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Protein serves as autoimmune messenger

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, January 3, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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           Cancer mutation traced back to 1630

SALT LAKE CITY, -- Scientists have traced a genetic mutation
linked to colon cancer to an English couple who arrived in 
the North American colonies in about 1630. At least two fam-
ilies, one in New York and the other in Utah, inherited the 
mutation, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Deborah Neklason 
of the University of Utah said the genetic fingerprint has 
been found in 13 other families that have not yet been link-
ed genealogically to the English couple. "The fact that this
mutation can be traced so far back in time suggests that it 
could be carried by many more families in the United States 
than is currently known," Neklason said. "In fact, this fou-
nder mutation might be related to many colon cancer cases in
the United States." The Utah family has an estimated 7,000 
living members who might carry the mutation. The family acc-
ounted for 15 percent of all cases of colorectal cancer in 
the state between 1965 and 1995. 

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            More young men in NYC getting AIDS

NEW YORK, -- The number of young men with AIDS who have been
infected through unprotected homosexual sex is rising in New
York City. Many of the latest victims are black and Hispan-
ic, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The increase in 
cases has occurred while the city's overall rate of HIV in-
fection and of AIDS has been declining. Experts see a number
of reasons for the new wave of AIDS cases. Drugs have made 
many of those infected more reckless and likely to have un-
protected sex. There is also a greater stigma to AIDS infec-
tion among gays than there was 10 or 20 years ago when the 
disease tended to unite the homosexual community. That makes
young men less likely to admit infection or to ask sex part-
ners about their HIV status. Dr. Thomas Frieden said that 
young men also have "treatment optimism," believing that if 
they are infected they can continue to live normal lives 
through drug therapy. "People who grew up watching their 
friends die of AIDS are a lot more careful than those who 
didn't," Frieden said.
  
  
          Protein serves as autoimmune messenger

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.,-- U.S. researchers say the protein inter-
leukin 17 serves as a chemical messenger in autoimmune dis-
eases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Investigators 
at the University of Alabama at Birmingham determined the 
immunity protein plays a major role on shaping B cells' abi-
lity to create more and more disease-causing antibodies, the
university said Wednesday in a news release. The report, 
published in the journal Nature Immunology, said blocking 
messenger signals from the IL-17 protein to the immune sys-
tem of mice significantly reduced the number of white blood 
cells clustered in the mice's spleen from 17 percent to 2 
percent. The team said future research will focus on ways 
to prevent IL-17's unwanted actions and preserve its bene-
fits within the immune system.

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       Colon cancer gene traced to British couple
  
SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say descen-
dants of a British couple who arrived in New England in the 
1630s are at risk of a hereditary form of colon cancer. The 
Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah said a 
founder mutation may contribute to a significant percentage 
of colon cancer cases in the United States, the university 
said Wednesday in a release. The report, published in the 
journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said res-
earchers found two large families in Utah and New York that 
carry a specific genetic mutation responsible for increased 
risk of colorectal cancer. The families are both related to 
a married couple who came to America from England in the 
1630s. "The fact that this mutation can be traced so far 
back in time suggests that it could be carried by many more 
families in the United States than is currently known," said
lead author Deborah Neklason. The mutation causes a condit-
ion called attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis. With-
out proper clinical care, people with the AFAP mutation have
a greater than 2 in 3 risk of colon cancer by age 80, comp-
ared to about 1 in 24 for the general population.


       Older patients face greatest surgical risk

DURHAM, N.C., -- A U.S. study determined that patients 
over the age of 60 are at greater risk for developing 
cognitive problems after undergoing elective surgeries.
Duke University Medical Center researchers said elderly pat-
ients who developed these postoperative cognitive problems 
were more likely to die in the first year after surgery. "We
have known that patients undergoing heart surgery are at 
risk for cognitive dysfunction -- problems with memory, con-
centration, processing of information -- but the effects of 
non-cardiac surgeries on brain function are not as well-
understood," Dr. Terri Monk, an anesthesiologist at Duke and
the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said Wednesday 
in a news release. The study, published in the journal Anes-
thesiology, found that elderly patients were more than twice
as likely to exhibit postoperative cognitive dysfunction. 
Monk said one hypothesis of the cause of this dysfunction is
that surgery and the accompanying anesthesia might cause in-
flammation in the brain that can affect the patient's abil-
ity to learn, retain or remember information.

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         Scientists look at sperm energy for robots

ITHACA, N.Y.,-- U.S. scientists are examining whether they 
can capture the energy driving human sperm to propel nano-
scale robots to deliver medicine. By analyzing stages in the
biological pathway sperm cells use to generate energy, Corn-
ell University College of Veterinary Medicine researchers 
said they hope to recreate that process artificially to del-
iver medicine to targeted sites in the body, Canadian Broad-
casting Corp. reported. "Our idea is not the final product 
but rather an energy-delivery system," said Alex Travis, the
study's senior author. Powerful, microscopic sperm cells use
a dual system to generate their energy, researchers said. 
Organelles in a sperm cell's midsection provide one part of 
its power, while a second process in the tail gives it an 
additional boost. Researchers said they attached three of 
the 10 enzymes needed to create the so-called nano-robots 
fueled by sperm power. Their goal is to attach the remaining
seven enzymes. A nano-robot could be used to help build a 
delivery system for chemotherapy drugs or antibiotics that 
could decrease drug side effects by delivering medicines di-
rectly to the sites where they're needed. The researchers 
presented their findings during the American Society for 
Cell Biology's annual meeting in Washington in Decem
    
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