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  • UK Researchers Identify Back Pain Gene

    Researchers at King's College London have identified a gene linked to age-related degeneration of the intervertebral discs, a common cause of lower back pain.

    Back pain costs the United Kingdom an estimated £7billion ($11 billion in US dollars) a year due to sick leave and treatment costs. Lumbar disc degeneration (LDD) is inherited in 65%-80% of people with the condition, suggesting that genes play a key role. Until now, the genetic cause of lower back pain associated with LDD was unknown, says King's.

    For this study, scientists compared MRI images of the spine in 4,600 individuals with genome-wide association data, which mapped the genes of all the volunteers. They identified that the gene PARK2 was implicated in people with degenerate discs and could affect the speed at which they deteriorate.

    The researchers say the results show that the gene may be switched off in people with LDD. Although it is still unclear how this might happen, it is thought that environmental factors, such as lifestyle and diet, could trigger this switch by making changes known as epigenetic modifications to the gene.

    The study was published online September 19 in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.  

    Foundation Gears Up for 2013 Pittsburgh-Marquette Challenge

    The Marquette Challenge is an annual student-led grassroots fundraising effort that supports physical therapy research. Over the past 24 years, students participating in the Marquette Challenge have raised more than $2.3 million in support of the Foundation and its mission.

    To learn how your school can help advance physical therapy research and gain national recognition check out the interactive Challenge kit. 

    Reduction in Diabetes Prevalence Could Mean Decreases in HF Hospitalizations

    At the population level, diabetes is a stronger risk factor for new heart failure (HF) than 4 other modifiable risk factors, namely smoking, dyslipidemia, obesity, and hypertension, suggests the latest analysis from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study cohort.

    ARIC is a longitudinal study of more than 15,000 African American and Caucasian men and women in 4 communities across the United States, who were recruited during the 1980s when they were aged 45 to 64. The current analysis included 14,709 of the participants followed an average of 17.6 years.

    According to the authors, the lifetime risk of incident heart failure was about 1 in 3 for its African American participants and reached 1 in 4 in Caucasians. In both groups, that risk was higher than the lifetime risk of new coronary heart disease or stroke in the same population. 

    In addition, they found that a percentage drop in diabetes prevalence would avert more cases of new HF than the same percentage decrease of any of the 4 other studied modifiable risk factors. Specifically, a 5% proportional reduction in the prevalence of diabetes in ARIC African American participants would result in approximately 53 fewer HF cases per 100,000 person-years and 33 fewer HF hospitalizations per 100,000 person-years for Caucasians.

    Free full-text of the article is available in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.