Mind-body practices lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes

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Mind-body practices lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes

New research from the Keck School of Medicine of USC reveals mind-body practices are highly effective at reducing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes
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Mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation are increasingly popular tools for promoting health and combating diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Approximately 66% of Americans with type 2 diabetes use mind-body practices and many do so because they believe it helps control their blood sugar. Until now, however, whether mind-practices can reduce blood glucose levels has never been rigorously quantified.
According to new research conducted by a team from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, published recently in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine, some mind-body practices can be nearly as effective as commonly prescribed drugs at reducing blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
“The most surprising finding was the magnitude of the benefit these practices provide,” said Fatimata Sanogo, a PhD student in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study. “We expected there to be a benefit, but never anticipated it would be this large.”
All practices achieve significant reductions in blood sugar levels
The team analyzed data from randomized controlled trials conducted across the globe between 1993 and 2022. They found 28 trials in which people with type 2 diabetes began a mind-body practice in addition to receiving medication and compared their results with people who only received medication to reduce their blood sugar levels.
This study, the first to analyze a range of mind-body practices including meditation, qigong, yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction and their effect on blood glucose levels, revealed that all mind-body practices led to significant reductions in blood sugar levels.
Taken as a whole, the mind-body practices averaged a .84% reduction in hemoglobin A1c, a measure of the average blood glucose level for the past 3 months. Yoga, the most-studied modality, provided the largest benefit, about a 1% reduction in hemoglobin A1c. The authors noted that a 1% reduction is particularly notable because metformin, the most prescribed diabetes drug, reduces hemoglobin A1c in people with type 2 diabetes by 1.1% on average.
“What is important about this study is that the effect is very strong and that it is on top of the standard of care,” said Richard M. Watanabe, PhD, professor of population and public health sciences and physiology and neuroscience at the Keck School of Medicine, noting that the research revealed that mind-body practices helped participants achieve reductions in blood glucose levels on top of the reductions they were getting from medication.

A potential new tool for clinicians

The research suggests that mind-body practices could be used as a both as a complementary nonpharmacological treatment for people with type 2 diabetes and possibly as a preventive measure as well.
New effective methods for keeping type 2 diabetes under control are needed, since only about half of people with type 2 diabetes succeed at reducing their blood sugar levels to the target level of 7% hemoglobin A1c. At the same time, the number of Americans who are pre-diabetic has grown to about one-third in recent decades.
The studies came from different countries, further suggesting that mind-body practices could benefit people with type 2 diabetes worldwide.

“This could be an important tool for many people because type 2 diabetes is a major chronic health problem and we are not doing a good enough job at controlling it,” said Sanogo. “Although this study does not address it as a preventive measure, it does suggest it could help people who are pre-diabetic reduce their risk for future type 2 diabetes.”

About the study

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Exposure to air pollution worsens COVID-19 outcomes, even among the fully vaccinated

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COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, so it’s not surprising that exposure to poor air quality worsens patient outcomes. But how does air pollution affect people who are vaccinated?

To answer that question, a team of researchers analyzed data from more than 50,000 COVID-19 patients across Southern California. By comparing publicly available air quality monitoring data with deidentified patient medical records, they first established that regardless of air pollution exposure, vaccines go a long way in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“Fully vaccinated people had almost 90% reduced risk of COVID hospitalization, and even partially vaccinated people had about 50% less risk,” said Zhanghua Chen, PhD, assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-first author of the study.

But air pollutants–in particular fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)–are still harmful. Even among people who were vaccinated, exposure to those two pollutants over the short or long term increased the risk of hospitalization up to 30%.

“Among vaccinated people, the detrimental effect of air pollution exposure is a little smaller, compared to people who were not vaccinated,” Chen said. “But that difference is not statistically significant.”

The study was just published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The research builds on the team’s earlier findings, which helped establish the link between air pollution exposure and COVID-19 severity.

“These findings are important because they show that, while COVID-19 vaccines are successful at reducing the risk of hospitalization, people who are vaccinated and exposed to polluted air are still at increased risk for worse outcomes than vaccinated people not exposed to air pollution,” said corresponding author Anny Xiang, PhD, MS, a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s (KPSC) Department of Research & Evaluation.

Short-term and long-term exposures

The researchers analyzed medical records, which were deidentified to protect patient privacy, from KPSC patients. Across the health care network, 50,010 patients, ages 12 and up, were diagnosed with COVID-19 in July or August of 2021, when the Delta variant was circulating and many people had been vaccinated.

Then, the researchers calculated estimated air pollution exposure levels for each participant based on residential addresses. They looked at average PM2.5, NO2, and ozone (O3) levels during the one-month and one-year periods before each patient received a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“We investigated both long-term and short-term air pollution exposure, which may influence COVID-19 severity through different mechanisms,” said Chen.

Over the long term, pollution is linked to increases in cardiovascular and lung diseases, which are in turn linked to more severe COVID-19 symptoms. In the short term, air pollution exposure may worsen inflammation in the lungs and could even alter the immune response to the virus.

Chen, Xiang, and their colleagues found that among 30,912 people who were unvaccinated, high short-term PM2.5 exposure increased the risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations by 13%, while long-term exposure increased the risk by 24%. For NO2, short-term exposure raised hospitalization risk by 14% and long-term exposure raised the risk by 22%. The pollutant O3 was not significantly associated with COVID-19 hospitalizations.

For those who were partially or fully vaccinated, the hospitalization risks related to air pollution exposure were slightly lower–but the difference was not statistically significant.

Using data from medical records and neighborhood-level databases, the researchers were able to control for the effects of vaccination status, age, sex, race/ethnicity, health insurance status, body mass index, smoking history, health comorbidities, education level, income level and population density.

Improving indoor air quality

The findings suggest that in order to reduce severe cases of COVID-19, we need to improve air quality. This spring, the Biden Administration launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, an effort to install high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters in schools and other public buildings.

Chen recently received funding to conduct clinical trials of HEPA filters to determine whether they reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Her team will also continue their collaboration with KPSC to study the direct impacts of indoor air purifiers on COVID-19 patients.

About this study

In addition to Chen and Xiang, the study’s other authors are Brian Z. Huang and Frank D. Gilliland of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Margo A. Sidell, Ting Chow and Mayra P. Martinez of the Department of Research & Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California; and Fred Lurmann of Sonoma Technology, Inc.

This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health [3R01ES029963-01] and the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Department of Preventive Medicine COVID-19 Pandemic Research Center (CPRC).

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Can school choice lead to segregation?

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New Study: Can School Choice Lead to Segregation?

Research by USC Marshall professor Kalinda Ukanwa suggests an unintended consequence of open school choice.
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Although school choice is often touted as a strategy to desegregate schools, a new study led by Assistant Professor of Marketing Kalinda Ukanwa shows it may in fact drive segregation.

The paper – co-authored with Aziza C. Jones of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Broderick L. Turner Jr., of Virginia Tech – was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It examines how parents’ preferences on factors such as school ratings and commute times influence the racial makeup of schools.

“We found that school choice increases racial segregation even when parents do not factor racial demographics into their choice because racial groups have different priorities when it comes to school characteristics,” said Ukanwa.

To determine the effect of school choice at scale, Ukanwa and her research partners modeled school choice as an open market. The authors presented more than 1,600 Black and White parents with a set of fictional school choices intended to uncover underlying market segment preferences for characteristics including a school’s performance rating, teachers’ experience, income, racial demographics, and commute time.

Impacts of unmitigated school choice
Even when the authors controlled for an “own-race preference,” the model found that the fictional schools presented became more segregated because White parents and Black parents had differing priorities when selecting their ideal school.

For example, the authors found that school performance ratings in particular signal a school’s potential to alter a child’s socioeconomic status. As such, Black parents were more willing to forgo other school attributes such as short commutes or teacher experience, for higher-rated schools. Meanwhile, White parents placed greater value on short commutes. Both groups, however, valued teacher experience.

The study shows that even if parents do not intentionally seek schools where students are of their race, unmitigated school choice among these market segments can increase segregation because these groups are seeking schools that have different attributes.

The study’s model revealed that for every 3% of households that exercise school choice, an additional 564,000 U.S. children would need to leave their schools to offset the racial divide.

Read the full study here.

Accounting for Parental Preferences
The study’s authors recommended that schools take the preferences of racial groups into consideration when marketing schools to help prevent increased segregation.

“If you simply expand school choice without first addressing some of these underlying differences in parents’ preferences, we’ll see increasingly segregated schools,” said Ukanwa. “But this can be mitigated by taking preferences into account. Schools aiming to increase integration could speak to unique preferences by marketing attributes such as convenience in getting to school, or the resources associated with performance such as advanced placement courses or pre-college programs.”

About the Study
The researchers first conducted a series of experiments where parents rated the attributes they consider most important in a school, with consideration for their race and other demographic information. They then created a computer model that ran a scenario of how such preferences would play out in a district that had seven schools with a combined 4,000 students. The model reflected residential segregation that currently exists in U.S. neighborhoods.

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How L.A.’s culinary roots lie in its Mexican tradition

Sarah Portnoy’s labs are scattered all over the city of Los Angeles and beyond. You can also find her at loncheras (food trucks) and in the back of the house at any number of Mexican restaurants.

Portnoy, a teaching professor of Spanish at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has traveled to Cuba, Spain and Mexico over the past quarter century, expanding her worldview of Latino culture and migration through a culinary lens.

As USC celebrates Latinx Heritage Month, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles is featuring Portnoy’s curated exhibit, Abuelita’s Kitchen: Mexican Food Stories, which explores traditional recipes, kitchen artifacts and oral histories. Her documentary of the same name was screened Thursday at the USC Fisher Museum of Art. We talked with her about her work.

What’s the relationship between food and migration?

People have always migrated and crossed national borders. As they migrate, they take their traditional cuisine with them. Those dishes, like the culture itself, adapt and change in a new environment — in this case, the Mexican and Mexican American communities of Southern California.

Chefs and home cooks adapted their dishes to the ingredients available in the United States and to the American appetite for large plates of food with the creation of the “combo plate.” This evolution is part of the invention of a mass-produced version of Mexican food for the U.S. market, one that succeeded in establishing “Mexican” restaurants across the country.

Mexican cuisine is hardly the only one to have been transformed by other cultures. Transculturation — Fernando Ortiz’s term for the merging and converging of cultures — has historically taken place between colonizer and colonized. It is present in many cuisines. Italian dishes such as pizza and spaghetti with tomato sauce are inextricably linked to the tomato, yet tomatoes did not make their way from Mesoamerica to Europe until the 16th century.

How is the Latino population of Los Angeles different compared with populations elsewhere?

Unlike older, more established East Coast cities, L.A. was once part of Spain and later Mexico — it is a very Mexican city and increasingly a very Central American one, too. It is a city that the border crossed after Mexico lost the Mexican American War in the mid 19th century [and Mexico’s northern border moved south of L.A.], but it kept that Mexican feel — the streets in downtown once had names in Spanish. Not only is it a city defined by its Mexican and Latino history, but more recently its Korean, Japanese, Jewish and Chinese [cultures], and much more.

How does Los Angeles culture influence L.A. cuisine?

Well, first of all, its sheer proximity to Mexico and history of Mexican immigration — on a good day you can be in Tijuana in a few hours.

Trends can come from the bottom up. How often have you seen street tacos on the menu at a high-end restaurant for $25?.

Sarah Portnoy, Abuelita’s Kitchen

Secondly, it’s a young city — after the Transcontinental Railroad (1876-1900), it had only 100,000 residents. The city only exploded in population in the first few decades of the 20th century. So, unlike people in more established cities such as New York, Paris and London, among Angelenos there is a lack of culinary hierarchy. Angelenos are more open to new trends — and trends can come from the bottom up. How often have you seen street tacos on the menu at a high-end restaurant for $25? There are about 12,000 sidewalk vendors in L.A., and food trucks are part of the culture.

Diabetes is prevalent in the Latino community. How do you square that with a celebration of foods that are not always healthful? Can that be part of the conversation?

While Mexican American cuisine such as Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex can be considered unhealthful — often loaded with sour cream and cheddar cheese — Indigenous Mexican cuisine is based on ingredients grown together in the milpa farming system: beans, squash and corn. Corn is the main ingredient in all Mexican cuisine.

It is only with the Spanish conquest and the imposition of European culture that Mesoamerican cuisine adopted the use of animal products such as pork and beef and dairy. Traditional Mexican cuisine is incredibly healthful. Little dairy is used in most dishes, a vegetable soup is usually served at the beginning of every meal, and comida (lunch) is the main meal and includes soup, a main dish that almost always has vegetables, and tortillas.

In fact, diabetes and obesity only became an epidemic in Mexico in the past 25 years, largely as a result of globalization, as fast food and sodas became widely accessible and soda became cheaper to drink than water.

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Keck Hospital of USC named top performer by leading heath care performance improvement compapy

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LOS ANGELES – Keck Hospital of USC has been recognized as a top performer in the 2022 Bernard A. Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Ranking by Vizient, Inc., a leading health care performance improvement company.
The designation acknowledges the hospital’s excellence in delivering high-quality care based on the annual Vizient Quality and Accountability Study.
Keck Hospital ranked No. 11 out of 107 comprehensive academic medical centers nationally and achieved a five-star rating, the highest possible.
“The hospital is committed to providing best possible outcomes for our patients, and this honor is a reflection of our continued dedication,” said Stephanie Hall, MD, MHA, chief medical officer of Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes Keck Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital.
The Vizient rankings evaluate performance on the quality of patient care in six domains: safety, mortality, effectiveness, efficiency, patient centeredness and equity. They factor in data from Vizient as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a national survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care known as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey.
“This recognition is one of several safety and quality distinctions the medical center has recently received and is a further testament to the hard work of our entire staff,” said Marty Sargeant, MBA, CEO of Keck Medical Center.
Earlier this year, Keck Hospital earned an “A” Hospital Safety Grade for the sixth consecutive time from The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization, for achieving the highest national standards in patient safety. In 2021, The Leapfrog group named USC Norris Cancer Hospital a Top Teaching Hospital for outstanding quality and safety.
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For more information about Keck Medicine of USC, please visit news.KeckMedicine.org.

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Dad brain is real: Study reveals men’s brains change after baby arrives

Psychologist Darby Saxbe leads the Center for the Changing Family and a research effort to explore how parents change biologicially and neurobiologically in response to their babies — all at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Saxbe, an associate professor, recently had a study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex and found evidence that men develop a sort of “dad brain” after their baby is born, somewhat like how mothers’ brains change in response to their newborns. She discussed why studying these changes in parents is important and what she hopes to tackle next.

Why are you studying these changes in the parents’ brains? What do you hope to understand?

Parenting is incredibly important for society and public health, but also understudied from a neurobiological perspective. We’re hoping our research can inform public policies like paid family leave and other initiatives that support new parents.

What is neuroplasticity and what does it usually signify? Why would it change when one becomes a parent?

We’re still learning about neuroplasticity, but there is evidence that the brain changes and grows when we develop a new skill, like learning a musical instrument, or during developmental windows like early childhood and adolescence. Becoming a parent entails changes to your lifestyle and your biology and requires new skills like being able to empathize with a nonverbal infant, so it makes sense — but has not been proven — that the brain would be particularly plastic during the transition to parenthood as well.

What is the “parental caregiving brain network”? Does this exist for mothers, too?

Yes — it does exist for mothers — this refers to areas of the brain that have been shown to be involved in parenting or caregiving (and pregnancy and lactation) in both human and animal studies.

The study shows that you found changes in the default mode network. What is this network and what do these changes mean for men who are new fathers? What does it mean for their partners?

The default mode network refers to the regions of the brain that “light up” when the brain is at rest (not doing a particularly cognitive task). These regions are thought to be involved in mentalizing about other people’s thoughts and feelings. The fact that we found changes in that part of the brain both for fathers and mothers suggests that there is some remodeling of the social brain taking place.

You note that these changes are occurring in the cortex. What is the cortex responsible for, particularly as it relates to parenting?

The cortex is the latest-evolving part of the brain that is involved in attention, planning, and executive functioning and is more unique to humans. The subcortical regions (below the cortex) are the more basic brain structures that you see in animals, involved in reward, threat, and salience detection. In moms we see both subcortical and cortical changes … in dads we just saw cortical changes. It’s too soon to speculate with such a small sample but it might suggest more higher-order processing involved in fatherhood specifically.

Noted in here, too, is that volumes in the men’s visual network decreased. Do you have any hypotheses on the reasons that would drive changes in the visual system?

We’re not sure, although it may be that visual cues are particularly important for orienting to offspring and understanding their needs, given that infants are non-verbal.

Based on your results, what do you want to explore next?

We plan to study individual differences in fathers’ brain changes that are associated with hormones and parenting.

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USC hosts West Coast premiere of Monica Bill Barnes & Company: The Running Show

Renowned choreographer and dancer Monica Bill Barnes and writer Robbie Saenz de Viteri are bringing their latest high-energy performance to Los Angeles with the help of students at the USC Kaufman School of Dance.

With just four days between auditions and the final show to learn the choreography and the creators’ vision, USC Kaufman students — most of whom are freshmen — have been working tirelessly to bring the vision of Barnes and di Viterbi’s New York City-based dance company vision to life.

“Dancers are some of the few artists that will sign up for something kind of insane,” Barnes said. “The invitation is in five days to learn an entire show, and then perform it on a big stage, and that’s a lot to ask of people.”

The show, Monica Bill Barnes & Company: The Running Show, makes its West Coast premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday in USC’s Bovard Auditorium. The performance — presented by USC’s Visions and Voices series — will feature 13 dance students from USC Kaufman and provides an authentic look into the life of a dancer as a new kind of sports hero.

‘You don’t really know the outcome’

“It came out of a real desire to steal something from sports, which is that you don’t really know the outcome,” Saenz di Viteri said of the show using new performers in each city. “It’s the thing that I think sports really has over theater in a lot of ways.”

Freshman Simone Peterson admits that she doesn’t know much about sports, but as a USC Kaufman dance student, she said she understands movement and pushing her body to the limit, which is what prompted her to audition for the show.

“I think I actually understood sports a little bit better because this dance is heavily geared towards sports,” Peterson said. “Hopefully people will see dance more through a sports lens instead of the opposite.”

The performance made its debut in July at the American Dance Festival. Each performance teams with local artists ranging in age from 12 to 80 years old to develop a new version of The Running Show in each city.

“It both sort of celebrates dance and it really questions what it is to commit your life to something physical that you know has an expiration date,” Barnes said. “This week is about challenging students but also really supporting and encouraging them and bringing them along in this process.”

Though there are differences among the performances, the show always features rigorous athletic movement from Barnes and the students accompanied by witty play-by-play commentary and narration delivered by Saenz de Viteri from his “press box” on stage. Through the course of the rehearsals leading up to the performance, Saenz di Viteri will interview the cast and then incorporate their stories and voices into the show.

The Running Show: ‘A physical live documentary’

“I call it a physical live documentary about the life of a dancer,” Saenz di Viteri said. “It takes audiences through what it means to like fall in love with dance when you’re 7 years old … and then what it means to decide to pursue that as a career in college, and then what that means 20 years after that when you’ve dedicated your life to this physical thing.”

The quick turnaround between auditions and performance was part of the appeal to USC sophomore Avery Zerr.

“That’s the fun thing about it,” Zerr said. “It’s almost like a little game of seeing how quickly you can pick up things and how detailed you can be with the work that you’ve been given.”

Both Barnes and Saenz di Viteri said that the intense atmosphere brings the performers closer. The four-day process provides both dancers and choreographers with a new way of looking at their craft. The hope is that this approach can offer a fresh perspective for the audience.

“I think it’s almost an appreciation of athletics and the tedious work that goes into that,” Zerr said, “and how it’s almost a little bit hilarious how much time we spend doing these things, and how hard we work at them and how much we push our bodies, which is the same for dance.”

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LGBTQ+ History Month: A time to honor the past and build community in the present

After two years of being limited to Zoom events, LGBTQ+ History Month returns to live and in-person activities at USC in October with an ambitious slate of events scheduled throughout the month.

“Our goal is for students to connect with LGBTQ+ history but also to connect with each other and to find pride in our community,” USC’s LGBTQ+ Student Center Supervisor a.b. Monzon said. “This is our chance to come together as a community and to raise visibility about the LGBTQ+ communities and issues at USC.”

The center’s lineup of events kicks off on Oct. 7 with Drag Bingo followed by a faculty-staff social on Oct. 12. The center will honor International Pronouns Day on Oct. 19 with educational materials and giveaways in Hahn Plaza, followed a day later by Pride-Festwhich was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will also be opportunities for students, staff, faculty and community members to volunteer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center South’s bimonthly Pride Pantry.

“We want to engage,” Monzon said. “We are focusing on pride and visibility and connecting to our history of finding community and creating spaces where you can have community.”

LGBTQ+ History Month, which originated in the United States as Lesbian and Gay History Month, is a celebration and observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. High school history teacher Rodney Wilson, the first openly gay public-school teacher in Missouri, created the observance in 1994. It is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBTQ+ and to develop a sense of belonging and empowerment for the community. October was chosen to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and to commemorate the first and second marches on Washington for LGBTQ+ rights, which took place in 1979 and 1987.

USC LGBTQ+ History Month: honoring the legacy of HIV/AIDS activism

Keck Pride, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group that spans Keck Medicine of USC and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is one of the cosponsors of AIDS Walk Los Angelesand is fielding a team for that Oct. 16 event as part of its LGBTQ+ History Month efforts. The walk has not been held in person since 2019.

“We haven’t been able to be together as a community in so long,” Keck Pride Co-Chair Lindsey Morrison said. “Specifically thinking about history, what a huge impact HIV and AIDS has had on our community and its ability to rise to the occasion. We’ve seen again with the COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox [MPX] outbreak, our community’s ability to come together, support each other and make sure we have access to whatever it is that we need. AIDS Walk is a way to celebrate who we are as a community and to honor our legacy.”

Keck Pride is also co-sponsoring an Oct. 14 webinar titled “A (Ridiculously Abbreviated) History of Gender-Affirming Care,” featuring Roberto Travieso, surgical director of the Keck Gender-Affirming Care Program.

“There is a misconception that gender-affirming hormonal and surgical care is new, but there is a rich history that Dr. Travieso will take us through, from over 100 years ago to today,” Morrison said. “This is just a natural variation of humanity that has existed as long as people have existed in every continent, in every culture.”

Coming out accelerates progress

Loni Shibuyama, librarian and archivist at ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, sees LGBTQ+ History Month as an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the past, and to be more visible in the present about your sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The more LGBTQ+ voices that are out there, the more the rest of the world can’t ignore them anymore,” Shibuyama said. “The idea of coming out is one of the distinctive things about LGBTQ people. You can keep it private, but the more people come out, the more others realize how many LGBT people are out there. That has accelerated the progress that has been made.”

ONE Archives, the largest repository of LGBTQ+ materials in the world, houses millions of archival items including periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records and personal papers. It has been a part of USC Libraries since 2010 and is expected to reopen to the public in early 2023 after months of renovations.

“A lot of generations think they are the first to do something,” Shibuyama said, highlighting that the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights has been ongoing from the early 20thcentury to today. “People have been fighting for certain rights for a long time and have had different strategies for doing it. The more we understand all these different ways people have fought for their civil rights, the more we can come together and make that progress.”

Although the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village are regarded as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, Shibuyama points to the AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s as the historical event that galvanized the community and made it more radical about demanding rights.

“The coming together that happened during that time paved the way for more working together on other rights such as marriage equality,” she said. “Some of the rights we were fighting for we are still fighting for today. Some of the rights we have may be threatened. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

A full list of USC LGBTQ+ History Month events can be found on the university’s event calendar.

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Next-generation liquid biopsy detects nano-sized signs of breast cancer in early-stage patients

A USC-led team of scientists has found indications that a special blood test called a liquid biopsy could determine whether a patient has breast cancer at its early stage and if that cancer is unlikely to return.

The high-definition comprehensive liquid biopsies are conducted using a standard blood draw from the arm of a patient in a doctor’s office. Once in the laboratory, the sample is examined for signs of cancer.

The study demonstrating the liquid biopsy results for early breast cancer detection was published on Sept. 27 in Nature’s npj Breast Cancer journal. The work was a collaboration between USC, Billings Clinic, Duke University, Epic Sciences and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. The results raise hopes that one day doctors could detect breast cancer in patients with a simple blood draw.

The researchers at the USC Michelson Convergent Science Institute in Cancer (CSI-Cancer) are cautiously optimistic about their findings. They are eager to test and see whether the results will be proven in larger clinical trials to demonstrate the benefit of the method for patients everywhere.

It’s an amazing opportunity to change how early breast cancer detection is being done with a simple blood draw.

Peter Kuhn, USC’s CSI-Cancer

“It’s an amazing opportunity to change how early breast cancer detection is being done with a simple blood draw, but it’s only a research outcome at this point and we still need to demonstrate clinical benefit,” said Peter Kuhn, a USC cancer physicist who directs CSI-Cancer.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the world, affecting 1 in 8 women over their lifetime.

Since 1976 when the American Cancer Society endorsed mammography X-rays, the technique — along with a tissue biopsy — has become the standard way for doctors to check patients for breast cancer.

Breast cancer detection: Mammography isn’t 100% accurate

But mammography is not 100% accurate and its detection can be impeded by healthy dense tissue. Mammography’s sensitivity to breast cancer is about 87%, according to the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. And for some women, mammograms are not accessible, especially those living in poor isolated communities that have no clinics or hospitals. Other women simply do not get a regular mammogram.

But a tissue biopsy also is not a foolproof method. Although it can reveal information about the tumor, it has limitations. Doctors can sample only a small area and may fail to capture the full extent of the tumor. A tissue biopsy is also invasive and painful.

Combined, the drawbacks for diagnosis with mammograms and tissue biopsies mean some patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has grown and spread. New methodologies such as CSI-Cancer’s liquid biopsy can bring a complementary toolset into clinical practice.

For the study, Kuhn and his team worked with 100 breast cancer patients — some early and some late stage — and 40 patients without breast cancer from April 2013 through January 2017. The work was conducted at clinical sites including at the USC Norris cancer center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; the Billings Clinic in Montana; the Duke University Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.; and the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte.

The team tested a theory that the high-definition liquid biopsy could detect multiple cancer biomarkers, including the so-called “oncosomes” — nano-sized, membraned cargo carriers that enrich the body’s environment for cancer growth. These oncosomes are secreted by cancer cells as the group has shown previously.

“The news here is that we found the vast majority of early-stage breast cancer patients have these oncosomes at very robust levels,” said Kuhn, a Dean’s Professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and cancer physicist. “They’re about 5-10 microns in diameter, about the size of a cell. We first identified these large vesicles in prostate cancer about a year-and-a-half ago and showed that they are related to the cancer. They are hiding in plain sight.”

A future diagnostic tool for breast cancer detection?

If further studies produce similar results, it could mean that the next generation high-definition liquid biopsy may become a diagnostic tool for early breast cancer detection and other cancers, he said. The test also could inform patients who have been treated for cancer that they will most likely remain cancer-free.

“Typically, I’m the bearer of bad news. I say, ‘You have cancer in your blood,'” Kuhn said. “But a test like this could give hope that if there is a sign of cancer, we can find it very early and improve treatment and survival.”


Kuhn’s co-authors included from USC: Sonia Maryam Setayesh, Olivia Hart, Amin Naghdloo and Nikki Higa, Anand Kolatkar, as well as Nicholas Matsumoto, Rafael Nevarez, James B. Hicks, Jeremy Mason, Stephanie N. Shishido at USC Michelson. Other researchers were Jorge Nieva and Janice Lu of the USC Norris Center at Keck Medicine of USC, Shelley Hwang of Duke University School of Medicine, Kathy Wilkinson and Michael Kidd of Billings Clinic, as well as Amanda Anderson of Epic Sciences in San Diego.

The study was funded by grants from Breast Cancer Research Foundation; USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center; the National Cancer Institute; National Institutes of Health; Kalayil and Leela Chacko, Fellowship; Winnie and James Hart Endowed Fellowship; USC Dornsife Student Opportunities for Academic Research Fellowship; Vassiliadis Research Fund; Vicky Joseph Research Fund; Hart Family Research Fund; The Hsieh Family Foundation; Sandy Borden Thielicke; Jennifer B. and Gregory A. Ezring; Rochika and Kenny Dewan; Andy Perlman; Neil and Anjini Desai; Mamak and Mahmood Razavi Research Fund; Susan Pekarovics; Anila P. Bhagavatula; Giorgio De Santis; Thuy Thanh Truong; Cheryl Faillace; Wayne R. Green Fund; Armstrong McDonald Foundation; Ms. Margaret Turney Hulter Funds; Suzanne B. Borden Fund; and Mr. and Mrs. Stanley A. Mayer Fund.

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Low-calorie sugar substitute consumption during adolescence appears to impair memory later in life

REDIRECT https://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/3766/sugar-substitute-impair-memory-later/

Scientists using laboratory models find that eating FDA-approved levels of saccharin, ACE-K and stevia early in life may result in several changes to the body, including brain regions involved in memory and reward-motivated behavior.

By Darrin S. Joy – September 28, 2022

Diet soft drinks often use low-calorie sugar substitutes such as stevia and acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K. (Image Source: iStock.)
Diet soft drinks often use low-calorie sugar substitutes such as stevia and acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K. (Image Source: iStock.)
A high-sugar diet early in life has been shown to harm brain function, but what about low-calorie sugar substitutes? A new study reveals they may take a heavy toll on the developing brain and gut.

The News: In a study published Sept. 13 online in the journal JCI Insight, scientists at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences show that adolescent rats that consumed the low-calorie sweeteners saccharin, ACE-K and stevia exhibited long-term impairments in memory.

The findings align with those from earlier studies in which the researchers show that adolescent rats that consume sugar suffer lingering memory impairment.
Consuming low-calorie sweeteners also affected metabolic signaling in the body, which can lead to diabetes and other metabolism-related diseases.
Rats that consumed low-calorie sweeteners as adolescents were less willing to work for sugar as adults, but they consumed more sugar if it was freely available, another factor that might affect the likelihood of developing metabolic disease.
Why It Matters: Advice on what to eat and when to eat it varies widely. Findings from studies like this can help consumers and clinicians make healthier choices throughout the lifespan, say the researchers.

“While our findings do not necessarily indicate that someone should not consume low-calorie sweeteners in general, they do highlight that habitual low-calorie sweetener consumption during early life may have unintended, long-lasting impacts,” said Scott Kanoski, associate professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife.

What It Means for Humans: While most studies of low-calorie sweeteners focus on one substance and use amounts far exceeding the norm, the researchers made sure the study was in line with real-life conditions for people.

Sweeteners tested include saccharin, acesulfame potassium (ACE-K) and stevia — which are commonly used in sweetened foods.
The amount of sweetener consumed fell within FDA-approved guidelines for humans.
In Their Words:

“Research using rodent models and low-calorie sweeteners has typically involved consumption levels that far exceed the FDA ‘acceptable daily intake’ (ADI) levels and used only a single sweetener. To design our research to be more applicable to humans, we kept consumption levels within the ADI and used multiple low-calorie sweeteners to determine if effects were specific to a given sweetener or general across sweeteners.”

— Lindsey Schier, Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at USC Dornsife

The Experiment: To determine the effect of low-calorie sweetener consumption on memory, the researchers used methods that test object recognition and spatial recognition.

Rats were provided water sweetened with either stevia, ACE-K or saccharin or plain water, along with their normal food.
After a month, the rats’ memory was tested using two different methods — one tests if they remember an object they’ve seen before and the other is a maze.
In the end, rats consuming sweetener were less likely to remember an object or the path through the maze than those that drank only plain water.

What Else?

The scientists also found other effects among the rats after they consumed sweeteners.

They had fewer receptors on their tongues that detect sweet taste.
The biological mechanism in their intestines that transports glucose into the blood was altered.
Their brains had changed, specifically in regions associated with memory control and reward-motivated behavior.
What’s Next?

Kanoski and Schier say the findings reveal more questions worth exploring, including:

How do sweetener substitutes cause a reduction in sweet taste receptors and how does that affect later dietary behavior?
What does the change in the nutrient transport in the gut mean for health?
What biological mechanisms link sweetener consumption with the changes to the brain?
The researchers say they intend to explore ways to reverse the long-lasting effects of adolescent low-calorie sweetener consumption and to study how it influences food choices and preferences later in life.

About the Study

In addition to Schier and Kanoski, authors on the study include Linda Tsan, Sandrine Chometton, Anna Hayes, Molly Klug, Lana Bridi and Rae Lan of USC Dornsife; Yanning Zuo and Xia Yang of UCLA; Shan Sun and Anthony Fodor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and Emily Noble of the University of Georgia.

The study was supported by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grants DK123423 and DK104363; the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant R01 DC018562; and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-1842487.

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