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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(4):490

Professional football players who have concussions are more likely to have depression

According to study results published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, former professional foot-ball players who have had multiple concussions may be at risk of clinical depression. Questionnaires that asked about previous injuries and other general health information, including markers for depression, were completed by 2,552 former professional football players whose average football career was 6.6 years. The researchers found that 269 participants reported that they had been diagnosed with clinical depression. Participants who had one or two previous concussions were 1.5 times more likely to have depression than former players who did not have a history of concussion. Those with three or more previous concussions were three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. (Med Sci Sports Exerc, June 2007)

Could stem cells from body fat kill cancer?

Turn your fat into cancer-fighting cells! Slovakian researchers have derived mesenchymal stem cells, which help repair damaged organs and tissues by renewing injured cells, from human fat tissue and have engineered them into genes that find and destroy tumors. The study results, which appear in Cancer Research, suggest that this gene therapy could be a way to attack small tumor metastases often missed by current detection and treatment techniques. Mice with inhibited immune systems were engrafted with human colon cancer. Researchers then injected the mice with the engineered mesenchymal stem cells followed by 5-fluorocytosine, a less toxic chemotherapy agent than 5-fluorouracil. They found that tumor growth was inhibited by up to 68.5 percent, and none of the mice exhibited signs of toxic side effects. However, the mice did not remain completely free of tumors. The researchers suggest that repeated treatments or use of this therapy in combination with other treatments could increase its effectiveness. Mesenchymal cells are usually isolated from other sources, such as bone marrow, but the researchers note that the yield is not as great as that derived from fat tissue, and using fat tissue would be much easier than extracting bone marrow from a patient. (Cancer Res, July 1, 2007)

Do advertisements for alcohol increase student drinking?

Advertisements for alcohol that are placed in neighborhoods near schools may make young students more likely to drink. Researchers counted the number of alcohol-related advertisements in neighborhoods near 63 schools in Chicago, Ill. They found that the neighborhoods surrounding 22 of the schools had no advertising related to alcohol, but an average of 28 advertisements for alcohol were placed near the remaining 41 schools. One neighborhood had 100 advertisements for alcohol. The researchers also surveyed sixth-grade students about their attitudes toward alcohol. After following up with the students two years later, the researchers found that children from neighborhoods with many alcohol-related advertisements were not only more likely to say they would drink, but they also were less able to give reasons not to drink. The data indicated that the advertisements influenced the children who did not drink as well as those who had already tried alcohol before they entered the sixth grade. (Canadian Press, July 6, 2007)

Harry potter's headaches: magic or migraines?

According to a literature review in the journal Headache, Harry Potter, the fictional character created by J.K. Rowling, probably has migraines. The authors analyzed nine of the boy-wizard's headaches and set out to diagnose them. When Harry was an infant, an attempt on his life left him with an erythematous frontal scar in the shape of a lightning bolt. The authors suggest that the scar is located over the first division of the trigeminal nerve, which is the central location of several painful headache disorders. Some of his headaches are described as thunderclap, cluster, stabbing, and tension-type, but the authors ultimately diagnose the boy-wizard with probable migraines because he becomes nauseated and vomits during these episodes. Although Harry's headaches are most likely migraines, the review authors note that one characteristic doesn't add up: his headaches never last as long as the technical definition of a migraine (i.e., one to 72 hours), but they chalk that up to wizardry. (Headache, June 2007)

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