IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
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Unexpected Expertise  
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Survival of the Richest
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Clouding the Issues


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GRAPHIC:  ResearchCitations

An aspirin a day keeps the polyps away
When Chicago researchers and their colleagues saw how well aspirin helped to prevent new polyps in colorectal cancer survivors, they decided to stop their multicenter study after three years, about one year early, so the public could begin taking advantage of the findings. Published in the March 6 New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that only 17 percent of patients who took 325 milligrams of aspirin a day developed new polyps—and the ones who did had fewer tumors than the placebo patients. Senior author and professor of medicine Richard Schilsky, MD’75, who chairs the national Cancer and Leukemia Group B research organization, which spearheaded the study, said that while many doctors already recommend aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease, this research suggests one more reason to do so. The best dosage, however, has not yet been determined.

PHOTO:  Tracheal tubes compress and expand in this beetle x-ray.
Mark Westneat, courtesy the Field Museum
Tracheal tubes compress and expand in this beetle x-ray.

Breathing bugs
Many insects breathe in a manner similar to humans. That’s according to researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and the Field Museum, who used a new technology to observe movement inside living bugs. Mark Westneat, Chicago biology lecturer and the Field Museum’s associate curator of zoology, writes in the January 24 Science that in addition to the passive breathing mechanisms insects use to slowly exchange oxygen through their tracheae, bugs such as beetles, crickets, ants, butterflies, cockroaches, and dragonflies also rapidly compress and expand the tracheae in their heads and thoraxes. Some species exchange as much as half of the air in their main tracheal tubes every second, about the same rate as a person exercising moderately. The scientists viewed the bugs with Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source synchrotron, which generates radiation more than 1 billion times stronger than a conventional x-ray.

Back when the cosmos was young
Scientists have unveiled the earliest image of the universe ever seen, 380,000 years after the Big Bang and 200 million years before stars and galaxies formed. The image, taken by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), shows a detailed portrait of the cosmic microwave background, the Big Bang’s afterglow. It sets the universe’s age at 13.7 billion years, with a 1 percent margin for error—the most accurate estimate to date. The image also supports the theory that the universe is expanding, pushed apart by “dark energy,” which, according to the probe, makes up 73 percent of the universe, compared to 23 percent dark matter and 4 percent atoms. Astronomy & astrophysics professor Stephan Meyer, a member of the probe’s science team, presented the results at a special seminar February 12 at the Biological Sciences Learning Center, while NASA simultaneously announced the results at a Washington press conference.

Varying degrees of health care
Millions of U.S. patients with chronic diseases receive subpar physician care, largely because physician groups follow on average only five of 16 recommended care-management processes, such as using nurse care managers to maintain contact with patients and teaching patients to care for their illnesses at home. In a January 22 Journal of the American Medical Association study of 1,040 medical groups and independent practices, Lawrence Casalino, assistant professor of health studies, focused on the treatment of asthma, congestive heart failure, depression, and diabetes. Doctors are more likely to use recommended processes, he said, when they have better technology and are given external incentives, such as financial rewards or better health-plan contracts.




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