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All Posts in Category: Research

Bumps, Lumps, and Mumps

With the temperatures finally cooling, the smell of fall in the air, and Halloween just around the corner, the word “mumps” may induce ideas of spooky grandeur: bumps on a warted toad or lumps on a disfigured zombie. But when a news headline reads “Arkansas Battling Mumps Outbreak With Over 400 Possible Cases,” these conjurings are hardly grandeur but rather cold, hard facts. Arkansas has been hit with an unparalleled scare of a potential mumps outbreak in the northwest regions of Madison, Benton, and Washington counties. Hundreds of cases are being investigated and people are learning the harsher realities of contracting the mumps.

But what exactly are the mumps? And are the mumps potentially lethal? According to the CDC, the mumps is a contagious viral disease affecting the salivary glands. The mumps, caused primarily by the rubulavirus family, is spread easily from infected individuals through moisture droplets in the air (i.e. sneezing or coughing) and is especially contractible in congested areas such as playgrounds and classrooms. The virus multiplies during the 14-24 day incubation period with symptoms including swelling of the salivary glands, fever, headache, muscle ache, malaise, and loss of appetite quickly following. Temperatures can even reach a Tmax of 104°F. Once the virus hits the bloodstream, its effects can spread throughout the body’s systems. Men and boys sometimes see an enlargement and inflammation of the testicles and, in severe cases of the mumps, serious complications can include deafness, encephalitis, meningitis, and nerve damage (all due to inflammation caused by the presence of this unwanted foreign pathogen).

The mumps are no joking matter and antibiotics won’t do the trick (since this is a viral infection). If infected, medications can help alleviate symptoms but the virus will simply have to run its course. On the other hand, the mumps can easily be prevented. The CDC recommends the MMR vaccination series of at least four injections with the first dose given after 1 year of age and the second dose given before entering school (around 4-6 years old). MMR stands for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella and is part of the standard vaccination calendar for any child born after 1957, as those adults born before 1957 are considered immune. Mumps were actually one of the leading causes of deafness in children prior to the implementation of the MMR vaccine.
The current situation in Arkansas is investigating almost 400 cases of the mumps. This bump in mumps, if you will, has increased the total number of cases up nearly to 2,000 for this year alone- a dramatic increase from the reported 229 cases back in 2012. Know the signs, know the symptoms, and get to know the MMR vaccine if this has not been part of your immunization history. Mumps are not just a thing of the past anymore.

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Kevin King on Daytime Doc

The Importance Of Plasma And Blood Donations

Kevin King, found of PPA, was featured on Daytime Doc this past week discussing the importance of plasma and blood donations. The segment highlights a unique laboratory procedure called leukapheresis that collects and processes white blood cell components. This procedure is unique to the area and facilities that are capable of carrying out this type of research are few and far between. PPA Research Group is equipped for the challenge and invite all interested donors to contact us for more information.

Click on the link above to view the TV and thanks to Performance Medicine for hosting! Make sure to be on the lookout for PPA’s Guide to Leukapheresis- a comprehensive look at the procedure. Coming to you soon!

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Get Your Head in the Game

A long-standing debate on the safety of football has garnered some recent media coverage from the upcoming Will Smith film Concussion, based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered the link between American football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive head impacts. Research has dominated the subject of contact sports with brain injurie. Doctors, researchers, and family members have cast concern on the viability of these athletes in high risk sports because of how often each player receives a blow to the head, whether protected by a helmet or not.

The Stern Lab, in affiliation with Boston University, studies the presence, effects, and causes of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). According to Dr. Stern, repetitive head impacts (RHI) can trigger progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal form of a protein called tau. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia. Concussions also play an important role in the progression of the disease. Concussions, sometimes left untreated on the field, are mild brain injuries with the following signs and symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic, include Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head: Temporary loss of consciousness, confusion or feeling as if in a fog, amnesia surrounding the traumatic event, dizziness or “seeing stars”, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, delayed response to questions, appearing dazed, and fatigue.

However noble and necessary these efforts have been, certain obstacles have emerged from opening this can of worms that some would like to keep a tight lid. The original story behind Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist, whose autopsy discovery of CTE from the famed NFL star, Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster sparked a controversy, hit a raw nerve with the NFL and the convictions that repetitive head trauma caused this newly discovered disease. The NFL has made efforts to improve the protection of its players by updating protective gear such as helmets and shoulder pads, but the sport has some concerned parents choosing not to let their kids participate and casting a negative connotation with the contact sport.

In addition to the invisible red tape, CTE can only definitely identified posthumously, making the prevention and management of the disease difficult to tackle. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University conducted a study that identified 87 out of 91 deceased football players (who had their brains donated to the center for research): that’s 96% of players who played professionally! Furthermore, the identified CTE in 131 out of 165 individuals posthumously who played football at the high school level or above.

This is all to say that research is important. It helps to identify, treat, and prevent diseases and ailments with scientific proof. Knowledge in this case is power and knowing the risks involved with your daily activities will help navigate what you choose to do with your time. Check out the research that PPA is currently conducting and get involved today!

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Gene Editing in Animals a Reality

Animals hit health news heavily this week with the reveal of two, genetically altered calves born last spring that are born without horns. The idea behind this innovation was to prevent the very painful, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, process of dehorning, a procedure that removes the horns of calves to prevent injuries in the pasture later in life for these animals. According to the New York Times, the genetic alteration, performed by a scientists at the start-up company Recombinetics, removes the portion of genetic code that makes calves grow horns and swaps it for the portion of genetic code that makes Angus cows have none.

This prolific movement in editing an animal’s genes for preventative measures as well as personal, more aesthetic pleasures has caused some controversy in the ethical dilemma concerning the modification of human embryos to fit our liking. The intention is key here: are we modifying to prevent diseases or to choose eye color for our future children? And what are the implications of genetic alteration? These questions may be on the back burner while genetic editing in animal production now has some FDA backing.

The FDA just gave its seal of approval for genetically altered salmon, where the fish now grows faster, for human consumption. These salmon, along with genetically modified mosquitoes that will no longer be able to carry malaria, show that this editing technique is widely being used because it is easy, according to Bruce Whitelaw, a professor of animal biotechnology at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. Using an enzyme that are directly targeted at a specific gene splice can alter that animal’s genetic profile and easily spread the gene sequence through conventional breeding.

But when will it be enough? Many consumers are concerned about the potential side effects of consuming genetically modified animals, much like the controversy and now regulation of foods with GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) found in corn and soy.

What this boils down to is cost and ethics. On one side of the issue, this research is helping farmers bypass the cruelty of dehorning calves to prevent livestock devastation but also preserve a livestock that will subsequently bring more money to the intended dairy industry. But do we consume genetically modified animals? Chickens that produce more protein with less feed and pigs that resist swine fever thus eliminating a disease that would devastate that particular faction of animal could become commonplace sooner than we think.

Research is important and desperately needed in order to improve quality of life. What is even more important is to know the ethics behind the research and its intentions. In any case, this article proves to be incredibly interesting in the scientific research realm and we will be sure to see how these calves are doing once studied at the University of California, Davis.

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Rise in Breast Cancer Incidence Among African American Women

News from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Report) shows that the incidence of breast cancer in black women is now equal to that of white women. Although this may seem trivial at first glance, this dramatic increase poses a higher mortality rate for the African American race according to the New York Times. Overall, a black woman is 42 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman. With this same percentage of mortality and a higher incidence of breast cancer occurrence, more black women are at risk.

But why the dramatic increase? SEER and expert epidemiologists like Carol E. DeSantos of the American Cancer Society report that several factors could be contributing to this increase. The first factor investigated was the type of breast cancer factors common to each race. Black women are more likely to develop a less-treatable form of breast cancer called triple negative cancer while they trail behind white women in the diagnosis of the more-treatable form of breast cancer called estrogen-receptor positive disease. Obesity also plays a part in the presence of these estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer occurrences. Although more white women tend to have this diagnosis when compared to black women, black women have a much higher obesity rate (58% in 2012 compared to 33% in white women), which leads to an overall increase in cancerous tumors.

However, a societal shift may also lead to a later diagnosis of breast cancer, leading to more fatalities. There is a distinct schism in the amount of uninsured and insured within the African American community that delays the detection of breast cancer. According to Dr. Steven Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago, although drastic advances in healthcare became widely available in the early 1990’s, white women gained access to those advances while black women did not. Economic disparities and even mistrust of the medical establishment contribute to the complicated web of racial pressures that affect access to quality care.

Ultimately, our health systems seems to have a racial divide that creates disparities in quality of care and promotes the increase of diseases and conditions that may be treatable otherwise. In this case, knowledge is power and getting a regular mammogram and health physicals with subsequent, consistent follow-up appointments with appropriate treatment could be the key to turn this figure around. Also, the New York Times article points out the lack of research studies involving African-American women with breast cancer adds additional fuel to the fire. Without their involvement and enrollment in these studies, it not only puts the researchers at a disadvantage to see if the proposed drugs actually work across racial boundaries but also puts less of an emphasis for proactive treatment and innovations within the community. The more people feel like they are contributing to research, the more involved and informed people will get.

PPA is currently recruiting patients who have been diagnosed with all types of cancer to participate in research. Also, East Tennessee’s chapter of the Cancer Society of America is located right here in Johnson City. Support research and support those in need.

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