Medical Notes this week…

Doctors used to think the appendix was useless… but now we know it’s important to the immune system. And it turns out it may also be important in the development of Parkinson’s disease. A study in the journal Science Translational Medicine tracked nearly two million people in Sweden—some for as long as 50 years. It shows that people who’ve had their appendix out are about 20 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s. The study also shows that protein clumps found in the brains of Parkinson’s patients are found in the appendix as well.

Scientists have discovered some of the reasons why people with obesity have a higher risk of asthma. A study in the Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology shows that inflammation in airways is greater in people with obesity. They’re also are more likely to over-respond to allergens in airway muscles… causing the airways to narrow. Researchers say the discoveries may improve asthma treatment.

And finally… makers of smoke alarms may be thinking of changing what they sound like. An alarm’s high-pitched squeals may wake up adults… but they don’t wake up kids. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that more than half of children age five to eight sleep right through a standard smoke alarm for five minutes or more. But the sound of their mother’s voice wakes them up fast. When mom’s hollering to wake up, the average kid was sitting bolt upright, wide awake… in four seconds.

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