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FEELING SAD? PET A PUPPY Researchers have found petting a puppy can put people in a good mood and help fight depression. The scientists from the University of Missouri, Columbia, found interacting with animals creates a hormonal response in humans that can boost mood. Our preliminary results indicate that levels of serotonin, a hormone in humans that helps fight depression, rise dramatically after interaction with live animals, specifically dogs, said Rebecca Johnson, professor of nursing and veterinary medicine, who presented the findings at a conference in Barcelona. This hormone is critical in the psychological well-being of an individual. In addition, we have discovered that there is no substitute for the real thing.

ESTROGEN THERAPY MAY AFFECT BONES Research in monkeys suggests long-term use of estrogen therapy may reduce levels of androgens, hormones that help maintain strong bones in older women. In addition to bone density, androgens also affect muscle mass, sexual function, memory and psychological wellbeing in postmenopausal women. Our findings suggest that it might be important for women taking estrogen after menopause to also take androgen supplements -- which can include testosterone, said Charles Wood, lead study researcher at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Researchers have linked aging with a decline in androgens, but others factors involved in the hormones' production are not well known. Regulation of androgen levels may be particularly important in postmenopausal women because studies have shown those with higher levels tend to be healthier, researchers said. The results are published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

DRUGS FOUND EFFECTIVE AGAINST CROHN'S DISEASE Two Abbott Laboratory drugs, Humira and ABT-874, may help promote remission in patients with Crohn's disease, study results indicate. Crohn's, an incurable disease of the gastrointestinal tract that affects some 500,000 Americans, is typically diagnosed before age 30. Common symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever and, at times, rectal bleeding. The research, presented at Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans, showed 30 percent of Crohn's patients taking Humira in one trial achieved remission in four weeks. In the second test, researchers looked into the effectiveness and safety of Humira in Crohn's patients who stopped responding or had become intolerant to the drug infliximab (Remicade). In this trial, 29 percent of the Humira patients went into remission after 12 weeks. In another trial, researchers found the compound ABT-874 improved remission rates in Crohn's patients.

MIND'S ROLE IN BACK PAIN Scientists have found psychological distress may predict back pain more accurately than the standard diagnostic techniques of imaging and disc injection. The Stanford University School of Medicine scientists say their finding could change how doctors treat back pain, which often includes costly surgery, which insurance companies are reluctant to cover. Most American adults will experience disabling lower back pain at least once in their lives. Often, however, doctors cannot find a physical cause. The investigators followed patients who initially had no lower back pain, studying their spines, using disc injection and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. But it was the patients' psychological evaluations that turned out to most accurately predict who would develop lower back pain, said Dr. Eugene Carragee, professor of orthopedic surgery and lead study author. The study showed patients with poor coping skills or with chronic pain were nearly three times more likely to develop back pain as others. A history of disputed workers' compensation claims also predicted future back pain, the scientists said.

(Editors: For more information about PUPPIES, contact Christian Basi at (573) 882-4430 or BasiC@missouri.edu. For ESTROGEN, Karen Richardson at (336) 716-4587or krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu. For CROHN'S, Shannon Ricker at (312) 240-2620 or shannon.ricker@edelman.com. For PAIN, Michelle Brandt at (650) 723-0272 or mbrandt@stanford.edu)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International

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