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Research Across The Health System

Thursday, July 25, 2013

EARLY SIGNS OF TEEN SMOKING ESCALATION

teen smokingRobin Mermelstein, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Health Research and Policy, and her colleagues studied a group of 697 teenagers for four years. This group of teenagers, at baseline, indicated that they had smoked recently, but were not regular smokers.

Teens in this group who showed signs of tobacco dependency (for example, the ones who said they needed to smoke first thing in the morning) were more likely to be regular smokers four years later. This seems to indicate that among light-smoking teens, nicotine dependence may better predict future smoking than smoking behaviors themselves.

REDUCING THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE AMONG PEOPLE WITH DIABETES

People with diabetes have a higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease. This relationship between diabetes and heart disease is particularly pronounced among women. Kirstie Danielson, PhD assistant professor in the UIC College of Medicine, and her colleagues have studied the risk of atherosclerosis among a group of patients with type 1 diabetes (15 patients; 13 were women). Each of the patients received one to three islet transplants and all were followed for several years.

One year post-transplant, the risk of atherosclerosis was decreased significantly, and for those that were followed for more than four years, atherosclerosis began to progress again but still remained significantly decreased. At the end of the study, 11 of 15 patients were insulin-free.

A STEP TOWARD DEVELOPING THERAPEUTICS TO TREAT ALCOHOL USE AND ANXIETY

There is a link between anxiety and alcohol use-people who drink a lot of alcohol tend to have more problems with anxiety. Subhash Pandey, PhD, professor of psychiatry, and his colleagues have found that there seems to be a genetic link between anxiety and alcohol use.

They studied rats that had been bred to have either a high or low preference for alcohol. When rats with a high preference for alcohol were given alcohol, their anxiety decreased. These rats also had high levels of HDAC2, which changes DNA's packing density. In the rats that preferred alcohol, the DNA in their amygdala was densely packed (the amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions like fear and anxiety).

When the rats' HDAC2 levels were reduced, the DNA in the amygdala was more loosely packed and anxiety decreased. This seems to suggest that HDAC2 may play a role in the density of DNA packing, and in turn play a role in anxiety and alcohol use, which may support the development of therapies.

PERSONALIZED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTERVENTIONS TO IMPROVE BONE HEALTH

Karen Troy, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Applied Health Sciences, received a four-year, $1.6 million NIH grant to study whether exercise may improve bone health. Previous animal research has shown that the structure of bone changes from the application of mechanical forces; however, we don't yet know if this also applies to humans.

exercise Troy will examine the effects on bone density of light versus heavy pressure applied three times a week over 12 months among a group of women participants. The overarching goal is to support the development of personalized physical activity interventions to optimize bone health.

STRENGTH TRAINING TO IMPROVE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

African-Americans have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than Caucasians. In a study of exercise among young men, African-Americans, as compared with Caucasians, showed greater improvements in markers of cardiovascular health.

Jeffrey Woods, PhD, associate professor in the College of Applied Health Sciences at Urbana-Champaign, along with graduate student Marc Cook, found that after six weeks of strength training, two markers of cardiovascular disease decreased among the African-American men, but not among the Caucasian men. This seems to indicate that the health benefits of exercise may differ for African-Americans and that exercise may decrease the risk of the future development of heart disease.

CAN HIGH LEVELS OF STRESS CAUSE COGNITIVE DECLINE?

Christopher Engeland, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Dentistry, received an NIH grant to support a study on the relationship between stress and cognitive decline that is a collaborative project among UIC, Penn State University and Albert Einstein Medical College. The study sample includes 320 economically and racially diverse participants who report their stress levels and complete cognitive tasks daily for two weeks using smart phones. Stress levels are then reassessed every six months for four years.

Researchers are interested in how increased stress may affect cognitive functioning. Engeland also is studying blood and saliva samples from participants in this study to look at inflammation's role in the relationship between stress and cognition.

IDENTITY PROTECTS AGAINST SUBSTANCE USE PROBLEMS AMONG LGBT YOUTH

Colleen Corte and Alicia Matthews, faculty members at the UIC College of Nursing, found that the personal meaning that one attaches to being a sexual minority may have important implications for LGBT adolescents and young adults.

In a recent study, they found that having a clear and certain identity as a sexual minority that was integrated into the overall self-concept (a person's total collection of identities) was protective against substance use problems for lesbians and transgender young people. This suggests that fostering the healthy integration of sexual orientation into a person's overall set of identities may be protective against substance use problems for lesbian and transgender adolescents and young adults.

ALTERNATE DAY FASTING FOR WEIGHT LOSS

Weight loss through caloric restriction may not be the best way to lose weight permanently, as it can be hard to maintain a reduced calorie diet over the long term. Krista Varady, PhD, assistant professor in kinesiology and nutrition, has been looking at the benefits and sustainability of alternate day fasting.

Alternate day fasting means eating a 400- to 600-calorie lunch, and fasting the rest of the day. On the other day, dieters can eat whatever they want. Varady's research has demonstrated that not only does alternate day fasting lead to weight loss, it also has other health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, lower total cholesterol and lower visceral fat mass. Varady is currently investigating longer-term adherence to alternate day fasting to see if the diet is possible to maintain over the long term.

IMPROVING TREATMENT ADHERENCE AND MEDICAL SELF-CARE AMONG PEOPLE WITH HIV

Among people with HIV, African-Americans, as compared with Caucasians, tend to report lower adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and are more likely to experience poor health and more infections. Gina Gaston, PhD, assistant professor in the Jane Addams College of Social Work, surveyed 202 African-American HIV-positive patients in the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center.

She found that patients who reported trusting their healthcare providers were more likely to adhere to medical self-care plans. Better adherence was also reported among patients who said that they had good communication with their healthcare providers. This data suggests that adherence to medical treatment can be enhanced by increasing communication and trust within the physician-patient relationship.