Health Scan: Scientists learn how specific gene affects insulin secretion

Health Scan Scientists

MRI scanner mamography 248 88 (photo credit: Aurora)
MRI scanner mamography 248 88
(photo credit: Aurora)
How a specific gene, named LKB1, in the pancreas affects secretion of insulin has been discovered by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with Japanese and American universities. Their work opens the way for a new understanding of possible paths to battle diabetes and diabetes-related problems, which are growing around the world by leaps and bounds. The team, led by Dr. Yuval Dor of HU and including his students plus scientists from Japan's Kobe University and the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis and Massachusetts General Hospital, recently published their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism. Blood glucose levels are tightly regulated by secretion of insulin from beta cells in the pancreas. Defective insulin secretion results in poorly regulated blood glucose levels and diabetes. The findings have potentially great implications for those suffering from diabetes (excessive blood sugar) due to insufficient production of insulin in the pancreas. Using a mouse model, the multinational team explored the gene, whose role in the pancreas was not examined before. They were able to show that eliminating this gene from beta cells causes the production and secretion of more insulin than normal beta cells, resulting in an enhanced response to increases in blood glucose levels. Since it was shown that LKB1 negatively regulates both insulin content and secretion, the way has now been opened to possible development of a novel therapy that would limit the presence of this gene in pancreas beta cells, thus enhancing insulin secretion. HALA REACHES 100,000-PATIENT MARK During the past 12 years, the country's only non-profit comprehensive breast screening diagnostic clinic - Hala in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul quarter - has examined 100,000 women. As a one-stop clinic that offers a wide range of services from digital mammography and needle biopsy to ultrasound and sterotactic prone table biopsies, it requires only one visit and provides exam results on the spot. This makes the procedure more efficient and minimizes anxiety. As one in eight women will get breast cancer, all between 50 and 70 should be examined every two years; women at high risk due to genetic or family history should begin earlier and be under even closer supervision. Although 16,000 women are received each year, there is an urgent need to nearly double capacity and build a new facility that would contain a dedicated MRI scanner, which would provide even more accurate imaging and reduce the number of invasive biopsies. But for this, Hala - the Rahel Nash Jerusalem Comprehensive Breast Clinic - requires permission from the Health Ministry. The internationally recognized Aurora Company in Massachusetts - the only manufacturers of dedicated MRI breast cancer diagnosis units, has chosen Hala as its sole site in Israel, putting the Jerusalem clinic among the world's leading breast cancer diagnostic clinics. When Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman recently visited Hala for the first time with his director-general Dr. Eitan Hai-Am and other ministry officials, he promised to put women's health at the top of his list. He said his "door was always open" to Rabbi Michoel Sorotzkin, the clinic's founder and director, to promote the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. Prof. Hava Tabenkin, head of the ministry's committee for the promotion of women's health, said it was unthinkable that the thousands of women who want to be examined at Hala could not be. ASPIRIN FOR PRIMARY PREVENTION NO LONGER RECOMMENDED Although doctors have long recommended that patients over 50 with hypertension or type 2 diabetes but no sign of heart disease take low-dose aspirin daily to prevent a heart attack or stroke, it seems that this advice is not beneficial. A recent issue of the highly respectedDrug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) says this recommendation should be abandoned. While taking "baby aspirin" to hold off a second heart attack or stroke is worthwhile, the DTB says it could be useless and even harmful for primary prevention. "Current evidence does not back up the routine use of low-dose aspirin in such groups, because of the potential risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeds that accompany its use and the negligible impact it has on curbing death rates," says DTB. "Furthermore, in our view, current evidence makes it hard to recommend starting aspirin for primary prevention. We believe, therefore, that low-dose aspirin prophylaxis should not be routinely used for primary prevention." LEND A HAND TO YAD SARAH Yad Sarah, the voluntary organization that lends out medical equipment and provides many other services for the elderly, ill and disabled, not only collects used prescription eyeglasses for distribution among the needy, but is also eager to collect other unwanted devices. Anything that helps the temporarily disabled such as walkers, canes, crutches, wheelchairs and vaporizers can be brought to any of the organization's more than 100 branches around the country. A list of items lent out and where the branches are is available at Call (02) 644-4444 for more information. YOU CAN KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON After receiving numerous complaints, the Health Ministry has issued instructions to all the health funds and hospitals that they must allow patients - both male and female - to wear a light shirt (or bra) while undergoing a cardiac stress or Echo Doppler test that involves the attachment of wires to the chest. From now on, clinics that perform such tests must post a sign indicating this option.