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Synthetic peptoids might fight cancer

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, April 10, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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           Synthetic peptoids might fight cancer

DALLAS, -- A U.S. study suggests creation of synthetic mol-
ecules might be a less expensive alternative to using thera-
peutic antibodies to battle various diseases. Researchers at
the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said 
they've developed a simple and inexpensive method to screen 
small synthetic molecules -- called peptoids -- using some 
to treat cancer and other diseases. In one screen of more 
than 300,000 such molecules, researchers identified five 
promising candidates that mimicked an antibody already on 
the market for treating cancer. "Many new drugs being made 
today are antibodies, but they are extremely expensive to 
make," said Dr. Thomas Kodadek, senior author of the study.
"Our results show that a peptoid can attack a harmful recep-
tor in the body with the same precision as an antibody, but 
would cost much less to develop." Current screening tech-
niques require extensive automation and generally cost 
$40,000 or more, the researchers said, while their new meth-
od can be conducted for less than $1,000. The study appears 
online and in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of the 
American Chemical Society.

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         FDA seizes sexual enhancement products

WASHINGTON, -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announ-
ced the seizure by U.S. marshals of more than 14,000 units 
of Shangai- and Naturale-brand diet supplements. The FDA 
said the supplements -- including Shangai Regular, Shangai 
Ultra, Super Shangai, Naturale Super Plus and Lady Shangai 
-- were valued at more than $100,000. Although labeled as 
natural supplements, the seized products were all marketed 
to treat erectile dysfunction and impotency, as well as to 
provide sexual enhancement, causing them to be considered 
drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The 
seized products contained undeclared active ingredients that
might result in serious side effects, the FDA said. The pro-
ducts, which originated in China, are packaged and distrib-
uted by Shangai Distributors Inc. of Coamo, Puerto Rico. 
Although the products' labels state they are natural supple-
ments, the products are considered drugs and their sale is 
illegal without FDA approval. The FDA advised consumers who
have used any of the products to discontinue use and consult
their healthcare providers if they have experienced any ad-
verse events believed related to the use of the products.
Consumers can also report adverse events to the FDA's Med-
Watch program at 800-332-1088.
  
  
         New method to curtail tumor growth found

ATLANTA, -- A U.S. study suggests increasing a blood press-
ure-regulating enzyme in mice enhances the immune system's 
ability to sense tumor growth. Emory University School of 
Medicine researchers engineered mice to make more angioten-
sin-converting enzymes in white blood cells called macro-
phages. When that occurred, the mice could more effectively 
limit the growth of injected tumors. Scientists said the 
enzyme works by "trimming" small bits of protein that origi-
nate from the tumors, allowing the immune system to identify
those tumors and mount a response more efficiently. The 
study's senior author, Dr. Kenneth Bernstein, said the find-
ings suggest a strategy for amplifying immune system func-
tion in humans. "We think we've discovered a means of tweak-
ing the immune response by modifying the process of antigen 
presentation," Bernstein said, suggesting physicians might 
be able to enhance a cancer patient's ability to resist a 
tumor by removing his or her white blood cells, boosting 
their production of angiotensin-converting enzyme and re-
infusing them. The study is reported online in the Journal 
of Biological Chemistry.

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        Surgeons use robots during heart surgery

BOSTON, April 9 (UPI) -- Some U.S. surgeons say they've 
started using robots to assist them in heart bypass surgery,
producing smaller incisions, less pain and fewer complicat-
ions. Boston Medical Center Dr. Robert Poston said his faci-
lity is one of only nine U.S. hospitals to offer robot-
assisted coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG, surgery. CA-
BG involves removing or re-directing a blood vessel from one
part of the body, placing it around an obstructed artery, 
thereby restoring blood flow to the heart. The robot-assis-
ted procedure allows surgeons to gain access to the heart 
with several small incisions, unlike conventional bypass 
surgery that requires the chest to be opened with a 6-10 
inch incision. Using the small incisions between the ribs, 
the robot's arms and a small camera are placed inside the 
patient's chest, providing a three-dimensional, 10-times-
magnified image, Poston said. The robotic instruments mimic 
the movements of the surgeon's hands and wrist, providing 
flexibility and precise motion control during the procedure.
In addition to smaller scars, fewer side effects and compli-
cations, less pain and a reduced risk of infection, Poston 
said there is also the benefit of a faster recovery.


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             FDA boosts heparin death toll

WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Adminis-
tration says it appears 62 people have died of allergic re-
actions to the blood thinner heparin since early 2007. The 
new figure is more than triple the previous report of 19 
deaths, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. In 2006,
only three deaths were attributed to allergic reactions to 
the blooding-thinning drug, which is made from pig intest-
ines. The FDA said it is aggressively investigating serious 
injuries and deaths associated with the use of heparin that 
contained an active pharmaceutical ingredient from China. 
Baxter International Inc. has recalled heparin products that
were found to be contaminated. An FDA spokeswoman said 19 
deaths may be linked to Baxter's heparin, although Baxter 
said it counts only four deaths as possibly tied to Baxter 
products, the Journal said.
  
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