Friday, November 13, 2009

The Muscular Dystrophy Association recently funded research that involved injecting genes into the leg muscles of monkeys and the results have left medical professionals and the MDA very hopeful. The trials proved that the injections helped the monkeys gain muscle size and strength without any side effects as of yet. Representatives of the MDA have said that with ongoing research of this nature, they hope that this can be the first step toward a more beneficial treatment for people who suffer from this muscular disease.

The researchers have found that by blocking the protein myostatin, an injection of the protein follistatin helped induce muscle growth in the monkeys. While this trial has proven successful in its earliest stages, the researchers still face a great deal of work and testing, as the monkeys did not actually have any muscular diseases. This is not a condemnation of the accomplishment, however it is still only a sign of the progress that can be made.

Dr. R. Rodney Howell, chairman of the MDA board, said in an organizational release on the accomplishment: “It's exciting to see profound improvement in muscle size and strength with no adverse effects on any organs or systems, including the heart. Improvement in treated thigh muscle is noteworthy because the large muscle is so important when people sit, rise from sitting and for mobility.”

Muscular dystrophy is a collective term for genetic muscle diseases that affect the body’s ability to move. There are currently more than 100 diseases that are either similar to or fall into the same category as muscular dystrophy, with the nine most recognized variations being Duchenne, Becker, limb girdle, congenital, facioscapulohumeral, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, distal, and Emery-Dreifuss.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(11/11/2009) One of the biggest threats facing the more than 17 million Americans afflicted with diabetes is chronic wounds, or repeated injuries that never fully heal due to the poor circulation in certain areas of the body. More than 15 percent of people with any type of diabetes suffer from these chronic wounds and sores, and approximately one in every 10 person dealing with diabetes will have to undergo surgery to have part of the leg – most commonly the foot – amputated. However, doctors have recently discovered that the process of hyperbaric oxygen treatment can be used to advance the healing process of chronic wounds in people with diabetes.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical process that involves using oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure to increase the pressure on wound areas, as well as aid blood flow. Originally, this type of therapy was created to save deep sea divers suffering from decompression sickness, but over the years it has been realized that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has medical benefits in treating a variety of serious injuries and illnesses, including diabetes-induced chronic wounds.

When a person who is suffering from diabetes incurs a wound, specifically on the leg or foot, the blood circulation is reduced and this affects the body’s ability to naturally heal the wound. This dilemma can lead to nerve damage and loss of sensation, which in turn can disable many of the tell-tale symptoms of most wounds, including basic pain. Chronic wounds and open sores can develop into infection, and eventually a possible need to amputate.

While controversial and limited to patients with a clean bill of health (other than the obvious necessity of treatment), hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown prior clinical success in the treatment of:

-    Strokes
-    Cerebral Palsy and brain-injured children
-    Multiple Sclerosis
-    Carbon monoxide poisoning
-    Burns
-    Crush injuries
-    Radiation poison and injuries
-    Soft tissue infections
-    Air or gas embolisms
-    Autism (In treatments of specific length, hyperbaric oxygen treatment has shown serious improvements in the behavior of children with autism)

For more information on hyperbaric oxygen treatment, its uses, and hospitals and treatment centers that provide it, visit the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society’s web site at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

(09/29/2009) Doctors from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and the University of California-Los Angeles have conducted successful experiments in partially curing paralysis using paralyzed rats. The neurologists used methods of drugs, muscle stimulation and treadmill exercises to help the rats regain the ability to walk again. The success of these animal trials leaves the doctors believing that this is good news for humans who have been bound to wheelchairs because of spinal cord injuries.

Manipulating the brain’s ability to “speak” with the nerves in the spine that control the body’s ability to walk, these doctors have created a way for the nerves in the injured spines of paralyzed humans to begin “receiving” these commands again, as if the brain were still in control of the actions. With the paralyzed rats, doctors used tiny electrical impulses created by electrodes to begin imitating the brains commands to either walk or don’t walk.

When the experiments on the paralyzed rats began, the subjects had absolutely no movement of their hind legs. Over the course of the eight week study, the doctors were able to get the rats walking with complete normalcy on treadmills for 20 minutes per day. By the end of the study, the rats were able to completely support their entire body weight on their hind legs.

Despite the success, the rodents could still only walk while connected to the electrodes. This means that the doctors will have to create a safe-yet-effective means of impressing the electrical pulses into a human spine to help recreate the success they saw with the rats.

Progress of human research, however, will take some time, as both universities expect to be able to conduct trials and studies on human subjects within the next five years. Doctors believe that with the proper neuroprosthesis and treatment for victims of partial spine injuries, this treatment could be greatly effective in rehabilitation and regaining the ability to walk.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

(09/23/09) A team of doctors from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has determined that people with brain and head injuries may actually receive medical benefits from having small doses of alcohol in their blood. Dr. Ali Salim and a team of his peers believe that the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream at the time the accident occurs or during treatment might help the victim avoid death.

One possibility that explains why this would work is that the alcohol would slow the body’s natural reaction to swelling and inflammation. In cases of head injuries and trauma, inflammation can be lethal. However, as interesting as this theory may be, it also comes with the warning that it’s no reason to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcohol is also responsible for its fair share of medical problems and is quite notorious for being the cause of injuries as well.

For the alcohol to make a difference in aiding brain or head injuries, the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream can’t be too low and it certainly can’t be too high. A level that is too low would not produce any results or bear any effect on the inflammation, and a level that is too high would eliminate the beneficial properties. While the correct dose is still unknown, Dr. Salim and his team are conducting tests on animals to determine the right amount. A correct dose could be a major success against battling secondary brain injuries, which primarily include swelling and inflammation.

Dr. Salim’s findings were based on more than 38,000 cases of head injuries, the largest such clinical investigation of alcohol and head injuries ever conducted. The findings also concluded that the majority of patients with alcohol in their blood at the time of their accidents were younger than those without.

Of course, all of the physicians involved with this specific study agreed that alcohol must be used with moderation and responsibility. The results also showed that patients with alcohol in their blood when the accidents occurred experienced certain complications during their hospital stays.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

(09/15/09) Nearing a breakthrough in the recovery process for second degree burns, scientists from the University of Michigan have developed an initial lotion that uses nanoemulsion agents to help fight infections in the wounds of burn victims. This oil-and-water-based nanotechnology has shown signs of reducing bacteria growth and reducing inflammation, according to a press release from the university’s Health System.

The study shows that this nanoemulsion lotion succeeds where current lotions used in burn recovery fail, in that they are unable to fight the bacteria growing beneath the epidermis. Already used in a variety of research, the nanoemulsion lotion has shown great possibilities as it has killed other bacteria, fungi and viruses.

In situations of second degree burns, immediate medical attention is necessary because of the rapid inflammation and spread of bacteria. The inflammation can lead to the leaking of vital fluids, which leads to a longer recovery time. With the promise this new lotion and technology have shown, recovery time could be reduced greatly for second degree burn patients, and the amount of skin graft work they would need done would also be reduced.

While this new burn treatment has yet to be tested on humans, the nanoemulsion technology has already succeeded in treatments for cold sores, toenail fungus and cystic fibrosis infections. It is also used in flu vaccines.

(Source: University of Michigan Health System News Room)


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