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U of M School of Nursing faculty join southern Liberia Ebola response

Photo: CDC Global/CC 2.0/ flic.kr/p/or5Vfa

Four University of Minnesota School of Nursing faculty were invited by the American Refugee Committee (ARC) to be part of a leadership team of health professionals charged with launching a new Ebola treatment center in southern Liberia. Two members of the group departed today to aid in the response efforts.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Health Talk recommends: Treating diabetes with beneficial bacteria

Photo: Courtesy of OVPR

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Inquiry.

University of Minnesota researchers are on a mission to treat diabetes, and they’ve enlisted a few trillion microscopic helpers.

In place of drugs or surgery, a team of researchers is studying how to improve diabetes patients’ insulin sensitivity by introducing trillions of beneficial bacteria into their intestines. Researchers believe this unusual approach, conducted through a fecal microbiota transplant, could improve how the body regulates blood sugar, the central problem in diabetics. The project is part of MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy), a $36 million biennial investment by the state that aims to solve grand challenges. As a part of MnDRIVE’s Transdisciplinary Research Program, the project will bridge multiple fields of research and bring together experts from across the U to work on the same clinical trial.

Patients with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, which leads to a host of serious health problems, from heart disease to obesity. Dr. Alexander Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the U of M and lead principal investigator on the project, said the right balance of bacteria has the potential to improve the body’s energy metabolism, in part by enhancing insulin function. Insulin drives glucose from blood into cells of the body.

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news-and-notes

Origin of HeLa cells continues to impact research ethics

Photo: Pablo Ramdohr, Some changes made, https://flic.kr/p/9fYG9F

The modern medical world owes a lot to HeLa cells: the polio vaccine, cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization, to name a few. It was the first immortal cell line, or group of tissue samples that could survive in a lab – and reproduce indefinitely. This characteristic made the cells ideal for research environments. HeLa cells became a catalyst for medical progress, from studying gene mapping to cancerous activity, and the cells remain in high demand today, even 60 years after the initial sample was collected.

Yet the source of those cells, Henrietta Lacks, never gave consent for her tissue samples to be used in research. And her family didn’t either.

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expert-perspectives

The Expert Is In: Liver damage from dietary supplements

Photo: Public Domain

Liver damage is a well-established risk of many prescription drugs. However, recent research out of the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia reveals herbal and dietary supplements may be causing liver damage in some U.S. regions as well. Bodybuilding and non-bodybuilding herbal supplements alike were implicated in the find, which spotlighted a small slice of one of the world’s fastest growing industries.

The findings came as no surprise to Chengguo Xing, Ph.D., professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and member of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Xing is investigating how to reduce liver damage associated with a kava dietary supplement, which was found earlier this year to prevent tobacco-smoke induced lung cancer in a mouse model.

Here’s what Xing had to say:

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in-the-news

Health Talk Recommends: What’s so bad about gluten?

Bart Everson/CC 2.0/flic.kr/p/dErQ3a

If you’ve visited a grocery store or restaurant lately you’ve undoubtedly seen an increase in the amount of gluten-free food options available to you. The gluten-free food industry is exploding now, too, and according to a recent article in The New Yorker, by 2016 the gluten-free product industry will exceed $15 billion.

The article explains that gluten is one of the most commonly and heavily consumed proteins on earth, and has been for thousands of years. Gluten is created when two molecules, glutenin and gliadin, come into contact and form a bond. For the one percent of the American population with celiac disease, even the slightest exposure to gluten can trigger a violent immune system reaction that can damage the small intestine.

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nutrition

Make a plan, but consider balance when it comes to Halloween candy

Eric/CC 2.0/https://flic.kr/p/5xRyuc

One of the biggest candy days of the year is upon us, and parents and kids alike are trying to strike an accord on how much candy will be consumed in the coming days.

How much, really, is too much? And is there a magic formula families should follow to ensure the Halloween stash doesn’t lead to bigger problems later on?

According to pediatric dietician Laura Gearman, M.S., R.D., L.D., with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, it’s a good idea to make a plan ahead of time and discuss it as a family but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to Halloween candy consumption.

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