Black children, who generally have less access to health care, are
overrepresented in medical research studies and clinical trials,
while white and Hispanic children are underrepresented. In a study
published in the October Pediatrics, researchers at the
University of Chicago Hospitals compared race-specific medical data
from 1999 and 2000 to 2000 U.S. census data and found that 26 percent
of children involved in medical research and 32 percent of those
enrolled in clinical trials were African Americans, who as a whole
make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. The study concluded that
even though minorities benefit from participating, those benefits
are not translating into better clinical care.
Sleep on it
Studying all night for a German exam may not help as much as sleeping.
Dozing improves people’s ability to learn language, say Howard
Nusbaum, chair of psychology, Daniel
Margoliash, professor of organismal
biology & anatomy, and researcher Kimberly
Fenn, AM’00. Their October
7 Nature article described an experiment in which they
trained students to recognize a series of spoken words, then tested
them 12 hours later. Students trained in the morning and tested
at night had lower recognition scores than those trained at night
and tested the next morning after sleeping. In addition, when the
students tested at night were retested the following morning, their
performance matched the other group’s. The results suggest
that sleep may help consolidate and restore memory.
A drug developed to neutralize the side effects of painkillers may
have an added benefit for AIDS patients, Chicago researchers led
by Jonathan Moss, professor of anesthesiology
& critical care, reported October 17 to the American Society
of Anesthesiologists. Opioid-based pain relievers such as morphine
can cause severe constipation and also increase the ability of HIV
to infect certain immune-system cells. But Methylnaltrexone (MNTX),
developed in 1979 by the late Chicago pharmacologist Leon Goldberg,
blocks morphine’s impact on the intestinal tract without obstructing
its painkilling effects in the brain. Moss and his group, continuing
Goldberg’s work, found that MNTX also prevents opioids from
increasing immune-system cells’ susceptibility to HIV infection.
Many people are less able to express themselves when they cannot
move their hands freely. Susan Goldin-Meadow,
professor of psychology, explains why in her book Hearing Gesture:
How Our Hands Help Us Think (Harvard University Press, 2003).
Goldin-Meadow examined how hand movements not only help people to
communicate but also provide context that speech alone leaves out.
Further, she showed that when words and gestures contradict, the
listener takes more information from the latter. Her findings suggest
that nonverbal communication may shed more light on the nature of
language than previously thought.
Doctors may flinch
Two years after September 11, 2001, only 20 percent of American
physicians feel well prepared to treat victims of a bioterrorism
attack. That’s according to a survey by Chicago researchers
published in the September 9 Health Affairs. The results,
coauthor and associate professor of medicine Matthew
Wynia says, show that “we really aren’t where
we should be in terms of readiness to handle the next bioterrorism
event.” Even so, 80 percent of the 1,000 doctors surveyed
said they would care for patients “in the event of an unknown
but potentially deadly illness.”—J.N.L.