Hypertension Treatment

  A team of researchers at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center has identified an enzyme in the brain that could hold a key to preventing or treating high blood pressure.

  A research paper published in this month's issue of Hypertension shows Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) helps regulate blood pressure by blocking the hypertensive hormone Angiotensin II, which interferes with brain stem cells' ability to adjust vascular resistance and heart rate. Using mice with chronically high blood pressure, researchers showed that ACE2 activity increased when they blocked an Angiotensin II receptor, and the mice's blood pressure normalized.

  Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that about 72 million people — one in three adults — in the United States suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. Prolonged high blood pressure can cause health problems such as kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

School Gets Health Clinic

  The New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School (5625 Loyola Ave.) last week celebrated the grand opening of a school-based health center, which will provide students with physicals, immunizations, screenings, diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and more.

  The Louisiana Public Health Institute's School Health Connection program provided a $570,000 grant to fund facilities, start-up costs and operations for the new health center. The Kellogg Foundation provided an $8.7 million grant to fund the clinic.

Prescription Assistance

  The American Consultants Rx (ACRX) community service project is donating free discount prescription cards to thousands of organizations nationwide to help seniors and uninsured or underinsured families with the cost of prescription drugs. The ACRX cards offer discounts of up to 40 percent off name-brand drugs and 60 percent off generic drugs. They can be used at more than 50,000 stores.

  To find where pre-authorized cards are available or to download a card, visit

Novel Benefits Research

  Dr. Nicolas Bazan, director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), is donating a portion of the proceeds from his novel Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind (Five Star Publications Inc., November 2008, $25.95) to his center's research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

  Una Vida is Bazan's first novel, but he has written 20 books and 800 articles and other pieces in his field of study, diseases of the eyes and brain. Bazan says he called on his professional knowledge in writing the book, set in New Orleans, about a neuroscientist and a street singer who suffers from Alzheimer's.

  For more information about the book, visit

Childhood Stress

  A psychology professor at the University of New Orleans plans to test local children for signs of lingering health effects of stress. Assistant Professor Elizabeth Shirtcliff will test the saliva of New Orleans children for Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1). A study she led as a postdoctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed the virus lingered for years in children exposed to stress early in life.

  Results of the study, supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, were published in the Jan. 26 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  Shirtcliff will conduct the study on pychobiological risk factors in children through the UNO Stress Physiology in Teens laboratory. She says researchers hope to understand how individuals' biology — their immune system's ability to fight illness and infection — can be affected by events that happen in social environments. Her previous work revealed that a group of children whose history included physical abuse and stressful home environments had higher levels of antibodies against HSV-1, a common virus that usually remains latent, which Shirtcliff says indicates the kids' immune systems were compromised.

Hyperbaric Treatments

  With as many as 5.3 million Americans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) that disrupts normal brain function, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center emergency medicine professor Dr. Paul Harch hopes to improve sufferers' symptoms and functions with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

  Harch and his team will recruit 30 patients for a pilot study to determine whether the therapy will help people with chronic TBI and TBI with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fifteen patients with TBI and 15 with TBI and PTSD will receive at least 40 hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments in the study, which the medical team hopes will improve their quality of life, their ability to think and will alleviate PTSD symptoms. The team will measure results through blood flow imaging, written tests to measure thinking abilities and memories, and questionnaires dealing with health and overall quality of life.

  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2 percent of the U.S. Population has suffered a TBI ranging from a jolt to the head to an injury that penetrates the head and requires long-term treatment. A study by the RAND corporation last April estimated that societal costs associated with treated cases of TBI range from $32,000 to more than $408,000 per case.

  For information about joining the study, call 366-1445 or 309-4948.

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