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Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2008

"It's a nice puff piece for selling medications for people who don't havean illness of any kind," Turner told the AP.


Cold Sore Virus Linked toAlzheimer's

People who develop cold sores may be at increased risk for Alzheimer'sdisease, according to British researchers who said the herpes virus that causes cold sores is a major cause of the brain protein plaques associated with Alzheimer's.

The University of Manchester team found DNA evidence of the herpessimplex virus (HSV) type 1 in 90 percent of plaques in Alzheimer's patients'brains, BBC News reported. The findings were published in the Journal of Pathology.

"We suggest that HSV1 enters the brain in the elderly as their immunesystems decline and then establishes a dormant infection from which it isrepeatedly activated by events such as stress, immunosuppression, andvarious infections," said Professor Ruth Itzhaki.

This causes damage to brain cells, which die and disintegrate, releasingthe proteins that form the plaques that cause Alzheimer's, the study suggested.

The potential good news in this study is that antiviral drugs used totreat cold sores may also prevent dementia. Itzhaki and colleagues plan totest that theory, BBC News reported.


Body Clock Gene Fault Linked toDiabetes

Faults in an important body clock gene (MTNR1B) are associated withhigher blood sugar levels and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, accordingto international teams of researchers.

MTNR1B helps control the action of the hormone melatonin on differentparts of the body. Melatonin plays a role in drowsiness and the lowering ofbody temperature.

The researchers, who analyzed the genomes of thousands of people, saidtheir findings could lead to new ways to control or prevent diabetes, BBC News reported.

"Our research demonstrates that abnormalities in the circadian rhythm may partly be causing diabetes and high blood sugar levels -- we hope it willultimately provide new options for treating people," said Professor PhilippeFroguel of Imperial College London.

The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

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