Effects of anabolic steroids can linger for years

News-DemocratJanuary 2, 2014 

When athletes are punished for using anabolic steroids, how long should they be suspended? A few weeks? A few months? A year?

New findings at the University of Oslo suggest that even a decade may not be long enough to counteract the effects of the banned substances. Here's why:

When female mice were given doses of testosterone, their muscle cells developed new nuclei, which enable the muscles to produce more proteins. When the drugs were stopped, the muscles shrank to their original size, but the extra nuclei did not go away. So, three months later when the muscles were exercised again, they grew 31 percent in just six days compared to 6 percent for the muscles of mice that did not receive steroids.

In mouse years, three months correspond to about 10 years in a human life -- and the effects may last longer, but researchers did not extend the experiment. This suggests athletes would retain an advantage long after any short suspension. On the plus side, the study also suggests that simply exercising more when you're young may help you keep better muscle tone or rebuild muscle as you age.

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In the past, pregnant women often were told to avoid peanuts so that they did not bear a child with a potentially life-threatening peanut allergy.

New research, however, suggests that advice is just plain nutty for women with no peanut allergies themselves. A study at the Dana-Farber Children's Center in Boston found that those women who ate the most peanuts or tree nuts (P/TN) had children with the lowest risk of P/TN allergy.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy," the study concluded.

Researchers said their data supports doing away with the recommendation that women avoid nuts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, this lower risk was not seen among women who had a nut allergy.

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Doctors at Washington University in St. Louis recently became the first in Missouri to implant a new type of cardiac defibrillator that does not involve placing wires inside the heart or blood vessels.

It's called the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator or S-ICD. During its implantation, a single wire is placed under the skin on the front of the chest. This wire is then connected to a defibrillator that is located under the skin on the side of the chest. It can be used in any patient who needs an ICD for a heart rhythm problem but who does not require pacemaker therapy.

"This is a significant leap forward for patients because it bypasses all of the problems associated with running a wire through a blood vessel into the inside of the heart," said Dr. Mitch Faddis, chief of electrophysiology at the Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center.

"There is also a growing awareness that shocks from wires within the heart can damage the heart to some degree. This does not appear to occur when the shock is delivered outside of the heart by the S-ICD system."

Faddis says it's part of a new generation of devices that will interact with the heart without wires. For more information, call 855-45-HEART.

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For years, doctors have wondered whether they might be able to prevent Alzheimer's disease treating people before the onset of dementia. Just recently, doctors at Washington University launched the first clinical trials of two of those potential magic pills.

"Trying to prevent Alzheimer's symptoms from occurring is a new strategy, but much of what we've learned in recent years about Alzheimer's and the brain has suggested that prevention has a significantly better chance of succeeding than treatment after cognitive impairment," said Dr. John Morris, a professor of neurology.

One of the treatments involves gantenerumab, an antibody by Roche that sticks aggregated amyloid beta and helps remove it from the brain. It is believed that the buildup of amyloid beta plaques may be a key culprit in the development of Alzheimer's.

The other trial involves solanezumab, which binds to certain forms of amyloid-beta after it is produced, thus allowing it to be cleared before it can form disease-causing plaques. For more information, go to www.DIANXR.org.

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Formula-fed infants experience metabolic stress that could make them more susceptible than breast-fed infants to a wide range of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, liver problems and heart disease, according to new research at the University of California at Davis.

"We're not saying formula-fed babies will grow up with health issues," said Carolyn Slupsky, a biochemist whose study was published in the Journal of Proteome Research. "But these results indicate that choice of infant feeding may hold future consequences."

In their research on rhesus monkeys, Slupsky found that after just four weeks, the formula-fed infants were larger than their breast-fed counterparts. They also had developed distinct bacterial growth in their gut, had higher insulin levels and were metabolizing amino acids differently.

"Our findings support the contention that infant feeding practice profoundly influences metabolism in developing infants and may be the link between early feeding and the development of metabolic disease later in life," Slupsky said.

However, for mothers who cannot or choose not to breast-feed, Slupsky hopes additional research will lead to commercial formulas that are closer to human breast milk.

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The Martians are coming! The Martians are coming -- to the St. Louis Science Center in the summer of 2015.

With an $815,000 grant from NASA, the center is developing a new exhibit that will allow visitors to experience the thrills and challenges of Mars exploration. It's called Bridging Earth and Mars (BEAM): Engineering Robots to Explore the Red Planet."

BEAM will let visitors simulate what NASA engineers experience when they send instructions to a robotic rover more than 35 million miles away on Mars. Visitors will be able to program a rover in the Science Center's main building before crossing the Skybridge to view the rovers at work in the James S. McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park.

Young students will see how learning about Mars missions can link them to careers in space exploration, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The exhibit also will include public lectures and school science workshops.

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