Cocoa and Multivitamins: Two Keys to Better Health?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 23, 2014

Does the cocoa bean contain heart health benefits?

Is there something valuable for your heart inside the cocoa bean?

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Mars, Incorporated are partnering to conduct the largest-ever clinical investigation of the heart health benefits of cocoa flavanols – especially their role in reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.

Flavanols are natural compounds that can be found in cocoa beans and a variety of other food sources. Although cocoa flavanols can be found in some forms of chocolate, they can be provided in significantly higher concentrations as a capsule or powder (mix). In this particular trial, the cocoa flavanols will be provided in a capsule and compared to a placebo.

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Blue Light Boosts Daytime Performance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 27, 2014

Blue light

Blue light exposure during the day immediately improves alertness and performance.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers have found that exposure to short-wavelength (blue) light, which is abundant in daylight, during the biological day directly and immediately improves alertness and performance.

“Our previous research has shown that blue light is able to improve alertness during the night, but our new data demonstrates that these effects also extend to daytime light exposure,” says Shadab Rahman, PhD, a researcher in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders and the study’s lead author. “These findings demonstrate that prolonged blue light exposure during the day has an alerting effect.”

To determine which wavelengths of light were most effective in warding off fatigue, the BWH researchers teamed with George Brainard, PhD, a professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University, who developed the specialized light equipment used in the study. During a 6.5 hour period, one group of study participants was continuously exposed to blue light while a comparison group was exposed to an equal amount of medium-wavelength (green) light. Throughout the exposure period, brain electrical activity was monitored, reaction times were measured, and participants were asked to rate how sleepy they felt.

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Plasma and Platelets: Unsung Lifesavers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 18, 2014

John is happy to be back at his antique clock shop after emergency heart surgery at BWH.

John Bain, 71, of Brookline, MA, recently had emergency heart surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and his surgical team didn’t need to give him a single drop of red blood. As contradictory as it may seem, it took a lot of donors – and a lot of teamwork – to help make that happen.

While visiting his cardiologist, Dr. Brian Bilchik, in the fall of 2013, John suddenly developed chest discomfort and was transported by ambulance to BWH. Dr. Bilchik ordered a CAT scan, and after examining the test results, told John that he would need immediate surgery to repair an aortic dissection – a dangerous, often fatal heart condition that involves tearing of the aorta’s inner wall. Left untreated, such a tear may quickly advance through all three layers of the aorta and rupture, leading to massive internal bleeding.

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Michael Davidson then stepped in to take John to the operating room for emergency surgery. “I had a CAT scan, and, probably an hour later, I was on the operating table,” recalls John. “It was that quick.”

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Spine Surgery – When Nothing Else Will Do

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 11, 2014

Cervical spine surgery patient - Diane Daigneau

Diane is back to work and play after cervical spine surgery.

For many years, Diane Daigneau of Woburn, MA, was able to successfully manage her back and neck pain. Through occasional chiropractic treatments and mild pain relief medications, she was able to continue to work and play.

But she recently discovered that circumstances can change dramatically, to the point where even the best non-surgical care fails to provide adequate relief. Such was the case during the summer of 2013, when the pain radiating through Diane’s back, neck, and arms had become so debilitating and persistent that no physician was recommending anything other than cervical spine (neck) surgery.

From Manageable to Intolerable

Diane likes making things pretty. More than that, it’s her job.

She often spends several hours hovering over a single piece of furniture while meticulously applying delicate gold or silver leafing, or some other type of elegant exterior. It’s a mentally and physically demanding job, particularly for someone who has struggled with back and neck pain. But Diane’s pain was never so bad that she ever worried about not being able to do her job or any other enjoyable pursuits. That changed suddenly during a family vacation at the end of July 2013.

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Face Transplants – New Key to Managing Rejection?

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

This image of a rejection episode demonstrates significant activity by donor immune cells (red) and recipient immune cells (green).

Physicians and researchers commonly have believed that the key to ensuring the long-term success of a face transplant is to prevent the recipient’s T cells (immune cells) from attacking T cells in the donated tissue. Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research, however, has shown that donor T cells transferred as part of the face transplant may attack recipient T cells and, thus, also contribute significantly to rejection episodes – not just the other way around.

The BWH Restorative Surgery team, led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, has had great success in pioneering face transplantation, but they also acknowledge that there is much to learn. Determining how a recipient accepts or rejects a donated face and how to address rejection episodes are considered to be among their most important challenges.

Following a face transplant, or any type of human organ/tissue transplant, T cells from the recipient mount an immune response to the donated tissue, threatening its survival. Thus far, rejection episodes following face transplants at BWH have been controlled successfully through immunosuppression medication, enabling all our recipients to maintain acceptance of their transplanted face.

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New Keys to Treating Aspirin-Induced Disease?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 11, 2013

AERD is a common respiratory condition in people with asthma who have sensitivity to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Aspirin is usually taken as a handy aid for relieving aches and pains and also as a way to help prevent heart attacks. But, in some cases, its use can be the primary cause of certain diseases.

One such disease, aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), is a common respiratory condition that occurs in people with asthma who have sensitivity to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). AERD affects 5 to 10 percent of adults with asthma, around 30 percent of people with severe asthma, and approximately 40 percent of people with asthma plus nasal polyps. New research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, however, has provided insight into how the disease reveals itself and has helped suggest new treatment options.

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Morning Heart Attacks: Blame It on Your Body Clock

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 4, 2013

Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur in the morning?

Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur in the morning? According to recent research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Oregon Health & Science University, it turns out that your body clock may play a contributing role.

“Our findings suggest that the circadian system, the internal body clock, may contribute to the increased risk for cardiovascular events in the morning,” says study author Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, MSc, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at BWH.

Your circadian system regulates and coordinates many of your body’s functions, including metabolism. It tells your body when you should sleep and when you should eat. In this particular study, the researchers found that the body clock drives day/night variations in the quantity of a protein known to be a risk factor for heart attacks and ischemic strokes. The protein is called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). It inhibits the breakdown of blood clots and, thus, is a major risk factor for blood clotting.

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Antibiotics in the US – Too Much of a Good Thing

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 5, 2013

Here in the US, antibiotics continue to be frequently prescribed as a treatment for (non-strep) sore throat– a dangerous public health trend.

It has long been understood that antibiotics are an effective and appropriate treatment for strep throat, a bacterial infection, but not for most cases of sore throat. Yet, here in the US, antibiotics continue to be frequently prescribed as a treatment for viral sore throats – a dangerous public health trend.

“We know that antibiotic prescribing, particularly to patients who are not likely to benefit from it, increases the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing concern both here in the United States and around the world,” says Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and senior author of a recent paper examining antibiotic prescribing rates. “Our research shows that while only 10 percent of adults with sore throat have strep, the only common cause of sore throat requiring antibiotics, the national antibiotic prescribing rate for adults with sore throat has remained at 60 percent.”

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IVF Helps Deliver a Gift worth Waiting For

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 29, 2013

Leah Miriam Urovitch was born on March 30, 2013, healthy and one day ahead of schedule.

Leah Miriam Urovitch was born on March 30, 2013, healthy and one day ahead of schedule. But her parents, Josh, 45, and Lisa, 43, had been waiting for this little girl for years.

Josh and Lisa were married in 2009, and, because of their ages, they started trying to have a baby right away. They continued trying to conceive naturally for more than a year before deciding to seek professional help.

In 2011, they reached out to Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky, an infertility specialist with the Center for Infertility and Reproductive Services (CIRS) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). At that point, the primary options for Josh and Lisa were intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

For IUI, the male partner’s sperm is collected and then injected into the female partner, usually on two consecutive days at the time of ovulation. IVF, on the other hand, is a more involved process and can be broken down into four steps: using medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs; surgically removing the eggs; fertilizing and incubating the eggs; and returning the eggs to the uterus by means of a catheter.

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Getting Surgical Experience – without a Patient

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 24, 2013

The new robotic surgery simulator is an important tool for physicians new to robotic surgery and experienced robotic surgeons.

The console is identical to the units used in BWH operating rooms, but instead of operating on human patients, surgeons operate in a virtual environment. It’s available to surgeons 24 hours a day, every day, in BWH’s STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation, a facility dedicated to helping health care professionals build their skill sets in simulated environments.

Working with 3-D images that mimic human tissue, surgeons sitting at the simulation console are able to get an accurate visual representation of their proficiency with using the robotic arms and tools. The simulator also records and analyzes a surgeon’s performance throughout a virtual procedure, providing both real-time feedback and a performance report to examine after the procedure.

“Safe robotic surgeons must become one with their operative console, so that the patient-side robot truly functions as an extension of their own body,” says Antonio Gargiulo, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Robotic Surgery at BWH. ”This state-of-the-art simulator should give our patients confidence that their surgeon is always a technically competent robotic surgeon.”

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