Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 28, 1996 Form

In Brief
Medical News

Implantable pump has advantages over injections

Many diabetics may get insulin easier and more effectively from a small automatic pump put inside their bodies than from daily injections, according to a cooperative study by researchers at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Johns Hopkins.

"Our results show the implantable pump has significant advantages and can improve quality of life for many people with non-insulin dependent (type II) diabetes mellitus," said Christopher Saudek, the study's lead author and director of Hopkins' Diabetes Center. The yearlong study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and conducted at seven Veterans Affairs Medical Centers across the country.

Published in the Oct. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, it is the first large, prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trial to compare the risks and benefits of the implantable insulin pump with daily insulin injections for non-insulin dependent diabetes.

More than 500 people around the world use implantable insulin pumps, which are not yet commercially available. The small, disc-shaped units are placed surgically into the abdomen.

A new supply of insulin is injected into the pump's reservoir every several weeks. Insulin pumps also can be worn outside the body.

In diabetes mellitus, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that aids absorption of glucose into cells for energy and fat storage. This causes the blood sugar level to rise. Complications include high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney damage, blindness and nerve damage. More than 90 percent of diabetics have type II diabetes; one-third of type II diabetics are treated with insulin. Other type II diabetics use dietary measures, weight loss and oral medication to keep their conditions under control.

Researchers find genetic clues to intestinal disease

In a series of recently published studies, Hopkins researchers have shown that an intestinal disease affecting 400,000 people in the United States is actually a variety of related disorders that can be inherited and cause similar symptoms in close relatives.

The findings will help physicians predict who will get the disease--called Crohn's disease--speed diagnosis and help determine the best treatment for each individual.

"Although earlier studies had suggested that Crohn's disease might be several distinct disorders, this is the first large study of a group of families that confirms those suggestions," said Theodore M. Bayless, professor of medicine and gastroenterology.

The findings have prompted Bayless and his co-worker, Steven Brant, to encourage people with a family history of Crohn's disease to participate in a Hopkins study to identify the genes responsible for the disease.

In one study, published in the March issue of Lancet, the researchers found that the disease occurs earlier in life in people whose parents also have a history of Crohn's disease. This type of earlier onset of a more severe form of a hereditary disease in the child than in the parent is called genetic anticipation.

The study is the first to show genetic anticipation in a disorder caused by multiple genes, according to Bayless. The Hopkins team speculated that the disease, which is probably caused by mutations in several yet unidentified genes, may be made worse when there are numerous copies of these mutations, called a triplet repeat.

"Our finding of genetic anticipation in Crohn's disease will help researchers look for the genes responsible for the disease and help identify those at risk for developing it," Bayless said.

Individuals who want to participate in the Crohn's disease family studies at Johns Hopkins can get more information by calling (410) 614-1982.

Other News

Diversity Council schedules two-day conference

A university-wide conference to discuss issues of diversity throughout the university will be held Nov. 1 and 4. The conference is organized by the Core Group on Diversity, which includes Richard Kilburg, senior director, Office of Human Services; Audrey Smith, vice president for human resources; Paula Berger, vice provost for academic programs; and Cesy Kuruvilla and Emma Stokes, both senior organization development and diversity specialists.

The conference represents a continuing effort to increase the progression of the university toward greater inclusion. From it, the core group hopes to recruit 10 to 15 staff and faculty members to serve on a university Diversity Council. The November conferences will provide an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to ask questions and contribute ideas that address concerns and issues pertaining to the Hopkins community. In the past 10 years, diversity concerns have included women's concerns about upward mobility and a supportive environment free of sexual harassment; fairness in hiring, retention and promotion of underrepresented groups; and a need for a greater balance between work and family demands. The fundamental diversity issue is to assure that the university is operating at a level and in a way that taps into the unique talents and potential of all faculty, staff and students.

The conferences will convene from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, in 360 Houck on the East Baltimore campus, and from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, in the Sherwood Room of Levering Hall on the Homewood campus.

Steiner to broadcast from Downtown Center

WJHU's Marc Steiner will broadcast his public affairs call-in radio program live from the Berman Auditorium of the Downtown Center on Tuesday, Oct. 29, from noon to 2 p.m. Steiner and his guests--political activist Dick Gregory, former military intelligence officer John Newman, Washington Weekly Standard reporter Tucker Carlson and former investigative reporter stationed in Nicaragua Martha Honey--will explore the CIA's alleged connection in introducing crack cocaine to South Central Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. The program can be heard at 88.1 FM.

Handmade dolls on their way to Children's Center

More than 6,500 handmade cloth dolls have been sent to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center from around the world after a staff member made a request for donations at a national doll-making conference in California last year. The response has been so overwhelming that the U.S. Postal Service assigned the project its own delivery truck.

The faceless, plain dolls are made in a variety of skin tones to represent a diversity of races. Child Life specialists at the center use the dolls to help children cope with frightening aspects of being sick and receiving treatments that are often painful. In addition to drawing faces and other physical features, patients perform play procedures similar to the ones they are undergoing. It helps the children feel more comfortable and in control, said Child Life training director Joy Goldberger.

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