An in-home training program for caregivers can give children of AIDS patients, and infants or toddlers with AIDS, a better shot at prosperity by improving their early-childhood development, according to a new study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
The program, developed by Israel Prize-winning Prof. Pnina Klein, Director of Bar-Ilan University’s Edward I. and Fannie Baker Center for the Study of Development Disorders in Infants and Young Children, is based on a study funded by the National Institute of Health, conducted in Uganda, where about one million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS.
The goal of the research, headed by Prof. Michael Boivin, of Michigan State University, was to determine whether children whose parents have HIV (AIDS) could benefit from Prof. Klein’s Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers (MISC) Program, which has helped caregivers in 14 other countries and different circumstances use day-to-day interaction at home to develop children’s social skills, language and cognitive ability.
To test the approach the researchers recruited 120 uninfected preschool-aged children whose mothers had HIV. The children’s caregivers – their infected mothers, in most cases – were randomly assigned to receive childcare training through MISC or through am education program focused on improving children’s health and nutrition.
After a year, the children whose caregivers received the MISC training showed significantly more developmental progress than the others, with particularly strong gains in language learning. They also developed better memory and overall cognitive skills.
Caregivers in both groups also benefited from the training. They showed decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, which, according to Boivin, could be attributed to the social support provided through the biweekly training sessions.
Love and caring
Prof. Klein’s work revolves around two basic concepts which she has defined: “Mental diet” and “literacy of interaction.” Mental diet refers to the “ingredients” a child should receive from the adults who interact with him or her and what types of behaviors are necessary in order to prepare a child for future learning. She and her team have designed a method of creating a profile of a child’s mental diet in order to develop an intervention program designed to either introduce missing elements or strengthen existing elements in that mental diet.
Literacy of interaction refers to the ability to read, understand and decode interactions between children and adults and decide what needs to be built in order to enhance the interaction and help the child benefit from future experiences in learning. “We need a good mental diet as much as a physical one – one with proteins and minerals,” says Prof. Klein.
“We are focusing on the roots of the interaction – smiles, looks, eye to eye contact, mutual engagement and three basic messages: ‘I love you,’ which conveys the message of self-worth, ‘I am with you,’ which conveys security, and a message that ‘It is worthwhile to do.’
“These reinforcements allow a child to feel his or her significance and importance in the world, and can help to regulate behavior. With this information, those running the MISC program can make suggestions to help improve a child’s educational diet and the quality of interactions,” says Prof. Klein.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Prof. Klein – whose work has been adopted by governments and agencies around the world – was the first baby born after the war into a family that had lost all its children.
“I think my mental diet was composed of a lot of love and caring, which probably enhanced in me the need to express it and do something for others,” she says.
While Israel has been making headlines for the regular flow of “A List” musicians to perform in the Jewish state recently, a rock star of another kind is expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport this June.
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will be in Israel this summer to participate in the fifth President’s Conference, “Facing Tomorrow.”
The wheelchair-bound Hawking, who has had Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also referred to Lou Gehrig’s disease – for decades, will be making his first sojourn to Israel since his 2006 visit, when he was invited by the British Embassy to tour and meet with local scientists.
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For the third year running, the Israeli winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO “Women in Science” prize has gone on to take the winning title for all of Europe. Dr. Osnat Zomer-Penn, who was one of three Israelis chosen to compete in the finals, received the European award in a ceremony at the Sorbonne in Paris on Thursday.
In a development that may have implications for alcohol drinkers, researchers at Hadassah Hospital have connected a particular gene to cirrhosis, or potentially life-threatening liver scarring.
The research team, led professor Rifaat Safadi, the head of the hospital’s Liver Unit, found that people with a type of overexpression of a gene called Neuroligin 4 were predisposed to cirrhosis, which has many causes, including certain diseases and the consumption alcohol and some medications.
“We located a gene whose overexpression in the NK cells of the immune system exposes to the body to cirrhosis,” Safadi said. “When cirrhosis of the liver develops, the NK cells in the immune system, in their healthy form, kill the scar-tissue cells. We found that the overexpression of this gene put a mechanism into operation that kept these cells from their anti-scarring work.”
The tendency of some people to develop advanced cirrhosis has been a hot topic for investigation among liver-disease researchers in recent years.
The Hadassah study – which involved taking blood samples from dozens of patients with cirrhosis and comparing their NK cells to those of a control group of healthy people – came on the heels of related research. Several years ago, the same research team found that intact NK cells are good for the liver and prevent cirrhosis. The discovery, published in The Journal of Hepatology in February 2006, was also reported by a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
Safadi’s research team has also found a connection between the expression of Neuroligin 4 and insulin reception by cells throughout the body: Where there is insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes that involves insulin receptors not working properly, the expression of Neuroligin 4 increases.
The findings were published in November 2012 at a conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston. Team member Dr. Johnny Amer was awarded the young researchers’ prize at the conference.
The Hadasit Technology Transfer Company of Hadassah Hospital has already patented Neuroligin 4 in hopes of using it to develop treatments to prevent liver disease. The gene has previously been connected with morbidity conditions and one of its mutations has been connected with the development of autism. Researchers next plan to investigate whether mutations of the gene also increase the risk of developing cirrhosis.
Scientists have successfully trialled a simple breath test to detect stomach cancer, using a new type of sensor made of nanomaterials.
The first trial of the device is small, involving 130 patients with a range of different stomach complaints, but it proved to be more than 90% accurate in differentiating between cancer and other diseases. It was also over 90% accurate in detecting which were early-stage cancers and which were advanced.
It has been known for some time that cancers can give off odours that may not be detectable to the human nose. A study published by German researchers in 2010 described how dogs had been trained to sniff out lung cancers – although they accepted it was possible the dogs were picking up the smell of drugs used to treat patients rather than the disease.
The stomach cancer breath test takes the concept into more measurable and probably useful territory. Stomach cancer can be detected by an endoscopic examination, which involves inserting a flexible tube through the nose and into the digestive system, but this is not pleasant. A breath test could be routinely used by a GP to rule out cancer.
The scientists, from Israel and China, describe in the British Journal of Cancer how their sensors detected the chemical profile of the cancer with a high degree of accuracy in the air that the patients exhaled.
Professor Hossam Haick, lead researcher from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, said: “The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies – which can be costly and time-consuming, as well as unpleasant to the patient.
“Nevertheless, these results are at an early stage and support the concept of a breath test to detect stomach cancers but further validations are needed. Indeed, we’re already building on the success of this study with a larger-scale clinical trial.
“Around 7,000 people develop stomach cancer in the UK each year and most of these are in their advanced stages when they are diagnosed. But if found to be accurate enough, the nanomaterial breath test presents a new possibility for screening a population for stomach cancer, which would hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.”
Kate Law, the director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said the test could lead to earlier detection of stomach cancer, which could save lives. “The results of this latest study are promising – although large-scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings,” she said.
“Only one in five people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”
Source: The Gaurdian