Studies say...
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Studies say...
1BB34097-F786-44E7-9A1A-E8A05C0914DB
Burger
Theresa Edwards
theresa.edwards14 days ago

Studies say...

Ever wonder what those studies actually say? I do, so I read them. Turns out, they're pretty science-y!
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New research has doctors optimistic about preventing heart attacks

New research has doctors optimistic about preventing heart attacks
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A new anti-inflammatory drug developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis has doctors optimistic about the future of preventing heart attacks and improving cardiovascular health.

A study published late last month in The New England Journal of Medicine examined the effects of a series of injections of anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab on 10,000 study participants. The findings of that study suggest proof of concept for a long-standing hypothesis: that inflammation in the heart’s arteries may be a potential cause of cardiovascular disease, events and death, independent of high cholesterol and the deadly plaque it causes.

Certainly, the findings as reported suggest there’s good reason for optimism, namely the 15 percent reduction in subsequent cardiovascular events and 30 percent reduction in traumatic surgeries including stent placement and bypass procedures. For people at risk of heart disease, that’s good news. And really, who isn’t at risk? Heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks account for roughly a quarter of all deaths in the U.S. each year, especially once you hit 40. If you’re not 40 yet, no worries. You will be some day, and then you’ll wish you’d exercised and ate less crappy stuff back when it was much easier. But I digress.

The Canakinumab Antiinflammatory Thrombosis Outcome Study, or CANTOS, which is much easier to say, was performed out of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s hospital and helmed by Dr. Paul Ridker. The 10,000 study participants had a history of myocardial infarctions and a high level of a certain protein that indicates inflammation in the body, and patients with conditions that might otherwise cause an increase in that protein were controlled for and ineligible to participate.

The group was then given either the canakinumab or a placebo over the course of four years, and the results show that the drug was able to neutralize the inflammatory protein without touching the cholesterol level much better than the placebo could.

Why is all of this important? Well, we’ve made a lot of big strides in preventative cardiovascular health. We know that diet and exercise are crucial to maintaining heart health, and reducing the risk of cardiac event and stroke because it keeps LDL cholesterol in check.

But what happens when diet and exercise don’t reduce the level of LDL cholesterol enough? We use statins, a class of drugs that can help reduce it. But what happens when the statins don’t work? Well, that’s where canakinumab comes in. It may not be a complete therapy yet, but now we know that it has real potential to be one, especially since it seems highly likely that inflammation can be as serious a culprit of cardiovascular conditions as cholesterol is.

In a statement on Brigham and Women’s website, Dr. Ridker expressed his excitement for the future of therapies that focus on reducing inflammation, calling it the “third era” of preventative care in matters of the heart.

“In my lifetime, I’ve gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology. In the first, we recognized the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second, we saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, we’re cracking the door open on the third era,” said Ridker. “This is very exciting.”

Puppies who get the least affection may make the best guide dogs

Puppies who get the least affection may make the best guide dogs
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Guide dogs do a seriously important job. People with limited to no vision sometimes rely on these highly intelligent, impeccably trained animals to help them navigate obstacles and avoid potentially hazardous situations.

Naturally, a lot of thought goes into the breeding, raising, and training of guide dogs through puppyhood. The training, in particular is particularly rigorous stuff. And yet, about 30 percent of hand-picked, highly-trained would-be guide dogs won’t be up to muster. Why? Well one study posits that the puppies who get the most affection from mom make lackluster guide dogs.

Research conducted by a team out of The University of Pennsylvania and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal looked at 98 puppies slated for guide dog training. Specifically, it made note of the behavior of the puppies’ doting (or not) mothers. Depending on what kind of human parenting style you ascribe to, its findings may or may not surprise you. The puppies with more attentive mothers -- the mothers who licked, fretted, corralled, and made nursing easier by laying down -- were more likely to flunk out of guide dog school.

On the other hand, pups born to mothers who appeared sort of “meh” about the whole motherhood thing -- the ones that made their puppies work a little harder for food and spent less time overall with their litter -- went on to possess the stoicism and intelligence required of animal assistants.

Understanding why this link between motherly love and guide dog excellence is a tougher nut to crack. The lead author, Emily Bray, suggested a possible reason that will sound familiar. In an interview with Ari Shapiro on NPR’s All Things Considered she suggested that, “One possibility [puppies with involved mothers fail] is that it's good for the puppies to have these small challenges to overcome. You know, the mother's not around versus having the mom there around all the time not letting them experience things on their own.”

On the other hand, the research might also suggest that a paws-on mom is a stressed out mom, and that stressed out moms raise stressed out kids, no matter the species. Guide dogs have to be basically unshakeable and completely calm all the time, so naturally the most laidback puppies are going to rise to the top of obedience class.

It’s easy to conflate canine maternal behavior with that of humans and start throwing the phrase “helicopter parent” around -- and plenty of people have done just that since the study was released. But a little brake pumping before we start waxing philosophic on whatever it is that’s wrong with kids these days might be in order. Genetics could easily play a role in how likely a puppy will be to meet guide dog standards, and a lot more research on the topic is in order before we start banishing overloved puppies from training programs. It’s definitely a needed start, though.

There are already way more people in need of guide dogs than there are guide dogs to go around, and training those little balls of floof into full-grown helpers is extremely expensive. The more we know about how to select the puppies that are most likely to succeed, the more can go on to do the important work of being a guide dog.

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theresa.edwards
Texas-based professional freelance writer. Part time tinkerer. Sewing machine whisperer. Child keeper-aliver.