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Vol. LXVII, No. 2
January 16, 2015

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Chronic High Blood Sugar May Be Detrimental To the Developing Brain of Young Children

Young children who have long-term high blood sugar levels are more likely to have slower brain growth, according to researchers supported by NIH.
Young children who have long-term high blood sugar levels are more likely to have slower brain growth, according to researchers supported by NIH.

Young children who have long-term high blood sugar levels are more likely to have slower brain growth, according to researchers at centers including NIH.

Researchers did not find significant cognitive differences between the healthy children and those with type 1 diabetes, but they believe a continuing study with the same groups of children may show changes there as well.

The findings could lead to a major shift in the way children with type 1 diabetes are treated, said Dr. Karen Winer, a coauthor of the study and a pediatric endocrinologist at NICHD, which co-funded the 18-month study. The findings were published in the journal Diabetes.

“We found that chronic high blood sugar may be detrimental to the developing brain of young children,” Winer said. “We have never linked this before to brain structure in a young child.”

Stem Cell Transplants May Halt Progression Of Multiple Sclerosis

Three-year outcomes from an ongoing clinical trial suggest that high-dose immunosuppressive therapy followed by transplantation of a person’s own blood-forming stem cells may induce sustained remission in some people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). RRMS is the most common form of MS, a progressive autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. The trial is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network.

Three years after the treatment, called high-dose immunosuppressive therapy and autologous hematopoietic cell transplant or HDIT/HCT, nearly 80 percent of trial participants had survived without experiencing an increase in disability, a relapse of MS symptoms or new brain lesions. Investigators observed few serious early complications or unexpected side effects, although many participants experienced expected side effects of high-dose immunosuppression, including infections and gastrointestinal problems. The 3-year findings were published in the Dec. 29 online issue of JAMA Neurology.

“These promising results support the need for future studies to further evaluate the benefits and risks of HDIT/HCT and directly compare this treatment strategy to current MS therapies,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “If the findings from this study are confirmed, HDIT/HCT may become a potential therapeutic option for people with this often-debilitating disease, particularly those who have not been helped by standard treatments.”

Study Finds Genetic Clue to Menopause-like Condition in Young Women

Six young women with a disorder that mimics menopause have gene alterations that hamper the repair of damaged DNA, report researchers supported by NIH. The mutations, occurring in women with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), are in genes that repair damaged DNA in cells of the ovary that eventually become egg cells. The findings may contribute to an understanding of POI and to the genetic basis of the precise timing of menopause that occurs at the usual stage in a woman’s life.

With POI, a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40 years old—sometimes as early as her teens. The disorder is thought to affect about 1 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States. Along with reduced fertility, women with POI are also at high risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.

The genetic alterations that the researchers discovered in this group of patients belong to a family of genes known to help repair damaged DNA in egg cells—the minichromosome maintenance family.

“These studies are the first to link POI to an inability to repair breaks in the DNA,” said Dr. Susan Taymans of the Fertility and Infertility Branch, NICHD, which funded the work.

The studies appeared in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

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