Scientists Transform Pancreatic Cells Into Insulin-Producing Cells
In what scientists are calling an "extreme makeover," researchers were able to transform pancreatic cells into insulin-producing beta cells. The accomplishment, conducted in adult lab mice, may be a step forward in developing better treatments, or even a cure, for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both forms of this disease involve problems with either the body's processing or production of insulin. In the study, published online yesterday in Nature, researchers converted exocrine cells of the pancreas into neighboring endocrine cells. To accomplish this, they injected three transcription factors—genes that encode proteins that turn on and off other sets of genes—into the pancreases of adult mice. About 20 percent of cells that received the three genes converted into insulin-producing beta cells. Although these cells did ease hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar) in diabetic mice, they did not respond to glucose, which means there's still work to be done to find a treatment or cure for diabetes.
HIV Rates in New York City
Residents of New York City are contracting HIV at three times the national rate, according to the Associated Press. The city's health department reported yesterday that nearly 4,800 residents contracted HIV in 2006. That accounts for 72 of every 100,000 NYC residents, while the national rate is 23 per 100,000 residents, the AP reports. Health officials say the high HIV rates likely reflect the city's large population of gay men, blacks, and other groups that are typically heavily affected by HIV/AIDS.
U.S. News recently described a young womans battle with HIV and explained a recommendation that most women get tested for HIV. In June, after the CDC reported an increase in false positives on certain oral fluid tests, U.S. News offered a caution about rapid HIV tests.
A Dose of Lead or Mercury With Your Medicine
Out of 193 ayurvedic medicines purchased online—115 of them manufactured in the United States, 77 in India, and 1 in Canada—about 1 in 5 contained detectable amounts of lead, mercury, and arsenic, concludes a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the medicines with measurable quantities of one or more of the three metals, the median amount was higher than that considered safe by at least one of several public-health standards. For products made in the United States, the median concentrations were too high but still considerably lower for lead and mercury than the concentrations in India-made products. Ayurvedic medicines are traditional medicines of India.
On Quality columnist Avery Comarow notes the alarming levels of these metals found in some products. Measured in micrograms of metal for every gram of product, the highest concentration of lead in a U.S. product was 20.5 micrograms, compared with a high of 25,950 mcg for an Indian product. Mercury contamination in U.S. products topped out at 34.5 mcg, compared with 28,500 for an Indian product.
Exercise for Older Adults
Gyms and personal trainers are increasingly targeting older adults in an effort to help them get stronger, increase flexibility, and boost cardiovascular endurance. U.S. News's Katherine Hobson recently interviewed Jerry Hart, a personal trainer with 20 years in the fitness industry. The 65-year-old Hart still trains clients part time in Bethesda, Md., and Hobson asked him what he does differently when working with older people. For example, he says that "with a 65- or 70-year-old who's been sedentary for maybe 40 years, you have to feel your way more carefully" with how hard you can push a new exercise regimen.
—January W. Payne