Health Flash

Health Flash: 5.4.16

» protecting the pancreas
Saint Louis University researchers have found that a compound called an integrin inhibitor that reduces scarring in the lungs and liver also may show promise for fibrosis of the pancreas. Fibrosis, or the formation of scar tissue, is associated with chronic pancreatitis, which increases risk for conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic pain. “We have demonstrated that small molecular compounds developed by SLU’s Center for World Health and Medicine can rapidly arrest the fibrosis process even after it is well underway,” says David Griggs, Ph.D., director of biology at the center. The next steps, he says, are to see how the integrin inhibitor reacts with other cells in the pancreas and if the compound, which was given to mice as an infusion, can be turned into an oral drug. The findings recently were published online in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

» glaucoma follow-up
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have received nearly $12 million from the National Eye Institutes at NIH to establish the effectiveness of glaucoma treatments provided by the same scientists in the 1990s. The research, the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, followed 1,636 subjects ages 40 to 80 who now—20 years later—will be reassessed for glaucoma. “The goal of the follow-up,” explains Dr. Michael A. Kass, the study’s lead investigator, “is to create a model to allow clinicians to distinguish more clearly the patients at risk for rapidly progressing glaucoma.” The patients in the original study had elevated pressure in the eye, and half received pressure-lowering drops. According to W.U. researchers, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans, whose rate is four to six times higher than that of Caucasians. Among other findings, the study will help determine whether the treatment has preserved at least some vision.

» antibiotic resistance
Because of the increased risk of infection, most premature babies in intensive care receive antibiotics in the first days of life. A new study of gut bacteria in pre-term infants has revealed extensive resistance to the drugs. “The conventional wisdom has been that antibiotics can’t hurt, but the study shows that wide-scale use in this population does not come without a cost,” says co-author Dr. Barbara B. Warner, neonatologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Warner explains that it is generally beneficial to have a high diversity of bacteria in the gut, but compared with full-term babies, those born prematurely and who received the drugs had many fewer species of bacteria. “While antibiotics can be lifesaving, we hope the study helps push toward shorter treatment and minimized use of broad-spectrum drugs.” The study is published online in Nature Microbiology.

» athletes with heart
New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have loosened restrictions placed on competitive athletes with certain heart conditions. Cardiologists at Washington University School of Medicine led two of the task forces responsible for updating the guidelines, which help doctors decide when it’s safe for a heart patient to play. “We want people to be active,” says Dr. Alan Braverman, alumni endowed professor in cardiovascular diseases in the department of medicine. “But we also want them to be safe.” The recommendations, published recently in Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, were written to acknowledge that physical activity is vital to overall health, says Dr. George van Hare, W.U. pediatric cardiologist. The guidelines also classify sports according to the load they place on heart muscle.