Improving Mothers’ Literacy Skills May Be Best Way to Boost Children’s Achievement

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health concluded that programs to boost the academic achievement of children from low income neighborhoods might be more successful if they also provided adult literacy education to parents.

The researchers based this conclusion on their finding that a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.

The analysis, performed by Narayan Sastry, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, and Anne R. Pebley, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, examined data on more than 3,000 families.

The study, appearing in Demography, was supported by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Depression High Among Youth Victims of School Cyber Bullying, NIH Researchers Report

Unlike traditional forms of bullying, youth who are the targets of cyber bullying at school are at greater risk for depression than are the youth who bully them, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

The new finding is in contrast to earlier studies of traditional bullying, which found that the highest depression scores were reported by another category of youth involved in bullying-bully victims. Past studies on traditional bullying show that bully-victims — those who both bully others and are bullied themselves — are more likely to report feelings of depression than are other groups.

Traditional forms of bullying involve physical violence, verbal taunts, or social exclusion. Cyber bullying, or electronic aggression, involves aggressive behaviors communicated over a computer or a cell phone.

Gene Associated with Rare Adrenal Disorder Appears To Trigger Cell Death, According to NIH Study

A gene implicated in Carney complex, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands, appears to function as a molecular switch to limit cell growth and division, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. Mice lacking functional copies of the gene in the adrenal glands developed an overgrowth of adrenal tissue and were more susceptible to tumors in the gland.

The adrenal glands — one located on top of each kidney — produce hormones which help control heart rate, blood pressure, and other important body functions.

The researchers discovered that the normal process by which cells in the adrenal gland grow old and die is put on hold when the gene, known as Prkar1a, is deactivated. The Prkar1a gene is known to be involved in how the cell regulates its activities.

“Loss of Prkar1a appears to lead to unchecked cell growth in the adrenal glands,” said Dr. Constantine A. Stratakis, M.D., acting director of the Division of Intramural Research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and an author of the paper. “Our hope is that future studies of the gene and its functions will lead to a greater understanding of how certain types of cancer develop and ways to limit their growth.

The findings were published online in PLoS Genetics. The study’s first author is Isabelle Sahut-Barnola of Clermont University, France. Other authors include researchers at Ohio State University, Columbus and at three French institutions.

Carney complex is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands ( Individuals with Carney complex typically develop Cushing’s syndrome, a combination of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other symptoms stemming from the overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. People with Carney complex are also predisposed to developing benign tumors of the heart and connective tissue, as well as benign and cancerous tumors of the adrenal and other glands. Previous studies have shown that people with Carney complex are likely to have a mutation in the Prkar1a gene.

Endometrial Stem Cells Restore Brain Dopamine Levels

Endometrial stem cells injected into the brains of mice with a laboratory-induced form of Parkinson’s disease appeared to take over the functioning of brain cells eradicated by the disease.

The finding raises the possibility that women with Parkinson’s disease could serve as their own stem cell donors. Similarly, because endometrial stem cells are readily available and easy to collect, banks of endometrial stem cells could be stored for men and women with Parkinson’s disease.

“These early results are encouraging,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH Institute that funded the study. “Endometrial stem cells are widely available, easy to access and appear to take on the characteristics of nervous system tissue readily.”

Parkinson’s disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement.

This is the first time that researchers have successfully transplanted stem cells derived from the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, into another kind of tissue (the brain) and shown that these cells can develop into cells with the properties of that tissue.