17 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A severe allergic reaction to food is much less serious in infants than in toddlers and older children, a new study concludes. “We found that infants, unlike older children, have a low-severity food-induced anaphylaxis, which should come as reassuring news to parents who are about to introduce their baby to potentially allergenic foods like peanuts,” said study author Dr. Waheeda Samady, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Anaphylaxis is a whole-body allergic reaction that can include heart or respiratory problems. In older children, food-triggered anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, but in infants it mostly involves hives and vomiting, this study found. The researchers analyzed data from 47 infants, 43 toddlers, 96 young children and 171 school-aged children treated for food-induced anaphylaxis at a hospital emergency department over two years. Gastrointestinal symptoms were much more common in infants (89 percent) than in toddlers (63 percent), young children (60 percent), or school-aged children (58 percent). Vomiting was especially common among infants (83 percent), the findings showed. Rates of skin symptoms were 94 percent in infants, 91 percent in toddlers, and 62 percent in school-aged children. Hives were the most common skin symptom, affecting 70 percent of infants. Cough and other respiratory symptoms were more common in older age groups, affecting 17 percent of infants, 44 percent of young children, and 54 percent of school-aged children. Only one infant in the study had wheezing, and only one infant had low blood pressure. No infant in the study died from anaphylaxis, the researchers said. “Since early introduction of peanuts is now encouraged by national guidelines, it is understandable that parents might be fearful of triggering a serious reaction,” Samady, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, said in a hospital news release. According to study senior author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, of Lurie Children’s Hospital, “If a baby develops only a mild rash or gastrointestinal symptoms after trying a new food, we advise parents to discuss this reaction with the child’s physician.” But, “if there are multiple symptoms, make sure to call 911 and get emergency help immediately,” advised Gupta, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern. The report was published online recently in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on anaphylaxis.
17 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 17, 2018 (American Heart Association) — Summer is a time for barbecues and other outdoor fun, but it’s also a time for sweltering heat. And experts say everyone, especially the elderly and very young, need to know how to limit the potentially deadly effects of high temperatures. The ancient Greeks and Romans called the sultriest days of summer the “dog days.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac marks the time as 40 days from July 3 to Aug. 11, coinciding with the rising of the star Sirius, also called the Dog Star. Already this year, the dog days have proved dangerous. Heat warnings and advisories have been issued over a large swath of the country, with heat waves smothering the Northeast and shifting into the South and West. In Quebec, at least 70 people reportedly have died from a heat wave hitting eastern and central Canada. More than 600 people die every year in the United States from heat-related illnesses that are preventable, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency estimates more than 65,000 Americans visit an emergency room for acute heat illness each summer. “I think people underestimate how quickly it happens. And when it starts to happen, if someone is progressing to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you lose your self-awareness,” said Dr. Robert O’Connor, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia. “It’s important to keep an eye on those around you for heat-related problems. If someone is flushed, dizzy or uncoordinated, it can be an early sign.” Dehydration can begin within just a few hours of extreme heat, so drinking extra fluids is important, especially when taking certain medications. Fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, dizziness, sleepiness and dry mouth can all be signs of dehydration. Dehydration causes the heart to work harder, putting it at risk. Hydration helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently. A 2016 Environmental Protection Agency analysis of heat-related deaths said high temperatures could be a factor in many more deaths than officials realize — or count. “By studying how daily death rates vary with temperature in selected cities, scientists have found that extreme heat contributes to far more deaths than the official death certificates might suggest,” the report said. “This is because the stress of a hot day can increase the chance of dying from a heart attack, other heart conditions, or respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.” While infants and the elderly are more vulnerable to problems from heat, O’Connor said sometimes medicines can make someone more sensitive to heat and dehydration. “They should talk to their doctor and look up their medications to see if it predisposes them,” he said. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious medical emergencies that require treatment. Both can cause headaches, nausea or vomiting. Heat stroke also can cause a high fever, warm skin with no sweating, and confusion or unconsciousness. Heat stroke is not the same as a stroke. Stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain either bursts or is blocked by a clot, causing a decrease in oxygen flow to the brain. Beyond some of the obvious and sometimes extreme physical symptoms brought on by sweltering temperatures, a recent study showed it could affect how you think. And it doesn’t just affect the most vulnerable. A group of researchers at Harvard University in Boston published an observational study last week showing students who lived in dormitories without air conditioning during a heat wave performed worse on a series of cognitive tests compared with students who lived in air-conditioned dorms. The study was conducted over 12 consecutive days in the summer of 2016. Students living in buildings without AC experienced 13.4 percent longer reaction times on color-word tests, and 13.3 percent lower scores on addition/subtraction tests compared with students in air-conditioned rooms. The research showed students in rooms with AC were not just faster in their responses, but also more accurate. Hot summers and heat waves won’t be going away any time soon, according to federal research. In fact, unusually high temperatures have become more common in recent decades, and heat waves are expected to become longer, more frequent and more intense in the future, according to the EPA and the CDC. O’Connor said thinking ahead and being prepared in the heat will help prevent trouble. “Drink plenty of fluids and limit the amount of time you are in the heat. Even if someone comes into a cooler environment for a few minutes every hour, that can prevent a heat-related illness,” he said. “Limit outdoor activity to early morning or late evening, and stay in the shade,” O’Connor said. “t might be tough if you are working outside or on the golf course. Soak a towel in cold water and put it around your neck. Evaporative cooling, dousing in cold water and letting it evaporate, is the best way to eliminate heat.”
16 July 2018
MONDAY, July 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Itching, blisters, sores and inflammation are a continuous and debilitating source of pain, shame and misery for many people who struggle with the allergic skin disease known as eczema, researchers say. And a new survey suggests that many of those battling moderate-to-severe eczema suffer from an inability or reluctance to engage in activities and socializing, which leads to a considerably diminished quality of life. For some eczema patients, their quality of life is poorer than those who have a wide range of other chronic health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers added. “The more severe the atopic dermatitis [eczema], the worse the overall health, quality of life and life dissatisfaction,” said study author Dr. Jonathan Silverberg. “I see some of the toughest cases of atopic dermatitis around, so I can’t say I was terribly surprised by this,” Silverberg explained. “But I think most people who don’t live with atopic dermatitis are surprised to hear just how debilitating it can be.” Silverberg serves as director of the Northwestern Medicine Multidisciplinary Eczema Center and the Contact Dermatitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. According to the National Eczema Association, roughly 30 million Americans — ranging from infants to seniors — suffer from one of several different forms of the skin disease. The exact cause remains elusive, and there is no known cure. And though topical drugs and immunotherapy can help manage the condition, treatment is complicated by the fact that “no two eczema patients are exactly alike,” Silverberg said. “For most patients, flares can come for no apparent reason at all,” he noted. “Many patients are looking for that one [environmental] trigger they can avoid to cure their atopic dermatitis. For most, it doesn’t exist.” And that means that patients with different triggers and different degrees of severity and symptoms will require a different “tailored treatment approach” for what will likely end up being a long-term chronic disorder, said Silverberg. The survey of just over 600 eczema patients (with mild, moderate, or severe disease) revealed one all-too-common thread: a broad dissatisfaction with one’s life. Nearly three-quarters of those polled were white. Just over half had mild eczema, nearly four in 10 had a moderate condition, and just over 8 percent described their condition as severe. Pooled together, about one-quarter said they were in fair health, while nearly 16 percent described their overall health as poor, the findings showed. Among those with severe disease, about 35 percent said they were either in fair or poor health, while almost one-third said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with life. But even among those with mild eczema, nearly 18 percent said they avoided socializing because of their appearance, while 23 percent limited their daily activities. Those figures shot up to 40 percent and 43 percent, respectively, when moderate and severe patients were included. The most effective way patients can limit eczema’s impact on quality of life is to “seek care earlier and aim for tighter control of their symptoms,” Silverberg advised. “Some patients may say to themselves ‘it’s not so bad,’ and not seek care,” he said. “Then they end up suffering in silence as things worsen and they eventually get to a point of desperation, and at that point have a much harder time treating their disease.” The impact that eczema can have on life satisfaction is not lost on Dr. Richard Gallo, chairman of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. “We have long known that eczema has an enormous impact on the quality of life, not only for the patient but also on parents of children with eczema,” he said. Still, “there is good news for eczema patients because of new scientific understanding of the cause and treatment,” Gallo added. On that front, he highlighted work currently underway exploring the potential benefits of using probiotics applied to the skin. But, Gallo said, “eczema is complex and patients really need to talk carefully to their doctor to understand the type and causes of their eczema.” The study was published July 16 in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. More information For more on eczema, visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
15 July 2018
SUNDAY, July 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — There’s no need to panic if you cut yourself with a knife or broken glass, one dermatologist says, since most cuts can be treated at home. “The most important thing to do is to gently wash the cut to prevent an infection,” said Dr. Laura Ferris, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Beyond that, most minor cuts and scrapes stop bleeding and heal quickly with a few simple steps,” she added in an American Academy of Dermatology news release. Ferris offers the following advice: First, wash your hands with soap and water. Then gently wash the cut, using cool or lukewarm water and a mild soap or cleanser to gently remove dirt or debris. Next, use a clean washcloth or gauze to apply pressure to the cut to stop the bleeding. Maintain the pressure for one to two minutes or until the bleeding stops. Apply petroleum jelly to help keep the wound moist for faster healing, and continue applying it until the cut heals. Using petroleum jelly from a tube instead of a jar will reduce the risk of dirt contamination and possible infection. Do not apply antibiotics to the cut. Cover the cut with a sterile bandage to protect it and prevent it from reopening. Change the bandage daily, and keep the cut covered until it heals. An over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help relieve pain. If your cut was caused by a dirty or rusty item, make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. If you’re not sure, contact your primary care doctor. “Most minor cuts heal in one week or less; however, if your cut is longer than three-fourths of an inch, more than a quarter-inch deep, or won’t stop bleeding, seek immediate medical attention,” Ferris said. “As your cut heals, if you notice any signs of an infection — such as pus or increased redness, swelling or pain — call your primary care doctor or a board-certified dermatologist,” she added. More information The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on cuts and puncture wounds.
13 July 2018
FRIDAY, July 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Two years ago, Ian McKenzie thought his mom’s remaining days were dwindling. The 97-year-old woman had developed a severe case of what was thought to be an untreatable form of squamous cell carcinoma, the second leading form of skin cancer. Lesions had developed over much of her right leg, in such numbers and size that chemotherapy and surgery were ruled out as treatments. On a hunch, her doctor, Dr. Anna Nichols of the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, tried an unorthodox approach — she injected each tumor with Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. The result: All the tumors completely and rapidly disappeared. Now cancer-free, McKenzie’s mother is getting ready to celebrate her 100th birthday this fall. “This outcome was more than what I had even hoped for,” her son said. “It was like the tumors were going through a dying phase, one by one.” No one is claiming that the outcome in this single case will translate to skin cancer patients generally. Still, McKenzie hopes his mom’s experience spurs more research. “I hope that this treatment can be further tested and used in clinical trials, as the benefit is just too practical to be ignored,” he said. The human papillomavirus (HPV) shot has already revolutionized the prevention of a wide range of cancers — cervical, genital, anal and oral — with which the virus has been strongly linked. But there’s been little study on its use as a treatment for existing tumors, said Nichols. She’s an assistant professor at the cancer center’s department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery. Nichols’ own research, involving two prior patients, had suggested the vaccine might curb skin cancer growth. So, in the new case, her team decided to try Gardasil as an “off-label” therapy — a use not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nichols first administered two vaccine doses in the woman’s arm. Several weeks later, additional injections were administered directly into some of her tumors. The treatment was applied a total of four times, spread out over an 11-month period. Less than a year following the initial direct-to-tumor vaccine injection, all of the treated tumors disappeared, Nichols said. What’s more, over the two-year post-treatment period, there’s been no skin cancer recurrence. “We were surprised that all of the patient’s tumors regressed,” said Nichols, “even those that were not directly injected with the HPV vaccine. This has never been reported until now.” Many questions remain, of course. More testing is planned to reconfirm the vaccine’s effectiveness against squamous cell carcinomas, Nichols said. It’s unclear if it will prove similarly effective against other forms of skin cancer. But Nichols believes that the HPV vaccine “could be considered for carefully selected patients who have limited conventional treatment options.” According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), squamous cell carcinoma accounts for roughly 20 percent of all skin cancer cases. The disease typically manifests in those areas of the body that are commonly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, lips or hands. Surgery is normally the standard of care, Nichols and her team noted. But in cases where multiple lesions have developed, surgery is not always a realistic option. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. He said the “concept of injecting a vaccine or an infectious agent into a cancer tumor is not in and of itself new. What’s new is the use of the HPV vaccine. “And what likely has happened here,” he said, “is that by injecting it into the tumor cells the vaccine helped the patient’s own defense mechanism respond in such a way as to attack the cancer in that location. “That itself is a very important observation,” Lichtenfeld believes. “And it certainly is intriguing. And I suspect it’s one that’s going to be looked into further and quickly. Because these are cancers for which we don’t have much to offer, in this kind of a situation. “And if this is repeated on a larger scale, that would certainly be important for patient care,” he said. Ian McKenzie agreed. “This proved to me the power of immunizations and the role they play with the immune system,” he said. “Fighting cancer by making the immune system recognize the tumors seems so logical, and worth further exploration.” The case report was published earlier this month in JAMA Dermatology. More information Find out more about squamous cell carcinoma at the American Cancer Society.
12 July 2018
THURSDAY, July 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Think you live in a place that’s free from disease-carrying ticks? Don’t be so sure. Citizen scientists found ticks capable of transmitting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in dozens of places across the United States where the pests had never previously been recorded, a new study reports. All told, disease-carrying ticks were detected in 83 counties where they’d never been found before across 24 states. The numbers reflect a rise in tick populations across the country, said study author Nate Nieto. He’s an associate professor with Northern Arizona University’s department of biological sciences. “People should be aware of ticks and tick-borne disease, even when they may think there’s not a recorded incidence of a tick in a county,” Nieto said. “These things, they’re not obeying borders. They’re going by biology. If they get moved there by a deer or bird or people or pets, they’re going to establish themselves and start growing.” The massive nationwide study also provides evidence that ticks are born carrying infectious diseases, rather than picking germs up from the animals upon which they feed, said Wendy Adams, research grant director for the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, in California. All life stages of the most commonly encountered ticks — the deer tick, lone star tick, Gulf Coast tick and Rocky Mountain wood tick — carried the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Adams said. “That’s important, because that would say that a tick doesn’t need to acquire an infection from a blood meal. It’s born with the infection,” Adams explained. These findings are the result of an unexpectedly successful effort by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to collect tick samples from across the country. Between January 2016 and August 2017, the foundation and Northern Arizona University offered free tick identification and testing to the general public. People were encouraged to send in ticks they found on themselves, their pets or around their communities. The scientists’ original goal was to collect about 2,000 ticks. They wound up with more than 16,000, sent in by people from every state except Alaska. “We got such a phenomenal participation,” Nieto said. “Two weeks in May, we got almost 2,000 packages per week. That is just powerful data.” People found ticks in areas not represented in tracking maps maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers discovered. Most of these new areas were right next to counties with known tick populations, Adams said. “Ticks are spreading. Tick populations have exploded,” Adams said. “This is good data to show the extent of that. It’s a message to people that even if you think ticks aren’t a problem, they could be.” The 24 states that contain counties with newly documented populations of deer ticks or Western black-legged ticks are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Further, ticks were found in states where they simply weren’t supposed to be, Adams said. Lone star ticks were found in California and black-legged ticks were found in Nevada, both for the first time ever. People also found ticks carrying Babesia — microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and cause the potentially life-threatening disease babesiosis — in 26 counties across 10 states in which the public health department does not require physicians to report cases of the disease. The new study “highlights the geographic variability of ticks and the pathogens they carry,” said Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “Surveillance is increasingly important as we see climate and environmental changes, because we do see expanding ranges of ticks. We’ve seen that with Lyme disease. We’ve seen that with babesiosis,” said Auwaerter, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Adams agreed, suggesting that more funding should be directed to these sorts of crowd-sourced tracking efforts. “We have to invest federal dollars to examine the spread of ticks,” she said. In the meantime, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation suggests that people protect themselves from ticks by: Wearing light-colored clothes to make ticks more visible. Do regular tick checks after being in a tick-infested area, and shower immediately after to wash away ticks that might be crawling on you. Consider using tick repellents like DEET for skin and permethrin for clothing. Talk with your doctor if you develop any symptoms following a tick bite. The new study was published online July 12 in the journal PLOS One. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about ticks.
12 July 2018
THURSDAY, July 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A type of therapy that harnesses the immune system is giving new hope to people battling a once hopeless cancer — melanoma that’s spread to the brain. New research involving more than 2,700 U.S. patients is confirming what specialists in the field have long known — that “checkpoint blockade” treatment can beat back these devastating tumors. “Physicians who treat patients with melanoma brain metastases have seen first-hand the dramatic improvements in survival that immunotherapy can achieve,” said one such specialist, Dr. Jason Ellis. “This study provides data to support our individual clinical observations,” said Ellis, a neurosurgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He wasn’t involved in the new study. Checkpoint blockade agents are not chemotherapy — instead of acting directly on tumor cells, they manipulate the patient’s immune system so that it targets and destroys the melanoma cells. This type of “immunotherapy” was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. The new research was led by Dr. J. Bryan Iorgulescu, a postdoctoral fellow in pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston. His team explained that about one in every 54 Americans will develop a melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. Luckily, most cases are detected early and easily cured via surgery. But sometimes the tumor has had time to spread, even to the brain. In fact, advanced melanomas are now the third-leading cause of metastatic brain cancer, the research team noted. In its analysis, Iorgulescu’s group tracked outcomes from 2,753 patients with melanoma that had spread to the brain. The patients were treated at cancer centers nationwide between 2010 and 2015. The study found that first-line treatment with checkpoint blockade immunotherapy was associated with a rise in median overall survival from 5.2 months to 12.4 months. Treatment was also tied to an increase in the four-year overall survival rate: Just over 28 percent of patients who got the immunotherapy survived at least four years, compared to about 11 percent who didn’t get the therapy, the findings showed. The researchers noted that survival benefits were even greater for those patients whose melanoma had not already spread beyond the brain, to organs such as the liver or lungs. “Our findings build on the revolutionary success of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy clinical trials for advanced melanoma, and demonstrate that their substantial survival benefits also extend to melanoma patients with brain metastases,” Iorgulescu said in a Brigham and Women’s news release. Dr. Michael Schulder helps direct neurosurgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He wasn’t involved in the new analysis, but agreed it confirms what many cancer specialists have long known, “namely, that the use of checkpoint inhibitors has revolutionized the treatment and outlook for patients with metastatic melanoma.” The Boston researchers did offer one caveat, however: Not every patient has equal access to this expensive treatment. Insurance status was a real barrier to immunotherapy for some patients with these advanced tumors, and uninsured patients were much less likely to get the treatment compared to people with private insurance or those on Medicare. The findings were published July 12 in Cancer Immunology Research. More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on melanoma.
10 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Stick or spray-on sunscreens are essential tools against skin cancer, but it’s important to use them the right way, a dermatologist says. “Sticks are easy for under the eyes and the backs of the hands, while spray sunscreens are often easier to apply on children,” Dr. Debra Wattenberg said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release. “However, it’s important to take precautions when using stick and spray sunscreens to ensure the best protection for you and your family,” she added. Wattenberg is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. As with lotion sunscreens, choose sticks and sprays that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant and have an SPF (sun-protection factor) of 30 or higher, Wattenberg said. When using sticks, apply four passes back and forth on each area of skin to ensure ample protection. Then, rub the sunscreen in so there is an even layer of coverage. When using sprays, hold the nozzle close to the skin and apply generously. A good rule of thumb is to spray until the skin glistens. Rub the spray in thoroughly to ensure there are no uncovered spots and coverage is even, Wattenberg said. Never spray sunscreen near your face or mouth and do not inhale it. Spray your hands first and then use them to apply sunscreen to your face. Don’t use spray sunscreen on windy days because it’s harder to apply and there’s a greater chance of accidentally inhaling it. Never apply a spray sunscreen near heat or an open flame, or while smoking, and make sure it’s thoroughly rubbed in and dry before going near open flames. “No matter what type of sunscreen you use, make sure you reapply it every two hours when outdoors or immediately after swimming or sweating,” Wattenberg said. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sun safety.
10 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Researchers report that stimulating particular brain cells triggers hot flashes in mice — a discovery they hope will lead to better therapies for women going through menopause. Humans also have these brain cells, known as Kiss1 neurons, and the new study suggests they perform similar functions in humans, according to the University of Washington researchers. And the neurons’ activity is dependent on sex hormones, including estrogen — which drops in a woman’s body during menopause. Findings in mice often do not pan out in people, but the researchers noted that a human trial underway in Europe is testing a drug that blocks a protein present in Kiss1 neurons, called NkB. This latest finding gives added support to that approach, said researcher Christopher Johnson, a neuroscience graduate student at the university. They might also lead to even more specific treatments, said Stephanie Padilla, a postdoctoral researcher who also worked on the study. Now, Padilla explained, researchers can continue to look at what happens “downstream” from there, and possibly find targets for drugs that get at the heart of hot flashes. More refined drugs are needed: Right now, the most common treatment for hot flashes is hormone replacement therapy. But, Johnson pointed out, estrogen also has widespread effects on the body. Hormone therapy does effectively ease hot flashes, but new options would be welcome and “practice-changing,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society. That’s particularly true, she said, for women who cannot use hormone therapy — including those who’ve had estrogen-sensitive breast and uterine cancers. “Relief of hot flashes is an important, unmet need for these women,” Pinkerton said. “Other non-hormone therapies, such as low-dose antidepressants or gabapentin, have not been as effective as hormone therapy.” For the study, the UW researchers used genetically engineered mice to see what happened when they manipulated Kiss1 neurons. They found that activating the cells triggered a rise in the animals’ skin temperature, followed by an increase in core body temperature. The effect was most pronounced in female mice whose ovaries were removed to deplete their sex hormone levels. Other research has shown that when estrogen levels are low, Kiss1 neurons fire at a heightened rate. And that, the researchers suspect, might make women more vulnerable to developing hot flashes in response to some external trigger — such as heat, spicy food or a change in altitude. According to Padilla, it all raises interesting questions about why these estrogen-sensitive neurons would be involved in body temperature at all. One possibility, the researchers speculate, is that during pregnancy, it might be advantageous for women to have an additional physiologic mechanism that helps regulate core body temperature. The study, published July 10 in the journal Cell Reports, was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. More information The U.S. National Institutes on Aging has more on hot flashes.