With the help of a grant of more than $400,000, Dr. Maria Ruiz-Echevarria is looking at ways a protein could help the prognosis, treatment and/or, detection of prostate cancer. Ruiz-Echevarria, a scientist and assistant professor of hematology/oncology, received the three-year, $423,803 grant from the National Institutes of Health in December. The funds will help her and her team determine the role of the TMEFF2 protein in prostate-specific tumor development. TMEFF2 is a protein involved in prostate cancer.
Bioengineered veins could help patients needing bypass surgery, dialysis
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (2/2/11)–Thanks to research involving experts from East Carolina University, other universities and a Morrisville-based biotechnology firm, the day when a surgeon can pull a new human vein off the shelf for use in life-saving vascular surgeries is now one step closer to reality.
“This new type of bioengineered vein allows them to be easily stored in hospitals so they are readily available to surgeons at the time of need,” said Dr. Alan P. Kypson, a cardiothoracic surgeon, associate professor at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU and an author of the paper. “Currently, grafting using the patient’s own veins remains the gold standard. But, harvesting a vein from the patient’s leg can lead to complications, and for patients who don’t have suitable veins, the bioengineered veins could serve as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass.”
The American Heart Association Update on Heart Disease Statistics reports that in 2007, in the United States, surgeons performed more than 400,000 coronary bypass procedures. Patients requiring bypass surgery may not have suitable veins or arteries available and are not candidates for synthetic grafts because of the size needed for grafting.
The bioengineered veins also show promise for patients on kidney hemodialysis. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 320,000 patients are on chronic hemodialysis. Each year, 110,000 new patients develop renal failure requiring dialysis, and the number is growing by 3 percent a year. More than half of dialysis patients lack the healthy veins necessary and must undergo an arteriovenous graft placement to have bloodstream access for hemodialysis.
Most arteriovenous grafts that are placed for hemodialysis access are made of a synthetic material, which suffers from significant drawbacks including a high rate of infection, a propensity for blockages due to clotting and a thickening of blood vessels known as intimal hyperplasia, said Dr. Jeffrey H. Lawson, a surgeon and associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine and an author of the research.
“Due to high complication rates, each A.V. dialysis graft requires an average of 2.8 interventions over its lifetime just to keep it functioning,” Lawson said. “Hence, there is a huge clinical need for a functionally superior, off-the-shelf A.V. graft that suffers from fewer complications than current materials.”
Lawson has served as a consultant for Humacyte and has received research support from the company through Duke.
In this research, scientists generated bioengineered veins in a bioreactor — a device designed to support a biological environment — and then stored them up to 12 months in refrigerated conditions. The bioengineered veins, 3 millimeters to 6 millimeters in diameter, demonstrated excellent blood flow and resistance to blockage in large animal models for up to a year.
Scientists from Duke, ECU, Yale University and Humacyte conducted the research, and Humacyte, a leader in regenerative medicine, funded it. Overseeing the research and serving as senior author of the article was Dr. Laura Niklason, founder of Humacyte and professor of anesthesiology and biomedical engineering at Yale. Niklason is an authority in regenerative medicine for arterial engineering and led the team that recently created a functioning rat lung in a laboratory.
Shannon L. M. Dahl, senior director of scientific operations and co-founder of Humacyte, is lead author on the paper. “Not only are bioengineered veins available at the time of patient need, but the ability to generate a significant number of grafts from a cell bank will allow for a reduction in the final production costs, as compared to other regenerative medicine strategies,” Dahl said. “While there is still considerable research to be done before a product is available for widespread use, we are highly encouraged by the results outlined in this paper and eager to move forward with additional study.”
Humacyte, a privately held company, is primarily focused on developing products for vascular disease and for dermal filling and soft tissue repair. The company uses its innovative and proprietary platform technology to engineer human extracellular matrix-based tissues that can be shaped into tubes, sheets or particulate conformations with properties similar to native tissues.
These can then be used in many specific applications, with the potential to significantly improve treatment outcomes for a variety of patients, including those with diabetes and on hemodialysis. The company’s proprietary technologies are designed to result in off-the-shelf products that can be used in any patient.
Study: Casual video games demonstrate ability to reduce depression and anxiety
GREENVILLE, N.C. and SEATTLE (Feb. 16, 2011) — A new study conducted at East Carolina University shows casual video games help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with clinical depression.
ECU’s Psychopsysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic released the findings of the one-year, randomized, controlled clinical study today.
Nearly 60 subjects, half of whom served as controls, all meeting the criteria of clinical depression, participated in the study, which involved three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2®, Peggle™ and Bookworm Adventures™. All of the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study.
“The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression,” said Dr. Carmen Russoniello, director of the ECU Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic, who oversaw the study along with previous studies involving the same games’ effects on stress levels.
“In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication,” he said.
Researchers used state-of-the-art technologies including psychophysiology, biochemical and psychological measurements. The experimental group experienced an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57 percent. The study, the first such research ever to measure the efficacy of video games in reducing depression and anxiety, also found significant reduction in anxiety, as well as improvements in all aspects of mood, among study subjects who played the casual video games.
Russoniello said research indicated games had both short term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group. He said the results offer convincing evidence casual video games should be widely available to those who suffer depression.
“Given that only 25 percent of people who suffer from depression are receiving treatment, it seems prudent to make these low cost, readily accessible casual games video games available to those who need them,” he said. “They should be made available at health clinics, community centers, online ‘medical sites’ and given out by therapists as a means of intervention.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 20.9 million American adults, or 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 or older, suffer from a mood disorder. More than two-thirds of those — 14.8 million U.S. adults — suffer major depression, according to NIMH. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44. Depressive disorders often occur along with anxiety disorders, and approximately 40 million American adults (about 18 percent of all U.S. adults) have an anxiety disorder.
By Crystal Baity
Studies show that pregnancy isn’t the happiest time in every woman’s life.
As a result, an East Carolina University researcher is studying the effectiveness of a program for low-income women in reducing their risk of prenatal, also called antepartum, depression, which is depression that occurs during pregnancy.
Dr. D. Elizabeth Jesse, ECU associate professor of graduate nursing science in the College of Nursing and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Brody School of Medicine, has been awarded a National Institute of Mental Health grant that will provide support for pregnant women at risk of depression.
The three-year, $640,742 grant will allow Jesse, a certified nurse midwife, to work with patients at the Pitt County Health Department and ECU Physicians’ Regional Perinatal Center. Expectant mothers are already screened for risk of depression, and those with a certain score on the assessment will be invited to enroll in Jesse’s study and the program, called Insight Plus.
Each year, up to 50 percent of pregnant women experience depressive symptoms and about 13 percent develop antepartum depression, which can mimic typical pregnancy symptoms from mood swings to fatigue or a change in sleep patterns. Up to 50 percent of women who suffer from antepartum depression also will have postpartum depression, so early intervention is important, Jesse said.
“Women who experience high stress, lack support from family and friends, have lower levels of self-esteem, suffer domestic violence, and think more negatively about themselves can be more at risk for antepartum depression,” Jesse said. “They begin to feel sad and useless.”
Women often are reluctant to talk about depression during pregnancy or ask for help because of the stigma surrounding it, and they don’t want to appear weak or risk being called a “bad mother,” Jesse said.
Insight Plus is a culturally tailored intervention to help expectant mothers build emotional support from family and friends, set goals, reduce stress, increase positive thinking and improve self-esteem. It includes spiritual-related material for those who value it. “It is my theory that by decreasing risks and increasing resources these women will improve,” Jesse said.
Those enrolled in the program will meet once a week for six weeks with a social worker and a lay assistant, called a “resource mom.” The social worker, resource mom and women will work together to identify and solve problems. Transportation and child care will be offered. Each woman will receive an MP3 player programmed with relaxation and stress reduction exercises and other homework assignments, called positive affirmations, Jesse said.
“Should the Insight Plus program prove to be feasible and effective, it will be a model for delivering care by public health staff and lay helpers,” Jesse said.
The NIH review panel said findings from the study will be highly relevant for public health because the intervention is integrated within rural prenatal clinics, including the local health department, where access to mental health resources for treating and preventing antepartum depression is limited. The panel also said the intervention is sensitive to the cultural needs of low-income African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic women, a population that has been underrepresented in previous studies.
Co-investigators at ECU are Dr. Melvin Swanson, professor of nursing; Dr. Sheila Bunch, professor of social work; and Dr. Edward Newton, chair and professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Jesse also will collaborate with colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia.
ECU offers the only nurse midwifery curriculum in North Carolina. A special intent is for graduates to assume care provider roles in rural areas to meet the needs of underserved women and infants.