Single gene depression link doesn't hold up
One of the most celebrated findings in modern psychiatry — that a single gene helps determine one's risk of depression in response to a divorce, a lost job or another serious reversal — has not held up to further scrutiny, researchers reported this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The original finding, published in 2003, created a sensation because it offered the first specific, plausible explanation of why some people bounce back better than others from stressful events. The new report still holds that interactions between genes and life experience are almost certainly fundamental. But nailing down those factors in a precise way is far more difficult than scientists believed even a few years ago.
Gout on the rise in a royal way
Often called the "disease of kings," gout is staging a middle-class comeback as American society grows older and heavier. The rising tide of gout, an extremely painful arthritis of the big toe and other joints, has pharmaceutical companies racing to improve upon decades-old generic drugs that do not work well for everyone. An estimated 2 million to 6 million Americans have gout, with some developing it as young as their 40s. Gout is caused by the buildup in the blood of uric acid, formed by the breakdown of purines. Some types of meat and fish, as well as beer, are particularly rich in purines; sugary soft drinks also may raise the risk.
Good news on the anti-aging front
A drug used to treat deadly cancers of the colon, pancreas, head and neck may be the next new wrinkle in wrinkle reversal — if you're willing to put up with several days of unsightly and irritated skin. For all but one of 20 subjects (ages 56 to 85) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Fluorouracil, a chemotherapy agent formulated as a topical cream, improved the texture and look of sun-damaged facial skin after subjects applied it twice daily for two weeks, according to a study published in this week's Archives of Dermatology. But this was no day at the spa. Twelve of the 19 subjects who completed the regimen reported it was very or moderately uncomfortable. But weeks after treatment, the subjects' wrinkles relaxed, age spots lightened and their skin was softer. Fluorouracil has been used since the mid 1960s to treat actinic keratoses, skin lesions that are a sign of sun damage and the earliest stage of skin cancer.
And now for the bad news
The American Medical Association says there's no scientific proof to back up claims of anti-aging hormones. At their annual meeting in Chicago this week, delegates adopted a new policy on products such as HGH, DHEA and testosterone used as aging remedies. With HGH, or human growth hormone, the AMA says evidence suggests long-term use can present more risks (such as tissue swelling and diabetes) than benefits. And so-called bio-identical hormones touted by celebrities such as Suzanne Somers appear no safer than traditional estrogen and progesterone products, which are recommended for menopause symptoms only at the lowest possible dose because of long-term health risks.
Staff, wire reports