October 2, 2012 |
If you're trying to ward off the sniffles, you can take vitamin D supplements out of your shopping cart: A new study reports that dosing with the vitamin does nothing to prevent colds or other forms of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). The effect of vitamin D on the immune system has been debated for a long time. Controlled laboratory research has shown that vitamin D has several beneficial effects on the immune system, and some studies conducted in the past have suggested that people with low levels of the vitamin are at higher risk for URTIs.
October 2, 2012 |
Officials of the MacArthur Foundation must have had a gut feeling when they awarded Caltech microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian one of 23 "genius grants," a half-million dollars over five years to recipients of all stripes, from physicists to novelists. Mazmanian explores the complex relationship between the immune system and the diverse community of microbes that inhabit the digestive tract. His work could lead to new drugs inspired by beneficial bacteria in the human body, and it has implications for the way in which we see the causes of autism, multiple sclerosis and a host of other conditions and diseases.
July 27, 2012 |
WASHINGTON -- The face of AIDS is aging. Thanks to major scientific advances in antiretroviral drugs, people with HIV are no longer condemned to early death, and can live near-normal lifespans. But as the epidemic enters its fourth decade, healthcare providers must face the unique challenges and complications that arise when aging and HIV intersect, according to experts. Throughout the International AIDS Conference this week, speakers said we were just starting to understand the medical and other needs of the aging HIV/AIDS population.
July 6, 2012 |
The two Alaskan fishermen had stopped to examine a bald eagle when they noticed something sleek and gray in the Bristol Bay surf: a baby beluga whale in the shallows, faintly whistling and clicking. The whale, already dehydrated and disoriented, soon swam away, but then circled back to shore. The fishermen began making phone calls. In almost no time, marine specialists raced in. The Alaska SeaLife Center - a research and rehabilitation organization - grounded local flights, then settled the whale calf on an air mattress, draped him in wet towels and airlifted him toward safety.
June 21, 2012 |
Last week, scientists reported on a 5-year study of all the bacteria that inhabit the human body - 100 trillion of them, weighing 2 to 6 pounds total (in a 200-pound person) - and of 10,000 different types, though not all of them will reside in any one particular person. This week, an interesting article published in the journal Cell points to just how crucial the correct bacteria may be for developing a robust immune system. Scientists know that mice reared in a germ-free environment don't develop normally.
April 25, 2012 |
Allergy season came early this year. Unprecedented warmth this winter caused plants to begin blooming earlier than normal, flooding the air with pollen and triggering fits of sneezing, runny noses, itches and rashes. Scientists have struggled for decades to understand why humans suffer such nasty allergic reactions and why the incidence of allergies -- such as to peanuts -- seems to be increasing almost exponentially. There still is no good answer, but Yale researchers suggested Wednesday that allergies may be an outgrowth of the way our body protects us from noxious substances in the environment.
April 17, 2012 |
An experimental drug called ONO-4641 reduced the number of lesions in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis by as much as 92%, Colorado researchers reported Tuesday. The drug must undergo a larger clinical trial before it can be approved for general use, but the early results suggest it could be a major new addition to the slowly growing armamentarium against the cruel disease. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin that surrounds and insulate nerves, effectively short-circuiting them and making movements difficult.
March 27, 2012 |
Blocking "don't destroy me" signals that normally sit on the surface of tumor cells and render them resistant to immune-cell attack slows the growth of a broad range of human cancers when they're implanted in mice, researchers have found. The approach, reported by immunologists at the Stanford University School of Medicine, was effective against ovarian, breast, colon, bladder, liver, prostate and brain cancer cells. If the work can be repeated in people, the approach may someday help doctors marshal defender cells in patients' own bodies to fight cancers, the researchers said.
March 26, 2012 |
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's heart transplant Saturday at Inova Fairfox Hospital in Virgina highlights the fact that, while such operations may offer patients a new lease on life, they come with their own set of complications. "It's a long haul," said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist who serves as director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. "The first few days is basically like healing from an open-heart operation … so mainly he would have a lot of discomfort in his chest wall.
February 20, 2012 |
Now that we're deep into the cold and flu season, it's safe to assume that germs are hiding pretty much everywhere - the keypad at the grocery store checkout, the handrail on the bus, the air around that miserable-looking co-worker. Avoiding germs entirely would require something like solitary confinement or a head-to-toe application of Purell. As an alternative, many people try to do what they can to strengthen their immune systems. Vitamin C is old news, and echinacea and other herbs haven't really panned out. But there's a livelier option: probiotic supplements that supposedly fortify the immune system.