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Share the Health

Anyone who wants to feel better and learn a little about how to maintain that state can sample several healing arts during Better Health Day from noon to 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse (3133 Ponce De Leon St., 948-3222).

On that Saturday, health-conscious practitioners of massage, shiatsu, reiki, healing touch, quiet meditation, yoga and taiji will be on hand to soothe visitors. In addition, there will be information about healing herbs as well as food tastings, teas, healing music and art, qigong and more.

Each participant will be asked to make a sliding-scale donation. Practitioners who wish to participate can email phyllisnola@aol.com.

Expanding Medical Sciences

Tulane University has leased about 180,000 square feet of space on Poydras Street to convert to classrooms and administrative offices for its School of Medicine. Renovation will begin soon and should be completed by the summer.

The new facilities at 1555 Poydras St. will help to beef up Tulane's emphasis on medical education, research and practice and will be home to about 400 faculty and staff members and more than 600 medical students.

In the past six years, Tulane has nearly doubled the amount of money it has received for research and development from $68 million in 1998 to about $140 million today. As part of its expansion, Tulane's Health Sciences Center has established a $25 million Gene Therapy Center to develop treatments for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, Alzheimer's and other diseases. Tulane and Louisiana State University also have formed the Louisiana Gene Therapy Research Consortium, Louisiana Neurobiotechnology Program, New Orleans Bioinnovation Center and the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. The latter plans to construct a $60 million cancer research facility.

Kidney Cancer Study

Patients who have advanced renal cell carcinoma -- the most common form of kidney cancer -- may be eligible to participate in a research study to determine the effectiveness of an investigational medication.

The Global ARCC Trial is recruiting patients who have a poor prognosis for their advanced or recurrent kidney cell cancer. During the trial, researchers will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of temsirolimus, a chemotherapy agent that may inhibit growth of the cancerous cells. The medication may be given alone or in combination with interferon alfa.

To qualify, patients must have stage IV, metastatic or recurrent kidney cell cancer and meet other criteria. Participants will receive an office visit every week for a period of time and study-related medical exams, lab tests and study medication free of charge. To see if you qualify, contact Kate Rodger at Ochsner Clinic Foundation (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 842-4000).

Fighting Obesity

Greater New Orleans Inc. is giving Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) a $9,000 grant to produce an herbal supplement that can safely help adults who are overweight or obese.

LSUHSC professor of medicine Chandan Prasad, who received the grant, says his supplement will seek to decrease fat cells, leading not only to weight loss but a decrease in fat. The new product promises to be safer than drugs such as Redux and Fen-Phen, which proved effective as an appetite suppressant but were taken off the market because of undesirable side effects.

"Currently there is nothing available that is safe and effective in herbal treatments for weight loss," Prasad says. "The current trend is to develop agents that increase energy and decrease appetite, and our technology seeks to actually decrease the fat cells."

The grant will be used to study the effects of the drug on obese people. Prasad believes the study will show not only a decrease in weight but also drops in the amount of body fat and other components that are harmful to the cardiovascular system. LSUHSC currently is seeking a patent on the new drug and may partner with a local drug company to conduct further testing if the initial study is successful.

Tommy Kurtz, senior vice president of Jobs Development for GNO Inc., says in addition to the health benefits, his organization hopes the new technology will stimulate economic growth in the area.

Evaluating the Elderly

NeuroCompetency Resources (362-8046) is offering evaluation of the elderly to help protect them from challenges to their wills and estates. Dr. Michael Chafetz, a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist who heads the competency testing, says his company is the first in the region to offer this type of evaluation.

Chafetz and clinical psychologists Robert Davis Jr. and Marcia Beard determine the competency of a person through a series of clinical interviews and mental and cognitive exams. The results enable attorneys and estate planners to evaluate potential legal challenges to a person's mental competency and therefore the terms of their will.

The company can evaluate and review a person's state of mind at the time a will was drawn up even though they later suffer declines in health or incapacity brought on by stroke, brain injury or dementia. It also can conduct a neuropsychological autopsy to determine a person's state of mine when the will was created even if the person is now in decline or is dead. It also can evaluate whether the person made the will of his own free will or under undue influence by others.

NeuroCompetency Resources also offers services including conflict resolution among beneficiaries and therapy for loss, grief and jealousy among survivors.

Prevention Is Key

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Tulane University researchers a $3.6 million grant to establish a Prevention Research Center in New Orleans to study the environmental causes of obesity.

The Tulane center will be among 28 nationwide that will seek to learn how to prevent and control obesity and other chronic diseases. Principal investigator Thomas Farley, chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, says the five-year project will explore how the environment in which people live affects their ability to make healthy choices.

Curbing STDs

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has given LSU Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) a $9.24 million grant to establish the Gulf South Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Topical Microbicides Collaborative Research Center in New Orleans, one of only six such centers in the United States.

Dr. David Martin, professor of medicine and chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at LSUHSC will serve as director. His goal will be to stimulate research in strategies and develop tools to prevent and control reproductive-tract and sexually transmitted infections using a range of medical disciplines.

The New Orleans center, which will operate under a five-year grant, will focus on chlamydial and trichomonas infections as well as mycoplasma genitalium bacteria, which is suspected of causing infertility in women. Researchers also will work to develop new topical medications to prevent common sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. The number of sexually transmitted infections in the Gulf South is among the highest in the nation.

Access to Options

Tenet Healthcare Foundation and Catholic Charities have partnered to open a new ACCESS Pregnancy Counseling and Referral Center at Kenner Regional Medical Center (200 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 130, Kenner, 469-9996).

The ACCESS facility provides free pregnancy testing, counseling, ultrasound testing, baby parenting classes, nutrition counseling and adoption referral services. It also offers post-abortion counseling and referrals for community resources for prenatal care, financial assistance, job training and education. The center, made possible by a $110,000 investment by Tenet, seeks to protect the health of pregnant women and help them explore options when their pregnancies are unexpected.

Massage and other healing arts will be available for one day at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.
  • Massage and other healing arts will be available for one day at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.

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