UCLA Health Tip Sheet January 25, 2023

Below is a brief roundup of news and story ideas from the experts at UCLA Health. For more information on these stories or for help on other stories, please contact us at [email protected].

JOURNAL SCAN

A new clue about Parkinson’s progression The transmission of misfolded proteins in the brain is a key mechanism for the progression of various neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Chao Peng, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology, found a novel mechanism that regulates the transmission of one of these pathological proteins, misfolded alpha-synuclein, which leads to disease progression in Parkinson’s. This mechanism is the discovery that many modifications that a cell makes in these proteins alter their ability for transmission in the brain and disease progression. This discovery not only provides critical insights into disease mechanism but also facilitates the development of novel therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. Read the study, published Jan. 23, in Nature Neuroscience.

Urban heat islands, redlining and kidney stones The persistent rise in kidney stone prevalence in recent decades has prompted much speculation as to the causes. There has been some discussion about the effect of heat on nephrolithiasis. A review of recent data suggests that heat may play a role in stone formation on a large scale and among African-Americans in particular. A new UCLA-led study led by Dr. Kymora B. Scotland states that African-Americans are the race/ancestry group with faster rates of increasing incidence and prevalence of kidney stones. Researchers also found that urban heat islands in the United States have resulted in part from the effects of redlining, a practice of systematic segregation and racism in housing that led to the development of neighborhoods with substantial disparities in environmental conditions. Dr. Scotland and her team hypothesize that the increased temperatures experienced by residents in redlined communities, many of whom are African American may contribute to the 150% increase in the prevalence of kidney stones in African Americans in recent decades. Read the study in the January 1, 2023 issue of Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.

Gender-affirming hormones tied to mental health for transgender youth Transgender and nonbinary teens who receive gender-affirming hormones experience improvement in body satisfaction, life satisfaction and less depression and anxiety than before treatment. These findings are according to newly-published research by a four-site prospective, observational study and co-authored by Marco A. Hidalgo, PhD. Dr. Hidalgo is a clinical psychologist and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Read the study published January 19, 2023 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

COVID outcomes among patients with COPD While chronic respiratory condition such as COPD – a disease that causes airway blockage and emphysema – increases risks of worse clinical outcomes in COVID-19, its impact on survival of patients treated in hospital settings has not been studied well enough, especially in the health systems with adequate resources and better COVID-19 pandemic control. In a newly published study reviewing the outcomes in patients with COPD who were hospitalized at UCLA Health with acute COVID-19 infection in the first year of the pandemic, COPD was found to be associated with a more severe disease course. However, the patients with COPD did not have a significantly higher rate of ICU admissions, mechanical ventilation, or in-hospital mortality once the contribution of other commonly seen comorbidities in this population was accounted for. Although the retrospective nature of this analysis and the fact that the findings were confined to a single hospital center limits the significance of these findings, it was also interesting to find that the chronic use of inhaled COPD therapies and aspirin prior to the hospitalization was associated with better outcomes.  Read the study in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

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