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Updated: 34 min 44 sec ago

Is a Missing Protein the Cause of Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Thu, 2018-06-14 09:39
Picture of EoE

“Illustration of an Eosinophil” via, June 6, 2018, Public Domain.

A National Institute of Health funded study finds that the absence of SPINK7 in cells lining the esophagus may be impacting those who have eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). The lack of this protein may cause inflammation and tissue damage.

EoE is a chronic disease of the esophagus where white blood cells build up causing tissue damage and inflammation. EoE is more prevalent in men than women and typically affects those under the age of 50. This is a relatively new disease and ongoing studies could impact diagnosis and treatment in the future.

The discovery that SPINK7 is found in those with a healthy esophagus but absent in those with EoE could lead to a treatment that could reverse some of the damage and inflammation associated with the disease. Currently treatment consists of managing symptoms through diet, exercise, and even surgical intervention.

Read more about the NIH Study.

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Vitamin D and Pregnancy

Tue, 2018-06-12 08:52
Photo of a couple holding baby shoes.

“Baby Shoes” by Drew Hays via Unsplash, August 7, 2015, CCO.

A NIH study shows a correlation between Vitamin D and miscarriage. “Our findings suggest that vitamin D may play a protective role in pregnancy,” said the study’s principal investigator Sunni L. Mumford, Ph.D.

Vitamins aid in helping with normal growth and development in the body. Vitamin D is used to absorb calcium, one of the main components of building bones. Vitamin D also plays a role in the nervous, musculoskeletal, and immune systems.

Vitamin D is obtained naturally through your skin when exposed to sunlight. It can also be obtained through diet or supplements. Foods that provide vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks

Those who do not maintain sufficient levels of Vitamin D are at risk for osteoporosis or rickets. The new NIH study also finds that too little Vitamin D could increase the risk for miscarriage. From the news release, “Among women who became pregnant, each 10 nanogram per milliliter increase in preconception vitamin D was associated with a 12-percent lower risk of pregnancy loss.”

Although the article does not discuss cause and effect, it does acknowledge that more research is needed. Read the entire NIH press release.

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Men’s Health Month

Wed, 2018-06-06 09:36
Picture of Medical Supplies

“Medical Photo.” by @rawpixel via Unsplash, March 13, 2018, CCO.

June is Men’s Health Month. Coming up is also Men’s Health Week, which takes place the week leading up to Father’s Day. This year’s dates are June 11-17, 2018. According to, “the purpose of Men’s Health Week is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.”

A resource provided by the Men’s Health Network is the Men’s Health Library, with resources and posters containing related health information that encourages people to get it checked!

To find more consumer-friendly information on related research, resources, specific issues and other health information, see the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus health topic page on Men’s Health:

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A Self Tuning Brain Implant is Introduced to Help Treat Parkinson’s

Tue, 2018-06-05 08:54
Picture of an elderly man

“Grandpa Tears Up.” by Tim Doerfler via Unsplash, March 11, 2018, CCO.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that impacts body movement.  It impacts almost 2% of the population, most commonly occurring in those 60 years of age or older.  according to MedlinePlus, Parkinson’s occurs when brain’s nerve in cells don’t produce enough dopamine which is a brain chemical.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms can vary by individual and oftentimes early signs are overlooked. Typically, symptoms originate on one side of the body but as the disease progresses, both sides of the body will be impacted.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
  • Rigid muscles
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Speech changes
  • Writing changes

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s but there are options to help lessen the severity of symptoms.  In addition to medicine and/or surgery, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is also a treatment option for those with severe symptoms.  DBS involves electrodes implanted in the brain that send electrical pulses to stimulate parts of the brain that control movement.

A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Technologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) takes a different approach to DBS.  The newest stimulator uses feedback from the brain directly.  Previously, a trained clinician would have to manually make adjustments to the DBS programming.

Additional studies are being planned.  “The novel approach taken in this small-scale feasibility study may be an important first step in developing a more refined or personalized way for doctors to reduce the problems patients with Parkinson’s disease face every day,” said Nick B. Langhals, Ph.D., program director at NINDS.    Click here to learn more.

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New Guidelines for Treating Hypertension Implemented

Thu, 2018-05-31 10:12
HTN Picture

“High Blood Pressure” via, April 23, 2018, Public Domain.

Nearly 1,000 Americans are dying daily from hypertension.  This is one of the reasons cited for the new guidelines released that recommend treating patients for hypertension earlier than previous guidelines directed.

MedlinePlus defines blood pressure as “the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.”  Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when your blood pressure is higher than 129/79.  Those two numbers represent systolic and diastolic pressure.  Systolic pressure is the first number listed and it represents the force measure each time the heart beats.  Diastolic pressure is the second number listed and this is the pressure measured while the heart is resting between the beats.  The previous guidelines didn’t consider a patient to be hypertensive until their systolic pressure was over 140.

Blood pressure categories in the new 2017 guideline are:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 anddiastolic less than 80;
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 ordiastolic between 80-89;
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 ordiastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that high blood pressure increases your risk for dangerous health conditions:

  • First heart attack:About 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure.
  • First stroke:About 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure.
  • Chronic (long lasting) heart failure:About 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
  • Kidney diseaseis also a major risk factor for high blood pressure.

“Achieving the 2017 guideline treatment goals may further reduce 340,000 cardiovascular events and 156,000 total deaths annually compared with the 2014 guideline treatment goals,” said senior study author Dr. Jiang He from the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.

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NIH Starts Human Trials on Possible Ebola Treatment

Tue, 2018-05-29 10:03
Strain of Ebola

“Ebola Virus” via CDC,gov, May 15, 2018, Public Domain.

The National Institute of Health has started human trials on a possible Ebola treatment.  Researchers have been working hard to find a cure for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) since the fatality rate for those who contract the disease averages nearly 50%

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The disease is believed to be spread through fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family.  Ebola can enter the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.  Human-to-human transmission occurs through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people which is why health care workers treating EVD are often infected.

The CDC states symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contact with the virus, with an average of 8 to 10 days and include:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

There is not a current proven treatment for EDV so the start of the NIH trial is an important step forward.  “We hope this trial will establish the safety of this experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease — an important first step in a larger evaluation process. Ebola is highly lethal, and reports of another outbreak in the DRC remind us that we urgently need Ebola treatments,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D

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New Research Offers Hope for those who Suffer from COPD

Thu, 2018-05-24 09:47
Picture of someone having their lungs listened to by a doctor.

“COPD.” Via, April 17, 2018, Public Domain.

A new research study suggests that there is a possible treatment for COPD that would not only treat the disease but also some of its associated co-symptoms.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has no cure.  There are two types of COPD:  chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Causes of COPD include exposure to air pollutants, respiratory infections and genetic factors but tobacco smoke is the leading cause.  Symptoms of COPD can start out mild but progressively worsen over time.  They include:

  • An ongoing coughor a cough that produces a lot of mucus; this is often called smoker’s cough.
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Wheezing or a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
  • Chest tightness

Researchers recently discovered a molecular pathway that can be pharmacologically blocked to prevent the damaging inflammation of COPD.  The senior author of the study, immunologist Associate Professor Margaret Hibbs said, ““Nothing previously has proved to be effective in treating patients with COPD, which is why this finding is so exciting. We can now attempt to target this protein.”  According to Professor Hibbs, “this would be the first ever strategy that would not only treat the lung disease but the co-associated medical conditions at the same time.”

This will be great news for the nearly 15.7 million Americans the CDC reports have been diagnosed with COPD.  To learn more about this study, click here.

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Meet Me Monday – Rachel Tims

Mon, 2018-05-21 10:44
Picture of Staff Member

All of Us Community Engagement Coordinator

The NNLM SCR is pleased to welcome Rachel Tims to the RML. Rachel will serve as the All of Us Community Engagement Coordinator.

Prior to this position, Rachel served as a Prevention Project Officer for the MidSOUTH School of Social Work at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. In this role, she supervised 13 Regional Prevention Providers across the State of Arkansas under the Substance Abuse Block Grant. Rachel holds a Master of Science in Addiction Studies from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Services from UAPB.

She is excited to join the NNLM SCR. Please feel free to contact her about the All of Us program.

Contact Rachel at or 817-735-2651.

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All of Us

Thu, 2018-05-17 11:28
Diverse group photo

“All of Us Participants” via, April 2018, Public Domain.

Over the past couple of weeks, you may have hear about a new research program that the NIH has launched.  All of Us endeavors to enroll 1 million or more adults to participate in a research study.  Data from this study will be used to further advance the practice of precision medicine.

Precision medicine allows doctors to determine treatments that are likely more effective for individuals, taking into account their genetics.  Although this approach to medicine is not new, advances in research have significantly fast tracked the progress of it.

A set of core values is guiding the development and implementation of the All of Us Research Program:

  • Participation is open to all.
  • Participants reflect the rich diversity of the U.S.
  • Participants are partners.
  • Participants have access to their information.
  • Data will be accessed broadly for research purposes.
  • Security and privacy will be of highest importance.
  • The program will be a catalyst for positive change in research.

To learn more about All of Us, view this video or visit the website.

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Telehealth 101

Wed, 2018-05-16 17:47

PictureYou may have heard terms like telemedicinetelehealth, or mhealth in discussions around providing clinical care or education from a distance. MedlinePlus defines telehealth simply as “using electronic communications to provide or get health care services.” Some definitions that might be found in around telehealth policies and legislation include: 

  • Synchronous – live video and/or audio 
  • Asynchronous – also known as “store and forward” and not live 
  • Remote home monitoring – monitoring things like glucose or heart pressure from a distance 
  • Originating site – where the patient is located 
  • Distant site – where the provider is located 

Telehealth may also include services like getting text message reminders to take medicine or consults done over video conferencing (although it can be found being used interchangeably with telemedicine or mhealth). The potential benefits that MedlinePlus also outlines are: 

  • Avoid having to travel (including money spent on traveling) 
  • Expert care from an out-of-state specialist 
  • Helps older adults or those with mobility issues 
  • Regular monitoring of health problems without frequent appointments
  • More independence and less hospitalization for people with chronic diseases 

Insurance doesn’t pay for all services and, depending on the state, the ability to practice or receive telehealth services comes with certain restrictions. The Center for Connected Health Policy published a document last year that examines each states laws. You can find that document here: 

State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies: A Comprehensive Scan of the 50 States and District of Columbia (Fall 2017) – Center for Connected Health Policy: The National Telehealth Policy Resource Center (external) 

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Searching for Health Information Online

Thu, 2018-05-10 10:20
MedlinePlus Logo

“MedlinePlus Logo” via, January 2018, Public Domain.

The quantity of health information available is both an advantage and disadvantage for those turning to the internet to try and self-diagnose their symptoms.  For example, a google search for “racing heartbeat” returned 1,710,000 results in less than a second.  How does one determine if the website they are browsing has accurate and complete information?

Utilizing a trusted health resource to perform a search will significantly narrow the results down to credible sources with relevant information.  For example, I did the same search, “racing heartbeat” on a health resource website and came up with only 62 results but from sources such as the National Institute of Health, Mayo Clinic,   and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The health resource that I used is, a website produced by the National Library of Medicine, that offers a plethora of information about diseases, conditions and wellness.  The site offers current information and there are no “sponsored links” during searches or advertising anywhere on the site.

Take a video tour of the site today!

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Can “Sundowning” in Alzheimer’s Patients be Treated?

Tue, 2018-05-08 09:57
Picture of elderly lady crying.

“Grandma Crying Moment.” by Jeremy Wong via Unsplash, July 1, 2017, CCO.

A new study confirms earlier research about what causes sundowning in Alzheimer’s patients.  This could lead to a pharmacological treatment to eliminate this issue.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that typically begins in those 60 years and older.  It is the most common type of dementia and impacts parts of the brain that handle thought, memory and language.  There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and the symptoms grow progressively worth with time.

Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s that occurs as daylight begins to fade.  It presents as increased irritability, restlessness, or confusion. This will occasionally persist during nighttime hours as well making it difficult for patients and their caregivers to get proper sleep.

Previous research had suggested that this phenomenon was connected to circadian rhythm and a new research team has confirmed it.  ’We have shown that the circadian clock in mice is closely linked to an aggression centre in the mouse brain by a cell circuit. The human brain has those same groups of cells that the circuit goes through. With this knowledge, we are now enabled to target this circuit pharmacologically and target cells that make people aggressive at the end of the day’, said Timothy Lynagh, a member of the research team who confirmed the connection.

It is estimated that treatment in humans could begin in approximately 20 years.

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What is a cancer cluster? Ocular melanoma in Huntersville and Auburn

Thu, 2018-05-03 09:44

Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer and Medical Director of the Louisiana Department of Health, gave the closing plenary at a recent conference I attended. He gave an inspiration speech, asking fellow colleagues to keep fighting the good fight in spite of obstacles. Dr. Guidry recounted a story of having to tell residents about the adverse effects of drinking from the local water supply, and that often when he gives news like that, people sometimes shift blame onto him.

Public health can be a thankless profession that way.

A Boston University article describes a situation in 1992 when Dr. Ann Aschengrau had to explain why cancer rates on Cape Cod were so much higher than the state average. Despite several linkages, there was no single answer much to the frustration of the local community. The article goes on to state:

“Epidemiology is a science of probabilities and estimates, maybes and maybe nots. No single epidemiological study can provide a definitive answer. Rather, research points to particular places or contaminants that, correlated, might bear further investigation.”

For former residents of Huntersville, NC and Auburn, AL, the investigation is still ongoing. In Huntersville, 18 people who spent a significant amount of time in the town since 2000 have received the same diagnosis of ocular melanoma, a rare eye cancer that typically only sees an incidences of around 5 people per every million. 33 people in Auburn who have lived or worked there between 1980 and the early 1990s have been diagnosed with the same cancer.

Each set of patients is sometimes described as a cluster. NCI defines a cancer cluster as “the occurrence of a greater than expected number of cancer cases among a group of people in a defined geographic area over a specific time period.” They can be challenging to investigate in part because of how long it takes cancer to develop and how often people can move in and out of a geographic area.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Marlana Orloff, an oncologist who specializes in this form of cancer, cases aren’t always picked up by cancer registries because “although these people lived in the state for that narrow window of time, they weren’t diagnosed there, so they’d fall out of the calculation.”

Ocular melanoma, or “OM” for short is a malignant tumor that ends up having a 50% mortality rate due to the development of metastatic cancer—growths of the tumor that have spread to other parts of the body. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), risk factors for OM include:

  • “Being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time;
  • Having light-colored eyes (blue or green eyes);
  • Older age;
  • Caucasian descent;
  • Having certain inherited skin conditions, such as dysplastic nevus syndrome, that cause abnormal moles; and
  • Having abnormal skin pigmentation involving the eyelids and increased pigmentation on the uvea.”

You can find at more by exploring any of the links embedded in this article.

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May is Arthritis Awareness Month

Tue, 2018-05-01 10:05
Picture of arthritic fingers

“Arthritis.” via, April 6, 2018, Public Domain.

It’s the first day of May and the beginning of Arthritis Awareness Month.  An estimated 22.7% of the U.S. population has received an arthritis diagnosis from a doctor.  43.5% of diagnosed patients have had to limit their activities due to this condition.

Arthritis is a blanket term used to describe joint pain or joint disease.  There are actually several types of arthritis with osteoarthritis being the most common.  Osteoarthritis often occurs as we age or following an injury (post traumatic arthritis.)  Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, infectious arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout.

There are several risk factors for arthritis and the CDC lists two categories of risks.  Those you can change (modifiable) and those you cannot change (non-modifiable):

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
  • Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 52% of all adults with arthritis are women. Gout is more common in men.
  • Genetic: Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis.

Modifiable risk factors

  • Overweight and Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.
  • Joint Injuries: Damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
  • Infection: Many microbial agents can infect joints and potentially cause the development of various forms of arthritis.
  • Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.

There are a variety of treatments available for arthritis such as oral and topical medications, injections, activity modification, and surgery.  Clinical trials are also an available option to arthritis sufferers.

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