Veterans Administration Research News Brief
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Food environment can alter weight management effectiveness in men

The food environment in people’s neighborhoods slightly affects how effective VA’s MOVE! weight management program is, at least among men, found a study by VA Great Lakes Health Care System researchers and their colleagues. MOVE! is a VA program designed to help Veterans eat healthier, be more physically active, and achieve weight loss goals. Researchers studied data on MOVE! patients and community locations for a seven-year period. They found that the program was slightly less effective for men living near fast food restaurants or convenience stores. The food environment did not change the program’s effectiveness among women. The results highlight the importance of considering environmental and community factors in weight loss, say the researchers. (Health Services Research, Sept. 23, 2018)

More research needed on stem cell therapy for diabetic foot ulcers


Studies suggest that stem cell therapy could be an effective treatment for diabetic foot ulcers, but more research is needed on best techniques, according to a review by a team including a VA Connecticut Healthcare System researcher. Multiple studies have shown that stem cell therapy for diabetic foot ulcers is both safe and effective. However, studies varied widely on what stem cell type they used and how the treatment was delivered. Many different study designs were used, making it difficult to compare techniques. Because of these differences, the researchers emphasize the need for new studies to reach consensus on the best ways to test and deliver stem cell therapy for this condition. (Stem Cell Research & Therapy, July 11, 2018)

Studies teases out impact on kidneys of intensive blood pressure lowering

Two studies featuring several VA researchers found that intensive blood pressure lowering led to a decline in estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), but not other signs of kidney damage. Doctors commonly use eGFR as a measure of kidney function. Previous research has suggested that intensive blood pressure control can lead to kidney injury. One study (ACCORD-BP) examined blood pressure risk in patients with diabetes. The other (SPRINT) looked at patients with high blood pressure who also had chronic kidney disease. Each study checked eGFR levels, as well as other biomarkers of kidney damage, in different groups of patients undergoing intensive blood pressure lowering treatment. Both found that intensive blood pressure lowering was linked with reductions in eGFR. However, neither study detected increases of biomarkers in the urine that usually indicate kidney damage. Both studies concluded that declines in eGFR may reflect hemodynamic changes—changes to blood flow—rather than actual kidney injury. (American Journal of Kidney Disease, Sept. 28, 2018)

PTSD not tied to asthma in Veteran study

PTSD was not linked to bronchodilator response, a marker of asthma, in a VA New Jersey Health Care System study. Past research has suggested that PTSD may be linked to symptoms of asthma in combat Veterans. To test this association, researchers looked at the breathing and PTSD symptoms of 188 Veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. They found that responses to a bronchodilator—a drug that opens the airways, used to treat asthma—were not different between participants with and without PTSD symptoms. The researchers specifically looked at three symptoms of PTSD—re-experiencing, avoidance, and arousal—and did not find any link between any symptom and participants’ breathing. (Canadian Institute for Veteran and Military Health Research, Oct. 16, 2018)

The role of fatty acids in diabetic neuropathy


Unsaturated fatty acids have potential for treating diabetic neuropathy, according to a review by a VA Iowa City Health Care System researcher. Diabetic neuropathy refers to nerve damage caused by diabetes. Multiple studies show that a diet high in saturated fat slows nerve function in rodents. Other studies with rodents suggest that unsaturated fats like omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids could improve or even reverse vascular and neural problems. Studies show that resolvins, a type of unsaturated fatty acid, can promote neuron cell growth in diabetic mice. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties and could help with diabetic neuropathy, says the researcher. Clinical trials would be needed to test whether these substances would help people with diabetes. (Current Diabetes Reports, Aug. 25, 2018)

3D modeling of brain cells reveals protein changes linked to Alzheimer’s

Researchers from the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, found protein alterations in neurons of Alzheimer’s disease patients by using a new technique. Studying neurons in a two-dimensional slide under a microscope, the usual way they are analyzed, does not give a full picture. The researchers created “neuro-spheroids,” 3D neuron cultures, using stem cells derived from patients’ blood cells. Using this technique, they found a number of alterations to proteins in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients that would lead to dysfunction. When compared with postmortem brain tissue taken from Alzheimer’s patients, the 3D neurons showed similar dysfunction. The results show this type of 3D modeling could help find Alzheimer’s disease markers. The identified proteins could have important implications for the progression of the disease, say the researchers. (Journal of Proteomics, June 30, 2018)