Study shows antidepressant could do double duty as diabetes drug

UTMB researchers have discovered that the commonly used antidepressant drug paroxetine could also become a therapy for the vascular complications of diabetes. The scientists made their discovery after screening 6,766 clinically used drugs and pharmacologically active substances.

“We developed this assay and used it to test literally every single existing drug and a good selection of other biologically active compounds,” said UTMB professor Csaba Szabo, senior author of a paper on the research published online by Diabetes. “We were quite surprised when paroxetine came out as an active compound—a result, we later determined, of what seems to be a completely new effect unrelated to its antidepressant actions and not shared by any other known antidepressant drug.”

The initial screening process tested the ability of different compounds to protect the cells that make up the inner linings of blood vessels from the destructive effects of the high sugar levels produced by diabetes, known as hyperglycemia. In people with diabetes, hyperglycemia causes these endothelial cells to generate toxic molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which ravage blood-vessel linings and lead to diabetic endothelial dysfunction, the key factor in such destructive diabetic complications as heart attacks, strokes, retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy.

In subsequent test-tube studies, researchers found that paroxetine — which is sold as an antidepressant under the trade name “Paxil” — prevents hyperglycemia-initiated ROS damage to endothelial cells in two ways. [read more]

True Food (Umami Anyone?)

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

While visiting my family in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, I discovered a wonderful, healthy food restaurant, True Food Kitchen. Conceived by integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil, chef Michael Stebner, and businessman Sam Fox, their premise is that if you make healthy food flavorsome, people will eat it. Imagine that!

Though they started in the Phoenix area, True Food Kitchen is now in California and Colorado and better yet, they have published a wonderful cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure with more than 125 wonderful recipes.

I was browsing through it over the weekend, trying not to drool on the beautiful photographs and recipes. The book is no ordinary cookbook but a rhapsody on a broad variety of culinary delights and healthy food choices from the anti-inflammatory diet and how to choose whole grains,  to the taste of umami. Never heard of umami? Continue reading

Nurture yourself

Dr. Catherine Hansen

Dr. Catherine Hansen

“When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people.  The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be toward others” (Eda LeShan)

When, on earth, do we have time to nurture ourselves?  Between loads of laundry, field trips, college applications, ailing parents and dinner?  Women ask me this question every day.  It’s difficult to answer.  But I know, despite the screaming of children, the ringing of the phone and the dinging of incoming e-mails, that I must consider what it is telling me.  For me.  For my family.  For my patients. Continue reading

Hand surgery benefits from new technologies, some homegrown

Dr. Andrew Zhang

Dr. Andrew Zhang

Our hands are extensions of our brain. We use them to sense and change the world around us.

Every day each of us uses our hands to navigate through our private obstacle course; there are knobs and wheels to be turned buttons to be pushed wrappers to be unwrapped strings to be tied heavy things to be lifted. Most of the time we accomplish this so effortlessly we hardly give any thought to our amazing hands. They just work. It’s only when our hands are injured that we become painfully aware of our dependence on these finely tuned instruments.

Specialized training in hand surgery has greatly improved the outcome of hand injuries. Minimally invasive techniques use much smaller incisions sometimes with the aid of a camera. By avoiding a larger incision the patient recovers faster has less scarring and fewer potential complications.

One of the most well-known and popular minimally invasive techniques used in hand surgery today is for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Traditionally the surgery is performed with an incision on the palm one to two inches long.

Many patients don’t realize there is also an endoscopic technique invented by a physician born and raised right here in Texas City, Dr. John Agee. His system which I use in my practice reduces the incision to less than half an inch. I find that patients recover faster and have less pain after this endoscopic release. Continue reading

Pediatric center open on Saturdays for specialty care

The UTMB Pediatric Specialty Center, 2785 Gulf Freeway South in League City, is now offering Saturday appointments from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The center provides specialty care in asthma, allergy, rheumatology, immunology, cardiology, nephrology, hematology, oncology, diabetes, child development and behavior, neurology and genetics, among other services. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (409) 772-3695 or (888) 886-2543.

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Holiday hangover cures

by Dr. Victor S. Sierpina, the W.D. and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine at UTMB.

Though most of my readers assure me they are people of moderation when it comes to drinking, the holidays can sometimes be challenging.

Many of my patients report that they drink alcohol only over the holidays. Whether you are a regular drinker or an occasional one, the holidays are rife with risks for immoderation and along with this the suffering of hangovers.

A hangover is like a stern parent, chastising us for our mistakes the night before.

If there is any benefit to a hangover, it is to remind us to be more careful with our alcohol intake. There is nothing like a bad headache, stomach pain, muscle aches and a really bad attitude to remind us that no matter how much fun we had last night, we and those around us are paying a price today. Continue reading

UTMB offers Sunday mammograms at area churches

Last May, the UTMB Sunday Screening Mammogram Program visited Avenue L Baptist Church, in Galveston. The program returns, visiting three area churches in October and November 2012.

Dr. Angelica Robinson is a woman on a mission: She wants to take breast cancer screening services on the road to as many underserved women in the community as she can possibly reach. One of her most successful programs involves taking the UTMB mobile mammography van to churches on Sunday mornings. With support from The Ruth Kempner Endowment for Breast Cancer Screening, Robinson has once again organized a fall “Sunday Screening” program. [read more]

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

by Dr. George Carayannopoulos, director of the UTMB Heart Rhythm Center.

It was a typical morning for Adrienne and Dan. They woke up and turned to each other to welcome the day with a kiss and an “I love you.”

He went to get the newspaper, and she went into the kitchen to prepare coffee. He was at the breakfast table and told her that the forecast was for another sunny day. Adrienne was still in the kitchen but could hear him. She started talking to him about her plans for the day.

When she came out of the kitchen to bring the coffee to the table, Dan was slumped over in his chair, dead.

Dan had sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is defined medically as death or cardiac arrest occurring within one hour of the onset of symptoms, which could include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or racing heart beats. Studies have shown, however, that the majority of people who have sudden cardiac arrest collapse or die without any symptoms. 

October was Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Many lives have been lost to SCA, and the story of Adrienne and Dan is not uncommon. The pain of losing a friend or loved one suddenly without warning is devastating. However, with continued medical research, increased awareness campaigns, and greater community access to state-of-the-art medical centers like UTMB, the problem of sudden cardiac arrest can be solved. Read the full story

Halloween tips to ensure safety of children

By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

It’s almost Halloween again. Before sending your little ones out in search of candy, consider the following to ensure that he or she has a trick-free Halloween:

• Don’t buy a costume unless it’s labeled flame retardant.

• Make sure that wigs and beards don’t cover your child’s eyes, nose or mouths.

• Encourage your child to choose a costume without a mask. Masks can make it difficult for your child to breathe. Use face paint instead.

• Suggest a light-colored costume for your child, or add glow-in-the dark tape on the front and back of a dark costume.

• Avoid oversized or high-heeled shoes that can cause your child to trip and fall.

• Make sure that accessories, such as swords or wands, are flexible.

• Put a name tag with your phone number on or inside your child’s costume.

If your child will be trick or treating:

• Accompany them, but make sure they know your home phone number, cellphone number and how to call 911 in case they get lost.

• If your older child is trick-or-treating, make sure he or she knows to stay with a group of friends, never go to houses that don’t have the porch lights on, never go inside anyone’s house, cross the street at crosswalks and never assume that vehicles will stop.

• Kids should carry flashlights with fresh batteries.

• Limit trick-or-treating to your neighborhood or to homes of people you or your children know.

• Check your community for safe Halloween parties rather than sending your child out trick-or-treating.

• When your child returns from trick-or-treating, check all of the treats to make sure they’re sealed and that there are no signs of tampering. Throw away any candy that is not in a sealed package.

• Don’t allow young children to have hard candy, gum or other items they might choke on.

• Provide a filling meal before your children go out to trick-or-treat so they won’t eat as many treats.

Make sure that children who trick-or-treat at your house will be safe also.

Remove anything that might obstruct your walkway, provide a well-lit outside entrance to your home and put pets away.

Consider purchasing Halloween items other than candy, such as erasers, stickers, crayons, pencils, sugar-free gum or dried fruits.

If you carve a pumpkin, try using a glow stick instead of a candle.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

Welcome to Working Wonders

UTMB’s mantra is “Working Together to Work Wonders.” Collaboration is part of the core fiber of our organization, and an integral element of quality health care. We believe blogging is yet another tool for collaboration, and we’re embracing it and other social technologies as a way to strengthen ties with the people and the communities who rely on us to help keep them healthy.

Our physicians and health care staff have great information and remarkable stories to tell. This blog is one channel for them to share those tips, notable news items, healthy ideas, breaking research and promising developments.

Working Wonders gives a voice and creates dialogue among our physicians and staff, and the patients and communities they serve.

We encourage you to submit questions, suggest topics you’d like for us to cover and share your opinions with us in the comments section on our blog posts. We look forward to extending our patient interactions beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics and into the digital realm.