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Dec 11, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A LITTLE STRESS MAY BE GOOD FOR YOU

Along with red wine and dark chocolate in moderation, a little stress may be beneficial, too, Northwestern University scientists say. Research has shown that elevated levels of special protective proteins that respond to stress in a cell, known as molecular chaperones, can promote longevity. Acute stress triggers a reaction inside cells that can repair or eliminate misfolded proteins, which can shorten life by causing cell damage. "Sustained stress definitely is not good for you, but it appears that an occasional burst of stress or low levels of stress can be very protective," said biology professor Richard I. Morimoto. "Brief exposure to environmental and physiological stress has long-term benefits to the cell because it unleashes a great number of molecular chaperones that capture all kinds

of damaged and misfolded proteins." Sources of stress include elevated temperatures, oxygen stress, bacterial and viral infections and exposure to toxins such as heavy metals, all of which challenge the environment of the cell. A master protein called heat shock factor senses the stress and responds by turning on the genes that encode the molecular chaperones.


To give patients their best chance to fight cancer, they should visit their dentist before beginning radiation therapy. More than 1-million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer each year, and about 40 percent will develop serious mouth problems as a result of head and neck radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Severe oral complications, such as the patient's inability to eat and drink, often force doctors to delay or stop the radiation treatment, according to a new report in the journal General Dentistry. The goal of head and neck radiation is to kill cancer cells while limiting damage to adjacent healthy tissue and structures such as the salivary glands, jawbones and tissues lining the mouth. However, damage to healthy tissue is unavoidable. During treatment, the dentist can work with the patient to monitor any changes in their mouth that may occur, such as dry mouth, increased cavities and painful mouth sores. "Schedule a visit with the dentist one month before starting radiation," advises Dr. Jody S. Harrison, the report's author. "Doing so may help prevent serious complications."


Even after risk-reduction counseling, some HIV-positive people are engaging in unsafe sex that could transmit their infection. A study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which was based on interviews with 256 individuals who attended a New York City HIV clinic, revealed 41 percent engaged in unprotected sex after learning they were HIV positive. Trading sex for drugs or money was an important factor associated with the behavior, particularly for women. Researchers from the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York City said HIV-positive women may be more likely to have unprotected sex because of a "lack of empowerment or low self esteem." Often, they said, the women have a history of exchanging sex for money or drugs, which probably caused their HIV infection. Such survival sex, as it is called, is a difficult-to-change habit fueled by both economic need and addiction, researchers found. "We need to ... make a safe sex counseling message an ongoing part of clinical care," they said, "not counseling once a year. We need to do it much more often in a proactive way."


For the first time, researchers have found a connection between obesity and adult-onset or Type 2 diabetes. The researchers, with the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute at the University of Denver, found in tests with obese mice that diabetes requires a hormone known as MSH, which is made by a gene found in both mice and humans. Mice without the hormone that were obese did not develop diabetes, but began exhibiting symptoms when given MSH. The finding might lead to new diagnostic tests and treatments for Type 2 diabetes, which affects approximately 16-million Americans. The disease develops when the body either does not make enough insulin or becomes resistant to insulin, preventing it from storing sugar and thereby increasing the body's sugar levels to beyond what is normal and healthy.

(Editors: For more information on STRESS, contact Megan Fellman at (847) 491-3115 or For

RADIATION, Susan Urbanczyk at (312) 440-4308 or For HIV, Jeff Minerd at (703) 299-0412 or For DIABETES, Matt Yeingst at (303) 336-5641)

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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