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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two Mass. scientists win Keck awards

Two Massachusetts scientists are in the 2007 class of the W.M. Keck Foundation's Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research.

The Los Angeles philanthropy awards grants of up to $1 million each to five junior faculty members in the United States. Institutions make nominations by invitation only.

amy wagers150.bmpAmy Wagers (right) of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School will study how to slow down or reverse the natural process of aging, which has potential implications for treating such age-related diseases as diabetes, immune deficiencies, muscle weakness and cancer, the foundation said.

job dekker150.bmpJob Dekker (left) of University of Massachusetts Medical School will study how chromosomes are regulated by comparing cancer cells to normal cells, which may uncover defects that cause malignancy, potentially leading to advances in treating cancer, the foundation said.

The three other winners are Wallace Marshall of the University of California, San Francisco, who will study blue-green algae to gain insights into human ciliary disorders such as polycystic kidney disease and retinal degeneration; Dr. Xander Wehrens of Baylor College of Medicine, who will investigate the mechanisms of specialized protein complexes in excitable cells, such as heart muscle; and Jennifer Zallen of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who will focus on a fruit flyís cell structure to develop approaches to analyze cell behavior and structure in living embryos, the foundation said.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 09:54 AM

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Friday, July 13, 2007

MGH, Brigham make US News honor roll

Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital held on to their honor roll positions in the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report called "America's Best Hospitals." Nine Boston hospitals are featured in the guide.

Mass. General finished fifth in the standings, down one rung from last year, and the Brigham took tenth place, up one from last year. Once again, Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Mayo Clinic finished first and second. UCLA Medical Center moved up to third from fifth and the Cleveland Clinic slipped to fourth from third.

The magazine evaluated 5,462 hospitals in 16 specialties, excluding pediatrics, and came up with 173 hospitals that met standards in one or more specialties based on reputation, care-related factors such as nursing and patient services, and mortality rate. Eighteen hospitals scored at or near the top in at least six specialties to make the honor roll.

Other hospitals were ranked in the specialty areas, but not in a cumulative score. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was in the top 50 for 10 categories: diabetes (in conjunction with the Joslin Clinic); digestive disorders; respiratory care; heart and heart surgery; cancer care; kidney diseases; geriatrics; gynecology, urology; and ear, nose and throat care.

Boston-area hospitals known for their specialties also made the top 50. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute placed fifth in the list for cancer care. Joslin Clinic, with its partner Beth Israel Deaconess, was ranked 12th for endocrinology. New England Baptist Hospital was 17th for orthopedics and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital ranked eighth for rehabilitation. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary placed fourth in ophthalmology and in the ear, nose and throat specialty.

Boston Medical Center was ranked 41st in geriatrics.

Mass. General's winning specialty areas were cancer; digestive disorders; ear, nose and throat; endocrinology; geriatrics; heart and heart surgery; gynecology; kidney disease; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; respiratory disorders; urology; psychiatry; and rheumatology.

The Brigham's top specialties were cancer; digestive disorders; ear, nose and throat; endocrinology; geriatrics; gynecology; heart and heart surgery; kidney disease; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; respiratory disorders; urology; and rheumatology.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:27 AM

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Joslin name goes NASCAR

joslin NASCAR 150.bmpJoslin Diabetes Centerís partnership with Walgreens is bringing it into pharmacies nationwide. Now the 10-month-old alliance is hitting the road.

Joslinís name is going NASCAR, along with Walgreens and its co-sponsor in car racing, the drug company Eli Lilly. Logos from all three will grace a Ford Fusion driven for Carl A. Haas Motorsports by rookie driver Kyle Krisiloff. Heíll be racing Saturday in Loudon, N.H., as part of the NASCAR Busch Series.

The effort to drive awareness of diabetes is the first of its kind for NASCAR, according to Joslin. The clinic and research center is not paying for the sponsorship, spokeswoman Jenny Catherine Eriksen said.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 01:05 PM

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tight diabetes control doesn't harm cognitive function, study finds

Researchers led by a team at the Joslin Diabetes Center report in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine that tightly controlling blood sugar levels does not impair long-term cognitive function for people with type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetics, whose immune systems destroy cells in the pancreas that make insulin, must monitor the level of sugar in their blood and inject insulin or use an insulin pump to keep down blood sugar. High levels can lead to such complications as blindness, heart disease and kidney failure.

Tight control of blood sugar, however, can unintentionally result in episodes of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia can lead to confusion, coma and convulsions. That has raised concerns that over time, hypoglycemia could cause long-term cognitive problems.

The Joslin study followed 1,441 type 1 diabetics for 12 years, following up on an earlier study of the same participants that showed that after 6 years, diabetics with tightly controlled blood sugar showed the same cognitive function as diabetics on less intensive therapy. The results after 18 years confirmed the earlier findings.

"While acute episodes of hypoglycemia can impair thinking and can even be life-threatening, type 1 diabetes patients do not have to worry that such episodes will impair their long-term abilities to perceive, reason and remember," Dr. Alan M. Jacobson, head of Joslin's behavioral and mental health research section and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:51 PM

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Joslin doctor joins state's new Asian American Commission

Dr. George L. King, director of research at Joslin Diabetes Center and co-director of Joslin's Asian American Diabetes Initiative, was sworn in today as a member of the state's new Asian American Commission in a State House ceremony.

King also heads vascular cell biology at Joslin and is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 02:45 PM

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Monday, February 5, 2007

Joslin opens affiliate in New Hampshire

Joslin Diabetes Center has formed an affiliation with Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.H., where it will offer educational programs for patients with diabetes, one-on-one education classes for those who are newly diagnosed, and diabetes information groups.

Joslin has 25 affiliated programs in the United States and two international affiliates in the Kingdom of Bahrain and Canada.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 04:13 PM

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Joslin research links proteins to vision loss

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have identified a group of proteins that may cause blood vessels to leak in the eyes of people who have diabetic eye disease.

Edward Feener and his team report in Sunday's online edition of Nature Medicine on the molecules that may play a role in the two leading causes of vision loss among adults. Their work could have implications for blood vessel leakage and cerebral swelling involved in head injury or stroke.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:09 AM

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Friday, January 26, 2007

A non-MD, new Joslin CEO suits tight times, scientists say

Research money isn't what it used to be. Neither is the leadership of the Joslin Diabetes Center.

But Ranch C. Kimball, Joslin's first non-physician president and CEO, won "surprisingly positive" reviews from scientists when he made the rounds at the Harvard affiliate before being named. A memo summarizing the scientists' impressions of Kimball also said he had "obvious intellectual gifts and understood researchers' needs."

Kimball comes from the Romney administration, where he was secretary of economic development. He takes over from Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, who returned to full-time research in September.

"We realize this is probably an unusual choice of a president," said Dr. Steven E. Shoelson, a Joslin researcher and clinician. "I think it relates to the specific demands of the time. With NIH funding going down and more and more competition for research dollars, the board felt a specific need to strengthen our ability to compete for development dollars."

Joslin's outpatient clinic, run jointly with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, loses money because that kind of primary care -- unlike surgery -- isn't reimbursed very well.

Total revenues and expenses both grew a little over 1 percent from fiscal 2004 to 2005. Its surplus was about $4.6 million both years. Philanthropy has averaged about $12 million over the last four years.

Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess, was on the search committee that nominated Kimball for the Joslin job. Business leaders bubbled to the top, he said.

Joslin holds its own getting NIH funds, said Shoelson, who is associate director of research. Grant support was about the same from 2004 to 2005, but belt-tightening has chilled Joslin and other research centers as fewer proposals survive.

One researcher who asked not to be named said he's getting only 80 percent of the money he used to pull in from NIH.

"I wake up and think, my God, with a 20 percent cut, how can I manage the salaries of my post-docs or my fellows? How do I manage my funds for experiments?"

Kahn did well to combine fund-raising with research, the scientist said, but a single focus on money will be better.

"I think the critical thing for us is to have a happy marriage between the business side and the research side."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 10:08 PM
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