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Prenatal Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer

From Newswise, Inc.:

A study in mice reveals that prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and diethylstilbestrol (DES), may program a fetus for life. Therefore, adult women who were exposed prenatally to BPA or DES could be at increased risk of breast cancer, according to a new study accepted for publication in Hormones & Cancer, a journal of The Endocrine Society.

“BPA is a weak estrogen and DES is a strong estrogen, yet our study shows both have a profound effect on gene expression in the mammary gland (breast) throughout life,” said Hugh Taylor, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. and lead author of the study. “All estrogens, even ‘weak’ ones can alter the development of the breast and ultimately place adult women who were exposed to them prenatally at risk of breast cancer.”

In this study, researchers treated pregnant mice with BPA or DES and then looked at the offspring as adults. When the offspring reached adulthood, their mammary glands still produced higher levels of EZH2, a protein that plays a role in the regulation of all genes. Higher EZH2 levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in humans.

“We have demonstrated a novel mechanism by which endocrine-disrupting chemicals regulate developmental programming in the breast,” said Taylor. “This study generates important safety concerns about exposures to environmental endocrine disruptors such as BPA and suggests a potential need to monitor women exposed to these chemicals for the development of breast lesions as adults.”

Posted: 5/27/2010 3:55:00 PM

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Turning to Drugs to Stop Addiction

From Drug Discovery & Development:

Could a once-a-month alcoholism shot keep some of the highest-risk heroin addicts from relapse? A drug that wakes up narcoleptics treat cocaine addiction? An old antidepressant fight methamphetamine?

This is the next frontier in substance abuse: Better understanding of how addiction overlaps with other brain diseases is sparking a hunt to see if a treatment for one might also help another.

We're not talking about attempts just to temporarily block an addict's high. Today's goal is to change the underlying brain circuitry that leaves substance abusers prone to relapse.

It's "a different way of looking at mental illnesses, including substance abuse disorders," says National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow, who on Monday urged researchers at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting to get more creative in the quest for brain-changing therapies for addiction.

Rather than a problem in a single brain region, scientists increasingly believe that psychiatric diseases are a result of dysfunctioning circuits spread over multiple regions, leaving them unable to properly communicate and work together. That disrupts, for example, the balance between impulsivity and self-control that plays a crucial role in addiction.

These networks of circuits overlap, explaining why so many mental disorders share common symptoms, such as mood problems. It's also a reason that addictions - to nicotine, alcohol or various types of legal or illegal drugs - often go hand-in-hand with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

So NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, is calling for more research into treatments that could target circuits involved with cognitive control, better decision-making and resistance to impulses. Under way:

-Manufacturer Alkermes Inc. recently asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its once-a-month naltrexone shot - already sold to treat alcoholism - to help people kick addiction to heroin and related drugs known as opioids.

-Studies at several hospitals around the country suggest modafinil, used to fend off the sudden sleep attacks of narcolepsy, also can help cocaine users abstain.

-An old antidepressant, bupropion, that's already used for smoking cessation now is being tested for methamphetamine addiction, based on early-stage research suggesting it somehow blunts the high.

Medication isn't the only option. Biofeedback teaches people with high blood pressure to control their heart rate. O'Brien's colleagues at Penn are preparing to test if putting addicts into MRI machines for real-time brain scans could do something similar, teaching them how to control their impulses to take drugs.

Places race to outlaw K2 'Spice' drug

From USA Today:

Nearly a dozen states and several cities are banning or debating bans on K2 — a packet of herbs coated with a synthetic chemical that mimics a marijuana high when it's smoked — amid fears that its use is spreading among young people.

K2, also known as "Spice," is sold online, in convenience stores and in herbal or spiritual shops, and is usually marketed as incense. The herbs, which sell for as much as $35 an ounce, have emerged as a popular, legal alternative to marijuana among teenagers and college students.

Clemson University chemist John Huffman, a research professor whose graduate students synthesized the substance in his lab 15 years ago, says the chemical may be harmful. "It shouldn't be out there," he says.

Anthony Scalzo, director of the Missouri Poison Center in St. Louis, notified poison centers nationwide about K2 the first week of February after doctors in Missouri reported patients sickened from it.

"At first we had about a dozen cases, but then it really blossomed. By the first week of April, we had 40 cases," Scalzo says. "Missouri remains the epicenter, but it's spreading out."

Poison Centers nationwide have reported 352 cases in 35 states since the initial report, he says. Patients often have a rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure and sometimes hallucinations or paranoia.

The Drug Enforcement Administration considers K2 a "drug of concern," spokesman David Ausiello says. "We're in the early stages of trying to figure out how potent it is."

Kansas banned the drug March 10. Kentucky followed April 13. Alabama's ban takes effect July 1. Legislatures in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee have passed bans that will take effect unless vetoed by their governors. Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and New York are considering bills to outlaw the drug.

Posted: 5/24/2010 11:57:00 AM

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Report: BPA makes canned food risky for pregnant women

From USA Today:

Pregnant women should limit their intake of canned foods and drinks, according to a report that finds 92% of food from metal cans is contaminated with an estrogen-like chemical called BPA, or bisphenol A.

The chemical is used in countless products, from plastic bottles and paper receipts to the linings of metal cans. The National Toxicology Program has said it has "some concern" that BPA alters development of the brain, behavior and the prostate gland in children, before and after birth.

Researchers found that BPA levels vary dramatically even between cans of the same product, according to the study, released Tuesday by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of 19 environmental groups. For example, one can of Del Monte French Style Green Beans had 36 micrograms of BPA per serving, while another can of the same product had 138 micrograms per serving — a level that has been linked to changes in prostate cells and increased aggression in animals.

The report calls on Congress to ban BPA in food and drink containers, noting that companies such as Eden Foods already sell vegetables in BPA-free cans; Muir Glenn also plans to begin packaging tomatoes in BPA-free cans this year. Canada and Denmark restrict the use of BPA in certain children's products, as do five U.S. states, three counties in New York and the city of Chicago, the report says.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association says the report ignores evidence showing BPA is safe.

Posted: 5/20/2010 10:46:00 AM

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Non-narcotic Nasal Spray Approved for Moderate-to-Severe Pain

From HealthDay News:

Roxro Pharma's Sprix (ketorolac tromethamine) nasal spray has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the short-term treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain, the manufacturer said Monday in a news release.

The nasal spray contains the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ketorolac. The non-narcotic medication minimizes the chances for abuse and eliminates side effects associated with narcotic pain relievers, the drug maker said.

The drug should not be used for longer than five days. Potential side effects may include peptic ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding, and the drug shouldn't be used in people who already have these conditions, a high risk of bleeding, or advanced renal failure, the company said.

Posted: 5/18/2010 12:43:00 PM

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ADHD in kids tied to organophosphate pesticides

From Reuters:

Children exposed to pesticides known as organophosphates could have a higher risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.

Researchers tracked the pesticides' breakdown products in kids' urine and found those with high levels were almost twice as likely to develop ADHD as those with undetectable levels.

The findings are based on data from the general U.S. population, meaning that exposure to the pesticides could be harmful even at levels commonly found in children's environment.

Although the researchers had no way to determine the source of the breakdown products they found, Weisskopf said the most likely culprits were pesticides and insecticides used on produce and indoors.

More studies are needed, especially following exposure levels over time, before contemplating a ban on the pesticides. Still, he urged parents to be aware of what insecticides they were using around the house and to wash produce.

Posted: 5/17/2010 12:43:00 PM

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Health Department warns pregnant women against morning sickness remedy containing lead, arsenic

From SILive.com (Staten Island, NY):

A traditional morning sickness remedy, commonly known as calabash chalk, has been found to contain lead and arsenic, the New York City Health Department announced today.

The agency warned pregnant women against using the product, found in stores that sell African remedies. The Health Department was alerted to the potential hazard by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Lead poisoning can cause problems in pregnancy and can lead to learning and behavior problems in young children. Long-term effects include nerve disorders and brain damage.

Arsenic is also a poisonous metal that can increase the risk of cancer, skin lesions, eye irritation and nervous-system disorders.

Anyone who has used calabash chalk should immediately stop using the product, call a doctor to order a blood-lead test and keep them away from children.

Posted: 5/13/2010 11:04:00 AM

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Drugs that treat epilepsy, depression linked to suicide

From CNN Health:

Some antiseizure drugs used to treat epilepsy as well as depression, chronic pain, migraine, bipolar disorder, and other conditions are associated with a higher risk of suicide and violent death than other drugs in the same class, according to a new study.

Experts caution that patients should not stop taking the drugs -- gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), tiagabine (Gabitril), and valproate (Depakote) -- without their doctor's permission.

It's still not clear whether these risks are related to the drugs themselves or to underlying mood problems.

Suicidal thinking and acts are "very, very rare," says Carl Bazil, MD, a professor of clinical neurology and the director of the Columbia Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, in New York City.

"The vast majority of patients do not have anything like that." Dr. Bazil was not involved in the research.

The study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, echoes a 2008 review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that found that taking anticonvulsants (as this class of drugs is known) roughly doubled the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, although the absolute risk remained small -- less than half of 1 percent.

Posted: 5/6/2010 3:49:00 PM

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Science student's cocaine project leads to forensics breakthrough

From The Telegraph (UK):

Sonica Devi, 22, a final year student at Derby University, developed a new method of forensic analysis to help police find tiny traces of drugs.

She put her method, which makes detection of the drug possible even at a million millionth of a gram, to the test on samples taken from telephone boxes across Derby.

The university said she used an ultra sensitive Gas Chromatographic technique which allowed her to find cocaine at picogram levels - one million millionth of a gram - from forensic swabs.

Gas Chromatography linked to a mass spectrometer (GCMS) is an established technique for separating complex mixtures of compounds and detecting them down to very low amounts.

A picogram is one thousand times smaller than a nanogram and a thousand thousandth times smaller than a microgram (a millionth of a gram).

The study, entitled ''Real world detection of cocaine at the picogram (one trillionth of a gram) level in an urban environment'' is now being presented at a number of forensic science conferences across the UK.

Posted: 5/5/2010 4:04:00 PM

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