Nanomedicine May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 12, 2015

The nanoparticle's special surface is designed to stick to fatty deposits.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Columbia University researchers have developed a microscopic medicine that could be used to help prevent heart attacks caused by atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque (mainly cholesterol deposits) within the arteries. This thickening of the artery walls decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to vital body organs and extremities, which can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries continues to be the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., and about one half of all strokes in this country are caused by atherosclerosis.

Through preclinical testing, the BWH and Columbia University researchers aimed to demonstrate that medical treatment of atherosclerosis can be significantly improved by significantly improving the precision of treatment. They designed nanometer-sized, biodegradable “drones” that are programmed to travel to the exact area of the artery where treatment is required, and, once there, deliver a precise dose of a special anti-inflammatory medication that promotes healing. The size of the nanomedicine particles – 1,000 times smaller than the tip of a single human-hair strand – helps them to maneuver to the inside of the plaque. The particles’ special surface, designed to stick to fatty deposits, helps to keep them there.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease – A New Model of Care

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 28, 2015

Dr. Joshua Korzenik

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects about 1.6 to 1.8 million Americans, is a group of chronic conditions that impacts the colon and small intestine. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both conditions affect the large intestine, but Crohn’s also can affect the entire digestive tract.

IBD is a lifelong condition that can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue. There are, however, treatments that can help patients manage these symptoms and make life more comfortable.

In the following video, Dr. Joshua Korzenik, Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center, discusses the major causes of IBD, innovative treatment approaches, and what’s being done to improve IBD care.

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Rotating Shift Work May Increase Health Risks in Women

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 10, 2015

Rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

New Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that long-term rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

To examine the impact of rotating night shift work on mortality, BWH epidemiologist Dr. Eva Schernhammer and her research team analyzed 22-year medical histories of nearly 75,000 female nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study. The composition of the Nurses’ Health Study – exclusively female nurses – was particularly advantageous for Dr. Schernhammer’s purposes, as many nurses have rotating-shift schedules.

Compared to nurses who never worked night shifts, the researchers found that nurses who regularly worked rotating shifts for 6 to 14 years were 19 percent more likely to die from heart disease. (For this study, a rotating-shift worker was defined as someone who worked at least three nights per month, in addition to shifts at other times of the day.) Women who worked rotating shifts for 15 years or more were 23 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 25 percent more likely to die from lung cancer. The study also found that rotating shift workers were slightly more likely to die sooner, regardless of the cause.

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Innovations in Chronic Pain Management

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 17, 2015

Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek medical help.

Among the many reasons why patients go to see a doctor, pain is most often the primary complaint. This pain may range from an acute strain or sprain to other kinds of pain that are associated with an underlying disease.

The most important distinction between chronic pain and acute pain is that chronic pain is less likely to go away. According to Dr. Edgar L. Ross, Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Pain Management Center, treating chronic pain should include a multidisciplinary, collaborative care team that specializes in pain management, and a patient who plays an active role in the treatment plan.

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Impact of Healthy Habits on Young Women’s Hearts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 10, 2015

Research shows that certain healthy habits have a significant impact on heart disease risk.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for your heart. It’s not a novel concept, but how much of a difference does it really make?

A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Indiana University, and Harvard Medical School recently set out to examine how certain lifestyle factors impact the risk of heart disease in younger women (ages 27 to 44 years). Examining this particular segment of the population is significant, as the mortality rate for coronary heart disease (CHD) has plateaued among young American women in recent decades, while the rate for the overall population has declined.

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Using 3-D Printing to Improve Face Transplantation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 13, 2015

3-D models give physicians an opportunity to plan and test techniques before performing face transplant surgery.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is now using 3-D printing to help physicians prepare for face transplant surgeries and to help monitor the progress of their patients after face transplant surgery.

Dr. Frank J. Rybicki, Director of the BWH Applied Imaging Science Laboratory and Dr. E.J. Caterson from the Department of Surgery have developed 3-D models – before and after surgery – of the skeletal structures and the overlying soft tissue of two BWH face transplant recipients thus far. The precise 3-D models, which are based on CAT scan images, give physicians a more thorough, and tangible, representation of a face transplant recipient’s facial tissue.

“The tissues that are 3-D printed in one piece are much better than photographs,” says Caterson. “They provide a better understanding of a patient’s facial structure than any two-dimensional representation can.”

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New Evidence that a Mediterranean Diet May Lead to a Longer Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 8, 2015

Researchers have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

The findings are based on the study of telomeres, the repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These chromosome tips get shorter every time a cell divides, and their length is a reliable biomarker (biological indicator) of aging in humans. Shorter telomeres have been associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases (particularly cardiovascular diseases) and a decrease in life expectancy, while longer telomeres, correspondingly, have been linked with longevity.

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Double Arm Transplant Recipient Gives Thanks

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 25, 2014

Double arm transplant recipient Will Lautzenheiser demonstrates what he can do with his new arms.

Befitting the spirit of this week’s holiday, today’s story exemplifies both gratitude and giving.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced at a press conference today that Will Lautzenheiser, 40, a former professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University and Montana State University, is the recipient of a bilateral (double) arm transplant. Last month, a team of 35 clinicians, including 13 surgeons, worked for nearly nine hours to transplant a donor’s arms – above the elbow on his left side and below the elbow on his right side. The team precisely joined bones, arteries, muscles, tendons, veins, and nerves of the donor’s arms together with Will’s.

Will became a quadruple amputee in 2011when doctors in Montana removed his limbs to save his life, which was in jeopardy due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), a life-threatening Group A streptococcal infection. Since that time, Will has struggled to manage with prosthetic (artificial) limbs. With his transplanted arms, however, Will expects to be able to perform everyday tasks quicker and without the aid of others, and to gradually regain his sense of touch.

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Women and Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2014

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. For women, it accounts for more deaths than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer combined. Consequently, medical researchers have been working hard to increase our understanding of lung cancer and help us better prevent, diagnose, and treat the condition.

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Lung Cancer Screening Helps Current and Former Smokers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 5, 2014

Dr. Francine Jacobson

Lung cancer, the most frequent cause of cancer death in this country and around the world, continues to be an important public health epidemic. The American Cancer Society projects that by the end of this year alone, there will have been 224,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the U.S., and 159,000 Americans will have died from the disease.

Most, but not all, cases of lung cancer are attributable to smoking. Thus, the most important thing that people can do to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking, or better yet, never start.

For current or former long-term smokers, lung cancer screening should be a priority. Research has shown that new screening guidelines for the use of low-dose computed tomography (CT)  should significantly reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer by improving early detection. In the following video, thoracic radiologist Dr. Francine Jacobson provides more details about the benefits of low-dose CT scans and who should get screened.

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