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Rare Gene Glitch May Hold Clues for Schizophrenia-National Institutes of Health Study

Scientists are eyeing a rare genetic glitch for clues to improved treatments for some people with schizophrenia-even though they found the mutation in only one-third of 1% of patients. In this study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, schizophrenia patients were 14 times more likely than controls to harbor multiple copies of a gene on chromosome 7. The mutations were in the gene for the receptor for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)-a chemical messenger known to play a role in brain development. An examination of patients' blood confirmed that they had the overactive VIP activity. Discovery of the same genetic abnormality in even a small group of patients buoys hopes for progress in a field humbled by daunting complexity in recent years. The researcher's previous studies had suggested the brain disorder that affects about 1% of adults might, in many cases, be rooted in different genetic causes in each affected individual, complicating prospects for cures.


Schizophrenia is known to have a strong genetic component-having a parent or sibling with the disorder increases one's risk 10-fold. Yet, genetic studies have so far explained relatively few cases of the illness. As hopes wane that common genetic variations might account for many cases, evidence is mounting. Vasoactive intestinal peptide and its receptor are known to play a role in regulating the growth of neurons and in learning and memory. They are also expressed in the immune and cardiovascular systems and in the gut-hence its name. For more information, see


Antipsychotic Drugs: Class Labeling Change-Treatment During Pregnancy and Potential Risk to Newborns

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration notified health care professionals that the pregnancy section of drug labels for the entire class of antipsychotic drugs has been updated. The new drug labels now contain more and consistent information about the potential risk for abnormal muscle movements (extrapyramidal signs or EPSs) and withdrawal symptoms in newborns whose mothers were treated with these drugs during the third trimester of pregnancy. The symptoms of EPSs and withdrawal in newborns may include agitation, abnormally increased or decreased muscle tone, tremor, sleepiness, severe difficulty breathing, and difficulty in feeding. In some newborns, the symptoms subside within hours or days and do not require specific treatment; other newborns may require longer hospital stays.


Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Health care professionals should be aware of the effects of antipsychotic medications on newborns when the medications are used during pregnancy. Patients should not stop taking these medications if they become pregnant without talking to their health care professional, as abruptly stopping antipsychotic medications can cause significant complications for treatments. For more information, visit Practice.htm.


Drug Replaces Aspirin for Stroke Prevention?

There's a new way to prevent stroke, and it may be more effective than aspirin, according to new research. Investigators presenting at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference found the drug apixaban, a new anticlotting agent, worked better than aspirin at preventing stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation who were unable to take stronger drugs. Atrial fibrillation is a heartbeat abnormality that can cause blood clots, which can raise the risk of stroke. Researchers studied 5600 patients with atrial fibrillation who had a moderate to high risk of stroke and were not willing or able to take oral drugs such as warfarin. Up to 50% of all patients with atrial fibrillation or high risk of stroke are unsuitable for treatment with therapies such as warfarin. Investigators found that oral doses of apixaban were superior to aspirin in preventing stroke in these patients. Specifically, the investigators found 51 strokes or systemic embolism events in the 2808 patients taking apixaban compared with 113 strokes and systemic embolic events in the 2791 patients taking aspirin. For more information, contact American Stroke Association (International Stroke Conference 2011, February 20, 2011) at [email protected].


Based on the American Heart Association Disease and Stroke Statistics-Update Facts About Acute Ischemic Stroke

In 2008, the American Heart Association Statistics Subcommittee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee published this update concerning acute ischemic stroke.




1. Annually, about 795 000 people have a new or recurrent stroke.


2. On average, in the United States, every 40 seconds someone has a stroke.


3. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, ranking only behind heart disease and cancer.


4. From 1995 to 2005, the stroke death rate fell 29.7%, and the actual number of stroke deaths declined 13.5%.


5. Before age 85 years, men are more likely than women to have a stroke; after age 85 years, the trend reverses.


6. Each year, about 55 000 more women than men have a stroke.


7. Eighty-seven percent of all strokes are ischemic; 10% are intracerebral hemorrhages; 3% are subarachnoid hemorrhage strokes.


Risk Factors


1. In adults older than 55 years, the lifetime risk for stroke is greater than 1 in 6.


2. Women have a higher risk of stroke than men, which may be owing to women's survival advantage.


3. Blacks have a risk of first-ever stroke that is almost twice that of whites.


4. The age-adjusted stroke rates in people 45 to 84 years of age are 6.6 per 1000 population in black men, 3.6 per 1000 in white men, 4.9 per 1000 in black women, and 2.3 per 1000 in white women.


Risk Prevention


1. Blood pressure (BP) is a powerful risk factor for stroke. People with BP less than 120/80 mm Hg have about half the lifetime risk of stroke as those with hypertension.


2. The relative risk of stroke in heavy smokers (those smoking >40 cigarettes a day) is twice that of light smokers (those smoking <10 cigarettes a day). Stroke risk decreases significantly 2 years after cessation of cigarette smoking and is reduced to the level of nonsmokers by 5 years of abstinence.


3. Physical activity reduces stroke risk.



Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Patients perceive severe stroke outcomes as similar to or worse than death. The direct and indirect costs of stroke in 2008 in the United States were estimated at $65.5 billion.


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Brain Tumor Vaccine

Each year, 22 000 Americans are diagnosed with brain cancer. Glioblastomas are the most deadly types of brain tumors. Even with current treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, more patients live less than 2 years. Now, a new vaccine is giving some the gift of time. With glioblastomas, surgeons can remove 99% of the tumor. The problem is what you cannot see. Tiny, microscopic cells that are left behind multiply and resist treatments. Those cells are like roots of a weed-the weed keeps growing if there is still a root. The vaccine targets the root. Doctors draw a patient's blood and isolate something called dendritic cells. They then place special proteins on those cells and inject them back into the patient. The "smart" cells ignite the immune system and tell it to attack the "bad" tumor cells. Three vaccines are given 2 weeks apart. In a phase 1 study, the survival of patients jumped from 26% to 80%. For more information, visit [email protected].


Predicting Heart Attacks!

Every 35 seconds, an American dies of heart disease. If your family has a history of heart attacks or stroke, you are twice as likely to have one yourself. Now, for the first time in medical history, 2 tests can predict if your genes are putting you at risk. Three people, one thing in common: heart disease has killed a member of their family.


This test measures 23 different genes, focusing on the white blood cells. They are called inflammatory cells because they are activated when plaque builds up in the arteries. Measurements less than 25% are at low risk. At greater than 50%, the risk is high. A highly sensitive version of a cardiac test called troponin measures troponin T-a marker for the process of cell death that causes heart failure. As troponin levels rise in the blood, so does the risk of heart failure symptoms and death from cardiovascular disease over the next 10 to 15 years. For more information, visit [email protected].