Research led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists has linked an inherited gene variation to a nearly four-fold increased risk of developing a pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) subtype that is associated with a poor outcome. The study appears in the online edition of the scientific journal Nature Genetics.
The high-risk variant was found in the GATA3 gene. Researchers reported the high-risk version of the gene was more common among Hispanic Americans and other individuals with high Native American ancestry than those of other ethnic backgrounds. Forty percent of Hispanic Americans carried the high-risk variant, compared to 14 percent of individuals of European ancestry. For this study, ethnicity was defined by genetic variations associated with ancestry rather than individual self-reports.
Vulnerability to alcohol and drug abuse may begin in the womb and be linked to how much fatty and sugary foods a mother eats during pregnancy, according to findings from animal lab experiments presented at American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention.
"The majority of women in the U.S. at child-bearing age are overweight, and this is most likely due to overeating the tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods you find everywhere in our society. The rise in prenatal and childhood obesity and the rise in number of youths abusing alcohol and drugs merits looking into all the possible roots of these growing problems," says Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist with the Univ. of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute.
Light Drinking During Pregnancy Does Not Cause Problems
Light drinking during pregnancy is not linked to adverse behavioral or cognitive outcomes in childhood, suggests a new study published today.
Authors of the study, from Univ. College London Epidemiology & Public Health, collated data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a national study of infants born in the UK between 2000-2002, to assess whether light drinking (up to two units of alcohol per week) in pregnancy was linked to unfavorable developmental outcomes in seven-year-old children.
Exercise During Youth May Reduce Later Fracture Risk
Get out there and regularly kick that soccer ball around with your kids, you may be helping them prevent a broken hip when they are older, say researchers presenting their work at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Specialty Day in Chicago, IL.
“According to our study, exercise interventions in childhood may be associated with lower fracture risks as people age, due to the increases in peak bone mass that occurs in growing children who perform regular physical activity,” says lead author, Bjorn Rosengren, of Skane Univ. Hospital.
Consumption of foods high in carbohydrates immediately after birth programs individuals for lifelong increased weight gain and obesity, a Univ. at Buffalo animal study has found, even if caloric intake is restricted in adulthood for a period of time.
“This is the first time that we have shown in our rat model of obesity that there is a resistance to the reversal of this programming effect in adult life,” explains Mulchand Patel, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and associate dean for research and biomedical education in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The parents of seven-year-old Sierra Jane Downing thought she had the flu when she felt sick days after camping in southwest Colorado. When she had a seizure, her father rushed her to the local hospital in Pagosa Springs. An emergency room doctor who saw Sierra Jane for the seizure and a 107-degree fever late Aug. 24 wasn’t sure what was wrong either, and called other hospitals before the girl was flown to Denver.
There, a pediatric doctor at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children racing to save Sierra Jane’s life got the first inkling that she had bubonic plague. Jennifer Snow first suspected the rare disease using the girl’s symptoms, a history of where she’d been and an online journal’s article on a teen with similar symptoms.
"If she had stayed home, she could’ve easily died within 24 to 48 hours from the shock of infection," Snow says. It was the first bubonic plague case Snow and her colleagues had seen.
Parents are increasingly conscious of the dangers of childhood obesity. There is a growing recognition of health problems associated with extra pounds, including the risk of diabetes, heart disease and joint and muscle pain.
New research from Tel Aviv Univ. has revealed another significant reason for children to maintain a healthy weight. Ari Shamiss and Adi Leiba of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center and his fellow researchers found that obesity in adolescence, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 85th percentile and above, has a direct link to the incidence of urothelial (bladder and urinary tract) and colorectal cancers in adulthood. According to the American Heart Association, one in three children and teenagers are now considered overweight or obese.
Frequent abuse by a parent can increase a child’s cancer risk in adulthood, and the effects are especially significant when mothers abuse their daughters and fathers abuse their sons, according to new research from Purdue Univ.
"People often say that children are resilient and they’ll bounce back, but we found that there are events that can have long-term consequences on adult health," says Kenneth Ferraro, a professor of sociology at Purdue. "In this case, people who were frequently emotionally or physically abused by their parents were more likely to have cancer in adulthood, and the link was greater when fathers abused sons and mothers abused daughters. Overall, the more frequent and intense the abuse, the more it elevated the cancer risk. We would like to see child abuse noted as an environmental factor that can increase cancer occurrence in adulthood. More research on this topic also could help mediate the effects or improve interventions to help abused children."
Children need quality physical education to combat obesity and lead healthy lives. Georgia elementary schools make the grade when it comes to providing that education, but middle and high schools in the state don’t even come close, according to a Univ. of Georgia study.
A study by UGA kinesiology professor Bryan McCullick examined the mandates for school-based physical education in all 50 United States. The results found only six states mandate the appropriate guidelines-150 minutes each week-for elementary school physical education. For older students, two states mandate the appropriate amount of physical education instruction for middle school, and none require adequate physical education at the high school level, a weekly 225 minutes for both. The National Association of Sport and Physical Education set guidelines for the amount of school-based physical education instructional time.
Jiayuh Lin and colleagues at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have developed a drug to target the most common cancerous bone tumor in children, osteosarcoma, using a version of the FDA-approved drug, Celebrex. The team will soon begin testing the drug using human and canine tumor cell lines thanks to a two-year, $200,000 grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone tumor that usually develops during the period of rapid growth that occurs in adolescence. A signaling pathway known as the STAT3 pathway is common in osteosarcoma and is crucial to tumor formation and cancer progression. Blocking STAT3 signaling is considered a potential approach for treating osteosarcoma. However, few drugs are available that can inhibit STAT3 and be clinically relevant.
Mothers who use marijuana as teens— long before having children— may put their future children at a higher risk of drug abuse, new research suggests.
Researchers in the Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology section at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts Univ. conducted a study to determine the transgenerational effects of cannabinoid exposure in adolescent female rats. For three days, adolescent rats were administered the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN-55, 212-2, a drug that has similar effects in the brain as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. After this brief exposure, they remained untreated until being mated in adulthood.
Weight loss improved both metabolic parameters and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in obese children in a new study from researchers in Belgium, confirming links between metabolic dysregulation, SDB and obesity. “SDB is highly prevalent in childhood obesity, and may be a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome. In our population of 224 obese children and adolescents, 30 percent had SDB, which was significantly correlated with metabolic parameters, including aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT), alanine aminotransferase (ALAT) and HDL cholesterol at baseline,” says Stijn Verhulst, coordinator of the pediatric sleep lab at the Antwerp Univ. Hospital, Belgium. “After weight loss, all metabolic parameters improved, and just 24 percent of the study group had residual SDB.”
Instead of building a better mousetrap, a team of Rice Univ. freshmen took a mousetrap and built a better way to treat dehydration among children in the developing world.
“The goal was to regulate the amount of fluid delivered to children so we could prevent over-hydration and under-hydration,” says Melissa Yuan, a member of the IV DRIP (Dehydrated Relief in Pediatrics) team and a mechanical engineering major. “It’s designed to be used in severely underdeveloped parts of the world, where conditions can be pretty primitive and they may not even have electricity.”
Mother’s Obesity Linked to Child’s Lowered Cognitive Function
Women who are obese before they become pregnant are at higher risk of having children with lower cognitive function - as measured by math and reading tests taken between ages 5 to 7 years - than are mothers with a healthy pre pregnancy weight, new research suggests.
In this large observational study, pre pregnancy obesity was associated, on average, with a three-point drop in reading scores and a two-point reduction in math scores on a commonly used test of children’s cognitive function.
Genetics researchers have identified at least two new gene variants that increase the risk of common childhood obesity.
“This is the largest ever genome-wide study of common childhood obesity, in contrast to previous studies that have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes,” says lead investigator Struan Grant, associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “As a consequence, we have definitively identified and characterized a genetic predisposition to common childhood obesity.”