JUNE 2016

New method identified for targeting cardiac inflammation following a heart attack

When a patient has a heart attack, the event activates nerve fibers in the lining of the coronary arteries, which results in the inflammation of the artery walls. This inflammation not only attracts white blood cells to the point of inflammation, but produces adhesion molecules that encourage the white blood cells to attach to the artery walls, thus increasing the risk of a blockage that could cause another heart attack.

Researchers at Mass General and MIT recently identified the mechanism that causes this inflammation and subsequent production of adhesion molecules. The team has also identified a method that could be used to “cool down” the inflammatory response and reduce the risk of another heart-attack causing arterial blockage.

More research is now needed to confirm the safety of this treatment before it can be tested in humans.

Encouraging the use of the built environment for exercise may help curb childhood obesity

A Mass General research program encouraging overweight or obese adolescents to increase their physical activity through the use of their everyday environment—rather than organized classes or sports programs—produced significant sustained increases in the daily physical activity of study participants.

The so-called “built environment” includes the paths, parks and other exercise areas that adolescents frequently encounter during their everyday lives. As part of the study, researchers helped participants identify the areas near their homes that could be used for exercise, and to brainstorm the types of activities—such as skipping rope or skateboarding—that could be done there. Participants in the study, who were monitored with activity and GPS sensors, demonstrated a significantly higher rate of moderate to vigorous physical exercise daily as compared to a control group.

Researchers say the results of the study suggest that programs encouraging adolescents to identify and pursue opportunities for exercise in their everyday lives may be more sustainable than organized physical activities that often take place in a specific and sometimes artificial setting.

Study finds global HIV prevention plan would be costly to implement, but highly effective

Using a complex mathematical model that projects the results of small-scale clinical trials over a much larger patient population, a team of researchers from Mass General, Yale University and the University of Cape Town found that implementing the United Nations’ so-called 90-90-90 treatment program for stopping the spread of HIV by 2020 would be a costly but ultimately highly effective way to improve HIV survival rates, reduce the number of children orphaned by HIV, and effectively end the global AIDS epidemic.

The 90-90-90 program has three key objectives:  identifying 90 percent of HIV-infected patients worldwide; providing 90 percent of identified cases with antiretroviral therapy (ART); and achieving suppression of the virus in 90 percent of these ART recipients. The research team presented the results of their analysis to a worldwide meeting of key stakeholders at the United Nations in New York earlier this month.

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