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Research Briefs

Risk assessment
Many female reproductive factors—such as taking oral contraceptives, having children at a given age, or receiving estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)—do not seem to affect a woman's risk of developing pancreatic cancer, says a study by DMS's Eric Duell, Ph.D. But the findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, did suggest that women who reach menopause at age 45 or older may be more likely to get pancreatic cancer, as well as that oral contraceptives and ERT may lower the risk for current and former smokers.

Oh, oxygen
Many preemies need respirators because their lungs can't process enough oxygen from the air. But high concentrations of oxygen inhibit lung-cell growth and, a new DMS study shows, protein synthesis. In the American Journal of Physiology, a team led by Jeffrey Shenberger, M.D., revealed the mechanisms by which hyperoxia—too much oxygen—hinders the creation of proteins that are essential for lung development. "Whereas a great deal has been learned regarding the activation of cell cycle checkpoints and DNA repair pathways by hyperoxia," the paper said, "little attention has been paid to the process whereby hyperoxia impairs translation." Until now.

Protein of pain
DMS researchers recently demonstrated how a receptor protein in the central nervous system, dubbed TLR4, contributes to neuropathic pain—a debilitating condition resulting from damaged or dysfunctional nerves. The finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals new therapeutic possibilities for treating chronic pain. "The results of this study are significant because they demonstrate the potential for very novel drug targets," says the lead researcher, Joyce DeLeo, Ph.D., director of the Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth.

Modeling disease
Human autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP)—a rare and poorly understood disease—may become less mysterious and more treatable thanks to a DMS study published in the American Journal of Pathology. The research team, led by pathologists Daniel Longnecker, M.D., and William Hickey, M.D., figured out how to induce a disease analogous to AIP in rats, thereby creating "an immunologically intact animal model to dissect basic immunological mechanisms" of the disease. "Furthermore," they wrote in the paper, "this model represents a novel means for the study of organ-specific autoimmunity in general."

Sedation scale
A new tool for assessing pediatric sedation practices has been developed and validated by a team of Dartmouth anesthesiologists. In a recent issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia, the researchers, led by Joseph Cravero, M.D., explained that the Dartmouth Operative Conditions Scale (DOCS) "will allow a more detailed analysis of sedation techniques." For example, they wrote, "two techniques for bone marrow biopsy . . . could be compared not only for 'was the procedure completed?' but also for what the child's behavior, degree of movement, and pain was like during the procedure."

Burden of proof
Two researchers who headed a recent international clinical trial on a vaccine that could prevent 70% of cervical cancers are cautioning policy-makers "to avoid scaling back" the use of Pap smears. In a paper published in Vaccine, Dartmouth's Diane Harper, M.D., M.P.H., and her coauthor detailed the cervical cancer burden worldwide—especially in developing countries—as well as the potential of the vaccine. "Any premature relaxation of cervical cancer control measures already in place," they concluded, "will bring a resurgence of the disease to the unacceptable levels of the not-too-distant past."

TB or not TB
Current tuberculosis screening guidelines for HIV patients in the developing world may not be adequate, according to new findings from a Dartmouth-Tanzania research collaborative known as DARDAR. Publishing in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the authors of the study point out that "tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among persons with HIV infection in the developing world," but a substantial number of TB cases may go undetected. "Some cases can only be identified by sputum culture," they said, a technique not available in many resource-poor settings.

Beer pressure
Adolescents who own t-shirts, backpacks, and other items with alcohol brand names or logos are more likely to drink alcohol than their peers, according to a study led by DMS pediatrician Auden McClure, M.D. In a survey of 2,400 Vermont and New Hampshire middle-schoolers, McClure and her colleagues found a strong correlation between owning branded paraphernalia and alcohol use. The authors of the study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, are urging alcohol companies to voluntarily stop producing such goods—as the tobacco industry did in 1998.

According the the latest data available from the Association of American Medical Colleges, DMS is 21st among the nation's 125 medical schools in grant income per basic-science faculty member.

DMS geneticist Victor Ambros, Ph.D., presented data at a meeting in Europe on the use of a new assay for profiling microRNA in samples of the human brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme.

DMS pediatrician David Goodman, M.D., in a Web exclusive for the journal Health Affairs, concluded that the evidence supporting claims of a physician workforce shortage is questionable.

A team led by Dartmouth cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D., received a $22-million grant from the National Science Foundation to study brain mechanisms involved in learning.

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