ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Genes May Help Drive Rotator Cuff Injury
Put Your Best Foot Forward Next Year
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
CANCER
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
CAREGIVING
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
Just Say No to Nuts During Pregnancy
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Pollution Raises Risk of Heart Disease, Death
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
Cleaning House May Be Risky for Women With Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
MRSA Infections Can Bug Fitness Buffs
Brisk Walk Can Help Leave Common Cold Behind
Fall Cleanup Is a Prime Time for Accidents
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Proven Strategies for Avoiding Colds and the Flu
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too-Low Blood Pressure Can Also Bring Danger
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Wood Fires Can Harm the Youngest Lungs
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
MENTAL HEALTH
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
SENIORS
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
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Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A mutated gene in the eye may account for some cases of seasonal affective disorder, that annual bout of "winter blues" experienced by an estimated 6 percent of the U.S. population as the days get shorter.

"SAD [seasonal affective disorder] is a kind of major depression that recurs every year right around the fall," said lead researcher Ignacio Provencio, an associate professor of biology at the University of Virginia. "By the spring and early summer, it goes away."

Provencio noted that the treatment for SAD is light therapy, which usually takes about two hours a day. "Exposing patients to bright light can actually get rid of some of these symptoms and allow patients to function normally during the winter," he said.

Since light is the treatment for SAD, Provencio's group speculated that people with the condition may be less sensitive to light. "They can overcome that insensitivity by increasing the amount of light they're exposed to," he noted.

But only 50 percent of SAD patients respond to light therapy, Provencio said. "So it could be that this mutation could allow a way of predicting patients that may be responsive to light therapy," he added.

For the study, published in the November online edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders, Provencio's team looked at genes in 220 people. One hundred thirty of the people had been diagnosed with SAD, and 90 had no history of SAD or any other depressive disorder.

The researchers found that seven people had two copies of the mutated gene thought to be involved in SAD. All seven were in the group that had been diagnosed with the depressive condition. The researchers concluded that someone with two copies of the mutation was five times more likely to develop SAD, compared with someone without the mutation, Provencio said.

The gene is called the melanopsin gene, and it produces a light-sensitive protein found in photoreceptors in the eye's retina. The protein is not involved with vision, but it is linked to non-visual responses, such as circadian rhythms, hormones, alertness and sleep, Provencio said.

A mutation of the melanopsin gene may cause a change in responses to light, which can lead to symptoms of depression. Among SAD patients, about 29 percent have a family history of the condition, suggesting there may be a genetic component, according to background information in the study.

"Not all people with SAD have this mutation," Provencio said. "But, at least in our study, all the people who had two mutated copies of this gene were in the SAD group. We think we may have found a cause of SAD among a subset of patients."

Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, a professor of psychiatry emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, called the finding interesting, but said it only accounts for a small number of SAD cases.

"This is a responsible piece of work," Kripke said. "The finding is promising, but it needs to be repeated and may not be correct. If it is correct, it appears to explain only about 5 percent of the cause of SAD."

More information

To learn more about SAD, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.



SOURCES: Ignacio Provencio, Ph.D., associate professor, biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Daniel F. Kripke, M.D., professor emeritus, psychiatry, University of California, San Diego; November 2008 Journal of Affective Disorders, online

Last Updated: Nov. 07, 2008

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