University researchers test herbal pill on menopausal women
Satellite instrument helps Rosenstiel School scientists study the planet
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University researchers test herbal pill on menopausal women
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irst came the night sweats, followed by insomnia, fatigue, and feelings of irritability. Fifty-seven-year-old Miami resident Winsome Martin knew she wasn’t gravely ill, but just suffering from the symptoms of menopause.

So like many women in her situation, Martin started taking synthetic hormones to ease her symptoms. “But they made me feel even worse,” she says, noting the bloating and other side effects of hormone therapy. Those side effects, coupled with the possible long-term health risks of using hormones, such as an increased risk of developing breast cancer, convinced Martin to stopped taking them, but that still left her to deal with her menopause.

Now, Martin and thousands of other women like her may soon be getting some much-needed relief. University of Miami researchers are conducting a four-month clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of an herbal pill designed to treat the symptoms of menopause. The trial is being conducted by the schools of education and medicine. So far, 50 women are taking part in the study, but that number is expected to grow as more subjects sign up for the trial.

“We’re going to find out if this herbal supplement can alleviate symptoms of menopause, and if it does work, on what symptoms it is most effective,” says Arlette Perry, professor and clinical physiologist in the School of Education and the study’s principal investigator.

The trial is randomized and double-blinded; Some of the women are taking a placebo, others the supplement. But neither the women nor researchers know who is taking what. The women in the trial are compiling a daily log of their symptoms, which Perry and her team are closely monitoring. Women will take the supplement for four months, and the results of the trial will be reported after the study ends.

More and more women have been turning to herbal supplements, instead of hormones, for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. “Probably at least 70 percent of women are doing some kind of alternative therapy,” says Wayne Whitted, assistant professor of gynecology at the School of Medicine and a co-principal investigator in the trial.

But there is little clinical, scientific evidence, if any at all, to show that herbal supplements work, which is why Perry decided to take on the study. “It’s very rare that a nutraceutical company undergoes the scientific rigors of clinical investigation like a pharmaceutical company would,” says Perry. “We need to do this study using rigorous scientific methods to determine if this supplement works.”

The nutraceutical company funding the study cannot be named because it could compromise the blind nature of the research, says Perry. The unidentified pill’s primary ingredients are isoflavones and a number of other natural herbal medicines reported to be effective for menopausal symptoms.

Perry investigated each of the ingredients before agreeing to take on the trial and learned that one of the ingredients, found in North American plants, has been used by Native-American women for years to combat menopausal symptoms.

She hopes the clinical trial that she is conducting will provide credible information for the use of herbal supplements, and more importantly, help for women who suffer from the symptoms of menopause. “The majority of women have symptoms, and many feel that they’re just supposed to deal with them,” says Perry. “But there’s no reason why they should, not when there may be alternatives out there.”

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Satellite instrument helps Rosenstiel School scientists study the planet

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undreds of miles above the Earth, orbiting the globe like a giant thermometer in space, a sensor aboard NASA’s Terra satellite is collecting the most detailed measurements ever made of the sea’s surface temperature all over the planet.

With the data collected from the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), University of Miami scientists are studying how the world’s oceans and atmosphere interact in ways that drive weather patterns and, over the long term, define climate.


“It’s a multipurpose device,” Peter Minnett, professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, says of MODIS. “It’s not only about measuring sea surface temperature, but providing data that will help research communities in many disciplines.”

MODIS views the entire surface of the Earth every one to two days, measuring the atmosphere, land and sea surface temperatures, ocean color, global vegetation, cloud and aerosol characteristics, atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, and snow cover.

It is actually one of five technologically advanced sensors aboard the Terra spacecraft, which was launched in December 1999. Working much like a digital camera, the sensor collects information that is transmitted back to Earth and processed by computers into images that scientists can interpret.

The Rosenstiel School is serving as the ocean scientific computing facility for MODIS, but even before it launched, Rosenstiel scientists, led by professor Robert H. Evans, played a major role in its development, creating special software that is used in the sensor’s measurements of ocean properties.

Since MODIS began transmitting data more than two years ago, Rosenstiel scientists have learned that the instrument provides much more accurate readings and measurements of land and ocean processes than previous satellites.

“It is better equipped than its predecessors to measure sea surface temperature in the tropics because it can see through the atmosphere better,” says Rosenstiel School dean Otis Brown, one of the scientists involved in the project.

The Rosenstiel School MODIS team also has found that the measurements of sea surface temperature taken by the sensor are accurate to within about 0.25 degrees Celsius, significantly better than many previous satellites.

Such data will help weather forecasting services all over the world. “The more accurate we can provide sea surface temperatures, the less uncertainty there will be in weather forecasts, an example being hurricanes,” says Minnett. “Hurricanes require warm water to grow, and just knowing how large an area in the path of a hurricane is above a certain temperature can give a good indication of how likely it is that the hurricane will grow in force.”

The MODIS data will be used to study climatic changes around the world and to forecast medium-term weather phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña, according to Minnett.

Another MODIS sensor is flying onboard the NASA satellite Aqua, which launched in April. Together with Terra, the spacecraft are flagships of the Earth Observing System (EOS) series of satellites, part of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research program dedicated to understanding how human-induced and natural changes affect global environment.

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