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Portable Metabolism Monitor Sought

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, October 25, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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           Genetic changes can occur rapidly

CHICAGO, -- U.S. scientists have used a field mouse study to
determine both genes and morphology can change quite quick-
ly. Visiting Assistant Professor Oliver Pergams at the Univ-
ersity of Illinois-Chicago and population geneticist Robert 
Lacy of the Chicago Zoological Society compared the genetic 
makeup of 115 white-footed mice in the Volo Bog State Natur-
al Area northwest of Chicago using mitochondrial DNA taken 
from collection samples as old as 150 years and mice coll-
ected in recent years. They found a new type of mouse repl-
aced the old type in Volo Bog between 1976 and 2001. "The 
new mice were genetically very different," said Pergams. He 
and University of Illinois-Chicago Professor Mary Ashley 
reported in 2001 about similar morphological changes in size
and shape occurring during the past century involving deer 
mice on three different California Channel Islands and black
rats from two Galapagos Islands. While Pergams found the 
coincidental changes surprising, he said it is too soon to 
say if that is somehow related to world climate change.           

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           Brain cancer vaccine testing begins

NEW YORK, -- U.S. medical scientists have started a clinical
trial to evaluate a brain cancer vaccine that's used in add-
ition to surgery and chemotherapy. The New York University 
Medical Center study will focus on patients with glioblast-
oma multiforme, a deadly form of brain cancer. The vaccine, 
called DCVax-Brain, incorporates proteins found in patients'
tumors and is designed to attack cancer cells containing 
those proteins. "We are really excited about the promise of 
this vaccine," said Dr. Patrick Kelly, chairman of the cen-
ter's Department of Neurosurgery. "Everything now depends on
something in addition to surgery so that these tumors do not
recur. A cancer vaccine like this may make a difference in 
extending life and maintaining a good quality of life." 
Kelly and Dr. Michael Gruber will lead the research. The 
trial will enroll patients 18 to 65 years old with newly 
diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer who will rec-
eive standard primary treatment with surgery followed by 
radiation with concurrent chemotherapy. Enrolled patients 
will be randomized to receive the standard of care, and oth-
ers will receive the standard of care and the vaccine. The 
vaccine is manufactured by Northwest Biotherapeutics Inc. 
of Bothell, Wash.
  
  
          First autism genome scan is completed

BOSTON, -- A U.S. group of scientists has completed and re-
leased the first genome scan for autism spectrum disorders 
for use by researchers around the world. The Autism Consort-
ium, a group of researchers, clinicians and families dedic-
ated to radically accelerating research and enhancing clin-
ical care for autism, said the scan was conducted using new,
high-resolution technology on genetic data from more than 
3,000 children with ASD and their families. The release of 
genetic and phenotypic autism data marks a significant ach-
ievement, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Ins-
titute for Mental Health. "Progress in finding the causes 
and cures for autism spectrum disorders rests in large part
on improving the rapid access and sharing of data and res-
ources," said Insel. "That the consortium is making the data
available to the scientific community even before its own 
researchers have fully analyzed the information, demonstr-
ates their high degree of commitment to and leadership in 
advancing autism research." Officials said the new data pr-
ovide the most detailed look to date at the genetic variat-
ion patterns in families with autism. Researchers conducted 
the genome wide study using GeneChip microarray technology 
made by Affymetrix Inc, of Santa Clara, Calif.         

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         Scientists design device to treat cells

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- A U.S. research team is developing a 
therapeutic device designed to capture and treat cells as 
they flow through the blood stream. Massachusetts Institute 
of Technology and University of Rochester researchers said 
such a device, among other applications, could treat cancer 
cells as they spread or signal stem cells to differentiate.
The scientists said their concept leverages cell rolling -- 
a biological process that slows cells as they flow through 
blood vessels. As the cells slow, they adhere to the vess-
el's walls and roll, allowing them to sense signals from 
nearby tissues that might be calling them to work. Immune 
cells, for example, can be slowed and summoned to battle 
an infection. "Through mimicking a process involved in many 
important physiological and pathological events, we envision
a device that can be used to selectively provide signals to 
cells traveling through the bloodstream," said Jeffrey Karp 
of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Techno-
logy. "This technology has applications in cancer and stem 
cell therapies and could be used for diagnostics of a number
of diseases."

  
           Portable metabolism monitor sought

HOUSTON, -- Fighting obesity might one day involve wearing a
U.S.-made portable monitor to measure a person's ongoing 
metabolism. Wearing such a portable instrument to monitor 
metabolism might be one of the results of collaborative res-
earch being performed at the University of Houston and The 
Methodist Hospital. University of Houston Physics Professor 
John Miller recently received a three-year, $623,425 explor-
atory research grant from the National Institutes of Health 
and the National Science Foundation to develop biosensors 
for energy balance and obesity. Miller is targeting metabo-
lic syndrome, a pernicious complication of obesity that aff-
ects about 20 percent of obese individuals and greatly in-
creases the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and can-
cer. His long-term goal is to develop innovative technolo-
gies that detect metabolic activity for research and clin-
ical applications. "Although drug treatments for metabolic 
syndrome exist, the cost of drugs to treat all obese indivi-
duals is prohibitive," Miller said. "Therefore, there is a 
critical public health need to develop technologies that can
provide early diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and enable 
cost-effective treatment, as well as to measure metabolic 
activity and other components of energy balance in obese 
patients."
 
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       Genes and viral load both affect HIV rates

SAN ANTONIO, -- A U.S. study suggested genetic factors in 
addition to viral load significantly influence the pace of 
human immunodeficiency virus disease. Viral load -- the am-
ount of virus in the blood of an HIV-infected person -- has 
long been viewed as the chief indicator of how quickly some-
one with HIV infection progresses to AIDS. The new data sug-
gest other factors also significantly contribute to disease 
progression rates. Researchers led by Dr. Sunil Ahuja of the
University of Texas Health Science Center examined genetic 
information from more than 3,500 HIV-1 infected and uninfec-
ted individuals. They found people with specific combinat-
ions of two genes -- CCR5 and CCL3L1 -- were much more like-
ly to have reduced immune responses and a greater decline in
CD4 T cells, both hallmarks of progressive HIV disease. They
also found viral load contributed only 9 percent to the var-
iability in rate of progression to AIDS; while variations in
CCR5 and CCL3L1 combined accounted for 6 percent variability
in AIDS progression rates. The findings might have implicat-
ions for the care of HIV-infected individuals in terms of 
being able to more effectively predict the course of HIV 
disease.

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