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Vol. LXI, No. 14
July 10, 2009
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Digest

  Women who suffer from migraine headaches in middle age accompanied by neurological aura (visual disturbances, dizziness or numbness that can precede migraines) are more likely to have damage to brain tissue in the cerebellum later in life, according to NIH researchers.  
  Women who suffer from migraine headaches in middle age accompanied by neurological aura (visual disturbances, dizziness or numbness that can precede migraines) are more likely to have damage to brain tissue in the cerebellum later in life, according to NIH researchers.  

Migraines with Aura in Middle Age Linked to Brain Lesions

Women who suffer from migraine headaches in middle age accompanied by neurological aura (visual disturbances, dizziness or numbness that can precede migraines) are more likely to have damage to brain tissue in the cerebellum later in life, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute on Aging, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Icelandic Heart Association in Reykjavik. Researchers said many people have these types of “silent” brain lesions, but their effect on physical and cognitive function in older people is not well studied. The study appeared in the June 24 Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that women are more susceptible than men to localized brain tissue damage identified on magnetic resonance images and that women who reported having migraines with aura were almost twice as likely to have such damage in the cerebellum as women who reported not having headaches. Researchers noted that while the study shows an association in women between migraine and cerebellar tissue damage later in life, the functional significance of such brain changes remains an open question. Located in the lower back side of the brain, the cerebellum is involved in motor activity, balance and cognition.

Unexpected Bacterial Diversity Found on Skin

The health of our skin—one of the body’s first lines of defense against illness and injury—depends on the delicate balance between our own cells and the millions of bacteria and other one-celled microbes that live on its surface. To better understand this balance, NIH set out to explore the skin’s microbiome, which is all of the DNA, or genomes, of all of the microbes that inhabit human skin. An initial analysis, published May 28 in the journal Science, reveals that our skin is home to a much wider array of bacteria than previously thought. The study also shows that at least among healthy people, the greatest influence on bacterial diversity appears to be body location. For example, the bacteria that live under your arms likely are more similar to those under another person’s arm than they are to the bacteria that live on your forearm. Drawing on the power of modern DNA sequencing technology and computational analysis, the research team from NHGRI, NCI and the Clinical Center uncovered a far more diverse collection of microbes on human skin than had been detected by traditional methods that involved growing microbial samples in the laboratory.

Delay in Diagnosis of Menopause-Like Condition Tied to Low Bone Density

Women and young girls who experience delays in diagnosing a premature, menopause-like condition face increased risk of low bone density, according to new research by NICHD scientists. A delay in diagnosing the condition, called primary ovarian insufficiency, may make women more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures later in life, the researchers concluded. Delays in diagnosis are common because the main symptom, irregular or stopped menstrual periods, is often disregarded by women and their doctors, the researchers said. The researchers also found that the beginning of menstrual irregularity before age 20 was a strong risk factor for lower bone density. The teen years are a critical period for developing healthy bones. The study appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Scientists See Important Advance for Cancer Immunotherapy

A new approach to stimulating immune cells enhances their anticancer activity, resulting in a powerful anti-tumor response in mice, according to a study at the National Cancer Institute. The work appeared online June 14 in Nature Medicine. Led by Drs. Luca Gattinoni and Nicholas Restifo of NCI, researchers found that a subset of immune cells, T lymphocytes called CD8+ memory stem cells, were capable of mediating strong anti-tumor immune response. These potent cells were generated in the laboratory by stimulating anti-tumor T cells in the presence of drugs designed to mimic an important signaling pathway. Called Wnt, the pathway describes a complex network of proteins whose interactions are essential during development and stem cell maintenance. If confirmed in humans, the use of tumor-reactive CD8+ memory stem cells could reduce the numbers of tumor-specific T cells needed for successful immunotherapy, thus making this type of therapy easier to develop so that more patients could benefit.—compiled by Carla Garnett

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