Individuals who have elevated systolic blood pressure in midlife have an increased risk of dementia in later life, according to scientists at the National Institute on Aging.14
Systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure that occurs when the heart contracts, is expressed as the upper number in a person’s blood pressure measurement. Scientists assessed the blood pressure of middle-aged Japanese-American men in the early 1970s and followed them through the late 1990s. They found that those with higher midlife systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of developing dementia later in life. Individuals whose midlife systolic blood pressure was over 140 mmHg had the greatest risk. Midlife systolic pressure of 120-139 mmHg increased dementia risk to a lesser degree, while pressure below 120 mmHg was associated with the lowest risk. The risk for dementia was highest for those who had never been treated for high blood pressure.
These findings suggest that the processes leading to dementia begin many years before the condition manifests, and that preventing and treating high blood pressure in middle-aged adults may help reduce their risk of developing dementia later in life.
—Elizabeth Wagner, ND
Almost 20% of 997 FDA scientists surveyed by the Union of Concerned Scientists “have been asked, for nonscientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or their conclusions in a FDA scientific document.”13 Moreover, 40% stated that they feared retaliation for expressing safety concerns in public, and more than a third did not feel they could express safety concerns even within the agency.
Sixty-one percent of respondents knew of instances in which Department of Health and Human Services or FDA political appointees had inappropriately entered into FDA determinations or actions. Additionally, 60% were aware of cases in which “commercial interests have inappropriately induced or attempted to induce the reversal, withdrawal, or modification of FDA determinations or actions.” When asked whether they agreed that the “FDA routinely provides complete and accurate information to the public” and “FDA leadership is as committed to product safety as it is to bringing products to the market,” fewer than half of the scientists responded positively.
The Union of Concerned Scientists called on the FDA to increase accountability and transparency, as well as to protect researchers who speak out when scientific data are manipulated. Furthermore, the group recommends that all federal agencies have fully functioning, independent advisory committees and be held accountable by Congress.
Adult cells from mice can be made to behave like embryonic stem cells, report Japanese researchers.16 If this technology works similarly in humans, it could render moot some of the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research.
Because embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the human body, they hold almost unlimited promise in fighting disease and helping scientists understand how diseases develop. Embryonic stem cells are typically harvested from five-day-old embryos (known as blastocysts), which are destroyed in this process of harvesting. Opponents of stem cell therapies consider destruction of an embryo at any stage of development to be unethical. If adult cells from humans could be manipulated to behave like embryonic stem cells, no destruction of embryos would be necessary.
Additionally, inducing adult cells to behave like stem cells could help advance the field of tissue transplantation. Transplanted tissues and organs are frequently rejected by the recipient’s immune system because they are recognized by the body as foreign. The ability to induce adult cells to behave like embryonic stem cells means that people could one day receive tissue transplants derived from their own cells, thus overcoming the problem of rejection by the immune system.
—Elizabeth Wagner, ND
On November 7, 2006, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to vote on the Stem Cell Initiative, a measure that would amend the state’s constitution to ensure that any federally approved form of stem cell research or treatment could take place in Missouri. The measure would pave the way for both embryonic and adult stem cell research to be conducted in Missouri.17
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures has raised more than $16 million toward the initiative’s passage, much of it donated by the founders of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which performs both embryonic and adult stem cell research. William Neaves, president and CEO of the Stowers Institute and a leading supporter of embryonic stem cell research, says that those who support limiting research to adult stem cells are exaggerating the potential benefits of using only adult stem cells.
Neaves recently published a letter in Science magazine in response to comments made by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan) during congressional debate on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.18 Brownback, an opponent of embryonic stem cell research, requested that the Congressional Record list 69 human diseases that are now being treated with adult and cord blood stem cells. According to Neaves, however, stem cell treatment for most of those diseases is based on limited clinical trials or observations by patients and doctors, rather than on approval by the FDA. Neaves maintains that only nine illnesses have FDA-approved adult stem cell treatments. “For patients, the standard of FDA approval is a critical distinction,” he notes.
By approving the measure, Missouri voters would give a green light to embryonic as well as adult stem cell research. Because embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the human body, scientists believe they may hold almost unlimited potential in helping to fight disease and promote longevity.
—Elizabeth Wagner, ND
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