IRX3 Made Me This Way

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Obesity, which was once a purely clinical term, has become a household word, uttered in doctors’ offices, in media coverage, and in private conversations as it has become a growing concern for America. But what makes one person accumulate body fat more than another?

For years, scientists believed that the answer to that lay in human genes and their products, but until now, no one knew why or how. At first, they thought mutation of a gene called FTO was responsible. Yet, when they engineered mice with too little or too much FTO, it affected their whole body mass and composition, not just their body fat as is the case with obesity. But since then scientists have discovered that parts of the FTO gene interact with a distant gene called IRX3.

While the parts of FTO that send signals to create products like proteins were doing their job, another part of FTO was sending signals to a different gene far, far away. When this gene, IRX3, received signals from FTO, its production was enhanced. As such, the products it encoded were amplified. It is this gene that appears to be the functional obesity gene, the one primarily responsible for instructing the body to hoard fat. This was found to be true in brain samples of 153 people of European ancestry, as well as in mice. Continue reading

You have to go through all 10 stages of grief

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

(Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series.)

Why is the book by Granger Westberg called “Good Grief?”

The first four stages — shock, emotional pain, depression and loneliness, and physical distress — certainly don’t seem “good” in any clear sense.

They are all a rough and tumble struggle to adjust ourselves to a major loss of some kind in our lives.

How the author explained the concept of “Good Grief,” to me, is as follows.

When we experience a grief-producing event, it is like sliding slowly down into a deep, unknown and often dark valley.

As we work through the later stages of grief, it is an uphill climb but, eventually, we come out of the valley.

Looking back, we discover we are at a higher vantage point than where we started.

We can view the sunshine and the world at large from a mountaintop we have climbed and generally with more vision, awareness, compassion, wisdom and maturity. So what are the other six stages of the grief process? Continue reading

TV, media has impact on children, adolescents’ health

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

By the time an average child finishes high school, he or she will have spent thousands of hours in front of the television set.

Today, many pediatricians believe excessive television viewing by youngsters reinforces such destructive behaviors as alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking.

According to a study published in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, television and other media represent one of the most important and underrecognized influences on child and adolescent health.

“American media contribute more to adverse health outcomes than to positive or prosocial ones,” according to authors from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Young people average 16 to 17 hours of television viewing weekly, beginning as early as age 2, the article states. When video game and videocassette usage are added, some teenagers may spend as many as 35 to 55 hours in front of the TV.

Citing more than 150 references, the authors note the following: Continue reading

A simple test for Alzheimer’s

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

If you could take a test that would determine whether you would develop an incurable, degenerative and fatal illness, would you? Or would you rather not know, choosing to remain blissfully ignorant?

This is the dilemma that seniors may face because of a new test that claims to predict Alzheimer’s disease. A study of those age 70 or older claims to verify with 90 percent accuracy a test of whether they will develop the disease in the next two to three years. Currently, 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, a number that is predicted to rise to 115 million by 2050.

There is currently no single test that can establish that someone even has Alzheimer’s, let alone one that can predict who will develop it.

A complete physical, including questions about any symptoms of dementia such as confused thinking, trouble focusing or memory problems, is usually the first step in diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

The stages of grief

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

(This is the first part of a two-part series)

I have been grieving the loss of several patients lately. You may have never reflected on this, but doctors, by the very nature of our work, constantly must live through and with the death and dying of patients. No matter how good a doctor you are, this is an inevitable part of our calling.

Many of these folks have grown into near and dear relationships with us through years of care. Richard (not his real name) died recently at nearly 100.

When I read his obituary, I was so impressed with the man he had been. So many accomplishments, such a wonderful life, family and service to church and community. His passing was surely a loss to the world.

As Richard gradually became more frail during the past 10 years or so, I came to see him this dignified man grow increasingly demented, frail, skeletal and weak, like many people in their 90s. Continue reading

Bacteria, viruses causes of foodborne illnesses

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Food-borne illnesses are caused by germs or harmful chemicals we eat and drink. Most are caused when certain bacteria, viruses or parasites contaminate food.

Others occur when food is contaminated by harmful chemicals or toxins. Since these infections or chemicals enter the body though the stomach and intestines, the most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

Around 100 years ago, typhoid fever, tuberculosis and cholera were some of the most common food-borne illnesses.

Now with improved food processing, pasteurization of milk and water treatment, these diseases have been almost eliminated. Today, other bacteria and viruses have become common causes of food-borne illnesses.

  • Camplyobacter is the most common bacteria causing food-borne diarrhea in the world. These bacteria live in the intestines of birds and often contaminate raw poultry such as chicken.

Eating undercooked chicken or eating food contaminated by juices from raw chicken is a common way to swallow these bacteria.

It causes a diarrhea that is often bloody with fever and cramps. Most people recover without any special treatment. There are rare complications such as arthritis. Continue reading

Impaired decision has effect on many lives

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Two and a half years ago, my phone rang. “Tristi (sob, sob), Alli has been hit by a car.” A wave of disbelief raced through my body.

My 26-year-old compassionate, strong, beautiful niece had been walking along a road in the wee hours of the morning when she was hit by a car and left on the side of the road to die.

The woman who hit and killed her was only 22 years old and had been drinking all night.

This story and the tremendous grief that is left in its wake are all too familiar.

In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published its findings that excessive drinking accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the United States — most commonly, the impact is as sudden as the lights of an oncoming car.

Any bartender can tell you that the less mixer you add to the alcohol, the stronger the kick. The natural “mixer” in the body is water.

As the alcohol is absorbed from the gut, it’s distributed in the water of the body. Continue reading

Mindful gratitude is healthy practice to participate in

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The mind can only hold one thought or emotion at a time. With the noisy daily news of right vs. left, black versus white, Muslim versus Muslim, Democrat versus Republican, and so on, it is easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking and low expectations.

Polarities in the world exist, of course, and it is worthwhile to pay attention to them.

However, we often can get pulled into reacting out of conditioned patterns of thought and emotion thus perpetuating the clamor and rancor rather than bringing politeness, perspicacity, and peace to situations around us.

Stress is in many cases self-induced and is always experienced personally. Choosing how to react in an healthy fashion often requires a few mindful steps — like pause, presence and proceed. Continue reading

Jumping into Schizophrenia

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Many think their genetic information is permanent, that whatever we inherit from our parents gene-wise is what we are stuck with — that genes don’t change. But that’s not the case. Genes can not only change throughout our lives, but they can move or jump from one place in the genome to another. Science shows these jumping genes are linked to certain diseases in humans, but they may have positive effects as well.

Most genes are located in the same place on the same chromosomes in everyone. But small pieces of DNA called retrotransposons, or jumping genes, can relocate to other parts of the genome. In their new locations, they can stay silent, create their own products, or alter the activity of nearby genes. Jumping genes have been implicated in some cancers and neurological disorders.

Autopsies of people with schizophrenia showed their brains had more of these jumping genes than other people. Furthermore, the more a schizophrenic had been exposed to environmental factors known to influence schizophrenia, the more jumping genes they had. Schizophrenia is a condition that can cause hallucinations, delusions and cognitive defects and occurs in about 1 percent of people. A number of genes and environmental factors are associated with developing schizophrenia. Continue reading

Book offers advice for dealing with children with ADHD

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Dr. Michael Reiff, editor, explores Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder myths and realities in the book “ADHD: A Complete and Authoritative Guide.” Reiff and his colleagues note that some of the most prevalent misconceptions are these:

  • “He’s just lazy and unmotivated.” A child who finds it almost impossible to stay focused at school or complete long tasks may try to “save face” by acting as if he or she doesn’t care or doesn’t want to do the task. That is masking a serious difficulty in his ability to function.
  • “He’s a handful or she’s a daydreamer but that is normal. They just don’t let kids be kids.” All children are impulsive, active and inattentive at times. But a child with ADHD has a serious problem fitting into family routines, keeping friends, avoiding injuries and following rules. Continue reading