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New method created for testing DNA

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          HEALTH TIPS - Monday, February 5, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"


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             New method created for testing DNA

ST. LOUIS, -- U.S. scientists have successfully tested a 
technique for identifying newly recognized DNA variations 
that may influence disease risk. The researchers at the 
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and 
the biotech firm NimbleGen Systems Inc. of Madison, Wis., 
said the technique highlights variations in the number of 
copies of a particular gene, rather than focus on errors 
and alterations in a DNA sequence. Additional copies of 
a gene may lead to overproduction of that gene's protein, 
possibly affecting both easily identifiable traits, such 
as body size, and more difficult-to-discern traits such 
as cancer risk, the researchers said. "Right now, our 
results and other early assessments of human and other 
mammalian genomes are suggesting about 10 percent of the 
genome features copy number variations," said the study's 
lead author, Dr. Timothy Graubert, an assistant professor 
of medicine. "That's a huge number," he added. "As a per-
centage of the genome, variations in gene copy number 
could explain more person-to-person variability than the 
single-letter changes in the genetic code known as SNPs 
(single nucleotide polymorphisms)." The research appears 
in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

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       Juvenile arthritis economic impact studied

MONTREAL, -- A Canadian study shows juvenile idiopathic 
arthritis, the most common rheumatic disease in childhood, 
inflicts a substantial negative economic impact. Led by 
Drs. Ann Clarke, Ciaran Duffy, and Sasha Bernatsky of the 
McGill University Health Center in Montreal, the study 
involved 155 children with JIA and 181 controls from two 
Canadian hospitals. The researchers said their study is 
the first to quantify an association between JIA disease 
activity and healthcare costs, finding the difference in 
annualized average direct medical costs for the JIA group 
versus a control group was $1,686. The JIA group also had 
higher costs related to specialists, healthcare 
professionals, and diagnostic tests. Scientists say the 
findings are important in helping to quantify the magni-
tude of healthcare cost savings that could result in 
better disease control, especially given the development 
of costly new medications. "Ultimately, decisions regard-
ing access to therapies should be considered in terms of
overall cost-benefit ratios," they said. "More effective 
interventions, even if associated with higher initial 
healthcare costs, may well have significant long-term 
cost savings to society." The study appears in the cur-
rent issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

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       Antipsychotic may control autism disorder

BRISTOL, England, -- A British study suggests risperidone, 
a drug used to control schizophrenic symptoms, might help 
treat problems found in autism spectrum disorder. The re-
searchers reviewed three randomized, placebo-controlled 
studies of risperidone (Risperdal) involving 211 partici-
pants, including 31 adults. "(We found) risperidone may 
be beneficial for various aspects of autism, including 
irritability, repetition and hyperactivity," said Dr. Ora 
Jesner of the University of Bristol, the study's leader. 
However, Jesner noted, the drug's benefits might be off-
set by its side effects, among which weight gain is most 
prominent. Often diagnosed within the first three years 
of life, autism spectrum disorder leads to difficulties 
with social relationships, language and communication 
skills. Symptoms include withdrawal from social inter-
actions, irritability, problems communicating and 
repetitive behaviors. The U.S. Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention says as many as 1.5 million people 
in the United States might have some form of the disorder.
The review by Jesner and co-author Mehrnoosh Aref-Adib 
appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library.

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