University of Rochester

Rochester Review
January–February 2011
Vol. 73, No. 3

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In Review

Research Roundup

Children in Apartments Face Secondhand Smoke Risks

Even when no smokers live within their own home, children living in apartment buildings are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics and carried out by researchers at the Medical Center, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Julius B. Richmond Center for Excellence. Led by Karen Wilson, an assistant professor of pediatrics, the study is the first to report significant evidence of increased tobacco smoke exposure in the blood of kids who live in multi-unit housing. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke puts children at greater risk for several illnesses, including respiratory infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Stem Cell Advance MAy Be Step Forward for Brain Disease

Medical Center scientists have created a way to isolate neural stem cells—the kind of cells that give rise to all the cell types of the brain—from human brain tissue with unprecedented precision, an important step toward developing new treatments for conditions of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases and spinal cord injury. The work by a team of Rochester neuroscientists, led by Steven Goldman, a professor of neurology and chair of the neurology department, was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The ability to gather human cells more efficiently could aid potential treatments built around transplanting stem cells.

Arthritis Pill Protects Against Skin Cancer

A widely used arthritis drug reduces the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers—the most common cancers in humans—according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Led by Alice Pentland, a professor of dermatology and chair of the dermatology department, the research indicates that the cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib—commercially known as Celebrex—led to a 62 percent reduction in non-melanoma skin cancers, a decrease much greater than that achieved through use of sunscreen, which provides only moderate protection against common skin-cell carcinomas.

For Some, Laparoscopic Technique Isn’t Better

When appendicitis strikes, open surgery reduces the infection risk for some patients, according to new research published in the journal Annals of Surgery and led by John Monson, a professor of colorectal surgery and chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery. U.S. surgeons perform more than a quarter million appendectomies annually, most laparoscopically. But some people—older patients, smokers, men, those who are fighting infection, and those with diabetes—face a lower risk of deep abdominal infections with a conventional incision, the study indicates.

Bacteria Seek to Oust Egg as Top Vaccine Tool

Only the fragile chicken egg stands between Americans and a flu pandemic that would claims tens of thousands more lives than are usually lost to the flu each year. Vaccine production hinges on the availability of hundreds of millions of eggs. Rochester scientists have taken an important step toward ending the dominance of the oval. In a study published in the journal Vaccine and led by John Treanor, a professor of medicine and an expert on flu vaccines, scientists have demonstrated that an experimental flu vaccine grown entirely in bacteria—a process that bypasses the egg completely—works well in people, triggering an immune response that would protect them against the flu.

Decades after Childhood Radiation, Thyroid Cancer’s a Concern

When children are exposed to head and neck radiation, whether due to cancer treatment or multiple diagnostic CT scans, the result is an increased risk of thyroid cancer for the next 58 years or more, according to a study led by Jacob Adams, an associate professor of community and preventive medicine. The study, published in the journal Radiation Research, is believed to be the most extensive of any group of children exposed to medical irradiation and followed to check on the incidence of thyroid cancer.