News releases for the American Association of Anatomists

The American Association of Anatomists held its annual meeting April 9-13, 2011, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. The meeting was part of the Experimental Biology conference. I handled media relations for AAA, the sister society of my employer, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Here are two releases I produced for AAA.

Physically active moms-to-be give babies a head start on heart health
Moms-to-be long have been told by their doctors and baby-related books and websites that staying fit during pregnancy is good for both mother and child. When it was reported a couple of years back that exercising strengthens a fetus’ heart control, many pregnant women took heed and hit the ground running, literally. Some signed up for prenatal yoga classes; others found new ways to incorporate low-impact aerobic activities into their daily lives.

But, for those pregnant women out there who might not be feeling all that motivated, or anything but energized, new research being reported this weekend could tip the scales: It turns out that exercising during pregnancy might be the earliest intervention strategy available to you for improving your child’s heart health after birth.

Researcher doggedly pursues new treatments for traumatic brain injury patients in coma
We’ve all watched it unfold on soap operas, medical dramas and films: A patient falls into a coma, and loved ones at the bedside try to peel away the veil by talking or reading aloud. Some of us have done it ourselves, desperately hoping for any hint of wakening or awareness. For Theresa Louise-Bender Pape, who studies patients with traumatic brain injury in various stages of coma and recovery, the “it can’t hurt” reasoning just isn’t good enough. She needs evidence. She wants answers.

Pape thinks and talks fast, and her hectic schedule keeps her on the go. The speech pathologist and neuroscientist travels regularly between Washington, D.C., because she works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Illinois, where she is based at the Hines VA hospital and is on faculty at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Her nonstop pace makes it seem as if she’s trying to make up for lost time, and, in a way, she is – but not for herself.

Pape has made it her life’s work to develop therapies that will, essentially, jump-start the lives of patients with traumatic brain injury. Her study subjects are veterans, warriors and civilians who are in states of disordered consciousness (vegetative and/or minimally conscious), people who she says often fall silently through the cracks of the medical system, sometimes going from an acute-care hospital to a nursing home with no rehabilitation regimen at all. Her multiple appointments and affiliations speak to the wide net she has cast as she pursues treatments that may one day engage key parts of the brain that control and maintain arousal and alertness, the parts that really make us come alive.

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