Lab Report: Health, Science and Medicine

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MENTAL HEALTH

Depression in Teens Often Returns

Most depressed teens respond well to therapy, whether drug or behavioral, but with time, even those who have recovered fully become vulnerable to new bouts of illness.

Researchers now report that nearly 50% of teens who were successfully treated for depression for 12 weeks--using Prozac alone, cognitive-behavior therapy alone or a combination of both--relapsed within five years. Girls were more likely than boys to become depressed again, the study showed.

But the most surprising finding was that the type of treatment did not affect the recurrence rate, even though the scientists had expected the combination therapy to be more effective in preventing future depressive episodes. It also didn't seem to make a difference whether the teens responded fully or only partly to the initial intervention, which, say the scientists, might reflect the fact that depression is an episodic disease. The results highlight the need for regular monitoring of patients so doctors can better understand and address the factors that trigger recurrence before they result in serious illness.

FOOD ALLERGIES

Could Food Allergies Begin in The Womb?

About 6% of U.S. children suffer from food allergies, with 1% allergic to peanuts. Scientists still don't know exactly what causes these sensitivities, but a new study suggests they may develop even before birth.

Researchers studying more than 500 babies found that those whose mothers had eaten peanuts at least twice a week during pregnancy tended to have higher levels of a peanut-protein antibody, which may prime their immune systems to react more aggressively to the nuts. The investigators hope to continue the study and determine if the children go on to develop peanut allergies. But until then, they--along with the American Academy of Pediatrics--say there is not enough evidence to warn pregnant women against certain foods to avoid the risk of food allergies in their babies.

IS FISH OIL FOR YOU?

It's a popular health supplement, but studies on the benefits of fish oil have been conflicting. Here's what you need to know.

HEART

Daily fish-oil consumption lowers risk of heart attack in healthy people and heart patients

PREGNANCY

Supplements can reduce the risk of preterm birth but may do little to prevent postpartum depression

EARLY DEVELOPMENT

Taking fish-oil pills during pregnancy does not improve cognitive skills in toddlers

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

Daily fish oil does not slow cognitive or functional decline in patients with Alzheimer's

FROM THE LABS

Man-Made Liver

It may soon be possible to generate a human liver in the lab, thanks to a technique that begins with an animal organ stripped of its tissue and reseeded with two varieties of human cells. When that organic scaffold is suffused with nutrients and oxygen in a bioreactor, the liver starts to function like a natural organ--at least in laboratory experiments.

Helping the Blind To See

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