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Vol. LXVI, No. 3
January 31, 2014
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Digest

Cognitive Training Shows Staying Power

Training to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a trial supported by NIH.

Training to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a trial supported by NIH.

Training to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a randomized clinical trial supported by NIH.

The findings showed training gains for aspects of cognition involved in the ability to think and learn, but researchers said memory training did not have an effect after 10 years.

The report, from the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study, appeared in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The project was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

“Previous data from this clinical trial demonstrated that the effects of the training lasted for 5 years,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “Now, these longer term results indicate that particular types of cognitive training can provide a lasting benefit a decade later. They suggest that we should continue to pursue cognitive training as an intervention that might help maintain the mental abilities of older people so that they may remain independent and in the community.”

NIH-Created Toxin Can Kill HIV-Infected Cells That Persist Despite Treatment

A team including University of North Carolina and NIH scientists has demonstrated in a mouse model that an HIV-specific poison can kill cells in which the virus is actively reproducing despite antiretroviral therapy. According to the researchers, such a targeted poison could complement antiretroviral therapy, which dramatically reduces the replication of HIV in infected cells but does not eliminate them.

The 40 mice in the experiment were bioengineered to have a human immune system. They were infected with HIV for several months and then given a combination of antiretroviral drugs for 4 weeks. Half of the animals subsequently received a 2-week dose of a genetically designed, HIV-specific poison, or immunotoxin, to complement the antiretrovirals, while the other half continued receiving antiretrovirals alone.

The scientists found that, compared to antiretrovirals alone, the addition of the immunotoxin significantly reduced both the number of HIV-infected cells producing the virus in multiple organs and the level of HIV in the blood. According to the researchers, these findings, coupled with results from previous studies, suggest that treating certain HIV-infected people with a combination of antiretrovirals and an immunotoxin might help achieve sustained disease remission, in which HIV can be controlled or eliminated without a lifetime of antiretroviral therapy. However, further study is required, the scientists said.

The immunotoxin was created in 1998 in the laboratories of NIAID’s Dr. Edward Berger and NCI’s Dr. Ira Pastan. The study appeared this month in PLoS Pathogens.

Research-Based Strategies Help Reduce Underage Drinking

Strategies recommended by the Surgeon General to reduce underage drinking have shown promise when put into practice, according to scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. These approaches include nighttime restrictions on young drivers and strict license suspension policies, interventions focused on partnerships between college campuses and the community and routine screening by physicians to identify and counsel underage drinkers.

NIAAA researchers Dr. Ralph Hingson and Dr. Aaron White evaluated studies conducted since the 2007 “Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking.” A report of their findings appeared in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

“The downward trend in underage drinking and alcohol-related traffic deaths indicates that certain policies and programs put in place at the federal, state and local levels have had an impact,” said NIAAA acting director Dr. Kenneth Warren.

Since 2007, alcohol use and heavy drinking have shown appreciable declines in national surveys of middle and high school students. One study found that 12th-grade alcohol use declined from 66.4 percent to 62 percent in 2013, with a similar downward trend seen in 8th- and 10th-graders.


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