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Health Highlights: Oct. 27 2009

Antibody May Benefit Trauma Patients Enzyme May Be Key in Nerve Fiber RegenerationCars Big Threat To Trick-or-Treaters Antidepressants Have Immediate Effect: Study Calorie Info Reduces Fast Food Consumption: Study

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Antibody May Benefit Trauma Patients

An antibody that could help control major internal bleeding in patients with major trauma injuries from car crashes, bullets and other causes has been identified by U.S. researchers.

A protein called histone is responsible for much of the internal bleeding in trauma patients, according to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation team. They also found that a certain type of antibody blocks the ability of histone to cause damage, BBC News reported.

In experiments in mice with sepsis, the antibody stopped the toxic effects of histones, and the mice recovered. The findings appear in the journal Nature Medicine. The researchers want to conduct studies in primates and eventually humans.

"These findings offer some clues as to why people suffering from one traumatic injury often experience a catastrophic 'cascade' of secondary traumatic events," said Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of OMRF, BBC News reported. "If we can figure out how to control the initial injury, perhaps that will stop the domino effect that so often follows."

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Enzyme May Be Key in Nerve Fiber Regeneration

An enzyme that plays a critical role in regenerating damaged nerve fibers has been identified by U.S. researchers, a finding that could lead to new treatments for brain and spinal cord injuries.

In experiments with rats, the team at Children's Hospital Boston found that the enzyme Mst3b appears to be an important regulator of a cell-signaling pathway that controls nerve fiber (axon) growth, United Press International reported.

When Mst3b was absent, damaged optic nerves in the rats showed little regeneration, said the study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"All the growth factors we've tested -- oncomodulin, inosine, brain-derived neurotropic factor, nerve growth factor -- act through Mst3b," said researcher Larry Benowitz, UPI reported. "In fact, activating Mst3b by itself is enough to cause growth even if there are no growth factors around. In terms of basic understanding of nerve cells, this is a very exciting finding."

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Cars Big Threat To Trick-or-Treaters

The dangers faced by children on Halloween are more pedestrian than supernatural.

Safe Kids USA says youngsters are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car while walking on Halloween than on any other night of the year, USA Today reported.

An analysis of 2002-06 data showed that an average of 2.2 children are killed in pedestrian accidents between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Halloween, compared with an average of one death during the same time period on every other night of the year.

"Halloween is consistently the most dangerous day of the year for kids to walk," Safe Kids spokeswoman Kate Jones told USA Today.

There are a number of reasons for this increased risk. Dark costumes can make it hard for drivers to see trick-or-treaters and masks can impair children's ability to see around corners. Many suburbs don't have sidewalks and children are more likely to dart out from between parked cars.

"We need to get the message out to drivers," Moira Donahue, director of pedestrian safety at SafeKids, told USA Today. "On Halloween, slow down, turn your lights on and be prepared that there are going to be more kids out."

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Antidepressants Have Immediate Effect: Study

Antidepressants begin to work on improving mood within hours after a patient starts taking them, according to a U.K. study that challenges current thinking.

The Oxford University study of 33 depressed patients found that those who took an antidepressant showed positive improvements within three hours of taking the drugs. For example, they were more likely to have positive thoughts about themselves and others, BBC News reported.

But patients may not notice any obvious effects until they've been taking antidepressants for a few months, said lead researcher Dr. Catherine Harmer and colleagues.

"We found the antidepressants target the negative thoughts before the patient is aware of any change in feeling subjectively. Over time, this will affect our mood and how we feel because we are receiving more positive information," Harmer told the BBC News.

The study appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Calorie Info Reduces Fast Food Consumption: Study

New Yorkers who used calorie information to order lunch at fast-food chain restaurants bought 106 fewer calories' worth of food than people who didn't see or use the information, says a city health department study.

In March 2008, New York City began requiring chain restaurants to post calories on menu boards. Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 lunch customers at 275 fast-food and coffee-chain outlets in spring 2007 and surveyed another 12,000 this spring, USA Today reported.

The study found that 56 percent of customers saw the calorie information and 15 percent used it. Those who used the calorie information bought an average of 754 calories' worth of food, compared with 860 calories' worth for those who didn't see or use the information.

Compared to other customers, those who saw and used calorie information consumed average of 152 fewer calories at hamburger chains and 73 fewer calories at sandwich chains. The reduction at coffee shops was 23 calories, USA Today reported.

The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society.

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