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Pig cells tested as diabetes treatment

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, January 10, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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             Missing genes linked to autism

CHICAGO,  -- University of Chicago researchers say the loss 
of a small portion of chromosome 16 is significantly assoc-
iated with autism. While the microdeletion occurred in only 
4 out of 712 subjects with autism, it is the second most 
common recurrent genomic disorder associated with autism, 
the university said in a release. The findings are publ-
ished in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. The deletion
of a small portion of chromosome 16, known as 16p11.2, 
results in the loss of about 25 known genes. "Twelve of 
those genes appear to be part of a single genetic network 
that includes genes involved in cell-to-cell signaling 
and interaction," said first author Ravinesh A. Kumar.
"At least three of the deleted genes are primarily expressed
in the brain and are thought to influence behavior." The 
authors said the lost or damaged genes may also be involved 
in other cognitive, language and social impairments. "Alth-
ough this only explains about one-half of one percent of 
autism," said co-author William Dobyns, professor of human 
genetics and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, "it 
provides the best clues yet for finding the specific genetic
changes that lead to the disease. 
           
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         FDA warns of risks of osteoporosis drugs

WASHINGTON,  -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration 
is warning doctors of the risk of severe pain in patients 
treated with certain osteoporosis drugs. The FDA said 
patients have reported severe and sometimes incapacitating 
bone, joint, or muscle pain in patients taking bisphosphon-
ates. The drugs are sold under brand names that include Act-
onel, Fosamax, Boniva, Zometa and Reclast. "Although severe 
musculoskeletal pain is included in the prescribing informa-
tion for all bisphosphonates, the association between bis-
phosphonates and severe musculoskeletal pain may be over-
looked by healthcare professionals, delaying diagnosis, pro-
longing pain and/or impairment, and necessitating the use of
analgesics," the agency said Monday in a FDA MedWatch state-
ment. The pain may occur within days, months or years after 
starting a bisphosphonate. The FDA said doctors should con-
sider whether bisphosphonate use might be responsible for 
severe musculoskeletal pain in patients who present with 
these symptoms and consider temporary or permanent discon-
tinuation of the drug.


         Electronic chip appears to help obese

TRONDHEIM, Norway,  --  An international study on the 
effectiveness of an electronic chip for weight loss 
had promising results in Norway. While five of the 12 sub-
jects withdrew from the study after a chip was implanted in 
their stomachs, the remaining seven lost an average of 15 
percent of their weight in eight months, Aftenposten repor-
ted. The study was conducted at St. Olav's Hospital in Tron-
dheim. "What is special is that one influences nerves in the
body that in turn influence the feeling of being full," said
Ronald Marvik, a medical director at the National Center for
Advanced Laproscopic Surgery. "It is the same thing that 
happens when you eat food." The chip was invented in the 
United States and was also being tested in Australia, Mexico
and Hong Kong. The next step is likely to be a large U.S. 
trial.

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         Firms team up for hemophilia treatment

DEERFIELD, Ill.,  -- An Illinois pharmaceutical company and
a California biotech firm have agreed to team up
to investigate potential treatments for a rare form of hemo-
philia. Baxter International Inc., based in Deerfield, Ill.,
produces Advate, which is used to treat patients with Hemo-
philia A. Company officials told the Chicago Tribune Baxter 
has begun preclinical work on a genetically engineered 
treatment for bleeding in patients with Hemophilia B. Nektar
Therapeutics in San Carlos, Calif., and Baxter have been 
partners in other hemophilia treatments. In its latest part-
nership, Nektar will work with Baxter technology to create 
a more long-lasting treatment for Hemophilia B. Hemophilia 
is a genetic disorder in which victims do not produce the 
proteins needed for blood clotting. About 10 percent of Bax-
ter's $10 billion in annual sales now come from hemophilia 
products.


         Cholesterol may boost muscle gain

COLLEGE STATION, Texas,  -- A U.S. study says lower 
cholesterol levels may reduce muscle gain with exercising.
 A report published in the Journal of Gerontology 
said researchers were surprised to find a significant ass-
ociation between dietary cholesterol and change in strength 
in 55 men and women between the ages of 60 and 69 who were 
assessed over a 12-week period, Texas A&M University said 
Wednesday in a release. Lead investigator Steven Riechman, 
assistant professor of health and kinesiology, said those 
with higher cholesterol intake had the highest muscle stre-
ngth gain. Cholesterol circulating in the blood also appear-
ed to have contributed to greater muscle gain. The report 
said subjects who were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs 
while participating in the study showed lower muscle gain 
totals than those who were not. "One possible explanation is
through cholesterol's important role in the inflammation 
process," Riechman said in a statement. "We know that infla-
mmation in some areas, such as near the heart, is not good, 
but for building muscles it may be beneficial, and cholest-
erol appears to aid in this process."       

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          Pig cells tested as diabetes treatment

SAN DIEGO,  -- A California company is looking at the pot-
ential for treating diabetes with pig islet cells. San Diego
based MicroIslet, Inc. said encapsulated islets from pigs 
have the potential for solving many of the problems associa-
ted with transplantation of insulin-producing islet cells 
from human donors or cadavers as a long-term diabetes treat-
ment, the company said Tuesday in a release. MicroIslet said
it has demonstrated proof of principal of this idea through 
multiple animal studies and is seeking approval to begin 
human clinical trials this year. "Xenotransplantation (from 
one species to another)  has the potential to solve many of 
the problems associated with the transplantation of islet 
cells from one human to another," company president Dr. Jon-
athan Lakey said at a recent conference. He said pig islets 
could one day emerge as a significant treatment for type 1 
diabetes. Islet cell transplantation involves harvesting 
insulin-producing islet cells from the pancreas of an organ 
donor and injecting them into the portal vein. Transplanted 
cells make insulin in response to ingestion of sugars and 
starches, similarly to how a normal pancreas operates, the 
company said.      
    
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