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Research Briefs

A fine balance
New research shows that Vioxx—the blockbuster painkiller pulled from the market in 2004 because it increased the risk of heart attacks— reduces the risk of precancerous tumors in the colon and rectum. The findings, soon to be published in Gastroenterology, "show once again the potential for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, to interfere with the development of cancer in the colon and rectum," says DMS's John Baron, M.D., who led the study. But the "serious toxicity" of Vioxx and similar drugs must be weighed carefully against their chemopreventive powers, he and his coauthors caution.

No bowl of cherries
It's not surprising to learn that women newly diagnosed with breast cancer are often worried, nervous, fearful, and depressed. But little formal research has quantified those symptoms. A new Dartmouth-led study, published in Cancer, helps fill that gap in knowledge. Nearly half of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients showed high levels of emotional distress or met the criteria for psychiatric disorders, found DMS psychologist Mark Hegel, Ph.D., and his collaborators. "Future research should refine current screening procedures and develop interventions," they say.

Mighty mouse
DMS scientists have created a mouse that can exercise three times as long as a normal mouse, without any particular training. The key to the mouse's might is a genetic mutation that appears to increase glycogen content in skeletal muscle. Published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, the research has implications for anyone with a muscle disease—and especially the elderly, who often have deteriorating muscles, Lee Witters, M.D., recently explained in a Dartmouth press release. "We now wonder if it's possible to achieve . . . muscular fitness without having to exercise," he added.

Cellular call
It's well known that embryos generate stem cells, but the precursor tissues of the placenta and umbilical cord may, too—at least in mice—according to new research from DMS. Stem cells that can differentiate into a wide variety of blood cells seem to originate in the tissues that form the placenta and umbilical cord, rather than migrating from the embryo, found the researchers, led by biochemist Nancy Speck, Ph.D. In their paper, published in Development, they do not comment on how their findings may affect the national stem-cell debate but call for more research into the area.

DeliverablesWomen who develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) "are at increased risk of persistent glucose intolerance after delivery, and yet many are not retested" after giving birth, researchers at Dartmouth and Brown discovered recently. They found that less than half of women with GDM got postpartum glucose testing, but more than a third of those who did had abnormal glucose tolerance. "With the magnitude of the public health problem posed by the rising incidence of diabetes in the United States, further attention needs to be given to these high-risk women," the authors conclude in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Pumping iron
Since "iron deficiency is a major human nutritional problem wherever plant-based diets are common"—as Dartmouth researcher Mary Lou Guerinot, Ph.D., and her colleagues noted in the journal Science —learning how and where plants store iron may one day help scientists engineer more nutritious food sources. And Guerinot and her team have made such a discovery. "We have uncovered a fundamental aspect of seed biology that will ultimately aid the development of nutrient-rich seed," they wrote, to the benefit of "both human health and agricultural productivity."

A team of toxic-metal researchers at DMS found that exposure to arsenic in drinking water even at low levels can disrupt the function of certain receptors and affect hormone activity.

DMS's Samuel Finlayson, M.D., was invited by the Journal of the American Medical Association to write an editorial on a study of where minorities and the uninsured get surgery.

After adjusting for physical activity, DMS researchers found that children with a TV in their bedroom are more apt to be overweight; they studied 2,343 children aged 9 to 12.

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