Georgia Public Broadcasting

We’ve all heard the term “STAT.” In hospitals and clinics, lab tests often are ordered “STAT” … because of a health emergency, like a patient with chest pain. But sometimes it’s primarily for the convenience of the patient and/or doctor. In fact, it’s common for too many tests to get ordered “STAT” … which can overwhelm a clinical laboratory so that almost nothing gets done quickly. Researchers say a better solution is to reduce the time it takes to do most tests, from the common complete blood count to a test for a protein released by a damaged heart in that patient with chest pain.

Obesity rates in children have more than tripled since the 1970s, putting young people at an increased, earlier risk for health problems like heart disease. Investigators looking to reduce these risks led a study where, for 8 months, a group of 8 to 11 year olds with excess weight either exercised for about 40 minutes after school or played sedentary craft or board games. There were some health benefits to the exercisers, like a higher good cholesterol level. But other factors, like the stiffness of their big arteries … a key, early indicator of cardiovascular health … did not improve.

Transcription factors are molecules that help control gene activity. Now scientists have found a factor that aids neuron function also appears to help a recurrent form of prostate cancer become even more deadly. Prostate cancer is a common, hormone driven cancer so, much like breast cancer, hormone therapy is typically a frontline therapy for these patients. Still as high as 40 percent of patients develop a more aggressive, tougher to treat cancer within a few years … and may receive a still more aggressive hormone therapy.

Sexually transmitted disease rates in our nation are soaring. The first study of syphilis rates in patients with kidney failure indicates those rates are even higher. Neurosyphilis, in which the brain and entire nervous system are impacted, was the second most common syphilis type they found in these patients. The neurosyphillis finding prompted the researchers to suggest that whenever a dialysis patient develops confusion, which is fairly common because of problems like an electrolyte imbalance, a syphilis test be part of the evaluation. The researchers say people with kidney failure may not realize they are at increased risk for sexually transmitted disease because of a higher incidence of associated infections like HIV and hepatitis. Caught early, a single dose of penicillin can cure syphilis.

Scientists are examining what internal, nanometer-sized suitcases called “exosomes” are carrying when they arrive at the scene of an acute kidney injury. These injuries can result from a car accident or even a severe infection. While many people fully recover, others are left with permanent kidney damage or worse. Tubules, where our kidneys absorb needed items like water and salt, before passing liquid waste along to the bladder, are a major site for acute kidney damage. Scientists have found exosomes are key to both construction and repair of tubules. They are looking at how, where and how many exosomes are produced, what cargo they carry and which content aids recovery. The goal is to one day pack a recovery suitcase for our kidneys.

There is good evidence that chronic stress, like a bad marriage or financial problems, generates inflammation in our bodies, where it contributes to problems like hypertension. Inflammation can also affect our brains, even destroy the connections between our neurons called synapses. We have evidence that inflammation is a major factor in depression. Yet anti-inflammatory drugs don’t help many patients. So scientists want to know more about how chronic stress contributes to depression. They theorize that stress activates our fundamental innate immune response, then immune cells in our brain start making a lots of a protein called “complement 3”, which can inflame the brain and start whittling our synapses. Scientists want to find a direct way to block that response and reduce depression in patients.