Commercial over-the-counter cough syrups have been shown in various research studies to be ineffective. So what can relieve a persistent cough due to cold in children? Honey, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics – but only in children after their first birthday, as honey contains botulinum allergens that may be dangerous for babies under one year of age.In February 2010, new Health Ministry regulations were issued limiting the use of cough syrups for children. They can now be given to children if they are older than one year with a doctor’s prescription only; these products used to be available over the counter.Gene discovery offers hope for AMLScientists at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have made a discovery involving mice and humans that could mean that people with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a rare and usually fatal cancer – are a step closer to new treatment options. Their study was published recently in the journal Cancer Cell.“We have discovered that a gene called HLX is expressed at abnormally high levels in leukemia stem cells in a mouse model of AML,” said Prof. Ulrich Steidl, an expert in cell biology and medicine at Einstein and senior author of the paper. Gene expression is the process by which a gene synthesizes the molecule that it codes for; an “overexpressed” gene makes its product in abnormally high amounts.According to the US National Cancer Institute, AML is diagnosed in one of every 254 people during their lifetime. Most die within a few years of diagnosis. For the last several decades, there has been little improvement in the survival rate for AML patients.Steidl and colleagues found that overexpression of the HLX gene in mice caused blood-forming stem cells to become dysfunctional and develop into abnormal progenitors (biological ancestors) of white blood cells that failed to differentiate into normal blood cells.Instead, those early, abnormal white cells formed duplicates of themselves. The researchers then analyzed HLX expression data collected from 354 AML patients and found that 87 percent of them were overexpressing HLX compared with HLX expression in healthy individuals.And among patients expressing HLX at high levels in an even larger cohort of 601 patients, they found that the greater their degree of HLX expression, the worse their survival chances.When Dr. Steidl’s team used a laboratory technique to “knock down” HLX expression in AML cells taken from a mouse model of AML and from AML patients, proliferation of leukemia cells was greatly suppressed in both cases. And when the researchers knocked down HLX expression in mouse AML cells and human AML cells and then transplanted both types of cancer cells into healthy mice, those mice lived significantly longer compared with mice that received unaltered AML cells. These findings suggest that targeting elevated HLX expression may be a promising, novel strategy for treating AML.“HLX is clearly a key factor in causing the over-production of white cells that occurs in AML,” said Dr. Steidl. “Our research is still in its early stages, but we’re looking toward developing drugs... so we can improve treatment for AML and possibly other types of cancer.”Einstein has filed a patent application related to this research and seeking licensing partners.Fast-growing birthmarksStrawberry-shaped birthmarks called infantile hemangiomas grow rapidly in infants much earlier than previously thought, according to Mayo Clinic and University of California, San Francisco researchers. Their study, also published in Pediatrics, suggests that babies with complication- causing hemangiomas should be immediately referred to dermatologists for further evaluation.Infantile hemangiomas are the most common tumor in infancy, tend to appear in the first weeks of life and grow as a child ages.Potential complications include permanent disfigurement of the face or functional compromise of vital organs.“Our goal was to try to figure out when this actual period of rapid growth happened,” said Dr. Megha Tollefson, a pediatric dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic who conducted the study with Dr. Ilona Frieden at the California university. “Then we could potentially intervene if we had to.”The researchers examined photos of 30 infants from birth to three months, analyzing the color, thickness and distortion of anatomic landmarks. Previously, physicians believed that the tumors grew during the first five months of life, but researchers had not yet discovered when the most rapid growth took place.“By using a novel study design, we were able to demonstrate that the period of most rapid hemangioma growth of superficial hemangiomas occurs between 5.5 and 7.5 weeks of age,” Frieden said.The new findings suggest that infants with high-risk infantile hemangiomas should be seen by a dermatologist as soon as possible, preferably by four weeks old. This way, therapy such as drug treatment and laser removal can start as soon as possible.“Depending on where the hemangioma is located, it could potentially have long-term impact,” Dr. Tollefson says. “We now have the possibility of preventing a lot of that,” he concluded.Now honey is a proven alternative.The new randomized, placebo-controlled study by Prof. Herman Avner Cohen at a Petah Tikva pediatric community clinic and others compared the effects of a single dose of three honey products (eucalyptus honey, citrus honey or labiatae honey) given at night to silan (date extract) on nocturnal cough and difficulty sleeping associated with childhood upper respiratory tract infections.Some 300 children age one to five years were given the honey or silan 30 minutes before bedtime. They were tested for cough frequency, cough severity, bothersome nature of cough and child and parent sleep quality, and the results were recorded by parents.In all three honey products and the placebo group, there was a significant improvement from the night before treatment to the night of treatment. However, the improvement was greater in the honey groups than the date extract groups.The honey products were higher than the silan for symptomatic relief of the children’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty. Honey may be a preferable treatment for cough and sleep difficulty associated with childhood due to upper-respiratory infections, the researchers concluded.