Friday, December 30, 2011

Stem Cell Research on Donor Eggs Often Kept Confidential

Many U.S. fertility clinics don't tell egg donors that embryos made from their eggs may end up being used in stem cell research, according to a new government survey.

That's despite widespread opposition to such research, which is considered morally offensive by a third of Americans, researchers write in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

They found that among 100 fertility clinics, two said they didn't have a consent form for women donating eggs.

Of the 66 clinics that sent in a consent form and said they used excess embryos for research, just 20 told women about that. And only three of 38 clinics that used some embryos for stem cell research in particular disclosed that to donors.

"The survey shows that only a minority of IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics mention to egg donors who are donating for the sake of treatment (as opposed to research) that resultant embryos might ultimately be used in research," said study co-author Gerald Owen Schaefer of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. "An even smaller minority mention stem cell research explicitly."

"Since possible research use of embryos, especially for stem cell research, may be material information affecting some women's decision about donation, egg donors should be so informed," he and his colleagues wrote in the paper.

Some women have eggs taken out as part of their own fertility treatment, while others receive handsome payments -- often several thousand dollars -- to donate an egg.

"We recommend that all IVF clinics that provide some embryos for research inform egg donors about the possibility of such research (including stem cell research, which is particularly controversial)," Schaefer told Reuters Health by email. That agrees with several organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Bioethicists not involved in the new study questioned whether disclosing that surplus embryos might be used for research would have an effect on women's decision to donate.

"I think it's unlikely that this would have an impact on women who are engaged in commercial egg donation," said Dr. Steven Miles, a professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "Whether it should be disclosed is another issue -- in general, disclosure is a good thing."

Raymond De Vries, a social scientist and a professor of bioethics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, said the survey left crucial questions unanswered.

"Clearly it is important for women to know where their eggs are going. But we don't know from this survey, are women upset by this?" he told Reuters Health. "What is missing is, these women who donate eggs, what do you know about them?"

De Vries said there are examples of ads luring in potential donors with compensations upward of $10,000, although harvesting an egg is not a straightforward procedure.

Breast Implant Scandal Shows Regulators in Dark on Risk

Long before the latest global breast implant scare, American health officials were toying with the idea of building a registry that would track patients with implants.

The registry would give a better idea of the number of complications over time, such as rupture or infection.

But to this day, none exists for the world's largest healthcare market, which often serves as a global model for regulatory practice. Some individual countries in Europe have made their own attempts but with only limited success, and there is no continent-wide registry.

In the wake of the current scandal surrounding France's Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), which used industrial grade silicone instead of medical grade silicone in implants placed surgically in some 300,000 women worldwide, advocates for a registry are again pushing the idea.

The French government has advised the 30,000 women in France who bought the implants to have them removed and governments in several other countries, such as Britain and Brazil, have asked women to visit their doctors for checks.

"If we had had registries, we would have known years ago if it's true that PIP implants break sooner," said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families. "We would have known if Mentor ones break sooner or later than Allergan's," she said, referring to the two largest makers of breast implants.

There were almost 400,000 breast enlargement or reconstruction procedures in the United States in 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That includes silicone and saline implants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has relied on company-funded efforts to track the safety of implants since allowing the silicone versions back on the market in 2006. It had banned silicone implants in 1992 after some U.S. women said the devices leaked and made them chronically ill.

Siemens Recalls Clinical Pregnancy Tests

Siemens has recalled 15 batches of clinical pregnancy tests because some of them incorrectly showed a positive result, a spokesman for the company said on Friday.
He said the recall affects several hundred hospitals around the world, which were told as early as mid-December to destroy pregnancy tests from the batches.
Until the cause of the malfunction has been found, Siemens will not be supplying any such tests, he said.

Milk Intake in Teens Tied to Later Prostate Cancer

Older Icelandic men who remember chugging a lot of milk in their teens are three times as likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer as more-moderate milk drinkers, researchers have found.

That makes them wonder whether the years around puberty, during which the prostate matures, could be a time of heightened vulnerability for the gland.

"We believe that our data are indeed solid and provide important evidence for the role of adolescence as a 'sensitive period' for prostate cancer development," Johanna Torfadottir, a nutrition scientist and a graduate student at the University of Iceland, told Reuters Health by email.

"However, we remain cautious in our interpretation," she added. "Causal inferences are not made on one study alone, thus more studies are needed to confirm our findings and also to explore possible mechanism behind this association."

So far, she added, the two studies on prostate cancer and milk intake in adolescents have come to mixed conclusions -- one found milk lovers seemed to be somewhat protected against the disease, while the other found no link at all.

But both studies were small and couldn't distinguish between advanced and early-stage tumors, Torfadottir said.

By contrast, Iceland offers the perfect "natural experiment," she and her colleagues write in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The country had little infrastructure in the early part of the 20th century, so people in rural areas tended to live off the land. That included lots of milk from farm animals in central regions of the island, whereas the drink was scarce in seaside villages.

For their study, the researchers used data from more than 2,200 men born between 1907 and 1937. These men had been part of a medical study started in the 1960s and, in the early 2000s, had answered questions about their diet in early and mid-life as part of another study.

Among 463 men who recalled drinking milk less than once a day in their teens, one percent developed advanced prostate cancer or died of the disease over a quarter century of follow-up.

That figure was three percent among the more than 1,800 men who said they drank milk at least daily in adolescence.

The gap couldn't be explained by how often people had gone to the doctor for check-ups, their education or other foods they ate, such as fish or meat.

How much milk men drank had no connection to their risk of early-stage tumors, however. And intake in midlife -- the age group most other studies have focused on -- didn't seem to matter either.

Torfadottir said there are several physiological mechanisms that might, in principle, explain the link between she found. But at this point, all of them remain speculative.

"From these data alone we cannot recommend that teenage boys should chance their dietary habits," she said. "We are only looking at the risk of one disease, prostate cancer, and obviously risks of other conditions, e.g. bone health, need to be considered."


Dr. Matthew Cooperberg, a urologist at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed.

"It would be premature to say that drinking milk causes prostate cancer," he told Reuters Health. "You can talk about association, but it is hard to prove causality."

He added that people shouldn't be wary of drinking milk.

"There are plenty of health benefits from drinking milk in adolescence," Cooperberg said.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ring in the New Year With a Team Effort

I am ringing in the New Year by entering my 11th year of living with metastatic breast cancer.
Although living with cancer is the last thing I ever could have foreseen, it is what it is; and on a good day, I am grateful that I am still here. (I have more good days than bad). The hardest part is the treatment because when you have metastatic cancer, drugs only work for a certain period of time and then you have to find a stronger drug to keep your cancer in check.
There are a lot of side effects to these drugs, and that is why I continue to fight back with my foundation, the Noreen Fraser Foundation. Raising money for women's cancer research is the most important mission in the fight against cancer. I have known too many women who have come to the end of the pipeline on available drugs. What happens then? You die. Investing money into this research will find new drugs to keep patients alive and new, less toxic drugs so that living with cancer will not be living in hell. As the year comes to an end, we are hoping for as much support as we can receive from donors to continue this fight. I will never give up on this mission.
The other thought I had as we approach the New Year, is the concept of "teams." The breast cancer walks employ this technique to raise money for the walks. A team is the support system for a cancer Team Noreen. Why not create "Team ______" for the person in your life who has cancer...any kind of cancer.  The "team members" would each be responsible for a certain area of "happiness" for their loved one and would keep in touch with each other to share how they feel their loved one is doing. For instance, I would be responsible for entertainment, another team member might be responsible for treatment, another exercise, etc. etc.  This could be a great card to send someone on New Years’ Day –  announcing the team and what they will do for you in 2012.  I love this! Now I have to find a team for me. My first choice for entertainment on my team would be Will Ferrell. (Ok, that's not going to happen, but I can dream). If you decide to create a team, keep in touch with me and let me know how it is going. Maybe I can help with suggestions. You can write to me on Facebook.
Don't forget end-of-the-year donations to women's cancer research. You never know whose dollar it will be that brings the cure to the forefront. I wish each and every one of you a healthy New Year.

Avastin Passes Test in Delaying Ovarian Cancer

For women with advanced cases of ovarian cancer, the drug Avastin adds about four months to the time it takes for the cancer to worsen, according to a new report.
Patients treated with Avastin in addition to chemotherapy had about 14 months before their advanced ovarian cancer progressed, compared to about 10 months for those in the study who were  treated with chemotherapy and a placebo.
An early analysis of the trial's results was presented in June 2010 at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; the complete report from the trial appears today (Dec. 28) in the New England Journal of Medicine.
This was the third clinical trial to show that adding Avastin to standard chemotherapy treatments extends the time before ovarian cancers progress, said Dr. Carol Aghajanian, chief of gynecologic medical oncology service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
"This is good news for women with ovarian cancer," said Aghajanian, who was not involved in the new study.
However, women treated with Avastin did not live any longer than other women in the study, according to the report.
The European Commission approved Avastin as a treatment for ovarian cancer this month, but it is unclear whether the drug will be approved to treat this cancer in the United States, Aghajanian said.
The drug, made by pharmaceutical company Genentech, is designed to inhibit the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor. It is currently approved to treat certain types of colon, lung, kidney and brain cancers, while the FDA recently disallowed its use for breast cancer.
Preventing cancer from worsening
The new report is based on 1,873 ovarian cancer patients who had been assigned at random to three groups. One received chemotherapy treatments along with a placebo; one received Avastin (generically known as bevacizumab) along with chemotherapy at the start of their treatment, then received only chemotherapy for the rest of their treatment; the third group received Avastin along with chemotherapy for the entirety of their treatment. The patients did not know which treatment they were receiving; neither did the doctors treating them.
The researchers measured the blood levels of a marker called CA-125 to determine whether the patients' cancers were progressing. CA-125 levels are a very early marker of worsening cancer, Aghajanian said. Levels of CA-125 begin to rise before a growing cancer is visible on a CT scan.
"They used a very conservative method of measuring progression, so we can be certain that it's meaningful," Aghajanian said.
Whether Avastin could extend patients' lives is a tricky question to try to answer with studies, Aghajanian said. At the end of this trial, for example, the patients and their doctors were told whether they had received Avastin or the placebo treatment, and it was entirely possible that those who had been on the placebo then received Avastin, she explained. Such a crossover in treatments after a study's conclusion would make it difficult to later determine whether patients who received a drug during a trial lived longer.
Avastin and breast cancer
There are important differences between the studies of Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer and the studies of its use for ovarian cancer, Aghajanian said.
In November the FDA revoked its approval of Avastin to treat breast cancer because studies showed that breast cancer patients treated with it did not live any longer, and faced significant risks of severe side effects such as small holes developing in the intestines. The drug had been cleared by the FDA in February 2008 under an "accelerated approval" process based on promising early studies, allowing Avastin to be used for breast cancer patients while Genentech did further research.
"There was not a consistent benefit seen in the breast cancer studies," Aghajanian said. By contrast, three studies of the drug's use in ovarian cancer showed a consistent benefit.
The safety of the drug as seen in the new study "was reassuring," Aghajanian said, as was the finding that patients taking the drug reported no difference in their quality of life from patients receiving the placebo.
The rate of patients who developed gastrointestinal perforations was twice as high among those who received Avastin as among those who received a placebo, but the rate was still under 3 percent.
Elevated blood pressure was seen in more patients who received Avastin throughout the study than in those who received the drug only at the beginning or not at all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pregnancy May Change Mom's Brain for Good

Time in the womb is obviously important for the development of the fetal brain. But pregnancy is also a time for changes in Mom's brain — changes that may prepare women to become better mothers.

These changes still are little-understood, concludes a review published in the December issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Pregnant women often complain about "pregnancy brain" or "mommy brain," a memory fog that seems to produce lost car keys and misplaced cell phones. One 2010 study suggested that high levels of sex hormones could be to blame for the frustrating lapses in concentration. But in many ways, the changes that happen in a mom-to-be's brain during pregnancy remain mysterious.

"Pregnancy is a critical period for central nervous system development in mothers," review author Laura Glynn, a psychologist at Chapman University in California, said in a statement. "Yet we know virtually nothing about it."

Pregnant rats

It's difficult to examine the brains of pregnant women, and much of our modest knowledge comes instead from studies of rodents, Glynn said. Rats can be sacrificed and their brains studied in-depth. Studies have found that pregnancy causes rats' brains to form new olfactory, or smell-related, neurons. What's more, such pregnancy-related changes persist for the rest of the animals' lives. In rodents, at least, additional pregnancies seem to cause additional changes, so that the more litters a rat has, the more altered its brain will be.

It's not known whether women experience permanent changes as well; humans are very different from rats, after all. But according to Glynn, it's "extremely likely" that pregnancy permanently alters the human brain. The hormone flood that occurs during pregnancy dwarfs the hormonal changes that occur during other volatile times of life, such as adolescence, Glynn wrote. Just as teen hormones permanently alter brain structure and function, she said, it's likely pregnancy hormones do, too.

Your brain on pregnancy

In fact, recent research is revealing that fetuses have more effect on their mothers than previously realized. According to a 2004 study reviewed by Glynn, movements by the fetus after 20 weeks' gestation increase a mother's heart rate and her skin conductance, a measure of psychological arousal. These changes in Mom's physiology happen even when she can't physically feel the fetal movements. [5 Myths About Women's Bodies]

Fetuses share cells with their mothers, a strange phenomenon called microchimerism. Fetal cells pass through the placenta and lodge in a mother's body, where many remain quietly for years. One 2005 study found that in pregnant mice, these fetal cells hang out in the brain, especially in smell-related areas that are crucial for recognizing offspring. No one yet knows what, if anything, these fetal interlopers do there, or whether fetal cells in humans are similarly drawn to mothering-related areas of the brain.

Some of the brain changes during pregnancy may help mothers become more attuned to their infant when it is born, Glynn suggests. Fetal movements that tickle a woman's unconscious might prepare her to bond with her infant, for example. Likewise, changes in brain areas associated with emotion and memory could prime women for caregiving.

Teen Loses Cancer Fight After Delivering Son

Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.
That much, she knew.
While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl's words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni's baby was born.
"She told the nurse, `I'm done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'" said Diana Phillips, Jenni's mother.
In photographs, the baby's ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.
A day after the Nov. 9 birth, Phillips learned that her daughter's decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.
It was only 12 days past the birth — half spent in the hospital and the other half at home — before Jenni was gone.
Even so, her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.
This month, her family gathered at their ranch style home in Pocatello, where a Christmas tree in the living room was adorned with ornaments picked out just for Jenni, including one in bright lime green, her favorite color. She had passed away in a bedroom down the hall.
Recalling Jenni's infectious laugh and a rebellious streak, her mother held the baby close, nuzzling his head, and said, "I want him to know everything about her, and what she did."
The migraines started last year, when Jenni was a 16-year-old sophomore at Pocatello High School. She was taken to the family doctor, and an MRI scan found a small mass measuring about two centimeters wide on the right side of her brain.
She was sent to a hospital in Salt Lake City, some 150 miles south of Pocatello, and another scan there showed the mass was bigger than previously thought.
Jenni had a biopsy Oct. 15, 2010, and five days later was diagnosed with stage three astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. With three tumors on her brain and three on her spine, Jenni was told her case was rare because the cancer had spread from her brain to another part of her body with no symptoms.
Her parents, who are divorced, remember they were brought into a room at the hospital and sat down at a long table as doctors discussed her chances of survival.
"Jenni just flat out asked them if she was going to die," said her father, Mike Lake, 43, a truck driver who lives in Rexburg, north of Pocatello.
The answer wasn't good. With treatment, the teen was told she had a 30 percent chance to make it two years, Lake said. While he was heartbroken, Lake marveled at how strong she seemed in that moment. "She didn't break down and cry or anything," he said.
But her mom recalled Jenni did have a weak moment that day.
"When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset," said Phillips, 39.
Jenni started aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while also posting videos on a YouTube site titled "Jenni's Journey," where she hoped to share her story with updates every other day. She managed to upload only three videos, though, as her treatments left her tired and weak.
On her second video, posted Nov. 20, 2010, Jenni appears distraught while a family friend records her having lunch with her mom.
"Last night, like, I was just lying in bed and I was thinking about everything that was going on and it just like, it just hit me, like everything, and I don't know, it made me cry," Jenni says on the video.
Her mom is shown burying her face in her hands. "Do you know how hard it is to be a mom and know that she's sick and there's nothing you can do," she says, before collapsing into tears.
Jenni persists: "It's hard. It's like, I don't know how long this is going to last and I just want it to go away ... I feel like this is holding me back from so much ..."
By March of this year, the tumors had started to shrink, the family said.
In a picture taken at her prom in early May, Jenni is wearing a dark blue strapless dress and gives the camera a small smile. There's a silver headband in her hair, which is less than an inch long. Chemotherapy took her shoulder-length blond tresses.
Her boyfriend, Nathan Wittman, wearing a black dress shirt and pants, is cradling her from behind.
Jenni started dating Nathan a couple of weeks before she received her diagnosis. Their adolescent relationship withstood the very adult test posed by cancer, the treatments that left her barely able to walk from her living room to her bedroom, and the gossip at school.
"The rumors started flying around, like Nathan was only with her because she had cancer," said Jenni's older sister, Ashlee Lake, 20, who tried to squelch the mean-spirited chatter even as the young couple ignored it.
They were hopeful, and dreamed of someday opening a restaurant or a gallery.
Jenni had been working as an apprentice in a local tattoo shop. "She was like our little sister," said the owner, Kass Chacon. But in May, Jenni's visits to the shop grew less frequent.
She had been throwing up a lot and had sharp stomach pains. She went to the emergency room early one morning with her boyfriend and when she returned home, her family members woke up to the sound of crying. "We could hear Jenni just bawling in her room," said her sister, Kaisee, 19.
She had learned that she was pregnant, and an ultrasound would show the fetus was 10 weeks old.
Jenni's journey was no longer her own.
From the start of treatment, she was told that she might never have children, her mother said, that the radiation and chemotherapy could essentially make her sterile.
"We were told that she couldn't get pregnant, so we didn't worry about it," said Nathan, 19.
Jenni, the third of her parents' eight children, had always wanted to be a mom. She had already determined to keep the baby when she went to see her oncologist, Dr. David Ririe, in Pocatello two days after she found out she was pregnant.
"He told us that if she's pregnant, she can't continue the treatments," Phillips said. "So she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue the treatments, or stop the treatments, knowing that it could continue to grow again."
Dr. Ririe would not discuss Jenni's care, citing privacy laws, but said, generally, in cases in which a cancer patient is pregnant, oncologists will consider both the risks and benefits of continuing with treatment, such as chemotherapy.
"There are times during pregnancy in some situations, breast cancer being the classic example, where the benefits of chemotherapy may outweigh the risk to mother and baby," Ririe said. "There are other times where the risk outweighs the benefits."
There was no discussion about which path Jenni would choose. Her parents didn't think of it as a clear life or death decision, and Jenni may not have, either. They believed that since the tumors had already started to shrink earlier, she had a strong chance of carrying the baby and then returning to treatment after he was born.
"I guess we were just hoping that after she had the baby, she could go back on the chemotherapy and get better," her mother said.
Jenni and Nathan named the baby Chad Michael, after their dads. Nathan has legal custody of the child, who is primarily cared for by Nathan's mother, Alexia Wittman, 51.
"Nathan will raise him," she said. She brings the baby to Jenni's house to visit her family whenever they ask.
Jenni didn't show regret for her decision, not in the final weeks of her pregnancy as she grew weaker, and not when she started to lose her vision as the cancer took its course, her family said.
Jenni's last words were about her son as he was placed beside her a final time, her father said.
As she felt for the baby, she said: "I can kind of see him."

Third Infant Infected as U.S. Probes Baby Formula

A third infant in the United States has tested positive for the infection that led to the death of one infant, sickened another and spurred a probe of baby formula, including Enfamil by Mead Johnson Nutrition Co.
A baby in Oklahoma tested positive for Cronobacter, a bacteria that has sometimes been linked to rare illnesses in newborns and has been found in milk-based powdered baby formula, Barbara Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.
The baby had not consumed Enfamil formula, according to Leslea Bennett-Webb of the Oklahoma Department of Health. The baby, less than a month old, has been treated and discharged from the hospital, she said.
This is a third Cronobacter case in recent weeks, after a baby in Missouri died and another child is now recovering in Illinois, both confirmed to have been infected with Cronobacter.
The Missouri 10-day-old newborn consumed Enfamil Premium formula, while the Illinois infant was exposed to a variety of formula brands apart from Enfamil, as well as many other over-the-counter products, according to the FDA.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc and scores of other U.S. retailers pulled cans of Enfamil, but the ongoing federal investigation has so far found no link between the illnesses and the formula.
Health authorities are testing opened containers with formula, both liquid and powdered, and bottled distilled water used to feed the baby in Missouri. They are also testing closed bottles and cans from the lot collected from the family, the hospital and Wal-Mart, where the family bought its formula.
No other formula brands in the probe have been disclosed.
Mead Johnson has said it had re-tested samples from the Enfamil Premium powdered formula and found the product to be safe, recouping some of the losses they suffered initially at the news.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Miracle! College Student wakes up from coma just as he was given no chance of survival!

 Sam Schmid, a business major at Arizona State University, was critically injured in a five-car crash in October he was given a slim chance of recovering. He was unresponsive after suffering a traumatic brain aneurism and his family considered taking him off life support, reported NBC's Kristen Dahlgren.
But his doctor decided to do one more brain scan before declaring the 21-year-old brain dead - and based on what he saw, asked the family to give it one more week. That very day, Schmid was able to respond to a command and raised two fingers - and not long after opened his eyes. He's even recovered enough that he was allowed to leave the hospital for one day to spend Christmas at home with his family.
But his doctor decided to do one more brain scan before declaring the 21-year-old brain dead - and based on what he saw, asked the family to give it one more week. That very day, Schmid was able to respond to a command and raised two fingers - and not long after opened his eyes. He's even recovered enough that he was allowed to leave the hospital for one day to spend Christmas at home with his family.

Nepal Teen Is World's Shortest Man

A Nepalese fruit seller's son with the body of a toddler turned 18 on Thursday and was officially declared the world's shortest man by Guinness record officials.
Khagendra Thapa Magar measured in at 26.4 inches, displacing the former record holder, Edward Nino Hernandez of Colombia, who measures 27 inches.
Cheers went up when Magar was handed a world record certificate by Guinness official Marco Frigatti. The ceremony was held in a hotel in Pokhara, Magar's hometown and a popular tourist destination west of Katmandu.
"I can confirm that as of today Khagendra Thapa Magar is officially the shortest man in the world," Frigatti announced as he handed over the certificate.
Magar's family has campaigned for years to get him the crown, but earlier requests to Guinness were rejected because of the possibility he might grow.
"We had to wait till he was 18 and became an adult," Frigatti said.
On Thursday, Magar and his family excitedly welcomed journalists to their home, where Magar jumped on the kitchen table and made tea for the visitors and family members. He also received presents for his 18th birthday and danced to the sound of a toy drum.
Magar, who weighs 12 pounds, 5 ounces, was tiny even at birth, weighing just 1.3 pounds. His father says he has no explanation for why he never grew taller — his younger brother is a normal height for a boy of 13.
Local doctors are stumped, but lack facilities for detailed testing.
"His body structure is like that of a small child, and he also thinks and behaves in that manner," said Magar's doctor, Hum Prasad Newpane.
Next year he is to serve as a government-appointed goodwill ambassador as his nation celebrates Visit Nepal Year.
"I am very happy and excited," he said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tainted soy sausage kills 5 at Mexican rehab center

Medical officials say five recovering drug addicts died and dozens of others were sickened by soy sausage served for Christmas dinner at a rehabilitation center in western Mexico.

Authorities were investigating whether the poisoning at the center in the city of Guadalajara was accidental or intentional. Drug cartels have taken over rehabilitation centers in parts of Mexico, forcibly recruiting addicts as hit men and smugglers. The invasions have led to mass shootings at the centers that have left dozens dead.

Alhy Daniel Nunez is a spokesman for the Red Cross in the western state of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is located. He said Monday that 37 people remained hospitalized, three of them in serious condition.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Enfamil Infant Formula Recalled by Wal-Mart, Tested for Bacteria


MISSOURI (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - As the investigation into a Missouri newborn's death continues, the company that makes "Enfamil" baby formula insists the product is safe.
Officials with "Mead-Johnson" say their tests on a batch of "Enfamil" found none of the bacteria that led to the death of a 10-day-old boy this month.
He died after being fed the formula, which prompted Wal-Mart and other stores to pull the product from its shelves.
The FDA, the CDC and Missouri officials are still investigating. ___
Wal-Mart has pulled a batch of infant formula from store shelves nationwide following the death of a Missouri baby.
Reports say the 10-day-old died from a bacterial infection this week.
Wal-Mart fears he may have gotten sick after being fed "Enfamil" brand formula.
They say the powder came in 12.5-ounce cans with the lot number ZP1K7G.
Health officials are investigating the illness and have not linked it to the formula so far.
There has been no government recall either.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eau de DNA: Do Genes Determine Our Perfume Preference?

A perfume that one person loves may be repulsive to another. The difference is in our genes, a new study suggests.

Scientists asked people to rate their preference for the scents commonly found in perfumes, and then tested for variations in the participants' genes. As it turns out, which version of a gene someone had was correlated with which smells they liked best.

"It's really hard for many people to find that perfect perfume for themselves," said August Hammerli, first author of the paper and a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. “Many people judge in terms of packaging and marketing and not what smells they like. Our idea was to bring biology into this question and ask: Can we determine what perfume scents a person would like based on their genotype?”

The new study was published online Dec. 6 in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

What Smells Good?

Previous research has found that a set of genes called MHC genes (short for major histocompatibility complex) is related to whether someone is sexually attracted to someone else's scent. People are most likely to be attracted to the scent of someone who has different MHC genes than they do. Evolutionary biologists think that for primates in the wild, this helps ensure that animals closely related to each other don't mate.

Hämmerli and his colleagues hypothesized that our MHC genes may also dictate our preferences for other smells. One previous study suggested that there was a correlation, but didn’t flesh the idea out.  Hämmerli's team recruited 116 study participants — both male and female — and asked them to smell 10 different scents, including cedar, rose, cinnamon and moss. They repeated the tests with different concentrations of the scents and in different settings.

Some smells were clear winners and losers — the highest rated was tolu, a scent that comes from a South American balsam tree and resembles vanilla. The lowest rated was vetiver, which originates from a grass in India and is said to have a "woody" or "earthy" scent. But for each scent, the strength of the participants' preferences varied depending on each person's particular set of MHC genes .

"It would still be difficult to create a perfect perfume for someone based on this limited information," Hämmerli said. "But the more scents and people you study, the more patterns start to emerge."

Hämmerli said the scents that people prefer may be those that best advertise their own natural body odors to potential mates, enhancing the connection between MHC and attraction to others. But that theory has yet to be tested.

Buying Perfumes for Others

"These findings fit very well into what has been found,” said Claus Wedekind, of the University of Laussane in Switzerland. Wedekind was one of the first scientists to discover the link between MHC genes and mate preferences, with the notorious "sweaty T-shirt study" in which women rated their preference for the smells of T-shirts worn by different men.

"We first tested this idea in the early 1990s in humans," Wedekind said. "We found that body odor preferences are indeed linked to immune genes. One could then speculate that other odor preferences are also influenced by these genes."

Because MHC genes are most often linked to people's attraction to others, biologist Leslie Knapp at the University of Cambridge said the new study could be expanded to test whether the perfume preferences hold true when the perfumes are worn by others, as opposed to sprayed on one's own body.

"In this study they're focusing on self as opposed to focusing on others," Knapp said. "When they talk about wanting to choose a fragrance, my idea is why aren't you thinking about what fragrances you'd be buying for your partner? If someone likes a fragrance, they should want their partner to smell like that."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Docs: No Surgery for Twins With 2 Heads, 1 Body

Brazilian doctors said the conjoined twins born with one body and two heads will not be surgically separated at this time, Agence France-Presse reported.
Jesus and Emanuel were delivered by emergency C-section early Monday in Anajas, in the northeastern Para State in Brazil. They are in stable condition.
"It's important to understand that this is two babies and not one baby with two heads.”
- Dr. Neila Dahas of the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital said.
The twins have two functioning brains and two distinct spinal cords and share several internal organs, doctors said.
“It is impossible to take a decision with relation to surgery, not only because of physical reasons, but ethical ones as well,” Dr. Neila Dahas of the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital said. "It's important to understand that this is two babies and not one baby with two heads.”
The babies were joined together because of a “delay in cellular division,” according to the hospital. It is a condition known as dicephalic parapagus, which is very rare.
Abby and Brittany Hensel of Minnesota are also dicephalic parapagus twins, born in 1990. They lead a ‘normal’ life and have become somewhat famous after they appeared in a documentary in 2008.

Read more:

Woman Gets Voice Back After Suffering From Laryngitis for 30 Years

If you’ve had laryngitis, you know how annoying it can be.
But the condition usually clears up within a few weeks – except for one woman, it lasted 30 years.
Betty Lou Trufant, who lives in New England,  lost her voice three decades ago after she developed a cold. One of her vocal cords became paralyzed and she just recently got her voice back.
Trufant said she developed a bad cold in 1982, which caused the laryngitis. Her voice sound breathy and raspy.
“Probably 25-35 percent of the people we see who have a paralyzed vocal cord, have it due to a virus,” said Dr. Michael Benninger of the Cleveland Clinic, who operated on Trufant.
Benninger operated on Trufant at the Clinic and put an implant in her throat designed to push the paralyzed cord back into place and allow the cords to touch again, thus creating sound.
“I sound so different, so different,” Trufant said. “So good. He (the doctor) is thrilled at how I’m sounding already. I mean, wow.”
After years of not speaking, Trufant said she is making up for lost time – she is chattier than ever and plans to sing many Christmas carols.
“I think the patients find it amazing because they go from this to this, right on the operating table, and it’s like an eye opener for everybody in the room, every time we do it,” Benninger said.

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Brain Implant Cures Woman’s Tourette Tics

Brain 2
A British woman with extreme Tourette Syndrome was fitted with a revolutionary "brain pacemaker" to rid her of debilitating muscle jerks that almost drove her to suicide.
Jayne Bargent was disabled by relentless and uncontrollable muscle movements that made it difficult for her to breathe and walk, and stopped her from driving, cooking and reading.
She was considering traveling to a suicide clinic in Switzerland when British surgeons started using an experimental treatment called deep brain stimulation, which is already used to treat some other neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease.
The complex operation involved drilling holes in Bargent's skull and inserting two tiny electrodes into her brain. A pacemaker was then fitted to her chest to allow doctors to send electrical impulses into her brain tissue.
Around 40 minutes after the treatment, Bargent's muscle tics had almost completely disappeared.
"I couldn't imagine living the rest of my life as I was," she told Sky News on Friday. "I would have considered going over to Switzerland to Dignitas [suicide clinic] when it got to the stage where I just could not feel I could carry on."
"Now I have got my life back," she added. "We will be able to go out again and go for walks. It will have a huge impact on our lives."
Ludvic Zrinzo, the consultant neurosurgeon who carried out the operation, said doctors do not know for sure how the technique works.
"What we think is happening is that there is some disorganized information traveling through circuits in the brain," he said. "We are dampening these messages and allowing other parts of the brain to take over."

Read more:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Antidepressant, Talk Therapy Fail to Beat Placebo

Neither antidepressants nor "talk therapy" were able to outperform inactive placebo pills in a new clinical trial on depression treatment -- though there were hints that the effects varied based on people's sex and race, researchers report.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, add to evidence that people receiving "real" depression treatment in studies -- from antidepressants to St. John's wort -- often do no better than people given a placebo.

A recent review found that a minority of antidepressant users even fared worse than placebo users.

In this latest study, researchers randomly assigned 156 depression patients to either take the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft and other brands) daily for 16 weeks; undergo a form of psychotherapy called supportive-expressive therapy (twice a week for four weeks, then weekly for 12 weeks); or be in a placebo group given inactive pills.

After 16 weeks, there were no overall differences in how the three groups fared.

Of antidepressant patients, 31 percent were treatment "responders" (meaning they'd fallen below a certain score on a standard measure of depression symptoms, or had seen their score drop at least 50 percent.)

The same was true of about 28 percent of patients in the talk-therapy group, and 24 percent in the placebo group. The differences among the three groups were so small as to be likely due to chance.

"I was surprised by the results. They weren't what I'd expected," said lead researcher Jacques P. Barber, dean of the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.

Still, he stressed in an interview, the lack of benefit over placebo does not mean that depression therapies are pointless.

For one, Barber said, receiving a placebo in a clinical trial "is not the same as getting no treatment."

Study participants in placebo groups have contact with health professionals who are asking about their symptoms and well-being, Barber pointed out. And for some people, that attention can make a difference -- and may help explain the placebo response seen in studies.

In addition, at least some people in placebo groups believe they are getting the real treatment. And some studies have suggested that people's beliefs about their therapy play a key role in whether they get better.

But apart from that, different people may respond differently to a given type of depression therapy. Barber's team found some evidence of that.

The study, which focused on urban, low-income adults with major depression, had an unusually large minority population for a clinical trial on depression: Of the 156 patients, 45 percent were African American.

And Barber's team found that African-American men tended to improve more quickly with talk therapy than with medication or placebo.

In contrast, white men fared best on placebo, while black women showed no differences in their responses to the three treatments.

Only white women, Barber said, showed the expected pattern: a quicker response to both medication and talk therapy than to the placebo.

But all of that is based on fairly small numbers of people, and more research is needed to see if the gender and racial differences are real, according to Barber.

A psychiatrist not involved in the study agreed. "Those findings are interesting, but need to be interpreted with a grain of salt," said Dr. David Mischoulon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.


As for the overall lack of benefit from the real treatments over placebo -- in this and other studies -- Mischoulon cautioned against reading that as "nothing works for depression."

"I think it's the opposite," he told Reuters Health, "It's more that, everything seems to work to some degree."

Like Barber, Mischoulon said that the placebo condition in clinical trials is not really "no treatment."

His advice for people suffering from depression symptoms is to talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of all the treatment options, including different forms of talk therapy and medication.

"I try to offer as broad a menu of options as possible, because all may potentially help," said Mischoulon, who has also studied alternative depression remedies, like fish oil and acupuncture.

Another caveat from the current study, he noted, is that it looked only at two types of medication. (Some patients were switched to another drug, venlafaxine (Effexor), if they did not respond to sertraline after eight weeks). And it tested just one type of talk therapy.

Supportive-expressive therapy is a short-term form of psychoanalysis that aims to help people understand how their personal relationships are related to their symptoms.

It's different from cognitive behavioral therapy, the best-studied form of talk therapy for depression. Both Barber and Mischoulon said it's not clear if the current findings would extend to psychotherapies other than supportive-expressive therapy.

"This is one type of psychotherapy, and it's two antidepressants," Mischoulon said. "It would be wrong to conclude that psychotherapy doesn't work, and antidepressants don't work."