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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Mouse on a couch

Trouble getting off the couch?

If you can't get off the couch to exercise, the key protein that allows you to exercise has likely been turned down. Gregory Steinberg, associate professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair in Metabolism and Obesity, said his study of specially-bred mice with two genes removed in their muscle saw the otherwise healthy mice struggling to run. The genes control the protein AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that is switched on when you exercise. These results may explain why it's so hard to start an exercise training program. The good news is, if you stick with it, your AMPK will get switched back on. The study's results appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Modify genes

There's a way to get around the genes passed on to you by your family. Sonia Anand, of the Population Health Research Institute and professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and an international team of researchers discovered the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can actually be modified by generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables. The research involved analyzing five ethnicities and how their diet impacted the 9p21 gene. The results of their study are published in the recent issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

Watch the salt

Too much or too little salt is bad for your heart. It can put people with heart disease or diabetes at an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular complications, suggests a McMaster University study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The research, co-led by Martin O'Donnell, an associate clinical professor in the Department of Medicine, and Salim Yusuf, a professor in the Department of Medicine and executive director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), found moderate salt intake was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular events.

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Risks of HRT

Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms? You might want to think again. HRT has been found to increase the incidence of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke, say McMaster researchers. Kevin Zbuk, assistant professor in the Department of Oncology and the study's lead author, says there is clear evidence that countries with the highest HRT rates had the largest decrease in breast cancer incidence when HRT use declined. The research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Black Death discovery

An international team, led by researchers at McMaster University and the University of Tubingen in Germany, sequenced the entire genome of the Black Death, which caused the most devastating epidemic in human history. Geneticists Hendrik Poinar and Kirsten Bos, along with Brian Coombes, Brian Golding and David Earn of McMaster University and other international researchers are the first to draft a reconstructed genome of any ancient pathogen. This will allow researchers to track changes in the pathogen's evolution and virulence over time. This work, published online in the scientific journal Nature, could lead to a better understanding of modern infectious diseases.

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Nurse-led intervention

Quality of life for older home care clients significantly improves through nurse-led health promotion interventions, says a study by researchers of the McMaster School of Nursing. Three studies involving 498 frail adults aged 65 or older found home care policy needs to address health-oriented, preventive and comprehensive strategies for the needs of the older adults. The results appeared in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

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Protect small intestine

Stomach acid-reducing drugs may be causing major problems in the small intestine, McMaster researchers found. "Suppressing acid secretion is effective for protecting the stomach from damage caused by (these drugs), but they appear to be shifting the damage from the stomach to the small intestine, where the ulcers may be more dangerous and more difficult to treat," said lead investigator John Wallace, professor in the Department of Medicine and director of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute. The study is published in the medical journal Gastroenterology.

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