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Health Headlines - January 10

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
S. Korean Researcher Faked All Stem Cell Findings, Panel Concludes

South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk faked all his claims to have cloned human embryonic stem cells, but he did create the world's first cloned dog, a Seoul National University investigating panel announced Tuesday.

The academic panel report said that Hwang "did not have any proof to show that cloned embryonic stem cells were ever created." The panel's findings contradict claims in Hwang's 2004 paper in the journal Science that he cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, the Associated Press reported.

"The 2004 paper was written on fabricated data to show that the stem cells match the DNA of the provider, although they didn't," the panel wrote.

The university panel's conclusions cap the dramatic fall of Hwang, once hailed as a pioneer in the field of stem cell research.

The news that Hwang faked his human stem cell research, including what was declared a breakthrough in a 2005 Science paper, may be viewed by some scientists and patients as a major disappointment. The discredited scientist's claims about his human cloning research offered hope to millions of people with diseases such as AIDS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, the AP reported.

Scientists believe that human stem cells may eventually be able to be used to treat numerous diseases. However, Hwang was the only scientist to have claimed success in extracting stem cells from embryos.

While the panel upheld Hwang's claim to have created the world's first cloned dog, that's not regarded as a major achievement because scientists had already created a number of cloned animals.

FDA Approves New Treatment Method for Immune Disorder

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Vivaglobin, a self-administered treatment for people with an immune disorder called primary immunodeficiency.

Vivaglobin provides these patients with a way of getting regular boosts of infection-fighting immune globulin that healthy people have in their bloodstream, the Associated Press reported.

People with primary immunodeficiency need these replacement antibodies to prevent recurring, life-threatening infections. Currently, these patients have to be given regular injections of the antibodies.

Vivaglobin enables them to use a small, portable pump to self-administer the immune globin subcutaneously and do without direct needle injections into a vein, the AP reported.

The new treatment is made by ZLB Behring of King of Prussia, Pa. Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 primary immunodeficiency patients in the United States.

Face Transplant Patient Regaining Sensation

The 38-year-old French woman who had the world's first partial face transplant in November is regaining sensation in her new lips, nose and chin, her psychiatrist reported.

While the woman, Isabelle, can tell where she is being touched on the new areas of her face, it appears she has not yet regained the ability to feel temperature in those areas, Dr. Daniele Bachmann told the Associated Press.

"She is very happy, she is doing very well," Bachmann said.

Isabelle is being transferred between medical centers in Lyon and Amiens for treatment. Bachmann couldn't say how long Isabelle will remain hospitalized.

The groundbreaking surgery was performed in Amiens on Nov. 27 using a nose, chin and lips from a brain-dead donor. Isabelle's face was disfigured last year when she was mauled by her pet dog.

Newer Football Helmet Lowers Concussion Risk

A newer kind of football helmet that offers increased protection for the temple and jaw may reduce the risk of concussion injuries, says a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study.

The three-year study of 2,141 high school football players found that those who wore the Revolution helmet had a concussion rate of 5.3 percent, compared with 7.6 percent for players who wore standard helmets, the Associated Press reported.

Players who wore the Revolution helmet were 31 percent less likely to suffer a concussion, researchers concluded. However, they found that helmet type made no difference in how long players took to recover from concussions.

The study, which appears in the February issue of the journal Neurosurgery, was funded by helmet maker Riddell. The Revolution helmet was introduced in 2002.

Sharon Displays Slight Movement

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had slight movement in his right arm and right leg during pain stimuli tests on Monday and was in critical but stable condition Tuesday, CNN reported.

"We noted that the prime minister slightly moved his right arm and right leg. It was a very slight movement but a significant one," Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Hadassah Hospital, told reporters.

The pain stimuli tests were conducted after doctors began to bring Sharon out of a medically induced coma. Sharon, who has not opened his eyes, remains attached to a ventilator, CNN reported.

Sharon suffered a major stroke on the right side of his brain last Wednesday.

It's not yet possible to conduct cognitive function tests to determine how much damage Sharon's brain has suffered, said Dr. Felix Umansky, head of the surgical team that did three operations on Sharon to stop bleeding in his brain.

Thalomid Trial for Multiple Myeloma Achieves Primary Endpoint

A clinical trial testing the drug Thalomid in patients with multiple myeloma was halted after the study achieved its primary endpoint, drug maker Celgene Corp. said Monday.

The trial included 270 patients with previously untreated multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. Those who received Thalomid plus the synthetic steroid dexamethasone went an average of 75.7 weeks before their disease progressed, while patients who received dexamethasone alone went 27.9 weeks without disease progression, the Associated Press reported.

Thalomid has U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for treating leprosy. However, doctors sometimes use the drug "off-label" as a cancer treatment.

In November, the FDA issued an "approvable letter" for the use of Thalomid in treating multiple myeloma. This letter indicates that a company's application to market a drug is in order, but that the FDA requires additional data before it give final approval, the AP reported.

Food Fact:
Jump-start a balanced diet.

By adding key foods to your diet, you can get daily allowances for key nutrients in one serving. For instance, 1 cup cantaloupe cubes has 190% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C; 1 cup frozen cooked spinach has 295% of the RDA for beta-carotene; and 6 oz. pink baked or broiled salmon fillet has 201% RDA for vitamin D. The greater the variety of healthy foods you eat, the greater your nutritional coverage.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Happy trails!

Daily walks relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, and increase feelings of enthusiasm and optimism. And that's not all. Daily walks also can help you boost your energy level, enhance your self-image, release tension, manage stress, and improve your ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well.

FAQ of the day:
Is sushi safe?

Most sushi is raw fish. Public health outbreaks are rare at Japanese restaurants, but eating raw fish is inherently more risky than eating it cooked. Raw seafood can carry bacteria, viruses, worms and parasites that can cause severe illness such as hepatitis. Only cooking can kill the microorganisms that cause these illnesses. Most sushi restaurants also offer cooked seafood, as well as vegetable rolls. If you are pregnant, or have any disease that compromises your immune system, don't eat raw seafood under any circumstances.
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