ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Too Few Screened for Abdominal Aneurysm, Study Says
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
CANCER
Minorities Distrust Medical System More
Vitamin E, Selenium and Soy Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
CAREGIVING
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
For Fitness, Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough
Mediterranean Diet Helps Protect Aging Brain
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
Small Doses of Carbon Monoxide Might Help Stroke Victims
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
EYE CARE, VISION
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Cocoa in Chocolate May Be Good for the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
St. John's Wort Doesn't Work for ADHD
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
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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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