Health Briefs

Is Coffee Bad for Your Bones?

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Robert Recker, MD’63, director of Creighton’s Osteoporosis Research Center, told The New York Times. Huge, national studies in different countries have found “no evidence of an increase of fractures due to coffee,” said Recker, who holds the O’Brien Endowed Chair in Health Sciences.

New Sealant Strengthens Tooth Enamel

A Creighton chemistry professor and the dean of the School of Dentistry have collaborated with a dental products company to create a new sealant that helps protect teeth from decay.

The sealant, called BioCoat, which is used to seal pits and fissures, those small hollows and grooves found on the biting surfaces of back teeth, uses a remineralizing microcapsule called SmartCap, which Creighton developed in collaboration with Premier Dental Products Company.

Through this technology, microscopic capsules containing calcium and phosphate ions are placed into the dental sealant. When patients brush their teeth, the calcium and phosphate ions are released and combine with the fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel — a process known as ­remineralization.

“While fluoride has been long known to help reduce decay, fluoride is much more effective in healing teeth when calcium and phosphate ions are present near or on the tooth,” says Stephen Gross, PhD, associate professor of chemistry, who, along with School of Dentistry Dean Mark Latta, DMD, and Premier Dental’s William McHale, developed the new technology.

HIV Research: Nano-Therapy, Big Results

Therapies for treating HIV have improved dramatically over the last 30 years. Patients who once needed to take three or four medications, up to five times daily, can now get the same effect through one pill, once daily.

But, even so, getting patients to consistently take their medication is one of the biggest challenges in HIV treatment, says Chris Destache, PharmD, professor of pharmacy practice. “For some people,” Destache says, “drugs remind them they have HIV, and they get drug burnout. Plus, sometimes when taking the drugs, they just don't feel good.”

Using nanotechnology for drug delivery may provide a solution. Through his patented formulation, Destache has been able to insert a combination of HIV-fighting drugs into a polymer, which, when injected into the body, breaks down slowly and releases medication gradually. As a treatment option, he says, it would require only one injection every month or so.

Destache also is researching nano­technology as a way to deliver a gradual release of drugs for preventing HIV. The hope is that patients could be injected with a drug-containing nanoparticle once a month instead of swallowing a daily pill. The National Institutes of Health awarded Destache a $1.5 million grant to further investigate this approach.

No Laughing Matter

Ruth Maher, PhD, is one of four original inventors of innovotherapy, a new,  non­invasive treatment for pelvic-floor weakness — a condition that affects one in three women to some degree and results in intermittent urinary leakage, particularly when some women cough, sneeze, exercise or laugh. Maher also is a pioneer in using transabdominal ultrasound to teach students and patients about abdominal and pelvic-floor muscle movement in real time.

Latest Buzz in Tracking Viruses

In the lifecycle of viruses, it’s typically only the endgame that gets any attention: People become hosts to the virus, sicken and sometimes die. But the vectors — insects and other organisms — that spread viruses often live with these infectious agents for a much longer period than the final hosts, and are thus able to spread the virus farther and wider.

“A virus can live in a mosquito for much longer than it lives in a human being,” says Carol Fassbinder-Orth, PhD, associate professor of biology specializing in avian immunology and zoonotic diseases. “If we’re going to understand how outbreaks happen, we have to know more than just what happens in the end.”

Fassbinder-Orth studies the life of viruses in vectors like mosquitoes — their genetics and structures — in the hopes of intercepting major outbreaks of insect-borne diseases. To escape detection in its host, a virus will delete a portion of its genetic code.

Creighton’s RaD Lab collaborated with Fassbinder-Orth to develop a computer capable of sequencing whole genetic structures of viruses and comparing them to a base reference genome — essentially mining massive amounts of a genetic haystack to find a few critical needles.