Two-Thirds of Bush-Approved Stem-Cell Lines Too Immature for Research, Thompson Says; NIH Access to Some Assured
In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on September 5, 2001, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that nearly two-thirds of the >60 embryonic stem-cell lines dubbed eligible for federally funded research by President Bush are not far enough along in development to be used in laboratories. In a story in the September 6, 2001, edition of the Washington Post, Secretary Thompson said that as many as 24 stem-cell lines are mature enough for extensive research at the basic level.
“We’re confident there are enough and we’re confident that the private sector will fill the voids where there are any voids,” Thompson said in the Post story. On September 5, 2001, he also announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has signed an agreement with officials from the University of Wisconsin to allow researchers on the campus of the NIH to perform research on the embryonic stem-cell lines patented by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a group affiliated with the university.
Cholesterol Knowledge in Population
Rates of cholesterol screening increased from 67.3% in 1991 to 70.8% in 1999 in 47 states that participated in a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data project during those years (MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2001;50:754–758).
The percentages of people who said they had ever been told they had high blood cholesterol levels ranged from 20.5% in Oklahoma to 33.7% in Nevada. According to the report, high blood cholesterol awareness increased among all demographic groups. The rates of cholesterol awareness increased in non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics. Awareness of cholesterol levels was higher among women than men, although it increased for both men and women.
Ongoing screening for cholesterol levels in blood and managing high blood cholesterol levels is an important part of the nation’s plan for better health for its citizens. The National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that all people aged ≥20 years have their cholesterol checked at least every 5 years.
Stress Reduces Stroke Recovery
Mice exposed to stress before the laboratory induction of a stroke were less likely to recover or recovered less function than did animals who were not subjected to such stresses before the stroke, according to a report in the September 11, 2001 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2001;98:19 and Early Edition 2001;2:37).
The scientists, who were led by A. Courtney DeVries, PhD, in the psychology department of Ohio State University in Columbus and including individuals from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research at Parkville, Victoria in Australia, found that animals who had been exposed to stressful experiences expressed 70% less of the chemical bcl-2, a protein believed to be neuroprotective in brains that have sustained a serious insult. When mice that had been genetically engineered to express high levels of bcl-2 were exposed to stress similar to that of the other mice and then suffered an induced stroke, researchers found that they were immune to the effects of the stroke.
In their article, the researchers noted: “We have demonstrated that psychosocial stress is capable of compromising an endogenous molecular mechanism of neuroprotection in injured brain by the down-regulation of bcl-2 expression. However, animals with increased neuronal bcl-2 expression are not affected by exposure to stress, despite typical corticosteroid responses to the induction of social stress and ischemia. Through a mechanism similar to the one described here, stress may impact the course of other ischemic diseases, such as myocardial infarction, that are known to be sensitive to stress and influenced by bcl-2 expression.”
Aspirin Use Associated With Lowered Risk of All-Cause Mortality in Patients With Known or Suspected Heart Disease
Aspirin use was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality in patients being evaluated for known or suspected cardiovascular disease, said researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in a report published in the September 12, 2001, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (2001:286:1187–1194).
Although it has been known for some time that aspirin reduces the risk from cardiovascular disease and short-term mortality after a heart attack, the effect of the medication on long-term all-cause mortality has not been well defined. In their study, the authors followed the course of 6174 patients who underwent stress echocardiography at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation over an 8-year period. Of those, 2310 were taking aspirin. During slightly more than 3 years of follow-up, 276 patients died. In their report, the authors, who were led by Patricia A. Gum, MD, and Michael S. Lauer, MD, noted that when they assessed the mortality risk with a standard statistical calculation, “a 33% reduction in mortality was found” among patients who were taking aspirin. The researchers found that aspirin was particularly beneficial in older patients, those with an impaired ability to exercise, or those who had a history of coronary artery disease.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study suggesting aspirin to be beneficial in patients with impaired exercise capacity—one of the most powerful predictors of mortality in patients with known or suspected heart disease,” they wrote. “Our findings provide additional support for recommending the routine use of aspirin in patients with, or at risk for, cardiovascular disease—not only for preventing morbid events but also for reducing all-cause mortality.”
The study demonstrates how observational studies of these kinds can be applied to broader populations, wrote Martha J. Radford, MD, and JoAnne M. Foody, MD. “Sophisticated observational studies such as that of Gum et al provide assurance that extending the results of the randomized trials of aspirin to unstudied or understudied patient groups, in this case those with suspected coronary artery disease who have impaired exercise capacity, will provide benefit rather than harm,” they wrote (JAMA. 2001;286:1228–1230).