“Health Notes” column for March 4, 2013

Kits provided to screen for cancer

Free take-home screening kits for colon cancer will be provided through March by Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.

Colonoscopies are the gold standard for detecting colon cancer, but the center offers the kits, particularly as an alternative for those without insurance coverage, according to a news release from the center.

The kits, known as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), detect blood in the stool and can provide early detection of cancer.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month for the disease that is “the most curable of all the cancer diseases if caught early,” said Dr. Louis Barfield, colorectal surgeon and chair of the Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Care team.

For information on locations and times that the screening kits will be distributed, call (225) 215-1234 or visit http://www.marybird.org/olol.

Veterans head out on road to recovery

More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters set out Sunday on a 375-mile cycling trek from New Orleans to Tallahassee, Fla., for the UnitedHealthcare “Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge.”

It’s the second year for the challenge, known as R2R, that helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling.

Active duty and retired military members will ride road bikes, hand cycles, recumbents and tandems, many of which have been modified for riders with injuries, according to a news release from the event. The riders who headed out from New Orleans on Sunday will travel over the week, arriving in Tallahassee on Friday.

There will be six such R2R challenges in the U.S. this year. For more information, visit http://www.ride2recovery.com/gulf-coast-challenge.html.

LSU researchers find clues in eye disease

Researchers at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans have made breakthroughs in separate research regarding eye disease.

A protein that protects retinal photoreceptor cells from degeneration caused by light damage has been discovered by researchers led by Minghao Jin, assistant professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience at the centers’s Neuroscience Center of Excellence.

The protein may provide a new target for therapy for both an inherited retinal degenerative disease and age-related macular degeneration, according to a news release from LSU.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Intramural Fund and was published in the Feb. 13 issue of Journal of Neuroscience.

Other research has discovered a new mutation in a gene that causes a rare, hereditary eye disease, called Schnyder corneal dystrophy.

The research was conducted by Dr. Jayne Weiss, professor and chair of ophthalmology at LSU Health Sciences Center, and her colleagues, according to a news release from the center.

Schnyder corneal dystrophy causes progressive loss of vision and often requires corneal transplantation surgery.

The research was funded by the Midwest Eye Banks, Research to Prevent Blindness and the National Cancer Institute.

It appeared in the February issue of the journal Human Mutation.

Compiled by Ellyn Couvillion

Advocate staff writer