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Stem cells can make blind see

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, June 7, 2007 
"News That Keeps You Healthy"
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Health Tips forum. Check it out here...

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Measles scare keeping students in Canada

VANCOUVER, British Columbia,-- Canadian officials recently
barred 41 Japanese students and teachers from returning home
after one girl reported having measles symptoms. The Kyodo
News Agency reported Sunday that prior to boarding their
flight home, one student complained of measles symptoms at
an airport health checkpoint and the group was immediately
quarantined in Vancouver. Officials told the news agency
that when the student who prompted the containment efforts
and her fellow travelers are deemed free of measles, they
will be allowed to return home. The group from an unident-
ified girls high school in Japan is being monitored by Can-
adian health officials after being given measles vaccinat-
ions. Japan currently is enduring a massive measles outbreak
focused on the nation's universities and schools. Highly in-
fectious, measles can take a maximum of 18 days to develop
after an individual is exposed.


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Limiting social contacts limits flu spread

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- U.S. scientists have developed a math-
ematical model to track the progression of an influenza out-
break. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers,
led by Professor Richard Larson, said their model suggests
the death toll of such an epidemic might be greatly reduced
by minimizing social contacts and practicing good hygiene,
such as frequent hand washing. Larson's team developed a
mathematical model that assumes a heterogeneous population
with different levels of flu susceptibility and social con-
tact. They then used the model to compare scenarios in which
people maintained their social interactions as the flu spr-
ead and in which they didn't. Their results showed reducing
social contacts of people who normally have the most inter-
actions could dramatically slow early growth of the disease.
The researchers also found a striking difference in death
toll depending on how early in the epidemic social dist-
ancing measures went into effect. For example, in a hypo-
thetical population of 100,000 susceptible individuals,
12,000 fewer people were infected if social distancing steps
were taken on Day 30 of an outbreak instead of Day 33.The
complex study is available in the journal Operations

Non-surgical skin cancer diagnosis created

DURHAM, N.C., -- U.S. scientists have developed a technique
that uses lasers pulsing at a thousand-trillionth of a sec-
ond to diagnose skin cancers. Duke University researchers
said the technique can capture three-dimensional images of
chemical and structural changes beneath the surface of human
skin. "The standard way physicians do a diagnosis now is to
cut out a mole and look at a slice of it with a microscope,"
said Professor Warren Warren, director of the university's
Center for Molecular and Biomedical Imaging. "What we're
trying to do is find cancer signals they can get to without
having to cut out the mole. "This is the first approach that
can target molecules like hemoglobin and melanin and get
microscopic resolution images the equivalent of what a doc-
tor would see if he or she were able to slice down to that
particular point," Warren said. "What this is leading to is
for a doctor to be able to touch a mole with a fiberoptic
cable and characterize what is going on inside it." The
technology was demonstrated at a March conference of the
American Physical Society and in May, during an internat-
ional conference on laser advances.

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Schistosomiasis eradication sought

COLUMBUS, Ohio,-- U.S. scientists say small changes in agri-
cultural and sanitation practices can eliminate schistosomi-
asis in developing nations around the world. Schistosomiasis
is a disease of the liver, gastrointestinal track or bladder
that is caused by a parasitic worm carried by snails. Res-
earchers working in remote farming villages in western China
report that providing medicine to infected people and anim-
als, along with modifying irrigation and waste treatment
practices, can reduce, or even eliminate, the long-term
transmission of schistosomiasis. Currently many countries
provide medicine to afflicted people, as well as a pesticide
that kills the snails that carry a larval stage of the para-
sitic worm Schistosoma. "But this dual approach only tempor-
arily reduces infection rates in many areas," said Song
Liang, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of
environmental health sciences at Ohio State University. "We
know agricultural and irrigation practices play a large role
in the transmission of schistosomiasis. Altering these prac-
tices, in addition to providing the medicine and pesticide,
may be the best way to drastically reduce, or even elimin-
ate, the spread of the disease." The researchers reported
their findings in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.

New drug shows thyroid cancer promise

CHICAGO,--U.S. scientists say the investigational drug axit-
inib produced tumor regression or stability in nearly three
of four advanced thyroid cancer patients. In the exploratory
phase-2 trial, tumors in 18 of 60 patients (30 percent)
shrunk by 31 percent to 83 percent. Another 25 patients (42
percent) incurred stability, with no tumor progression or
slight reduction in size when measured at four months. "This
is exciting," said Dr. Ezra Cohen, assistant professor of
medicine at the University of Chicago. "Until now we really
didn't have anything to offer thyroid cancer patients with
advanced disease that was refractory to standard measures."
Axitinib is a small molecule designed to prevent tumors from
acquiring the blood supply they need to grow. A follow-up
trial testing axitinib in patients who have not responded to
standard chemotherapy is ongoing. Pfizer Inc., the maker of
axitinib, funded the trial, which included researchers from
Johns Hopkins University, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,
the universities of Michigan and Colorado, the Fox Chase
Cancer Center, Premier Oncology Corp. and Pfizer. The res-
earch was reported earlier this week in Chicago during the
annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical


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Stem cells can make blind see

LONDON, -- British researchers hope to make stem-cell treat-
ment of blindness caused by macular degeneration routine
within a decade. Macular degeneration is the most common
cause of blindness in older people and is believed to affect
about 30 percent of 75-year-olds. Lyndon da Cruz of the
University College London Institute of Opthamology has had
some success transplanting retinal pigment epithelium cells
within patients' eyes. Now Cruz and his colleagues hope to
use cells grown in a petri dish. The project received an $8
million gift from an anonymous U.S. donor whose father
became blind. "This is totally geared toward getting in the
clinic," said Pete Coffey, a colleague of Cruz' at the
institute. "Our goal within the five-year period is to have
a cohort of 10 or 12 patients we can treat. If it hasn't
become routine in about 10 years it would mean we haven't
succeeded. It has to be something that's available to large
numbers of people."


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