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Clinic studies lung cancer technology

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, November 29, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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           Secondhand smoke lung damage detected

CHICAGO, -- U.S. radiologists have, for the first time, id-
entified structural damage to the lungs caused by secondhand
cigarette smoke. The study was conducted at the University 
of Virginia School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital 
of Philadelphia. "It's long been hypothesized that prolonged
exposure to secondhand smoke may cause physical damage to 
the lungs but previous methods of analyzing lung changes 
were not sensitive enough to detect it," said Chengbo Wang, 
magnetic resonance physicist at The Children's Hospital of 
Philadelphia. Wang and colleagues used long-time-scale, glo-
bal helium-3 diffusion magnetic resonance imaging to study 
the lungs of 43 volunteers, including seven current and for-
mer smokers and 36 people who had never smoked, 18 of whom 
had a high level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In helium-
3 diffusion MRI the patient inhales a specially prepared 
helium gas prior to imaging and the scanner is adjusted to 
collect images showing the helium gas in tissue. "With this 
technique, we are able to assess lung structure on a micro-
scopic level," Wang said. "These findings suggest that brea-
thing secondhand smoke can injure your lungs."

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         U.S. funds influenza vaccine development

WASHINGTON,  -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services has awarded a $201 million contract for develop-
ment of a cell-cultured influenza vaccine. The DynPort 
Vaccine Co. and Baxter International Inc. received the 
contract for development of Baxter's seasonal and pandemic 
influenza vaccines. The contract funds development of the 
seasonal influenza vaccine through the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration and the pandemic vaccine candidate through 
Phase 2 clinical trials in adults and pediatric Phase 1 
clinical trials. DVC, the prime contractor, will provide 
overall management of the clinical trials. Baxter will dev-
elop and manufacture the vaccines and own all clinical data 
and licenses.


         First drug-resistant TB strain sequenced

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- An international team led by U.S. and 
South African scientists has announced the first genome 
sequence of a drug-resistant tuberculosis strain. The exten-
sively drug resistant strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
was linked with more than 50 deaths in a recent outbreak in 
South Africa. Genomes of multi-drug-resistant and drug-sens-
itive isolates were also decoded and initial comparisons 
revealed the microbes differ at only a few dozen locations 
along the 4-million-letter DNA code. Massachusetts Institute
of Technology Associate Professor Megan Murray, one of the 
study's principal investigators, said researchers announced 
the genome sequence and their initial analysis far in ad-
vance of submitting a scientific paper, hoping to accelerate
work on drug-resistant TB. The draft sequences of the vari-
ous strains each cover roughly 95 percent of the M. tubercu-
losis genome. Comparing DNA sequences in those regions 
allows researchers to pinpoint key differences, shedding 
light on genetic factors that contribute to TB drug resis-
tance. "These results also lay the groundwork for the deve-
lopment of a rapid diagnostic test for TB," said Murray. 
"Such a test would enable more rapid and accurate diagnoses,
and help to prevent the spread of TB -- especially the most 
virulent strains."

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         Red blood cell transfusion risks studied

BRISTOL,-- British medical scientists suspect red blood cell
transfusions given during heart surgery might increase the 
risk of heart attack or stroke. The University of Bristol 
study involved more than 8,500 cardiac surgery patients dur-
ing an eight year period. Researchers found patients receiv-
ing such transfusions experienced a three-fold increase in 
complications arising from lack of oxygen to key organs. The
study showed the risks associated with transfusion occurred 
regardless of the hemoglobin levels, age or level of patient
disability. "Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body to
supply vital organs," said Professor Peter Weissberg. "Not 
unreasonably, therefore, heart surgeons have assumed pati-
ents who have low red blood cell counts after surgery -- as 
a result of blood loss during or shortly after surgery -- 
would benefit from a … transfusion of donated red blood 
cells. "This study shows the importance of putting such 
widespread beliefs to the test, since it suggests such tran-
sfusions may cause more problems than they solve," he added.
  
  
          Clinic studies lung cancer technology

CLEVELAND, -- U.S. medical scientists are evaluating new X-
ray computer technology to determine if it can improve early
detection of lung cancer. The Cleveland Clinic and the Riv-
erain Medical Corp. have started the first study to deter-
mine whether chest X-ray computer-aided detection can help 
identify hard to detect lung cancers at an early stage when 
they are most treatable. The five-year study, led by Dr. Mo-
ulay Meziane, will involve 9,000 test subjects who are to 
be enrolled early next year. Routine chest X-rays are viewed
and analyzed by radiologists, the researchers said. However,
without chest X-ray CAD, many lung cancers might not be id-
entified when lung cancer is most treatable. With chest X-
ray CAD, the software "looks at" the X-ray, identifies reg-
ions of suspicious pulmonary nodules and circles them for 
further analysis. The radiologist is then able to review the
suspicious areas more closely and determine whether additio-
nal follow-up is needed.
   
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            New Alzheimer's treatment tested

CAMBRIDGE, -- A U.S. study has shown a cocktail of three 
compounds normally in the blood stream promotes new brain 
connections and improves cognitive function in rodents. Ma-
ssachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are testing 
the treatment on Alzheimer's patients and say it might hold
promise for other brain diseases and injuries. The mixture, 
which includes a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is part of a 
new approach to attacking Alzheimer's that focuses on corr-
ecting the loss of synapses that characterizes the disease.
For 30 years, researchers have tried targeting the clumps of
misfolded proteins, known as amyloid beta plaques, found in 
the brains of Alzheimer's patients. "It's been very frustra-
ting," said Dr. Richard Wurtman, the study's senior author. 
"Nobody has demonstrated that if you prevent formation of 
the amyloid, people get better." Researchers agree the cog-
nitive decline seen in Alzheimer's patients is caused by 
loss of brain synapses. Wurtman and others theorize resto-
ring some of the synapses might provide an effective treat-
ment, analogous to giving L-dopa to Parkinson's patients.
Although such treatments don't cure the disease, they can 
restore significant brain function, said Wurtman.
  
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