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Advance made in growing heart cells

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, May 1, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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        Eyes use light to reset biological clock

BALTIMORE, -- A U.S. study said the eye uses light to reset 
the biological clock through a mechanism that is different 
from the ability to see. The findings from biologists at 
John Hopkins University could have implications for people 
suffering from seasonal affective disorder and insomnia, 
the university said in a release. "It seems that even if 
individuals have normal sight, they might be having a mal-
function that is contributing to their inability to detect 
light, which can adversely affect their biological clocks," 
said Samer Hattar, an assistant professor of biology. The 
study, published online in the journal Nature, said tests on
mice showed that there are two distinct pathways for the two
different aspects of light detection -- image-forming and 
non-image-forming. Hattar and his team said daily exposure 
to natural light enhances memory, mood and learning. He said
people should get out in the sun for at least a little while
each day and avoid very bright lights at night. "The idea is
to keep your internal rhythm in sync with the cycle of the 
sun: exposure during the day when the sun is out, less expo-
sure at night, when the sun is down, so to speak," Hattar 


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         Scientists lose hope over AIDS vaccine

LONDON, -- A survey of leading U.S. and British AIDS resear-
chers said many scientists see little hope of an effective 
vaccine against HIV in the near future. Just two of the 35 
scientists surveyed said they were more optimistic about the
prospects for an HIV vaccine than they were a year ago, 
while only four said they were more optimistic now than they
were five years ago, the survey by Britain's Independent 
newspaper said. The survey found that nearly two-thirds bel-
ieved an HIV vaccine will not be developed within the next 
10 years. Some of the scientists said it may take at least 
20 more years of research. Researchers said the direction of
AIDS research needs to change after the failure last year of
a promising prototype vaccine used as an animal model for 
more than a decade. AIDS researcher Robert Gallo told the 
newspaper the vaccine's failure is similar to the Challenger
disaster that forced the space agency to ground its space 
shuttle fleet for years.

        Cancer scientists study the adenovirus

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. -- U.S. scientists say they have 
clarified a complex series of biochemical steps involved 
in abnormal cell proliferation that can lead to cancer. The 
Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.)  Laboratory researchers said they 
used the adenovirus -- a DNA tumor virus that causes the 
common cold, but whose genome contains known oncogenes, said
William Tansey, who led the study with Professors Scott Lowe
and Gregory Hannon. The team focused on an adenoviral onco-
gene called E1A, and a protein that it codes for with the 
same name. Since a DNA virus is little more than a tiny seg-
ment of DNA enclosed within a protein shell, the researchers
said it must find a way to enter the nucleus of a living 
cell and hijack the cell's reproductive machinery in order 
to reproduce. "It's not adenovirus itself, but the things it
does when it enters a cell, that really interest us, Tansey 
said. Understanding how a tumor virus like adenovirus pro-
motes cancer can reveal "the most vulnerable pathways and 
nodes that are linked to tumorigenesis," Hannon added. The 
research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy 
of Sciences.         

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         Brain disease studied at the atomic level

COLUMBUS, Ohio, -- U.S. scientists say they have, for the 
first time, inspected the atomic level of the protein that 
causes hereditary cerebral amyloid angiopathy. The disease, 
thought to cause stroke and dementia, is initiated by cer-
tain kinds of proteins called prions that produce degener-
ative brain diseases such as CAA, mad cow disease and Cre-
utzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. All are incurable and 
fatal. The researchers, led by Ohio State University Assis-
tant Professor Christopher Jaroniec, used solid-state nuc-
lear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to inspect a tiny por-
tion of the protein molecule that is key to the formation of
plaques in blood vessels in the brain. "This is a very basic
study of the structure of the protein and hopefully it will 
give other researchers the information they need to perform 
further studies and improve our understanding of CAA," he 
said. The research that included doctoral students Jonathan
Helmus and Philippe Naudaud, as well as scientists at Case 
Western Reserve University, appears in the online edition 
of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

           Advance made in growing heart cells

TORONTO, -- Researchers in Toronto have made advances in 
developing human progenitor heart cells from embryonic stem 
cells. Dr. Gordon Keller, director of the McEwen Center for
Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network repo-
rted in the journal Nature the new method of generating the 
heart cells can be used to make an unlimited supply for res-
earchers to study cell processes and medical applications.
The manufactured heart cells likely will be used to study 
how the heart develops and to test whether heart medications
are toxic, the Toronto Star reported. "These cells are re-
markable ... in that they can make cardiomyocytes, the cells
that actually contract, and they can also make cells that 
contribute to the blood vessels in the heart," Keller said.
His team used two different human embryonic stem cell lines 
from Singapore and Wisconsin, both approved by Canadian and
U.S. oversight agencies, the report said. The study expanded
on work done last year by researchers led by Charles Murry, 
director of the Center of Cardiovascular Biology at the Uni-
versity of Washington in Seattle, who showed it was possible
to turn human embryonic stem cells into heart muscle cells.
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        Scientists identify new neurologic illness

ROCHESTER, -- Scientists have identified an illness affect-
ing workers at several U.S. pork processing plants as a dis-
ease of the peripheral nerves and spinal nerve roots. Neuro-
logists said the disorder causes symptoms ranging from in-
flammation of the spinal cord to mild weakness, fatigue, 
numbness and tingling in arms and legs. Researchers classify
the condition as an immune polyradiculoneuropathy and it has
been referred to as a progressive inflammatory neuropathy.
Researchers said such illnesses have been reported at pork 
processing plants in Indiana, Nebraska and Minnesota. "This 
appears to be a new syndrome of immune-mediated polyradicu-
loneuropathy, or more simply, a novel neurological disorder 
caused by an immune system response to something in the 
workplace environment shared by these individuals," said 
study author Dr. Daniel Lachance of the Mayo Clinic. The 
research findings were described in the Feb. 8 issue of the 
journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and were pres-
ented this month in Chicago at the annual meeting of the 
American Academy of Neurology.

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