Research briefs 110108

Hysterectomy risk for the obese
Women who are overweight from the age of 36 and those who are obese between the ages of 43 and 53 have a higher risk of hysterectomy than underweight and normal-weight women, according to UK research. Data on BMI and rates of hysterectomy were obtained from a total of 1,790 women. At all ages, women who were underweight had lower rates of hysterectomy than those with a higher BMI. (BJOG 2008; 115: 184-92).

Vitamin D 'heart disease danger'
A lack of vitamin D could increase the risk of heart disease, US research suggests. Researchers examined 1,739 participants with an average age of 59. Over the five-year study, 120 participants developed a first cardiovascular event. The risk of a cardiovascular event was doubled in those with vitamin D levels below 15ng/ml (Circulation Online 2008).

Down's gene protects against cancer
Down's syndrome sufferers appear to be less susceptible to cancers because of the extra copy of chromosome 21 that they carry, US research suggests. Using mouse models of Down's syndrome, it was found that the mice were less likely to develop colon cancer. This could lead to the design of drugs to stimulate the production of a key protein to promote cancer resistance (Nature 2008; 451: 73-6).

Sea cucumber hope for malaria
The spread of malaria parasites by mosquitoes could be prevented by genetically engineering them with sea cucumber protein, UK research suggests. Researchers fused the gene for a lethal protein called CEL-III, from sea cucumbers, with a mosquito gene so that the mosquito would release lectin into its gut during feeding. The lectin killed the parasites inside the mosquito's stomach. The protein could be effective on more than one of the four parasites that cause malaria, claim researchers (PLOS Pathogens 2007; 12: 1,962-70).

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