October 31, 2014

Plan to replace Missouri’s maximum security mental hospital updated (VIDEO)

A new maximum security mental hospital at Fulton could be ready to receive patients in 2018, the state Mental Health Commission was told today.

The new Fulton State Hospital facility would include 12 wards built back-to-back (shown in light blue) and courtyards for recreation.  (courtesy; Missouri Department of Mental Health)

The new Fulton State Hospital facility would include 12 wards built back-to-back (shown in light blue) and courtyards for recreation. (courtesy; Missouri Department of Mental Health)

A presentation outlined a general design for the new facilities that would replace some structures, including the Biggs Maximum Security Forensic Center, and would be coupled with some existing structures that will be repurposed.

The general plan, which would be carried out in phases, would eventually see the Biggs facility demolished and replaced with a 300-bed, high security forensic psychiatric hospital.  The Guhleman and Hearnes structures on the hospital campus would serve different missions.

Governor Jay Nixon and the state legislature approved a 25-year bond plan to pay for the new hospital, which is projected to cost $211-million.

Behavioral Health Division Director Mark Stringer says work continues with designers and soon a procurement process will begin, to hire contractors. In the spring demolition of some structures will begin as well as construction of an energy control center and power plant to support the whole campus, and a new warehouse and dietary production facility.

“You may remember,” says director of psychiatric facilities Bob Reitz about the current dietary facility, “they are a 1937 construction and they’re not in very good shape, and one of our goals is to try and get out of that kind of an operation as quickly as possible.”

Earlier stories:

Legislature adopts Gov. Nixon’s plan to pay for new Fulton Mental Hospital

Mental Health Official pleased with Nixon plan to replace Fulton State Hospital

Administrators’ pitch: 211-million from bonds to improve Fulton State Mental Hospital

Video:  Bob Reitz outlines the goals of the Fulton State Mental Hospital plan

Washington U professor says Missourians largely safe from Ebola

An outbreak of Ebola virus has received international attention, and rightly so says a Washington University professor, but he says Missourians are largely safe.

The Ebola virus, (photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Ebola virus, (photo courtesy of the CDC)

More than 7,000 people are estimated to have Ebola in West Africa, and some sources say the actual number is likely much, much higher.

One infected person has entered the United States, in Texas, and Washington University Assistant Professor of Medicine Steven Lawrence says it might not stop there.

“There probably will be more before this outbreak in West Africa is contained,” says Lawrence, “but from an overall perspective of public health there is very minimal risk, and that includes residents in the state of Missouri and really throughout most of the country.”

The only way to contract Ebola is through contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids.

“That’s not going to happen in the United States,” says Lawrence, except in limited cases such as people who are around those who have come back from West Africa.

Even then, he says, the nation’s medical infrastructure is such that an outbreak is unlikely for two key reasons.

“Number one; identifying cases or people who are sick, and then two; identifying contacts of those that could become sick,” says Lawrence. “When those are done very effectively, and then thirdly, when people who are sick are taken care of in an environment with the appropriate protective equipment, transmission for this disease can be stopped.”

Lawrence says it is “almost impossible to fathom” an uncontained outbreak of Ebola occurring in the United States.

University of Missouri team finds way to fight cancer with communication

Researchers at the University of Missouri might have found a way to fight cancer by interrupting its communication.

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed.  (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed. (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Those researchers were studying a molecule used by bacteria to communicate. That molecule would allow bacteria to tell one another to do things like multiply, to flee from a body’s immune system, or to stop spreading.

Assistant Research Professor Senthil Kumar says the team then made a discovery “by accident.”

“We’ve found that this molecule can be effectively used against cancer cells,” says Kumar, by introducing the same molecule to cancer cells. It can be used to tell cancer cells to stop spreading, or even to die.

“The cancer cells migrate to form metastasis in the distant organs … we are able to stop that migration when we use this compound. We also found that the genes responsible for this migration can be influenced by this compound.”

Much more research must be done before the technique will be tried on humans, but so far it’s shown promising results against one of the most treatment resistant cancers there is; pancreatic

Professor Senthil Kumar

Professor Senthil Kumar

In the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, Kumar and co-author Jeffrey Bryan, an associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, treated pancreatic cancer cells and were successful in ceasing their multiplication. The cells failed to migrate and began to die.

“Because this treatment shows promise in such an aggressive cancer like pancreatic cancer, we believe it could be used in other types of cancer cells and our lab is in the process of testing this treatment in other types of cancer,” says Kumar.

The next step, he says, is to find a more efficient way to introduce the molecules to the cancer cells.

“At this time, we are only able to treat cancer cells with this molecule in a laboratory setting.”

MU Professor calls findings of UC-Davis autism study exciting

A University of Missouri professor says he’s excited by the findings of a University of California-Davis study that reinforces the need to detect and treat autism spectrum disorder as early as possible.

Associate Professor SungWoo Kahng with the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri.

Associate Professor SungWoo Kahng with the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri.

The study indicates that when infants showing signs of autism were treated between the ages of 6 and 15 months old, they experienced significantly reduced symptoms. Most were reported to have no autism spectrum disorder or developmental delays by age 3.

UC-Davis says treatment for children diagnosed with autism typically begins when they are 3 or 4.

University of Missouri Professor SungWoo Kahng says he’s cautiously optimistic about the findings, but says it drives home to parents and doctors that early detection and treatment are vital.

“It has significant implications for early intervention with kids with autism,” says Kahng. “The sooner parents and practitioners can identify these symptoms and potentially diagnose kids with autism, the sooner the kids can start receiving treatment and the better off the child will be.”

Kahng says most significant, perhaps, is that those carrying out the study were able to identify symptoms of autism in children so young.

“As a behavioral researcher, the idea of intervening at such an early age is very, very exciting,” says Kahng. “It’s something that myself or my colleagues would love to pursue.”

He could have the chance to pursue it. Kahng says more study must be undertaken of larger groups – only seven babies were involved in UC-Davis’ study.

“Until researchers are able to have larger studies that demonstrate a broader change in symptoms, we’re still a little cautious to say, ‘Yes, this is a great method of preventing these symptoms from occurring,'” says Kahng.

Read more about UC-Davis’ findings on the University’s website.

Washington University finds multiple disorders make up schizophrenia (AUDIO)

Ground-breaking research at Washington University points to a major change in understanding  and eventually treating or preventing the disorder.

People with schizophrenia don’t have multiple personalities.  They do have hallucinations or delusions or disorganized thinking.  Washington University researchers looking at gene clusters say the issue is not “does someone have schizophrenia?” but “what kind of schizophrenia does a person have?”

One of the researchers, Doctor Dragan Svrakic (Su-RAH-kiss), says previous research has looked at individual genes.  He and his partners have located specific clusters of genes that contribute to eight classes of schizophrenia.   He says the study has identified different genetic pathways to the disorder.  “We will be able to find what are the pathways that lead eventually to the illness and maybe act to act therapeutically or prophylactically when the rain has not developed yet and when the round wiring the brain has not happened yet to … increase the chances of the illness not even to develop,”  he says.

It might lead to development of medicines that can treat the specific disorders. He says the research could also open the doors to treatment of all other forms of mental illness, including bipolar disorder and autism, or could lead to greater understanding of the development of intelligence.  He says all require  interactions within clusters of genes.

The study has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

AUDIO: Svrakic interview 16:10