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Vol. LIX, No. 14
July 13, 2007
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Digest

  A dish of fish contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to protect against the development and progression of retinopathy in mice.  
  A dish of fish contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to protect against the development and progression of retinopathy in mice.  
Easy on the Eyes

Here's some food for thought or, actually, for vision. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids - found in fish - have been shown to protect against the development and progression of retinopathy, a deterioration of the retina, in mice. Appearing in the July issue of Nature Medicine, the study including this finding was a collaborative effort by researchers from several groups, including NEI and NIAAA. They said the results - which showed that mice with higher amounts of omega-3 had a nearly 50-percent decrease in retinopathy - are important because they help support findings from a number of human studies on diet and retinal disease. They also identify low-cost and widely available nutrient-based treatment approaches that may aid future research on diseases that damage retinal blood vessels and nerve cells. These findings could also help physicians treat babies with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease of prematurely born infants.

Estrogen Therapy and Calcium Plaque

Recent results from a sub-study of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), which is sponsored by NHLBI, show that younger postmenopausal women who take estrogen-alone hormone therapy have significantly less buildup of calcium plaque in their arteries - considered a marker for future risk of coronary artery disease - compared to their peers who didn't take hormone therapy. Published in a June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the results can offer some reassurance to women who have had a hysterectomy and would like to use hormone therapy on a short-term basis to ease menopausal symptoms. However, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of NHLBI, stressed that these findings don't alter current recommendations that when using hormone therapy for such symptoms, it should only be taken at the smallest dose and for the shortest time possible.

Hormones and Autism

According to an NICHD-funded study, boys with autism and autism spectrum disorder had higher levels of growth hormones in comparison to boys who do not have autism. The researchers, whose findings were published online in Clinical Endocrinology, say the higher hormone levels might explain the greater head circumference seen in many children with autism. Earlier studies have shown that many children with autism have very rapid head growth early in life, leading to proportionately larger head circumference than children who do not have autism. They also reported that future studies could investigate whether the higher levels of growth hormones seen in children with autism could be directly related to development of the condition itself.

The Surgical Option

A new study supported by NIAMS shows that surgery provides significantly better results than non-surgical alternatives for degenerative spondyloisthesis with spinal stenosis. This condition, in which cartilage breakdown between the vertebrae of the spine causes one vertebra to slip over another below, often leads to low-back pain and affects 6 times as many women as men. Published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine, the research should be of interest to physicians, who generally advise non-surgical options before resorting to surgery. Researchers say this study, part of a 5-year Spine Patients Outcomes Research Trial, will help physicians and patients make more informed choices when faced with decisions over the treatment of back conditions.

Skill-Building Leads to Protection

Participating in a brief skill-building program on practices for reducing exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV not only improved the self-reported protective behaviors of a group of inner-city black women for up to 1 year, but also decreased their risk of acquiring an STD. This comes from a study in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health conducted as part of "Sister to Sister: The Black Women's Health Project," funded by NINR. The report showed that in a 12-month follow-up after the nurse-led interventions, women who participated in a behavioral skill-building program - as opposed to an information-only intervention - reported a higher proportion of condom use during sexual intercourse over the previous 3 months and, compared to a control group, were less likely to test positive for an STD. -

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