Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup: Sept. 4

By
Science & Research Editor
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pregnant women’s smoking patterns vary with fetal attachment

Pregnant women who feel stronger emotional connections to their fetuses may smoke less than those who report weaker connections, according to a new study led by Susannah Magee, assistant professor of family medicine at the Alpert Medical School.

The study was published July in the online version of the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

To conduct their research, Magee and co-author Laura Stroud, a research associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Med School, examined data about women who were also participating in a larger study at several hospitals in Rhode Island, according to a University press release.

Magee and Stroud specifically focused on close to 60 pregnant smokers, asking questions about the participants’ smoking histories and analyzing saliva to determine levels of a chemical associated with nicotine use, according to the press release.

The researchers found that women who reported feeling less attachment to their fetuses had higher levels of the chemical in their saliva.

“This study is building a case that maternal-fetal attachment, while it may be a more warm and fuzzy concept, actually has cold hard implications for health outcomes,” Stroud said in the press release.

 

Study finds cancer treatment has improved over time

Treatment of Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer, has improved over the last 11 years, according to research led by Jorge Castillo, assistant professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School.

The study was published last month in the journal Cancer.

Castillo and his team of researchers examined the records of over 2,000 patients diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma over an 11-year period to determine how factors like age and race influence patient outcomes, according to a University press release.

The researchers found that between 1998 and 2007, patients’ chances of survival increased. In 1998, the overall survival rate was below 35 percent. By 1997 that number climbed to 62 percent for younger adult patients and to 43 percent for patients over 60, according to the press release.

The researchers also found that survival rates varied between racial groups, even after controlling for socioeconomic status, with Hispanic subjects showing the largest gains in survival rates, jumping from 22.7 percent survival in 1998 to 47.1 percent in 2007. The group with highest survival rate in 2007 was non-Hispanic white subjects, with 50.9 percent surviving Burkitt lymphoma.

The patterns researchers identified will help doctors to better understand the benefits of different treatment regimens for different people, Castillo said in the press release.

 

Progeria researchers’ quest documented in film

The work of Leslie Gordon, associate professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School, and her husband Scott Berns, clinical professor of pediatrics at the Med School, to find a cure for progeria — a rare and fatal disease that causes early-onset aging in young children — has been chronicled in the new HBO documentary, “Life According to Sam.” The movie was shown at the Rhode Island Film Festival last month and will air on television in October, according to a University press release.

The film focuses on the couple’s 16-year-old son, Sam, who was diagnosed with the disease when he was two years old.

Upon learning of their son’s diagnosis, Gordon and Berns founded the Progeria Research Foundation, The Herald previously reported.

Last year, Gordon led a clinical trial of a new drug to treat progeria and found that the vast majority of participants taking the drug showed health improvements, she previously told the Herald.

The film received positive reviews when it premiered at Sundance last January.

“When the entire audience stays after the film for the Q&A here at Sundance, it’s a sure sign that they loved the movie. Such was the diagnosis in this bittersweet, bracing documentary centering on Sam, a 12-year-old boy diagnosed with progeria, a rare and terminal disease,” a reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter wrote at the time.