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New Way to ‘Stop’ Premature Birth

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A drug used to treat cancer can stop contractions and may prevent premature labour, researchers say.
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The Newcastle University team tested the drug Trichostatin A on tissue taken from 36 women undergoing a caesarean.

The researchers said the therapy worked by increasing the levels of a protein that controls muscle relaxation.

One expert said with rates of premature births rising – there are 50,000 a year in the UK – a new treatment was badly needed.

Preterm labour and birth continue to be the single biggest cause of death in infants in the developed world and around 1,500 babies die in the UK every year.

A number of drugs are used to try to stop early labour, but most have serious side effects.

Trichostatin A (TSA) is known to promote the death of cancer cells.

The researchers got permission to take samples of the muscles of women undergoing caesarean sections at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, the Cellular and Molecular Medicine journal reported.

Contractions
They exposed the muscle to TSA and measured the effects on both spontaneous contractions and those induced by the labour drug, oxytocin.

They found an average 46% reduction in contractions for the spontaneously contracting tissue and an average 54% reduction in the oxytocin induced contractions.

It has been previously shown that a protein kinase A (PKA) is involved in controlling the relaxation of the uterus during pregnancy.

The researchers showed that TSA increased the levels of a protein sub-unit of PKA.

Professor Nick Europe-Finner, who led the research, said: “We will not give this drug to a patient because it can damage as many as 10% of the genes in a cell.

“But it does show us that other more specific agents that act on the same enzymes but only one at a time are worth investigating.”

New treatment
Dr Yolande Harley, deputy director of research at Action Medical Research which funded the study, said: “This project has uncovered some of the molecular pathways that regulate uterine contractions and so could be linked to premature birth.

“It could have a role in preventing premature birth – finding a new treatment for early labour would be a major step forward.”

Professor Jane Norman, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG), said: “At the moment, it’s not possible to treat preterm labour effectively. We only have drugs that delay it by 24 hours or so – not enough to deliver the baby safely.

“One of the interesting things about this research is that they are using a new kind of drug – the drugs we are currently using have been around for a long time.

“And they are targeting pathways we have not known about before.

“When you consider that preterm birth rates are rising in all four countries of the UK a new more effective drug is badly needed.”

Source:BBC News:Oct.22 ’09

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News on Health & Science

Mapping the Face

New research into how the face stores fat could lead to more effective anti-aging strategies, better facial reconstruction techniques, and may even help doctors assess heart-disease risks.

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Compartmentalization: The face has a new map.

In the fight to protect our faces from the ravages of aging, gravity is one of our biggest enemies. As we get older, Newton’s favorite force pulls everything from our brows to our chins south, and despite the claims of the multibillion-dollar anti-aging industry there is only so much we can do to pull back. And new research indicates that the face is a much more complicated battlefield than previously thought.

Rather than being a single area, the face is made up of not one, but 16 anatomically distinct compartments that gain and lose fatty tissue independently of one another over time, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center announced in a recent issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The discovery is upending previous assumptions about the face’s structure, and its implications may reach beyond better face-lifts to a new understanding of obesity.

“For the last 100 years or so, we thought that facial skin and fat were held up by a handful of ligaments, and that the visual effects of aging come as those ligaments break down and gravity takes over, says James Stuzin, a plastic surgeon in Coconut Grove, Fla., who was not involved in the study. œIt turns out we got that wrong.

One clue into the face’s complexity is the fact that it does not age uniformly. As your cheeks begin to sag, for example, the area around your eyes may remain young and sprightly looking. This led Rod Rohrich, a professor and plastic surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the study’s lead author, to speculate that something might be separating sections of the face from one another. To test this theory, he and his colleagues injected blue dye into the faces of 30 cadavers. Rather than disperse evenly, which is what you’d expect if the face were a single area, the dye only spread throughout a specific facial area, depending on where it was injected. In all, they found eight distinct compartments on each side of the face.

Human anatomy has been studied for over 500 years, says study coauthor Joel Pessa, an assistant professor and plastic surgeon at UT Southwestern.  œItâ’s pretty unusual to see something this new at the macroscopic, anatomical level.
This illustration shows how blue dye settled in two of the 16 distinct fat compartments in the face as documented by researchers.

The compartments themselves are created by membranes that carry blood vessels to the face. Ligaments, once thought to play a leading role, are really the posts along an intricate series of membrane fences, according to the research. Knowing where these membranes are located, and where they intersect, may aid in the design of more specific flaps—tears of skin that plastic surgeons move from one area of the body to another. This could improve facial reconstruction techniques for those who’ve been injured in accidents or combat.

As the face ages, not only do ligaments break down, empowering gravity, but each compartment gains or loses fat independently of its neighbors. While plastic surgeons have long understood that part of the aging equation involves facial fat loss (a process they refer to as deflation), they may have underestimated its role in shaping the appearance of older faces. “Some of what looks like sagging, is really just deflation in deeper compartments,” says Pessa. “Knowing this will allow us to approach facial rejuvenation in a much more precise and individualized way.”

Researchers are looking into whether the case is the same for the rest of the body. “It opens a whole new avenue of investigation,” says Stuzin. “Now we can look at fat storage in a very scientific manner.” Scientists already know that people who store fat in certain regions of the body face a greater risk for developing heart disease. But Rohrich and Pessa’s research shows that common terms like “intra-abdominal” may actually refer to several distinct compartments. And that may lead to better predictions of risk. “Rather than saying ‘you store fat in the abdomen,’ we’ll be able to say, ‘you store fat in the deep axillary fat compartment’.” says Pessa. “It will be a much more fine-tuned diagnosis—but that’s a few years down the road.”

Source:NEWSWEEK