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Vol. LXV, No. 13
June 21, 2013

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Wearable Air Pollution Sensor Device Wins Design Challenge

A portable and wearable air pollution sensor was the winning device at the recent “Health Datapalooza” held in Washington, D.C.

A portable and wearable air pollution sensor was the winning device at the recent “Health Datapalooza” held in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Conscious Clothing

New technology that creates a personal, portable and wearable air pollution sensor—developed under the My Air, My Health Challenge—was announced June 4 at the Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C. The grand prize of $100,000 was awarded to Conscious Clothing. The challenge was held by NIH, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Health Datapalooza is intended to encourage innovation and partnerships between technology specialists and health professionals to further biomedical research and solve health problems. Conscious Clothing’s design was chosen from four finalists.

The winning team created the Conscious Clothing system, a wearable breathing analysis tool that calculates the amount of particulate matter that is inhaled. The system uses groove strips—stretchy, conductive strips of knitted silver material wrapped around the ribcage—to measure breath volume and collects and transmits data in real time, via Bluetooth, to any Bluetooth-capable device.

Anti-Smoking Medication Shows Promise for Treating Alcohol Dependence

A smoking-cessation medication may be a viable option for the treatment of alcohol dependence, according to a study by scientists at NIH. The study found that varenicline (marketed under the name Chantix), approved in 2006 to help people stop smoking, significantly reduced alcohol consumption and craving among people who are alcohol-dependent. The findings were published online in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

“This is an encouraging development in our effort to expand and improve treatment options for people with alcohol dependence,” says Dr. Kenneth Warren, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Current medications for alcohol dependence are effective for some, but not all, patients. New medications are needed to provide effective therapy to a broader spectrum of alcohol dependent individuals.”

Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease that includes symptoms such as craving, loss of control over drinking, withdrawal symptoms after stopping drinking, and tolerance, the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect.

“Drinking and smoking often co-occur, and given their genetic and neurochemical similarities, it is perhaps unsurprising that a smoking cessation treatment might serve to treat alcohol problems,” notes lead author Dr. Raye Z. Litten of the NIAAA Division of Treatment and Recovery Research. “Our study is the first multi-site clinical trial to test the effectiveness and safety of varenicline in a population of smokers and nonsmokers with alcohol dependence.”

Early studies testing varenicline as a smoking cessation medication suggested it might also be effective for treating alcohol problems. Varenicline works by partially stimulating receptors for nicotinic acetylcholine, a promising molecular target implicated in both nicotine and alcohol disorders. This hypothesis was supported by early animal studies showing that varenicline decreases alcohol consumption.

Scientists Find Link Between Allergic, Autoimmune Diseases in Mouse Study

Scientists at NIH and their colleagues have discovered that a gene called BACH2 may play a central role in the development of diverse allergic and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks normal cells and tissues in the body that are generally recognized as “self” and do not normally trigger immune responses. Autoimmunity can occur in infectious diseases and cancer.

The results of previous research had shown that people with minor variations in the BACH2 gene often develop allergic or autoimmune diseases and that a common factor in these diseases is a compromised immune system. In this study in mice, the BACH2 gene was found to be a critical regulator of the immune system’s reactivity. The study, headed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and their colleagues, appeared online in Nature, June 2.—compiled by Carla Garnett

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