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Vol. LIX, No. 20
October 5, 2007

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  According to a multi-nation study funded in part by NIMH, the world's mental health care needs are still largely going unmet.  
  According to a multi-nation study funded in part by NIMH, the world's mental health care needs are still largely going unmet.  
A Worldwide Gap in Meeting Mental Health Needs

Although mental disorders rank among the top 10 illnesses causing disability worldwide, and depression is the leading cause of disability among people older than 15, the world's mental health care needs are still largely going unmet. According to a new survey of 17 countries, partially funded by NIMH, this is especially true in less-developed nations, but also happens in high-income countries. In the U.S. in particular, the survey showed that while people sought and used services more often, most did not receive adequate care. Other findings: in all countries, women were more likely than men to seek mental health services, middle-aged people were more likely to receive services than those older or younger and married people were less likely to use mental health services than unmarried people. Researchers said their findings highlight a need to help developing countries implement more effective mental health care, but also suggest we need to do a better job at home. The survey was part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative and results were published in The Lancet.

Bipolar Disorder Help from Breast Cancer Medication

A very different mental health finding: the medication tamoxifen, primarily known as a treatment for breast cancer, dramatically reduces symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder more quickly than many standard mental illness medications. A study conducted by NIMH and published in Bipolar Disorders found that tamoxifen blocks the enzyme protein kinase C (PKC) that regulates activities in brain cells; this enzyme is thought to be overactive during the manic phase of bipolar disorder. Current medications for the manic phase generally take more than a week to begin working and not everyone responds to them. Tamoxifen itself might not become the treatment of choice because it also blocks estrogen and may cause endometrial cancer if taken over long periods of time. But researchers said that by pointing to PKC as a target for new medications, the study raises the possibility of developing faster-acting treatments for the manic phase.

Adult Stem Cells Isolated in Tendon

A small subset of previously unknown adult stem cells has been discovered in tendon, the cord-like tissue that connects muscle to bone. Published online in Nature Medicine and conducted by NIDCR scientists and their colleagues, the research points to a natural source of tendon-producing cells in adults and raises the possibility that, with further studies, these cells could one day help mend torn or degenerating tendons that are slow to heal. Scientists said the study also sheds new light on an unexpected biochemical habitat-or niche-that harbors stem cells and explained that the importance of such niches can be overlooked.

Insight into Job's Syndrome

Job's syndrome, a rare immunodeficiency disorder, is caused by a specific genetic mutation that both overstimulates and understimulates the human immune system, leading to harmful bacterial and fungal infections and to the physical features characteristic of the syndrome. These findings-from two groups of scientists, one from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and one made up of researchers from NIAID, NHGRI, NCI and NCBI, among others- were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature. Researchers said that understanding the genetic cause of such a rare disorder holds promise not only for Job's syndrome, but also for new leads in treating other immunodeficiency diseases.

A Genetic Link to Smoking-Cessation Treatment

Scientists supported by NIDA and NCI have found that a genetic variant present in nearly half of Americans of European ancestry is linked to greater effectiveness of the smoking cessation medication bupropion (Zyban). The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, showed that people with this variant were less likely than those without it to have resumed smoking 6 months after treatment with bupropion. Researchers said this finding is a promising step toward crafting treatments that will most benefit the individual patient based on his or her genetic makeup.-—

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