no sperm count), oligospermia (low sperm count), and congenital absence of the vas deferens. A list of some of the best- described causes of genetic male infertility and their frequencies and associated conditions are listed in Table 1.

Nonobstructive azoospermia is defined as zero sperm count in the ejaculate due to an underlying sperm production problem within the testicles. This is quite dif- ferent from obstructive azoospermia in which sperm production within the testes is normal, but there is a blockage in the reproductive tract ducts that prevents thesperm from leavingthe body. There can be changes in the levels of reproductive hormones, such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), observed withnonobstructiveazoospermia. Most commonly, the FSH is elevated in this condition, which is an appropriate and safe hormone responseofthe pituitary gland to states of low or no sperm production. This diagnosis is associated with a 15%chance forhaving chromosome abnormalities(Figure 2) and a 13% chance for having gene regions missing on the Y chromosome (termed Y chromosome microdeletions, Figure3). To detect these changes, blood tests are typically offered to men with nonobstructive azoospermia.

Oligospermia that places men at risk for genetic infertility occurs when the ejaculate contains a sperm concentration of

Congenital absence of the vas deferens is characterized by the malformation or absence of the ducts that allow sperm to pass from the testicles into the ejaculate and out of the body during ejaculation. The duct that is affected in this condition is the vas deferens. This is the same duct that is treated during a vasectomy, a procedure for men who want birth control. Men with this condi tion are essentially born with a natural vasectomy. This congenital condition is associated with mutations and/or variations in the genes for cystic fibrosis (the CFTR gene) in 70-80% men if the vas deferens is absent on both sides, but less than this if the duct is missing on only one side. For most men with this condition with a mutation in the cystic fibrosis gene, the missing vas deferens is the only problem that results from this genetic change and they do not have the full spectrum of symptoms associated with cystic fibrosis, the most common genetic disease in the U.S. and generally lethal in early adulthood.

A less common reason for men to have a zero sperm count (azoospermia) than nonobstructive azoospermia is obstructive azoospermia. In essence, this is an unexplained zero sperm count due to a blockage of the reproductive tract ducts leading from the testicle to the ejaculate. Blockages are most commonly found in the epididymis but can also be located in the vas deferens or ejaculatory ducts. Most cases of obstructive azoospermia are amendable to surgical repair and naturally fertility is common. However, a high proportion of these men (47%) have mutations in the cystic fibrosis gene (CFTR) or harbor variations in the CFTR gene, termed 5T alleles. As such, genetic counseling and testing is also important in these patients.

These conditions represent only the most common genetic conditions encountered when evaluating men for genetic infertility. For this reason, consider reading Dr. Turekspublished paper that discusses most of the currently understood syndromes and conditions that are associated with infertility. It is also important to remember that if all genetic test results are normal, there is still a possibility that the infertility has a genetic cause. However, in many cases, medical science is currently unable to offer testing to detect it.

If a man has a chromosome abnormality identified as the cause of infertility, then depending on the chromosome abnormality detected, there may be a higher risk for children to be born with birth defects or mental impairment. This occurs as a result of a child inheriting from the father an imbalance in chromosome material. A genetic counselor can provide more detailed information about such potential risks, and offer other resources for individuals who have been diagnosed with a chromosome abnormality. There may be support organizations available to help men with genetic diagnoses and their partners cope with the impact of this information. Some couples find it helpful to talk to others in similar circumstances.

If a man is diagnosed with a Y chromosome deletion, then he will pass on that Y chromosome deletion to any son he conceives. To his daughters, he will pass on his X chromosome, instead of the Y chromosome. It is assumed that any son inheriting a Y chromosome deletion from his father will also have infertility. It is unclear whether the type and severity of the infertility will be different from the fathers. So far, there have only been a few reports of sons born to fathers with Y chromosome deletions after conception by assisted reproduction. As expected, there has not been an increase in the rate of birth defects or other problems for these boys, although this group is still small in number, and too young to have fertility evalua- tions.

Transmission of CFTR mutations in cases of infertility due to congenital absence of the vas deferens is somewhat more complex than either Y microdeletions or a chromosome abnormality. This is because there are over 1400 described muta- tions in the CFTR gene and the impact of mutations differs depending on which one is present. In general, the partner of an affected man should be tested as well, so that the residual risk of a child having either congenital absence of the vas deferens or full-blown cystic fibrosis can be estimated.

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The Genetics of Male Infertility | The Turek Clinics

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New ways to target low sperm count? – Genetic Literacy Project

August 30, 2017 | Case Western Reserve School of Medicine

[Ahmad Khalil, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine] and colleagues have been working to understand genetic mechanisms behind male infertility.

His work focuses on long strands of genetic material with elusive functions. The strands, called long non-coding RNAs or lncRNAs dont seem to encode proteins, but have been implicated in everything from cancer to brain function. Many are located in the testes, suggesting they could also play a role in fertility.

A team of seven researchers, led by Khalil, collected and measured lncRNA levels during the process of cellular differentiation that leads to sperm production [in mice]. They found that specific lncRNAs are associated with each stage of sperm development.

We have demonstrated for the first time that new types of genes, lncRNAs, are important for male fertility, Khalil said. This is a step closer to uncovering new genetic causes of infertility.

Our hope is that lncRNAs can be used in future RNA-based therapeutic approaches, Khalil said.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Long, mysterious strip of RNA contribute to low sperm count

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New ways to target low sperm count? – Genetic Literacy Project

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Study: Drug may curb female infertility from cancer treatments – Cornell Chronicle

A mouse ovary with proteins specific to oocytes labelled in red and yellow. The study reports that culturing such ovaries in the presence of a drug that inhibits DNA damage checkpoint enzymes protects the oocytes from lethal levels of radiation that would normally kill the entire oocyte reserve.

An existing drug may one day protect premenopausal women from life-altering infertility that commonly follows cancer treatments, according to a new study.

Women who are treated for cancer with radiation or certain chemotherapy drugs are commonly rendered sterile. According to a 2006 study from Weill Cornell Medicine, nearly 40 percent of all female breast cancer survivors experience premature ovarian failure, in which they lose normal function of their ovaries and often become infertile.

Women are born with a lifetime reserve of oocytes, or immature eggs, but those oocytes are among the most sensitive cells in the body and may be wiped out by such cancer treatments.

The current study, published Aug. 1 in the journal Genetics, was led by John Schimenti, Cornells James Law Professor of Genetics in the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Molecular Biology and Genetics. It builds on his 2014 research that identified a so-called checkpoint protein (CHK2) that becomes activated when oocytes are damaged by radiation.

CHK2 functions in a pathway that eliminates oocytes with DNA damage, a natural function to protect against giving birth to offspring bearing new mutations. When the researchers irradiated mice lacking the CHK2 gene, the oocytes survived, eventually repaired the DNA damage, and the mice gave birth to healthy pups.

The new study explored whether the checkpoint 2 pathway could be chemically inhibited.

It turns out there were pre-existing CHK2 inhibitor drugs that were developed, ironically enough, for cancer treatment, but they turned out not to be very useful for treating cancer, said Schimenti, the papers senior author. Vera Rinaldi, a graduate student in Schimentis lab, is the papers first author. By giving mice the inhibitor drug, a small molecule, it essentially mimicked the knockout of the checkpoint gene.

By inhibiting the checkpoint pathway, the oocytes were not killed by radiation and remained fertile, enabling birth of normal pups.

The one major concern, Schimenti said, is that even though these irradiated oocytes led to the birth of healthy mouse pups, its conceivable that they harbor mutations that will become manifested in a generation or two, because we are circumventing an evolutionarily important mechanism of genetic quality control. This needs to be investigated by genome sequencing.”

When doctors recognize the need for oocyte-damaging cancer treatments, women may have their oocytes or even ovarian tissue removed and frozen, but this practice delays treatment. Also, when women run out of oocytes, womens bodies naturally undergo menopause, as their hormonal systems shift.

That is a serious dilemma and emotional issue, Schimenti said, when you layer a cancer diagnosis on top of the prospect of having permanent life-altering effects as a result of chemotherapy, and must face the urgent decision of delaying treatment to freeze oocytes at the risk of ones own life.

The study sets a precedent for co-administering this or related drugs and starting cancer therapy simultaneously, though such interventions would first require lengthy human trials.

While humans and mice have different physiologies, and there is much work to be done to determine safe and effective dosages for people, it is clear that we have the proof of principle for this approach, Schimenti said.

Ewelina Bolcun-Filas, a former postdoctoral associate in Schimentis lab and an assistant professor at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, is the papers corresponding author.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Study: Drug may curb female infertility from cancer treatments – Cornell Chronicle

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The benefits of pregnancy diagnosis – Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net

We are entering an exciting time of the year for cow-calf producers. They have started or soon will be weaning their spring-born calves. Weaning is an excellent time to prepare the calf crop to become herd replacements or for future marketing opportunities by implementing health programs and transitioning to feed rations. It is also a great time to determine the pregnancy status of the breeding herd. Management practices for both these groups can go a long way to determine the ultimate profitability of herd.

The factor that should ultimately sort a female to the keep or cull pen is pregnancy status. The three primary methods used in pregnancy diagnosis are rectal palpation, ultrasound evaluation, or blood testing. Each these methods can effectively diagnose the females pregnancy status when properly implemented. Obviously the preferred result is for the female to be pregnant. Pregnancy diagnosis is relatively inexpensive, especially when you consider the potential savings of expenses it facilitates.

While variable costs such as feed have moderated somewhat lately, it is still fairly expensive to maintain a cow on an annual basis. Producers often fail to consider fixed costs such as machinery, buildings, management, and replacement animal expense. We do not have enough space in this article to debate a sample budget, but it is fair to say the annual carrying costs for a beef female can run from $700 to over $1,000 depending on the situation. An open female is not going to generate any income to help pay the bills.

Carrying an open female over to the next year or the next breeding season only compounds the accumulation of expenses.

In nearly every case, the producer would be better off selling the open female and replacing her with a bred female. This is particularly true of yearling females. If you cant get a properly developed, healthy yearling heifer bred in a 60- to 90-day breeding season, sell her as a heavy feeder calf or finish her out to harvest weight. If she is sub-fertile as a yearling, she will likely have fertility problems as a mature female.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the pregnant female is the foundation for any productive cow-calf operation. Hopefully the female will calve in a relatively short calving season that occurs during the months of the year that are best suited for your operation and time constraints. A pregnant female can also create some additional marketing opportunities for the producer.

Now is an excellent time to evaluate your herd and consider marketing decisions for the fall. Young, high quality cattle backed by solid genetics are in demand with potential buyers. Yearling heifers bred artificially to proven calving ease sires are very marketable. It is also a great time to evaluate the body condition of potential sale animals and make nutritional adjustments to the animals diet in anticipation of a sale date. It is my experience that while prospective buyers may complain about overly fat breeding cattle, they certainly resist purchasing breeding cattle that are in thin body condition.

One upcoming sale opportunity to consider is the 2017 Ohio Cattlemens Associations Replacement Female Sale on Nov. 24. Consignments for the sale are due to the Ohio Cattlemens Association by Oct. 2, 2017. Sale information can be obtained by contacting the Ohio Cattlemens Association at (614) 873-6736 or at their web site located at http://www.ohiocattle.org .

Link:
The benefits of pregnancy diagnosis – Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net

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How Can a Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety? – Calm Clinic

Anxiety is seen as a psychological condition, but the causes of anxiety are far more complex. Anxiety can be caused muscle energy – you can genuinely get mental stresses simply because you’re not moving your muscles enough. Anxiety can also be caused by nutrition. Anxiety can be caused by thousands of different things.

So it should come as no surprise that hormonal imbalances may cause anxiety as well. The term “hormonal imbalance” has a variety of meanings, but it’s also very clear that it can lead to anxiety.

Hormone activity is responsible for a variety of physical and psychological reactions, including anxiety. Anxiety can also affect hormones. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety symptoms, compare it to others, and find treatment ideas.

Start the anxiety test here.

“Hormonal Imbalance” can be an incredibly broad term – one that in some ways doesn’t have a specific meaning. For example, it’s possible that your body releases too much thyroid hormone which may trigger panic attacks. It’s also possible that stress is causing too much cortisol production, which leads to further anxiety symptoms.

Start by taking my 7 minute anxiety test, since it will give you a snapshot of your anxiety symptoms that can help be used to treat them. Take it here now if you haven’t yet.

The key thing to understand about your hormones is that they are responsible for nearly every process in your body, and your body gets used to a very specific amount of each hormone. Any changes in your hormones may create anxiety, for example:

Anxiety is complex enough that it’s even possible for stress and anxiety to cause hormonal imbalances that lead to further stress and anxiety. Hormonal imbalances are an issue that can be physical and natural, or caused by stress, or both, and no matter what causes it can lead to anxiety.

It would be impossible to go over each and every example of a hormonal imbalance. Your body has dozens of hormones and many more types of sub-hormones within those hormone groups, and in some ways any imbalance has the potential to lead to anxiety because any imbalance can lead to physical responses that create stress. But a few examples of these hormonal imbalances include:

These are just a few examples of hormonal imbalances that may cause anxiety.

Interestingly, while there is no doubt that hormone problems can cause anxiety and stress, in many cases it is believed that what most hormonal imbalances do is not create anxiety necessarily, but rather make anxiety worse.

This is especially the case with the menstrual cycle. Experts believe that most women that experience anxiety as a result of menstruation often have lower levels of anxiety before their periods, and then when their period comes the changes in emotional sensitivity may lead to strong anxiety sensations.

Hormonal imbalances can affect both men and women, and hormonal imbalances can cause anxiety even if no anxiety is present. But it is likely that many of those suffering from hormonal issues have anxiety or stress already, possibly in a lesser form, and that eventually is what creates further anxiety when hormones are unbalanced.

When hormonal imbalances cause anxiety, curing it completely can be tough. In some cases, you may need to seek out professional assistance, especially if a condition is causing the hormonal issues, such as those caused by the thyroid.

But even if your hormones are causing your anxiety, anxiety reduction tips can still successfully help you cope with that anxiety, and in some cases once your anxiety is reduced, your hormones may even go back to normal.

Hormonal changes can be a problematic anxiety culprit, because they generally can’t be cured overnight. If you’re suffering from a hormonal imbalance, then you are also likely in need of some type of hormonal care.

There are many things you can do that will help your hormones stay regulated. There are also some herbal remedies that may be useful, depending on the type of condition you have.

The good news is that you can still treat anxiety even if your hormones are causing it, because anxiety is still mental health related, and your own mental strength can help you recover.

I’ve helped thousands of people with hormonal imbalances overcome their anxiety. As always, I tell them that the most important place to start is with my 7 minute anxiety test. It’s a free test that will give you an incredibly valuable snapshot of your anxiety, which you can then use to seek out the right treatment.

If you haven’t yet, take the test now.

Continue reading here:
How Can a Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety? – Calm Clinic

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Low-dose hormone therapy improves sleep for newly menopausal women – wreg.com

ROCHESTER, Minn Mayo Clinic researchers say women just entering menopause can get better sleep with the help of low-dose hormone therapy.

The study, published in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society suggests 40 to 60 percent of women have issues with sleep and experiences hot flashes and night sweats. This could ultimately lead to further health related problems down the road.

Poor sleep quality over time affects more than just mood, says Virginia Miller, Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinics Womens Health Research Center and the studys corresponding author. Sleep deprivation can lead to cardiovascular disease, among other health risks. There can be serious consequences mental and physical if youre not getting quality sleep over a long period of time.

To ease the symptoms of menopause, researchers looked at two different forms of hormone therapy: oral estrogen and the estrogen patch.

When compared to the placebo group, the participants taking low-dose hormone therapy reported getting better sleep over a four-year period. Researchers said thats twice the improvement of their peers.

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Low-dose hormone therapy improves sleep for newly menopausal women – wreg.com

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