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Health Headlines - November 15

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Transplanted Blood Vessels Grown from Patients' Skin

Argentinian surgeons say they have transplanted blood vessels grown in the lab using a small piece of the patients' own skin and vein, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Two kidney dialysis patients are the first recipients of the new technology, which could prove a boon to diabetics, heart bypass patients and children with heart defects, said scientists from San Francisco-based Cytograft Tissue Engineering, who developed the technique.

The vessels, which are comprised of a tough outer layer and a softer inner lining, took six to nine months to grow in the lab, although Cytograft officials believe that process can be sped up. The technique does not require the use of stem cells, sidestepping ethical concerns.

The first recipient, a 56-year-old woman, received a grafted vessel in May, and researchers said it has withstood needle punctures three times a week since then. Cytograft plans to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to study the procedure in the United States next year.

The findings were presented at Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas.

Study Raises Hopes for Malaria Vaccine

A new study suggests that it's possible to create a vaccine to protect people against malaria, which kills more than a million people worldwide each year.

This study of more than 1,400 children in Mozambique found that a malaria vaccine offered partial protection from malaria to young children for up to 18 months and cut the risk of severe malaria by 49 percent, the Associated Press reported.

The findings were presented Tuesday at an international malaria conference in Cameroon .

"The unprecedented response demonstrated in this study is further evidence that an effective vaccine to help control the malaria pandemic ... is very possible," Pedro Alonso, who heads the Center for International Health at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona, Spain, said in a prepared statement.

Scientists have been trying for 20 years to develop a malaria vaccine but, until this study, none of them showed any promise, the AP reported.

Complex Sugar Stops Tumor Growth: Study

A complex natural sugar called heparin can block tumor growth in mice, says a study in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

The findings suggest that it may be possible to develop a sugar-based treatment to stop the growth of tumors before they become dangerous, BBC News reported.

This study by an Association for International Cancer Research team found that sugar molecules inhibit hormones that tumors send out in order to promote the growth of new blood vessels, which the tumors need in order to continue growing.

In this study, the sugar molecules were divided and purified before they were injected into mice with tumors.

This approach is only effective if cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and does not cause tumors to shrink. However, it may prove an effective treatment when it's combined with other cancer therapies, the researchers said.

China Plans to Vaccinate All Poultry

China announced Tuesday that it will attempt to vaccinate all of the country's estimated 4.2 billion chickens and billion ducks, geese and turkeys against bird flu.

No timetable for this ambitious vaccination effort was given. In terms of the number of animals, it would the largest single vaccination program ever for any species, the International Herald Tribune reported.

This effort would require massive manpower because the birds would have to be vaccinated by one by one. China said it can produce100 million doses a day of bird flu vaccine for birds.

There is no vaccine to protect people against bird flu, but a vaccine for birds has been available for several years. This vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in protecting poultry from bird flu, the International Herald Tribune reported.

In related news, Chinese officials announced Tuesday that it was "highly probable" that a boy and a girl afflicted with high fevers last month were the country's first human cases of bird flu. The girl has died.

Heart Attack Rate Drops After Public Smoking Ban

After a smoking ban was imposed on bars, restaurants and other public places in Pueblo, Colo., heart attack rates declined 27 percent, according to a study presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Dallas.

The study found that 291 heart attack patients were admitted to area hospitals in the 18 months following the July 2003 smoking ban, compared to 399 heart attack patients in the 18 months prior to the ban, the Associated Press reported.

Over the same period, the number of heart attacks stayed the same in a neighboring county that had no smoking ban.

The findings support previous research that showed that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause negative cardiovascular effects within minutes, the AP reported.

The study results are preliminary but important, said AHA spokesman Dr. Donald Lavan, a University of Pennsylvania cardiologist.

"It reaffirms the fact that secondhand smoke is deleterious to all people," Lavan said.

Suicides, Psychological Ills Linked to Tamiflu in Japan

Two teen suicides and 64 cases of psychological disorders in Japan have been linked to Tamiflu, the flu drug that many countries are stockpiling in anticipation of a potential influenza pandemic, according to published reports.

Japanese media reported that in 2004 a 17-year-old high school boy taking Tamiflu died after he jumped in front of a truck, and that this year a 14-year-old boy taking Tamiflu fell to his death from the ninth floor of a condominium.

It's also been revealed that Japan's Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency has recorded 64 cases of psychological disorders linked to Tamiflu, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Swiss drug maker Roche, which makes Tamiflu, said it's aware of the two suicides in Japan and has informed regulatory agencies in other countries. A Roche spokesman said the 17-year-old boy took Tamiflu after first being treated with amantadine, an older anti-flu drug known for central nervous system side effects.

The spokesman said there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether the second boy's death was suicide or an accident, the Chronicle reported.

Roche would not comment on the psychological disorders linked to Tamiflu users in Japan.

Food Fact:
"Pea" is for Protein.

Can eating peas save your eyesight? Peas are also an excellent source of lutein, which is believed to help fight macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older. It may surprise you to learn peas are not vegetables -- they're actually legumes. Either way, a 2/3-cup serving contains about 5 grams of protein, or about 10% of the daily protein needs of a 130-lb. person. Like other legumes, peas are rich in B vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. While it's a treat to eat fresh peas in late spring and early summer, shucking them is tedious. Frozen peas are just as nutritious as fresh. Add them to pilafs, bean salads and soups.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Butt buster.

Want one exercise that works five major muscle groups? We've got it! Try squats, which work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs and lower back -- and you can do them anywhere. To increase resistance, add dumbbells or barbells to your reps.

FAQ of the day:
Are there different diets for diabetics?

There are different diets for controlling type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The basic dietary principles for any healthy diet apply to both types of diabetes, but the top priorities are different. In Type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin injections, it's most critical to match the amount of food you eat at each meal and snack with your injection schedule. For Type 2 diabetes, the top priority usually is limiting overall calories to lose weight; meal-to-meal variations are less critical.
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