Health & Medicine
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Recent stories

New human reproductive hormone could lead to novel contraceptives
Given the ubiquity of fertility clinics and the popularity of in vitro fertilization, one would think that doctors fully understand the reproductive system. It's surprising, then, that a new reproductive hormone has been discovered in humans, one that supresses fertility. The discovery by UC Berkeley neuroscientists could lead to new contraceptives and treatments for cancer and disorders such as precocious puberty.
(22 December)

Disability may be on the rise again after 20-year decline
The 20-year decline of disability rates among Americans may have ended, according to a new study led by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto. The researchers found that disability rates among non-institutionalized older Americans increased 9 percent between 2000 and 2005. The passage of meaningful health care reform could help stem the increase in disability rates, the authors said.
(21 December)

Studies find proposed health care reforms offer big savings to individuals, families
Four million Californians who are uninsured, have unaffordable job-based coverage or who are buying coverage in the individual market, would be eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage under bills under consideration in the U.S. Congress, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
(10 December)

H1N1 influenza adopted novel strategy to move from birds to humans
The 2009 H1N1 virus, which ignited a worldwide "swine flu" panic earlier this year, used a novel strategy to cross from birds into people, UC Berkeley scientists have found. The finding could help those surveilling the world for new flu variants and those developing antiviral drugs.
(08 December)

Social scientists build case for 'survival of the kindest'
Researchers at UC Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive.
(08 December)

Cutting greenhouse pollutants could directly save millions of lives worldwide
Six international studies published this week in the British journel The Lancet show that cutting greenhouse gases, in particular ozone and black carbon, can save millions of lives worldwide in addition to slowing climate change.
(25 November)

UC Berkeley research garners nearly $65 million in federal stimulus money
Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, UC Berkeley has received nearly $65 million in research funds from the federal government, primarily from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
(19 November)

Chromosomes dance and pair up on the nuclear membrane
Abby Dernburg and colleagues have looked at the amazingly precise choreography of chromosomes as they pair up during meiosis - the process by which cells create egg and sperm with half the normal number of chromosomes - and found a critical role played by the cytoskeleton.
(12 November)

Intel, Safeway luminaries to address how tech can lower health costs
Leaders from academia, industry and government will gather for the Nov. 18 Global Technology Leaders Conference to address the role of technology in lowering health care costs.
(09 November)

UHS releases new update on H1N1 flu vaccine
University Health Services sent a CALmessage on Nov. 6 to keep the campus apprised about the status of its H1N1 flu vaccine supply.
(09 November)

New $10.9 million grant to study impacts of sanitation on diseases
UC Berkeley researchers have received a five-year, $10.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate several interventions to combat diarrheal disease in developing countries. The goal of the new project is to determine how sanitation interventions, delivered alone or as part of combined intervention packages, impact child health and well-being.
(05 November)

Study to explore if more sleep will help teens shake off depression
After a late night of texting, instant-messaging or updating Facebook, it’s hardly surprising that many teenagers show up groggy for school. And, studies show, sleep deprivation can lead to poor academic performance, truancy and greater dropout rates, especially for those prone to depression. To address this troubling trend, UC Berkeley's Sleep and Psychological Disorders Laboratory – in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente, Oregon – has begun recruiting middle and high school students for a study to see if depression can be alleviated if they get enough sleep.
(04 November)

New $16 million center to push, pinch and probe cancer cells & tissues
The National Cancer Institute is opening a new front in the war on cancer, funding 12 physical science-oncology centers across the country to see what engineers, mathematicians, chemists and physicists can learn about cancer cells. UC Berkeley's Jan Liphardt heads one center that will receive nearly $16 million over five years.
(26 October)

Skin cells may provide early warning for cancer risk elsewhere in body
If susceptibility to cancer is the result of inherited genetic mutations, then all the body's cells should have these mutations. Since skin cells are easy to culture, argues cell biologist Harry Rubin, by observing the behavior of skin cells in a Petri dish it may be possible to detect those mutations that increase our cancer risk.
(15 October)

Scientists discover clues to what makes human muscle age
A study led by UC Berkeley researchers has identified critical biochemical pathways linked to the aging of human muscle. By manipulating these pathways, the researchers were able to turn back the clock on old human muscle, restoring its ability to repair and rebuild itself. The findings provide promising new targets for stemming the debilitating muscle atrophy that accompanies human aging, the researchers say.
(30 September)

UC launches bold initiative to revolutionize breast cancer treatment
UC Berkeley is one of six UC campuses participating in an unprecedented initiative to study and drive innovations in breast cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. The large-scale demonstration project, called the ATHENA Breast Health Network, was announced Tuesday, Sept. 29 by the University of California.
(29 September)

Whither healthcare reform? Policy experts at Berkeley offer insights and predictions on the debate
National healthcare reform continues to dominate the headlines, with Congress laboring over various proposals and President Obama making his case for reform to the public. To help shed light on where the debate stands today, and where it may be headed, the NewsCenter queried heathcare-policy experts at Berkeley for their insights — asking what they would like to see in a comprehensive healthcare plan, what compromises they expect from Congress, and what they predict will finally emerge.
(21 September)

Postmenopausal women benefit from endurance training as much as younger women
After menopause, decreased estrogen and changes in body composition affect women's metabolism. But does this affect women's response to exercise? A new UC Berkeley study shows that postmenopausal women benefit as much as younger women do from endurance training, improving both cardiovascular and respiratory fitness.
(17 September)

Photoswitches shed light on burst swimming in zebrafish
A new technique employing photoswitches and gene targeting is proving a boon to biologists because it allows researchers to non-invasively turn on small populations of cells as easily as flipping a light switch. Developed at UC Berkeley, the new and flexible technique has helped answer a long-standing question about the function of a class of enigmatic nerve cells in the spinal cord.
(16 September)

H1N1: Intruder at the gates
Berkeley is preparing for an anticipated surge in flu cases this semester, with an interdepartmental effort aimed at limiting the disease's impact on students and campus operations.
(10 September)

Improving vaccines to trigger T cell as well as antibody response
Most successful vaccines stimulate antibodies that attack and kill viruses as they scoot from one cell to another. But what about viruses and other pathogens that never leave the cell? A new theory of how the immune system recognizes pathogens suggests ways to make vaccines that trigger both antibodies and a T cell response, targeting extracellular as well as intracellular pathogens.
(03 September)

New images capture cell's ribosomes at work, could aid in molecular war against disease
UC Berkeley researchers have captured elusive nanoscale movements of ribosomes at work, shedding light on how these cellular factories take in genetic instructions and amino acids to churn out proteins. The achievement could eventually lead to significant advances in the fight against infectious diseases.
(20 August)

Huge wage cost to filling gap in sub-Saharan Africa's health workforce, study projects
Hiring the workers needed to eliminate the staggering shortage of health care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015 will cost $2.6 billion a year, or 2.5 times the annual funds currently allocated for health worker wages in the region, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley researchers.
(06 August)

Gene transcribing machine takes halting, backsliding trip along the DNA
Cell's have nanoscale protein machines that perform the first step in gene expression, gliding smoothly along the DNA and translating it into RNA. Or so scientists thought. A new study shows that the real process is replete with long pauses and backsliding as the machine tries to negotiate the tightly compacted DNA in the nucleus.
(30 July)

Researchers turn cell phones into fluorescent microscopes, bring low-cost lab tools to the field
UC Berkeley researchers have developed a cell phone microscope that not only takes color images of malaria parasites, but of tuberculosis bacteria labeled with fluorescent markers. The latest milestone moves a major step forward in taking clinical microscopy out of specialized laboratories into field settings for disease screening and diagnoses.
(21 July)

Gene variant linked to higher risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
A study led by UC Berkeley researchers has identified a gene variant that carries nearly twice the risk of developing an increasingly common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a group of cancers that develop in the immune system's white blood cells.
(20 July)

Cell biologist Richard Strohman has died at 82
Richard Strohman, professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology and a frequent critic of the idea that genes determine destiny, died July 4 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 82.
(17 July)

Drugs may prevent epilepsy & seizures after brain injury
UC Berkeley's Daniela Kaufer and Israeli colleague Alon Friedman have shown that when severe head trauma causes the blood-brain barrier to leak, albumin in blood serum triggers neuron changes that lead to seizures. A new study in rats identifies a drug that prevents these changes.
(14 July)

Researchers find early markers of Alzheimer's disease
A large study of patients with mild cognitive impairment revealed that results from cognitive tests and brain scans can work as an early warning system for the subsequent development of Alzheimer's disease. The findings by UC Berkeley researchers are a major step forward in the march toward earlier diagnoses of the debilitating disease.
(14 July)

Can we reduce medical costs while expanding the availability of health care?
Without reform, the current U.S. healthcare system will well make the federal government "go the way of GM — paying more, getting less, and going broke," President Obama warned recently. In a Q&A with the NewsCenter, Dean of Public Health Stephen Shortell, an adviser to the Obama administration on pending health care legislation, speaks about needed changes — from a center for comparing effectiveness of various treatment options to better incentives for doctors and hospitals to reduce costs.
(25 June)

Children susceptible to pesticides longer than expected, study finds
UC Berkeley researchers recommend that the U.S. EPA re-evaluate current standards for pesticide exposure in light of a new study finding that children's increased vulnerability to pesticides lasts much longer than expected.
(22 June)

Stress puts double whammy on reproductive system
Stress is known to decrease fertility and sexual behavior, but researchers thought this was because stress hormones lower levels of a brain hormone called GnRH. UC Berkeley biologists now show that stress hormones also boost levels of another hormone that suppresses GnRH, creating a doublewhammy. The scientists hope it will be possible to block this system and restore fertility.
(15 June)

Stimulus funds for UC Berkeley research now total $8.6 million
UC Berkeley faculty have submitted nearly 300 proposals to the federal government for stimulus funding through NSF, NIH and other agencies. An announcement this week of three new grants from NIH should bring the total received to $8.6 million.
(05 June)

2009 Childhood Obesity Conference addresses new challenges, approaches to improving children's health
The 2009 Childhood Obesity Conference, titled "Creating Healthy Places for All Children," comes amid challenging times as more families struggle with limited food budgets, and communities struggle with fewer resources.
(03 June)

Computer-based smoking cessation programs work, finds metanalysis
A new analysis led by UC Berkeley researchers suggests that Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs are worth a try, and fortunately during these tough economic times, many of them are free.
(26 May)

School of Public Health launches $5 million Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholars Program
An ambitious initiative designed to meet the increasing need for highly educated public health workers launched today. The Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholars Program, funded by a $5 million grant to the School of Public Health, is expected to expand California’s public health workforce, with an emphasis on recruiting students from underserved communities and placing them in health departments and other organizations that serve vulnerable populations.
(12 May)

Pandemic, or just a bad bug?
The H1N1 virus has proven to be less virulent than many imagined. Which is not to say that we know a lot about it, because we don't, a panel of Berkeley experts emphasized earlier this week.
(07 May)

Unprecedented use of DDT to combat malaria concerns experts
The current practice of spraying DDT indoors to fight malaria is leading to unprecedented – and insufficiently monitored – levels of exposure to the pesticide, say experts concerned about the risk to human health.
(04 May)

ADHD medication can improve math and reading scores, study suggests
Pediatricians and educators have long known that psycho-stimulant medications can help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) concentrate on learning for short periods of time. But a new study from the UC erkeley has found evidence that grade schoolers with ADHD who take medications can actually improve their long-term academic achievement, and make greater gains in standardized math and reading scores than students with ADHD who do not take medications.
(27 April)

UC Berkeley student with active TB being treated
University Health Services recently diagnosed a UC Berkeley student with active tuberculosis, and is getting in touch with close contacts of that student who may have been exposed to the TB bacteria.
(20 April)

The story of X - evolution of a sex chromosome
The sex chromosomes -- XX in women and XY in men -- date from the earliest mammals, but how did they evolve to look like they do today? While the male-determining Y chromosome has received all the attention, a UC Berkeley biologist has now focused on the X, and finds that it tells a fascinating story of adaptation to a shrinking Y.
(16 April)

Experts weigh in on the battle for national healthcare reform
As the herculean and unpredictable political battle over national healthcare reform unfolds on Capitol Hill, a panel of experts explored "considerations for the Obama administration" at an April 1 campus event. Four experts in health policy, politics, law, and labor focused on needed changes, with emphasis on what is realistically achievable.
(06 April)

Mice with disabled gene that helps turn carbs into fat stay lean despite feasting on high-carb diet
UC Berkeley researchers have identified a gene that plays a critical regulatory role in the process of converting dietary carbohydrate to fat. Mice that had this gene disabled had lower levels of body fat than their normal counterparts, despite being fed the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet.
(19 March)

Public Health Heroes to be honored at March 18 ceremony
A global health humanitarian, a health care system efficiency expert, a nursing advocate and an information technology non-profit group each will receive a 13th annual Public Health Heroes Award from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health on Wednesday, March 18.
(17 March)

Leona Shapiro, leading nutritionist and child obesity expert, dies at 89
Leona R. Shapiro, a leading public health nutritionist who played major roles in pioneering research on child obesity, has died at the age of 89.
(12 March)

Long-term ozone exposure linked to higher risk of death, finds nationwide study
A study analyzing two decades of data for 450,000 people across the nation found that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, raises the risk of death from respiratory ailments. It is the first major study connecting chronic exposure to ozone to elevated mortality rates, and could be used in future evaluations of federal standards for acceptable ozone levels.
(11 March)

Inexpensive flooring change improves child health in urban slums
Replacing dirt floors with cement in the homes of urban slums makes for more comfortable living – but more importantly, it significantly improves children’s health by interrupting the transmission of intestinal parasites and boosts their cognitive abilities, according to a new study conducted forUC Berkeley’s Center of Evaluation for Global Action.
(10 March)

Linking fast food proximity to obesity
Location is everything – and that goes for fast food as well as for real estate.California's nearly 3 million 9th graders are at least 5.2 percent more likely to be obese if there is a fast food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of their school, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, economists.
(04 March)

School of Public Health to honor its 'heroes'
On March 18, Berkeley's School of Public Health will host its annual recognition event for dedicated protectors of the public's health
(26 February)

Babies born in pollen and mold seasons have greater odds of developing asthma symptoms
A new UC Berkeley study suggests that newborns whose first few months of life coincide with high pollen and mold season are at increased risk of developing early symptoms of asthma.
(23 February)

"Evolved" virus may improve gene therapy for cystic fibrosis
Chemical engineer David Schaffer has developed a technique to force viruses to evolve as better gene therapy carriers, and tests at the University of Iowa show that the virus can completely cure cystic fibrosis in tissue culture.
(17 February)

Pressure to be a supergirl is causing teen mental health crisis
Expectations for teenage girls to be brainy, athletic, nurturing, and look like supermodels - while juggling homework, social networking and resumé-padding activities - are fueling a generational mental health crisis, according to a new book by UC Berkeley psychologist Stephen Hinshaw.
(10 February)

Improved method for comparing genomes as well as written text
When comparing the genomes of different organisms to create an evolutionary tree, scientists have been restricted to using a few dozen genes common to all of them. No longer. A UC Berkeley chemist and his colleagues have discovered a way to compare entire genomes across a range of sizes. The method also works for comparing written texts.
(28 January)

Where future doctors learn the rudiments of aging from elders
In a course on aging at Berkeley, UC premed and medical students collaborate with seniors to present literary works on growing old — and to become more sensitive health practitioners down the line. (With video.)
(12 January)

Mice without key enzyme eat without becoming obese, new study finds
UC Berkeley researchers discover that a key enzyme in fat tissue plays a major role in regulating fat metabolism. Mice that have had this enzyme disabled remained lean despite eating a high-fat diet and losing a hormone that suppresses appetite.
(12 January)

Studies link maternity leave with fewer C-sections and increased breastfeeding
Two new studies led by UC Berkeley researchers find that women who take a break from work in the last month of pregnancy are less likely to have cesarean deliveries, and that new mothers are more likely to establish breastfeeding the longer they delay their return to work. The studies take a rare look into whether taking maternity leave can affect health outcomes in the United States.
(05 January)