-07 NEWS

See the page for news before 1-1-05.

Injuries such as spinal; & infections: African sleeping sickness, Anthrax, Colds, Cancer, Chagas disease, Dengue Fever, Flu, Leishmaniasis, Leptospirosis, Leprosy, Malaria, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Plague, Smallpox, Typhus, Plague, Typhus, metapneumovirus; rhinoviruses; coronaviruses, parainfluenza; respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)...
. . "Flu" comes from Italian: influenza di freddo --influence of the cold (wrong idea). It's also known somewhere/when, I think, as the "grip".
. . NON-HUMAN, but can jump: mousepox!, Bird Flu, Parvo virus, foot-and-mouth, African swine fever,

Dec 29, 07: UK scientists have uncovered a vital clue to stopping cancers spreading around the body. A protein called Tes is able to block a second protein, Mena, from helping cancer cells "crawl" away from the initial tumor. The London Research Institute team says this knowledge should help in the design of new drug treatments to anchor a tumor in one site.
. . The Mena protein is found in excessive amounts in tumors and was already known to help cancer cells move away from a tumor and spread around the body to form secondary cancers - one of the main obstacles in treating cancer. Study leader Dr Michael Way said Tes was not as well studied but in many tumors it is absent.
. . Using a range of techniques, including X-ray crystallography, which can be used to determine the 3-dimensional structure of a molecule, Dr Way and his colleagues found that Tes attached itself to Mena in such a way it could no longer bind with other proteins. Without being able to interact with its normal binding partners, Mena was no longer able to help the cancer cells migrate from the tumor.
. . Figures show about 20,000 people have died from cancer every day across the world in 2007. And one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.
. . Dr Way said if researchers could design a drug to block Mena in the same way as Tes, it would potentially be a way to stop the spread of cancer once a tumor had formed.
Dec 27, 07: Gene-targeting therapies could one day offer relief from allergies such as hayfever, claim UK and Swiss scientists.
Dec 27, 07: Some liver damage caused by heavy drinking or hepatitis could be halted or even reversed, claim researchers. US researchers say that the growth of scarring around the organ might be stopped by blocking a vital protein which helps it to form. The research could also eventually help patients with lung problems and burns.
. . Heavy alcohol use and hepatitis can lead to a process called fibrosis in the liver, which involves the formation of excessive scar tissue. Cirrhosis happens when this scarring becomes too severe, interfering with the way the liver works.
Dec 26, 07: Scientists may be a step closer to uncovering the cause of certain types of debilitating migraine headaches. A French team observed activation in the hypothalamus region of the brain as sufferers had a migraine attack. It is hoped the discovery could lead to new treatments.
. . The hypothalamus has long been suspected as it regulates physiological responses to factors known to trigger headaches, such as hunger. The new evidence for hypothalamic activation in migraine may explain why some migraine drugs, particularly the triptans, can sometimes be effective at aborting a cluster headache attack.
. . However, Professor Peter Goadsby, of the Insitute of Neurology at University College London, said there were distinct clinical and physiological differences between cluster headache and migraine. He said: "The area [of the hypothalamus] reported as activated in migraine is about 10mm more anterior than the cluster headache area. "The hypothalamus is not one thing but a collection of discrete neurons."
. . Professor Goadsby said a cascade of changes in the brain seemed to cause the migraine problem. "It's easy to think that migraine is a specific brain disorder, but it is a series of systems that go wrong --a system disorder.
Dec 24, 07: Sea cucumbers could provide a potential new weapon to block transmission of the malaria parasite, a study suggests. The slug-like creature produces a protein, lectin, which impairs development of the parasites.
. . An international team genetically engineered mosquitoes --which carry the malaria parasite-- to produce the same protein in their gut when feeding. The PLoS Pathogens study found the protein disrupted development of the parasites inside the insects' stomach.
. . To stimulate the mosquitoes to produce lectin, the researchers fused part of the gene from the sea cucumber which produces the protein with a gene from the insect. The results showed that the technique was effective against several of the parasites which cause malaria. Lectin is poisonous to the parasites when they are still in an early stage of development called an ookinete.
. . New treatments for malaria are vital, as there is some sign that the parasites which cause the disease were developing resistance to the current artemisinin drugs.
Dec 24, 07: A third team of researchers has found a way to convert an ordinary skin cell into valued embryonic-like stem cells, with the potential to grow batches of cells that can be directed to form any kind of tissue.
Dec 20, 07: An extremely sensitive microchip developed by Massachusetts General Hospital BioMEMS research center and the MGH Cancer Center has the ability to isolate, count, and analyze circulating tumor cells, or CTCs in the blood. CTCs are fragile, yet viable fragments from solid tumors that could be responsible for the spreading of cancer throughout the body. According to Mehmet Toner, the Director, BioMEMS Resource Center, "these are really the cells that end up killing people."
. . The "CTC-chip" itself is a business-card sized silicon chip that feature microscopic posts coated with cancer-detecting antibodies. As blood flows over the chip, the posts "trap" cancer cells, leaving healthy cells behind. Tests have proven the chip to be 99% effective in detecting CTC cells in samples -—representing a vast improvement over current methods.
. . So what does this all mean? First and foremost, it means that cancer treatment can become more personalized. It means that determining whether or not a particular treatment is effective will be easier -—saving patients precious time. It could also lead to better methods of cancer screening and a better understanding of the biology of cancer cells and how they spread throughout the body. It may not be the cure everyone is looking for, but the notion that the CTC chip could help doctors make faster and more effective judgments on when to switch treatments is certainly better than wasting a suffering patients time with treatments that aren't working.
Dec 20, 07: Uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to the first national study of its kind and one that sheds light on troubling health care obstacles.
Dec 19, 07: Human egg cells can be tweaked to give rise to valued stem cells that match the tissue types of many different groups of people, U.S. and Russian researchers reported. They said the stem cells they have created from unfertilized human eggs look and act like embryonic stem cells. And they have been carefully tissue-matched in the same way as bone marrow donations to prevent the risk of rejection if they are transplanted into people.
. . The team at California-based International Stem Cell Corp. hopes to create a bank of tissue-matched stem cells that could be used as transplants that a patient's immune system would accept.
. . The cells are created by a process known as parthenogenesis, a word that comes from Latin and Greek roots meaning virgin beginning. It involves chemically tricking an egg into developing without being fertilized by sperm.
Dec 19, 07: Genetic engineering can correct the worst symptoms in mice of Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of mental retardation and autism, U.S. researchers reported. They said it is possible a drug could do the same thing as their gene tinkering, perhaps providing a treatment for Fragile X syndrome and other causes of retardation and autism, too.
. . Fragile X causes seizures, impaired memory, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, severe mental retardation and accelerated body growth. Fragile X syndrome affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans. It is caused by a mutation in a gene on the X chromosome that prevents activation, or expression, of a protein called fragile X mental retardation protein or FMRP. There is no treatment.
. . Bear said the findings support the theory that many of the symptoms of Fragile X stem from too much activation of one of the brain's chief network managers, a protein called the metabotropic glutamate receptor or mGluR5.
Dec 18, 07: Nerves that sense the icy slap of an arctic wind or just a cool breeze take their orders from a single protein, U.S. researchers said, shedding new light on how we experience cold. Prior studies have suggested cold-sensing neurons are specialized, with some detecting painful cold sensations and others detecting more pleasant ones. But researchers at the U of Southern California have found that even though most cold-sensing neurons make use of a single protein known as TRPM8, they can detect a range of sensations.
. . To study the neurons, McKemy genetically engineered mice so that neuron fibers that expressed this protein would be fluorescent green. He then traced these cold-sensing fibers from sensory neurons near the spinal cord to nerve endings in the skin. "What our study suggests is that even though these neurons express this single protein, it looks like they have diverse functions", he said. Humans appear to share the same mechanism, he said.
. . McKemy said nerves that produce TRPM8 account for about 75% of all cold-sensing neurons. He believes there are others that are specific to pain, such as when the skin is burned in frostbite.
. . "If we understand the basic nuts and bolts of the molecules and neurons and how they detect pain normally, then perhaps we can figure out why we detect pain when we shouldn't", McKemy said.
Dec 18, 07: The US remains unprepared for disasters ranging from biological attacks to a flu pandemic, and funding for preparedness is falling, according to a report.
Dec 18, 07: Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised researchers said.
Dec 18, 07: A 'Bubble boy' develops cancer. A boy with no immune system being treated with pioneering gene therapy has developed leukemia, his doctors say.
Dec 17, 07: Doctors used stem cells from liposuctioned fat in an experimental procedure to fix breast defects in women who have had cancerous lumps removed.
Dec 17, 07: EU ministers agreed to introduce electronic tags for millions of sheep and goats across the European Union by the end of 2009, part of a strategy to prevent epidemics of contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth.
Dec 17, 07: A mutation in a single gene may raise one's risk of getting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, by as much as 30%, offering a potential new target for drug research, Dutch scientists said. About 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed with ALS each year.
. . They said a variant in the DPP6 gene may give rise to ALS in people without a family susceptibility to the untreatable and fatal disease. Familial ALS, which accounts for 10% of all cases of the disease, has been linked with mutations in a number of other genes. Researchers have had less luck finding a gene associated with non-familial, sporadic ALS, which accounts for 90% of ALS cases.
. . But researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht said a SNP or single-letter change in the genetic code of the DPP6 gene is "consistently and strongly associated with susceptibility to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in different populations of European ancestry."
. . The DPP6 gene controls an enzyme found mostly in the brain that has been linked with spinal cord injury in rats.
Dec 13, 07: Modified stem cells from muscular dystrophy patients eased symptoms of the disease in mice, says a small study that raises hopes for treating patients with tissue from their own bodies.
Dec 12, 07: South Korean scientists have cloned cats by manipulating a fluorescent protein gene, a procedure which could help develop treatments for human genetic diseases, officials said. In a side-effect, the cloned cats glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet beams.
. . Cats have some 250 kinds of genetic diseases that affect humans, too.
Dec 13, 07: Scientists have made two significant advances in developing a stem-cell patch to repair the damage caused to the heart after an attack. A team had successfully matured beating heart cells in a laboratory dish for up to seven months and developed a bio-compatible scaffold to form the basis of a patch.
. . The idea is to stitch or glue a patch of new tissue derived from embryonic stem cells over the damaged area of the heart to make the muscle viable again. During a heart attack, or myocardial infarct, part of the heart muscle loses its blood supply and the oxygen-starved cells die, causing scarring.
. . Initial human trials of the patch could be underway within five years --after safety studies on animals and tests to see if the new cells are rejected.
Dec 7, 07: A German study has found that young children living near nuclear power plants have a significantly higher risk of developing leukemia and other forms of cancer.
Dec 6, 07: Using a new type of stem cells made from ordinary skin cells, U.S. researchers said on Thursday they treated mice with sickle cell anemia, proving in principle that such cells could be used as a therapy.
. . Creating stem cell therapies from a person's own cells would make them genetically identical, eliminating the need for immune suppression or donor matching, Hanna said. When they transplanted these cells into the diseased mice, tests showed normal blood and kidney function, they report.
. . But... "Once they enter the genome, there is the danger that they can silence some genes that are important or they can activate some dangerous genes that shouldn't be activated", Hanna said.
. . Another obstacle is that one of the four genes used is c-Myc, which is known to cause cancer. Hanna and colleagues got around that by removing the c-Myc gene after it had done its job of converting the skin cells into iPS cells. "It is far from solving the problem", he said.
Dec 6, 07: Transplanting genetically engineered cells into the heart may help protect people who have survived a heart attack from developing life-threatening heart rhythm problems later on, scientists said.
Dec 6, 07: Children are dying for lack of drugs tailored to their needs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which launched a global campaign to promote more research into child medicine.
Dec 3, 07: People with a disorder in which they are convinced they are ugly have a brain glitch when processing things they see, researchers said.
. . The findings shed light on body dysmorphic disorder, marked by a dramatically distorted self-image and obsessive thoughts about imagined or minor defects in their appearance.
. . An estimated 1 to 2% of people around the world have this condition, also called BDD. Some undergo repeated cosmetic surgery procedures in a futile attempts to fix the problems. The cause of the disorder remains unknown, with experts suspecting that a variety of factors may contribute, from genetics to upbringing.
. . Feusner's team performed functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, brain scans on 12 people with the disorder as they viewed black-and-white images of other people's faces, and compared the results to those of people who do not have BDD. They saw differences in how the right and left sides of the brain worked in people with BDD, but no actual structural differences in the brain.
. . People with BDD tend to fixate on their face and head, although other body parts can be involved. The disorder tends to run in families and appears in both men and women. It is more common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Feusner said one woman got so many procedures that "she doesn't even look like a human being anymore." And invariably, they are dissatisfied with the surgery and can end up feeling even more hopeless afterward, he said. About a quarter of people with BDD attempt suicide.
Dec 3, 07: Women who eat crisps or chips every day may double their chances of ovarian or womb cancer, say scientists. The fears surround acrylamides, chemicals produced when you fry, grill or roast a wide range of foods.
. . Dutch researchers quizzed 120,000 people on their eating habits, and found that women who ate more acrylamide appeared more at risk. Food which has been coloured or burned by cooking is far more likely to contain acrylamides.
. . An EU spokesman said: "General advice, resulting from this project, is to avoid overcooking when baking, frying or toasting carbohydrate-rich foods. "French fries and roast potatoes should be cooked to a golden yellow rather than golden brown color." The food industry says it has made efforts to reduce the acrylamides within processed foods in recent years.
Dec 3, 07: A new genetic "decoy" system could revolutionize development of antibiotics to fight drug-resistant superbugs like MRSA and speed their path to market, British scientists said.
. . The team said they had proven that by taking a short stretch of DNA from a bacterium and delivering it with an existing antibiotic they could switch off drug resistance.
. . The scientists have also patented a way of finding decoys in bacteria without necessarily having to know the genes involved. This should allow the development of effective new drugs against any bacterium within a couple of years, they said. Commercially, the new approach could be attractive to drug manufacturers, since it may allow existing antibiotics to be patented as a new medicine when they are combined with a decoy.
Dec 2, 07: Cancer cells, like ripe fruit, are much softer than healthy cells, scientists said, in a finding that could help doctors diagnose tumors and figure out which might be the deadliest.
. . The researchers used a nanotechnology device called an Atomic Force Microscope that allowed them to give a little poke to healthy cells and cancerous cells that had spread from the original site of tumors. Cancer cells taken from people with pancreatic, breast and lung tumors were more than 70% softer than benign cells, the scientists wrote.
. . The different types of cancer cells examined in the study exhibited similar levels of softness, allowing the healthy and diseased ones to be clearly identified. The technique may represent a new method for detecting cancer, particularly in cells from body cavity fluids for which diagnosis with current techniques can be difficult.
Nov 30, 07: The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for the first time will open up significant funding to research on alternative, non-embryonic sources of stem cells. The move follows a breakthrough in the technology in mid-Novem.
Nov 30, 07: The same Japanese scientist who made headlines last week for transforming skin cells into stem cells refines the technique by removing a cancer-causing gene from the equation. Shinya Yamanaka, leader of one of two research groups responsible for turning skin cells into embryonic stem cell equivalents, has duplicated his breakthrough without using a gene that made the new cells cancerous.
. . The results could answer some of the fine-print questions that dogged the original research, hailed last week as a potential peacemaker in the intractable ethical battle over embryonic stem cell research.
. . These findings come with multiple caveats. Whether the new cells will be similarly cancer-free in people isn't known, 100 days is a relatively short period of time, and making the cells safe will almost certainly require more than a single tweak.
Nov 29, 07: Genetic tests to assess disease risk are proliferating but many are a waste of money and tell people little more than they would know from studying family history, medical experts said.
Nov 28, 07: A sticky molecule previously linked to inflammation also helps seal vital insulation around peripheral nerves, making it a potential target for new drugs against nerve disorders, scientists said. The latest research suggests the molecule, known as JAM-C, could be a key player in regulating the way nerves work.
. . In genetically modified mice without the adhesion molecule, the myelin insulation sheath protecting nerves deteriorates and the animals experience faulty nerve firing, muscle weakness and a shortened stride, researchers reported.
. . The team also found that nerves of patients with certain peripheral nerve disorders had defective JAM-C. Taken together, the findings suggest the molecule is a key player in regulating the structure and function of peripheral nerves and its malfunction may cause a number of illnesses.
. . JAM-C, which was discovered only recently, is already being studied as a target for new medicines involved in inflammation and as a possible route to fight cancer, since it seems to help tumors form new blood vessels. Nourshargh made the discovery of the molecule's role in peripheral nerves by accident, while investigating blood vessels.
. . There are more than 100 kinds of peripheral nerve disorders affecting approximately one in 20 people. They often afflict people with existing diseases like diabetes and lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. Nourshargh said the new molecule was not found in the central nervous system and was therefore unlikely to play a role in multiple sclerosis.
. . JAM-C seems to work by sealing off the insulation in the critical gaps between so-called Schwann cells, which produce the myelin layers that wrap around nerve cells.
Nov 28, 07: As strange as it sounds, researchers have established that people who work at night may be more susceptible to contracting certain types of cancers.
Nov 28, 07: Gene-modified mice, apparently invulnerable to cancer, may help unlock better human treatments.
Nov 30, 07: Autistic children have more gray matter in areas of the brain that control social processing and sight-based learning than children without the developmental disability, a small study said.
. . The autistic children were found to have enlarged gray matter in the parietal lobes of the brain linked to the mirror neuron system of cells associated with empathy, emotional experience and learning through sight. Those children also showed a decrease in gray matter volume in the right amygdala region of the brain that correlated with degrees of impairment in social interaction
. . Larger amounts of gray matter in the left parietal area of the brain correlated with higher IQs in the control group of children but not in the autistic children, because that section of gray matter is not functioning properly, Ashtari said.
. . Autism affects about 1.5 million Americans. Considered the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US, autism typically appears in the first three years of life.
Nov 26, 07: The global campaign to eradicate polio received a $200 million grant, a needed cash infusion health officials say will help fund the final push to wipe out the disease. A grant from the Gates Foundation and Rotary International is the catalyst.
. . A world effort to beat polio has succeeded in slashing the number of cases by 99% over the past two decades, but the virus that causes the disease still persists, mainly in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
. . The highly infectious polio virus usually causes common cold symptoms, but in a small percentage of people spreads to the digestive and nervous systems and can cause severe, lasting damage. Survivors struggle to walk or breathe.
. . Like smallpox, which in 1979 became the first disease to be eradicated, polio infects only human beings. Polio, which once killed or paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year, was also eradicated by a global vaccination campaign.
. . Vaccines developed more than 50 years ago work well against polio but geographic isolation, armed conflict and cultural barriers have kept it from reaching people in the four countries where the disease remains endemic.
Nov 27, 07: Transfusions during heart surgery could increase the risk of complications, research suggests.
Nov 21, 07: Viewing the reflected image of an intact limb in a mirror can fool the mind into thinking that a lost leg or foot still exists, dramatically relieving phantom limb pain, researchers reported.
. . At least 9 out of 10 amputees report feeling sometimes-severe pain in the missing limb, often the result of a sensation that the arm or leg is stuck in the wrong position. The sensation can be excruciating and pain drugs often do little to help. But some studies have suggested that using a mirror to trick the mind into thinking the lost limb is still there may help. Doctors do not understand why it works, but it appears to help a confused brain reconcile sensations coming from the severed nerves.
. . The idea of mirror therapy has been around for at least a decade, but it has not been widely adopted because "there's never been a controlled study done before", Tsao said.
Nov 20, 07: Researchers have decoded the gene map of a strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and said their work has identified mutations that may help develop better treatments.
. . They also sequenced the genome of another dangerous strain called multidrug-resistant TB, as well as run-of-the-mill tuberculosis bugs, and found a few mutations may explain how the mutant strains evade antibiotics.
. . In 2005, 8.8 million people became infected with TB and 1.6 million died of it. It takes months of careful antibiotic treatment to clear the infection.
. . The microbe can mutate, and now an estimated 500,000 people globally have multidrug-resistant, or MDR TB, according to the World Health Organization. Standard antibiotics do not affect MDR TB, and patients need special drugs. Extensively drug resistant TB, XDR TB for short, is virtually immune to traditional antibiotics and kills up to 85% of those infected.
Nov 20, 07: An experimental form of gene therapy has produced promising results in Parkinson's disease patients. Scientists at the U of Oxford are trying to harness the energy released when bubbles collapse as a way of killing off cancer cells. They have built a device to beam waves of ultrasound into the body, generating bubbles at the site of a tumor. When these bubbles pop, they release energy as heat --killing rogue cells.
. . The UK team plans to apply its new technique in clinical trials; it will be used in treating patients with kidney and liver tumors.
. . Hifu is non-invasive: studies have shown that it is at least as effective as surgery, without the risks of opening up the patient. It also limits the damage to healthy tissue which occurs in radiotherapy.
. . But the existing Hifu technique has two important limitations compared with surgery that are hindering its clinical uptake. First, it is very slow: it takes up to five hours to treat a 10cm tumor, compared with the 45 minutes or so it takes a surgeon to cut the tissue out. Secondly, clinicians are working in the dark: without invasive surgery, the results can only be assessed after the treatment is over.
Nov 19, 07: Researchers have transformed ordinary human skin cells into batches of cells that look and act like embryonic stem cells --but without using cloning technology and without making embryos.
Nov 19, 07: After decades of decline, deaths due to heart disease appear to have leveled off among young men and may be trending upward in young women, according to new research. This is likely due to poor health habits and the growing number of young Americans who are overweight or obese, researchers say.
Nov 19, 07: People who get migraines have structural differences in their brains notably in the cortex area that processes pain and other sensory information from the body, scientists said. The researchers said it is unclear whether these brain differences actually cause migraines or are themselves caused by these severe, recurrent headaches.
. . The somatosensory cortex --the area of the brain that detects sensations like pain, touch and temperature in various parts of the body-- was 21% thicker in the people who got migraines compared to those who did not.
. . Researchers have seen differences in cortex thickness in other diseases as well. It is thinner, for example, in people with multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and autism.
Nov 19, 07: Scientists have found a naturally occurring protein can protect against heart cell damage after a heart attack. Nerve growth factor (NGF) was thought to act only on nerve cells in the body, but mounting evidence suggests it acts on heart muscle cells too. A Bristol Heart Institute team tested NGF in rats and this had promising results.
Nov 19, 07: A compound found in cannabis may stop breast cancer spreading throughout the body, US scientists believe. The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute team are hopeful that cannabidiol or CBD could be a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy.
. . Unlike cannabis, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties, so its use would not violate laws. The authors stressed that they were not suggesting patients smoke marijuana. They added that it would be highly unlikely that effective concentrations of CBD could be reached by smoking cannabis.
. . CBD works by blocking the activity of a gene called Id-1 which is believed to be responsible for the aggressive spread of cancer cells away from the original tumor site --a process called metastasis. Past work has shown CBD can block aggressive human brain cancers.
Nov 15, 07: Scientists say they may be on the brink of translating into words the thoughts of a man who can no longer speak, after a pioneering experiment. Electrodes have been implanted in the brain of Eric Ramsay, who has been "locked in" --conscious but paralyzed-- since a car crash eight years ago.
. . They've been recording pulses in areas of the brain involved in speech. Now they'll use the signals he generates to drive speech software. Although the data is still being analyzed, researchers at Boston U believe they can correctly identify the sound Mr Ramsay's brain is imagining some 80% of the time. In the next few weeks, a computer will start the task of translating his thoughts into sounds.
Nov 14, 07: A patient's own cancer tissue could potentially be used to produce a light-triggered vaccine to target and treat their tumor. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses light to activate anti-cancer drugs, but has also been shown to stimulate the body's immune system to fight the disease. Researchers used the technique to treat mice tumor cells, and inject them back into the animal to fight disease.
. . The latest work, by the British Columbia Cancer Agency, takes the work one stage further by using cells taken directly from the tumor itself.
. . It is potentially much faster, cutting out the time-consuming cell culture process. And more importantly, it has the potential to produce a more profound effect, as the resulting vaccine should act against the specific proteins of the cancer itself.
. . "This technique could mean that treatment is delivered more quickly and, most importantly, is tailored to the individual's cancer. Although our results showed this method produces powerful cancer vaccines, we are confident that this technique can be advanced further to be even more potent and effective."
Nov 14, 07: A team in the US created dozens of cloned embryos from a 10-year-old male macaque. It raises the prospect of developing transplant tissues to treat diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's that will not be rejected by the body.
. . The American group was able to extract stem cells from some of the cloned monkey embryos, persuading them to develop into mature heart and nerve cells in the laboratory.
Nov 13, 07: Scientists in Oregon say they've reached the long-sought goal of cloning monkey embryos and extracting stem cells from them, a potentially major step toward doing the same thing in people.
Nov 13, 07: Giving children drugs for ADHD works no better than doing nothing in the long-term, according to a BBC report.
Can't kick the smoking habit? A shot currently in clinical trials may prove to be your salvation. It kills the "reward" -- the nicotine buzz.
Nov 8, 07: The smallpox vaccine protects for a lifetime, and so does actual an infection of measles or mumps, according to the first long-term study of immunity to childhood diseases.
. . And, surprisingly, while a tetanus shot is only supposed to guard against the disease for about 10 years, a team at Oregon Health & Science University found that half the antibodies against the bacterium were still present in the blood 10 years later.
. . That may explain why the tetanus rate in Sweden is comparable to that in the US, even though the vaccine is only boosted after 30 years in Sweden, as opposed to every 10 years in the US. The antibody half-life was 11 years for tetanus. Slifka's team found that it takes 92 years for half the protective antibodies against smallpox to disappear. Slifka said previous estimates of vaccine effectiveness have usually been based on studying people for just a few years.
. . The findings do not always apply. Outbreaks of mumps and whooping cough, for instance, are known to occur among people who were vaccinated years before and whose immunity waned. And many of the volunteers in the study were naturally infected and cannot credit their immunity to the vaccines. "Because they were older subjects, they contracted natural measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox infections", Slifka said.
. . "It is unknown whether vaccine-induced immunity is as long-lived as that induced by natural infection", the researchers wrote. This immunity lasted 19 years for diphtheria, 50 years for chickenpox, and stretched beyond lifetime limits for rubella or German measles, mumps, measles and the Epstein-Barr virus.
. . "Measles, mumps and rubella were always described as childhood diseases and now we have one of the reasons why. Our immune system can remember them for a lifetime."
Nov 7, 07: First, researchers grew enough fungus to give dandruff to 10 million people. Next, they sequenced its genes. Then they found out that not only does an icky fungus live on your head and cause dandruff-- but it could be having sex. On your head. Right now.
. . A team at Procter & Gamble Beauty said they had sequenced the genome of Malassezia globosa, a fungus that grows on the skin of between 50 percent and 90 percent of the population. It causes dandruff and a range of other skin conditions.
. . The researchers said their study can shed light on ways to fight not only dandruff, but an infection that can threaten the lives of newborns. They said M. globosa is capable of excreting more than 50 different enzymes that help digest and break down compounds in the hair and scalp.
. . "The M. globosa genome sequence also revealed the presence of mating-type genes, providing an indication that Malassezia may be capable of sex." Other fungi can reproduce sexually, but this particular type had not been known to, Dawson's team said. This means it could find a way to evade dandruff shampoo.
. . They said dandruff can affect up to 90 percent of people, and that it has been known for more than 100 years that Malassezia can cause dandruff and eczema. Malassezia fungi also cause systemic infections in newborns, and is related to some fungi that affect plants such as corn.
Nov 6, 07: Whether a memory is fact or fiction may depend on where in the brain it is stored, which may explain why people sometimes swear they remember something that never happened, researchers said.
. . "Generally, the memories that we trust are more likely to be correct than the ones we don't trust", said Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist at Duke U. "However, in some cases, we can be completely confident in an event that never happened."
. . He said memories can come from two sources: a part of the brain called the medial temporal lobe that focuses on the facts and details of a memory, or the frontal parietal network, which involves the overall gist or familiarity of a memory. People tend to have a high degree of trust in memories in which they can recall a lot of detail. But it is possible have familiarity without recollection, Cabeza said.
. . They did brain scans on people while they were encoding and remembering a group of associated words, like the names of farm animals. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which can show the brain's activity in real time. Then a standard trick was used to evoke false memories.
. . "In principle, one could measure brain activity associated with these two forms of memory to help in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease", he said.
Nov 6, 07: A Missouri professor took several types of chicken heart cells and 3D printed them into large sheets with cell-friendly gel. The cells took over from there, sorting themselves into working order. Then they began beating, just as a heart would.
. . Gabor Forgacs says his new research “shows that we can use multiple cell types and that we do not have to control what happens when the cells fuse together. Nature is smart enough to do the job.” The cells, by being set into a given structure, know what to do and where they should go. Still, researchers are many years away from actually being able to print organs on-demand.
Nov 6, 07: Lasers could be used to combat viruses and infections like HIV and MRSA without side effects, researchers say. Current ultraviolet light laser treatments can kill micro-organisms --but cannot be used in humans as they would also damage cells in the body.
. . But using infrared femtosecond lasers with carefully selected wavelengths, a US team targeted viruses and bacteria without harming other cells. The technology is called Impulsive Stimulated Raman Scattering (ISRS). It produces lethal vibrations in the protein coat of micro-organisms, thereby destroying them. The effect of the vibrations is similar to that of high-pitched noise shattering glass.
. . So far, experiments have been done on E. coli bacterial cells, Tobacco Mosaic Virus cells, as well as human and hamster cells. After several attempts, the researchers found a level which "inactivates both viruses and bacteria while leaving sensitive materials such as mammalian cells unharmed".
Nov 6, 07: Scientists in Japan have created two synthetic versions of an ingredient in curry that is noted for its potential to fight cancer.
. . Some studies have suggested that curcumin, the yellowish component in turmeric that gives curry its flavor, can suppress tumors and that people who eat lots of curry may be less prone to the disease. However, curcumin loses its anti-cancer attributes quickly when ingested.
. . They had synthesized two variations --GO-Y030 and GO-Y031-- which have proved more potent and lasting than natural curcumin. They tested them in mice with colorectal cancer and found that they worked far better. "Our new analogues (synthetic versions) have enhanced growth suppressive abilities against colorectal cancer cell lines, up to 30 times greater than natural curcumin."
Nov 6, 07: The increasingly popular high-caffeine beverages called energy drinks may do more than give people a jolt of energy --they may also boost heart rates and blood pressure levels, researchers said.
. . The results of a small study prompted the researchers to advise people who have high blood pressure or heart disease to avoid energy drinks because they could impact their blood pressure or change the effectiveness of their medications.
. . The drinks generally have high levels of caffeine and taurine, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods like meat and fish that can affect heart function and blood pressure, the researchers said.
Nov 5, 07: Patients who received drug-eluting stents were no more likely to die or suffer a heart attack than those who got bare-metal versions, researchers found in a large U.S. study.
Nov 2, 07: Improvements in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have led to increased detection of minor brain abnormalities that may worry the patient, but often will never cause any problems, according to study findings.
. . Dead brain tissue was the most common abnormality, seen in 7.2% of subjects. Other abnormalities included benign brain tumors and ballooned blood vessels, also known as aneurysms.
Nov 1, 07: A new high speed pulsing laser developed by Arizona State physics professor Kong-Thon Tsen and his son Shaw-Wei Tsen, a pathology student at Johns Hopkins, has succeeded in killing a common virus without damaging the healthy surrounding cells. The laser utilizes the principle of "forced resonance" by vibrating the shell of a virus to "crack" it. Plus, tests have proven that it is possible to break down the shells at energies far lower than those needed to damage surrounding T-cells.
. . Since these ultrashort-pulse lasers or USPs don't generate a lot of heat, they are far gentler than conventional lasers, which may open up the possibility of using them to eradicate viruses in stored blood. The duo is currently testing the laser on HIV and hepatitis, which could be truly groundbreaking if successful.
Nov 1, 07: Electrodes implanted into the brain to treat a man with a stubborn case of ringing in the ear instead sparked an out-of-body sensation, doctors in Belgium reported. Stimulating the electrodes made the 63-year-old patient feel like he was outside his body twice, for 15 and 21 seconds, and allowed the doctors to use a PET scanner to track which parts of the brain became active during the experience.
. . The out-of-body sensation of near-death experiences, sometimes reported by people whose hearts have stopped for a time, are regarded by some people as evidence of an afterlife. Most scientists are doubtful, especially when epilepsy, migraine headaches, and brain stimulation can mimic the sensation.
. . They were trying to cure the man of tinnitus [ringing] in one ear when they stumbled onto the phenomenon. The treatment did not work. Instead, the electrodes made the man feel like he was about 50 cm behind his body and off to the left. Only a certain pattern of stimulation, involving a portion of the superior temporal gyrus, located on the right side of the brain, produced the sensation.
. . Positron emission tomography, or PET scans, showed that other parts of the brain became active as a result, including the supramarginal gyrus, which processes information from the inner ear designed to detect head movement and position.
. . "Whether these regions are activated in patients who report disembodiment as part of a near-death experience --and if so, how-- is a provocative but unresolved issue." they wrote.
Nov 1, 07: Scientists have found a key protein that helps newts regrow severed limbs and which may guide future research into human regenerative medicine. Biologists have long been intrigued by the ability of newts and salamanders to renew damaged body parts. But how they do it has been unclear.
. . Now, new research by a British team shows that a protein called nAG, secreted by nerve and skin cells, plays a central role in producing a clump of immature cells, known as a blastema, which regrows the missing part.
. . In effect, newts are able to manipulate their bodies by turning cells into undifferentiated stem cells and then back into mature tissue again. It is a clever trick --but understanding how they do it does not mean humans will necessarily be able to copy them and regrow lost arms or legs.
Oct 31, 07: Keeping slim is one of the best ways of preventing cancer, as is avoiding excessive amounts of red meat and wine, a landmark study has revealed.

People with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to die of colorectal cancer, researchers said, but the vitamin does not appear to affect the chances of dying from any other type of cancer.

Oct 29, 07: Using ultraviolet light may one day offer a "double whammy" to kill cancer cells by better focusing antibody-based drugs and triggering the body's own defenses to eliminate tumors, researchers said. The technique can help prevent damage to healthy tissue because the covered antibodies are dormant in the body unless lit up, Self said.
. . "What happens in cancer is the body can't mount a response to cure cancer", he said. "This is a way of waking the system up. The antibodies will have their local effect but the hope in all of this is you are bringing in the whole immune system." So far, there are about 20 approved monoclonal antibody-based drugs used to fight cancer and other diseases.
. . The technique could work with any of these treatments to fight a whole range of cancers, so long as doctors are able to find a way to shine a light on a tumor, Self said.
Oct 29, 07: All U.S. children should be formally screened for autism twice by the age of 2, the nation's top pediatrician group recommended.
Oct 29, 07: Doctors have for the first time used gene therapy to treat two boys with the rare nervous disorder made famous through the film "Lorenzo's Oil". Treatment for adrenoleukodystrophy has mainly involved bone marrow transplant, but this can be problematic due to lack of donors and rejection by the body. French doctors have now managed to modify the boys' own bone marrow.
. . Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a rare inherited disorder that leads to progressive brain damage, failure of the adrenal gland and eventually death. It occurs because a flawed gene on the child's X chromosome means his body cannot produce an enzyme needed to break down fatty acids which can accumulate in the brain. There is no cure. "Lorenzo's Oil", a mixture of oleic acid and euric acid, is only really effective before the onset of symptoms.
. . They used a harmless version of the AIDS virus as a vector to carrying a corrected version of the gene into the bone marrow cell. Results at both six months and a year suggested the production of the missing enzyme had noticeably improved.
Oct 25, 07: Scientists hacking a smallpox-like virus into doing battle with cancer have given a new weapon to their microscopic warrior. Researchers at Stanford U and Jennerex Biotherapeutics have tweaked the cancer-killing vaccinia virus JX-963 so that it also stimulates the body to generate cancer-fighting white blood cells. The company intends to take the virus into clinical trials based on a promising animal study.
. . "This is a very powerful and potent approach", said Dr. Antonio Chiocca, a professor at Ohio State U and a specialist in oncological neurosurgery, who was not involved in the study. "You can think of each of these viruses as a new drug."
. . Cancer-fighting viruses are the latest attempt to harness viruses' infectious powers for therapeutic treatments. Modified viruses have been used in experimental gene therapies to "fix" faulty inherited genetic code. Gene therapy has generated much hype but little clinical success. Scientists claim to have made recent progress targeting cancer cells with modded cold, herpes and smallpox viruses. These viruses infect and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. A different Jennerex virus, JX-594, is already entering Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of liver tumors.
. . In a study, the researchers report that the new JX-963 treatment resulted in the suppression of colon tumors in the rabbits on which it was tested. "The results are very encouraging", said Dr. Stephen Thorne, a co-author of the study and professor of surgical oncology at the U of Pittsburgh. "I would envisage clinical trials starting next year." Thorne is a Jennerex consultant.
. . Until now, virus therapies have had limited success targeting and killing all the cancer cells in the body, and not just some. With the new JX-963 therapy, the virus doesn't have to do the work alone --it elicits the body's own defenses to mop up cancer cells.
. . The chemical that the virus secretes, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or GM-CSF, is a protein that stimulates the production of white blood cells. The scientists must be careful, however, not to overstimulate the immune system so that it kills the virus before it has a chance to attack the cancer. "You have to make sure you give the virus enough time to do its job", said Chiocca.
. . Paradoxically, the answer might lie in temporarily suppressing the immune system with drugs to allow the virus to spread rapidly. Then, after the virus has destroyed most of the tumor, GM-CSF stimulates an elevated immune system response.
. . The obvious risk of using viruses to attack cancer cells is that the virus might mutate into a deadly form. Since a death in a clinical trial in 1999, gene-therapy research has been on the back burner. Similar problems in the field of cancer-killing viruses could halt research.
. . Chiocca downplayed the risk from viruses that target humans, like the one used by the Stanford researchers. He said that most people already have been exposed to the smallpox, cold and herpes vaccines, so our immune systems are unlikely to be compromised by any of their forms.
. . However, there are more risks when researchers use viruses that attack other species. There are a small number of preclinical trials using viruses that don’t target humans, Chiocca said. "You worry about injecting a bird virus into humans, which could potentially become adapted to the human population and create a supervirus", he said.
Oct 25, 07: Chilean scientists have made a discovery in the brains of rats that they say may help treat drug addiction and ease the side effects of some medications. Researchers at the Pontifical Catholic U in Santiago say they identified a region of the brain, the insular cortex, that plays an important role in drug craving.
. . Tests on amphetamine-addicted laboratory rats showed that when the insular cortex was deactivated by injecting a drug that halted brain cell activity, the rats showed no signs of addiction. When the insular cortex was reactivated, the rats again showed signs of craving amphetamines.
Oct 22, 07: Having more years of formal education delays the memory loss linked to Alzheimer's disease, but once the condition begins to take hold, better-educated people decline more rapidly, researchers said.
Oct 22, 07: A simple device for detecting carbon monoxide in the blood may help doctors get an honest answer out of patients who smoke, U.S. researchers said.
Oct 22, 07: The UK government's chief scientist has advised ministers that badgers should be killed to prevent the spread of TB among cattle. "It is clear that badgers are a continuing source of infection for cattle and could account for 40% of cattle breakdowns in some areas. About 2,500 cattle a year get bovine tuberculosis (bTB), and some 30,000 stock are killed every year because of the disease.
. . The Independent Scientific Group warned that the culling would have to be so extensive it would be uneconomical. It found that although TB infection dropped in the immediate area of the cull, it increased on adjoining farms, in effect shifting rather than solving the problem.
Oct 22, 07: Facing a diagnosis of cancer with a "fighting spirit" makes no difference to the final outcome, a study suggests.
Oct 22, 07: Scientists at Washington U have transplanted embryonic pig pancreatic cells into diabetic monkeys, which could have major implications for the treatment of diabetes in humans. The approach has reduced the animals' need for insulin injections and does not call for immunosuppression, which is a major problem in treating diabetes with transplantation.
. . Before DNA technology enabled pharmaceutical companies to manufacture human insulin in the 1980's, pig and cow insulin were routinely given to diabetic patients.
Oct 22, 07: A report in The Lancet that found circumcision reduced a man's risk of contracting HIV through heterosexual sex by about 60%. The findings were based on two trials in Africa involving 7,500 men and were halted early because the preliminary results were so encouraging.
. . Another study in the journal Pediatrics in November 2006 followed 510 New Zealand newborns until age 25 and found that circumcision lowered the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases by about half.
. . Worldwide, the uncircumcised penis is the norm: 85% of males are intact. Thirty years ago, 90% of American newborn baby boys were circumcised. Currently, around 60%.
Oct 19, 07: A gene therapy trial starts which scientists hope will extend the lives of patients with muscular dystrophy.
Oct 19, 07: For the first time, scientist have solid evidence suggesting exactly why the flu is so common in winter. A new animal study suggests that the influenza virus' success hinges on low relative humidity and cold temperatures. Such conditions keep the virus more stable and in the air longer than warm, humid conditions, scientists said. And apparently, the frosty weather's role is more important than that of the human body in helping the virus thrive. "We've always thought the immune system wasn't as active during the winter, but that doesn't really seem to be the case."
. . He thinks that the conditions not only suck away the droplet's water weight, allowing them to float in the air longer, but also dry out virus-blocking mucous and cells in our airways. Bigger viral doses combined with the body's disabled means to flush them out, Palese said, gives the flu a better fighting chance to infect a person, regardless of their immune system's strength.
Oct 17, 07: African babies --the group most at risk of dying from malaria-- may be protected against the mosquito-borne disease by an experimental vaccine, researchers said. The finding clears the way for final-stage testing of GlaxoSmithKine Plc's shot and increases the chance that the world will have a usable vaccine within five years.
. . Malaria, caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, kills more than 1 million people every year --one person every 30 seconds-- and makes 300 million seriously ill.
. . The latest findings are broadly in line with a 45% reduction in new infections reported in 2004 when Glaxo's vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S/AS02, was given to children aged 1- to 4-years old. Mosquirix will now go into a large-scale Phase III trial in the second half of 2008, involving 16,000 infants and young children in seven African countries.
. . If all goes well, the vaccine --which is the most advanced of a number in development-- will be submitted for regulatory approval in 2011, suggesting it could be commercially available in 2012. Glaxo has promised to sell Mosquirix at low prices in developing countries.
. . Glaxo has spent $300 million developing Mosquirix and expects to spend another $50 million to $100 million in future.
. . Mosquirix --which is given in three doses-- targets just one stage in the malaria parasite's life cycle and its success has surprised some scientists, given the complexity of the disease. The fact that it works suggests an improved vaccine, targeting multiple elements in the life cycle, might be even more effective.
Oct 15, 07: Fish might not have eyelids, but they do sleep, and some suffer from insomnia, scientists reported. California scientists studying sleep disorders in humans found that some zebrafish, a common aquarium pet, have a mutant gene that disrupts their sleep patterns in a way similar to insomnia in humans. Zebrafish with the mutant gene slept 30% less than fish without the mutation. When they finally drifted off they remained asleep half as long as the normal fish,
. . The mutant fish lacked a working receptor for hypocretin, a neuropeptide that is secreted in normal fish by neurons in the region of the brain that controls hunger, sex and other basic behaviors. The researchers said they would look for fish that have a mutation that causes them to oversleep or never sleep in the hope of discovering if sleep-regulating molecules and brain networks developed through evolution.
Oct 16, 07: Lupeol, a compound in fruits like mangoes, grapes and strawberries, appears to be effective in killing and curbing the spread of cancer cells in the head and neck, a study in Hong Kong has found.
Oct 16, 07: Good news on the cancer front: Death rates are dropping faster than ever, thanks to new progress against colorectal cancer. A turning point came in 2002, scientists conclude Monday in the annual "Report to the Nation" on cancer. Between 2002 and 2004, death rates dropped by an average of 2.1% a year.
. . While it remains the nation's No. 2 cancer killer, deaths are dropping faster for colorectal cancer than for any other malignancy — by almost 5% a year among men and 4.5% among women.
. . One reason is that colorectal cancer is striking fewer people, the report found. New diagnoses are down roughly 2.5% a year for both men and women, thanks to screening tests that can spot precancerous polyps in time to remove them and thus prevent cancer from forming. Still, only about half the people who need screening —-everyone over age 50-— gets checked.
. . In 1996, there was just one truly effective drug for colon cancer. Today, there are six more.
Oct 16, 07: An international team of scientists has developed a blood test that could reveal which patients with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease. If replicated and validated --and assuming the development of effective treatments against Alzheimer's in the future-- such a test could open the door to medicating at-risk patients earlier and slowing or limiting neurological damage.
Oct 16, 07: A rare tropical fungus that has infected more than 100 people since it appeared in British Columbia six years ago has crossed the border into Whatcom County, health officials say. Cryptococcus gattii, invisible to the naked eye and found mostly in trees and soil, has infected at least four residents this year, two of them fatally. Considering how many are exposed to the fungus annually, often in the woods and other outdoor areas, infection remains relatively rare. Infections usually begin in the lungs but can also spread to the brain and develop into deadly meningitis.
. . The fungus was believed to be largely confined to the tropics until 2001, when it was first diagnosed on Vancouver Island. Since then it has been found in dogs, cats, horses and porpoises, as well as humans, and has been blamed for the death of eight people in British Columbia.
. . Most British Columbia residents who contracted the illness had healthy immune systems, but 45% —-like the Blaine teenager-— were smokers, and 73% had smoked at one time.
Oct 15, 07: A quick eye scan might offer a cheap, painless way to track the progression of multiple sclerosis, U.S. researchers said.
Oct 14, 07: Researchers have identified a batch of genes that not only prevent cancer but slow the aging process in worms, and say they are now looking to see if the genes have the same properties in humans.
. . Many of the genes in the worms are already known to have counterparts in humans, and the team at the U of California, San Francisco, say they hope to better understand some of the processes that cause both aging and cancer.
. . Biologist Cynthia Kenyon is perhaps best known for discovering that a change in just one gene, called daf-2, could double the life span of small roundworms called Caenorhabditis elegans. She and graduate student Julie Pinkston-Gosse screened as many genes as they could that were affected by daf-2. They looked at 734 in total, and found that 29 of them either stimulated tumor growth or suppressed it.
. . Some caused cell proliferation --which goes haywire to help a tumor grow and spread-- while others initiated a programmed suicide process called apoptosis, used by the body to destroy faulty cells, including tumor cells. "There is a widely held view that any mechanism that slows aging would probably stimulate tumor growth", Kenyon said. "But we found many genes that increase life span, but slow tumor growth. Humans have versions of many of these genes."
. . The genes that stimulated tumor growth also accelerated aging, Kenyon found. The genes that prevented tumor growth slowed down the aging process and extended life span in the worms.
Oct 12, 07: British researchers are to carry out the first study to uncover the genetic causes of osteoarthritis.
Oct 10, 07: Many women with breast cancer may be able to safely skip at least one step in chemotherapy, saving themselves time and side-effects, U.S. researchers said.
Oct 9, 07: Women whose mothers have big hips may be more likely to develop breast cancer, research suggests. A study led by the U of Southampton found breast cancer rates were more than three times higher among women whose mothers had wide hips.
. . Rates were more than seven times higher if those mothers had already given birth to one or more children. The American Journal of Human Biology study suggests high levels of the sex hormone estrogen are to blame.
Oct 9, 07: Scientists have repaired the nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis in lab experiments on mice.
Oct 8, 07: Donated blood quickly loses some of its life-saving properties as an important gas dissipates, U.S. researchers said, in a finding that explains why many patients fare poorly after blood transfusions.
. . Researchers at Duke U found that nitric oxide in red blood cells is the key to transferring oxygen in the blood to tissues. This gas appears to break down almost immediately after red blood cells leave the body, rendering much of the blood stored in blood banks impaired. But if you restore this gas, banked blood appears to regain this ability. "We saw clear indications of nitric oxide depletion within he first three hours."
. . He noted that study after study has shown patients who receive blood transfusions have higher incidents of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and even death.
. . About 5 million Americans receive blood transfusions each year.
Oct 6, 07: Scientists are hopeful that they have found a way to halt the progression of motor neuron disease (MND) [In US, Lou Gehrig's, or ALS]. A team at Bath U discovered a causal link between the gene involved in the formation of blood vessels and the development of some forms of MND. Mutant versions of the gene's product --angiogenin-- are toxic to motor neurones, so blocking this process may stop the disease, they say.
. . The condition affects men more than women and one or two people in every 100,000 will be newly diagnosed with MND each year. In MND, over time, the cells responsible for transmitting the chemical messages that enable muscle movements become injured and subsequently die. Ultimately, the disease fatally interferes with those muscles involved in breathing.
. . Scientist Stephen Hawking has motor neuron disease.
Oct 6, 07: A device developed for the ill-fated Beagle Mars mission could be used to spot the bacterium that causes TB.
Oct 4, 07: Dangerous changes in cancer cells which allow them to spread around the body could be triggered by the body's own stem cells, say US scientists. A Whitehead Institute team found human breast cancers in mice are more likely to spread if mixed with stem cells from the bone marrow.
. . They believe these changes could be blocked or reversed --making the cancer less deadly. UK experts said the Nature study could point to future treatments.
. . They are suggesting that the presence of the stem cells produces genetic changes in the cancer cells that make them metastasize --but once the cells spread, they change back to their original genetic state.
. . This, the researchers say, not only makes these key genes hard to spot, but means that dangerous changes in cancer cells are potentially reversible. The research has also highlighted a potential treatment to block the changes.
. . A chemical called cytokine CCL5, produced by the stem cells, had an effect on breast cancer cells in the laboratory. Medication that blocks the action of this is already used to help patients with HIV --and they suggested it should be tried on patients with spreading cancer.
. . Dr Kat Arney, from Cancer Research UK, said: "It's becoming increasingly clear that many cancers aren't just made up of cancer cells, but they are rogue tissues that also contain many other types of cells.
. . "Although these results don't tell us if exactly the same situation is present in cancers within humans --as they have been done using mice-- it's a good indicator that these stem cells may play a role in breast cancer, and could point towards targets for future treatments."
Oct 2, 07: While it has long been held that too much fat in the liver may result in diabetes, a group of Japanese scientists appear to have discovered that not all types of fat are harmful. Researchers described how they changed the fat composition in the livers of mutant mice and fed them exactly the same rich, fatty diet as other mice. "We made mice that did not become diabetic even after they became obese."
. . But while all the rodents became obese and the normal mice developed resistance to insulin and became prone to diabetes, the mutant group was free from those problems. "Obesity is a matter of quantity of fats in the body, but it is our new message that the quality of fats could be a new determinant factor for diabetes."
. . Excessive fat intake leads to obesity and overwhelms the storage capacity of fat cells, with surplus fat being stored in the liver. Development of fatty liver can result in insulin resistance and increased glucose levels --hallmarks of diabetes.
. . "The absolute levels of fat in the liver do not therefore seem to be detrimental to maintaining normal glucose levels. Instead, the types of fat that are present seem to be a more important factor, with shorter fat molecules being healthier than longer ones", the researchers wrote.
Sept 27, 07: An icky parasite that is a major source of tummy trouble for young children and nature lovers appears to have been infecting mammals for a very long time, U.S. researchers said. Giardia lamblia is one of the most common human parasites in the US, causing more than 20,000 intestinal infections each year.
. . A complete genetic sequence of this parasite now suggests it had ancestors reaching back more than a billion years. Giardia is a eukaryote, one of a diverse bunch of organisms made up of cells with a nucleus that contains genetic material. But Morrison believes its molecular machinery appears too simple to have evolved from more modern and complex eukaryotes. "It is about the size of a yeast genome, which was one of the earliest eukaryote genomes to be sequenced and has about 6,000 genes", Morrison said. In comparison, the genome of humans, who are also eukaryotes, contains about 20,000 genes.
. . She said Giardia lacks a number of proteins such as the structural protein myosin that should be present if it were modern eukaryote.
. . The evolutionary story of this parasite will likely become clearer as new genomes are sequenced, but the Giardia genome can offer more immediate insights in the search for more effective treatments for giardiasis.
. . In the intestine, Giardia swims and feeds, causing gas, diarrhea and discomfort until it is finally expelled through the stool. The whole unpleasant affair can last anywhere from two to six weeks, but some people can have the infection without these symptoms.
. . In the environment, Giardia takes the form of an infectious cyst that can survive for weeks in water, soil, food and other surfaces. Hikers drinking what they think to be pristine mountain water fall prey to this parasite. "It's also known as beaver fever because animals can infect the water."
. . "The problem now is people are getting treatment resistance", Morrison said. That is where the genome study should prove most useful.
Sept 27, 07: Scientists have developed a new way to treat liver failure by manipulating the immune response.
Sept 27, 07: U.S. scientists said they found a way around a potential speed bump in the hotly pursued area of genetic therapy known as RNA interference, which has drawn billions of dollars in drug-company investments. Although one study suggested RNA interference, or RNAi for short, might be toxic, the researchers said they found a safe way to do it.
. . RNA stands for ribonucleic acid --a chemical messenger that is emerging as a key player in the disease process.
. . Dozens of biotechnology companies are looking for ways to manipulate RNA in order to block genes that produce disease-causing proteins, offering hope for cures to cancer, blindness and AIDS.
Sept 25, 07: Geneticists have found 350 genes that may be linked to infertility in women. This could be a potential landmark in research on a condition that has so far eluded genetic analysis. Notice the could. It's the operative word here. They found the genes in mice; in such a poorly-understood condition, that's a big translation gap to cross.
Sept 25, 07: Not only is acupuncture better for lower back pain than drugs, exercise and physical therapy, but even fake acupuncture is more effective. German researchers put 1,000 people with chronic lower back pain into three groups: acupuncture, fake acupuncture (though they didn't know it, of course) or standard therapies.
. . After six months, half the people receiving acupuncture --real or fake-- reported improvement. Only one-quarter of those getting conventional therapies felt better. If sticking acupuncture needles into random places (and avoiding those spots thought to relieve pain) worked just as well as real acupuncture, then the treatment might be, in a sense, a sham. But it would be much less of a sham than all the things we currently regard as legitimate therapies.
. . How could it work, then? Perhaps it's the so-called "placebo effect" --you believe you're going to get better, so you do. If so, this would doubly condemn drugs and exercise and physiotherapy as being too useless to even work as placebos.
Sept 21, 07: Immune cells taken from one person may be able to join the battle against cancer in another, says a researcher. Granulocytes are plentiful and easily harvested.
. . New Scientist reported evidence that certain people seem to have cells with a more powerful ability to tackle cervical cancer cells in the test tube. The finding has surprised some experts, who had thought granulocytes played a fairly minor role in fighting cancer. The body's immune system helps beat infections, but also plays a key role in the destruction of cancer cells. Granulocytes are normally associated with the body's response to bacterial infections.
. . He found that one sample appeared to kill 97% of the cancer cells in just two days, while at the other end of the scale, after 48 hours, one sample had destroyed just 2% of the cancer cells. Patients with cancer provided granulocytes with a lower than average cancer-killing ability, as did people who reported being stressed, or those over the age of 50.
. . Remarkably, even the time of year seemed to have an effect on the potency of granulocytes. "Nobody seems to have any cancer-killing ability during the winter months from November to April."
. . Dr Cui now plans human trials next summer.
Sept 21, 07: A genetic test which may improve accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer has been launched in the UK.
Sept 20, 07: Researchers said they had found more ways to activate the body's own anti-aging defenses --perhaps with a pill that could fight multiple diseases at once. Their study helps explain why animals fed very low-calorie diets live longer, but it also offers new ways to try to replicate the effects of these diets using a pill instead of hunger.
. . "What we are talking about is potentially having one pill that prevents and even cures many diseases at once", said David Sinclair, a pathologist at Harvard Medical School who helped lead the research.
. . The key is a family of enzymes called sirtuins. They are controlled by genes called SIRT1, SIRT2 and so on. Last year, researchers showed that stimulating SIRT1 can help yeast cells live longer. Sinclair, working with colleagues at his company, at Cornell U in New York and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, identified the actions of two more sirtuin genes called SIRT3 and SIRT4. They found the enzymes controlled by these genes help preserve the mitochondria --little organs inside of cells that provide their energy. "As we age, we lose them and they get less efficient", Sinclair said. "They are also very important for keeping the cells healthy and alive when they undergo stress and DNA damage, as we undergo every day during the aging process."
. . Sinclair and colleagues have found in other studies that even if the rest of a cell is destroyed --the nucleus and other parts-- it can still function if the mitochondria are alive.
. . His team found that fasting raises levels of another protein called NAD. This, in turn, activates SIRT3 and SIRT4 in the mitochondria of the cell and these help keep the mitochondria youthful.
. . "Theoretically, we can envision a small molecule (pill) that can increase levels of NAD, or SIRT3 and SIRT4 directly, in the mitochondria. Such a molecule could be used for many age-related diseases", he added. "Diseases like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis --even things like cataracts. What we are aiming to do is to find the body's natural processes that can slow down aging and treat these diseases."
. . Sirtris is already working on such drugs. It has an experimental pill called SRT501, which it is testing in Phase 2a trials in patients with type-2 diabetes.
Sept 20, 07: Scientists have mapped the genome of a worm that causes elephantiasis in what they called an important step toward developing new drugs or vaccines to fight the mosquito-borne disfiguring disease.
Sept 19, 07: Stem cells that normally make sperm can be taught to make other tissues as well, perhaps offering men a medical repair kit, U.S. researchers said. They found a way to easily pick the cells out from other tissue in the testicles and to grow them into batches big enough to use medically. This provides a new source of stem cells, the body's master cells, which experts hope can be used to treat injuries, replace diseased tissue and perhaps even regenerate organs.
. . Dr. Shahin Rafii of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute worked with mice, and is starting work now to find the same cells in humans.
. . Rafii's is one of many new sources being worked on by researchers, who have found so-called adult stem cells in blood, bone marrow and other tissue. Other, more primitive cells have been found in the placenta and amniotic fluid. In general, the more primitive the stem cell, the more flexible it is and the more various tissues it can be used to make.
Sept 17, 07: Voracious beetles that have ravaged more than 9 million hectares (35,000 square miles) of British Columbia's forests have wiped out about 40% of the infested region's marketable pine trees, according to a report.
. . The pine beetle infestation has spread unabated for eight years and unless weather conditions change to keep the tiny bugs in check, the amount of trees killed by 2015 in Canada's largest lumber exporting province will likely reach about 1 billion cubic meters. The report estimated that at least 530 million cubic meters of wood has already been killed, which is about 12% of the western province's total supply of salable pine --a key softwood construction lumber.
. . But the report by British Columbia's Ministry of Forests said the number of trees killed annually appears to be declining as susceptible trees die off, and the infestation rate may return to pre-outbreak levels by 2015.
. . The insects have lived on lodgepole and ponderosa pine in Western Canada for thousands of years, but nature has controlled major outbreaks by killing the beetles through extreme winter cold or with forest fires.
. . The area has not had the required cold snap in recent years, and efforts to fight fires to protect the timber supply and area communities have increased the number of older trees, which are more susceptible to an insect attack. Trees killed by the beetles can be harvested for several years after they have died, but the provincial researchers said that more needs to be known about how long that wait can be.
. . The beetle infestation has continued to move eastward toward Alberta. Provincial officials there plan a major forest burn-off this fall in areas near the border in hopes of stopping the insects from crossing the continental divide.
Sept 17, 07: A vaccine that has dramatically curbed pneumonia and other serious illnesses in children is also having an unfortunate effect: promoting new superbugs that cause ear infections.
. . Doctors reported discovering the first such germ that is resistant to all drugs approved to treat childhood ear infections. Nine toddlers in Rochester, N.Y., have had the bug and researchers say it may be turning up elsewhere, too. It is a strain of strep bacteria not included in the pneumococcal vaccine, Wyeth's Prevnar, which came on the market in 2000. It is recommended for children under age 2.
. . Doctors say parents should continue to have their toddlers get the shots because the vaccine prevents serious illness and even saves lives. But the new resistant strep is a worry.
Sept 17, 07: Scientists say a new DNA test may help prove if people have had their health damaged by exposure to chemicals.
Sept 14, 07: Lonely people are more likely to get sick and die young, and researchers said on Thursday they may have found out why --their immune systems are haywire. They used a "gene chip" to look at the DNA of isolated people and found that people who described themselves as chronically lonely have distinct patterns of genetic activity, almost all of it involving the immune system.
. . The study does not show which came first --the loneliness or the physical traits. But it does suggest there may be a way to help prevent the deadly effects of loneliness. Many studies of large populations have shown that people who describe themselves as lonely or as having little social support are more likely to die prematurely and to have infections, high blood pressure, insomnia and cancer.
. . "There are two theories --the social provision theory, which basically is about what other people do for you in a tangible, material sense. Like, if I am sick and I have got people around me, they will take me to the doctors, they will see I take my pills", Cole said. "The other is that there is something about being isolated and lonely that changes your body."
. . His team set out to investigate the second theory. All 22,000 human genes were studied and compared, and 209 stood out in the loneliest people. "These 200 genes weren't sort of a random mishmash of genes. They were part of a highly suspicious conspiracy of genes. A big fraction of them seemed to be involved in the basic immune response to tissue damage", Cole said. Others were involved in the production of antibodies --the tag the body uses to mark microbes or damaged cells for removal, Cole said.
. . The findings suggest that the loneliest people had unhealthy levels of chronic inflammation, which has been associated with heart and artery disease, arthritis, Alzheimer's and other ills.
Sept 13, 07: Fewer children under the age of five are dying, thanks to immunization programs and anti-malaria measures, the UN children's agency, Unicef, says. Worldwide, the number of young children who died in 2006 dropped below 10 million for the first time, it said. Measles vaccinations, mosquito nets and increased rates of breast-feeding were said to have contributed to the fall.
. . However, experts said most of the deaths were preventable and that more needed to be done. The Unicef figures are based on government-conducted surveys in more than 50 countries in 2005 and 2006.
. . Unicef said 9.7 million children under five died in 2006, down from almost 13 million in 1990. The majority of deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (4.8 million) and south Asia (3.1 million). Rates were highest in west and central Africa, where HIV and Aids are prevalent.
. . In sub-Saharan Africa, deaths from measles have been reduced by 75% due to increased vaccination coverage. In Vietnam, child mortality dropped by about 40% after 30,000 people were trained as health workers and paid to treat people in their own villages, Unicef said. Convincing mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life was also important, the agency said.
Sept 11, 07: High levels of testosterone in fetuses are linked to a higher chance of developing autistic traits, scientists say.
Sept 10, 07: Penicillin, long used in medications, is now being studied as a coating, a novel weapon against bacteria that could protect medical implants and the surgical tools used to insert them. The development could potentially save thousands of lives, as many patients contract infections following surgery.
. . This is the first study to show that antibiotics can be attached to a surface. We have developed a way to modify a surface to allow penicillin to be attached to varying lengths of “spacer molecules” –-this results in a spongy surface that mimics Mother Nature.
Sept 10, 07: Vitamin C can impede the growth of some types of tumors although not in the way some scientists had suspected, researchers reported.
. . The researchers generated encouraging results when giving vitamin C to mice that had been implanted with human cancer cells --either the blood cancer lymphoma or prostate cancer. Another antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine, also limited tumor growth in the mice.
. . Antioxidants are nutrients that prevent some of the damage from unstable molecules known as free radicals, created when the body turns food into energy. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene are among well-known antioxidants. Previous research had suggested that vitamin C may stifle tumor growth by preventing DNA damage from free radicals.
. . But researchers led by Dr. Chi Dang, a professor of medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins U in Baltimore, found that antioxidants appear to be working in a different way --undermining a tumor's ability to grow under certain conditions.
. . Figuring out how antioxidants impede tumors should help scientists figure out how they might be harnessed to fight cancer, Dang said. In addition to the cancer types involved in this study, others that might be vulnerable to vitamin C include colon cancer and cervical cancer, he said.
. . "Pauling actually had some good evidence that under certain situations vitamin C can prevent tumor formation. It's just the mechanism was really not that clear then," Dang said. "Now that, I think, we provide relatively compelling evidence of how this works, maybe Pauling is partly right. We shouldn't dismiss him so quickly." Dang added.
Sept 10, 07: 3D face scans are set to speed up the diagnosis of rare genetic conditions in children, UK scientists say. More than 700 genetic syndromes affect facial traits, but some are difficult to spot because few cases exist.
. . Now, new software that compares an individual's face with a bank of 3D images of people with known conditions is aiding diagnosis. The technology had a 90% success rate, the scientists said.
. . While individuals with Down's syndrome can be easily recognized, there are more than 700 known genetic conditions that can alter how a person looks. Professor Hammond is collecting more images to encompass even more genetic conditions.
Sept 7, 07: Federal health experts declared a small victory against a fatal and untreatable virus, saying canine rabies has disappeared from the US.
Sept 9, 07: Rabies could be wiped out across the world within a decade if sufficient vaccination programs are carried out on domestic dogs, according to experts. Edinburgh U's Royal Dick Vet School staff have carried out extensive research into the disease, which kills about 55,000 people per year.
. . If enough domestic dogs are vaccinated worldwide, the disease cycle could be broken, leaving no threat to humans. They hope village-based campaigns could reach 70% of the dog population. "Children are most at risk of being bitten by a rabid animal and in sub-Saharan Africa it can cost 40% of an annual income to pay for post-exposure vaccination and hospital visits.
. . "It's estimated that in Africa and Asia almost eight million people a year receive costly post-exposure prophylaxis, yet the cost to eradicate rabies is comparatively small compared to other healthcare programs."
Sept 5, 07: Smokers of hand-rolled cigarettes tend to consume less tobacco, but face a greater risk of developing lung cancer than those who smoke manufactured cigarettes, a study on Norwegian lung cancer patients has found.
. . Norway is one of the last Western countries that still use a significant amount of hand-rolled tobacco, amounting to one-third of tobacco sales, according to the study. While smokers of hand-rolled cigarettes "consumed (fewer) cigarettes, and statistically had fewer years of smoking, hand-rolled cigarettes were more carcinogenic, resulting in a higher incidence of lung cancer development", the study said.
Sept 5, 07: Global warming may be melting glaciers and forcing polar bears onto land, but doctors warn it could also affect your heart. "If it really is a few degrees warmer in the next 50 years, we could definitely have more cardiovascular disease", said Dr. Karin Schenck-Gustafsson, of the department of cardiology at Sweden's Karolinska Institute.
. . On the sidelines of the European Society of Cardiology's annual meeting in Vienna this week, some experts said the issue deserves more attention. It's well-known that people have more heart problems when it's hot. During the European heat wave in 2003, there were an estimated 35,000 deaths above expected levels in the first two weeks of August. In France alone, nearly 15,000 extra people died when temperatures soared. Experts say much of that was due to heart problems in the elderly worsened by the extreme heat.
. . In higher temperatures, we sweat to get rid of heat. During that process, blood is sent to the skin where temperatures are cooler, which opens up the blood vessels. In turn, the heart rate rises and blood pressure drops. That combination can be dangerous for older people and those with weakened cardiovascular systems.
. . With concrete skyscrapers, fewer trees and pollution spewed from factories and cars, cities are at least a few degrees hotter than surrounding rural areas. Doctors also suspect pollution, which is expected to get worse with climate change, contributes to heart disease. They think that when the lungs are irritated by tiny airborne contaminants, that could set off a bad reaction in the heart.
. . The human body is not designed to handle extreme heat for long periods of time; mechanisms like sweating are only effective as a temporary fix. But that could change if our environment becomes radically different. Some experts speculate that humans might even develop some kind of biological way to better tolerate heat.
. . "The problem is that this process of evolutionary adaptation for humans takes not decades, but tens of thousands of years", said Dr. Claudio Ceconi, spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology. "We unfortunately won't be able to evolve quickly enough to keep up."
. . In the meantime, Cleland said to focus on things we can control, like diet and fitness. "We should think more about going outside for a bicycle ride even when it's not bright and sunny."
Sept 5, 07: Thousands of cases of breast and colon cancers might be averted each year if people in colder climates raised their vitamin D levels, researchers estimate in a new report.
Sept 3, 07: Researchers in Singapore have worked out a way to kill intestinal stem cells that may develop into colorectal cancer, the second largest cause of cancer related deaths in western countries.
Aug 30, 07: Radiotherapy is widely used to fight cancers. Today, only beta particles are approved by health regulators, such as the U.S. FDA. Beta particles are small and travel fast, but it takes thousands of them to kill a cancer cell. Now, U.S. researchers have found a way to use alpha particles to destroy cancer tumors by encapsulating them inside carbon nanotubes. These alpha particles, which are 4,000 times bigger than beta particles, are much slower but are more efficient. According to the researchers, ‘cancer cells can be destroyed with just one direct hit from an alpha particle on a cell nucleus.’ But major issues need to be overcome before future treatments become possible by using them.
. . Alpha particles, which contain two protons and two neutrons, are the most massive particles emitted as radiation. They are about 4,000 times more massive than the electrons emitted by beta decay —-the type of radiation most commonly used to treat cancer.
. . On the other hand, as they are slow, they have very little penetrating power and can be stopped. And there is another issue. “One complicating factor in any astatine-based cancer therapy will be the element’s short, 7.5-hour half-life. In other words, this potential treatment for cancer needs to be given in a location close to a cyclotron. This doesn’t look too promising…
Aug 29, 07: This used to be a copper mine. For more than a century, workers pulled ore from the ground here. Then, in 1982, the Anaconda Mining Company shut down Berkeley Pit and turned off the pumps that kept out the groundwater. The 3,900-foot-deep hole began to fill up —-7.2 million gallons a day at first, flowing in from aquifers and from 10,000 miles of abandoned mine shafts, stopes, and tunnels beneath the city of Butte. The water is still rushing in today.
. . The effects have been catastrophic. Pyrite minerals in the rock oxidized in the water, transforming the pit into a giant cauldron of dilute battery acid spiked with metals. Today, Berkeley Pit contains 37 billion gallons of contaminated water and is part of the biggest contiguous Superfund site in the US, stretching 120 miles from Butte to just outside Missoula.
. . A decade ago, Don and Andrea Stierle, researchers at Montana Tech, received a gift from a colleague: a stick covered with green slime. Their friend had spooned it from Berkeley Pit when he noticed its texture. Andrea portioned the goop onto a few petri dishes, which yielded a relatively common species of protist , the first living thing ever discovered in the lake.
. . The Stierles have identified more than 100 types of microbes in the lake — bacteria, algae, and fungi that manage to survive in the unique, noxious ecosystem. Natural selection has had its way with many of them —-some of these organisms apparently live nowhere else on Earth.
. . And they're more than merely unique —-these creatures are also potentially miraculous. They have produced more than 50 different compounds that the Stierles have isolated and tested against enzymes present in diseased human tissue. An extract from a newly discovered species of Penicillium from the lake attacked ovarian cancer cells in lab tests. Another Berkeley Pit Penicillium shows promise in treating lung tumors. Whatever lets these bits of biology thrive in the noxious waters has a side effect: It makes medicine, too.
. . A century of mining had already contaminated the Clark Fork River system from Butte Hill almost all the way to Missoula, but now mountains of waste rock and tailings were heaped around the Berkeley Pit crater and beyond.
. . The smelter closed in 1980. The mine closed two years later, and five years after that, the Environmental Protection Agency put Berkeley Pit on the Superfund National Priority List. Berkeley Pit Lake has a pH between 2.5 and 3.0, as acidic as vinegar. That means anything that lives there has to be tough and adaptive, what scientists call an extremophile.
. . To their knowledge, they're the only researchers doing drug discovery in toxic waste dumps. "Each year, we see about 80% of the same things we saw the previous year", Andrea says. "But it's a changing ecosystem, and any time you look, you have the possibility of seeing stuff that nobody's seen before."
. . Their first big hit, berkeleydione, came from a Penicillium species they found in a pit-water sample in 1998. It inhibited the growth of non-small cell lung cancer. That gave them enough credibility to keep at it. Then, in 2002, they found a Penicillium species that, like berkeleydione, was unique to Berkeley Pit. A compound it made worked against the enzymes in their assay kit and in the NCI 60-cell assay, where an extract from the stuff attacked cells from OVCAR-3, an ovarian cancer.
. . Finding a chemical that is "active against" or "inhibits the growth of" tumor cells is a triumph —-but only the beginning. "Most anticancer compounds are basically poisonous chemicals", Andrea says. "We are trying to show proof of concept — that by identifying compounds that inhibit particular enzymes, we can find compounds with selective anticancer activity."
Aug 28, 07: New vaccines have sharply reduced the number of children paralyzed by polio and raised hopes that a $5 billion campaign to wipe it out may be close to success, a top public health official said.
Aug 26, 07: A nutritious cocktail helped human embryonic stem cells thrive and repair the damaged hearts of rats, U.S. researchers reported. The experiment provides the best evidence yet that the powerful but controversial stem cells might be used to repair the ravages of heart attacks and heart failure, the researchers said.
. . Biotechnology company Geron Corp said it would try to develop the cells into a product. "We're developing our cardiomyocyte product, GRNCM1, to address the large unmet need in heart failure", said Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and chief executive officer of Geron.
. . Okarma said embryonic stem cells were the only human stem cells that had been shown to form cardiomyocytes --heart muscle cells. Because embryonic stem cells are so immature, it is very difficult to control what kinds of cells they produce, and the fear is that a tooth could grow inside a heart, for instance. "We got stem cells to differentiate into mostly cardiac muscle cells, and then got those cardiac cells to survive and thrive in the damaged rat heart."
. . But the cells died when they injected them into the hearts of the rats. So the team developed what they dubbed a "survival cocktail" that included various proteins and other compounds to stop the cells from dying. It worked. When they caused heart attacks in the rats and then injected the new heart muscle cells, every graft survived and integrated into the hearts of the rats. They beat in rhythm and improved the heart function of the rats, they reported.
. . An estimated 865,000 people have heart attacks in the US every year and more than a third eventually develop heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart fails to pump blood properly. A third of heart failure patients die within two years.
Aug 23, 07: A common cause of pneumonia can kill by causing bleeding in the lungs, researchers said, in a finding that may explain why antibiotics fail to save many patients.
Aug 21, 07: The compounds which color dark fruit and vegetables may fight cancer, US research suggests. Studies on rats and human cells found anthocyanins --which color red, purple and blue fruits-- notably slowed the growth of colon cancer cells. The more esoteric the plant the better: purplecorn and bilberry were found to be much more potent than the radish.
. . In some experiments, the researchers from Ohio State U saw cancer growth not just slowed, but as many as 20% of the cells killed. For instance, anthocyanin pigments obtained from black carrots and radishes slowed the growth of cancer cells by between 50 to 80%. But compounds from chokeberries for instance killed up to a fifth of existing cells, without impacting upon healthy ones.
. . "These foods contain many compounds, and we're just starting to figure out what they are and which ones provide the most health benefits", said Monica Giusti, the lead author of the study. Very little of the substance is absorbed by the bloodstream, but it may be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract as it passes through, she said.
Aug 21, 07: Obese people may be less likely to develop prostate cancer but more likely to die of it, a study suggests.
Aug 18, 07: Hundreds of camels have died in Saudi Arabia this week from a mystery ailment. Agriculture ministry officials have denied an infectious disease caused the deaths and blamed them on animal feed supplied by food storage authorities.
Aug 18, 07: A new Nano-Sized Sensor is Expected to Predict Asthma Attacks. Researchers at the U of Pittsburgh have developed a sensor that could predict the onset of some asthma attacks a few weeks before they occur.
Aug 17, 07: A vaccine designed to treat breast cancer appeared to be safe in women with advanced disease and showed signs of actually slowing down tumors, U.S. researchers reported.
Aug 16, 07: Researchers have found a way to erase long-term memory in rats without damaging their brains in a study that could lead to targeted drugs for people suffering from dementia.
. . The findings show long-term memories are not as secure as thought and challenge the idea they stabilize after maturing from short-term memories, said Yadin Dudai, who led the study.
. . Researchers fed the rats saccharine, which made them sick and taught them to associate the taste with feeling unwell. They then injected an enzyme inhibitor called ZIP into the rats' brains that blocked a protein, PKMzeta, which controls the flow of information involving memory between brain cells. After the injection, the rats did not remember the association with saccharine, no matter how long the researchers had trained them to do so.
. . This suggests a key mechanism in the brain works like a piece of machinery to store long-term memory, Dudai said. Once the machinery stops, memory shuts down.
. . "This research is important because it casts light on the mechanisms of memory", Dudai said. "It also shows that long-term memory is not a permanent change and can be edited."
. . While the procedure is experimental and far too invasive to be done on humans, the results give drug makers a roadmap to develop new treatments related to memory, he said. Once researchers know the mechanism in the brain that plays an important role in storing long-term memory, they can use that information in future studies to look at boosting memory, rather than erasing it.
Aug 16, 07: Women who had gestational diabetes when pregnant may be at greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to U.S. and Israeli researchers who said the study was the first to link the two diseases.
Aug 13, 07: Experts have found a way to employ the body's natural healing power to treat a common heart defect linked with stroke and migraine. One in four people has a valve-like hole in the heart, known as a patent foramen ovale (PFO).
. . The defect can be closed surgically using a graft, but this can cause damage to surrounding tissue. A team at London's Royal Brompton Hospital has used a "bioabsorbable" patch to solve the problem. The patch acts as a temporary plug until the body replaces it with healthy normal tissue, usually within 30 days.
. . PFO, an opening in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart, usually produces no symptoms, but in some people it significantly increases the risk of stroke and migraine.
. . In the womb, the opening is necessary to allow efficient circulation of blood and oxygen before the lungs start working. After birth, the hole should close to separate the two chambers. Sometimes, however, this does not occur correctly.
. . And when pressure is created inside the chest --for instance by coughing-- a flap can open, allowing blood to flow in either direction. In turn, this means blood can bypass the filtering system of the lungs and if debris are present in the blood, such as small blood clots, these can travel to and lodge in the brain, causing a stroke.
. . So far, he has treated about 70 patients with the BioSTAR device, all who were deemed to be at high risk of stroke because of their PFO. He said some of his patients have reported relief from their migraines since having the treatment.
Aug 13, 07: Scans have shown near-normal brain activity in a second patient who is in a vegetative state, British researchers reported on Monday in a study that may show a way to predict who is likely to recover from the usually hopeless condition.
. . And they said a woman who made headlines last year by playing a game of tennis in her mind has recovered somewhat from her vegetative state --suggesting the theory may be correct. Adrian Owen and colleagues at Britain's Cambridge U started a debate when they reported in September on a woman who had been in a vegetative state for six months since a car accident.
. . A vegetative state is far more serious than a coma --patients have reflexes, but there is no indication they are in any way conscious. Patients in a persistent vegetative state, lasting for more than two years, have virtually no hope of recovery.
. . Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to look at the brain's real-time activity, Owen's team asked the woman to imagine she was playing tennis or walking through her home. To their surprise, her brain lit up, showing activity in all the sites that be would expected. Her scans showed brain activity nearly identical to that of healthy people asked to perform the same task.
. . Owen said his team has tried the scan on 10 other patients, but got a response only from one, a man in his 30s in a vegetative state after a severe beating. The bad news is that no one yet knows how to help such patients recover, although researchers reported this month on a patient who improved after deep-brain stimulation.
Aug 9, 07: A nutritious fish eaten in Kenya could be used as a weapon against malaria, according to a study of three fish ponds where the species nearly wiped out mosquitoes that transmit the deadly disease. Researchers have long known that the Nile tilapia feeds on mosquito larvae but the study was the first to test its potential to fight the disease in the field. 90% of deaths are in Africa south of the Sahara, mostly among young children.
. . The team cleared three ponds of fish and vegetation in the highlands of Western Kenya and measured the mosquito population before introducing young tilapia. Ten days later, no malaria mosquito larvae were recorded compared with a similar pond with no tilapia, and 41 weeks after the fish were introduced the number of mosquitoes fell by more than 94%.
. . The problem, however, was that many fish ponds in the country were poorly maintained or lacked fish, which made the stagnant pools of water prime breeding ground for mosquitoes and raised the risk of malaria.
Aug 8, 07: A simple blood test can detect early stage liver cancer and more accurately diagnose a disease that is a major killer in Asia and Africa, researchers said. Current tests include biopsies, imaging and the so-called AFP test in which doctors can detect malignant tumors based on the concentration of particular substances --called markers-- in the blood.
. . But those methods are not as sensitive as the new test that can also indicate whether a tumor is in the early or latter stages and offers patients a better chance at survival.
. . Liver cancer kills nearly 700,000 people each year, mainly in Africa and Asia which have a high prevalence of hepatitis infections that cause the disease.
. . They could determine the size of the tumor based on the amount of two particular sugar groups that appeared in the proteins.
Aug 8, 07: The Yangtze River dolphin is now almost certainly extinct, making it the first dolphin that humans drove to extinction, scientists have now concluded after an intense search for the endangered species. "It's been here longer than the Andes Mountains have been on Earth."
. . The loss also represents the first global extinction of megafauna -—any creature larger than about 100 kg-— for more than 50 years, since the disappearance of the Caribbean monk seal.
. . "To help save the endangered Yangtze finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis) that also live in the river, we'll likely have to keep them in lake preserves or raise them in captivity, because the situation in that river doesn't look like it can be controlled at this point", Taylor explained.
Aug 8, 07: Mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever avoid homes that have been sprayed with DDT, researchers reported. The chemical not only repels the disease-carrying insects physically, but its irritant and toxic properties helps keep them away, the researchers reported. They estimate that DDT spray reduced the risk of disease transmission by nearly three-quarters. Malaria affects more 40% of the world's population, killing more than a million people every year, most of them young children.
. . DDT use has been discontinued in most countries because of fears the pesticide may cause cancer and because of its potential effects on animals such as birds. But the World Health Organization last year recommended the use of DDT in places like Africa where malaria is still common, saying the benefits outweighed the risks.
. . "In huts sprayed with DDT, 59 of the 100 mosquitoes would not enter. Of the 41 that enter, 2 would die and fall to the floor", the researchers wrote. Only 27 mosquitoes could theoretically bite and survive. They said over a 24-hour period, DDT use would reduce the risk of a mosquito bite by 73%.
. . Two other chemicals were also effective, the researchers found. "In huts sprayed with alphacypermethrin, all 100 mosquitoes would enter the house. Of the 100 that entered, 15 would die. Of the remaining 85, 46 would exit prematurely and 9 of those would die", they wrote. This translated to 61% effectiveness.
. . "In huts sprayed with dieldrin, all 100 mosquitoes would enter the house", they wrote. Just eight mosquitoes that could take a blood meal and survive for a 92% protection, but it was likely the mosquitoes could develop resistance to this chemical, they said.
Aug 6, 07: Brains are electric —-when neurons talk, they speak in voltage. Now, a new technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation may let neuroscientists hack those conversations. TMS translates electric signals into a magnetic field that passes through the skull and into the brain. Too much juice can cause seizures, but calibrate the machine just right and you can actually control brain activity.
. . Treatments for drug-resistant depression, migraines, and post-traumatic stress disorder are in the offing. Further out, some researchers are trying to trigger more restful power naps, and others are working with autistic savants, hoping to inhibit the autism and bring forward the Rain Man level detail processing. That's right: We could all be perpetually happy, relaxed, and brilliant if they'd just mount this thing in a baseball cap.
Aug 6, 07: A protein that damages tissue in the brains of Alzheimer's patients is also the main cause of blindness worldwide, British researchers said in a new finding that may lead to better treatment for both diseases.
. . The scientists said the same protein, beta-amyloid, which plays a key role in the brain-wasting illness also causes nerve cell damage in the eye from blindness-inducing glaucoma. Most treatments seek to lower the build-up in pressure from fluids in the eye, but the treatment does not work for as many as 30% of glaucoma patients. Scientists do not know what causes glaucoma which affects some 65 million people worldwide.
. . "The eye is an extension of the brain, and we often forget that", she said. "This work emphasizes it is the only organ in the body you can look through and it is a tool people can use to look into the brain."
Aug 6, 07: British animal health inspectors discovered another herd of cattle suspected of having foot and mouth disease today, raising fears that the virus may not be as contained as initially hoped. Britain confirmed a second outbreak of foot and mouth disease in a herd of cattle in southern England, raising fears the highly damaging animal disease may spread.
Aug 5, 07: A tiny spot in the brain triggers fever in mice, U.S. researchers said, and understanding how it works may lead to more specific drugs to control fever and other ills in humans.
Aug 4, 07: The ability of zebrafish to regenerate damaged retinas has given scientists a clue about restoring human vision and could lead to an experimental treatment for blindness within five years.
. . British researchers said they had successfully grown in the laboratory a type of adult stem cell found in the eyes of both fish and mammals that develops into neurons in the retina. In the future, these cells could be injected into the eye as a treatment for diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes-related blindness.
Aug 1, 07: An analysis of a now-discredited South Korean stem cell line suggests the scientists may have inadvertently created the first human embryonic stem cells derived from human eggs alone, U.S. researchers said. They say the disgraced scientist actually did reach a long-sought scientific goal. It's just not the one he claimed.
Aug 1, 07: The ability of zebrafish to regenerate damaged retinas has given scientists a clue about restoring human vision and could lead to an experimental treatment for blindness within five years.
Aug 1, 07: A man with severe brain injuries who spent six years in a near-vegetative state can now chew his food, watch a movie and talk with family thanks to a brain pacemaker that may change the way such patients are treated, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
. . The 38-year-old man is the first person in a minimally conscious state to be treated with deep-brain stimulation, a treatment that uses a pacemaker and two electrodes to send impulses into a part of the brain regulating consciousness.
. . His awakening may change the way doctors think about people with severe brain injuries, who are largely unresponsive but still have some level of consciousness. These patients typically spend the rest of their lives in nursing homes, with little efforts at rehabilitation and slim chance of recovery.
. . He was attacked and robbed in 1999. "His skull was completely crushed and he was left for dead", his mother told reporters.
. . He spent the next five years in a nursing home with no hope of recovery. He would occasionally mouth the word yes or no, but could not communicate reliably or eat on his own.
. . His parents agreed to try the experimental treatment in August 2005, and doctors saw immediate results. He was alert and could move his head to follow voices. He can now drink from a cup, recall and speak 16 words, and watch a movie. Rezai said he is engaged with his family, playing cards with his mother and taking short trips outside the facility. Because of years of immobility, he may never walk.
. . The man is the first of 12 patients who will undergo the treatment as part of a pilot study approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
. . Experts believe about 100,000 to 300,000 patients with traumatic brain injury may be in a minimally conscious state.
July 31, 07: Researchers at the U of Florida (UF) have developed chips which someday might be inserted in the brains of people affected by epilepsy or who have lost a limb. These neuroprosthetic chips ‘can interpret signals in the brain and stimulate neurons to perform correctly.’ The researchers are currently studying these chips with rats and hope to have a prototype ready within 4 years that could be tested on humans.
July 31, 07: Smoking one cannabis joint is as harmful to a person's lungs as having up between 2.5 and five cigarettes, according to research. The study found only those who smoked tobacco suffered from the crippling lung disease emphysema.
Aug 1, 07: A new tuberculosis vaccine has shown promise in animal studies, researchers saidy, raising hope it might replace the current vaccine that has failed to stop one of the world's top killers. If all goes well, human trials of the new vaccine with some modifications to make it safer could start in two to three years
. . TB, a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs, kills about 1.6 million people a year globally. The increasing resistance of the TB organism to drug treatments makes creation of a truly effective vaccine even more crucial.
. . The existing BCG vaccine, in use for almost a century despite its limited effectiveness, is based on a live, weakened strain of the bacterium that causes TB in cattle. Rather than trying to make changes in the BCG vaccine, the researchers decided to take a different path, using a weakened version of the bacterium that causes TB in people.
. . The researchers found a gene in the organism that helps it elude immune system detection, and removed it from the bacterium. That helps the vaccine, using this live, weakened version of the organism, induce a strong immune response.
. . The researchers are working to make the vaccine safer by removing additional genes. He said they plan to test it in monkeys. He said if the results continue to be positive, human studies may be possible in two to three years.
. . The TB organism infects roughly a third of the world's population. Most infections remain latent but can become active when the immune system is weakened, for example in people also infected by the virus that causes AIDS. About 10 million people worldwide have active cases of TB.
July 31, 07: Bovine tuberculosis is on the rise in Britain despite massive spending to tackle the disease and scientists are to investigate if the bacterium is evolving to thwart control measures.
July 31, 07: Exercise and moderate caffeine consumption together could help ward off sun-induced skin cancer, researchers said on Monday, but cautioned against ditching the sun screen in favor of a jog and a cappuccino.
July 29, 07: After decades of dead ends, scientists have identified two genes that may raise the risk of multiple sclerosis, lending insight into the causes of the debilitating disease. The findings represent the first genes conclusively linked to multiple sclerosis in more than 20 years, experts said.
. . MS is a disease of the central nervous system that affects about 350,000 people in the US and more than 2.5 million people globally.
. . Teams of international researchers scanned the entire human genome of more than 12,000 people for MS risk factors. That study uncovered two new gene suspects, both of which are thought to play a role in autoimmune disease. Until now, the only genetic link identified with MS was the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, a large cluster of genes essential to the immune system.
. . Neither of the newly discovered genes appears to be as instrumental to developing the disease as MHC, but the research is important because it lends insight into other genetic factors that raise a person's risk of multiple sclerosis.
. . The other gene identified by the whole genome scan --the IL-2 receptor-- has been linked to two other autoimmune diseases: type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease.
July 21, 07: Former President Bill Clinton launched a program today to make subsidized malaria drugs available in Tanzania in a test scheme that could serve as a blueprint for Africa as a whole.
July 18, 07: Researchers say they have pinpointed six common genetic variations that may cause heart disease and the discovery may help to predict who is at greatest risk.
July 18, 07: One of the genes that protects us from cancer may also help delay ageing, according to a new study. The findings could also one day lead to new drugs that prevent or fight cancer while extending healthy youth and lifespan.
. . "Everyone agrees that the ageing is produced by the accumulation of faulty cells", Serrano said. "In other words, p53 delays ageing for exactly the same reason that it prevents cancer." "The mice lived 16% longer.
July 16, 07: An ingredient in curry may help stimulate immune system cells that gobble up the brain-clogging proteins that mark Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers said.
. . They said they isolated a compound in turmeric, a yellow spice that gives Indian curry powder its distinctive color, that appears to stimulate a specific response against Alzheimer's symptoms. It may be possible to infuse this compound into patients and treat the incurable and fatal brain condition.
. . Other research has shown that curcumin, an antioxidant found in turmeric, can help prevent tumors from forming in the laboratory and in rats. But they wanted to pinpoint the precise factor in curcumin, which is a complex compound.
. . They isolated bisdemethoxycurcumin and determined it was the most active ingredient in curcumin. Using blood samples from Alzheimer's patients, they found that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear a protein called amyloid beta, which clogs the brains of Alzheimer's patients and kills brain cells.
. . Macrophages are the immune cells that literally engulf and destroy deformed cells and attack invaders, like bacteria or viruses. The researchers said it is not clear if people can eat enough curcumin to get this level of activity, but said bisdemethoxycurcumin was active at a level that could easily be achieved by infusion.
. . Some studies have suggested that people who eat a lot of curry may be less prone to cancer and Alzheimer's, but whether curry is responsible is unclear.
July 15, 07: Scientists have found a new way to identify a particularly deadly form of prostate cancer in a breakthrough that could save tens of thousands of men from undergoing unnecessary surgery each year.
. . In contrast to many cancers, only certain prostate tumors require treatment. Many are slow-growing and pose little threat to health. But separating the "tigers" from the "pussycats" --as oncologists dub them-- is tricky.
. . Now that is set to change with research published on Monday showing how a genetic variation within tumor cells can signal if a patient has a potentially fatal form of the disease. "Many people get treated radically but probably two-thirds of them never needed treating." Radical prostate surgery often causes debilitating side effects such as impotence and incontinence.
. . Researchers knew that prostate cancers commonly contain a fusion of the TMPRSS2 and ERG genes, but the new study found that in 6.6% of cases this fusion was doubled up, creating a deadly alteration known as 2+Edel. Patients with 2+Edel have only a 25% survival rate after eight years, compared to 90% for those with no alterations in this region of DNA. "If you get two copies, it's really bad news", Cooper said.
. . Exactly how the duplication makes tumors more aggressive is not clear, though Cooper speculates it could result in higher expression of proteins needed to drive tumor growth or be a more general indicator of genome instability.
. . Whatever the mechanism, 2+Edel is a clear-cut marker for risk that Cooper hopes will soon be used alongside existing techniques at the time of diagnosis to decide whether men require treatment.
. . Currently, a system called the Gleason score is used to grade which cancers require treatment and which do not, but it is subject to variability in interpretation. Doctors also use prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood tests as a screen for early signs of prostate problems, though this test is not always a reliable indicator of cancer risk.
July 13, 07: The diabetes drug Avandia does almost as much harm as good. Reports of side effects, including heart attacks, have tripled since an analysis revealed that the popular diabetes drug may increase the risk of heart problems.
July 13, 07: Simply waking up is the worst thing you can do if you're trying to avoid a heart attack. Heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests seem to come out of the blue, but actually most occur upon waking up in the morning.
. . Before waking, our bodies release stress hormones into the bloodstream to give us the energy to get out of bed, but this also stresses the heart slightly. That nudge can cause a cardiac event if one's arteries already are rife with festering cholesterol-rich plaque. A bout of anger can increase the chances of having a heart attack up to 14-fold for two hours following a flare-up.
. . The dehydration that normally occurs after a night of sleep also puts a plaque-plagued circulatory system at risk. Also, heart medications wear off during the night.
July 13, 07: Testing exhaled breath with a small sensor array can detect lung cancer with moderate accuracy, researchers report. The testing device, which contains 36 spots impregnated with chemically sensitive compounds, works by detecting patterns of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath. These spots change colors when exposed to particular chemicals.
. . The predictive pattern identified by the researchers was able to spot 73% of cancers, while it incorrectly identified 28% of nonmalignant conditions as cancerous. "Further work may clarify the nature of the distinct breath constituents", conclude Dr. Peter J. Mazzone, from The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, and colleagues. "This would help to guide refinement of the sensor array and breath collection system to maximize the diagnostic accuracy of the test."
July 11, 07: US scientists believe they may have found a way to stop the growing problem of bacteria becoming resistant to current drug treatments.
. . They have found drugs called bisphosphonates block an enzyme used by bacteria to swap genes, and acquire or spread resistance to antibiotic drugs. They also showed that interfering with the enzyme could destroy drug resistant bacteria cultured in the lab. "Our discoveries may lead to the ability to selectively kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in patients, and to halt the spread of resistance in clinical settings."
. . In the last decade, almost every type of bacteria has become more resistant to antibiotic treatment, rendering many deadly infections such as tuberculosis more difficult to treat effectively. Every time someone takes an antibiotic, the drug kills the weakest bacteria in the bloodstream. Any bug that has a protective mutation against the antibiotic survives. These drug-resistant microbes quickly accumulate useful mutations and share them with other bacteria through conjugation - the microbe equivalent of mating.
. . Tests on E. coli bacteria, which can cause severe food poisoning, showed the bisphosphonate drugs wreaked havoc inside bacteria that were preparing to transfer their genes. Exactly how bisphosphonates destroy each bacterium is still unknown, but the drugs were potent, wiping out any E. coli carrying relaxase.
. . The researchers plan to carry out further tests to establish whether bisphosphonates also attack similar species, such as those responsible for hospital-acquired pneumonia, and other lung infections. He stressed the latest study was at a very early stage, and that bisphosphonates had only been shown to have an effect against one type of bacterium - E. coli.
July 11, 07: The number of moles may offer an indication of how quickly the body ages, a study suggests. King's College London scientists compared key ageing DNA with the number of moles in a study of 1,800 twins. They found the more moles a person had, the *more likely their DNA was to have the properties to fight off ageing.
. . The study, in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention journal, contrasts with the link between a high mole-count and high skin cancer risk. Moles appear in childhood and disappear from middle age onwards.
. . When present in large numbers, they can increase the risk of melanoma, a rare form of skin cancer. Moles vary significantly in numbers and size between individuals. The average number of moles in people with white skin is 30 but some people may have as many as 400. The reason for such differences between people is unknown as is the function of moles.
. . Since moles disappear with age, scientists looked at the relationship between the number of moles and telomere length in cells, which is a good indicator of the rate of ageing in organs such as the heart, muscle, bones and arteries.
. . Telomeres, which get shorter as we age, are bundles of DNA found at the end of chromosomes in all cells and assist in the protection, replication, and stabilization of the chromosome ends. They have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other.
. . Researchers found those with more than 100 moles had longer telomeres than those with fewer than 25. The difference between the two mole groups was equivalent to six to seven years of ageing.
. . Moley people who have a slightly increased risk of melanoma may, on the other hand, have the benefit of a reduced rate of ageing.
July 10, 07: Tiny bubbles injected in mice delivered potent cancer drugs to tumors without harming surrounding tissue, a U.S. researcher said, in a finding that may lead to new targeted cancer therapies.
. . The technique uses ultrasound imaging to track the drug in the body and release it with a pop once it has reached its target. When injected in the bloodstream, these tiny bubbles loaded with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin seek out cancer tumors and congregate. "These nanobubbles don't penetrate normal blood vessels but they do penetrate blood vessels in the tumor." Once in the tumor, the nanobubbles combine to form larger "microbubbles", which can be seen on an ultrasound.
. . In mice, the nanobubbles were more effective at blocking tumor growth than other nanoparticle delivery methods. Rapoport will test the therapy in larger animals and hopes to start human clinical trials in three years.
July 10, 07: Tiny bubbles injected in mice delivered potent cancer drugs to tumors without harming surrounding tissue, a U.S. researcher said, in a finding that may lead to new targeted cancer therapies.
. . The technique uses ultrasound imaging to track the drug in the body and release it with a pop once it has reached its target. When injected in the bloodstream, these tiny bubbles loaded with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin seek out cancer tumors and congregate. "These nanobubbles don't penetrate normal blood vessels but they do penetrate blood vessels in the tumor." Once in the tumor, the nanobubbles combine to form larger "microbubbles", which can be seen on an ultrasound.
. . In mice, the nanobubbles were more effective at blocking tumor growth than other nanoparticle delivery methods. Rapoport will test the therapy in larger animals and hopes to start human clinical trials in three years.
July 10, 07: The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President George W. Bush accused the administration of political interference and muzzling him on key issues like embryonic stem cell research.
. . Cloning animals will not be useful on a large scale but the technology offers farmers an important tool to increase food production and protect animals from disease, scientists said. Scientists at a briefing to address the intense debate said the technology was just the next step in artificial breeding and would only ever account for a small part of food production. "It has niche applications."
. . Scientists said some uses could be to clone animals that are less resistant to certain diseases or to reproduce "elite" livestock that can churn out more milk or produce healthier offspring. Keith Campbell, a researcher at the U of Nottingham, compared cloning to artificial insemination --which the scientists noted was used to breed the cows that produce around 75% of milk.
. . Cloning can also help protect rare or dying breeds, said Campbell, who helped work on cloning the first adult mammal, Dolly the sheep.
July 8, 07: Scientists have identified a gene that is strongly associated with an increased risk of childhood asthma. The team of international researchers hope their work will lead to new treatments.
. . Studying more than 2,000 children, they pinpointed a gene called ORMDL3, which was found at higher levels in the blood cells of children with asthma. Carrying a specific variant of this gene may increase the risk of developing asthma by up to 70%. The researchers also identified genetic markers on chromosome 17 which appeared to alter levels of ORMDL3.
. . "Similar genes are found in primitive organisms such as yeast, so we suspect that ORMDL3 may be a component of quite ancient immune mechanisms. It does not seem to be part of the allergic process."
July 3, 07: Hundreds of dead seabirds that washed up along the Southeast coast in recent weeks apparently starved to death, but experts don't know why. The deaths of the birds —-similar to gulls and called greater shearwaters-— have wildlife officials worried about possible changes in the ocean that could have affected the fish that the birds usually eat.
. . Jennifer Koches, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Is this a canary in the coal mine issue? Is there something that serious going on out in the ocean that it should be causing us serious alarm?"
July 1, 07: A synthetic molecule based on one found in frog egg cells could potentially be used to treat brain tumors. Amphinase is a version of a molecule isolated from the egg cells of the northern leopard frog.
. . UK and US scientists found it recognizes the sugary coating found on a tumor cell, and latches on to it before invading and killing it. The paper suggests the molecule could potentially treat many cancers --the greatest potential is treating brain tumors, for which complex surgery and chemotherapy are the only current treatments.
. . Researcher Professor Ravi Acharya said: "This is a very exciting molecule. It is rather like Mother Nature's very own magic bullet for recognising and destroying cancer cells. It is highly specific at hunting and destroying tumour cells, is easily synthesised in the laboratory and offers great hope as a therapeutic treatment of the future."
. . Amphinase is a version of a ribonuclease enzyme, which is found in all organisms and plays a role in mopping up genetic material called RNA. In mammals, the enzyme is kept in close check, so that it does not cause damage. But because Amphinase comes from an amphibian, and not a mammal, it is able to evade the usual defences of cancer cells, and attack them.
. . It will have no effect on other cells because it is only capable of recognizing and binding to the sugar coating of tumor cells. However, it is still in the early stages of development, and a treatment is not likely for several years.
. . Amphinase is the second anti-tumor ribonuclease to be isolated by Alfacell Corporation from northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) egg cells.
. . The other, ranpirnase, is in late-stage clinical trials as a treatment for unresectable malignant mesothelioma, a rare and fatal form of lung cancer and other solid tumors.
Jun 28, 07: Scientists say they've created embryonic stem cells by stimulating unfertilized eggs, a significant step toward producing transplant tissue that's genetically matched to women.
. . The advance suggests that someday, a woman who wants a transplant to treat a condition like diabetes or a spinal cord injury could provide eggs to a lab, which in turn could create tissue that her body wouldn't reject.
. . Ethicists disagreed on whether the strategy would avoid the long-standing ethical objections to creating embryonic stem cells by other means. To create tissues that genetically match a patient, some scientists are trying to develop a process called therapeutic cloning, in which DNA from the patient is inserted into an unfertilized egg, an embryo is produced and stem cells are harvested. But nobody has made that work in humans.
. . The new work tries another tack: stimulating a woman's unfertilized egg to begin embryonic development. Scientists believe this development can't continue long enough to produce a baby, but as the new work shows, it can produce stem cells that are genetically matched to the egg donor. Such an approach could not provide matched cells for men, of course.
Jun 28, 07: Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants can result in measurable levels of a toxin in workers' bodies that is known to cause lung cancer, U.S. researchers said.
. . They found nonsmoking workers in Oregon who worked a single shift in a bar or restaurant that allowed smoking were more likely to have a detectable level of NNK --a carcinogen linked with lung cancer-- in their bodies than those who worked in nonsmoking establishments.
. . Other studies have shown that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have about a 20% higher risk of lung cancer. They are also at a higher risk of asthma and perinatal complications such as sudden infant death syndrome.
. . Secondhand smoke causes about 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the US each year, according to the American Lung Association.
Jun 27, 07: A woman whose defibrillator activated one week to the hour after her father died, and recorded the event, may provide the first documented evidence of "anniversary reaction." The defibrillator acted as a pacemaker, perhaps saving the 50-year-old woman's life. Its function of keeping a precise record of when it was activated made it possible to establish the precise time of the event.
. . In a dramatic extra twist to the story, the patient was standing by the open grave of her sister-in-law, who had herself died when she heard the news of the father's death.
Jun 27, 07: Mothers and fathers with multiple sclerosis are equally likely to pass genetic risk for it on to their children, according to a study countering a previous finding that fathers were twice as likely to do so.
Jun 27, 07: Scientists have discovered a new type of embryonic stem cell in mice and rats that should speed up research into regenerative medicine and help in the hunt for cures to a range of diseases. The new cells effectively constitute a "missing link" between mouse and human embryonic stem cells.
. . Two independent teams from Britain's Oxford and Cambridge universities said that so-called rodent epiblast stem cells were very similar to human embryonic stem cells, making them particularly good models for analyzing human health.
Jun 27, 07: Laboratory mice have long been a favorite model for human disease, but researchers have been frustrated by the fact that human and mouse stem cells behave very differently. Now scientists think they may have cracked the problem. Two papers show that when mouse stem cells are derived from the innermost cell layer --or epiblast-- of a week-old rodent embryo they are in many ways almost identical to human ones.
. . Up until now, scientists have grown embryonic stem cells from the blastocyst, a very early-stage embryo not yet implanted into the womb. The new cells are taken after implantation. Because they are further along the developmental timeline, they may offer a unique insight into how stem cells start producing mature cell types, like neurons, muscle and bone.
. . Pedersen --who left the US in 2001 to work in Britain because of curbs on federal funding of stem cell work-- said the hope was to work out how to control their growth and differentiation, in order to regenerate cells as a way to cure injuries and disease. Richard Gardner, who led the Oxford team, said the latest discovery should also help researchers derive stem cells in other species, including agricultural livestock.
Jun 27, 07: Researchers said they have partially reversed in mice a common cause of autism and mental retardation, and said it might be possible to design a drug that would do the same thing for people. They found that by blocking a normal enzyme, they could reverse some of the brain abnormalities associated with the inherited condition, called Fragile X Syndrome, and correct some of the symptoms in the mice.
. . Fragile X Syndrome is the most common hereditary cause of mental retardation and autism. The one in 4,000 boys and one in 6,000 girls who are affected often have developmental delays and hyperactivity, and engage in aimless, repetitive behaviors.
. . It is caused by a mutated gene on the X chromosome that affects dendritic spines --the long, thin structures that allow brain cells to communicate with each other. They become too numerous, as well as too long and thin, weakening these electrical signals. The researchers noticed that when they blocked the action of another nerve cell-shaping enzyme called P21-activated kinase, or PAK, in the brains of otherwise normal mice, they could produce the opposite effect: the dendritic spines in these mice were short and thick, and fewer were formed. The mice also had abnormally low levels of electrical signaling, according to the report.
. . So the scientists bred mice with both the Fragile X gene mutation and a version of PAK that was programmed to fail. This inactive form of PAK only kicked in a month after the mice were born. And once it did, the researchers found that symptoms of Fragile X, which include excessive movement and difficulty completing memory tasks, were greatly reduced in the mice. When they looked at their brains, the dendritic spines looked fairly normal.
. . While such genetic manipulation would be difficult to recreate in human children, a chemical compound that can directly inhibit the protein may make an effective drug, Tonegawa said.
Jun 27, 07: Israeli scientists have developed a 1-millimeter-diameter medical robot that will be able to crawl within our veins and arteries. It’s too early to know when this medical robot is allowed to explore a real human being. But the researchers think it could be used to fight some cancers. They even envision groups of robots working simultaneously to fight metastases.
Jun 26, 07: Taking the herbal remedy echinacea can more than halve the risk of catching a common cold, US researchers say. They found it decreased the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of colds by a day-and-a-half. Experts believe echinacea, a collection of nine related plant species indigenous to North America, may work by boosting the body's immune system.
. . The results conflict with other studies that show no beneficial effect.
. . In one of the 14 studies the researchers reviewed, echinacea was taken alongside vitamin C. This combination reduced cold incidence by 86%.
. . "There has also been the suggestion in the past that continuous treatment with echinacea is not recommended --the benefits may only be effective for one or two weeks and after taking the agent for this time people should stop and give the immune system a week without the agent."
Jun 24, 07: An outbreak of distemper has been killing seal pups off the coast of Denmark, authorities said Saturday, warning that thousands of seals could die if the disease spreads to other northern European countries.
Jun 22, 07: Diabetes patients may soon be able to take a pill to control their condition instead of repeated injections. UK company Diabetology, with experts at Cardiff U, says it has solved a crucial problem with oral insulin. The capsule's special coating protects the drug from acids in the stomach, allowing it to pass into the small intestine where it is absorbed.
. . The researchers will present their early trial results in 16 patients to the American Diabetes Association.
Jun 20, 07: About 60% of people with frozen embryos stored at U.S. fertility clinics would be willing to donate them for use in human stem cell research, according to a survey.
Jun 20, 07: A young New Zealand scientist has managed to create the world's first large transgenic animal model for Huntington's disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disorder.
. . For her PhD, 25-year-old Jessie Jacobsen from the U of Auckland worked out how to inject into sheep the DNA containing the gene that causes Huntington's. From 150 animals bred at a specialist research facility in South Australia, six sheep were born with the Huntington's gene; and now two are being used to breed a flock.
. . Much of what's known about Huntington's disease comes from studies of the brains of patients who've died from the disease, but little is understood about the early stages of the disease. Huntington's disease affects one person in every 10,000 and the disease causes cell death in the brain, ultimately leading to an inability to walk, talk, think or swallow.
. . It is an insidious disease, as for the first 30 or 40 years of a person's life, there can be no outward signs of the disease's progress. So, it is what happens in those early years that Jacobsen - and the project she is part of - aims to understand.
. . The U of Auckland scientists decided to use sheep because their brain structure is remarkably similar to humans. They also live longer than other laboratory animals such as mice. The researchers, however, will not allow the sheep to develop the symptoms of the disease. Rather, they want to look at what is happening in the brain before symptoms occur.
. . The Huntington's gene is about 10 times larger than the average human gene. In those who will develop Huntington's, there are extra repeats of the CAG "letters" of the genetic alphabet.
Jun 19, 07: New flu drugs are possible, but years away, experts say. Influenza viruses are quickly evolving resistance to the few drugs on the market that fight them, but there are weaknesses that could be exploited, experts told a conference.
Jun 19, 07: Tools used to predict whether a woman's breast cancer is inherited do not account for smaller families and may leave some women in the dark about their risk for future cancers, U.S. researchers said.
Jun 18, 07: UK government scientists rejected calls from farmers and vets for a cull of Britain's badgers to help tackle tuberculosis in cattle.
Jun 17, 07: Carrying out checks on embryos for genetic disorders incurs no more risk than standard IVF, researchers suggest.
. . The latest study from Brussels' Free U looked at the outcomes of 583 children born after preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). There have been safety questions over this procedure because it is relatively new and involves removing a cell from an embryo at around three days old. It checks fertilized eggs for genetic disorders so that an unaffected embryo can be implanted into the mother's womb, as with conventional IVF.
. . The UK's fertility watchdog the HFEA has licensed PGD for more than 50 genetic conditions.
Jun 17, 07: Using infrared light to penetrate the skin, the Lima is a blood sugar analyzer that requires no blood for a reading. After placing your hand on the Lima, football style, you hit a power button to take the reading. Then, without tearing up in front of your friend/girlfriend/pitbull, your blood sugar level will appear on the display.
. . It's an interesting concept, but why not remove the power button completely and allow pressure to activate the device?
Jun 16, 07: Making human-animal embryos for scientific experiments should be allowed because of the benefits to science and medicine, British experts said in a report. Such embryos should never, however, be implanted into either a woman or an animal, said the Academy of Medical Sciences.
. . The combinations would include animal eggs and the nucleus, containing the genetic material, of a human being, or human embryos that carry the genetic material of an animal, the independent advisory body said. A cloning technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT for short, involves removing the nucleus from an egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus of a cell from the animal to be cloned --perhaps a skin cell, for instance. Scientists have tried this using, for example, an egg cell from a cow and a human nucleus.
. . "Provided good laboratory practice is rigorously followed, research involving cytoplasmic hybrids or other inter-species embryos offers no significant safety risks over and above regular cell culture research", said Martin Bobrow of Britain's Wellcome Trust, who chaired the panel making the recommendations.
Jun 15, 07: Abundant rainfall has increased the population of ticks in Oklahoma this year, meaning more people are likely to catch diseases from the bloodsucking insect.
Jun 14, 07: Extra copies of a certain gene found in about a third of breast cancers may be responsible for their unchecked growth and survival, researchers reported. They found as many as 10 copies of the gene, called IKBKE, in some cancers. Normal cells have only two copies of IKBKE. Multiple copies were "found in anywhere from 30 to 40% of breast cancers, a pretty large percentage."
. . The gene codes for a certain kind of a protein, a kinase known as IKK-epsilon. It acts as a control switch to help regulate cell growth. When it has too many copies, a cell can make too much of the kinase, over stimulating a series of growth signals and allowing the cell to resist death and proliferate inappropriately
. . Hahn's team found that cells with extra copies of the gene became addicted to making greater amounts of the protein. When the scientists prevented laboratory-grown cancer cells from making IKK-epsilon, the cells stopped growing or even died.
. . They are now trying to find a drug, perhaps a pill, to do the same in patients whose tumors have extra copies.
Jun 14, 07: US researchers have for the first time injected human stem cells into monkeys with Parkinson's symptoms, seen as a key step in the fight to find a cure. The stem cells, which have been injected into rodents in the past, initially stopped the monkeys' damaged brain cells from deteriorating. The primates' condition did, however, start to slide after four months.
. . It surprised the team that the stem cells --rather than replacing the damaged cells as anticipated-- actually worked to protect them, preventing further deterioration. The researchers speculate this may be to do with the monkeys beginning to reject foreign tissue, and suggested that further research would need to be done suppressing their immune systems.
. . More than four million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from Parkinson's disease, making it the most common brain degenerative disease after Alzheimer's.
Jun 12, 07: For the first time, researchers have used stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease in primates. The results were mixed: rather than growing new neurons, the treatment protected damaged cells against further deterioration, and the effect wore off after four months.
. . The researchers speculate this may be to do with the monkeys beginning to reject foreign tissue, and suggested that further research would need to be done suppressing their immune systems.
Jun 12, 07: The progression of Parkinson's disease could be slowed or even stopped by a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure, a study suggests. Tests on mice at Northwestern U in Chicago showed isradipine can rejuvenate the brain neurons which are dying in Parkinson's patients. Isradipine is a calcium-blocker which is usually used to tackle high blood pressure, angina and stroke.
Jun 11, 07: Several new drugs showed early promise against Alzheimer's disease, but none had a dramatic effect, demonstrating that the battle against the brain-wasting illness will be long, researchers said.
Jun 9, 07: Scientists say they have discovered a new gene linked with late-onset Alzheimer's disease. People with a damaged copy of the gene, GAB2, may be at four times increased risk of developing dementia. Late-onset Alzheimer's affects one in 10 people over 65 and half of over 85s.
. . Experts said the latest findings were some of the most significant to emerge since the discovery of the ApoE4 Alzheimer's gene. They found GAB2 influenced the risk of dementia among those with APOE4. They experimentally "silenced" GAB2 in neurons and observed an increase in a key protein, tau, that contributes to these tangles.
Jun 8, 07: African swine fever (ASF), which has appeared in northern Europe for the first time in Georgia, may threaten pigs in Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said.
Jun 7, 07: In a dramatic case of microbial sleuthing, US scientists said they have discovered a new, potentially deadly strain of bacteria previously unknown to medicine. The bacteria was found in a 43-year-old American woman who had traveled across Peru for three weeks and suffered from symptoms similar to typhoid fever or malaria. The woman has since recovered.
. . Named Bartonella rochalimae, the new species is a close relative of a microbe that sickened thousands of soldiers during the First World War with what became known as trench fever, spread through body lice. It is also related to a bacteria identified 10 years ago during the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco as the cause of cat scratch disease, which infects 25,000 people a year in the US. The new discovery is the sixth species identified that can infect humans. In 1997, her team discovered that the Bartonella henselae bacterium causes cat scratch disease. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes and fever after a person is scratched by a cat.
. . "The bacteria were eating away a bone in the arm of an AIDS patient --for months", Koehler said. "They can cause extremely painful lesions and tumors of blood vessels on the skin of immunocompromised patients."
Jun 6, 07: The largest ever study of genes in disease has found 24 genetic risk factors --half of them completely new-- linked to seven common conditions, British scientists said. It represents the biggest single haul of disease-associated genes so far, underlining an accelerating pace of discovery that will help researchers unpick the fundamental biology of major illnesses and may lead to more effective drugs.
. . Last week, researchers found a big batch of breast cancer genes and two months ago scientists identified a gene that contributes to obesity. "We are just scratching the surface", Peter Donnelly of the U of Oxford.
. . Significantly, many of the genes found were in areas of the genome not previously thought to have been related to the conditions, opening up completely new options for treatment. In the case of Crohn's disease, they uncovered the importance of a process known as autophagy, or "self eating", which cells use to clear unwanted material, such as bacteria. John Todd of the U of Cambridge said this could be key to explaining the role gut bacteria play in the condition.
. . Scientists also, for the first time, found a gene linking Crohn's and type 1 diabetes.
Jun 6, 07: Researchers have taken ordinary skin cells from a mouse and reprogrammed them to look and act like embryonic stem cells in a long-promised experiment that provides an alternative way to get the valued and controversial cells.
. . Three studies published on Wednesday show various ways to turn the clock back and make an ordinary cell act like an embryonic stem cell --the ultimate master cells of the body.
. . All of the researchers worked in mice and say it will be a while before they can demonstrate their techniques using human cells. "All of us strongly agree with human embryonic stem cell research. These experiments were not motivated by a desire to find an end run around those issues."
Jun 5, 07: British scientists plan to use stem cells to cure a common form of blindness, with the first patients receiving test treatment in five years.
. . The pioneering project, launched today, aims to repair damaged retinas with cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Its backers say it involves simple surgery that could one day become as routine as cataract operations. They believe the technique is capable of restoring vision in the vast majority of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness among the elderly that afflicts around 14 million people in Europe.
. . The new procedure will generate replacement RPE cells from stem cells in the lab, with surgeons then injecting a small patch of new cells, measuring 4 by 6 millimeters, back into the eye.
Jun 2, 07: Arsenic, the poison of choice for many a murder mystery, can significantly extend survival in patients with a rare form of leukemia, U.S. researchers said. "It's a much smaller dose than you would use to poison people", added Dr. Bayard Powell of Wake Forest U Baptist Medical Center.
. . Adding arsenic to standard treatment can extend patients' lives and prevent relapse, Powell said. The effect is so impressive that patients may some day be able to skip chemotherapy --but that will take more testing. The drug, arsenic trioxide, which is made by Cephalon Inc. and sold under the brand Trisenox, is approved for people with acute promyelocytic leukemia, or APL, whose disease has returned.
. . Standard treatment for APL --a form of acute myeloid leukemia that strikes 1,500 people a year in the US-- involves chemotherapy and a form of vitamin A called all-trans retinoic acid, which helps 70 to 80% of patients gain long-term remission. About 25% of those patients, however, relapse and no longer respond to treatment. Those patients often get arsenic trioxide.
. . They found that 81 of 261 patients in the arsenic group were free of disease after three years, compared with 66 of 257 patients in the group who got the standard regimen alone. "Among those who actually got arsenic, only five patients, or 2%, relapsed." Future studies would test whether patients can skip chemotherapy and just take arsenic.
. . While most chemo treatments are toxic and work by killing cells, arsenic trioxide zeros in on disease-causing cells.
Jun 2, 07: Flaxseed slowed the growth of prostate tumors in men, while ginseng helped relieve the fatigue that cancer patients often feel, U.S. researchers reported on Saturday in two of the first scientifically rigorous looks at alternative medicine.
. . The studies reflect doctors' efforts to explore the risks and benefits of foods and supplements that are routinely taken by their patients with little scientific proof they help.
. . In the flaxseed study, researchers at Duke U Medical Center in North Carolina and colleagues evaluated the seed's role as a food supplement in 161 men who were scheduled to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. "The growth rate was decreased in the men who got flaxseed", said Dr. Nancy Davidson, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins U in Baltimore who is president-elect of ASCO. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, a fiber found on the seed coat.
. . Half of the men in the study added 30 grams of flaxseed daily to their diets for about 30 days. Half of the flaxseed group also went on a low-fat diet. After the surgery, the researchers looked at the men's tumor cells to see how quickly the cancer had multiplied. The cancer cells in both the flaxseed groups grew about 30 to 40% slower than the control group.
. . We can not definitively say at this point you should take flaxseed because it is protective against prostate cancer", she said, adding that flaxseed now needed to be studied to see if it can prevent prostate cancer.
. . In the ginseng trial, Debra Barton of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues tested three different doses of the herb on patients with a variety of cancers who were expected to live at least six months. 25% of patients taking a 1,000-mg dose and 27% of patients taking a 2,000-mg dose said their fatigue symptoms were "moderately better" or "much better."
Shark cartilage, once a hopeful-seeming new approach in cancer treatment, failed to help lung cancer patients live any longer, researchers said. The large study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, showed definitively that the product did not work, experts told a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
. . The study fits in with several others that have been published in recent years showing that various shark cartilage products do not help cancer patients live any longer, or help ease their symptoms. The group that got the shark cartilage did not live any longer than the patients given placebo drinks --a median of 14.4 months for those who got Neovastat versus 15.6 months for those who got placebo.
Jun 1, 07: Asia is bracing for a dramatic surge in cancer rates over the next decade as people in the developing world live longer and adopt bad Western habits that greatly increase the risk of the disease. But unlike in wealthy countries where the world's top medical care is found, there will likely be no prevention or treatment for many living in poor countries.
. . Smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy foods —-all linked to various cancers-— will combine with larger populations and fewer deaths from infectious diseases to drive Asian cancer rates up 60% by 2020, some experts predict.
Mar 30, 07: Schwarzenegger, Ontario premier in stem cell deal: Ontario and California will work together to develop new stem cell therapies to help conquer cancer, and will cooperate on curbing greenhouse gas emission, the leaders of the two regions said.
Jun 1, 07: Researchers said they had pinpointed in mice a receptor in sensory nerve cells that plays the leading role in cold sensation. This receptor and others involve in sensing temperatures offer potential targets for developing pain-relieving drugs, said David Julius, a U of California San Francisco physiology professor who worked on the study.
. . Knowledge of the cold-sensing role of "menthol receptor TRPM8" could have medical implications such as improving the treatment of certain types of chronic pain. The identity of the receptor for cold sensation had eluded researchers in the field of sensory physiology. The TRPM8 receptor had been seen as a strong, albeit unconfirmed, possibility.
. . Such a receptor sitting on the surface of a sensory nerve fiber can be activated by certain stimulation like hot or cold, leading to a signal sent through the spinal cord to the brain. This enables the body to recognize a certain sensation.
May 28, 07: A genetic mutation that raises the risk of breast cancer is found in up to 60% of U.S. women, making it the first truly common breast cancer susceptibility gene, researchers reported.
. . Reports from several teams around the world identified changes in four other genes that raise the risk of breast cancer significantly. Several are found in many men and women. More than 60% of the women in the US probably carry at least one of the mutations in one of the genes, called FGFR2, the researchers said.
. . Women with faulty copies of BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a 50% to 85% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetimes. But they are rare genes, and only account for 5% to possibly 10% of breast cancer cases. "It is premature to recommend screening women for these gene variants, at least until the scientific community has further combed through the genome-wide findings and found all the variants that are associated with increased risk", Hunter said.
. . Breast cancer kills 500,000 people a year, globally.
May 28, 07: Turning off a gene that has been associated with Alzheimer's disease made mice smarter in the lab, researchers said on Sunday in a finding that lends new insight on learning and may lead to new drugs for memory problems. They said these mice were far more adept at sensing changes in their environment than their mouse brethren.
May 25, 07: Stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborns can be engineered to produce insulin and may someday be used to treat diabetes, U.S. and British researchers reported.
May 25, 07: The U.S. National Institutes of Health, which supports a variety of biomedical studies using animals, will stop breeding government-owned chimpanzees for research --a step animal rights advocates lauded.
. . The NIH's National Center for Research Resources cited financial reasons for its decision this week to permanently cease breeding of government-owned chimpanzees for research. High-quality care for a single animal over its lifespan can cost up to $500,000. A breeding moratorium on NCRR-owned and supported chimpanzees had been in place since 1995.
. . The Humane Society of the United States said it suspects that ethical reasons also were involved in the decision. The group, which opposes the use of these apes as lab animals, said the decision on ending breeding likely also means NIH no longer will acquire new chimpanzees through other means.
. . Because chimpanzees are physiologically and genetically similar to people, they have been used in medical research defended by many scientists but scorned by animals rights advocates on ethical grounds. "This decision is a huge step towards a day when chimpanzees are no longer used in invasive biomedical research and testing", Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society said in a statement.
May 24, 07: US scientists have developed "super-oxidized" water which they say speeds up wound healing. Oculus --a Californian firm-- made it by filtering it through a salt membrane --says it kills viruses, bacteria and fungi.
. . It is also effective against MRSA and UK trials are being carried out on patients with diabetic foot ulcers, New Scientist magazine reported. Experts said wound healing was a major problem for people with diabetes. About 15% of diabetic foot ulcers result in amputation.
. . The key ingredient of the water, called Microcyn, are oxychlorine ions --electrically charged molecules which pierce the cell walls of free-living microbes. The water can only kill cells it can completely surround so human cells are spared because they are tightly bound together in a matrix.
. . One study showed that patients with advanced foot ulcers who were treated with the water, alongside an antibiotic had an average healing time of 43 days compared with 55 days in those who received standard treatment. US studies have shown the water kills 10 strains of bleach-resistant bacteria.
May 22, 07: A deadly, fast-spreading aquatic virus is reaching epidemic proportions in New York's two Great Lakes and has already spread into the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York, a Cornell U fisheries expert said. The viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus —or VHS— has now been identified in 19 species in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, including muskellunge, New York's No. 2 sport fish.
. . Equally alarming, said Bowser, is the confirmation of VHS in walleye in Conesus Lake, which is the westernmost Finger Lake and is the only New York lake where VHS has been confirmed in a body of water other than the contiguous waters of the Great Lakes.
. . "The fact that VHS was found in this inland body of water is particularly disturbing in that it immediately brings up the question of how did it get there and what can be done to prevent the virus from moving to other bodies of water." He's developed a new test that can identify the virus within 24 hours.
. . We don't think there is any species that is not susceptible", said Doug Stang, chief of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Fisheries, which is monitoring 40 water bodies across the state to track the spread of VHS. Bowser said he suspects that the virus is spread by airborne or terrestrial predators carrying infected fish, anglers using infected bait minnows or contaminated fishing equipment, and as a result of boating activities.
. . The virus, which causes internal bleeding in fish but poses no threat to humans, was discovered in the US in 1988 in Coho and Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest. VHS made its first known appearance in the Great Lakes in 2005.
May 22, 07: An insect-borne virus that has killed tomato plants across Central America, Florida and Georgia has been detected in California for the first time. The virus, known as tomato yellow leaf curl, devastated crops in the Dominican Republic and in Mexico, forcing those countries to curtail the growing season to contain the spread of the disease.
. . Tomatoes are California's eighth largest crop. The state supplies the vast majority of the nation's processed tomatoes — 95%.
. . The cold, wet winters in the Central Valley, where most tomatoes are grown, act as barriers to the bemisia white flies that carry the disease. The flies are native to Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties in the southern part of the state, but not to any counties in the Central Valley.
. . The virus causes tomato plants to become stunted and grow abnormally upright. Flowers usually fall off before the fruit sets. And leaves are small and crumpled with an upward curl. They also turn yellow.
. . In Florida, where the virus has become well established, Gilbertson said growers have had to make heavy use of pesticides and have planted tomato varieties that are more resistant to the disease. But flies may become resistant to the pesticides over time.
. . Siragusa said his group has alerted growers, greenhouses and seed companies that the virus has spread to California. But, he said, controlling the virus will be especially hard because so many tomatoes are grown in backyards.
May 22, 07: Climate change could extend the pollen season and encourage more disease-carrying ticks in northern Europe, and allow mosquitoes to thrive in new areas of Africa and Asia, public health officials said.
. . Experts at the World Health Organization's (WHO) annual assembly in Geneva said global warming had already begun to impact on patterns of water-borne and parasitic illness in areas vulnerable to droughts and floods. Respiratory and heart problems may become more marked following heat waves and increased particulate matter such as dust in the air, said Bettina Menne of the WHO's European division. She noted allergy-causing pollen could be released earlier and last longer with warmer temperatures.
. . She cited the movement of ticks, small mites that can spread lyme disease, into northern Europe as an example. Outbreaks of cholera and malaria in the developing world were a result of environmental shifts affecting parasites and water sources, she said.
. . South Asia was described in the session as particularly at risk because of its flood-prone low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, melting Himalayan glaciers, desert areas and large coastal cities, where climate change could facilitate disease transmission and exacerbate malnutrition pressures.
May 22, 07: Transcranial magnetic stimulation, a technique for treating clinical depression, uses a device placed on a patient's head that delivers a pulse to the gray matter. Psychiatrists at the American Psychiatric Association meeting here are unabashedly optimistic about its potential for treating tough cases. It's in the final stages of FDA review, and could come to market as soon as the end of the year. "It's much less invasive --patients can go home or go back to work afterwards."
. . TMS works by creating an electromagnetic pulse that doesn't disturb the skull or scalp, but can reach two to three centimeters into the brain to stimulate the prefrontal cortex and paralimbic blood flow, increasing the serotonin output and the dopamine and norepinephrine functions.
. . TMS can be done in an office setting and doesn't require anesthesia, which is needed for traditional ECT. Side effects include post-application headaches, muscle twitches and pain at the application site. The risk of seizure remains, but researchers worked very hard to avoid them, and they occurred very rarely.
. . The downside is that it takes 20 to 30 sessions of 40 minutes each for at least six weeks to get a good result. But patients stick with TMS treatment better than with medication or electroshock, researchers say. It's also being tested for treating migraines.
May 22, 07: Researchers have figured out how to spot genetic changes in the body that may help determine whether a tumor is shrinking or a drug is working, using standard imaging techniques.
. . They likened their discovery to a device featured on the television show "Star Trek" that, when passed over the body, revealed the molecular secrets within. "You don't have to invade the body in any way."
. . What they found was a way to translate the data from the images into a computer model that could predict what was going on with the genetic material within the tumors. The researchers said the technique may help eliminate the need for a biopsy. But first it needs to be tested on various types of cancers and diseases to see whether the translation tool is universal.
May 21, 07: Treating skin wounds with a gel made from a patient's own blood platelets speeded healing, researchers said in a study showing how doctors may be able to harness the body's innate healing ability. Skin wounds treated with this gel healed about 10% more quickly than wounds in the same people treated with only an antibiotic ointment.
May 18, 07: The latest skin-cancer prevention advice is to stop trusting sunscreen as the front line of defense against harmful rays. Instead, wear sunblocking clothing or stay out of the sun altogether, experts say.
. . Sunscreen has been shown to protect against UV skin damage as well as basal carcinomas and squamous cell carcinoma—two of the three most common skin cancers. However, it has not been conclusively shown to protect against melanoma , the most fatal kind.
. . While 80% of people are concerned about skin cancer, 54% have never been screened for skin cancer and 23% never examine their skin for changes to moles and blemishes, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Dermatology.
. . More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year, the AAD says, but when detected early, even melanoma is highly treatable.
May 17, 07: The genetic blueprint of the mosquito that spreads yellow and dengue fever is more complex than the one that carries malaria, and scientists are hoping to use the information to find ways to thwart the little killers. The genome, they said, could guide efforts to develop insecticides or to create genetically engineered versions of this mosquito that are unable or less able to transmit the viruses.
. . Researchers published the genome --a map of all the DNA-- of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, a connoisseur of human blood that spreads disease in tropical and sub-tropical locales worldwide.
. . It is one of only a handful of insects whose genomes have been laid bare, and the second mosquito species. The genome for Anopheles gambiae, which carries the parasite that causes malaria, was published in 2002. There are about 3,500 mosquito species, but these two cause the most human misery.
. . The researchers said the genome for Aedes is about five times larger than the one for Anopheles. Both have roughly 16,000 genes, they said, but Aedes is loaded up with "junk DNA" and other stuff whose function is unclear.
. . Aedes can transmit disease-causing viruses as it makes a meal out of human blood. Yellow fever, common in West and Central Africa and in parts of South America, kills about 30,000 people annually. A vaccine has been around for decades, but the number of people infected has risen in the past 20 years. Dengue occurs in about 100 countries in tropical areas of the world and kills about 25,000 people annually. There is no vaccine.
. . Mosquitoes first appeared 170 million years ago during the age of dinosaurs. The yellow fever and malaria mosquitoes are believed to have diverged evolutionarily from one another about 150 million years ago.
May 17, 07: Ministers have bowed to pressure to allow the creation of human animal hybrid embryos for research. When the ban was proposed last year there were fears among scientists it would hamper medical breakthroughs. Hybrid embryos will only be allowed for research into serious disease and scientists will require a licence.
. . Scientists welcomed the proposals put forward in the draft fertility bill, but opponents questioned the ethics of using human cells in this way. The draft bill allows the creation of human embryos that have been physically mixed with one or more animal cells. However, true animal-animal hybrids, made by the fusion of sperm and eggs, remain outlawed. And in all cases it would be illegal to allow embryos to grow for more than 14 days or be implanted into a womb.
. . Scientists say their work could help find cures for devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer's.
Claim: Xylitol (a sugar substitute used in sugar-free gum) can be harmful to dogs.
. . Status: True.
. . Just three grams of Xylitol can kill a 65-pound dog. Between eight and ten pieces of gum might be deadly to a 65-pound canine, but a smaller dog could easily die after ingesting far less (perhaps as few as two sticks of gum).
May 16, 07:Human embryonic stem cells can be transformed into the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, offering the potential to treat diabetes, Geron Corp. said.
. . The company worked with Canadian researchers who have specialized in a transplant technique called the Edmonton Protocol, which as been shown to restore insulin-producing cells in patients with type-1 diabetes.
. . The researchers said they produced islet-like clusters, which resemble the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In lab dishes, these cells produced insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, three of the major hormones produced by islet cells. The cells secreted insulin when they were treated with elevated glucose levels --something they are supposed to do in the body.
May 16, 07: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln may have come closer than previously realized to dying from smallpox shortly after delivering his Gettysburg Address, medical researchers said on Thursday.
. . After giving the Civil War speech, Lincoln became ill with symptoms of smallpox: high fever, weakness, severe pain in the head and back, "prostration" --an old-fashioned word for extreme fatigue-- and skin eruptions that lasted for three weeks in late 1863. Lincoln's doctors told him he suffered from a cold or a "bilious fever" before one physician told him he had a mild form of smallpox. "Lincoln's physicians attempted to reassure him that his disease was a mild form of smallpox, but that may have been to prevent the public from fearing that Lincoln was dying", said Dr. Armond Goldman.
. . Smallpox, which was eradicated in 1979, was widespread in the 1800s and killed 30% of first-time victims. There was a very crude vaccine, but few people were immunized in the 19th century. Those who were immunized could become infected, but with a mild form of the disease. Historians had assumed that Lincoln had this mild form and had been immunized.
. . But Goldman and co-researcher Frank Schmalstieg studied descriptions of Lincoln's symptoms. It appears he had the more severe infection that suggests he had not been immunized.
. . Smallpox, eradicated after a global vaccination campaign, remains the only human disease to have been fully eliminated by vaccination. Samples of the virus remain under lock and key, however.
May 15, 07: Scientists have found evidence that the kind of low-level exposure to sarin gas experienced by more than 100,000 U.S. troops in the first Gulf war can cause "lasting brain deficits", The New York Times reported.
May 15, 07: Scientists in Italy say they have identified a potential weapon against malaria living inside the blood-sucking mosquitoes that spread the disease --their internal bacteria.
. . Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, kills at least a million people annually. Most of the victims are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Its become resistant to some drugs, and work on a vaccine has been slow.
. . With attempts to completely eradicate mosquitoes or create a vaccine so far unsuccessful, the Italian scientists set out to find any bacteria that lived symbiotically inside the pests. Such bacteria could potentially be genetically altered later to attack the malaria parasite when it reaches the mosquito.
. . The team said it identified one candidate --a bacteria called Asaia, which is found throughout the mosquito's body. That includes the mosquito's gut and saliva gland as well as its reproductive organs, meaning that the altered bacteria could spread to mosquito offspring. Research into modifying bacteria like Asaia was being conducted to battle the deadly Chagas disease.
. . Chagas, spread by a beetle, can lead to a range of problems from heart disease to digestive tract malfunctions, and kills tens of thousands of people a year in Latin America.
May 14, 07: Scientists have found a potential target for treating up to 40% of breast cancers. A team from Canada's McGill U were able to block the action of an enzyme which fuels the growth of tumors.
. . They were able to delay cancer in mice with tumors which also respond to the drug Herceptin, but say other breast tumors may respond too. UK experts said a new drug could boost the benefits of existing treatments.
. . The enzyme studied by the Montreal team was PTP1B, which appears to "remove the brakes" on cell division, fuelling tumor growth. About 40% of human breast cancers have been shown to have excessively high levels of the enzyme. "However, it won't cure cancer alone. It's another tool to tackle cancers, perhaps particularly for HER-2 positive tumors. Combined with Herceptin, it may provide a 'two-way kill'."
. . In addition, other cancers including bone marrow tumors had also been shown to have too much PTP1B, indicating potential wider benefits.
May 14, 07: A new report claims the culling of badgers in Ireland has failed to stop the spread of bovine TB.
May 11, 07: The first case of a red squirrel dying in Scotland as a result of the squirrel pox virus has been confirmed.
May 10, 07: More than 200 proteins are affected in Huntington's disease, researchers reported, in a study that offers scientists many potential routes to finding treatments for the fatal brain disease.
. . Tests on fruit flies show that the mutated Huntington's protein that underlies the disease interacts with 200 other proteins, the researchers report. Many of these interactions damage brain cells.
. . "When you tinker with some of these genes, you find that some of them improve the symptoms. These could be potential therapeutic targets. When you tinker with others, it makes the Huntington's more aggressive. These might be ones that accelerate the age of disease onset. Not everyone with Huntington's develops symptoms at the same age."
. . An estimated 30,000 people have Huntington's disease in the US alone and it occurs worldwide in about 1 in every 10,000 people. There is no cure or effective treatment.
May 10, 07: Researchers have figured out how to switch on a gene in adult mice that repaired their hearts after a heart attack, a finding that may one day help fix heart damage in humans. The team at Columbia U Medical Center in New York found that by genetically manipulating a gene associated with cell growth, adult mice were able to make new cells to replace those damaged in a heart attack.
. . Heart cells in mice, and in humans, stop regenerating after birth. If the heart is damaged by a heart attack, it cannot create new cells to repair the damage and hearts become less efficient at pumping blood. "Heart cells don't divide at all in the mammal heart, and that's why we have so much mortality and morbidity."
. . The researchers induced a heart attack in the mice. At three months, the mice whose cyclin A2 genes had been switched on had 77% better heart function than the other mice.
May 10, 07: An Australian biotechnology firm said it had developed a means of delivering anti-cancer drugs directly to cancer cells, which aims to avoid the debilitating toxicity associated with chemotherapy. The method uses nanotechnology, which involves micro-machines far smaller than a human cell.
. . Direct targeting of chemotherapy drugs would allow dosages thousands of times lower than that in conventional chemotherapy and be more easily tolerated by patients, said the firm.
. . The biotech firm EnGeneIC said it had developed nano-cells containing chemotherapy drugs. Via antibodies on their surface, these nano-cells target and latch on to cancer cells. Once attached, the nano-cell is engulfed and the drug is released directly inside the cancer cell.
. . The firm said the bacterially derived nano-cell, called EnGeneIC delivery vehicles, had proven safe in primate trials and resulted in significant cancer regression. It hoped to carry out human trials later in 2007 if it gained approval from Australian, U.S., European and Japanese regulatory authorities.
May 8, 07: Despite earlier hopes, regular use of low-dose aspirin does not protect older, healthy women against cognitive decline, a major new study concludes. The findings may lay to rest the notion that aspirin can prevent age-related shortfalls in memory and thinking.
May 7, 07: Researchers in India have identified a protein in the tuberculosis bacteria which weakens the body's immune response to the deadly disease.
. . By knowing what the TB protein can do, the scientists hope to find another cure for treating the disease. The protein may also be harnessed to stop diseases which are caused by inflammation going out of control, such as hay fever, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis.
. . The scientists said the protein, ESAT-6, binds itself to a type of white blood cells and disrupts their ability to fight off harmful viruses and bacteria.
. . More than a third of the world's population is infected with TB and the infection rate is one every second. However, only one in 10 infected persons will develop symptoms and that usually happens when their immune systems are weak. Left untreated, TB, or Mycobacterium tuberculosis, kills half its victims.
. . The ESAT-6 protein in TB bacteria latches onto certain receptors called TLR2 on the surface of macrophages --a type of white blood cell. When that happens, the macrophages can't function properly. Macrophages are important "sentry cells" in our immune system. They engulf and digest invaders like viruses and bacteria, and stimulate other immune cells to fight the invaders.
May 7, 07: Stem cells made from human embryos can home in on damaged eyes, hearts and arteries of mice and rats, and appear to start repairs. Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology said it had devised a straightforward way to make blood vessel precursor cells out of the stem cells and plans to test them in humans.
. . "We figured out how to produce literally billions of so-called 'hemangioblasts' --the mythical cell in the embryo that gives rise to our entire blood and immune system as well as to the blood vessels in our body. We've also tested these cells in animals for the first time, and it turns out that they have incredible reparative potential."
. . Working with embryonic stem cells is not easy. For medical uses, researchers would like to partly differentiate them --start them down the road toward becoming a specific cell or tissue type. Another roadblock is that many of the current batches, or lines, of stem cells must be grown in a serum culture taken from animal blood. This can contaminate them with viruses.
. . Lanza's team said they found a way to grow and differentiate human embryonic stem cells without using culture. They directed the stem cells into becoming what they believe are hemangioblasts, the blood vessel precursor cells, although other teams will have to replicate this for it to be accepted. "When injected into the bloodstream, they homed to the other side of the body and repaired damaged vasculature within 24 to 48 hours", Lanza said.
. . "For example, we injected the cells into mice with damaged retinas due to diabetes or other eye injury. The cells (labeled green) migrated to the injured eye, and incorporated and lit-up the entire damaged vasculature. The cells are really smart, and amazingly, knew not to do anything in uninjured eyes."
. . The cells reduce the mortality rate by 50% after a massive heart attack", Lanza said. "If the same thing works in humans (these would be the same human cells we would probably use), you might be able to prevent patients from having legs and other limbs amputated by simply injecting some cells. We also have studies underway indicating that the cells can also considerably accelerate wound healing, repair lung damage, and can even generate unlimited amounts of red blood cells for transfusion", Lanza said.
May 4, 07: Scientists say they have a vaccine that stops mice getting a brain disease similar to BSE in cattle and which may ultimately protect humans against vCJD. Deadly prion diseases, like vCJD, are spread by consuming contaminated meat, and there is no cure or treatment. A vaccine that decreases the spread of prion disease in animals would reduce the risk of spread in humans, says the New York U team.
. . The diseases are caused by abnormal versions of prion proteins in the brain, which accumulate and cause brain damage, leading to dementia and abnormal limb movements. As the infection takes hold, prion proteins invade brain tissue and force normal proteins to adopt their own misfolded shape.
. . Many of the mice that received the oral vaccine had no symptoms of the disease after 400 days, while others had delayed disease onset. Without the vaccine, it would normally take a mouse 120 days to develop the disease.
. . Dr Wisniewski said they were now in the process of redesigning the vaccine so it could be used on deer and cattle, and possibly humans, too.
May 3, 07: A treasure hunt for genes has found that up to 3/4 of people of European descent have DNA that raises their risk for heart disease --and these genes are close to a stretch of DNA linked to diabetes.
. . The findings, made by two independent groups of researchers, may help explain why so many people have heart disease even if they do not have clear risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. And they could lead to a test to predict the risk of heart disease, the biggest cause of death across the globe.
. . "I think this is a stunner", Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, told reporters. "It seems like this one place carries all of that weight for two very common and very dangerous diseases."
. . Both teams used a new method of combing the genome for disease genes called a genome-wide association study, which was not possible until the full human genome was published in 2003. Now scientists can map the DNA of people with a disease, compare them to this template genome or to people without a disease, and find what is different.
. . The deCODE team found that about 21% of the people they tested had mutations in both copies of this DNA stretch, giving them a 64% higher risk of a heart attack than people who carried no copies of the mutation.
. . McPherson's team said 20 to 25% of Caucasians they tested carrying two mutated copies of 9q21 and had a 30 to 40% higher risk of coronary heart disease than people without the mutation. Half the people had one copy and they had a 15% to 20% higher risk of heart disease.
. . Africans did not appear to carry the mutations, and in African-Americans, the mutations were not associated with heart disease risk.
. . Collins said the coincidence was astonishing. "We are in the same place in the genome. Here is CDKN2B and 2A, their signal, exactly in the same place as where we found an association for type-2 diabetes", Collins told reporters.
. . While diabetes raises the risk of heart disease, the heart disease researchers made sure that the patients they scanned did not have diabetes. Collins said researchers will now have to look for a mechanism that explains why a single stretch of DNA could cause both conditions.
May 1, 07: A Brazilian spider delivers more than a painful bite that sends most victims to the hospital. Its venom stimulates an hours-long erection. Now scientists have figured out the chemical that seems to be responsible for the penis boost.
. . In Brazil, emergency room staff can immediately spot the victims of a bite from the Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria nigriventer). Patients not only experience overall pain and an increase in blood pressure, they also sport an uncomfortable erection.
. . About 18 million men in the US suffer from erectile dysfunction. Research has shown that about one in three men with mild to moderate forms of erectile dysfunction don’t respond to Viagra, with some of these men having success with either Levitra or Cialis. And men with severe erectile dysfunction have less success with the drugs.
. . They separated the different components of the spider venom and ran tests on rats to eek out the erectile enhancer. Dubbed Tx2-6, the compound turned out to be a relatively short string of amino acids called a peptide.
. . The scientists also found an increase in nitric oxide within the two main cylindrical cavities that run the length of the penis and are called corpora cavernosa. The significance of the nitric oxide is clear when the science behind an erection is considered: The brain senses sexual arousal in the body and certain neurons produce nitric oxide, a message telling the body to get started in making an erection. A cascade of biochemical steps occurs, one of which includes the production of an enzyme dubbed cGMP. This enzyme causes the smooth muscles of the penis’ two cylinders to relax so that blood can rush in and fill up the now expandable tubes. (A human penis can hold about 10 times more blood when erect compared with its non-erect state.)
. . But erections don’t last forever. The erectile party crasher, a substance called PDE-5 breaks down the cGMP and in turn transforms the erect penis into its normal limp state. The most popular erectile-dysfunction drugs -—Viagra, Cialis and Levtra—- work by blocking this party crasher.
. . The spider chemical works in a different manner, affecting an earlier step in the erection process. Somehow, the toxin ups the amount of nitric oxide, which sort of sets into motion an erection. The scientists suggest that a combination of a synthetic version of the spider venom with a drug like Viagra would result in a magnified effect. “So the combination of the two drugs could be even more efficient in patients that don’t respond well to Viagra”, Leite said.
May 1, 07: Scientists have found a possible cure for MRSA from an unlikely source -- American bullfrogs. St Andrews U researchers have developed a treatment which kills the bacterium. A key ingredient is ranalexin, produced by the frogs. A team led by microbiologist Dr Peter Coote found ranalexin had an inhibitory effect on MRSA when combined with another antimicrobial compound.
. . MRSA is responsible for approximately 2000 deaths every year in the UK. "Our finding represents a potentially novel way to combat MRSA via surface treatment or impregnation of wound dressings.
May 2, 07: A team of British doctors has carried out the world's first eye operations using gene therapy to try to cure a serious sight disorder. They operated on a small number of young adults with Leber's congenital amaurosis, a type of inherited childhood blindness caused by a single abnormal gene.
. . The condition prevents the retina from detecting light properly, resulting in progressive deterioration and severely impaired eyesight. There is no effective treatment.
. . The new experimental procedure involves inserting normal copies of the faulty RPE65 gene into cells of the retina --the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye-- using a harmless virus or vector. No complications so far.
. . The move into human testing follows 15 years of laboratory and animal experimentation, including tests on dogs whose vision was restored to the extent they could navigate a maze with ease.
. . "The eye is good for gene therapy because it is a simple organ and it is easy to see what is going on. There is hope that once gene therapy is developed in the eye, scientists could move on to more complex organs", he said.
May 2, 07: A new study using laboratory rats provides strong evidence that smoking during pregnancy can have lasting harmful effects on the developing heart.
. . Scientists found that adult offspring of laboratory rats who were exposed to nicotine prenatally showed clear signs of heart dysfunction. "The finding supports a very exciting area of research called 'fetal programming of cardiovascular disease.' This occurs not only with nicotine but with many other insults that may occur during fetal development", Zhang said.
. . In the study, the Loma Linda team treated rats with nicotine while they were pregnant and up to 10 days after delivery. The researchers then assessed the cardiac function of 3-month old male and female offspring. Zhang's group observed that prenatal nicotine treatment significantly decreased coronary blood flow in adult female offspring.
. . In both male and female offspring, prenatal nicotine exposure significantly increased the susceptibility of the heart to injury. Again, the effect of nicotine was more pronounced in females than in males.
. . An estimated 11% of American women smoke during pregnancy. The harmful effects of nicotine exposure to their fetuses and newborns are significant. For example, a 2004 report found that women who smoked during pregnancy had children who were much higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome. The new study shows that smoking during pregnancy can lead to heart and vascular dysfunction beyond the formative years and into adulthood.
May 1, 07: Scientists have identified a molecule that could eventually help determine how to better treat highly lethal pancreatic cancer. The report said a certain pattern found in a microRNA --a short ribonucleic acid molecule-- may help tell the difference between chronic pancreatitis, an acute inflammation, and pancreatic cancer, thus helping distinguish long and short term survival time for patients with the cancer.
. . "Data such as ours in which it is possible to begin to differentiate between patients with better or worse prognoses, may help guide the clinician when determining who should or should not receive aggressive therapy."
. . Pancreatic cancer kills about 33,000 people each year in the US. It spreads easily and is resistant to chemotherapy.
May 1, 07: Mental stimulation and drug treatment may help people with brain ailments such as Alzheimer's disease regain seemingly lost memories, according to research. Scientists used two methods to reverse memory loss in mice with a condition like Alzheimer's --placing them in sort of a rodent Disneyland to stimulate their brains, and also using a type of drug that encourages growth of brain nerve cells.
. . Tsai said if apparently lost long-term memories could be retrieved, this suggested the memories had not been actually erased from the brain. Instead, she and colleagues reported in the journal Nature, the memories probably remained in storage but could not be accessed or retrieved due to the brain damage.
May 1, 07: Brain scans showing how cannabis affects brain function may help explain why heavy consumption of the drug triggers psychosis and schizophrenia in a small number of people, scientists said.
. . Psychiatrists are increasingly concerned about the mental health impact of smoking large amounts of modern super-strength marijuana, or skunk, particularly among young people. Until now, the mechanism by which cannabis works on the brain has been a mystery but modern scanning techniques mean experts can now detect its impact on brain activity.
. . Work using magnetic resonance imaging --MRI-- showed patients given the active cannabis compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) had reduced function in the inferior frontal cortex brain region. This area is associated with controlling inappropriate emotional and behavioral responses to situations. "What THC seems to do is switch off that part of the brain, and that was associated with how paranoid people became", McGuire said.
. . One reason for the growing problem is thought to be the increasing strength of modern strains of cannabis, which are cultivated to produce the maximum amount of THC. In recent years, the average THC content of marijuana sold in Britain has doubled to 12% from around 6%, while in the Netherlands it is about 18%.
. . Most users of cannabis still do not have a problem with the drug, but a minority, possibly because of genetic factors, are vulnerable to long-term damage.
. . The rise in THC content is linked with a decline in another active ingredient called cannabidiol (CBD), since the two products compete biochemically inside the cannabis plant. CBD, which reduces anxiety but does not produce the euphoric high of THC, may help offset some of the paranoid feelings.
. . Markus Leweke of Cologne U said a clinical trial involving 42 patients showed CBD was as effective as the established medicine amisulpride, sold as Solian by Sanofi-Aventis, in treating patients with psychosis. "It seems there are good guys and bad guys within cannabis", Leweke said.
Apr 27, 07: Modern humans are bacteria-killing machines. We assassinate microbes with hand soap, mouthwash and bathroom cleaners. It feels clean and right.
. . But some scientists say we're overdoing it. All this killing may actually cause diseases like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and even diabetes. The answer, they say, is counterintuitive: Feed patients bacteria.
. . "Probiotics (pills containing bacteria) have resulted in complete elimination of eczema in 80% of the people we've treated", says Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., a practicing physician and former member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Pizzorno says he's used probiotics to treat irritable bowel disease, acne and even premenstrual syndrome. "It's unusual for me to see a patient with a chronic disease that doesn't respond to probiotics."
. . In sheer numbers, bacterial cells in the body outnumber our own by a factor of 10, with 50 trillion bacteria living in the digestive system alone, where they've remained largely unstudied until the last decade. As scientists learn more about them, they're beginning to chart the complex symbiosis between the tiny bugs and our health.
. . "The microbes that live in the human body are quite ancient. They've been selected (through evolution) because they help us." And it now appears that our daily antibacterial regimens are disrupting a balance that once protected humans from health problems, especially allergies and malfunctioning immune responses.
. . "After the Second World War, when our lifestyles changed dramatically, allergies increased. Autoimmune diseases like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease are increasing", says Kaarina Kukkonen, a University of Helsinki allergy expert. "The theory behind (what causes) the diseases is the same: Lacking bacterial stimulation in our environments may cause this increase. I think this is the tip of the iceberg."
. . In a recent study, Kukkonen and her colleagues gave a probiotic containing four strains of gut bacteria to 461 infants labeled as high risk for developing allergic disorders. After two years, the children were 25% less likely than those given a placebo to develop eczema, a type of allergic skin inflammation.
. . Microbial exposures early in life, scientists believe, cause mild inflammation that calibrates the body's responses to other pathogens and contaminants later in life. Without exposure as infants, researchers say, people can end up with unbalanced immune systems.
. . "Many of the most difficult problems in medicine today are chronic inflammatory diseases", says Blaser. "These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, atherosclerosis, eczema and multiple sclerosis. One possibility is that they're autoimmune or genetic diseases. The other possibility is that they are physiological responses to changes in microbiota."
. . Blaser's specialty is Helicobacter pylori, a strain once common in every human stomach but now rare in the West. Its disappearance may have benefits: H. pylori-related inflammation is associated with peptic ulcers and some stomach cancers. However, H. pylori also reduces acid reflux, which in turn is associated with asthma and esophageal cancers.
. . H. pylori's decline, says Blaser, correlates with a rapid rise in those afflictions. H. pylori deficiency may also contribute to obesity, he says, because the bacteria help regulate production of two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that affect metabolism and appetite.
. . Low levels of Bacteroidetes have also been linked to obesity. Studies indicate that bacterial imbalances are associated with irritable bowel syndrome, post-surgical infections and type 1 diabetes.
. . "The world is very aware of the concept of global warming, which is a macro-ecological change", Blaser says. "I postulate that there are similar micro-ecological changes going on inside us."
Apr 27, 07: Finnish scientists hope reindeer living in the Arctic Circle could help find a cure for a disfiguring tropical disease. Researchers have found filarioidea-family maggots --responsible for elephantiasis in humans-- in reindeers in Kuusamo, less than 100 km from the Arctic Circle. They are now studying how the spread of the worm could be prevented. It seems filarioidea worms do not cause any diseases in reindeer and have not spread to cattle.
. . Elephantiasis, known officially as lymphatic filariasis, is a disfiguring disease spread by mosquitoes to humans --& will move north with them. It can cause limbs to swell up to several times of their normal size, as well as fever and pain.
Apr 27, 07: The most thorough probe to date of the genetic underpinnings of the most common form of diabetes has identified a new batch of genes that increases risk for a disease affecting 200 million people globally.
. . The findings by four international teams of researchers provided great insight into the role played by genes in a disease also tremendously influenced by behavior --eating too much and exercising too little. They identified at least eight genes that are clear diabetes risk factors --including three previously unknown ones-- and several other likely risk factors that merit further attention. All are common in the general population.
. . The scientists hope the findings can help guide development of new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult-onset diabetes, and genetic tests to determine a person's predisposition for developing it.
Apr 26, 07: A single dose of morphine was found to lower the inhibitions of rats, even after the drug had left their systems, a finding that may help scientists better understand addiction in humans, U.S. researchers said.
Apr 24, 07: Pregnant women in Africa can reduce their risk of miscarriage or still birth by up to a third by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets. The UK scientific research is likely to bolster calls for treated mosquito nets to be made more widely available to pregnant women and children in Africa. Malaria is a preventable disease that kills more than 1m people a year, 90% of them in Africa - mostly children. The number of babies born with a low weight also fell --by about 25%.
. . A treated net costs about $4 --simply too much for many African families.
Apr 24, 07: Elderly people who are depressed are more likely to become diabetic than those who are not, according to a study that suggests depression may play a role in causing the most common form of diabetes.
. . Researchers said people with a high number of symptoms of depression were about 60% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes, than people not considered depressed.
. . Unlike some other studies examining a link between depression and diabetes, this one looked at the effects not only of single bouts of depression but also of chronic depression and depression that worsened over time. It found an increased risk for diabetes in each of those scenarios.
. . While the study did not explore possible biological mechanisms, Carnethon said a high level of the stress hormone cortisol in depressed people may be the reason. Diabetes is marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in the production or action of insulin, which allows glucose to enter the body's cells for use as fuel. High cortisol levels, the researchers said, may cut insulin sensitivity and raise fat deposits around the waist.
. . "Diabetes not only causes heart disease, but is strongly related to strokes, blindness, kidney failure, amputations. Diabetes is a very serious condition that's highly prevalent in older adults", Carnethon said. Diabetes is a growing worldwide problem, closely tied to obesity. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 95% of all cases.
Apr 24, 07: US scientists have opened the way for the development of a "bionic eye".
. . They used electrodes to stimulate an area of the brain that processes visual info. The results in monkeys increase the chance that people with conditions such as glaucoma will one day have their vision restored with a prosthetic eye. But experts warned it would be a big hurdle to implant enough electrodes to recreate an entire image in the mind. The goal is to bypass the eye and stimulate the visual parts of the brain to recreate an image in the mind.
. . The team used normal-sighted monkeys to test whether stimulating an area of the thalamus deep in the brain could produce a visual signal. First they trained the monkeys to look at suddenly illuminated points of light. Then they placed one or two very fine electrodes into the appropriate area of the brain to see what their reaction would be. They found that the monkeys moved their gaze in the same way they would if a point of light appeared.
. . "We need to increase the number of electrodes 100-fold before this would be useful in patients." He explained that lots of electrodes would need to work together for patients to distinguish patterns and therefore full images. The idea is that eventually a patient would wear a special set of glasses with a small digital camera mounted in the lens.
Apr 23, 07: An experimental drug may be able to compensate for the genetic error responsible for some cases of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, US scientists hope.
. . In rodents, the drug PTC124 was able to restore the muscle function normally lost in this disease. Trials have already begun in humans, although the results will take years. The drug works by allowing cells to read through certain mistakes in the genetic code for a protein -dystrophin- missing in 15% of patients with DMD.
. . There are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms, such as muscle spasm, and enable people with MD to lead a good quality of life. There is currently no cure. But scientists are striving to find a way of reversing or preventing the muscle damage.
Apr 23, 07: A cheaply-produced molecule may be the key to treating a variety of cancers, claim Canadian researchers. Dicholoroacetate (DCA) has been suggested for years as a possible treatment for certain rare metabolic disorders in children. The U of Alberta team now say it could encourage cancer cells to die. Experts say much more research will be needed before an effective cancer treatment can emerge.
. . When the molecule was added to cancer tissue in the laboratory, it suppressed tumour growth --and also showed some signs of working in animals. Healthy tissue showed no ill-effects. However, no human experiments have been carried out yet.
Apr 23, 07: A virus in the U.S. Great Lakes that has killed tens of thousands of fish in recent years is spreading and poses a threat to inland fish farming, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said. The pathogen, viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, causes internal bleeding in fish. It does not harm humans, even if they eat infected fish.
. . The federal agency issued an emergency order in October to limit movement of live fish caught in the eight states bordering the Great Lakes and two Canadian provinces. "The virus could potentially affect the catfish industry", she said. Catfish make up the largest sector of the $1 billion U.S. aquaculture industry, accounting for $462 million in sales.
. . There is little the government can do to prevent the spread of the disease, other than limiting human movement of fish that may have the virus. Fish caught in the Great Lakes may be used as bait in other parts of the country, with extra fish dumped into the water. Commercial farms sometimes get their breeding stock from wild fish. However, fish migrate naturally and the Great Lakes does connect with the Mississippi River, a major waterway that runs to the Gulf of Mexico.
. . Scientists believe the VHS virus has been in the Great Lakes since 2003. Its origin is unknown but researchers think it may have come from bilge water released from one or more of the hundreds of ocean-going vessels plying the Lakes. Another strain of the virus has affected trout and other freshwater fish raised commercially in Europe for several years.
Apr 23, 07: Scientists in China have identified a gene variant which appears to protect Chinese people from various types of cancer.
. . Experts said they had studied the DNA of nearly 10,000 Chinese people over 6- years and had found that the gene variant appeared far more frequently in those who were cancer-free. The gene variant showed up in 25% of those who were cancer-free, and in 20% of those who had cancer.
. . It is well known that the gene caspase-8 (CASP8) regulates cell death. Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is important because it prevents cells from dividing and spreading uncontrollably, a process that can result in cancer. However, scientists know little about the variants of this gene and the roles they play in cancer susceptibility.
Apr 23, 07: Evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson's disease is stronger than it has ever been after a meeting of experts who have put together links in animals and people, scientists say. It affects more than 1 million patients in the US, is marked by the death of brain cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or message-carrying chemical, associated with movement. Drugs can delay symptoms for a while but there is no good treatment and no cure.
. . One study shows that farm workers who used the common weedkiller paraquat had two to three times the normal risk of Parkinson's, a degenerative brain disease that eventually paralyzes patients.
. . A second study shows that animals exposed to paraquat have a build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein in their brains. This protein has been linked to Parkinson's in the past. A third piece of the puzzle shows that this buildup of protein kills the same brain cells affected in Parkinson's.
. . What made the studies especially important was that pesticide exposure could be carefully documented through records of pesticide purchase.
. . Two other groups of people that have a higher-than-average risk of Parkinson's are health workers and teachers. "At first glance, that doesn't make sense", Langston said. But both do have something in common --frequent exposure to viruses.
Apr 20, 07: One gene directs both embryonic and adult stem cells to perform the self-renewal function that is crucial in their potential broad use in medical treatments, researchers said.
. . While the biology of these types of stem cells is very different, a study published in the journal Cell showed that they share at least this one key feature -- a gene called Zfx that controls their ability to self-renew.
. . "For quite a while, one outstanding question in the field was whether this self-renewal of embryonic stem cells and adult tissue-specific stem cells has a common molecular basis", Reizis said. "Basically there were data both for it and against it, and overall it's one big controversy."
. . Reizis said his finding demonstrates the common molecular basis in the role of Zfx, a type of gene that controls the action of other genes. He said that a greater understanding of how this gene works might enable scientists to boost the self-renewal of different kinds of stem cells, which could help for example in producing embryonic stem cells for use in medical research or potential future treatments.
Apr 18, 07: Two studies published today further link hormone replacement therapy with cancer, suggesting --but not yet proving-- that HRT causes breast and ovarian cancer.
Apr 18, 07: Argentine scientists said they had created four cloned and genetically modified calves capable of producing human insulin in their milk, a step they said could cut the cost of treating diabetes.
. . The newborn Jersey heifers will start producing the human hormone when they reach adulthood. Once milk is obtained from the genetically modified cow, it will be purified and refined to extract the insulin. Similar techniques have already been used to produce human proteins in goats and cows.
. . There are about 200 million diabetics worldwide, and the Argentine scientists said just 25 insulin-producing cows would be enough for Argentina's 1.5 million diabetics. The initial source of insulin in medicine was from cow, horse, pig or fish pancreases, because it is almost the same as human insulin. Most insulin is currently produced by genetically engineered bacteria in tanks.
Apr 16, 07: The cause of high blood pressure may lie within the brain, rather than with problems relating to the heart, kidneys or blood vessels, research suggests. Scientists at Bristol University say the findings could lead to new ways of treating the condition, which affects about one in five Britons.
. . They isolated a protein, JAM-1, in the brain which appeared to trap white blood cells, obstructing blood flow. This can cause inflammation and result in poor oxygen supply to the brain. Professor Julian Paton and colleagues believe these, in turn, trigger events that raise blood pressure.
Apr 15, 07: Cells that are supposed to nourish and support other nerve cells instead secrete the poisons that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, researchers reported. Two reports may show new ways to treat the degenerative nerve disease, which slowly paralyzes its victims until they die.
. . Both teams showed that the nerve cells called astrocytes, which support and feed neurons, turn toxic when they carry a mutated gene called SOD1, which has been linked with ALS in the past.
. . They created astrocytes carrying the mutated human SOD1 gene. Astrocytes are one of the types of glial cells --support cells in the brain and nervous system that secrete various compounds that nourish neurons.
When SOD1 is mutated in these glial cells, Przedborski and colleagues found, one of the nourishing proteins apparently turns toxic. When they grew astrocytes with mutated SOD1, they killed the neighboring mouse motor neuron cells. "It was previously thought that astrocytes were merely spectators watching their neighboring motor neurons die", said Przedborski. "With these results, we have learned they are not just spectators, they are major players." If that particular bad protein can be identified, it might lead to a drug that could treat ALS. The use of embryonic stem cells can provide a good way to test potential treatments, both teams of researchers said.
. . Both studies used embryonic stem cells from mice to generate batches of cells that mimicked the disease. The researchers said the studies demonstrate that embryonic stem cells can be vital for basic medical research. Such batches of cells could also be used to test new drugs to treat the incurable and almost always fatal ALS, also known as motor neuron disease.
Apr 15, 07: Scientists have identified a handful of genes that boost the risk of developing Crohn's disease, confirming that the often debilitating inflammatory bowel ailment has a strong genetic component.
. . The researchers scanned the entire genome --all 22,000 genes-- of about 6,000 people. About half had Crohn's disease and half did not. Previous studies had identified two genes involved in the disease. "I think at this point we have probably up to about eight or nine genes, depending on how you define it", said John Rioux of the Montreal Heart Institute.
. . The researchers said the findings showed genetics play a crucial role in the disease, although environmental factors also are involved. For example, smoking raises one's risk. Pinpointing the genes that predispose people to Crohn's disease, the researchers said, could help lead to new ways to treat it. The disease, most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30, can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss and arthritis.
. . Experts think faulty responses to the microbes that live in the human digestive system somehow cause the immune system --the body's natural defenses-- to attack the lining of the digestive tract, making it decay and become inflamed.
April, 07: Scientific American. The Autism Diet: Can avoiding bread and milk ease the disorder?
. . If you can believe the many testimonials posted on the Web, a diet free of gluten and casein is a miracle treatment for autism. Parents of children suffering from the disorder, which is characterized by impaired social and communication skills, fervently describe astounding improvements that occurred as soon as they removed gluten (a mixture of plant proteins found in wheat, rye and barley) and casein (the main protein in dairy products) from their kids' meals. Surveys indicate that as many as 40% of children with autism have been placed on special diets at one time or another. This enthusiasm is grounded more in hope than in science; so far researchers have no good evidence that dietary interventions can alleviate the symptoms of autism. Recently, however, investigators have launched the first rigorous tests of the diets, and the results may be available within a year.
. . The assumption behind the diets is that people with autism often have gastrointestinal abnormalities that allow unusual amounts of digestive by-products into the body (the so-called leaky gut syndrome). The by-products of gluten and casein, according to one hypothesis, disrupt brain function by altering opioid activity, which is involved in pain regulation and social bonding. Another theory posits that the gut leakage triggers a harmful immune response. These hypotheses are far from rock-solid; in fact, scientists have not even confirmed that people with autism have a higher-than-normal incidence of gastrointestinal problems. But the causes of autism are so poorly understood and the disorder is so variable that some investigators are willing to consider the possibility that gluten and casein may somehow exacerbate symptoms in some children, perhaps just by producing intestinal discomfort.
Apr 13, 07: Many of the genes that cause diseases in humans can be found in macaque monkeys but not in our nearest relative, the chimpanzee, researchers reported in a study that sheds more light on what makes humans different.
. . A team of more than 170 scientists from around the world has sequenced the genome --the entire genetic map-- of the rhesus macaque, a monkey heavily used by medical researchers. They can use this information to "triangulate" their way through the genomes of primates --the family of mammals that includes humans, great apes and monkeys.
. . Humans and chimps split away from their common ancestor between 4 million and 7 million years ago, depending on the estimate. Macaques split off about 25 million years ago, so having their DNA map adds a new dimension when examining the genes.
. . While humans and chimps share about 98% of their DNA, macaques share about 93%.
. . Researchers have learned that where a gene ends up, physically, in the chromosomes affects its function. Jumping genes can cause inherited high cholesterol, also called familial hypercholesterolemia, breast cancer, hemophilia, and Tay-Sachs disease.
. . Macaques appear to have been exposed to more retroviruses than humans have. Retroviruses include the AIDS virus, and can make themselves a permanent part of an animal's DNA. This is important because macaques are widely used for testing AIDS vaccines and drugs. Most primates are immune to the AIDS virus but macaques can be infected with a related version called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV.
Apr 11, 07: Four genes gang up together to help cancer spread throughout the body, researchers said, including one affected by arthritis drugs. And a second study found that 87 different genes work to help make cancer more vulnerable to drug treatment. Both studies should help scientists develop more effective drugs to fight cancer
. . Cancer is highly treatable before it has spread. But once tumors break out of their initial spot in a process called metastasis, they are almost impossible to suppress for long.
. . They identified four genes that worked together to help breast cancer tumors spread to the lungs of mice. The genes are called EREG, MMP-1, MMP-2 and COX-2. Massague's team suppressed each gene one by one and found a small effect. "The remarkable thing was that while silencing these genes individually was effective, silencing the quartet nearly completely eliminated tumor growth and spread", Massague said.
. . Further experiments showed just what the genes do to help the tumors spread. The researchers injected cells lacking the four genes directly into mice. "When these cells reached the lung capillaries, they just got stuck there", Massague said. It appears that the cells use the four genes to break apart the walls of lung capillaries, get inside and start growing.
. . Researchers have already noticed that people who use drugs that affect COX-2, including aspirin, ibuprofen and the COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex, have a lower risk of some cancers. Celebrex, made under the chemical name celecoxib by Pfizer, and a cancer drug named Erbitux, made by Imclone Systems Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. under the chemical name cetuximab, work against two of the four genes.
. . Massague's team tested them together in the mice. "We found that the combination of these two inhibitory drugs was effective, even though the drugs individually were not very effective", said Massague. "This really nailed the case that if we can inactivate these genes in concert, it will affect metastasis."
. . A second team of researchers identified 87 different genes that, when turned down, helped certain chemotherapy drugs destroy tumors. Michael White and colleagues at the University of Texas screened practically the whole human genome to find the genes responsible for making lung tumor cells vulnerable to the cancer drug paclitaxel.
. . When they turned these genes down, they could kill cancer cells with paclitaxel, also known as Taxol, at doses 1,000 times lower than normally used. Some of the genes are already targeted by current cancer drugs, they said, and others are the basis of experimental cancer vaccines. Their findings may help explain why some chemotherapy agents work so poorly against some cancers, notably lung cancer. And it could help doctors use the highly toxic drugs at lower doses. "Chemotherapy is a very blunt instrument", White said. "It makes people sick, and its effects are very inconsistent. Identifying genes that make chemotherapy drugs more potent at lower doses is a first step toward alleviating these effects in patients."
Apr 11, 07: A flu vaccine grown in caterpillar cells instead of the usual risky and uncertain method based on chicken eggs is not only safe but effective in people, U.S. researchers reported. It is grown in a batch of cells taken from the fall armyworm, a kind of caterpillar. They said their findings suggest a possible short-cut to making flu vaccines, focusing on a single protein in the flu virus.
. . Dr. John Treanor of the U of Rochester in New York, who led the study, believes the vaccine may be quicker and easier to make than current vaccines and might help create a bigger supply of vaccines to fight the common seasonal flu as well as a future pandemic.

Apr 11, 07: Scientists have made an experimental --and apparently effective-- flu vaccine inside insect cells. They hope the technique could provide a way to produce vaccine quickly and in volume in the event of a flu pandemic.
. . At present, flu vaccine is produced in hens' eggs, but this is time-consuming, and each egg can only produce one dose of vaccine. Scientists believe it is inevitable that the world will face a flu pandemic in the future. Rapid development, production and distribution of a vaccine will be key to saving lives. Tests on 460 volunteers showed nobody who received a 135 microgram dose of the vaccine went on to develop the three strains of flu.
. . The researchers estimate that using insect cells rather than eggs to manufacture the vaccine could slice up to two months off a process that at present takes about six months to produce enough supplies to protect the US public. They also argue that not relying on chicken eggs might also be advisable in case a bird flu pandemic hits chicken flocks hard.

Apr 11, 07: Brazilian and US scientists have used transfusions of patients' own stem cells to reverse type 1 diabetes. People with the condition are known as insulin-dependent, and require regular shots of the hormone. But 14 out of 15 young people newly diagnosed with the condition no longer needed injections --sometimes for years-- following the stem cell treatment.
. . For unknown reasons, the number of British children under the age of five developing type 1 diabetes has risen five-fold in the last 20 years.
Apr 10, 07: Imagine you could treat cancer by taking a pill, then directing a laser light toward the location of the tumor. The growth would dissolve with no chemotherapy, and no harm to healthy tissue.
. . It might sound futuristic, but a select number of cancer patients already benefit from the method, called photodynamic therapy. An upgrade for the procedure could save thousands more cancer patients from the horrors of chemotherapy. "It's an approach that I really like", said Karen Brewer, a professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech and lead author. "We stand to make a really major improvement, instead of trying to treat one new kind of tumor or make the patient a little less sick."
. . Although chemotherapy has improved over the past decade, the treatment still damages healthy tissue and causes other unpleasant side effects like nausea and a weakened immune system. The researchers hope their work will spare patients from chemo's ravages and even the surgery usually necessary to remove a tumor.
. . "Rather than using a scalpel, you're using light and a molecule that then reacts with the cells", said William Phelps, scientific program director at the American Cancer Society. The new treatment, however, still needs to be tested head to head with the current version of photodynamic therapy, Phelps said.
Apr 9, 07: Human stem cells taken from both embryos and fetuses delayed a fatal brain and nerve disease in mice, moving throughout the brain to take on the jobs of damaged neurons, scientists reported.
. . They said their study represents the first time a human embryonic stem cell has successfully treated a disease in another animal. team hopes to move quickly to test their method in children with a fatal and incurable brain disease called Sandhoff disease.
. . They also said their approach could lead to ways to treat a range of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
. . For their study, Snyder and colleagues used mice bred with the equivalent of Sandhoff disease. Sandhoff is caused by a mutation in the gene for an enzyme called hexosaminidase or hex, which brain cells need to get rid of excess fatty material called lipids. When the lipids build up, brain cells die. It is similar to Tay-Sachs disease, and there is no treatment for either Tay-Sachs or Sandhoff. "Children with the disease have severe mental retardation and motor dysfunction, and death typically occurs in infancy." It is marked by inflammation that kills brain cells.
. . They transplanted into the brains of the mice and noted no problems. No tumors formed, the mice did not "reject" the foreign cells, and the treatment seemed to reduce inflammation.
Apr 10, 07: Stem cells taken from the muscles of female mice are better at regenerating tissue than those taken from male mice, a new study finds. This revelation could have a major impact on the development of stem cells as therapies.
. . The discovery came when scientists who had done many studies with these muscle stem cells realized that all of the ones they had used came from female mice. They then did an experiment with both male and female cells to see if they would perform similarly. “Regardless of the sex of the host, the implantation of female stem cells led to significantly better [results]."
Apr 10, 07: Swimming teachers and other people who spend a lot of time near chlorinated pools face an increased risk of breathing problems, Dutch researchers report.
Apr 5, 07: Treating cancer with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation may sometimes cause tumors to spread and U.S. researchers said they may have nailed down one of the causes --a compound called TGF-beta.
. . Tests in mice show that using the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin or radiation both raised levels of TGF-beta, which in turn helped breast cancer tumors spread to the lung. But using an antibody to block TGF-beta stopped the process, Dr. Carlos Arteaga and colleagues at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee reported. Developing drugs that block TGF-beta might help prevent cancer from recurring, Arteaga's team reports.
. . "The repopulation and progression of tumors after anti-cancer therapy is a well-recognized phenomenon", the researchers wrote. "It has been shown to occur following radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery."
. . Cancer experts have wondered if the so-called primary tumor --the first and biggest tumor-- might somehow suppress the growth of other tumors, and that removing or destroying the first tumor might allow other, undetectable, tumors to then grow. TGF-beta, which is involved in both the growth and suppression of tumors, may hold part of the answer, Arteaga's team said. "It probably isn't just TGF-beta that is having this effect", Arteaga said. Many other compounds, including some immune system signaling chemicals, are also associated with tumor spread and growth.
Apr 4, 07: China and Pakistan, leaders in worldwide "transplant tourism", are bowing to outside pressure and cracking down on trafficking in human kidneys taken from executed prisoners and the poor, experts said today.
Apr 3, 07: This month the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Genome Atlas will start receiving tissue samples that will be used to map the genetic data embedded in cancer cells. The side effect of this effort? An avalanche of data.
Apr 2, 07: Scientists have developed a way of converting one blood group into another. The technique potentially enables blood from groups A, B and AB to be converted into group O negative, which can be safely transplanted into any patient.
. . The method, which makes use of newly discovered enzymes, may help relieve shortages of blood for transfusions.
Apr 2, 07: British scientists have grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time. Heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub, who led the team, said doctors could be using artificially grown heart components in transplants within three years.
. . Sir Magdi told the Guardian newspaper a whole heart could be produced from stem cells within 10 years. The team which spent 10 years working on the project included physicists, pharmacologists, clinicians and cellular scientists. Previously, scientists have grown tendons, cartilages and bladders, which are all less complex. Apr 4, 07: His team extracted stem cells from bone marrow and cultivated them into heart valve cells. Later in the year, these will be implanted into animals such as sheep or pigs to see how well they fare.
Apr 1, 07: Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer are more than twice as likely to die of the disease than their leaner peers, a new study shows. They also have more than triple the risk that the cancer will spread beyond their prostate gland.
Apr 1, 07: Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may lower men's chances of developing advanced prostate cancer, a new study shows.
. . But it is "premature to recommend the use of statins for the prevention of prostate cancer", write the researchers. Overall, statin use didn't appear to sway the men's chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
. . But advanced prostate cancer was a different story. Men taking statin drugs were about half as likely to have advanced prostate cancer as those not taking statins, even after taking other risk factors (such as age) into account. The longer men had been taking statins, the less likely they were to have advanced prostate cancer, the study shows.
. . A vaccine against advanced prostate cancer could soon hit the US market after a key health panel recommended that federal regulators approve it, the vaccine's maker said. The FDA is expected to decide whether to approve Provenge by May 15.
. . The Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee recommended to the FDA that there was "substantial evidence of efficacy and safety" of Provenge for the treatment of patients with asymptomatic, metastatic, androgen-independent prostate cancer, Dendreon said. The FDA generally follows the panel's recommendations, but it is not required to do so.
. . Dendreon-funded clinical trials on 127 prostate cancer patients who no longer responded to hormone treatments had shown promising results. After three years, 34% of men treated with Provenge were still alive compared to 11% who were given a placebo, according to the study. Patients taking Provenge lived on average four and a half months longer than the others.
Apr 1, 07: Ciguatera poisoning is a rarely fatal but growing menace from eating tropical fish --like barracuda. Experts estimate that up to 50,000 people worldwide suffer ciguatera poisoning each year, with more than 90% of cases unreported. Scientists say the risks are getting worse, because of damage that pollution and global warming are inflicting on the coral reefs where many fish species feed.
. . Dozens of popular fish types, including grouper and barracuda, live near reefs. They accumulate the toxic chemical in their bodies from eating smaller fish that graze on the poisonous algae. When oceans are warmed by the greenhouse effect and fouled by toxic runoff, coral reefs are damaged and poison algae thrives, scientists say.
. . "We have more toxins, more species of algae producing the toxins and more areas affected around the world." Although risk of ciguatera has soared recently, the phenomenon is ancient. Fish poisoning shows up in Homer's Odyssey. Alexander the Great forbade his armies to eat fish for fear of being stricken, according to U of Hawaii professor Yoshitsugi Hokama. Capt. James Cook and his crew probably suffered ciguatera poisoning in 1774 after eating fish near Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Some South Pacific islanders use dogs to test fish before they eat.
. . But in the past decade, it has spread through Asia, Europe and the US, where more restaurants are serving reef fish, prized for their fresh taste and exotic cachet. In the US, ciguatera poisonings are most frequent in Florida, Texas and Hawaii, which has seen a fivefold increase since the 1970s to more than 250 a year. Hong Kong, which imports much of its seafood, went from fewer than 10 cases annually in the 1980s to a few hundred now.
. . Should global warming and pollution worsen and boost ciguatera poisonings, as most experts predict, health officials will face a daunting challenge. Currently, there is no reliable way to detect whether a fish has ciguatera. The molecule is extremely complex and differs markedly from region to region. There also is no antidote. Furthermore, doctors are often ill-equipped to diagnose ciguatera, which has a range of symptoms and is sometimes misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or other maladies.
Apr 1, 07: Scientists have identified several genetic risk factors for prostate cancer, shedding new light on the cause of a leading worldwide cancer killer among men that hits U.S. blacks especially hard. "The importance of it is that this is the first real evidence of the genetic basis of prostate cancer", said Dr. Brian Henderson.
. . The researchers described seven genetic risk factors --DNA sequences present in some people but not others-- bunched in a relatively small region of one of the human chromosomes, chromosome 8, that reliably predicted one's probability of developing prostate cancer. Five were newly discovered and two confirmed earlier findings.
. . Henderson said the disease's greater prevalence among blacks had hinted at some sort of a genetic basis for it. The findings also could lead to ways to sort out who is at highest risk by finding if a man has one of the genetic risk factors, and for early diagnosis of the disease. About two-thirds of cases are in men over age 65. The American Cancer Society said men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have higher risk.
. . Harvard geneticist David Reich said that until last year, when deCODE published narrower earlier findings, there had been no confirmed genetic risk factors for prostate cancer. "I think it's likely there are other genetic risk factors either in this section of the genome or elsewhere that we and others have not yet identified."
Mar 30, 07: Patients are buying an experimental cancer drug over the internet, it has been reported. The drug, called DCA, has been shown to shrink tumours in rats but tests on humans are years away. DCA, or dichloroacetate, is a small molecule that blocks an enzyme in mitochondria --which generate energy in cells and also control cell suicide.
. . However, Nature magazine reports some terminally ill patients are taking the drug because they do not want to wait for the research. UK cancer experts warned patients there was no evidence DCA was beneficial, and said it could cause harm.
. . Dr Evangelos Michelakis, of the U of Alberta in Canada, who has been investigating the drug, found the cancer cells turned off the suicide switch. Tests he carried out on rats showed DCA can reignite the switch, and prompt the cells to die. Tumors shrank by around 75% within three weeks.
Mar 30, 07: Smokers can be deadweights around the office with lower working performance and more sick days taken than their non-smoking colleagues, two new studies suggest.
. . In one study, researchers monitored the career progression of more than 5,000 women entering the U.S. Navy between 1996 and 1997. Daily smokers, they found, showed poorer job performances than non-smokers. Compared with non-smoking participants, frequent tobacco users were more likely to quit before serving their full term, were involved in more incidents of early discharge due to bad behavior and displayed a higher rate of personality disorders, researchers report.
. . In a separate new study, non-smokers took the least amount of days off while smokers took the most sick leave, an average of 11 extra days—more than 2 full-time work weeks. After adjusting for type of job plus health and socioeconomic factors, they reported the difference in sick leave between smokers and non-smokers to be about eight days, or 1.5 work weeks.
Mar 29, 07: U.S. health officials withdrew the Parkinson's disease drug pergolide from the market, citing a history of safety concerns that include potentially fatal heart valve damage.
Mar 23, 07: The drug classification system in the UK is not "fit for purpose" and should be scrapped, scientists said. They have drawn up an alternative system which they argue more accurately reflects the harm that drugs do.
. . The new ranking system places alcohol and tobacco in the upper half of the league table, as more dangerous than cannabis and several Class A drugs such as ecstasy. The Academy of Medical Sciences group plans to put its recommendations to ministers in the autumn.
. . It assesses 20 different drugs on the harm they do to the individual, to society and whether or not they induce dependence. Alcohol was rated the fifth most dangerous substance, and tobacco ninth. Heroin was rated as the most dangerous drug, followed by cocaine and barbiturates. Ecstasy, however, rated only 18th, while cannabis was 11th.
Mar 23, 07: Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation linked with colon cancer that may work like a spigot, controlling the number of precancerous growths that develop and determining a person's susceptibility to cancer. They said the finding could point to new ways to diagnose, treat and possibly even prevent colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the US after lung cancer.
. . Patients with locally advanced cancer are not usually curable, and a substantial fraction will eventually die of the tumor, though median survival may be as long as 5 years. If prostate cancer has spread to distant organs, current therapy will not cure it. Median survival is usually 1 to 3 years, and most such patients will die of prostate cancer. Even in this group of patients, however, indolent clinical courses lasting for many years may be observed.
. . A substantial proportion of patients with elevated or rising PSA levels after surgery may remain clinically free of symptoms for extended periods of time.[39] Biochemical evidence of failure on the basis of elevated or slowly rising PSA alone therefore may not be sufficient to alter treatment. For example, in a retrospective analysis of nearly 2,000 men who had undergone radical prostatectomy with curative intent and who were followed for a mean of 5.3 years, 315 men (15%) demonstrated an abnormal PSA of 0.2 ng/mL or higher, which is evidence of biochemical recurrence. Of these 315 men, 103 men (34%) developed clinical evidence of recurrence. The median time to development of clinical metastasis after biochemical recurrence was 8 years. After the men developed metastatic disease, the median time to death was an additional 5 years.
Mar 19, 07: Lifting the ban on taxpayer funding of research on new stem cells from fertilized embryos would better serve both science and the nation, the chief of the National Institutes of Health told lawmakers. Allowing the ban to remain in place, Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni told a Senate panel, leaves his agency fighting "with one hand tied behind our back."
. . Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said contamination of the 21 embryonic lines available under the ban make it unlikely they ever will be used in treating humans.
. . Zerhouni, in answering questions from Harkin and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the only subcommittee members present for his testimony, said the limited number of cell lines aren't sufficient to do needed research.
Mar 20, 07: Mosquitoes genetically engineered to resist infection with a malaria parasite outbreed their normal cousins and might be used to help control malaria, U.S. researchers said.
. . They said their study suggests that releasing such genetically altered insects could help battle malaria, which kills up to 3 million people a year around the globe, most of them small children.
. . They studied mosquitoes with an extra gene spliced in that helps stop them from transmitting the Plasmodium berghei parasite. Previous studies have already shown that these mosquitoes are perfectly healthy.
Mar 19, 07: At least 70% of all new drugs introduced in the US in the past 25 years come from nature despite the use of sophisticated techniques to design products in the lab, researchers reported.
. . Drug discovery hit a 24-year low in 2004, with just 25 unique compounds known as new chemical entities introduced that year, said David Newman, who runs the U.S. National Cancer Institute's natural products branch. His study found more than two-thirds of all drugs discovered in the last quarter-century have come from nature. He believes linking nature with advanced chemistry techniques that combine a vast array of molecules to speed drug development will likely yield much more fruitful results.
. . Aspirin, a staple in most medicine cabinets, was originally obtained from the willow tree. The widely used chemotherapy treatment Taxol was derived from Pacific yew tree. "Even though it is made in a different way now, it is absolutely identical to the material that comes from the yew."
. . Likewise, the colon cancer treatment irinotecan, a standard chemotherapy that interferes with the growth of cancer cells, and topotecan, a chemotherapy used for ovarian cancer and lung cancer, are both modifications of the tree Camptotheca acuminata, a native of China.
. . In fact, Newman and Cragg found that about half of all anti-cancer drugs introduced since the 1940s are either natural products or medicines derived directly from natural products. "A chemist would never conceive of making Taxol unless he or she had seen Taxol first."
Older TB vaccines 'work better'. They may be more effective than more modern vaccines, say scientists.
Mar 19, 07: UK scientists believe in the future they will be curing babies in the womb of serious diseases with the use of gene therapy. The work is controversial not just because of the ethics but also safety concerns. A few years ago, France and the US suspended gene therapy trials after a child who had undergone treatment at the age of three developed cancer.
. . Gene therapy is a way of treating disease by either replacing damaged or abnormal genes with normal ones or by providing new genetic instructions to help fight disease. These therapeutic genes can be transferred into the patient attached to a non-threatening virus or similar carrier "vector" which is injected it into the body.
. . Scientists have already successfully treated patients with haemophilia and infants with rare "bubble boy" disease, who have no immune system, using gene therapy.
. . The hope is that, at the fetal stage, the immune system is not yet developed sufficiently to prevent the effect of the implanted genes. Scientists believe the treatment could also be more powerful in babies who are still developing and whose cells are rapidly multiplying. Plus, it could provide a cure before the disease has had chance to cause any damage in the potential child.
Mar 16, 07: Stem cell researchers in England used stem cells to create irises in people born with aniridia, a rare genetic disease that prevents iris formation. Being born without an iris leads to decreased vision, cataracts, and --in some cases-- even glaucoma. The stem cells were taken from cadavers.
. . In other news, researchers from Japan grew new corneas from stem cells. They haven't transplanted them into humans yet, but a Center City doctor has.
. . Brandon Ayers from the Willis Eye Institute created and transplanted a "keratoprosthesis" from donated corneal tissue and the results --assuming they're not hype-- were pretty amazing.
Mar 16, 07: The mineral [& element] zinc may play a role in the development of a common cause of blindness, research suggests. 40% of people aged over 75 have it. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among elderly people in the developed world.
. . Researchers found high zinc levels in deposits in the eye which are a marker for AMD development. An early sign of the disease is the formation of microscopic structures called drusen in the eye. Exactly what the effects of these are and why they form is not yet fully understood. The latest research found that drusen in eyes with AMD contain very high levels of zinc.
. . "AMD can be considered as the Alzheimer's disease of the eye, in that both involve the build-up of proteins and metals like zinc and copper into microscopic clumps." The researchers found that a small pool of the zinc --5-10%-- was of a type known as loosely-bound or free zinc. Generally, zinc is essential to keeping a molecule's shape, but free zinc can cause lots of problems.
. . They believe, because it is a small proportion of the overall zinc pool, it should be straightforward to target it. Alzheimer's researchers are already developing drugs that can capture free zinc, and hope that their use will be able to slow down the degenerative process.
Mar 15, 07: Little glitches in the DNA of people with autism suggest that the disease might be caused by as many as 100 different genes, researchers reported. The study is one of several new reports on autism in recent months, which have shown the disease is far more common and more complex than many experts had believed.
. . The small changes are not what people usually think of as genetic mutations but are called copy number variations --extra copies or missing stretches of DNA. For instance, one child with Asperger syndrome was missing DNA from a stretch of 27 genes. The findings suggest that autism spectrum disorder may involve 100 or more genes, the researchers report.
. . The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported it affects about one in every 150 children. Some advocacy groups believe an environmental factor, such as mercury, must be damaging the genes to cause autism.
Mar 11, 07: Human stem cells taken from both embryos and fetuses delayed a fatal brain and nerve disease in mice, moving throughout the brain to take on the jobs of damaged neurons, scientists reported. They said their study could lead to ways to treat a range of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
. . They used mice bred with the equivalent of Sandhoff disease. "Children with the disease have severe mental retardation and motor dysfunction, and death typically occurs in infancy." It is marked by inflammation that kills brain cells, and it is impossible to treat in part because of the blood-brain barrier, a molecular gateway that keeps many drugs out of the brain. "The Sandhoff disease mouse typically becomes symptomatic by 90 days of age and dies between 114 and 130 days.
. . They transplanted these into the brains of the mice and noted no problems. No tumors formed, the mice did not "reject" the foreign cells, and the treatment seemed to reduce inflammation. The transplanted human cells replaced damaged nerve cells and carried nerve signals. They also boosted the brain's supply of the enzyme Hex, which is lacking in Sandhoff disease.
. . The treated mice lived 70% longer than untreated mice. The disease eventually came back, but the researchers hope to test the theory that they could keep it at bay by giving booster injections of the stem cells to take over the functions of the mutated natural brain cells.
Mar 8, 07: Scientists are preparing for a large clinical trial in 2008 which aims to use stem cells to help 400 patients with spinal cord injuries in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan grow new cells and nerve fibers.
Mar 8, 07: Scientists have devised a treatment which could stop alcoholics drinking too much. Alcohol related deaths have doubled in the UK since 1991. The study also found the chemical could prevent relapses and reduce the effects of hangovers. The animal study used a synthetic compound to block a chemical response in the brain which triggers relapse.
. . The compound, called MTIP, blocks the action of the brain chemical corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF levels in the brain rise in the short term after drinking, but normally return to normal within a day or so. The study found the CRF system becomes overactive in animals with a long term history of alcohol dependence, increasing the risk of relapse.
Mar 7, 07: A painstaking scan of the DNA of tumor cells shows hundreds of previously unsuspected genes are involved in cancer, researchers said, in a finding that offers new ways to fight the disease. "I would have guessed it would have been no more than 10, probably, given what we knew." Scientists can begin to use the information to design better drugs.
. . They found more than 1,000 different mutations in just one family of genes taken from 200 samples of breast, stomach, colorectal and other common tumors. Other groups of genes also are involved in cancer. "We find evidence for approximately 100 new cancer genes", Dr. Mike Stratton, co-leader of the Cancer Genome Project at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, Britain, told reporters. He said 120 of the mutations in these genes are believed to be "driver" mutations that directly contribute to the development of cancer.
. . The researchers chose a family of genes that are known to be involved in cancer, the kinases. Kinases are the basis of some of the new targeted cancer therapies that have had stunning results in a small number of patients. Kinases can act as relays, switching cells on and off. Lung cancer tumors had many mutations --the result of years of smoking damage. ...followed by gastric cancers, ovarian cancers and colorectal cancers. Testicular cancer tumors and most breast cancers carried few mutations.
. . The researchers also found a large number of what they call "passenger" mutations. "These are mutations that are also present in the cancer cell but they appear to have nothing to do with the causation of the cancer --they just appear to hitchhike along for the ride", Stratton said.
Mar 6, 07: Despite its ability to predict dangerous and even deadly drug reactions, a high price tag and lack of familiarity with the technology have prevented doctors from embracing the world's first DNA chip test to deliver personalized medicine.
. . For nearly two years, the AmpliChip P450 has been available from Roche Diagnostics to predict adverse reactions associated with antidepressants, which were recently associated with suicide in some young patients. But the device is nowhere near a household name like Prozac, one of the many drugs for which it can predict adverse reactions.
. . Personalized medicine technologies, which can predict when a patient might respond badly to a particular drug, have the potential to significantly reduce the 2 million hospitalizations and 1 million deaths caused by adverse drug reactions every year.
. . While a few cancer drugs are now prescribed based on a patient's genes, tailored treatments are still rare. AmpliChip, which costs $500 per test and isn't covered by insurance, can determine how quickly the liver processes a drug by measuring P450 enzymes. Some people have liver enzymes that chew up a drug so quickly it will have no effect. Others metabolize drugs so slowly they are at risk of being poisoned by the accumulation of the otherwise safe chemical. A few patients can't metabolize certain drugs at all and are left with ineffective treatment and unwanted side effects.
Mar 5, 07: Authorities in the US have given preliminary approval to a plan to grow rice genetically modified to produce human proteins. Rice plants including human genes involved in producing breast milk would be grown in the state of Kansas. [in BIG fields! ...kidding...]
. . The company behind the proposal, Ventria Bioscience, says the plants could be developed into medicines for diarrhoea and dehydration in infants. Critics say parts of the rice plants could enter the food chain.
. . Under the proposal, which received preliminary backing from the US Department of Agriculture last week, Ventria would plant rice over some 3,000 acres (1,215 ha) of farmland in the mid-western state.
Mar 4, 07: Physical differences in the brain may increase the chances of a person choosing to take drugs, say Cambridge U scientists. A study of rats showed variations in brain structure pre-dated their first exposure to narcotics, and made them more likely to opt for cocaine. Treatments to reduce their effect may be found --but a test of vulnerability to drugs is unlikely, they add. Up to 500,000 people are currently addicted to Class A drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, according to government figures.
. . Some of the animals had far fewer 'dopamine receptors' --the brain structures onto which drugs such as cocaine and heroin latch to produce their effect.
. . The scientists used a game in which the rats had to wait to press a button and receive a reward, coupled with detailed brain scans, to see if those with the fewest dopamine receptors were impulsive, a type of behaviour often linked with drug use in humans. This was the case --even in rats which had no contact with drugs. When the 'impulsive' rats were introduced to the drugs, and given the opportunity to taker them, they were much more likely to do so than the rats with more dopamine receptors.
. . "The next step is identifying the gene or genes that cause this diminished supply of brain receptors.
Feb 28, 07: Scientists have achieved a greater understanding of the internal workings of the deadly malaria parasite with an eye toward developing better drugs to fight the disease, a new study stated.
. . Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, occurs throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, killing at least a million people annually, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
. . A team at Drexel U in Philadelphia led by Akhil Vaidya looked at internal structures called mitochondria in Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the four types of the parasite that cause malaria in people.
. . Mitochondria generally act as a cell's power plant --producing usable energy from oxygen taken in by respiration. The researchers said this parasite's mitochondria do not generate energy but still consume oxygen-- and the question was why. The researchers determined that what the parasite's mitochondria were doing instead of producing energy was providing DNA to enable the parasite to replicate itself.
. . Malaria has become resistant to some drugs, and work on a vaccine has been slow. Bed nets to protect against mosquito bites, insecticides and antimalarial drugs are effective ways to combat malaria.
Feb 27, 07: Preventing the spread of disease in a hospital may be as simple as opening a window, an international team of researchers reported. "Opening windows and doors maximizes natural ventilation so that the risk of airborne contagion is much lower than with costly, maintenance-requiring mechanical ventilation systems."
. . Tuberculosis is spread by bacteria that can float in the air and the researchers calculated what their findings might mean for the spread of TB. They estimated that in mechanically ventilated rooms, 39% of susceptible people would become infected after 24 hours of exposure to an untreated TB patient. This compared to a 33% infection rate in modern rooms with windows open and 11% in a pre-1950-style room.
Feb 27, 07: Oregon scientists say a simple test can identify men at high risk of life-threatening prostate cancer even after a biopsy finds no signs of it. The key, researchers say, is "PSA density", which compares the size of a man's prostate with his levels of a cancer-related protein called prostate-specific antigen. Men with the highest PSA densities were much more likely to later be diagnosed with aggressive cancers than men with lower scores in an Oregon study, even though both groups had clean prostate biopsies.
. . If it survives scientific review, it could help save the lives of men with serious cancers and avoid repeated biopsies in others.
. . Prostate cancer will kill about 27,000 U.S. men this year. Doctors usually check for tumors with a prostate biopsy, which uses needles to gather cells from the gland. More than a million U.S. men get prostate biopsies each year. The tests find more than 200,000 tumors, meaning many cancer-free men get unneeded biopsies. Studies estimate that the test fails to find the tumor in 20% to 33% of men who have one, usually because the needles sample only bits of the gland.
Feb 27, 07: Popular painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can raise blood pressure and thus the risk of heart disease among men, U.S. researchers reported. Men who took such drugs for most days in a week were about one-third more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure than men not taking them, the researchers found. Millions of people take the painkillers as pills every day to treat headaches, arthritis, muscle pulls and other aches and pains.
. . Men who took acetaminophen, sold generically and under the Tylenol brand name, six or seven days a week were 34% more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure than men who did not take analgesics. Men who took aspirin that regularly were 26% more likely to have high blood pressure than non-users. For non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, which include ibuprofen and naproxen, the increased risk was 38%. Men who took 15 or more NSAID pills a week were 48% more likely than non-users to have high blood pressure.
. . The drugs can affect the ability of blood vessels to expand, and may also cause sodium retention --two factors that can both raise blood pressure.
. . But men who are advised by a doctor to take [a 1/4 of] an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke should not stop taking it.
. . The Heart Association was especially worried about the use of COX-2 inhibitors, prescription arthritis drugs designed to be safer than NSAIDS. Many have been found to actually raise heart risk and cause strokes.
Feb 27, 07: Neurological disorders ranging from migraines to epilepsy and dementia affect up to one billion people worldwide and the toll will rise as populations age, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.
. . The number of people suffering from Alzheimer's and other debilitating dementias, currently some 24.3 million people, is expected to double every 20 years, with prevalence levels rising in developing countries, it said. They urged that neurological care become part of basic health care so that underdetected disabilities are diagnosed and treated, especially in Africa. "Unless immediate action is taken globally, the neurological burden is expected to become an even more serious and unmanageable threat to public health."
. . Neurological disorders --which also include strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and brain injuries-- kill an estimated 6.8 million people each year, accounting for 12% of global deaths, it said. Some cause paralysis, while others cause memory loss and other cognitive impairments, behavioral problems such as uncontrolled anger, or speech problems.
. . Some 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, most of them in developing countries, but an "overwhelming majority" of patients don't receive drugs to halt the seizures, it said.
Feb 26, 07: US scientists have devised a color test which shows up unique chemical changes in the breath of people with lung cancer. The hues of a series of 36 dots detect lung cancer accurately in just under three out of four people with the disease. The sensor, which is slightly bigger than a quarter dollar or a two pound coin, is inexpensive and easy to use. It could revolutionize the way cancer is detected and potentially save lives.
. . Dogs are able to distinguish the breath of patients with lung cancer from that of healthy people. This is because lung cancer cells give off chemicals, called volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which are then exhaled. In the past, scientists have used highly sensitive machines such as gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy to "read" these VOCs with extreme accuracy. <
. . "In the UK, our five-year survival for lung cancer is about seven out of 100."
Feb 22, 07: Scientists who have proposed a controversial theory that surgery to remove a breast tumor may actually help the cancer to spread said their ideas may also explain why black women have been more likely to die of breast cancer in the past.
. . While they stressed that women should always get screening and quick treatment for breast cancer, they said their theory could also help explain the belief, widespread in parts of Africa and the US, that removing a tumor can hasten death. "I must say that I am sure there is more to this than just a myth", said Michael Retsky of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
. . He stressed that any woman with breast cancer should get the tumor removed. And he noted that in the US, the women who could be considered at risk of having their cancer spread now get chemotherapy anyway, which would stop cancer's spread.
. . Retsky and colleagues studied several databases on women who have had breast cancer surgery. They published one study in 2005 suggesting that surgery might cause the activation of tiny tumors that had already spread. Retsky believes there may be two mechanisms at work. One idea is that surgery itself, by wounding the body, causes it to produce growth factors that fuel the growth of the other, tiny tumors.
. . The other holds that a primary, or main tumor, secretes some sort of factor that holds the other tumors in check. When the main tumor is removed, the smaller tumors --which had already spread-- are free to grow.
Feb 21, 07: The British government approved plans to allow women to donate eggs for stem cell and cloning research --& said they will also be entitled to compensation for costs incurred.
Feb 20, 07: Scientists intrigued by the fact that multiple sclerosis can slip into remission when women are pregnant said a pregnancy-related hormone may offer great promise for treating the neurological disease.
Feb 20, 07: Smoking causes long-lasting changes in the brain similar to changes seen in animals when they are given cocaine, heroin and other addictive drugs, U.S. researchers said.
Feb 19, 07: Scientists revealed the most extensive findings to date on the genetics of autism, pinpointing two new genetic links that may predispose children to develop the complex brain disorder. The five-year study indicated autism had numerous genetic origins rather than a single or a few primary causes.
. . The researchers scoured DNA samples from 1,168 families with two or more children with autism, and used "gene chip" technology to detect genetic similarities. They also looked for tiny insertions and deletions of genetic material that could play a role in autism.
. . They announced they are launching a new phase in the research to map genes responsible for autism. The study incriminated a gene called neurexin 1 involved with glutamate, a brain chemical previously implicated in autism that plays a role in early brain development, as a possible susceptibility gene for autism. A previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 also was implicated.
Feb 19, 07: Advocates have been clamoring for health officials to say there is an autism epidemic. Weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its first national survey on the prevalence of autism and related disorders. It found that one in 150 children have an autism spectrum disorder --more than most experts had believed.
. . Kimmell is not surprised, but she is also not sure this means autism has become more common in recent years. Many experts believe that autism is being diagnosed more now because people are looking for it.
Feb 19, 07: Researchers are trying to find ways to regrow fingers —-and someday, even limbs. There's the guy who sliced off a fingertip but grew it back, after he treated the wound with an extract of pig bladder. And the scientists who grow extra arms on salamanders. And the laboratory mice with the eerie ability to heal themselves.
. . This summer, scientists are planning to see whether the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers. And a large federally funded project is trying to unlock the secrets of how some animals regrow body parts so well, with hopes of applying the the lessons to humans.
. . Rather than making a scar to heal quickly, as people do, the salamander forms a mound of cells called a blastema. This is a regeneration factory: If you cut off a salamander hand and transplant the resulting blastema to the creature's back, it will grow out a hand there.
. . How do you make a salamander grow an extra arm? Make a shallow wound on the upper arm. Re-route a nerve to the site so it will pump out critical chemical signals that promote the creation of blastema cells. And insert a tiny piece of skin from the other side of limb you just wounded, to help provide a blueprint for what needs to be done.
Feb 16, 06: A bionic eye implant that could help restore the sight of millions of blind people could be available to patients within two years.
. . US researchers have been given the go-ahead to implant the prototype device in 50 to 75 patients. The Argus II system uses a spectacle-mounted camera to feed visual information to electrodes in the eye. Patients who tested less-advanced versions of the retinal implant were able to see light, shapes and movement.
. . About 1.5 million people worldwide have retinitis pigmentosa, and one in 10 people over the age of 55 have age-related macular degeneration. Both diseases cause the retinal cells which process light at the back of the eye to gradually die.
. . The new devices work by implanting an array of tiny electrodes into the back of the retina. A camera is used to capture pictures, and a processing unit, about the size of a small handheld computer and worn on a belt, converts the visual information into electrical signals. These are then sent back to the glasses and wirelessly on to a receiver just under the surface of the front of the eye, which in turn feeds them to the electrodes at the rear. The new implant has a higher resolution than the earlier devices, with 60 electrodes. It is also a lot smaller, about one square millimeter, which reduces the amount of surgery that needs to be done to implant the device.
. . The technology has now been given the go-ahead by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used in an exploratory patient trial. If successful, the device could be commercialized soon after, costing around $30,000.
Feb 18, 07: Japanese researchers said they had grown normal-looking teeth from single cells in lab dishes, and transplanted them into mice.
. . They used primitive cells, not quite as early as stem cells, and injected them into a framework of collagen, the material that holds the body together. After growing them, they found their structures had matured into the components that make teeth, including dentin, enamel, dental pulp, blood vessels, and periodontal ligaments.
. . They said their method was the first to show an entire organ could be replaced using just a few cells. They went after the "organ germ" --the early cells made using partially differentiated cells known as epithelial and mesenchymal cells. In this case the cells were taken from what is known as the tooth germ, the little bud that appears before an animal grows a tooth.
Feb 15, 07: New evidence shows that the human brain can manufacture fresh brain cells, researchers said, in a study that may lead to better ways to treat brain damage and disease. Scientists had known that other animals, such as rats and mice, make new brain cells throughout their lives and there had been indirect evidence that humans being can, too.
. . Using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans and electron microscope images of tissue donated from the brains of people who died, & found the elusive cells. Just as in mice and rats, these cells are born in one part of the brain and then migrate.
Feb 15, 07: While fatal in adults, organ transplants from donors with different blood types work in children under 2. The trick? Taking advantage of children's underdeveloped immune systems.
Feb 13, 07: US researchers have cloned healthy mice from skin cells for the first time. Despite notorious difficulties in producing animals through cloning, nine of 19 mice who were born survived into adulthood.
. . The scientists replaced the nucleus from an unfertilized egg with the nucleus from an adult skin stem cell. Embryos produced in this way may also be a useful source of stem cells, say the researchers. In this study, scientists used a type of stem cell found in the skin, called keratinocytes, which are attractive to scientists because they are easily accessible. The cells were found in hair follicles lying underneath the skin and are involved in hair growth and in repairing skin wounds.
Feb 11, 07: Researchers said they had homed in on five areas of DNA that could account for 70% of the genetic risk for type-2 diabetes. They identified four different areas of genetic variation that conferred a significant risk of developing diabetes and confirmed that a fifth area, a gene called TCF7L2 suspected in diabetes, is associated with the disease.
Feb 9, 07: Up to 20% of women who develop lung cancer have never smoked, U.S. researchers found, in a study that suggests secondhand smoke may be to blame.
. . A survey of a million people in the US and Sweden shows that just 8% of men who get lung cancer are nonsmokers. Rates were about 10 to 30 times higher in smokers. This would translate to about 20% of female lung cancer patients having been nonsmokers and 8% of males.
. . Because more men smoke than women, women may be more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, even when they are classified as never-smokers. "We know that secondhand smoke does increase the risk of lung cancer so it's likely that a lot of these cases we observe are attributable to that."
Feb 7, 07: When it came to giving patients information about terminal sedation, a practice that only 17% of the doctors found objectionable, only 11% of the doctors with moral reservations said doctors can withhold information.
Feb 7, 07: Manipulating chemicals in the brain that produce similar effects to marijuana could pave the way for a new treatment for Parkinson's disease, scientists said.
. . When they combined a drug already used for Parkinson's disease with a compound that boosted natural chemicals in the brain similar to the active ingredients in marijuana it relieved symptoms in genetically engineered mice with a similar illness.
. . Although the natural brain chemicals called endocannabinoids are similar to those in marijuana and hashish, the scientists said their findings do not mean that smoking marijuana will ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The previously immobile mice who were given the drug combo in the study were able to move freely within 15 minutes of having the treatment.
. . After giving the combination of the two drugs together the animals walked around almost to normal levels", Anatol Kreitzer, a co-author of the study, said. "It is a striking difference --about five- or six-fold increase in motor activity", he added.
. . Parkinson's disease is a progressive and irreversible neurodegenerative disease that begins with tremors and poor balance. It occurs when the cells in the brain that control movement and produce dopamine die.
. . Too little dopamine caused difficulty in movement but when they gave the mice a drug to stimulate the chemical there was a small improvement in the rodents. Adding another drug that boosted the activity of endocannabinoids caused a major improvement.
Feb 6, 07: Work by scientists could lead to a non-invasive blood test to detect genetic abnormalities such as Down's syndrome in the womb. Current non-invasive tests --such as ultrasound-- are limited, and invasive tests pose a risk to the pregnancy. The new technique works by examining samples of fetal DNA present in the mother's blood for tiny variations in the sequence of the genetic material.
. . Being able to identify genetic abnormalities at an early stage not only gives parents the chance to decide whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy, but also alerts medical staff to the need for close monitoring right through to birth.
. . Analyzing fetal DNA from a mother's blood sample has been possible for some time. However, its effectiveness has been limited because only a small amount of the DNA makes its way into the mother's blood.
Autism is (as I understand it) the inability to read social cues. If that is the case, it may be worth investigating whether autistic people have a relatively diminished response to placebos...
Feb 8, 07: Autism is more common in the United States than anyone had estimated, affecting about one in every 150 children, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. CDC estimated that about 560,000 people up to age 21 in the United States have autism.
. . It showed a wide variation among the states, ranging from 4.5 per 1,000 children having an autism-related disorder in West Virginia to 9.9 per 1,000 in New Jersey. On average, they found that about one in 150 children born in 1992 and 1994, or 6.7 per thousand, have autism. Rice said that for decades the common estimate of autism incidence was four to five per 10,000 children.
. . Types of "autism spectrum disorder" range from autism, which can severely disable a child by interfering with speech and behavior, to Asperger's syndrome, a much milder behavioral problem. The surveys did not examine what causes autism, but Rice said it appears to stem from "complex genetic and environmental interactions."
. . The researchers hope to eventually use the surveys to help figure out what causes autism. They also want to be able to verify suspicions autism may be growing more common in the US.
. . The studies also showed far fewer of the autistic children had mental retardation than in previous estimates. "The older statistics always estimated 70 to 75% of kids with autism had cognitive impairment", Rice said. "We found 33 to 62%."
Feb 8, 07: Scientists searching for a way to treat the rare but severe childhood neurological disorder Rett syndrome have reversed the disease in mice, raising hopes for doing the same in people. About one in every 10,000 to 15,000 girls born have Rett syndrome, which affects all racial and ethnic groups worldwide.
. . In the study, they switched on a gene called MECP2 in mice with the equivalent of Rett syndrome to make their symptoms vanish. The surprising results contradicted the notion that damage to the brain caused by the disease, which occurs nearly exclusively in girls, is permanent. "It rocked us back on our heels because in a way we were expecting a more disappointing result."
. . In their first six to 18 months of life, the children develop apparently normally before the onset of devastating symptoms. Children with Rett syndrome commonly show autistic-like behaviors in the early stages. The disease, first described by an Austrian doctor in 1966, is caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene.
. . It destroys speech, normal movement and functional hand use, and causes breathing difficulties, susceptibility to epileptic fits and tremors like those in Parkinson's disease. Many patients are confined to wheelchairs. Those who can walk do so with an abnormal, stiff-legged gait.
. . The researchers made the gene fully functional over a four-week span. This eliminated the mice's tremors, returned their breathing to normal and normalized their mobility and gait --even in animals just days away from dying.
. . The MECP2 gene holds instructions for making a protein that acts as one of many biochemical switches that prompt other genes to turn off and stop producing their own proteins. Mutations in this gene also are present in some childhood schizophrenia, autism and learning disabilities.
. . "It is an ingrained view in most people that once there are symptoms to do with the brain that it's too late to do anything about them. But in a case where all the neurons are still alive and they've not been lost -- which is the case in Rett syndrome and autism and schizophrenia -- that's not a foregone conclusion", Bird said.
. . Dr. Huda Zoghbi, a noted researcher into Rett syndrome at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, called the findings "extraordinary. The successful restoration of normal function demonstrated in the mouse models suggests that if we can develop therapies to address the loss of MECP2, we may be able to reverse neurological damage in children and adults with Rett, autism and related neuropsychiatric disorders."
Feb 6, 07: Doctors have implanted adult stem cells extracted from a man's fat tissue through liposuction into his heart, in an experimental treatment for angina and heart disease, a Spanish hospital said. The 67-year-old man, the first patient to receive the treatment, was doing well but warned it could take up to six months to see whether the cells repaired the damaged vessels.
. . "In just five hours, the cells were extracted, purified, selected and implanted with the aim of regenerating new blood vessels which may allow them to flow blood properly to the heart of the patient", the hospital said. Cells extracted from fat do not need to be cultivated for three weeks, like other types of stem cells, so in just two hours, 28 million cells were ready for implanting.
Feb 6, 07: U.S. health officials approved a genetic test today that can provide women with early breast cancer an estimate of whether the disease is likely to return in five to 10 years.
Feb 5, 07: Her carefully cultured cells were dead and Katherine Schaefer was annoyed, but just a few minutes later, the researcher realized she had stumbled onto a potential new cancer treatment.
. . Schaefer and colleagues at the U of Rochester Medical Center believe they have discovered a new way to attack tumors that have learned how to evade existing drugs. Tests in mice suggest the compound helps break down the cell walls of tumors, almost like destroying a tumor cell's "skeleton." The researchers will test the new compound for safety and hope they can develop it to treat cancers such as colon cancer, esophageal cancer, liver and skin cancers.
. . She was testing a compound called a PPAR-gamma modulator. It would never normally have been thought of as a cancer drug, or in fact a drug of any kind. "I made a calculation error and used a lot more than I should have. And my cells died", Schaefer said. A colleague overheard her complaining. "The co-author on my paper said 'Did I hear you say you killed some cancer?' I said 'Oh', and took a closer look." They ran several tests and found the compound killed "pretty much every epithelial tumor cell lines we have seen", Schaefer said. Epithelial cells line organs such as the colon, and also make up skin. It also killed colon tumors in mice without making the mice sick.
. . The compound works in much the same way as the taxane drugs, including Taxol, which were originally derived from Pacific yew trees. "Most of the drugs like Taxol affect the ability of tubulin to forms into microtubules. This doesn't do that --it causes the tubulin itself to disappear. We do not know why."
. . Schaefer's team plans more safety tests in mice. As the compound is already patented, her team will probably have to design something slightly different to be able to patent it as a new drug.
Feb 3, 07: SENEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Mich. Beech bark disease has taken hold in the refuge, a dagger aimed at the heart of a stalwart native hardwood. The American beech has relatively little economic value for people but plays a starring role in the natural drama acted out daily in Michigan's northern forests.
. . Scientists expect the disease eventually will kill most of the state's beeches, changing the environment in ways as yet uncertain. For example, it could affect populations of bears and smaller mammals that feed on beech nuts — and that hunters enjoy pursuing.
. . Beech bark disease has been overshadowed by the emerald ash border, a murderous insect wreaking havoc on trees in southeastern Michigan and creeping steadily northward. But both have something in common with the zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, round goby and spiny water flea: They are foreign species, introduced to the Great Lakes region through human carelessness, and are crowding out natives and profoundly altering the ecosystem.
. . Federal studies say more than $120 billion is spent yearly in the United States controlling about 800 invasive species and repairing their damage. And the environmental losses — extinction of native plants and animals, less biodiversity and natural beauty — are incalculable.
. . Once established, beech bark disease can be spread by the wind, birds and animals that brush against infected trees. "It can kill 75 to 80% of the (beech) trees in a given area", Lusk says. "Once it's there, it's everywhere." It begins with tiny scale insects that feed on sap in the tree's thin bark. Heavily infested beeches are noticeable by the white wax that covers the scale, creating a woolly appearance. The scale injures the beeches, making them vulnerable to a fungus called nectria that kills tissue and often entire trees.
. . One hopeful sign: For unknown reasons, some beech are proving resistant to the disease. Scientists are studying them in hopes of developing hardier strains that could be planted to rejuvenate the species. There's no readily available substitute for beech nuts as a food source in the 95,238-acre Seney wildlife refuge, a patchwork of woods, fields and wetlands teeming with waterfowl.
Feb 3, 07: A U of Vermont researcher is using the dairy product whey and a fungus to take aim at a pest that has ravaged East Coast hemlocks. Scott Costa said the method will allow an insect-killing fungus to grow in the field rather than in a laboratory, cutting down on the prohibitive costs.
. . The fungus and sweet whey, a cheese-making byproduct, is sprayed on trees to kill the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic pest that is wiping out native trees from Tennessee to Massachusetts. As the fungus reproduces in the whey, Costa and his graduate students have evidence that the spores will spread throughout the trees, piercing the skin of the insects.
. . Costa, who has received a provisional patent, hopes to have the technology operating in two years. "We're not going to get rid of the hemlock woolly adelgid, we're going to manage it", he said.
Feb 2, 07: Anti-HIV Gel Flops, Trial Stops: Women using a microbicide to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus become infected more often than those in a control group. Work by US scientists could lead to a non-invasive test to detect genetic abnormalities in the womb.
Feb 1, 07: Researchers have discovered a small population of stem cells in pancreatic cancer that appear to drive tumor growth, opening the door for a potential new approach for treating this particularly deadly disease. This could lead to the development of drugs intended to target and kill these cells.
. . Scientists have toiled with little success to find better ways to treat cancer of the pancreas, which has the lowest survival rate of any major form of cancer. It kills 97% of people diagnosed with it within five years --half within six months of diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly and is rarely is detected at an early stage. In the United States alone, it kills 33,000 people a year.
. . The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach that secretes a digestive fluid and the hormone insulin.
Feb 1, 07: Blacks still have a much higher death rate from cancer than whites even though U.S. cancer death rates are down overall and among blacks as well, the American Cancer Society said.
Jan 30, 07: US researchers say they have created a "virtual" model of all the biochemical reactions that occur in human cells. They hope the computer model will allow scientists to tinker with metabolic processes to find new treatments for conditions such as high cholesterol.
. . A team of six bioengineering researchers at the University of California analysed the human genome to see what genes corresponded to metabolic processes, such as those responsible for the production of enzymes. They spent a year manually going through 1,500 books, review papers and scientific reports from the past 50 years before constructing a database of 3,300 metabolic reactions.
Jan 30, 07: Argentina, the world's third-biggest beef exporter, said today it was stepping up existing measures to prevent disease following an outbreak in neighboring Bolivia.
. . Argentina said in April 2006 it had eradicated foot-and-mouth disease following a program of vaccination and slaughtering in a northern province, where an outbreak two months earlier had sparked some bans on Argentine beef.
. . Foot-and-mouth causes high fevers and blisters in cloven-hoofed animals and can often lead to death. The ailment can be contracted by cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, but only very rarely by people.
Jan 29, 07: Patients who suffer from disease or injury that leave them unable to move have little hope of independent mobility. But that may be about to change. Researchers are developing a thought-controlled robotic wheelchair. Spanish scientists have begun work on a new brain-computer interface, or BCI, capable of converting thought into commands that a wheelchair can execute.
. . Other researchers have already had some success with hard-wired brain computer interfaces, but they're powered by large computers and are physically plugged into the brain. The Spanish researchers hope to develop a small, mobile interface that works with electroencephalogram electrodes, or EEG, placed on the scalp.
Jan 26, 07: Norway's government today proposed lifting a national ban on using human embryonic stem cells for research, saying the change might help find cures to a broad range of diseases.
Hand sanitizer gels and wipes include a surprising amount of alcohol (e.g., Purell and Germ-X contain 62% Ethyl Alcohol.
Jan 27, 07: The British Medical Journal has counted the online votes and named the biggest medical advance since 1840. And the award goes to... sanitation.
Jan 24, 07: The germ that caused the plague epidemic that ravaged medieval Europe has a weakness that could help make a particularly dangerous form easier to treat, according to a study. A bacterium known as Yersinia pestis causes both bubonic plague, the dreaded Black Death spread when people are bitten by an infected flea, and pneumonic plague, spread from one person to another through coughing or sneezing.
. . There are periodic natural outbreaks of pneumonic plague like one that started in 2005 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There also is acute concern terrorists could harness the bacterium as an airborne germ warfare agent to spread pneumonic plague.
. . Experiments with mice showed that the onslaught of the bacterium slows markedly when the germ cannot use a key protein. Antibiotics can beat the bacterium, but by the time the infection becomes apparent the disease has progressed so far that it may be too late for them to do any good. Goldman said it might be possible to develop a drug that could slow progression of the disease so antibiotics can work.
. . It is a two-phase disease that begins with bacteria multiplying rapidly in the lungs, but with no symptoms. About 36 hours after exposure, the disease progresses into a second phase, with a lot of inflammation and symptoms. Bacteria invade the spleen and other organs and an overwhelming, rapidly developing pneumonia proves fatal.
. . The researchers focused on a protein known as plasminogen activator, which they think the bacterium uses to break open protective blood clots that the body forms to try to limit the spread of an infection. The protein is a type called a protease that breaks down other proteins. Drugs called protease inhibitors targeting these proteins have been used against other infectious diseases, including AIDS.
. . According to the World Health Organization, about 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague are reported every year with 10 to 15 cases in the US every year.
Jan 24, 07: Damage to the brain "insula" --a silver-dollar-sized area located deep in the brain, surrounded by the cerebral cortex-- disrupts the addiction to cigarette smoking and makes kicking the habit much easier, according to research. This finding could lead to the development of novel anti-smoking agents.
. . Previous reports have linked the insula with conscious urges. In addition, senior author Dr. Antoine Bechara, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues previously encountered a two-pack per day cigarette smoker who was able to stop smoking with little difficulty after experiencing stroke-related damage to the insula. In fact, insula-injured smokers quit smoking immediately with no relapse and seemed to have lost the urge to smoke.
Jan 24, 07: Reactivating a gene that normally suppresses the growth of tumors may be an effective way to treat cancers, scientists said today.
. . The gene called p53 is a leading tumor suppressor which stops damaged cells from dividing. In the majority of human cancers, the gene does not work properly. But teams of scientists in the US have shown that reactivating, or restoring the function of the gene, can make certain types of tumors in mice shrink or disappear. "If we can find drugs that restore p53 function in human tumors in which this pathway is blocked, they may be effective cancer treatments."
Jan 18, 07: Human embryonic stem cells can help regenerate damaged nerves in rats, producing compounds that nurture nerve cells and stimulate the growth of new ones, Geron Corp. said. Geron had earlier reported that human embryonic stem cells had helped replace myelin, a fatty covering on nerves that is vital to function.
. . Now, the company's researchers said, they had shown the cells produce multiple nerve growth factors, which are proteins that stimulate the survival and regeneration of neurons.
Jan 18, 07: The number of elk in the Yellowstone National Park region infected with scabies, a skin infestation caused by mites, is up this year, state wildlife officials say. The disease can be fatal, especially when an animal's health has been weakened for other reasons, such as old age or disease. Scabies also can cause animals to lose all their hair. It's not a threat to humans.
Jan 18, 07: Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than in those with the most fatty tissue, a study shows, signaling the importance of a risk factor rarely discussed with patients.
. . On mammograms, fat looks dark, but dense tissue is light, like tumors, so it can hide the cancers. But this study confirms that cancers are also more frequent —not just hidden-— in women with dense breasts.
. . Breast density comes from the presence of more connective, duct-lining and milk-gland tissue than fat. But a woman can't judge her own density; it is routinely evaluated from a mammogram.
Jan 18, 07: Scientists have identified a protein that could help them understand why symptoms of the common cold such as sniffles and congestion last for a limited time.
. . The previously unknown protein called carabin cranks up the immune system response during an infection and then shuts it off when it has done its job so that it doesn't harm healthy cells. "We found an important missing brake within white blood cells that keeps the system in check so it doesn't override itself to cause problems during an virus infection or in the common cold."
. . The protein is usually present in low concentrations in white blood cells but during an immune system reaction, levels increase. As they rise, the system gradually shuts down. It could also play a role in preventing the rejection of donor organs in transplant patients.
Jan 18, 07: Every year, the U of Maryland holds a seminar to discuss the medical history of a famous person. Next May, doctors and historians will tackle the case of the gunshot that killed President Abraham Lincoln and try to answer this question: Could he have survived such an injury today? A leading medical historian previewed the findings. The verdict: a qualified "yes." Since the whole left side of his brain was blown away by this minie ball [a kind of bullet], he would have saved his life, but [Lincoln] would have been severely incapacitated mentally.
Jan 16, 07: Scientists develop an algae-based gel which they hope will block HIV infections in women.
Jan 16, 07: New research showing a strong link between Parkinson's disease and low levels of "bad" cholesterol are so worrying that U.S. researchers are launching a study to look into it.
. . The team at the U of North Carolina is planning clinical trials involving thousands of people to see whether statin drugs, which lower low density lipoprotein, or LDL, might actually cause Parkinson's in some people. Other research has for several years suggested that people with abnormally low levels of LDL might be at higher risk of Parkinson's.
. . Xuemei Huang and colleagues found that patients with low levels of LDL cholesterol are at least three and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those with higher LDL levels. They plan a bigger study of patients taking statins, the biggest-selling drugs in the world.
. . Huang noted some other studies showed that people with APOE2, a gene that causes naturally low cholesterol, have a higher risk of Parkinson's. Another variation of the gene, APOE4, is associated with a risk of Alzheimer's disease.
. . Dr. Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation: "There is no evidence to suggest that statins cause Parkinson's disease. There is, however, overwhelming evidence that statins save lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes."
Jan 15, 07: Scientists say they may be able to turn off a "system" that helps bowel tumors survive and grow bigger. The U of Bristol team says it has found how a cancer detects the need for more blood vessels to supply it with the oxygen it needs to grow. It may be possible to "switch off" this detection system and kill off tumors, the researchers say.
. . Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, with approximately 17,000 people dying from the disease every year - about half of those diagnosed.
. . Bowel cancer cells produce a chemical which bypasses this "cell suicide" and stimulates uncontrolled growth, eventually forming a cluster of cancer cells called a tumor. This cell cluster eventually needs an improved blood supply in order to be able to carry on growing --if it cannot get extra blood, the cells will starve to death.
. . The Bristol team found that the tumor can sense when this is about to happen, and at that point, the chemical that triggers its growth changes role, and helps form a chemical messenger which instructs the body to create new blood vessels around the tumor. This process is called angiogenesis, and doctors have already created drugs --such as Avastin-- designed to interfere with this.
Jan 13, 07: Scientists said today they have pinpointed a new gene linked to Alzheimer's disease. Abnormalities in a gene called SORL1 increased the risk for the disease, and this finding could help scientists develop new treatments, the researchers reported.
. . Only one other gene, called ApoE4, has been identified as a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's. It was identified in 1993. Several genes are linked with early Alzheimer's, and study of both types might lead to better understanding of how the disease begins and how to tackle it.
. . Many scientists think Alzheimer's begins with the buildup in the brain of a gooey material called amyloid that clumps together to form plaques. That material stems from a protein called amyloid precursor protein, or APP.
Jan 14, 07: A team at the institute that cloned Dolly the sheep have made a genetically engineered chicken that produces cancer drugs in its eggs.
Jan 14, 07: Fears of disease gripped Malaysia's flood-devastated south as more than 100,000 evacuees crammed into emergency shelters amid official warnings of dengue and cholera.
Jan 13, 07: Syphilis, which was largely eliminated in China between 1960 and 1980, has returned with a vengeance and urgent intervention is needed to curb the epidemic, according to researchers in China and the United States.
Jan 12, 07: British scientists have discovered a potential new way to identify people who have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
. . Telomeres, tiny strands of DNA at the ends of chromosomes which seem to contain secrets about aging, may also hold clues about who is more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. The researchers, who measured telomere length in leukocytes, or white blood cells, in 1,500 men aged 45-64 years old, found short telomeres indicate a higher likelihood of developing heart disease.
. . Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes from fraying. They shorten each time a cell divides and the loss is associated with aging. As telomeres get smaller, the chromosomes can become unstable and at greater risk of mutation. They showed statins lowered the odds of developing heart disease in patients with short telomeres. But if patients with short telomeres were given a placebo, or dummy pill, their odds of illness were almost double compared to people with long telomeres.
Jan 11, 07: A one-celled parasite called Trichomonas, which causes an itchy and smelly genital infection especially dangerous to women, has nearly as many genes as a human being, researchers reported.
. . Trichomonas, often called "trick", affects at least 170 million people globally. It is not only itchy and unpleasant, but can infect newborns, cause preterm births and small babies. It also makes women more vulnerable to the AIDS virus, gonorrhea and syphilis and, unlike many other sexually transmitted infections, can in rare instances be transmitted by wet towels or toilet seats. While it can be irritating to men, and is passed along by both sexes, women suffer more.
. . Her team of 66 researchers in 10 countries found the little protozoan has an exceptionally large collection of DNA, with close to 26,000 confirmed genes -- nearly as many as the human genome. "It was a huge shock."
. . Only two drugs, both in the same class, are approved for treating Trichomoniasis infections, which can be symptom-less for years and then break out unexpectedly with a vengeance. The microbe is already resistant to one of the drugs. But examination of the gene map shows some weaknesses, and also some good ways to perhaps identify it more easily and earlier in patients.
. . Another surprise --it contains genes that appear to have been passed to the organism from bacteria. Some of these genes allow Trichomonas to synthesize the amino acid cysteine, which in turn allows it to control the effects of oxygen in the environment. It is by manipulating the environment that Trichomonas does much of its damage, Carlton said. "The pH shifts toward more alkaline and that makes the vaginal environment not as healthy."
. . It has four flagella sprouting from its apex, a tail, and an "undulating membrane which like a frilly nightgown", she said. It flattens itself and sticks tendrils into the wall of the vagina or urethra. "It starts to secrete a lot of nasty proteases and pore-forming proteins to degrade vaginal tissue. It produces hydrogen. That is probably what produces the gray-green frothy discharge from women." And it makes other gases that may cause the characteristic fishy odor, as well, she said.
Jan 10, 07: An insulin pill made from a chemical found in shrimp shells is being developed by Taiwanese scientists.
Jan 8, 07: Study: Severe cases of congenital heart disease are on the rise among North American adults, but researchers say that probably means growing numbers of infants born with the condition are surviving into adulthood.
Jan 4, 07: Research suggests controversial drug Herceptin can save the lives of early stage breast cancer patients.
Jan 4, 07: A 2005 U.N. University report concluded that 62% of all cancer drugs were created from bioprospecting discoveries.
. . The venom of a deadly sea snail found off the coast of the Philippines led Elan Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop the painkiller Prialt, which U.S. regulators approved in 2004. The key ingredient in the breast cancer drug Taxol owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is taken from the bark of the yew tree, and Wyeth's kidney transplant drug Rapamune comes from Easter Island soil.
. . But bioprospecting is mostly unregulated and there are mounting calls to establish legal frameworks for such work. The Convention on Biological Diversity produced at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro entitled nations to a share of the profits from substances yielded by their flora and fauna. It was ratified by 188 countries — but not the United States, which argues that such a requirement stifles innovation and would undermine the patent system.
. . That hasn't stopped some of the world's poorest countries, which also hold the richest pockets of natural biodiversity, from fighting to apply the convention to international patent law. India has had the most success, most recently persuading the European Patent Board of Appeals to invalidate a 1994 patent granted to U.S.-based W.R. Grace & Co. for an insecticide derived from neem seeds.
Jan 3, 07: A common parasite can increase a women's attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says. About 40% of the world's population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, including about eight million Australians. Human infection generally occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite, or accidentally ingest some of the parasite's eggs excreted by an infected cat.
. . The parasite is known to be dangerous to pregnant women as it can cause disability or abortion of the unborn child, and can also kill people whose immune systems are weakened. Until recently, it was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney Uof Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.
. . "Interestingly, the effect of infection is different between men and women", Dr Boulter writes in the latest issue of Australasian Science magazine. "Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.
. . "On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls. "In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens".
. . Rodents treated with drugs that killed the parasites reversed their behavior, Dr Boulter said.
. . Another study showed people who were infected but not showing symptoms were 2.7 times more likely than uninfected people to be involved in a car accident as a driver or pedestrian, while other research has linked the parasite to higher incidences of schizophrenia.
. . "The increasing body of evidence connecting Toxoplasma infection with changes in personality and mental state, combined with the extremely high incidence of human infection in both developing and developed countries, warrants increased government funding and research, in particular to find safe and effective treatments or vaccines", Dr Boulter said.
Jan 4, 07: The medical journal Anesthesiology has a report about people who don't go under all the way during surgery and end up with some awareness when they should be asleep. The study wasn't designed to look at awareness during surgery but instead to gauge whether patients who experienced awareness went on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
. . Still, the numbers in the study are pretty shocking: of 2,681 patients surveyed, 98 reported being awake during previous surgery when they should have been unaware and asleep. Researchers think 46 had actually been aware. Many suffered pain or were, to put it mildly, freaked out.
Jan 4, 07: "What's "natural" about keeping someone hooked up to life support when, without extraordinary technical intervention, he would simply die? Medical technology has advanced to the point where keeping a patient alive artificially is commonplace. Using the church's own logic you have to conclude that people are being kept alive "unnaturally" by technology because it denies them the right to a "natural" death. In some way, using artificial means to prevent a death would itself seem to violate church doctrine, wouldn't it?
. . Perhaps it's time for the church to rethink a doctrine that predates, by centuries, all of this technology.
. . Doctors can go to some pretty extreme lengths to keep patients alive these days. That's fine, assuming the person who's going to be kept alive wants to live. That's great, assuming there will be something resembling quality of life. Welby didn't want to go on living. Because he was lucid and in control of his mental processes, he should have had the right to make his life-or-death decision without any meddling by either church or state."
Jan 4, 07: Simple X-ray machines gave way over the years to sophisticated scanners that examine not just the structure of the brain but also its inner workings, from magnetic signals to telltale rushes of blood and oxygen. Much of the progress has come within the last decade or two.
. . Magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanners work by measuring the magnetic field produced by the brain. While MEG scans don't do a good job of deciphering the geography of the brain, they can easily detect instantaneous changes in brain activity, allowing scientists to track changes that happen in milliseconds.
. . Computed tomography (CT) scanners are essentially fancy X-ray machines. They create useful images of the brain's geography, but they can't tell scientists what any parts of the brain are doing at a specific moment.
. . Functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) scanners allow scientists to track the movement of blood in the brain, telling them which areas are demanding the most oxygen.
. . Positron emission tomography (PET) scanners measure brain activity by detecting a radioactive material that's been inhaled by (or injected into) a patient. The material makes it way to the brain through the bloodstream. PET scans, like MEG and fMRI scans, give insight into what's happening in the brain rather than providing details about anatomy.
. . There are an estimated 100 MEG scanners around the world --at a potential cost of $2 million each-- and their numbers are growing. While other types of brain scans detail the geography of the brain or detect blood flow, the MEG scanners track the magnetic signals that neurons throw off as they communicate. The machines are designed to "measure the magnetic field pattern around the entire head and deduce from those patterns where the current flows are occurring within the brain." This allows scientists to study magnetic changes in the brain and figure out which areas are busy doing things each millisecond. By contrast, functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, technology measures the movement of blood within the brain. The scans reveal which brain areas are active and need oxygen from the blood
. . But it takes a while for oxygen-filled blood to move in the brain. "If a brain area was active for a 10th of a second, the blood-flow response to that area would take a second or two to start. "If I had you read a sentence during an fMRI scan, we'd see the visual cortex light up, the language cortex light up, and other things that would light up", Knowlton said. "But they'd all be lit up, and you wouldn't know which one was first (to become active), which one was most important." "With the MEG, the sequence becomes more clear", Knowlton said.
. . One thing they can't do is analyze the physical parts of the brain, so MEGs become even more powerful when combined with other technologies. When combined with fMRI scans, in particular, "you get the best of everything".
. . Half the women were told that their test results suggested they would have trouble maintaining relationships and "end up alone in later life." The other women, a control group, got only neutral feedback to their answers, with no indications their lives were destined to go to pot.
. . Afterwards, all the subjects worked on a long series of math problems. Those who were told they'd grow old alone scored worse than the other women, and "showed less activation in parts of the brain associated with self-control", Campbell said, which is common among people who feel isolated. "It's almost like it's difficult to think", he said.
. . Scientists are also using MEG scanners to study whether brain waves can be harnessed to control devices outside the body. And researchers are still searching for the holy grail --an understanding of how parts of the brain communicate with each other, Simpson said. The answer could help autistic people and others whose mental wires are crossed.
Jan 5, 07: Britain risks losing its position as a stem cell pioneer if the government goes ahead with a proposed ban on creating embryos made from human DNA and animal eggs, scientists said. Five experts in the field said such hybrid embryos could provide a plentiful source of stems cells for researching new treatments into diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
. . But the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a regulatory body that oversees embryo research and fertility treatment, is expected to turn down applications from three research groups next week to carry out this type of work.
. . Professor Stephen Minger of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at Kings College told reporters: "Britain leads the world in stem cell research and for the government to back off on a very reputable, regulatable area of research, which has so much potential value, seems to be really short-sighted", he said.
. . Minger and colleagues want to harvest stem cells from hybrid embryos that would be created by inserting human DNA into a hollowed out cow or rabbit egg, from which the nucleus has been removed. Such embryos would be more than 99% human but would still contain a small amount of animal DNA found in mitochondria --cellular power plants outside the nucleus.
. . The idea is to grow the embryos to only a very early stage and then generate stem cell lines from them that are capable of developing into many different cell types for research. This would allow scientists, for example, to study motor neurons from people with motor neuron disease in the laboratory for the first time. "To us, it's a logical step to use animal eggs and preserve human eggs, which are in short supply", Dr Lyle Armstrong the North East England Stem Cell Institute said. Scientists in China, the United States and Canada have already carried out similar work. However, a British government White Paper last month proposed banning it.
Jan 5, 07: Scientists have identified a gene linked to the most common type of kidney cancer in children, and expressed hope this might help doctors determine which young patients are most at risk of dying.
Brain-stem stroke is a particularly devastating type of stroke that paralyzes the body but leaves the mind intact.
Jan 4, 07: Antibiotics in chicken feed have long been targeted by critics as a health issue, but a new study by Johns Hopkins University researchers says they also are a money-loser for poultry farmers.
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