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Vol. LIX, No. 23
November 16, 2007
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Digest

  According to a new study funded by NIDA, nearly a third of high school seniors say they have recently driven while “under the influence,” or they have been in a car with an impaired driver.  
  According to a new study funded by NIDA, nearly a third of high school seniors say they have recently driven while “under the influence,” or they have been in a car with an impaired driver.  
Many High School Seniors Driving Under the Influence

According to a new study funded by NIDA, nearly a third of high school seniors say they have recently driven while “under the influence,” or they have been in a car with an impaired driver. The findings, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, are based on data obtained from the Monitoring the Future study that has surveyed high school seniors annually since 1975. The analysis showed that in 2006, 30 percent of seniors reported driving after drinking heavily or using drugs, or riding in a car whose driver had been doing so, at least once within the prior 2 weeks. Study authors stressed that driving under the influence is not an alcohol-only problem and that in 2006, 13 percent of seniors said they drove after using marijuana. Results also showed that the number of teens putting themselves at risk has changed little over the last 6 years. Researchers said all of this news is a wake-up call for the public and that educational efforts need to focus on the dangers of both drinking and drugged driving.

Determining Links to Alzheimer’s

Using a publicly shared genome data set, researchers have been able to strongly support findings that variation in one gene sequence may be a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Until recently, only one of the approximately 30,000 genes in the human genome had been linked to risk of late onset of the disease; now, it appears that variation in sequence of the SORL1 gene may be a second risk-factor gene. The findings—published in NeuroReport, from a study funded in part by NIA—are particularly remarkable because this gene was not a focus of the original study that generated the data used to test the researchers’ hypothesis. They said identifying the genes involved in Alzheimer’s may ultimately help determine who may be at greater risk for the disease and enable researchers to zero in on pathways to develop new treatments.

Assessing the Reach of Dementia

In related news, a recent analysis suggests that one in seven Americans age 71 or older—or about 3.4 million people—have dementia and 2.4 million of them have Alzheimer’s disease. Published online in Neuroepidemiology, the NIA-sponsored study is the latest in a series of analyses attempting to assess the prevalence of dementia. It is also the first study to estimate rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s using a nationally representative sample of adults from across the United States. Researchers said these findings highlight the nationwide reach of dementia—for those with the disease, as well as for their families and communities—and warned that as the population ages during the next few decades, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s will increase greatly unless effective interventions are discovered and implemented. The analysis was conducted as part of a sub-study of the Health and Retirement Study, the leading resource for data on the combined health and economic circumstances of Americans over age 50.

Gene Expression and Acetaminophen

Overdose of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relievers, is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. and is often difficult to diagnose. Now, researchers in an NIEHS study report they could detect toxic levels of acetaminophen in laboratory animals by analyzing gene expression in the blood. This research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could be a first step in developing accurate new tools to detect acetaminophen overdose in humans, researchers said. It shows gene expression data from blood cells can provide valuable information about acetaminophen levels well before liver damage can be detected by other methods, including serum markers and liver biopsies.—

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