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21 hours ago · UCLA Researchers Study Societal Impacts of Marijuana

Medication bottle with cannabis

The sale of recreational marijuana to adults became
legal in California on January 1, 2018. Since then there has been an explosion of
new cannabis (marijuana)-based products on the market. Along with them came unchecked health claims and persuasive
advertisements.

Lack of information exists about the implications of marijuana

The
U.S. federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which means
it has the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. 

Schedule
1 classification places restrictions on cannabis research activities and blocks
funding for therapeutic cannabis research. The
result is a lack of scientific knowledge about cannabis.

Despite
the knowledge gap, both market forces and public policy decisions have moved
beyond the current level of scientific understanding. Policymakers have enacted
cannabis laws in the absence of data.

Cannabis Research Initiative is dedicated to the broad study of cannabis

With a population of 10 million, Los Angeles County has become
the hub of the American cannabis industry. Given the increased accessibility of
cannabis, there is an opportunity and a need to understand the public health
implications of marijuana-related products.

Established in 2017, the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative (CRI) is one of the first academic programs in the world dedicated to the study of marijuana. CRI is a comprehensive research program dedicated to understanding the health, legal, economic and social impacts of cannabis by:

  • Conducting
    rigorous, impactful research into cannabis and cannabinoids (chemical
    constituents unique to the cannabis plant)
  • Researching
    the therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids
  • Identifying
    the health consequences of non-medical cannabis use

Marijuana researchers from CRI collaborate to answer important questions

Within
CRI, researchers study the implications of cannabis-based products by bringing together
a diverse group of scholars from various fields across the campus, including:

  • Law
  • Public
    policy
  • Public
    health
  • Different
    areas of science and medicine

The faculty work
together to focus on the most critical questions that need to be answered,
using rigorous study designs and innovative approaches. This type of collaboration means novel and impactful research is
being conducted in those areas that most need attention. CRI’s research
projects will yield data that will be instrumental in educating our
communities, students and medical professionals.

The UCLA CRI is supported by the UCLA Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the UCLA Brain Research Institute. Learn how you can help.

21 hours ago · HIV Cure Reported in Three People

Woman holding a red AIDS awareness ribbon

In 2007, a person with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was
considered virtually cured of the disease. Until now, researchers were unable
to duplicate the procedure, involving treatment with stem cell transplants,
that resulted in the cure. Now, two more patients seem to have reached that
critical milestone.

Three people reach HIV remission status

IciStem is a collaboration of scientists who study stem cell transplants
as a potential HIV cure in patients who also have blood disorders. Although
a cure for HIV remains elusive, IciStem recognizes three seemingly successful
cases:

  • The 2007 patient, Timothy Ray Brown, who received treatment for leukemia
  • A 2018 patient (known only as the London patient), who underwent
    treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma and has been disease-free for 18 months
  • A 2018 patient (known as the Dusseldorf patient), who received blood
    cancer treatment and has been disease-free after more than five months

In all three cases, chemotherapy wasn’t effectively treating
the patients’ blood cancer, so they received a bone marrow transplant from donors
with a rare mutation known as CCR5-delta 32. The CCR5 protein rests on the
surface of some immune cells. HIV uses it to enter and infect a cell. The mutated
form of the protein actually prevents the virus from using CCR5 to enter
healthy cells.  

Stem cell transplant is common link

In all of the patients, it appears that the donated
HIV-resistant cells replicated and replaced the cells vulnerable to HIV. As a
result, only a trace of HIV material is left circulating in each person’s body.

Unfortunately, a bone marrow transplant (BMT) is not a viable
treatment option for HIV-infected people who don’t have cancer. BMT requires
conditioning of the body, which often leaves it prone to infection. The
alternative, daily antiviral medication, is usually successful at keeping the
virus under control with minimal risks.

Instead, researchers are using these findings when
considering other therapies that take CCR5 into account that could be used in
patients who don’t have cancer — for example, targeting and destroying CCR5
receptors. Investigators are also looking at whether an HIV-resistant donor
stem cell could be given to any patient, regardless of whether they have
cancer.

Bone marrow transplant only effective for CCR5 mutation

Approximately half of the people living with HIV have a form
of the virus that relies solely on CCR5 for entry into the cell. Another form
of HIV, called X4, uses a different protein to enter cells. Bone marrow
transplant is not effective in people with an X4 mutation.

Researchers at the UCLA Center for AIDS Research continue to follow these exciting developments. The mission of CFAR is to create synergy among diverse research disciplines that result in significant breakthroughs in understanding, preventing and treating HIV infection.

1 day ago · Sunglasses: Your Prescription for Eye Health

Woman on the beach putting on sunglasses, looking at the sun

Next
time you step outside to enjoy the summer sun, don’t forget to bring a pair of
sunglasses. Most people know that the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays are bad
for the skin. But did you know that too much sun on unprotected eyes increases
the risk of eye diseases? This summer, the UCLA Stein Eye and Doheny Eye Institutes
and the American
Academy of Ophthalmology
 remind you that sunglasses are more than a bold fashion
statement, they are a smart health choice.

Long-term
exposure to the sun without proper protection can increase the risk of eye
disease, including cataractmacular degeneration, growths
on the eye
,
and a rare form of eye cancer. Even short-term exposure
can damage the eyes. Sun reflecting off water can cause a painful sunburn on
the front part of the eye, called photokeratitis. It causes redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to bright
light, and in rare cases, even temporary vision loss.

The
good news is that prevention is simple: Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100
percent of both UVA and UVB radiation. When purchasing sunglasses,
ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care –
urge the public to choose substance over style, and consider these 6 shopping
tips:

  1. Shop labels. The single most important thing to look for when buying sunglasses is a sticker or tag indicating that they block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
  2. Buy oversized. The more coverage from sunglasses, the less sun damage inflicted on the eyes. Consider buying oversized glasses or wraparound-style glasses, which help cut down on UV entering the eye from the side.
  3. Don’t be fooled by color. While very dark lenses may look cool, they do not necessarily block more UV rays.
  4. Consider your sport. Some sunglasses come with amber, green or gray lenses. They do not block more sun but can increase contrast, which may be useful for athletes who play sports such as baseball or golf.
  5. Consider polarized lenses. Polarization reduces glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement. This does not offer more protection from the sun but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer or more enjoyable.
  6. Don’t break the bank! Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot of money to provide adequate eye protection. Less expensive pairs marked as 100 percent UV-blocking can be just as effective as pricier options.

If
you doubt your sunglasses have the UV protection claimed by a retail tag or if
they are simply old and you want to make sure, take them to an optical shop. Any
shop that has a UV light meter can test your sunglasses.

Find an ophthalmologist or more information on how to
protect your eyes from the sun year-round at uclahealth.org/eye.

1 day ago · Still in the game

In 2015, ESPN reporter Holly Row was diagnosed with desmoplastic melanoma, a rare, fast-spreading form of skin cancer. After a first surgery, she enrolled in a UCLA clinical trial led by Dr. Antoni Ribas testing a new approach for advanced melanoma in which participants took the drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in combination with another immunotherapy drug or with a placebo.

Over a two-year period, Rowe flew to Los Angeles every 21 days for intravenous infusions that successfully led to her tumors shrinking significantly. Within three months of starting her treatment, the tumors in her lung had started to shrink, and by the end of therapy, the largest tumor had decreased in diameter from 21 millimeters to 3 millimeters.

Today, the veteran reporter continues to visit her team at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center for regular checkups. Throughout her journey, she continued to offer sideline analysis and conduct interviews with coaches and athletes for ESPN. She also openly shared the ups and downs of her treatment, receiving support from many fans and inspiring others with cancer along the way.

Read her inspirational story in the latest issue of Cancer Today magazine.

1 day ago · Athletes: At Risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis

Basketball player jumping in the air with a basketball

Deep vein
thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially dangerous blood clot that forms deep in the
veins of the legs, arms or pelvis. DVTs are very common and respond well to
treatment when caught early. Without treatment, part of the clot can break off
and travel to the lung, where it may block blood flow (called pulmonary
embolism) and can cause death.

Athletes and blood clots

“Despite being predominately young and healthy, athletes may be at increased risk for DVTs,” says John Moriarty, MD, FSIR, director of PE Response Team and of the IVC Filter Clinic, UCLA Interventional Radiology.

Some reasons
athletes are at risk for blood clots include:

  • Spending a lot of time seated and immobile while traveling long
    distances in a car or plane to and from sporting events
  • Experiencing dehydration due to strenuous activity
  • Having a higher likelihood of experiencing a trauma such as a
    broken bone

As with the
general public, some athletes are more vulnerable to DVTs because they have:

  • An inherited clotting disorder
  • A family history of DVTs
  • Abnormal anatomy of veins or other body structures (for example, narrowing
    of the veins of the pelvis or shoulder)

Symptoms of DVTs

DVTs can form in
the legs, arms or pelvis. Athletes of every sport and every age may experience a
blood clot. Being in tune with their bodies can help athletes spot DVTs when
they are most treatable. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness or pain described as a cramp or Charley horse
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin that is warm to the touch

When DVTs lead to
a pulmonary embolism, the symptoms become more severe:

  • Shortness of breath or passing out
  • Rapid heartbeat or sharp pain in the chest
  • Unexplained cough

“Athletes should make an appointment with their primary care provider if the symptoms are not severe,” says Dr. Moriarty. “If there is a lot of pain or swelling, or there are symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, they should head to the emergency department for immediate care.”

Treating blood clots in athletes

Providers
diagnose blood clots using a painless ultrasound test. If the provider
identifies a DVT, they recommend ABCD measures:

  • Activity: Stay active, because it is good for total health
  • Blood thinners: Use blood thinners (usually tablets, but sometimes injections)
    to prevent existing blood clots from traveling to other parts of the body and new
    ones from forming
  • Compression: Place a tight-fitting stocking on the swollen leg or arm to
    press the swelling away and prevent pain and future blood clots
  • Device: In some cases, a specialist may use medical devices to deliver a
    higher level of treatment for DVTs

Specialists may
use medical devices to:

  • Suck out a blood clot
  • Deliver a clot-busting drug
  • Place a stent to keep the vein open
  • Place a filter to prevent a blood clot from traveling to other
    parts of the body

The vast majority
of people who develop a DVT will need three to six months of ABCD measures.

“If someone has a
genetic abnormality or they repeatedly experience blood clots, they may need
more aggressive treatments,” says Dr. Moriarty. “In those cases, blood thinners
and compression measures may be lifelong.”

Dr. Moriarty says
there have been new developments and improvements in DVT treatments, so results
are better than ever. Most athletes can return to rigorous activity following
treatment for blood clots.

Learn more about DVTs. When you need expert care, schedule an appointment or visit the UCLA IVC Filter Clinic.

2 days ago · Having a Primary Care Physician Can Make You Healthier

Doctor taking a patient's blood pressure

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA) involving more than 70,000 Americans found that having a
primary care physician (PCP) may improve long-term health.

People with a PCP were more likely to have a preventive
health visit in the previous year and to take prescription medicines routinely.
They reported a better overall patient experience and improved access to
healthcare services.

Prevention-based medical services

When you have a long-term relationship with your PCP you
receive personalized care. Your PCP takes the time to get to know you and has a
comprehensive understanding of your medical history. They consider your whole
health, with an emphasis on preventing illness rather than merely treating it.

Routine screenings are important for identifying health
issues early. People who regularly see their PCP have access to:

  • Blood pressure readings
  • Blood work including cholesterol levels
  • Cancer screenings including mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears
  • Neurological screenings
  • Mental health screenings

Your PCP also provides advice and education around healthy
lifestyle issues such as:

  • Healthy weight and nutrition
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) prevention
  • Curbing stress and anxiety
  • Limiting alcohol and tobacco use
  • Skin care and skin cancer prevention

Care for chronic diseases

Should health concerns arise, your PCP is the point person
for ensuring you receive the care you need. They may refer you to a specialist
for a higher level of care, manage conditions themselves or manage conditions
in partnership with a specialist. Common chronic conditions that require
vigilant care include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Help when you get sick

Even the healthiest among us become ill sometimes. When you
know and trust your PCP, you gain easy access to acute care, whether you
experience flu symptoms or a sprain. Your PCP may offer immediate solutions to
get you feeling better, such as:

  • Breathing treatments
  • Antiviral drugs following a flu diagnosis
  • Antibiotics for an infection
  • Support for short-term mental health concerns, including postpartum depression

You can find a provider on the UCLA Health website, or call the Physician Referral Service at 800-UCLA-MD1 if you need assistance finding a provider who is right for you.

3 days ago · Vaping: Why Parents Should Be Concerned

Young teenager using e-cigarette

In 2003 the e-cigarette (e-cigs or vape) was invented.
E-cigs use a lithium battery (or another power source) to heat a liquid that
contains flavors and nicotine. The heat creates a cloud of vapor that looks
like smoke, which the user inhales from the mouthpiece.

Use of e-cigarettes is a gateway to tobacco use

Studies
show the use of e-cigarettes in preteens and teens increases the likelihood
that they will use tobacco products later on. Tobacco products have many known
health risks, including cancer.

Tobacco cigarettes kill about 50 percent of people who
use them. To stay in business, big tobacco companies need to build a pipeline
of users. E-cigarettes market to young people by offering candy and dessert
flavors.

According to one tobacco executive: “The base of our
business is the high school student. The fragile self-image of the young person
needs all the support it can get. Smoking may appear to enhance that
self-image.”

Health risks of vaping

There are known health
risks
associated with vaping in adolescence. While vaping
doesn’t burn anything or create tar in the lungs like tobacco products do, it
does deliver nicotine, which:

  • Increases heart rate and blood
    pressure
  • Has powerful effects on the brain —
    it releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, which reward the body and make you
    want more
  • Is a stimulant, making you feel more
    alert (and craving more when the stimulant wears off)
  • Impairs the body’s natural ability to
    produce dopamine — you’ll soon need nicotine to feel normal
  • Has addictive properties comparable
    to heroin and cocaine, and an immature brain is more vulnerable to addiction

E-cigs also contain chemical solvents which transform
into formaldehyde (which is known to cause cancer) when heated. Other chemicals
used to generate the 7,000+ flavors may be toxic to living cells or potentially
cancer-causing.

Signs your child may be using e-cigs

You
might be unaware your child is using e-cigarettes. It can be difficult to catch
your child in the act of vaping and the vapor leaves no smell or residue.
Concerned parents should watch for these signs:

  • Dry mouth: Vaping leaves users with a dry mouth and palate. Your child may be thirstier. He or she may also reach for saltier or more flavorful foods because a dry mouth dulls the ability to perceive flavor.
  • Nosebleeds: The nasal passages also dry out. Nosebleeds can result from this dryness.
  • Acne: Vaping can irritate the skin. If the skin around your child’s mouth is breaking out, but the rest of the skin is clear, they may be vaping.
  • Lung concerns: Additives in e-juice may cause inflammation of the lungs. The inflammation can lead to a bacterial infection or pneumonia.
  • Unidentifiable spare “parts”: Some e-cigs have parts that need to be exchanged or replaced. If your teen has some object that seems out of place, it may be used for vaping.  

Talk
to your child’s health care provider if you are concerned about vaping. Find
general UCLA
Health pediatrics provider
 or
make an appointment by calling 310-825-0867. To meet the needs of youth
and young adults age 12 to 25, UCLA Health offers Adolescent
and Young Adult Medicine
 services
from specially trained doctors.

3 days ago · Postpartum Depression: Early Diagnosis and Treatment are Key

Distressed women with stroller

During
the postpartum period, new moms may be emotionally sensitive or experience mood
swings. This is known as the “baby blues” period, and for many new moms it will
usually subside after about two weeks.

But at
least one in nine new moms develop a more serious condition­­, postpartum
depression, which can negatively impact the emotional health of mom and baby. It
is critical for new mothers to be evaluated and treated as early as possible.

Hormones and sleep deprivation play a part in postpartum blues

Moms
with postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, may experience:

  • Tremendous
    sadness or feelings of defeat
  • High
    levels of anxiety and worry
  • Extreme
    agitation or an unsettled feeling
  • Indifference
    towards the baby, which can make bonding difficult
  • Thoughts
    of harming themselves or their babies (in severe cases)

While
the exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown, it is likely that the
surge of hormones during pregnancy and the abrupt hormonal dip following
delivery may trigger the condition. Lack of sleep also plays a part. The time
of highest vulnerability for psychological conditions is during the six months
following the birth of the baby.

Postpartum
depression typically responds well to treatment. Not only moms benefit from
treatment, babies do as well: Studies show babies and children of depressed, anxious
or detached moms are at a higher risk of developing psychological or
relationship issues of their own.

Stigma of postnatal depression

The
shame and stigma associated with feeling depressed or anxious with a newborn
may prevent women from getting the help they need. Fewer than 50 percent of
women who experience postpartum depression will receive a diagnosis. Screening
women at prenatal visits may help identify those at risk before the baby is
born. Warning signs for those at risk for postpartum depression may include:

  • Depression
    risk factors, such as a family or personal history of depression
  • Stressful
    or traumatic life events
  • Poor
    social or partner support
  • Low
    self-esteem

Treatment is effective for postpartum depression

When
appropriately treated, patients can recover and move forward to be fully
functioning, productive mothers. Treatment for postpartum depression usually
includes antidepressant medications (many are safe to use while breastfeeding).
Psychotherapy is often incorporated into the treatment plan to help new moms
develop coping skills.

The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first drug designed
specifically for postpartum depression. Brexanolone is chemically identical to a
hormone whose levels drop after childbirth. It is administered in a healthcare
setting where the patient is continually monitored and gets delivered through
an infusion into the vein over 60 hours.

To help you figure out your risk for postpartum
depression, take our postpartum
depression risk assessment
. If
you are concerned about postpartum depression, either during pregnancy or
following delivery, contact your OB/GYN or request an obstetrics and
gynecology appointment
at UCLA Health.