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Vol. LXI, No. 17
August 21, 2009

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A Brief Behavioral Intervention Can Reduce Depression in Stroke Survivors

A study funded by NINR has shown that a nurse-led behavioral intervention can reduce the incidence of depression in stroke survivors.
A study funded by NINR has shown that a nurse-led behavioral intervention can reduce the incidence of depression in stroke survivors.

A nurse-led behavioral intervention can reduce the incidence of depression in stroke survivors, according to the results of a study published in a recent issue of the journal Stroke. The intervention, called Living Well with Stroke (LWWS), provided individualized counseling sessions aimed at increasing pleasant social interactions and physical activity as a way to elevate mood and was designed to be used alone or in conjunction with antidepressant medications. This study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.

The LWWS program included nine counseling sessions over 2 months with a specially trained stroke rehabilitation nurse. In these sessions, the nurse taught the participants problem-solving skills and helped them develop realistic treatment goals. In addition, several sessions were devoted to improving mood by helping the participants identify and increase their participation in pleasant social events and physical activities such as being with family, listening to music, reading, solving a puzzle or learning something new. Depression scores in the LWWS group were significantly lower after treatment and at a one-year follow-up compared to the control group.

From Nerve Roots to Plant Roots: Unexpected Insights into Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia

Sprouting. Branching. Pruning. Neuroscientists have borrowed heavily from botanists to describe the way that neurons grow, but analogies between the growth of neurons and plants may be more than superficial. A new study from NIH and Harvard Medical School suggests that neurons and plant root cells may grow using a similar mechanism.

The research also sheds light on the hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP), a group of inherited neurological disorders in which some of the longest neurons in the body fail to grow and function properly. The genes behind HSP and their roles inside neurons are poorly understood. However, the study, published in Cell, suggests that several forms of HSP share an underlying defect with each other—and with abnormal root hair development in a plant widely used for agricultural research.

The strange implication is that the plant, Arabidopsis thaliana (mouse-ear cress), could prove useful for further research on HSP. “This study provides us with valuable new insights that will stimulate research toward therapies for hereditary spastic paraplegias,” says Dr. Craig Blackstone, an investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and an HSP expert.

Risk of Pancreatic Cancer Linked to Variation In Gene that Determines Blood Type

Common variants of the gene that determines human blood type are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study by scientists at the National Cancer Institute and colleagues from many universities and research institutions. The study, published online Aug. 2 in Nature Genetics, is consistent with an observation first made more than 50 years ago.

In the study, the researchers discovered that genetic variation in a region of chromosome 9 that contains the gene for ABO blood type was associated with pancreatic cancer risk. Individuals with the variant that results in blood types A, B, or AB were at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, compared to those with the variant for blood type O. This finding is consistent with previous research, some of it dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, that had shown increased risks of gastric and pancreatic cancer among individuals of the A and B blood groups (i.e., blood types A, B, and AB). The latest results provide a genetic basis for those earlier observations.

To discover genetic variations that contribute to pancreatic cancer risk, the research team conducted a genome-wide association study. “Only by working across disciplines and with more than a dozen research groups were we able to make this important discovery of the potential role of the ABO gene in pancreatic cancer risk,” said co-author Dr. Patricia Hartge of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. “Although it will take much more work, this finding may lead to improved diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that are so desperately needed.”

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is difficult to detect and in many people it is not diagnosed until after the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

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