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Vol. LIX, No. 19
September 21, 2007
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Digest

  A new survey finds many Americans continue to go online first to seek information on cancer and general health.  
  A new survey finds many Americans continue to go online first to seek information on cancer and general health.  
Online Health Connections

The Internet remains a frequent first source for many Americans seeking general health and cancer information-even though the public's trust in online health material has declined. This news comes from a report, "Cancer Communication: Health Information National Trends Survey 2003 and 2005," part of the larger Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) supported by NCI. HINTS surveys the U.S. civilian adult population, assessing trends in the use of health information over time and studying the links among cancer-related communication, knowledge, attitudes and behavior. Among other findings, the new data show that use of the Internet for cancer-specific information remained relatively unchanged during the study period, but the number of people using the Internet to communicate with health care providers or provider offices-such as making appointments via email-increased from 7 percent in 2003 to 10 percent in 2005.

Youth Bipolar Diagnoses on the Rise

Over the last decade, the number of doctor office visits by children and adolescents that resulted in diagnoses of bipolar disorder increased by 40 percent. Using data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers-including NIMH scientists-also found that over those 10 years, the number of visits by adults resulting in bipolar disorder diagnoses almost doubled. The cause of these rapid increases is unclear; researchers say more information is needed on the criteria physicians use to diagnose the disorder in children and adolescents and how physicians arrive at decisions concerning clinical management. The study was published in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Genetic Links to RA and Lupus

A genetic variation that increases the risk for both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) has been identified in a study conducted in part by NIAMS researchers and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers said that though these chronic autoimmune inflammatory diseases are believed to have a strong genetic component, identifying the relevant genes has been extremely difficult. This study's success is the result of scientists collecting and genotyping thousands of RA and lupus cases and controls. And though researchers do not yet know how exactly the disease-associated variant of this gene increases risk, they are excited to know that it plays a fundamental role in these autoimmune diseases which, if not well controlled, can lead to significant disability.

A 'Holy Grail' of Hearing and the Underestimated Fruit Fly

Finally, two findings from NIDCD. In a study published in Nature, researchers have shed new light on the hearing process by identifying two key proteins that join together at the precise location where energy of motion is turned into electrical impulses. This discovery has been called one of the "holy grails" of the field because, according to researchers, the better we understand the point at which a person is able to discern sound, the closer we are to developing more precise therapies for treating people with hearing loss. Also in Nature: researchers supported in part by the institute found that fruit flies detect and are attracted to the taste of carbon dioxide dissolved in water-like water found on rotting fruit or a glass of carbonated water. Since fruit flies have similar versions of many human genes, the research raises questions about whether people, too, may have the ability to taste CO2 and other chemicals in food. This means our sense of taste-not to mention that of fruit flies-may be more complex than we realized.. —

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