MEDICAL NEWS TIPS: November 1995


November 1995
Media Contact: names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are listed below each individual story

Listed below are story ideas from The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. To pursue any of these stories, call the contact person listed.


Results of animal studies and limited trials with humans suggest that a new drug, aminoguanidine, may prevent or reduce diabetic kidney damage. The drug appears to prevent protein molecules from becoming enlarged with a "sugar-coating" of glucose. The enlarged molecules clog blood vessels and eventually cause kidney failure, forcing patients into dialysis or a transplant to survive. Blood vessels in the eyes also become clogged, causing damage to the retina.

At Johns Hopkins, the first large clinical trial of aminoguanidine is under way and recruiting participants ages 21-55 with insulin-dependent diabetes and kidney disease. The chemical compound guanidine is found in the urine as a normal product of protein metabolism. The guanidine in the new drug "attacks the biochemical base of the problem and may reduce the progression of diabetic kidney damage," says Christopher Saudek, M.D., director of Hopkins' diabetes center.

About 16 million Americans have diabetes, including half a million with kidney damage. Diabetes is the most common reason for kidney failure.

For media inquiries, call John Cramer at 410/955-1534 or E-mail:


Medical students at Johns Hopkins have teamed up with hospital physicians and nurses to alleviate some of the medical supply problems health care workers in developing countries face each day. The students have organized Project SHARE (Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment) to donate unused medical equipment to needy hospitals and clinics.

About 50 students and other hospital volunteers in the six-month-old program salvage supplies such as unused sutures, basins, sponges, sterile drapes, skin staplers and IV kits from the general operating rooms, sterilize them and package them for shipment. In the United States, all disposable items set out for an operation must be discarded even if they were not used.

"The program has been remarkably successful," said Hopkins anesthesiologist Quentin Fisher, M.D., faculty adviser to the student group. "The operating room nurses have been particularly enthusiastic in their support." The group has collected hundreds of pounds of equipment so far. The first donation went to Adventist Development Relief Agency in Silver Spring, Md. Among the countries that receive donations from ADRA are the nations of the former Soviet Union, Bosnia and Rwanda.

Fisher, a former medical volunteer in the Philippines, saw firsthand how the lack of medical supplies hinders good medical care. There he saw health care workers soaping rubber gloves, using them until they tore, and hospitals laundering "sterile" drape cloths until they were threadbare.

"What gets people excited about this program is that they are able to do something good with something that would have been merely discarded," Fisher said.

For media inquiries, call Beth Palevich at 410/955-4288 or E-mail:


Johns Hopkins researchers are searching for a vaccine that will prevent allergic reactions to peanuts -- an allergy that may be affecting increasing numbers of people.

About 100 people die each year from food allergies and the peanut is the suspected cause in most of these cases. Besides candy bars and the ubiquitous residue of peanut butter in the jelly jar, the peanut is found in a variety of food products, including sauces to add flavor and thickening, such as spaghetti, chili and gravy. Children are more likely to have a peanut allergy, but adults die more often. Hugh Sampson, M.D., professor of pediatrics, who is leading the team of researchers, said an effective vaccine is still at least five years away.

Sampson said researchers are searching for the specific protein that causes the body's immune system to go haywire. "Basically, when we think of a protein we think of it like a brick wall. It's made up of amino acids just the way a brick wall is made up of bricks. We know that there are only a few bricks in that whole wall that are responsible for the reaction." Finding them is the first step to a vaccine.

"We know that peanuts and nuts are the most common cause of fatal anaphylaxis (allergic reaction), and we believe peanut allergy is increasing," Sampson said.

For media inquiries, call Debbie Bangledorf at 410/223-1731or E-mail: CHANGING SEASONS BRING ABOUT DISORDER

With the days shortening and winter fast approaching, some people experience a profound change in mood and behavior that can be attributed to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

David Neubauer, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, said S.A.D. is caused, in part, by the body's reaction to a decrease in environmental light. S.A.D. sufferers typically experience appetite changes, weight gain and depression. It has been estimated that five percent of the U.S. population suffers from this disorder.

"They tend to feel a little more sluggish. They want to spend more time in bed and with that comes a decrease in the mood," Neubauer said of sufferers.

S.A.D. sufferers are treated with drugs or doses of bright light, which appear to trick the brain into thinking it's summer again, he said. How that treatment works now is being investigated.

For media inquiries, call Beth Palevichat 410/955-4288 or E-mail:

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