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Health Highlights: March 20, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Stress-Linked Protein May Play Major Role in Alzheimer's

A problem in the brain's stress response system may be an important factor in the memory and thinking problems experienced by people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, new research says.

Harvard scientists found that when the system is working normally, it can protect the brain from Alzheimer's-related proteins. But if it malfunctions, important areas of the brain begin to deteriorate, The New York Times reported.

Specifically, a protein called REST helps protect brain cells in healthy seniors from aging-related stresses, but levels of the protein are much lower in important brain regions in people with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

The protein could offer a target for the development of new drugs for dementias, The Times reported.

The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"This is an extremely important study," Li-Huei Tsai, director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Times.

"This is the first study that is really starting to provide a plausible pathway to explain why some people are more vulnerable to Alzheimer's than other people," said Tsai, who was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying commentary.

Further studies are needed to determine if lower REST levels are caused by or the result of brain degeneration in Alzheimer's patients or whether focusing on the protein could lead to effective treatments.

"You're going to see a lot of papers now following up on it," Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, told The Times.

"While it's a preliminary finding, it raises an avenue that hasn't been considered before. And if this provides a handle on which to understand normal brain aging, that will be great, too," said Reiman, who was not involved in the research.

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Playtex Breast Pump Power Adapters Recalled Due to Shock Risk

Certain power adapters used with a Playtex breast pump are being recalled due to a potential risk of electric shock, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The casings on the AC/DC adapters used with the Platex Nurser Deluxe Double Electric Breast Pump may become loose and separate. The recalled adapters have product serial numbers from P12324-XXXX through P13205-XXXX and production codes from 1241 through 1324.

The adapters were included with the breast pumps, which were sold nationwide at specialty and online retailers.

Consumers with the recalled adapters should immediately stop using the adapter if the casing shows signs of separating, the FDA said. All consumers with the recalled adapters should contact Playtex for a replacement by going to the company's website.

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Many Americans Believe Health Conspiracy Theories: Survey

A new survey finds that nearly half of American adults believe that cover-ups about a wide range of health issues are being carried out by companies, the federal government or both.

The online poll of more than 1,300 adults found that 37 percent believed that the Food and Drug Administration is keeping "natural cures for cancer and other diseases" under wraps due to pressure from drug makers, USA Today reported.

It also found that 20 percent of respondents believe that doctors and health officials promote child vaccines even though they "know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders," and 20 percent believe that health officials are concealing evidence that cell phones cause cancer.

Smaller percentages of people believed conspiracy theories about the deliberate infection of blacks with HIV, genetically modified foods, and fluoride, USA Today reported.

The poll also found that 49 percent of respondents believed at least one of the conspiracy theories they were asked about and 18 percent believed at least three.

The findings published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine show a "a very low level of trust" in government and business, study co-author Eric Oliver, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, told USA Today.

Posted: March 2014


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