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Oct 01, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- SHOTS WITHOUT NEEDLES?

For some, painful shots may soon be a thing of the past. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are perfecting a method of packaging drugs in soluble plastic spheres so tiny they can be inhaled. The microscopic capsules dissolve in the lungs, releasing medicines gradually and painlessly -- an agreeable alternative to the regimen of shots necessary to administer certain medications such as therapeutic DNA, insulin and human growth hormone. The lungs provide a more direct route to the bloodstream than the stomach, where digestive processes and food can interfere with drug absorption. Someday, said lead investigator Justin Hanes, a variation of this technique could prove useful in delivering toxic cancer-fighting drugs only to cells affected by the disease.


A recent study of running mice suggests exercise could produce an addictive natural high. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin showed that running activates the hippocampus and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor in that region. BDNF, a chemical that can stimulate nerve growth, is known to support and strengthen synapses, but in this study it was not linked to increased intelligence in mice. Rather, the change in brain chemistry produced by exercise stimulated a need for more. "These mice are more active than wild mice," said lead author, Dr. Justin Rhodes, who referred to the mice as small and lean. In addition, when the mice were prevented from pursuing their normal running routine, the brain regions involved in craving rewards -- such as food, sex and drugs of abuse -- become activated, suggesting a relationship between natural cravings such as hunger, and drug craving due to a pathological addiction.


People with high blood pressure should not worry too much about mental decline. Contrary to previous studies, new research at Duke University suggests although high blood pressure does affect mental function minimally in middle aged people, it does not accelerate the decline in cognitive functions associated with age. "While the changes in cognitive performance associated with elevated blood pressure seen in our experiments were statistically significant, they are unlikely to interfere with mental functioning during everyday life," said Duke's David Madden, cognitive psychologist and researcher in aging. Though increasing age did have an unexpectedly adverse effect on cognitive ability, increasing blood pressure was not associated with these deficits.


A new survey suggests parents could stand to take a more informed look at the relative risks to which their children are exposed. Researchers at Salford University in England compared how parents perceived risk to their children to actual risk in three cases: an insignificant risk (autism from vaccination), a real but probably small risk (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating meat tainted with mad cow disease), and a real and demonstrably larger risk (injuries from road crashes). Despite the far greater danger associated with driving, the activity was of far less concern to parents than the two less dangerous situations.

(Editors: For more information on PARTICLE DRUGS, contact Phil Sneiderman at 410-516-7160 or For GOOD CHEMICALS, Jonathan Modie at 503-494-8231 or For BLOOD PRESSURE, Richard Merritt at (919) 684-4148 or For RISK, Emma Dickinson in England at +44or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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