Time for scabby knees

By Nina Jean-Jacques

Have you ever wondered how you get those scabs after you cut yourself? You may already know that it’s due to blod clotting. More studies on blood clotting found the time it takes for blood to clot can be determined by something in the blood – genes.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh discovered three genes that are responsible for blood clotting. They performed the study at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology. The researchers used blood samples from a group of people in the Edinburgh area who were aged over 70. These participants are also a part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 and 1936, which has been studying the participants since birth.

The study used a test called activated partial thromboplastin time to measure clotting time and examined thousands of genes. The genes that were found to assist in blood clotting are F12, HRG, and KNG1. These genes are found in healthy people. The researchers on this study are trying to encourage the start of studies on genes of those that suffer from blood clotting disorders such as deep vein thrombosis and some types of stroke. The researchers are all so excited to discover such a large genetic component in clotting.

blood clotting disorder - deep vein thrombosis

Little pests causing a large problem

By Nina Jean-Jacques

Mosquitoes are known to be annoying. There are more annoying in poverty stricken countries where they spread diseases. The major health issue concerning mosquitoes is the spread of malaria. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are finding that a blood type in African populations no longer protects against a specific type of malarial infection. Sub-populations in African previously showed a resistance to P. vivax malaria by having a Duffy-negative blood type. Not having the Duffy blood protein disabled the parasite from infecting red blood cells. However, a study was performed on over 600 people from different communities in Madagascar and found that 10% of people exhibiting the disease were, in fact, Duffy-negative.

This new ability of infection in these populations may be due to population mixing. Many people from Southeast Asia now live in Madagascar. These Southeast Asians are Duffy-positive. The children of those from both Duffy-negative and Duffy-positive parents show susceptibility to infections. Peter A. Zimmerman, Ph.D ., a researcher at Case Western Reserve University states that “the study confirms that P. vivax is not dependent on the Duffy antigen for establishing blood-stage infection and disease in Madagascar.” This new finding has a great impact all over Africa, where this natural immunity is the best defense against P. vivax malaria. There are approximately three million new cases of P. vivax malaria infections reported every year.

When mosquitoes bite a person infected with the disease, the malaria causing parasite is taken in as well. The mosquito then bites a healthy person, injecting the parasite into the person’s blood stream. Malaria is one of the “big three” diseases in the world because the parasites are so easily spread. It is particularly endemic in Africa where treatment is limited. There are five types of parasites of parasites that cause malaria. Most anti-malaria campaigns focus on the P. falciparum malarial infection. New efforts must be put in place to fight the P. vivax infections.


Tainted Blood

By: Nina Jean-Jacques

Over the last decade, the incidence of blood poisoning has dramatically increased. Blood poisoning, or sepsis, may sound like a bioterrorist attack, but it happens in the human body during a response to infection. Researchers at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. found that the use of lactate detection is highly effective in identifying proper blood flow. Early detection and treatment of the diseases is critical because it is an extremely life threatening condition.

The previously recommended system to evaluate blood flow and oxygen delivery to the different parts of the body was to test how saturated the blood was with oxygen. The Carolinas Medical Center study found that monitoring the amount lactate removed from the blood is a more accurate way of detecting sepsis. In a study comparing the different methods, more patients died when using the oxygen method. All patients in the study underwent the same treatment therapy and showed no difference in the levels of side effects.

To measure the oxygen levels, a catheter must be placed in the chest to test the central venous blood. Testing lactate concentration is less invasive in that regard where the catheter is not needed. Keeping patients as comfortable as possible is an essential part of treatment. The efforts to improve observation of sepsis are a giant step in the right direction.


Screen Your Newborns

By: Nina Jean-Jacques

Production of white blood cells

Expecting parents are usually overwhelmed with concerns about the health of their unborn child. When the baby is born with ten fingers and toes and all is well, the parents breathe a sigh of relief and start to think about the future. However, sometimes there can be a major bump in the road that can be seen a few months after the birth of their child.

The blood disorder, T-cell lymphopenia, is characterized by have an abnormally low amount of white blood cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell and are what the body uses to fight infection. The disease can appear in infants that seem healthy at birth after a short period of time. Symptoms of the disease do not appear until infections arise, putting the child in danger.

There is hope for parents. A study, led by John M. Routes, M.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Research Institute in Milwakee, WI, shows that T-cell lymphopenia can be screened for at birth. There is a list of standard diseases that newborns are screened for. The yearlong study screened every infant born in Wisconsin in 2008 and took dried blood from the standard screening blood sample to test for the presence of a high amount of DNA circles that produce cells that a T cell can bind. In the time the study was conducted, 71,000 infants were screened for T-cell lymphopenia, eight of which displayed characteristics of the illness. The use of screening programs can prevent many health expenses for families and even prevent premature deaths. The cost for this type of screen is around $5.50 and could take a large burden off of a family, just by knowing the health status of their child. Most states already screen for at least 30 diseases for newborn infants and adding T-cell lymphopenia would not be a large problem.

Newborn screening is an essential part of preventing early deaths. Every parent should be aware of what is and what is not being screened for. Diseases can occur without having any history of them in the family. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to children’s health.

Fore more information on newborn screening tests.


New Treatment Plan for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

By Nina Jean-Jacques

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affects approximately 3000 people in the United States every year. The disease is characterized by a translocation between two genes which results in over-expression of the cell cycle, creating enlarged lymph nodes and is found in inner mantle cell B-cells. MCL readily spreads to bone marrow and therefore, can be irresponsive to chemotherapy treatment.

Cells that display MCL

Studies show the addition of rituximab to the current regimen of treatment for MCL greatly increases response rates. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody which protects against a protein found on B-cell surfaces.

Rituximab mechanism of action

The current routine for treating the disease is cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP). Combining these drugs with rituximab (R-CHOP), forms an alternative chemotherapy option for sufferers of MCL. Because chemotherapy is toxic to cells, good and bad, developing a mixture of treatments that show the best results in the least amount of time keeps the patient in the finest physical condition. A study showed 16 out of 26 patients treated with R-CHOP achieved remission. Five of these 16 patients needed repeated doses. The other ten patients did relapse, but did show a response to the treatment. The study also gave 38 patients high dose CHOP treatments. Of these, 33 patients went remained in remission. From this study, it can be determined that R-CHOP is effective in treating MCL. However, many patients do not need the rituximab and would be given the antibodies unnecessarily (full article).

Chemotherapy is known to have devastating side effects. People of all ages are subjected to this treatment. It is sometimes the only option for those suffering from various illnesses, as of now. Researchers should start from scratch when trying to find the treatment of a disease, rather than seeing the effect of a medication for a different disease. Giving a person, who is already suffering from a deathly disease, a needless drug is almost cruel. Finding drugs that directly and specifically target a disease would minimize the unnecessary side effects of medication. Using drugs that are already known is a good starting point. This method of research has aided in the development of uncountable drugs. It is also important to get drugs to the public that do fabricate a response in patients so that there is some hope for recovery. Hopefully in the near future, drugs will be made highly specific to a disease and create fewer side effects.