Teaching worth a million

Teaching worth a million

382 News & Comment colleagues from Tohoku University School of Medicine in Japan report that human urotensin II is present in low picomolar concentr...

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News & Comment

colleagues from Tohoku University School of Medicine in Japan report that human urotensin II is present in low picomolar concentrations in the plasma of healthy individuals and describe the widespread expression of urotensin II and its receptor in several tissues (Lancet 358, 810–811). These results are consistent with the idea that urotensin II might be a locally acting paracrine or autocrine factor in cardiovascular regulation. Totsune et al. also report that patients with renal dysfunction not receiving or receiving haemodialysis had plasma urotensin II concentrations twofold and threefold that of control patients, respectively. The authors suggest that this is because of decreased excretion of urotensin II by these patients, but acknowledge that an increase in urotensin II production in chronic renal failure could also explain their results. Development of antagonists to this hormone and its receptor should confirm the therapeutic promise of urotensin II as a target in cardiovascular and renal diseases. HN

Low-dose estrogen improves acne in women Women with acne can be treated with ultralow doses of oral contraceptive as effectively as with pills containing higher doses of estrogen, which could save them from side effects associated with higher estrogen doses, such as headaches, nausea and weight gain. Diane Thiboutot and colleagues conducted a double-blind, placebocontrolled, randomized clinical study of 350 healthy women with regular menstrual cycles and moderate facial acne (Fertil. Steril. 73, 461–468). Divided into two random groups, half of the women took 20 µg ethinyl estradiol and 100 µg levonorgestrel daily for 21 days, followed by seven days of a placebo pill. The other half received a placebo for 28 days. After six cycles of treatment, both groups had experienced a reduction in inflammatory, noninflammatory and total lesions but improvement of acne was significantly greater in the treatment compared with the placebo group. Of patients in the treatment group who completed the course of tablets, 80% considered their acne improved compared with only 67% of patients receiving the placebo treatment. This study shows that women have a safe means of birth control that is not only http://tem.trends.com

TRENDS in Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol.12 No.9 November 2001

99% effective in preventing pregnancy and offering numerous other health benefits, but can also treat acne lesions without causing unwanted estrogen-related side effects said Thiboutot. HN

Teaching worth a million

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has announced new grants to promote innovative undergraduate science education strategies and to support university research scientists who also make teaching a priority. Eighty-four research universities have been invited to nominate tenured faculty members to compete for one of the 20 US$ 1 million grants that will be awarded to proposals that infuse education programs with more of the excitement, enthusiasm, creativity and spirit of research strategies. Through these efforts, the HHMI hopes to improve the quality of undergraduate science classes for both majors and non-majors, as well as create a community of scientisteducators who will lead larger-scale curriculum improvements. LO

Wellcome Trust sets new standards of conduct Next year, research institutions receiving funding from the Wellcome Trust will have to adhere to new guidelines for good science practice and new procedures for handling cases of misconduct, plagiarism and falsification. Among the changes: the trust might carry out misconduct investigations independently from the investigations carried out by research institutions. The Wellcome Trust guidelines are more extensive than the existing governmental research council guidelines, but as the trust funds nearly 20% of biomedical research in the United Kingdom, the majority of universities will be likely to adopt the Wellcome Trust stipulations, effectively making them the new British standard. LO

Multifunctional metabolic role of apolipoprotein A-II Men with a particular polymorphism of the gene encoding apolipoprotein A-II (apoA-II) have small waist circumference and enhanced metabolism of triglycerides, offering clues to the function of apoA-II. Ferdinand van’t Hooft and colleagues investigated the role of apoA-II, a major structural protein of plasma high-density lipoproteins and whose function is largely unknown (Circulation 104, 1223). Scanning the gene’s promoter region for a functional polymorphism, the researchers found a common substitution from T to C at position −265 that influences the binding of nuclear proteins. This substitution was associated with significantly lower plasma apoA-II concentration and waist circumference in a sample of 624 healthy 50-year-old men. Furthermore, tests of oral fat tolerance following a meal suggested that subjects homozygous for the −265/C allele had enhanced metabolism of large very lowdensity lipoproteins. Although it is possible that these observed associations result from functional polymorphisms in other genes, the authors emphasize the similarity between their human data and previous data on mice [Castellani, L.W. et al. (2001) Diabetes 50, 643–651], which strongly suggests that associations between this −265 polymorphism and lipid and fat metabolism relate directly to the gene encoding apoA-II. This would underline the multifunctional metabolic role of the apoA-II protein. HN

Henry Nicholls [email protected] Lianna Orlando [email protected]

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