Comments From Cornwall

by John de Rivaz

Introduction:

This file contains the text of a monthly column that appeared in The Immortalist, a magazine published by The Immortalist Society <ettinger@aol.com>

Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.

A Highly Disturbing Tale
Viagra Invigorates Pfizer
Israel bans genetic cloning
Study Suggests Magnets Ease Pain
Study: Boomers to Alter Health Care
Scientists Show Exercise is A Waste of Time
Hand Transplant
Condiment Could Ward Off Bacteria
Help Against Elderly Blindness
Scans Study Brain Damage in Strokes
Wine Labels May Tout Health Benefits
Anti-cancer Drug to Be Tested
Study Questions Some Transfusions
UN Conference on Aging Concludes
Wall St. Celebrates Celebrex
Diet May Prevent Second Heart Attacks
Stem Cell Research Criticized
'Supergerm' Kills Hong Kong Woman
Pigs Grown with Human Genes
Drug Prices Up for Insured Patients
Fired JAMA Editor Lads Job Online
FDA Aids Cold Viruses
Doctors Cutting Rate of Delirium
Migraine Cure
Heart Attack Treatment
Former French Leader Acquitted of AIDS Charge
Cold Virus May Cause Heart Damage
New Hong Kong Bird Flu Appears
Mainstream Company Adds to Herbal Supplement Portfolio
FDA Approves Another Estrogen
Study: Estrogen May Improve Memory
Study Backs Longer Clot Treatment
FDA Functional Food Rules Sought
Rice Extract Lowers Cholesterol
Brain Wave Device Spells Messages
Herbal-infertility Link Explored
Arthritis A Risk for Exercisers
Comment on "Cryo-Trusts"
Center Studies Ideas on Food Safety
Medicare HMO Coverage Info Lacking
Singapore Killer Bacterium on Rise
External Device An Alternative to Defibrillator Implant Surgery
New Stress Test Predicts Heart Risk Without Dangerous Surgery
Philadelphia Offering Organ Donor Incentives
Lilly to Develop Cancer Treatment
Study Suggests Eating Eggs
New Asthma Drug May Fight Allergies
Obese Women Risk Heart Disease
Savings Likely If Kids Get Flu Shot
Is There a Future for the Pharmaceutical Giants
Rapid Drug Discovery Technology
Exercise Helps Women Quit Smoking
Advertising - Paid for by Results
Marrow May Reduce Organ Rejection
Cells May Help Parkinson's Patients
New, Safer Diabetes Drug Coming
Organ Implanted After Being Trashed
FDA approves fat-blocking diet drug
WHO: Cigarettes Are Like Drugs
Researchers Report Cloning Goats
Vitamin D Said Important for Bones
Timing Treatments for Patients
Prostate Blood Test in Development
Anti-cancer Research Uses Soybeans
UN: Global diseases on the rise
Worm Enzyme May Help Extend Life
Folic acid deficiency improves
N. Ireland Surgeon Dies At Age 98
Testing for Influenza
Flu Season Was Deadlier Than Usual
Test Planned for New Cancer Drug
Cholesterol-lowering Margarine OK'd
Scientists Discover Bone Mass Gene
Drug May Fight Common Cold
Research Spending
Mormons Offer Online Family Tree
Gates Gives $20 Mln to Johns Hopkins
Bird Flu Virus May Strike Again
Breast Cancer Study Needs Women
FDA Approves New Diabetes Drug
Thymus Could Be Key in Aids Fight
Study Backs Lower Doses of Hormones
Gene Study Might Help Hemophiliacs
FDA Approves 3-day Diabetes Monitor
More Americans Living Past 100
Effort to Improve End-of-life Care
Man Gets Cardiac Gene Therapy
Exercise Can Reduce Diabetes Risk
Surgeons Transplant Cadaver's Bone
Britain Bans Human Organ Cloning Research
FTC Battling Internet Health Fraud
100 Cups of Coffee Protects from Radioactivity
Study Sheds New Light on Insomnia
Internet Links Doctors, Insurers
Hi-tech Donation-backed Project Fails
CDC Warns of Alaskan Flu Outbreak
Cornwell Gives $1.5 Mln to Science
The Dilemma of Schering Ploughing Profits Into Research
CDC Diverts Chronic Fatigue Funds
A Vaccine for Alzheimer's Disease?
Authorities Attempt to Set Aside Fears that Gastroscopy May Spread CJD
Inhaled Drug Effective Against Flu
News Item Demonstrates How Cremation Defeats Future Technology
Alternative to Angioplasty Surgery
Human Genome Project Reveals New Immune System Booster
U.S. Philanthropy Boosted by High-tech Billions
Doctor to Exterminate Unclaimed Embryos
Nasal Spray Effective in Preventing Flu
Chemical Process May Aid Computers
U.S. Seeks Government Finance for Limited Cell Research
Changes in dental practises.
Study: Pharmacists Curb Drug Errors
Vaccine Against "Gastric Flu"
Nanometer Sized Dosage System
Parkinson's Disease News
Laughter Can Help When Facing Grief
Giving Money Away
Skin's Cancer Defence Explored
Cutting the Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack
For A Fit Brain, Drive with Mittens
Religion Linked to Good Health
Debate on Reuse of Medical Devices
Secondhand Smoke Inreases Stroke Risk
Crohn's Disease Treatment - US Ahead of Europe
Osteoporosis Treatment
More Gains for Pharmacological Treatment
Preventative Pharmacology - strokes
Scientists Create Smarter Mice
Gases Could Show How Body Works
Lower Leg Pain May Be Serious
Human Genome Sciences
FDA Approves New Antibiotic
Stem Cells May Help Muscle Disease
Cancer Gene May Attack Immunity
Tired Teen-agers Need More Sleep
Annual Flu Shots May Be Eliminated
Six Scientists Win Lasker Awards
Blocking Enzyme Could Help Cancer
Volunteers Sign Up for Cancer Drug
Antibiotic May Kill Resistant Germs
Migraine Treatment
Osteoporosis Reversal
Gene-altered Vein Used in Bypass
Men May Bid 'Hairwell' to Baldness
Enzyme May Treat Some Disorders
Weight: Genes Or Discipline?
Researchers Diagnose Leukemia
Hopkins Study Finds Prostate Cure
Vitamin E May Lower Cancer Risk
Vitamins may lower prostate risk
Scientists seek Alzheimer's clues
Brain Cell Xeno Transplants
Studies: Obesity on the Rise in U. S.
FDA Approves New Flu Pill
New Drugs Against Hepatitis c
Study: Stereotypes Affect Elderly
Cost of Medicine for Elderly Rises
Kids May Overeat Due to Hormones
Blood Pressure Drug Holds Promise
Update: Alcohol Cuts Stroke Risk - Study
Scientists Make Pain Relief Strides
Stock Market Computer Growth to Continue for At Least 15 Years
Drug May Help Lower Risk of Strokes
Learning Brain Cells Identified
Good Health Habits Can Extend Life
Gum Disease Linked to Enzyme Lack
Telomerase Research Shows Way to Kill Cancer Cells in Culture
New Colorectal Cancer Test Created
Eye Chip May Help Restore Vision
The World's Best Selling Prescription Medicine
New Cold Treatments
BioGlue news
Nutrition Urged As Medicare Benefit
Alzheimer's Treatment Undergoing Trials
The Establishment Finds Out That Vitamin C Can Lower Blood Pressure
Study Links Mad Cow, Brain Diseases
Honesty May Fight Malpractice Suits

Sent 20 Feb 1999

A Highly Disturbing Tale

A 24-year-old Japanese woman who received the country's first lung transplant from a living donor was released on 28 December, 1998 from a hospital in western Japan, local media reported. The unidentified woman received half of her 48-year-old mother's left lung and one-third of her 21-year-old sister's right lung in October. An incurable lung disease had left her unable to breathe on her own. Doctors at Okayama University Hospital discharged the woman after her breathing capacity improved to about half of that of a normal adult woman, Kyodo News agency reported.

It is disturbing, of course, because cryonics patients could be seen as a source of these spare parts by a collectivist authority structure. However provided other authoritarians do not prevent the developments of technologies to grow organs on demand by cloning, this worry will only exist for a very short period in history. A brand new cloned organ would after all be much better than parts ripped from living or dead bodies.

Viagra Invigorates Pfizer

Shares of PFIZER INC jumped to a lifetime high on 29 December, 1998 after Forbes magazine named the U.S. drug maker its Company of the Year, saying, "the people who brought us Viagra have more blockbusters on the way." Forbes, in its issue dated Jan. 11, 1999, said Viagra was expected to have 1999 sales of $1.4 bln, adding that at least a half dozen other drugs still in Pfizer's research pipeline are likely to emerge as blockbusters over the next five years. They include Zeldox for schizophrenia, Relpax for migraine headaches, Tikosyn for heart rhythm disorders, Alond for diabetes-related disorders, inhalable insulin for diabetes and Droloxifene for osteoporosis.

Israel bans genetic cloning

Israel's parliament has passed legislation that bans cloning humans for the next five years and monitors genetic research, the sponsor of the bill said 30 December, 1998. The law allows genetic intervention for medical purposes, such as cloning a healthy organ for donation. Researchers wishing to conduct experiments in human genetics must show an advisory committee that their research does not violate the ban, an infraction punishable by two years in prison. "Human cloning endangers humanity as seriously as nuclear weapons," said Labour Party legislator Hagai Merom. "That also began as an experiment but later became a weapon of mass destruction."

This shows the woeful ignorance of authoritarians. They need to stop and think what cloning a human would actually achieve. What it would not achieve is the creation of some form of slave to the original. It would not even achieve a copy of the original! The reason for this does not require specialist university education, only simple common sense - something authoritarians seem to lack.

A clone of an adult will be brought up as a child in a different age (at least 18 years of time displacement). This would be by different parents or at best the same parents with 18 or more years extra experience. In addition, educational methods would have changed by the time the clon goes to school. The attitudes of his peers would have changed.

The end result would be a completely different individual.

It is time the public refused to be bamboozled by authoritarians with ridiculous views of science and technology, influenced more by B horror movies than common sense.

Study Suggests Magnets Ease Pain

A preliminary study suggests there may be something to one popular folk remedy - magnets really might ease pain in some cases. More research is needed, agree the physician who conducted the small study and an outside observer. Dr. Michael Weintraub, a neurologist at the New York Medical College in Valhalla, said a group of patients with chronic foot pain reported improvement after wearing pads equipped with low-intensity magnets. Also see Longevity Report 18

Study: Boomers to Alter Health Care

The demanding, cash-heavy and technology-savvy baby boomers who have driven the retail market will do the same with an ever-restrictive health care industry, inspiring customer-friendly services and an explosion in medical advertising, researchers say. Forecasting the impact of aging baby boomers that are starting to spend more time at the doctors' office, analysts at the Institute for the Future, a Menlo Park research group presenting their findings, said this generation - which has come to rely on brand names and flexible options when they shop - will become increasingly vocal about what they want from managed care.

Scientists Show Exercise is A Waste of Time

Couch potatoes can improve heart and lung fitness just as much by doing everyday activities like raking leaves and climbing stairs as they would working up a sweat in a gym, researchers reported 27 January, 1999. The authors of two studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association say their findings are good news for anyone who doesn't exercise because they don't have time, don't like heavy workouts or can't get to a gym. "Most of us drive to work, sit at our desks and drive home and watch TV," said Cynthia Gonzalez, who took part in a study at the Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research in Dallas.

Hand Transplant

Thirteen years after an explosive blew off his left hand, Matthew David Scott has a new one. "He stares at it and grins," family friend James Brown said as Scott, a paramedic from Absecon, N.J., recovered from the first hand transplant in the United States. The 14-1/2-hour surgery was performed at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville. His doctors said Scott, 37, was doing as well as possible. They watched closely for blood clots, other complications and any sign that the donor hand was being rejected.

Biology, not doctors, ultimately will determine whether Matthew Scott's hand transplant is effective, one of his surgeons says. For now, Scott is "pretty much on cruise control," Dr. Warren C. Breidenbach said. Scott, a paramedic from Absecon, N.J., received the left hand of a cadaver in a 14-1/2-hour operation. At Breidenbach's prompting, he flexed his new fingertips ever so slightly Thursday to test tendons that control finger movement. Scott, 37, lost his left hand in an accident with a powerful M-80 firecracker 13 years ago.

Condiment Could Ward Off Bacteria

Horseradish may do more than just spice up your favourite sandwich. Scientists in Oklahoma believe the condiment can also serve as a food preservative, guarding against a host of contaminants. Both horseradish and mustard oil contain the pungent chemical allyl isothiocyanate. Mustard oil has 93% AITC, but has a milder flavour than horseradish, which has 60% AITC. Because of the presence of the chemical, both condiments can help fight off listeria, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and other food pathogens, according to the work of Henry Fleming, a food technologist with the Agricultural Research Service and Oklahoma State University food chemist Brian Shofran.

Help Against Elderly Blindness

It is one of the most insidious problems of aging, a type of creeping blindness that steals people's vision from the centre out. First, fine detail fades. Your crossword puzzle seems OK at a glance, until you try focussing on just one word. People's faces start to blur. You cannot read or drive. Eventually, elderly people with the worst form of this "age-related macular degeneration," or AMD, go blind. Scientists now are experimenting with a handful of therapies that may preserve patients' eyesight, starting with a light-activated drug called Visudyne that could be available within a year.

Scans Study Brain Damage in Strokes

Ultra-fast brain scans are giving doctors a clearer picture of what's gone wrong inside stroke victims' heads so that they can decide in a hurry how to treat them. The innovation is part of a sudden sense of urgency that has overtaken the field of stroke treatment. New drugs have been developed that can stop a stroke in its tracks, provided they are given quickly and to the right patients. Until about two years ago, there was little advantage to pinpointing the precise location of a stroke because there was absolutely nothing doctors could do about it. That changed with the discovery that the clot-dissolving medicine TPA can often reverse a stroke - just as it does a heart attack - if given within the first three hours of symptoms. Still more medicines are in development.

Wine Labels May Tout Health Benefits

Scientific studies have suggested it, and now winemakers finally may get a chance to tout it through their labelling: A glass or two of the grape each day could be good for you. The Treasury Department announced on 5 February 1999 two proposed changes for wine labels to include references to some of the positive health effects of drinking wine. Wine labels already warn that pregnant women should not drink alcohol and that alcohol can impair driving and cause health problems. But they say nothing about studies suggesting that moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of heart disease in some people. The change would not become final until after a public comment period that could last 90 days and a review by the Treasury Department.

Anti-cancer Drug to Be Tested

Government scientists have finally been able to reproduce a scientist's highly publicized results for an anti-cancer drug and are now seeking to begin the first human tests, The Boston Globe reported Thursday. The breakthrough using the drug endostatin came only when National Cancer Institute scientists conducted the experiment in the Children's Hospital laboratory of researcher Dr. Judah Folkman, who discovered it and found that it reduced tumours in mice. Last fall, NCI scientists said they could not match Folkman's promising test results using a small quantity of the drug Folkman sent them. Folkman attributed the failure to the drug's sensitivity to handling, storage and the way it's administered.

Government scientists plan to begin human testing by the autumn. The closely watched developments involve a natural protein called endostatin. It and a sister protein called angiostatin both work - at least in mice - by blocking tumour's ability to sprout new blood vessels. This makes cancer fall dormant or disappear altogether

in lab animals. But no one knows if the same thing will happen in people. The two proteins have been the subject of a roller coaster of speculation ever since an enthusiastic front-page story in The New York Times in May 1998 on Dr. Judah Folkman and his experiments.

Study Questions Some Transfusions

Cutting back on blood transfusions for the critically ill can actually improve some patients' chances of survival, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The new study by Canadian researchers questions the common practice of giving critically ill patients red blood cells when they become mildly anaemic. It suggests that waiting until anaemia is severe can save both money and lives. The study was directed by Dr. Paul C. Hebert of the University of Ottawa. Paradoxically, it found that when it comes to blood transfusions, less can be more: Younger and less critically ill patients were more likely to die if they got more transfusions.

UN Conference on Aging Concludes

Secretary-General Kofi Annan concluded a U.N. conference on aging Thursday by celebrating the graying of society, in particular the contributions of older women. The two-day conference on aging praised increased longevity as one of mankind's greatest achievements, with improved health, hygiene and nutrition extending most life spans despite such diseases as AIDS. According to U.N. population figures, dramatic increases in longevity have caused global life expectancy to climb 20 years since 1950 to its current level of 66 years. Figures for developed countries like Japan, Sweden and the United States are higher, and lower for places like Russia and Mali.

Wall St. Celebrates Celebrex

After six months of anticipation, Neil Bodtman finally got what he wanted most from his arthritis doctor: a prescription for Celebrex. "So far, so good," said Bodtman, five days after starting on the pill, the first major new arthritis drug in almost a decade. Bodtman, 48, of Aberdeen, N.J., is one of thousands of arthritis patients who have asked their doctor for the new drug since it was introduced Jan. 18. This pent-up demand has put Monsanto's Celebrex on track to be one of the biggest blockbuster drugs of the year, if not ever.

Monsanto reported nearly 115,000 prescriptions for G.D. Searle's arthritis drug, Celebrex, were filled by patients during the week ended February 14, its fourth week on the market, according to NDC Health Information Services which tracks this data. The prescription total is 32,000 more than the previous week, NDC said. Last week, Searle's COO Al Heller had estimated that more than 100,000 new prescriptions would be generated for Celebrex in its fourth week. The drug has had the second fastest start of any new drug and is gaining on the leader, Pfizer Inc's

blockbuster impotency drug Viagra. Searle is co-marketing Celebrex

with Pfizer.

Diet May Prevent Second Heart Attacks

A Mediterranean-style diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish and beans - already proven to reduce the risk of cancer - may also protect people from suffering a second heart attack, a study shows. A study of more than 400 men and women over nearly four years found that people who eat these kinds of foods are 50% to 70% less likely to suffer repeat heart attacks. "By making some simple dietary changes that are easy to understand and easy to follow, a person can improve his or her chances of avoiding a second heart attack and having a better quality of life," said Dr. Michel de Lorgeril, who led the French project known as the Lyon Diet Heart Study.

Stem Cell Research Criticized

(Feb 1998) Seventy members of Congress say that National Institute of Health plans to sponsor human stem cell research would violate a law banning federal support of studies in which human embryos are destroyed. In a letter sent to Donna E. Shalala, the secretary of health and human services, the lawmakers objected to the announced plans of NIH to fund research into using stem cells to culture new organs to replace ailing hearts, or neurons for the treatment of brain disease or injury, or insulin-producing cells to cure diabetes.

The lawmakers prefer to see organs harvested from dying people, people ending their days in dementia, and diabetics doomed to a life of strict diets and injections.

The tool they are using to fuel their objections is the fact that the research uses stem cells that had been obtained from human embryos or fetuses that would be destroyed anyway. Stem cells are basic biological building blocks. The cells have the ability to create any organ or any tissue. Eventually such technology will render the process of harvesting organs for transplant obsolete, and to future generations such practices would rank alongside the other horrors upon which modern medical knowledge is founded.

I don't seriously believe that such technology can be forever banned and all this legal action (which only limits funding - it does not ban the research) will do is to delay it by a few years with the result that a number of people who could have benefited will not. As it is extremely unlikely that there will be any one to one interaction between the people who will suffer and the legislators, the whole event will be a tiny ripple in history, although it could give rise to an exhibit in the LEF's FDA Holocaust Museum if this persists and takes on a wider remit than just attacking the FDA.

Below sent 20 April 1999:

'Supergerm' Kills Hong Kong Woman

A supergerm that has proven resistant to one of the most potent antibiotics available has killed a Hong Kong woman, officials said Monday 22 February 1999, raising fears that more germs could develop as doctors continue to misuse or overuse antibiotics. The middle-aged woman died last year at Queen Mary Hospital after becoming infected with a strain of staphylococcus aureus bacteria, or staph, despite two weeks of intensive antibiotics treatment, a spokeswoman from the official Hospital Authority said. The woman, who also suffered from cancer, was one of a few known cases in the world in which staph proved resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic known as "the silver bullet," which doctors use as the last resort to treat infections when all other antibiotics fail.

I would speculate hat the combination of the bacterium and cancer treatment is likely to be contributory to the death, not necessarily failure of the antibiotic.

Pigs Grown with Human Genes

At a top-secret farm hidden in the Northeast, scientists are growing pigs whose DNA has been altered with human genes. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, yet officials at Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. say they are close to figuring out how these pigs can figure in the treatment of human organ failures, spinal cord injuries and illnesses such as Parkinson's disease. The idea of transplanting animal parts to humans, called xenotransplantation, isn't new. But, until recently, nobody knew how to keep the human body from rejecting the organs.

This is a lost cause, I would have thought, unless the stem cell research enabling new organs to be grown for specific individuals really can be suppressed by the legislature. The risks of animal to hum disease transfer is high in the public imagination as a result of the CJD/BSE crises, and this process is far more dangerous than stem cell work, where the objections are more religious and philosophical than through any fear of disease.

Drug Prices Up for Insured Patients

Patients and insurance companies are facing sticker shock as the nation's bill for prescription drugs rapidly jumps. Double-digit increases in drug spending are hitting even those with insurance, as managed-care companies hunt ways to offset pricey prescriptions. One new trend: Patients who pay $5 for a generic drug and $10 for an older brand name are about to be charged $25, $30, even $50 if they want the newest, costliest drugs. Drugs are a hot issue for Congress, where lawmakers are struggling to find ways for the elderly dependent on Medicare, which does not pay for drugs. But the tab affects young patients too, and it is stirring a new kind of drug war as insurance companies, politicians and consumers all demand affordable drugs.

The cost of drugs is really the cost of pharmaceutical research. New technologies should put this into a downward spiral, and as knowledge of the human genome is developed research will get more effective and focussed. The pharmaceutical companies will realise that downward moving prices lead to larger markets, and get into the highly profitable spiral of recession and expanding markets that boosts the stock quotation of semiconductor manufacturing companies like Intel.

The real difference, of course, is that computers are largely unregulated whereas medicines are tightly regulated. Reduction in the costs of regulation are what will reduce the price of pharmaceuticals and once the electorate can be made to see this then the "Intel effect" will spread to a pharmaceutical market driven by genomics.

Fired JAMA Editor Lads Job Online

The fired longtime editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association has been hired to head editorial operations for an online medical information site. Dr. George Lundberg, 65, who was fired after JAMA published a survey of college students' sexual attitudes that coincided with President Clinton's impeachment trial, will be editor in chief of medscape.com. The site, produced by Medscape Inc. of New York, provides clinical information to consumers, physicians and other health professionals. Paul Sheils, president and chief executive officer of Medscape, called Lundberg's hiring a "huge coup." Lundberg helped pioneer JAMA's online presence.

FDA Aids Cold Viruses

Glaxo Wellcome PLC caught a cold and its Australian biotech partner Biota Holdings Ltd went down with a severe chill after a powerful U.S. committee declined to recommend approval of a new type of influenza treatment late in February 1999. The FDA's antiviral drugs advisory committee voted by 14 to three not to recommend approval of Relenza, a nasal spray which the companies argue halts progress of the flu virus through the body, easing symptoms and reducing the duration of the bout. The committee said Glaxo Wellcome had failed to prove its effectiveness trials in Europe showed the drug reduced the length of a bout of flu by 2-1/2 days while comparable U.S. trials showed a reduction of just one day.

Of course I don't really know whether the FDA's characteristic negativity is well founded or not in this particular instance, but it would indeed be a shame if this banned product does no harm yet can reduce the misery caused by these viruses. OK, it may not be perfect, but it is the best we have at the moment. Why not let it out on the market place and then let market forces kill it when something better comes along.

Doctors Cutting Rate of Delirium

(AP) - A few simple training steps for staff helped doctors cut the the rate of delirium among elderly hospital patients by 40%, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the steps were making sure patients get enough fluids, taking them for walks and keeping them mentally active. Staff were trained to recognize and counteract the danger signs before confusion, agitation and hallucinations set in. When it comes to delirium, prevention is considered crucial, because the condition may not be entirely reversible. Delirium hits more than 2.3 million elderly hospital patients a year, adding up to $4 billion a year to Medicare and increasing the costs of rehabilitation and home care.

Migraine Cure

* British biotechnology company Vanguard Medica Group Plc said it expects to see its flagship compound, Frovatriptan, a cure for Migraine, to make its U.S. launch early next year. The company also said it was confident of signing up an European marketing partner for the compound by the 3Q of 1999. The compound would be marketed in the U.S. -- which has an estimated 23 to 40 mln migraine sufferers under the trade name Miguard, by ELAN CORP. Vanguard had applied for the European Marketing Authorisation Application last month and its Chief Executive Robert Mansfield said there has been serious interest from potential marketing partners.

Heart Attack Treatment

* Key Pharmaceuticals, a unit of drugmaker SCHERING PLOUGH, and COR Therapeutics Inc. said Monday that studies show injections of the drug Integrilin reduce the incidence of heart attacks and the extent of heart muscle injury in patients. Patients in the study, presented at the American College of Cardiology, were suffering from acute coronary syndrome, a serious heart condition. Integrilin used early in patients with unstable angina or non-Q-wave myocardial infarction, another type of heart attack, can help prevent the attacks.

Former French Leader Acquitted of AIDS Charge

Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and another minister were acquitted Tuesday in France's tainted blood scandal, but a third official was convicted for his role in two HIV contaminations. In what was clearly a compromise verdict, former Health Minister Edmond Herve was given no penalty despite his conviction. Judge Christian Le Gunehec said due to the length of the scandal, Herve had not benefited from the "presumption of innocence to which he is entitled." His superior, former Social Affairs Minister Georgina Dufoix, was acquitted along with Fabius in the AIDS deaths of five people and the infection of two others during 1985. About 4,000 people contracted the AIDS virus from transfusions in the mid-1980s, after France moved slowly to implement testing of its blood supply.

It is important that some officials were convicted. What is relevant to cryonics here is that the problem of AIDS was controversial when they were in office and they were presented with scientific evidence upon which they chose not to act. There is a parallel here in that cryonics is controversial and officials may be presented with scientific evidence that it might work just as these people were presented with evidence that AIDS might be a public health risk. If an official were to prevent someone being cryopreserved despite present evidence that cryonics may work, and this evidence was strengthened during his lifetime, he could be held liable for manslaughter even just possibly murder.

Cold Virus May Cause Heart Damage

A respiratory virus responsible for the common cold can infect adult hearts in rare cases, causing damage that can lead to heart failure and sudden death, researchers reported 16 March 1999. The study linked some adenoviruses, which can cause upper respiratory infections, to a condition in adults called left ventricular dysfunction. Earlier studies found that some adenoviruses cause LVD in children. The study's lead author, Jeffrey Towbin of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said less than 1% of those who get a viral infection with flu- or cold-like symptoms will be at risk for heart damage from infection.

But so many people give each other colds, that this 1% still represents a great deal of people.

New Hong Kong Bird Flu Appears

Two children have been sickened by a new bird flu in Hong Kong, but doctors said 7 April 1999 they have no reason to believe the virus is as dangerous as one that annihilated six people in 1997. The two girls, ages 1 and 4, suffered only mild flu symptoms and recovered quickly, health officials said. Western experts have no records of humans being contaminated with the virus, H9N2, although there have been unconfirmed reports that it may have spread to people in mainland China, said Dr. Paul Saw, Hong Kong's deputy director of health. The 1997 bird flu outbreak killed many birds and prompted Hong Kong to slaughter its 1.4 million chickens. The territory also tightened safety standards in markets where live birds are kept in cages and slaughtered fresh for customers.

Mainstream Company Adds to Herbal Supplement Portfolio

Warner Lambert said it added to its line of herbal supplements Quanterra Emotional Balance, which promotes mental well-being by regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. The supplement is an extension of Warner-Lambert's Quanterra line of standardized herbal supplements. The company said it had been proven to be safe and effective. Quanterra Emotional Balance contains a hyperforin-stabilized St. John's Wort extract, LI 160WS. Hyperforin is a key component contributing to St. John's Wort's effectiveness in promoting emotional well-being. The company plans to market the supplement in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandiser outlets.

FDA Approves Another Estrogen

Women are getting another choice for estrogen therapy: a drug called Cenestin that derives a mix of estrogens from soy and yam plants. The Food and Drug Administration approved Duramed Pharmaceuticals' Cenestin as a treatment for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Menopausal women already can buy a variety of types of estrogen, from pills to patches to creams, natural or synthetic. The top-selling brand is Wyeth-Ayerst's oral Premarin, a mix of estrogens derived from the urine of pregnant horses. Cenestin has attracted attention because Duramed originally sought to sell it as a generic Premarin.

Study: Estrogen May Improve Memory

Post-menopausal women undergoing estrogen treatment may also be improving their memories, researchers reported 7 April 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study at the Yale University School of Medicine of 46 post-menopausal women found that estrogen increased activity in regions of the brain associated with memory. Although the study did not find memories had improved, researchers said estrogen may stimulate the brain to make the type of neural connections typically seen in younger people. They believe that the increased brain activity should mean an accompanying improvement in memory.

Study Backs Longer Clot Treatment

People recovering from dangerous blood clots in their legs need to take clot-preventing drugs for much longer than the standard three months to prevent a recurrence, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Painful clots in a vein deep inside the leg strike more than 40,000 Americans each year, and at least 15% have a recurrence only months later. Such clots can kill within hours if a large enough piece breaks off, travels to the heart and becomes lodged in a lung vein. Canadian researchers compared the three-month treatment with a longer course and found a 95% reduction in the risk of another clot among patients who had been treated for an average of 13 months.

FDA Functional Food Rules Sought

A split-pea soup boasts that it contains the antidepressant herb St. John's wort to "give your mood a natural lift." A carrot cake touts heart-healthy fiber psyllium. Such foods are drawing the ire of consumer advocates who say a bowl of soup will not treat clinical depression and fiber cannot counter the cake's fat to make it heart-healthy. The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the government 27 March 1999 to tighten controls over these "functional foods," which add drug-like ingredients to boost foods' healthfulness. While some functional foods do work, too many companies tout unproven ingredients or make misleading health claims, the consumer group said in a report. See

Rice Extract Lowers Cholesterol

A rice extract that was unsuccessfully challenged by the government because it closely resembles a prescription medicine has been shown to be a powerful means of lowering cholesterol. The results of one of the first two U.S. studies of the substance, called Cholestin, were presented 28 March 1999 in Orlando at a medical conference sponsored by the American Heart Association. It showed that people with mildly elevated levels can drop their cholesterol about 35 points by taking four capsules of Cholestin a day. Cholestin is made from red yeast that has been fermented on rice.

Brain Wave Device Spells Messages

Scientists have developed a way to let paralysed people use their brain waves to manoeuver a ball on a computer screen and spell out messages. Electrodes and wires were attached to the scalp of two patients with advanced Lou Gehrig's disease. They learned to manoeuver the ball by varying the strength of a specific kind of brain wave. It took five steps to choose each letter. The process is slow: a proficient speed is about two letters per minute. The technique differs from one reported October 1998, which uses a brain implant rather than electrodes to pick up signals that control a cursor.

Herbal-infertility Link Explored

Scientists have uncovered a new worry about some of the most popular herbal remedies: the possibility that they could cause infertility, or genetically damage sperm. Many women who are pregnant or trying to conceive carefully avoid taking prescription and even over-the-counter medications for fear they could endanger their chances of a healthy pregnancy. But herbs and other dietary supplements are advertised as "natural," with the implication that they're safe, non-drug remedies. The new study by researchers at Loma Linda University suggests the side effects of some of popular herbs - St. John's wort, echinacea and ginkgo - could block conception.

Arthritis A Risk for Exercisers

High-impact aerobics is out for Lori O'Koon. She suspects that was probably what got her into trouble in the first place. O'Koon damaged cartilage in an ankle, and believes she is on the road to osteoarthritis. "When you damage the cartilage that protects the bone, that's when the process begins," said O'Koon, a 34-year-old surgical equipment saleswoman in Phoenix. Surgery to clean out the joint helped but hasn't cured the problem, she said. O'Koon is part of a growing group whose good deed, working out, has not gone unpunished. The results were joint injuries - mostly in the knee or hip - especially ones that needed surgical repair.

Comment on "Cryo-Trusts"

I welcome Rudi Hoffman's article on Cryotrusts in the March-April 1999 issue of The Immortalist. However I note that he is spending about $4800 a year on life insurance yielding approx $1M. Judging from his photograph, I would say that he has far more than 20 years of life left in him, and the effects of direct investment of this sum over only 20 years are as follows:
Growth Result
10% 274,920
20% 896,102
30% 3,024,794
40% 10,028,192

Note that life funds aim to make around 30% pa before deducing management fees and the costs of the life risk they are selling. Not buying life insurance gives you the risk that you will die early and forgo getting $1M for a few thousand in premiums. But buying life insurance gives you the risk that you will live a long time and forgo the potentially much greater reward of investment. The most probable outcome from the table is that someone living 20 years will be $2M short if he chose the insurance route. As stated before, if cryonics is to work, then technology will grow far faster than the majority of investors expect. Therefore when revivals start there will have been terrific gains made by technology companies at the expense of non-technology companies. In general life companies invest "conservatively", ie not in technology companies. If I am wrong I and my readers will never know it!

Center Studies Ideas on Food Safety

Possibly coming soon to a refrigerator near you: hot dogs covered with an edible film to prevent contamination from potentially deadly bacteria like listeria, salmonella and E. coli. At least that's where Elliot Ryser, a professor at Michigan State University, hopes his research will lead sometime in the next five years. "The idea with the film is to try to make something like a Teflon suit...so if bacteria lands on a hot dog it's inactivated," Ryser says. Ryser is one of three dozen scientists affiliated with the school's new National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. The center, which opened last year, draws researchers from many different disciplines to study the safety of the food supply.

A different approach is being investigated by Matsushita, according to New Scientist of 10 April, 1999, page 6. Their concept is a kitchen appliance that will detect "bugs", ie bacteria, in food samples . The "bug counter" will use a voltage gradient to concentrate the bacteria where they will be observed by a video camera and counted by a microprocessor running OCR software. It all sound heavy stuff for a domestic appliance, but bear in mind that electronic equipment is in a constant state of recession, which means that new markets open up all the time. A dedicated microprocessor system can just as well run OCR as anything else, and video camera on chips are commonplace and would cost the manufacturer about $10.

New Scientist suggest that the appliance will hit the marketplace at $1,000, but I suggest that apart from people forced by law to buy (eg café owners) or a few "health nuts" the market would reject it at that price. However offer it at the price of a domestic smoke alarm then it would sell in far greater quantities. It is just a case of being bold enough to set up the production lines and roll them out.

Alternatively, if a manufacturer wanted a good public image (eg Intel or Microsoft after their court cases) then producing such equipment as loss leaders would seem a good ploy. Microsoft is already spending huge sum of money in tv advertising in the UK supporting a campaign by some children orientated charities - the adverts all appear with a discrete but clearly visible "sponsored by Microsoft" logo. Being cynical, I am sure that the billions being spent on tv and mail advertising this way is regarded as paying the company back in terms of its public image.

Medicare HMO Coverage Info Lacking

Medicare has not made sure that private health plans that enroll elderly and disabled Americans provide accurate information about benefits and complaint policies, government auditors say. As a result, some Medicare beneficiaries may not be getting the care they're entitled to. "The intent...was to give older Americans more health care options. We wanted to make their lives easier. Instead, inadequate plan information has caused headaches," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, who scheduled a hearing on 13 April, 1999 on the findings of the General Accounting Office.

Singapore Killer Bacterium on Rise

A common bacterium that causes respiratory tract infections has evolved into a killer bug that antibiotics cannot fight in Singapore, doctors and news reports said 13 April. The number of cases of streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium that proved resistant to antibiotics shot up from 2% in 1991 to 43% in 1997, said Dr. Ling Moi Lin, a microbiologist at Singapore General Hospital. The bacterium "used to be very sensitive to penicillin, but is now showing resistance to it," Ling told The Associated Press. "It's also showing resistance to new classes of antibiotics." The bug is designed or evolved to infect the respiratory tract, sinuses or ears. It is most dangerous when it spreads to the lungs and causes pneumonia. Singapore is a common stop off point on international flights, and the disease could soon contaminate the entire world.

External Device An Alternative to Defibrillator Implant Surgery

Patients waiting for heart transplants are testing a vest that could automatically jump-start the heart anywhere at anytime, prolonging the lives of cardiac arrest victims. "I liken it to an emergency room on your chest," said Douglas Zipes, vice president of the American College of Cardiology. "It acts like an emergency room that monitors the heartbeat and responds appropriately, much like a doctor would in an ER." Experts say the device, which looks much like a women's bra with small electric shock paddles inside the straps, can jolt a heart into beating again and eliminate the need for patients to have defibrillators implanted during open chest surgery.

New Stress Test Predicts Heart Risk Without Dangerous Surgery

Doctors just won approval of a powerful way to predict which of their patients are at risk of dying from cardiac arrest in time to protect them: a nonsurgical exam that essentially is a super stress test. The Food and Drug Administration ruled Tuesday that Cambridge Heart Inc.'s Alternans test is the diagnostic equivalent to a more dangerous surgical test that until now has been the only way to predict cardiac arrest.

It works by enhancing one of the world's oldest heart tests, the electrocardiogram. Patients taking a standard EKG-monitored treadmill stress test simply have special electrodes placed on their chests. The Alternans system then can measure unusual, extremely subtle heartbeat patterns that indicate patients are at risk of ventricular fibrillation, a lethal irregular heartbeat.

Philadelphia Offering Organ Donor Incentives

Families of Pennsylvania organ donors will be eligible for $300 state contributions for the donor's funeral expenses in what is believed to be the first incentive program of its kind. "This is quite controversial," said Kevin Sparkman of the Delaware Valley Transplant Program, which oversees donations in southeastern Pennsylvania. "Until now, we have always depended strictly on altruism to drive organ donation." The three-year pilot program, to begin as early as September 1999, will be funded with donations from Pennsylvanians renewing their driver's licenses, Sparkman said. The plan doesn't violate federal law barring payment for organs because no money goes directly to the donor, supporters say.

It has been suggested by members of organisations that cryopreserve only the head that some similar bargain could be struck with the medical authorities over organ transplants. No cryopreservation, and the patient would demand that all his "remains" be burned. If however the authorities cooperate and provide part funding for the cryopreservation of the head, then they can get what other bits they want.

Unfortunately, this is scientifically impractical because of conflicts of protocol between getting the best results for the head cryopreservation and taking the other organs for re-use.

Lilly to Develop Cancer Treatment

Eli Lilly and Co. announced a joint venture on 19 April, 1999 with French drug maker Sanofi to develop a treatment for colorectal cancer in the United States. The deal, the latest in a string of partnerships to tap innovations at other companies, may help Lilly carve out a new identity as a leading marketer of cancer therapies, chairman and chief executive Sidney Taurel said. Sanofi developed oxaliplatin, a platinum-based cancer agent that's already being sold in 14 countries as a first- or second-line treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, in combination with a second drug called 5-FU.

Study Suggests Eating Eggs

An egg a day really is OK, according to researchers who found that healthy people eating up to seven eggs a week didn't increase their risk for heart attacks or strokes. "Our study doesn't mean that people should go back to the typical Western diet - a breakfast with two eggs, bacon, sausage, butter and toast. This kind of diet is very unhealthy," said Dr. Frank B. Hu, whose research used data from two long-running landmark studies. "People are afraid of eggs - because the cholesterol is so high and their reputation is so bad," said Hu, a nutritional epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health. "But eggs, per se - I don't think they deserve such a bad reputation."

New Asthma Drug May Fight Allergies

Merck & Co. has made a mild splash with its first asthma medicine, a chewable pill called Singulair that children can take once a day. But the drug's big payoff could come treating a much more common respiratory nuisance: hay fever. A Merck-funded study of 458 patients last year showed those who combined Singulair with the best-selling allergy pill Claritin had substantially milder hay fever symptoms - such as runny nose and itchy eyes - than those who used Claritin alone. Buoyed by these early findings, some allergists have already begun prescribing Singulair for seasonal allergies and Merck is continuing to research the drug. Combining Singulair and Claritin into one pill could make for a blockbuster drug, according to experts.

Sent 21 June 1999

Obese Women Risk Heart Disease

Scientists may have found another reason to lose weight: A study suggests obese women are six times more likely than thin women to have a silent inflammation inside their arteries that increases the risk of heart disease. If the findings are verified, they would suggest scientists should study whether the aspirin some heart patients already take might also help overweight people reduce their risk of heart attack. Scientists recently discovered that otherwise seemingly healthy people may have a low-grade inflammation inside their arteries that can lurk for years and significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Savings Likely If Kids Get Flu Shot

Vaccination does not necessarily benefit the subjects the most. It is definitely a social activity, and there is an extremely small but finite risk in every instance of its use. This risk is borne by the subject rather than the people it benefits.

The people who most benefit most from flu vaccines for all schoolchildren are parents and their employers - to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, researchers say. An analysis released 7 May 1999 in the journal Pediatrics Said Vaccination brings a net saving of $4 to $35 per child, mainly by helping parents avoid missing work to care for sick children or after catching the virus themselves. The savings depend on whether the child is taken to a doctor during work hours by a parent or gets immunized in a group setting, such as at school, the latter obviously giving the best economic results.

The individual freedom issues are extremely complex - at issue is the violation of the child's freedom as to whether to take the risk, the freedom of the parents as to whether they take the risk of getting the virus from their children, and the risk taken by people the patents meet and getting the virus from them.

Quantifying all these risk and reaching a final assessment as to whether vaccination of school children is worthwhile is difficult and is likely to vary according to the attitude of the person doing it.

Of course the subjects themselves get some benefit from the risk of vaccination - children can die from 'flu even today, and they are certainly laid low by it. The parents are highly unlikely to take a risk with their children solely to protect themselves from the risk of getting flu form them.

However they are taking a risk with other people whom their children or indeed the parents themselves may infect with the disease. Obviously this is ethically unacceptable, although it is something many people do as the risk is seen as slight and more importantly untraceable.

An small injury causing less suffering received at work or by an automobile accident is considered blameworthy and is often the subject of damages though the legal system. It is because disease transmission is difficult to trace and prove that this form of injury is not usually actionable, although AIDS is changing that a little.

Is There a Future for the Pharmaceutical Giants

In Health Central, in an article entitled AIDS Creates Global Pharm healthcare futurist Joe Flower suggested that by 2015 the genomic revolution will have flooded the world with an incredible array of new drugs - powerful, specific, and best of all, cheap. Yet the big established drug companies will struggle to keep abreast of thousands of backyard drug breweries and tin-pot research centres across the globe. Even in the United States and Europe, the global giants will be hard pressed to hold the price line against a flood of illegal imports bought over the Internet from small fee market concerns. This will come about because the governments of third world countries will rebel against paying the research costs of the big companies. Instead, they will employ biochemists to reverse-engineer modern pharmaceuticals. They will then produce them at virtually zero cost by cheap genetic engineering methods.

Even now, the US government is supporting the axis that turns between the pharmaceutical majors and its own regulatory "polizei", the FDA. It is taking measures against third world countries counterfeiting drugs - these measures will cost lives in the target countries.

Comment:

Certainly possible, but I wonder how probable. Most doomsday AIDS scenarios

haven't worked out so far.

It is possible that the US legal-politico axis is trying a bit of population thinning by rationing drugs on price and putting the blame on "big business". But if it is really true that drugs are expensive to research and cheap to make, one must remember that the same can be said of computers.

The computer companies in their open and violently recessionary market are doing far better than the drug companies in their inflationary and tightly regulated market. As computer prices fall, new buyers and uses appear. A legitimate trade with third world countries in huge volumes could actually be the making of the big drug companies.

Supplying a few rich people with drugs as $1000/month means a big profit, but supplying 10% of a whole nation with drugs at $10 a month would make a order of magnitude bigger profit if as is stated in the article the drugs cost virtually nothing per unit to make in very large quantities.

If the drug markets become as free as the computer markets, and provided the existing companies can re-adjust, they may even do better than their existing performance.

Incidentally, in certain investment reports drug companies are recommended for their patent portfolios. I would suggest that percentage of turnover spent on research would also be a useful figure, and in fact a better figure for long term investors.

Rapid Drug Discovery Technology

Neurogen Corp said it agreed to license its rapid drug discovery technology to Ppfizer Inc for $27 mln over a three year period. Branford, Conn-based Neurogen said the non-exclusive licensing arrangement covers its accelerated intelligent drug discovery (AIDD) technology and it will be installed at Pfizer Central Research. "This technology transfer will augment Pfizer's drug discovery efforts enabling Pfizer to generate more rapidly libraries of compounds and then efficiently identify and optimize potential drug candidates," the company said in a statement.

Exercise Helps Women Quit Smoking

Women who exercise vigorously while trying to quit the habit of smoking their lungs are twice as likely to kick the habit than wannabe ex-smokers who don't work out regularly, a new study finds. The report also offers good news to female smokers who fear that giving up tobacco and nicotine will lead to weight gain. Researchers found that women who worked out as they tried to quit gained only about half the weight of those who did not exercise. "I can't say that definitively this will help all people, but given all of the other health benefits associated with regular exercise I would certainly encourage people trying to quit smoking to talk to their physicians about starting a program," said Bess Marcus, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University and the study's lead author.

Advertising - Paid for by Results

The advertising industry has always been onto a good thing. Succeed or fail, an advertising campaign always has to be paid for. With the Internet, all this is changing. Amazon.com started it with commissioned book sales. Now hundreds, probably thousands of small privately owned web sites, The Cryonics Institute's included, have a booklist, and every book sold earns the site owner a commission. Per site, the number is quite small, but added together this swarm of small sites sells millions of dollars of books.

Now the Life Extension Foundation are selling their products that way. Those of you reading this on the web can click on the link, and scroll down the left hand window to find the affiliates program. It costs nothing to join, and you don't have to buy any products yourself if you don't want to. But you get 15% of any new customer's first order and 5% of subsequent ones. The program is to run for a year initially, but I expect that it will be so successful that it will continue.

I predict that the conventional advertising industry, with payment regardless of results, will collapse within the next decade. Television advertising it its biggest money spinner, but with the advent of digital television and Internet integration, results-rewarded advertising is bound to displace the older sort over a short period.

There will be a downside to this - if you have a highly unconventional product, cryonics being a case in point, and you want an advertising agency to handle it for you, you may not get one. This is because the product will have to be seen to have a chance of success for the system to work. It is rather like the fact that with payment by results legal costs, you can only get representation if the lawyer concerned feels that you have a chance of winning. If yours is a hopeless case, no one will take it on.

Marrow May Reduce Organ Rejection

The chance of a transplanted organ being rejected can be reduced sharply if the patient also is given bone marrow from the same donor, doctors at a leading transplant center have found. Immune cells from the donor seem to condition the recipient's system not to attack the new organ, Dr. Abdul Rao of the University of Pittsburgh reports in a paper delivered 21 April 1999 at a biology conference. He said the effect was most dramatic in recipients of new hearts and lungs. For example, incidents of acute rejection of new hearts occurred in 38% of cases when marrow also was transplanted, compared with 82% of cases without marrow.

Cells May Help Parkinson's Patients

A controversial surgery which implants fetal cells into an adult's brain have helped many Parkinson's patients improve brain function and move better, researchers said on 21 April 1999. The researchers studied 38 American and two Canadian patients who underwent such surgery, the latest effort in the use of cells from aborted fetuses to stimulate brain activity. The patients were randomly chosen to either receive a fetal cell implant or a placebo surgery, said Dr. Curt Freed of the University of Colorado, who led the study and presented the results at a meeting in Toronto of the American Academy of Neurology. Parkinson's, was designed or evolved to cause stiffness and tremors and destroy the brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that influences many parts of the brain. The fetal cells are used to replace them.

New, Safer Diabetes Drug Coming

A drug that promises to fight diabetes as effectively as the controversial medicine Rezulin but causes less risk to patients' livers may soon hit the market. Diabetics have been frightened by headlines that the popular drug Rezulin, the only medicine now available that can resensitize their bodies to insulin, also can destroy the liver. Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended the sale of SmithKline Beecham's Avandia, a drug that promises to treat diabetes in the same manner as Rezulin but that in studies of more than 4,000 patients has shown no sign of liver damage. But the advisers stressed there was no certainty Avandia never would damage diabetics' livers.

Organ Implanted After Being Trashed

State health officials were investigating the failure of a kidney transplanted into a 67-year-old man that the surgeon admits spent 90 minutes languishing in a recycling bin prior to the operation. The kidney had to be removed from the patient, two days after it was implanted, because there was no blood flowing in or out of the organ. "If I had any doubt at all, I wouldn't have used it," said Dr. Khalid Butt, who performed the operation at Westchester Medical Center. "The kidney in its package was intact. It would have been a waste not to use this priceless resource." But the medical center and the state Health Department are investigating. The hospital would not give the patient's condition, but Butt said he would be fine.

FDA approves fat-blocking diet drug

On 26 April dieters were given access to the first medication that does more than suppress appetite, a pill that blocks absorption of almost a third of the fat they eat. The Food and Drug Administration approved Xenical, 2-1/2 years after Hoffman-La Roche Inc. first sought to sell the drug, a delay largely caused by questions about whether the new diet pill might contribute to breast cancer. But the FDA ultimately decided the pill was safe, approving it by prescription only for the seriously obese - not casual dieters who just want to shed five or 10 pounds.

WHO: Cigarettes Are Like Drugs

Cigarettes should be treated as a drug and subject to the same rules that apply to other forms of nicotine, such as patches and chewing gum, the World Health Organization chief said on 27April, 1999. "A cigarette is a euphemism for a cleverly crafted product that delivers just the right amount of nicotine to keep its user addicted for life before killing the person," WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland told a meeting of the International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities in Berlin. She said it did not stand to reason that harmful nicotine in cigarettes was sold freely, while prescriptions were needed for therapeutic nicotine sold as a pharmaceutical.

Researchers Report Cloning Goats

Massachusetts researchers say they have cloned three goats that are genetically altered to produce a protein in their milk that might be used to treat heart attack and stroke victims. The cloning could mean faster and less expensive production of the protein, Antithrombin III, which has the potential to treat heart attacks and strokes and prevent blood clots. It is now being tested on humans. The cloned goats were born last fall on a farm in Charlton, the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and Genzyme Transgenics Corp. of Framingham said 26 April, 1999.

Vitamin D Said Important for Bones

Many post-menopausal women are still unaware of the importance of vitamin D in preventing bone fractures, researchers reported 5 May 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to maintain strong bones, but public health messages promoting calcium may have obscured vitamin D's importance, said Dr. Meryl LeBoff, lead author and director of the skeletal health and osteoporosis program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Loading up on calcium without adequate vitamin D could still leave bones at risk.

Timing Treatments for Patients

"Prepare for morning," say the ads showing a startled Dagwood, of comic-strip fame, leaping out of bed as the alarm rings. It's a catchy attempt to sell a new blood pressure medicine, but underlying the cartoon is a serious message: Our bodies have internal rhythms that make certain diseases worse at certain times of the day - and that creates the question of when to take medications. Consider blood pressure, which in the majority of people surges in the early morning hours. For hypertension patients, that surge is dangerous: Heart attacks and strokes occur most frequently during those morning hours. Hence the ads for Schwarz Pharma's Verelan PM. Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, one takes it at bedtime - but the hypertension drug is specially coated so it won't reach peak strength until around 6 a.m., when it's most needed.

Prostate Blood Test in Development

A new blood test combined with one already on the market could offer men a cheaper and less sexually invasive way to determine their risk for prostate cancer, a new study says. Dr. William J. Catalona, a professor of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who conducted the study, said 3 May 1999 the two tests also catch cancers earlier than the traditional timetable for biopsies. Every year, an estimated 184,500 American men develop prostate cancer and more than 41,000 die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection increases the chances of survival.

Anti-cancer Research Uses Soybeans

Agriculture Department scientists are searching through leftovers from soybean oil and protein extraction for components that might help cancer-free people avoid the disease. The idea, according to the Agricultural Research Service, is to turn DNA-friendly compounds, called chemoprotectants, into food additives and pharmaceuticals. Some natural and synthetic chemicals cause DNA disruptions that sometimes result in malignancies, but chemoprotectants help protect against irreversible cell damage, ARS said. Soybeans and other foods contain substances called antioxidants that can help prevent cell mutations. Some of the antioxidant soy extracts, which are called isoflavones, are marketed as food additives.

UN: Global diseases on the rise

Aging populations, a lack of exercise, and tobacco and alcohol abuse mean that noncommunicable ailments such as cancer will likely account for the lion's share of global disease in the next 20 years, the World Health Organization said 11 May 1999. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer accounted for 43% of illness worldwide in 1998, WHO said. In its annual World Health Report, it predicted that figure would rise to 73% by 2020. The 122-page report also highlighted a WHO project to combat tobacco, launched after former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland took over the agency last July, as a key element in its fight against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Last year, noncommunicable diseases accounted for 81% of all illness in high-income countries but only 39% in developing countries. But rising living standards and a resulting fall in infectious diseases in poorer nations is expected to narrow the gap.

Worm Enzyme May Help Extend Life

A cell-protecting enzyme needed for long life in worms may help in finding better treatments for Alzheimer's and other human diseases associated with aging, scientists say. The finding of the enzyme reported 13 May 1999 in the journal Nature "gets us closer to understanding what's involved in the aging process and where we can intervene," said Anna McCormick, a biochemist at the National Institute on Aging. Researchers led by biologist Martin Chalfie at Columbia University studied a nearly microscopic roundworm known as Caenorhabditis elegans. When it is well fed, it survives only about three weeks, but it can withstand food shortages in a larval state for at least two months. Several genes in this worm were already linked to the larva's longer life, but their mechanism wasn't known.

Folic acid deficiency improves

Folic acid deficiency has all but vanished in the United States since the government ordered food manufacturers to add the vitamin to flour, rice and other grain products, researchers reported 13 May 1999. Folic acid is found naturally in green leafy vegetables and some other foods. If women eat too little of it when they become pregnant, they risk having babies with spina bifida and other neural tube defects. To help protect against these birth defects, the Food and Drug Administration ordered manufacturers to begin fortifying foods with folic acid in January 1998. The latest study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first major effort to see what effect this has had.

N. Ireland Surgeon Dies At Age 98

Sir Ian Fraser, a pioneer in using penicillin to treat battle wounds during World War II, has died at age 98. Fraser died at his home 11 May 1999, his family said. The cause of death was not announced. Born in Belfast, Fraser was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps in West Africa in 1942 when was sent to Algiers to take charge of a research team testing a new drug, penicillin. He carried out his research in a hospital but soon took it to the battlefield where the drug could be tested as soon as casualties occurred. Fraser followed British troops ashore on the invasion of Sicily's beaches and operated aboard a ship continuously for 48 hours, saving many lives. He served until 1946.

Testing for Influenza

QUIDEL CORP said it filed with the U.S. FDA for approval of its product for point-of-care testing for influenza types A and B on 13 May 1999. The diagnostic product was developed under a fully funded collaboration with Glaxo Group Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Glaxo Wellcome PLC, Quidel said.

The product could be useful to see if a respiratory infection is a cold or influenza. Treating a cold with Ribavirin does not work and could even be counterproductive. If the product could be used by individuals with access to Ribavirin, this could be a powerful weapon against these diseases.

Flu Season Was Deadlier Than Usual

The U.S. flu season was apparently deadlier than usual this year, the government reported 13 May. The flu season runs from October through mid-May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not know yet how many people died this season from the flu. However, in an average flu season, there are about 20,000 deaths, and about 30,000 when the Type A-H3N2 virus hits - as it did this year, the CDC said. The deadliest flu season in the past decade was 1989-90, when about 44,000 people who had been given the disease died. This year, the flu season got off to a slow start, with few cases until mid-January. By February, the flu was widespread in 40 states. The outbreaks had tapered off by mid-April. The strain most prevalent was Type A Sydney.

Test Planned for New Cancer Drug

A highly publicized experimental cancer drug that wiped out tumours in mice will be tested on patients for the first time in Boston later 1999. The dramatic effect of the drug called endostatin has raised the hopes of cancer patients and the medical community. "I think it's exciting, but of course you always have the risk that something will fail in early testing," said Dr. Judah Folkman, the Harvard University and Children's Hospital researcher whose assistant, Michael O'Reilly, discovered endostatin. Endostatin and a sister protein, angiostatin, work by destroying the tumors' ability to sprout new blood vessels, but do not harm normal cells. This makes cancer fall dormant or disappear altogether in lab animals, but no one knows if the same thing will happen in people.

Cholesterol-lowering Margarine OK'd

Research about the safety of a margarine that may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels has passed a review by examiners for the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency. The action clears the way for the margarine to be sold in the U.S. by McNeil Consumers Healthcare. The margarine contains plant stanol ester, a nutrient that the company claims will help consumers manage their cholesterol levels. McNeil announced that the margarine will be sold under the brand name Benecol and should be stocked in grocery dairy cases by May 26.

Scientists Discover Bone Mass Gene

Scientists have discovered a gene that appears to control bone density, opening the way to possible new treatments for crippling osteoporosis. Researchers from the biotechnology company Chiroscience R&D found the gene in a small group of South Africans suffering from an inherited disease that is the opposite of osteoporosis - these patients can die because their bones grow too dense and large. A mutation in the gene appears responsible for making bones grow out of control. Chiroscience hopes to harness the protein this gene produces and turn it into a drug that might increase the bone mass of people with osteoporosis, which makes bones brittle. Chiroscience stock is recommended by the UK technology investment newsletter Techinvest.

Drug May Fight Common Cold

There may be a cure for the common cold, researchers reported 19 May in the Journal of the American Medical Association. An experimental cold remedy called tremacamra cut sneezing, runny noses and congestion nearly in half. But whether the drug will work on the many viruses known to cause colds has yet to be determined. All 177 volunteers who participated in the study were given the same cold bug - type 39 rhinovirus, said researchers led by Dr. Ronald Turner of the Medical University of South Carolina. Tremacamra works by blocking rhinoviruses from attaching to one particular molecule on the outside of cells that the virus needs for a biological anchor.

Research Spending

Warner Lambert said it expects to spend $1.17 bln in 1999 on pharmaceutical research and development, in 1999 which it said reflected a 51% increase from the amount spent in the previous year. The company made the projection at a research and development meeting for analysts. Dr. Peter Corr, pharmaceutical research director of Warner-Lambert, said the increase in spending follows the company's acquisition of Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc on 17 May 1999, an acquisition which will bring many additional compounds into Warner-Lambert's development pipeline.

High-speed Evolution in A Test Tube: Biotechnology's New Wave

It's a revolution in evolution that Charles Darwin never dreamed of: Biotechnology companies are conducting high-speed evolution in test tubes to create everything from super laundry detergents to novel drugs.

Called directed evolution, the process could prove one of the most important steps in biotechnology since genetic engineering. The idea is to discover in nature substances that perform in a certain way but have drawbacks - like a cancer-fighting protein that can only be used in small doses because of side effects - and force them to rapidly evolve to be better.

"It's optimizing the best nature can provide," explained Jay Short, president of Diversa Inc., which is trying to improve blood transfusions with the process.

The first commercial product derived from directed evolution is an enzyme that fights tough laundry stains better than a previous detergent ingredient. But companies are studying dozens of others - from anticancer drugs and better vaccines to a fade-resistant laundry enzyme that promises to let people wash a red shirt together with underwear without their socks turning pink.

In biotechnology, the process until now has been: "Here are genes from nature, and what can I do to squash these into a workable commercial product?" said Russell Howard, president of Maxygen Inc., a leader in the field.

With directed evolution, biotechnologists use various laboratory methods to pressure genes to mutate in thousands of ways, doing in days or weeks what can take nature years. It took decades for certain bacteria to evolve to resist antibiotics, for instance, but companies in days can create new super-germs to test new antibiotics.

Sometimes they cause mutations that nature never would, creating enzymes that can withstand mixing with strong chemicals or boiling temperatures, for instance.

Then, in a high-tech twist on how farmers breed better animals and plants, scientists can pick the most promising newly evolved genes and combine them into even better "daughter genes" that produce new drugs or biochemicals.

"We're breeding at the molecular level," explained Arnold, who says the industry is investing heavily in directed evolution.

"If you don't use this technology, then you're at the whim of trying to find an enzyme in nature that does what you want," added Glenn Nedwin, president of Novo Nordisk Biotech, maker of that evolved detergent ingredient.

In the pipeline:

--Diversa is evolving enzymes to strip certain molecules from blood, thus converting Type A and Type B blood donations into the Type O blood that almost everyone can use.

--A recent Maxygen experiment suggests it could improve by a stunning 200,000-fold the potency of alpha interferon, an important cancer and antiviral drug that forces doctors to limit doses because of toxicity.

--Moving faster are biochemicals. Novo Nordisk has evolved an enzyme found in mushrooms to inactivate dyes released in water - something that could prevent a red shirt from staining white laundry.

--Arnold evolved an enzyme to help synthesize antibiotics more inexpensively and with less pollution. And Diversa is finalizing an enzyme to make chicken feed manufacturing cheaper and less polluting, because makers would no longer have to add phosphate.

--University of Illinois scientists just reported a way to evolve certain immune system cells to better fight autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks itself - even AIDS.

Unless that is the scaremongers and their lawyers put them off.

Mormons Offer Online Family Tree

It's a virtual forest of family trees. A Web site put together by the Mormon church lists 400 million names of people who lived as long ago as 1500, many of them with pedigree charts. The site, www.familysearch.org, is a genealogist's dream. It will allow online users to research whether their ancestors include pioneers or immigrants, villains or soldiers, princesses or tailors. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' also plans to add millions more names this year from its records on 2 billion dead people, the largest collection of genealogical data in the world.

Gates Gives $20 Mln to Johns Hopkins

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates has given Johns Hopkins University $20 million to create a public-health institute under his and his wife's name, the university said Monday. No formal inauguration date has been scheduled yet for the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, said university spokesman Dennis O'Shea. But the Hopkins program in those two areas is already operating thanks to the Gateses' $2.25 million donation in 1997 to train family planning and reproductive health experts from developing nations.

What a shame he seems willing to die. Or maybe he thinks it will never happen to him.

Bird Flu Virus May Strike Again

Scientists still know very little about a bird flu virus that killed six people in Hong Kong but say that a similar deadly flu outbreak could strike the congested territory again. The H5N1 avian flu virus crossed over to humans for the first time in late 1997, eventually killing six people and sickening a dozen others in Hong Kong. To stamp out the virus, the government ordered all of the territory's 1.4 million chickens slaughtered early in 1998. "At some predictable point in the future, it is extremely likely ... that another new influenza virus with the potential to cause a pandemic will appear," a newspaper quoted a leading flu expert as saying.

With Hong Kong a major international travel destination and stop-over point, contamination with the disease could well spread to other airports and outwards into other population centres around the world.

Breast Cancer Study Needs Women

Scientists will study some 22,000 postmenopausal women to see if a drug used to prevent bone-thinning osteoporosis can prevent breast cancer without the severe side effects of other treatments. "We think the number of breast cancer cases can be reduced using these drugs," Dr. Lawrence Wagman of the City of Hope Cancer Center said on 25 May 1999. Women with a high risk of breast cancer normally have two options: They can undergo a preventative mastectomy to remove breast tissue before cancer is found, or they can take tamoxifen, a federally-approved drug that can have serious side effects, including a higher risk of uterine cancer.

FDA Approves New Diabetes Drug

Diabetics frightened by reports that a popular treatment may destroy some patients' livers are getting a long-awaited new choice: The FDA has approved Avandia, a drug that promises to fight diabetes with fewer liver risks. SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals said Avandia will be commercially available within a few days, following FDA approval dated 25 May 1999. No one can say for certain that Avandia never will damage diabetics' livers like its competitor, Rezulin, has. But in studies of over 4,000 patients, Avandia has not shown signs of such damage, prompting some doctors to eagerly await the treatment as an alternative for their patients.

Thymus Could Be Key in Aids Fight

An immune system gland once thought to be inactive in adults actually continues to function late in life, according to research that could lead to new ways of reactivating the natural defenses of AIDS and cancer patients. The thymus, a pinkish-gray organ near the heart, is the primary source of germ-fighting T cells. It was believed to be active only during fetal development and childhood before slowly turning into fat in adults. The research reported 28 May 1999 in the journal Immunity suggests that although the gland's productivity slows with age, it remains active nonetheless.

Study Backs Lower Doses of Hormones

Women can take lower doses of hormones to prevent postmenopausal bone loss and get the same benefits with reduced side effects if they take calcium and vitamin D supplements, researchers reported 31 May 1999. With a lower dosage, side effects such as weight gain, breast tenderness, spotting, pelvic discomfort and mood changes are slight to begin with and disappear within six months, according to the study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in Annals of Internal Medicine 31 May. The findings could allow more women to benefit from the ability of hormones to prevent the low bone mass, or osteoporosis, that leaves millions of elderly women at risk of fractures, chronic pain and stooped posture.

Clot Drugs Eliminate the Need for Some Angioplasty or Bypass Surgery

A new regimen for treating heart attacks could save thousands of patients who aren't helped by current clot-busting therapy and could eliminate the need for some angioplasty or bypass surgery, a new study shows. Doctors added a "super-aspirin" called abciximab, or Reopro, to a standard clot buster, altepase, also known as Activase. They found it restored normal blood flow in the hearts of more than three-quarters of heart attack victims. The international study was published in the 1 June edition of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Gene Study Might Help Hemophiliacs

For 43 years, Don Miller has been going to the hospital for treatment of hemophilia A, a disease that prevents his blood from clotting and causes severe bleeding in his joints and body cavities. He lives carefully. He loathes his constant companion - the needle-administered treatment that stops bleeding after it starts. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are testing a new therapy on Miller that could prompt his body to produce the blood-clotting protein it lacks before he bleeds. Miller, 50, is the first patient to use the gene therapy designed by California-based Chiron Corp. as part of a clinical test. The gene therapy is injected into the veins of the hand and travels through the blood.

Although of no direct interest to immortalist, this demonstrates how gene therapy can modify an existing being - it is not just for later generations. If the authorities allow it, in the future gene therapies to reverse age related changes are something from which every living thing could benefit.

Fda Approves 3-day Diabetes Monitor

The US government have approved a test that could dramatically improve how doctors care for diabetics, by providing the first continuous measurements of a patient's glucose levels. But MiniMed Inc.'s "continuous glucose monitoring system" won't replace those painful finger-prick blood tests that diabetics must perform regularly, the Food and Drug Administration warned. The glucose monitor instead is for doctors to use occasionally to help adjust patients' treatment. But it marks a big step toward development of a continual glucose monitor that diabetics would always wear.

More Americans Living Past 100

At age 98, Ella May Stumpe really didn't want a computer. Arthritis had prevented her from recording a century of memoirs with her typewriter, and her friends were pushing her to buy a PC so she could keep writing. "I didn't want to buy it. I really bought it to get them to not bother me anymore," Mrs. Stumpe said. She looked at the computer sitting in her room and saw a "white elephant," she said. Five years later, Mrs. Stumpe, now 103, has mastered word processing and has written two books, including one titled, My Life at 100. For Mrs. Stumpe, like for more and more Americans, reaching the century mark doesn't necessarily mean slowing down.

Effort to Improve End-of-life Care

People who are dying know what they want. In surveys for West Virginia University's Center for Health Ethics and Law, social workers, nurses, clergy and pharmacists reaffirm what the terminally ill say: Death should come pain-free in a comfortable setting, and without bankrupting a family. But programs that focus on more than medicine - spiritual and mental well-being, for example - can be hard to come by. That's about to change, said James Keresztury, associate director of the Initiative to Improve End-of-Life Care.

Man Gets Cardiac Gene Therapy

For the first time, doctors have injected genetically engineered DNA into heart muscles to help restore blood flow to clogged arteries by using a catheter without any anaesthesia. Until now, the gene was injected into the heart during a two-hour surgery that required general anaesthesia and several days of recuperation. The new, minimally invasive technique will eventually allow patients to go home an hour after it's completed, doctors say. It could also be a safer alternative to bypass surgery or angioplasty for high-risk patients.

Exercise Can Reduce Diabetes Risk

Get away from the television, go out and take a walk, and you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, a study finds. The study is the first to find that the risk rises directly with hours spent watching television. Previous studies have found that the risk of obesity, which itself is a risk factor for diabetes, rises with more hours in front of the tube. This study finds the disease is more likely to develop in constant viewers even when obesity and other factors are taken into account.

Surgeons Transplant Cadaver's Bone

Less than a year ago, 6-year-old Adam Johnson faced a grim situation: Either submit to surgeons cutting off his arm or lose his life to cancer. Happily, doctors came up with a third option. A pioneering transplant operation nine months ago had the youth tossing a baseball around during a news conference Monday at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Back in September 1998, doctors removed most of Adam's humerus, the upper arm bone, because of a tumor the size of a grapefruit. The doctors then replaced it by taking the humerus from a dead child and fused it with a piece of Adam's own fibula, the thin bone that runs from the knee to the ankle.

Britain Bans Human Organ Cloning Research

Thursday, 24 June 1999, could come to be known as "Bloody Thursday" by those in the next few decades waiting for organ transplants. On that day British politicians and lawyers rejected expert scientific advice and bowed to sensationalist public agitators and banned the cloning of human embryos for any kind of medical research, using as a reason the well worn excuse "more time is needed to consider the implications".

The decision, announced in Parliament after months of deliberations, came as a surprise. The move meant embryos may no longer be cloned for infertility and congenital disease research. But more important is the blow to research that could benefit sick adults at present treated by the somewhat shaky procedure of organ transplantation. Sure transplantation is better than death, but a cloned organ would be indisputably better.

The government had been expected to follow a recommendation by its advisors that Britain should allow continued research into the cloning of human embryos - provided they were destroyed after a maximum of 14 days - for the treatment of disease, while maintaining a ban on cloning to create babies.

What is needed, of course, is clear and precise education of the public and indeed those that set public trends that cloning to create babies is a non-event. All you get is a baby that looks like yourself. Its individuality would be quite different to yourself.

Even if it were not so, the concept of clones to make slaves or produce immortality is irrational. Think about it - suppose that suddenly you woke up one morning and an identical copy to yourself came in and said that it was the original template and had created you to spend your entire existence doing the housework and gardening for food and shelter only. The "you" who is you and the clone would both think they are you and demand everything you have. You could, I suppose, divide it, but then making clones of yourself is a way to divide your wealth by the number of clones you make. Alright, suppose that you earn money at a prodigious rate and for the sake of argument spend every penny the moment you get it. How does it benefit you if you become 100 identical people all doing the same thing? The chances are that someone of the type described is a fee earning professional and the clones would actually be in competition with each other for the same market, thereby reducing the earning capacity of any individual clone.

Forget cloning yourself. Suppose your wife dies in a travel accident. You have her cloned. What would actually happen. You would have to wait at least 18 years for the clone to grow up, and by then if you made any advances she would probably tell you to "get lost grandad". And anyway is someone really going to wait 18 years?

Even if cloning of human babies was free on the UK's National Health, I should think fewer people would take advantage of the service than sign up for cryopreservation.

Ftc Battling Internet Health Fraud

Miracle treatments promising to cure liver disease, cancer or arthritis are unlikely these days to grace the pages of reputable magazines or land a commercial spot on a major network. But on the Internet, companies are at liberty to promote all kinds of health benefits about their products and even include their own so-called research to back it up, the Federal Trade Commission warns. On 25 June, 1999, the FTC announced efforts to combat fraudulent health products on the Web and alert consumers, who increasingly are using the Internet as a major source of health information, to be discerning.

100 Cups of Coffee Protects from Radioactivity

An article in 26 June's New Scientist suggests that if the 4 minute warning goes off you could survive the radioactivity if you could down 100 cups of coffee in the time. Or at least this is what is extrapolated from an experiment with mice at Bhabba Atomic Research Centre in Bombay. A study by K.C. George, published in the Journal of Radiological Protection (v19,p171) said that the caffeine would intrerfere with hydroxyl production. The study could have cancer and anti-aging implications once the mechanisms are understood.

Study Sheds New Light on Insomnia

The brain clock that regulates sleep works as accurately for the old as for the young, suggesting that many theories about insomnia among the aged are flawed, according to a study published 25 June 1999. "We are going to have to rethink all of the explanations we have been giving for insomnia," said study lead author Dr. Charles A. Czeisler of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Among other major findings in the journal Science is that the brain clock regulating sleep is on a 24-hour schedule, not the 25-hour cycle researchers have long believed.

Internet Links Doctors, Insurers

Researchers at the University of Utah have unveiled the first Internet-based system that allows doctors to match clinical findings with proven treatments. Physicians also can use the system to determine which treatments and medications are covered under their patients' health plans and file electronic claims with carriers and referrals with other physicians. The new system, called US MedNet, it is being marketed by a New York medical data company called US Medical Network. Company president Craig Timmons said the project will lead to "better medicine and greater administrative efficiency." "The Internet and this type of application in health care is tantamount to the ATM in banking," he said.

Hi-tech Donation-backed Project Fails

Attempts to find private investors or even sell a ride to the Mir have failed, and a public fund-raising effort in late June yielded the humble equivalent of $80 on its opening day. Russian space officials are eager to keep their beloved space station afloat, but the cash-strapped government has said it would pay only for the Mir to operate through the summer. A new source of funding would allow extension of the Mir's life.

A prominent cosmonaut on 28 June 1999 offered a new tactic for preserving the Mir orbiting station, symbol of Russia's space glory and national pride: selling shares to foreigners.

CDC Warns of Alaskan Flu Outbreak

Federal health officials are urging older tourists to consult a doctor before travelling this summer to Alaska and the Yukon, where a flu outbreak has sickened hundreds of tourists for the second straight year. A total of 428 cases have been reported among tourists on seven cruises since May 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. That's about 4% of 10,110 passengers who got sick. Those most vulnerable - people over age 65 or with chronic respiratory and heart problems - should get advice from a doctor before travelling to the region, the CDC said.

I would comments that there are undoubtedly some people who will still ignore the warning and bring the disease back to the rest of the world. It will be interesting to see the spread pattern, and if it centres on major international airports.

Cornwell Gives $1.5 Mln to Science

Crime writer Patricia Cornwell has given $1.5 million to help the state create an institute to train forensic scientists and pathologists. The state forensic lab building in Richmond will be the home of the new Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine. "This is a direct way to fight against the very thing I hate so much - violence against people," Cornwell said Tuesday. The state forensic lab is where Cornwell picked up many of the details for her novels. Her Kay Scarpetta character was inspired by Marcella Fierro, Virginia's chief medical examiner.

I wonder. Rather than spending it on the tools of authority, I would have thought the money would be better spent on research into whether a modification of the films and tv programmes on crime and violence could actually reduce the amount of violence in society. I am not saying ban certain forms of entertainment, but could it be used as a sort of anti-crime propaganda. Although crime seldom pays in films and tv, the fact that so many people like to watch it is disturbing. By the time he is 18, the average American has seen 40,000 murders on television. Look at the effort that went into making a film like Silence of the Lambs. It is an excellent and entertaining film, but if the same storyline had been given to a mediocre producer it would have been regarded as just another sick movie.

Could that same effort be put into making entertaining films that would somehow influence the people watching them to live in better harmony?

It is no good saying that the majority of people who commit crimes watch little TV - that could be true within a few years of the crime being committed, but they will undoubtedly have seen the criminal life on tv as children.

The Dilemma of Schering Ploughing Profits Into Research

Schering Plough said on 1 July 1999 it defended its push for added patent time for its allergy drug Claritin, saying the drug's huge success had helped the company double its research spending. But opponents warned the House Judiciary subcommittee that granting the company's request would provide an undeserved windfall to corporations at the expense of allergy sufferers, who would have to wait longer for cheaper, generic versions of the world's best-selling antihistamine.

This is the dilemma of the enormous profits the pharmaceutical companies are making. One the one hand, if the patent lawyers are sent packing, then there will be less funds to spend on more research. On the other, as stated above, the patent lawyers are making sufferers of all diseases wait longer for cheaper treatment.

I wonder. Do the Life Extension Foundation rely on legalist violence to impose higher prices than need be in terms of raw materials? I rather doubt it! However I simply don't know whether there is a better way to raise money for pharmaceutical research than the legal-political axis that rotates around the pharmaceutical majors.

CDC Diverts Chronic Fatigue Funds

Congress, responding to thousands of citizen appeals, set aside $22.7 million to study chronic fatigue syndrome. Federal researchers assured lawmakers they would investigate the mysterious disease, then used millions to study other illnesses. At least $8.8 million, 39% of the funds earmarked for CFS, was spent on other research, including measles and polio. Government auditors say they cannot determine what happened to an additional $4.1 million. Activists say some officials at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention don't believe CFS is a real disease, never intended to study it and merely paid lip service to the malady in testimony to lawmakers pressing for action.

Two authority sectors battle it out here. On the one hand we have the physicians who declare that a certain set of symptoms are not classed as "a disease", and on the other we have a set of legislators who are elected to spend taxpayer's funds in whatever manner they seek fit. The physicians obviously felt that the money would better be spent elsewhere, but this is surely the thin end of the wedge - if you employ someone to paint the walls in your living room you don't expect to find that he decided the ceiling needed doing more and painted that instead. The legislators are the employer here, regardless of how they got the money they are spending.

A Vaccine for Alzheimer's Disease?

An experimental vaccine which prevents or reduces the buildup of plaque in the brains of mice could potentially be used to prevent, or possible even to treat Alzheimer's disease, researchers said on 6 July 1999. Scientists at Irish pharmaceutical group Elan Corp are so encouraged by their research that they plan to submit an application to the U.S. Elan Corp and hope to begin clinical safety trials on humans at the end of the year. The news came at the same time as news broke in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. SEC has raised questions about accounting procedures at Elan Corp. "A form of the very peptide that triggers the deposition of amyloid plaque that overwhelms the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease may someday be used as a treatment for this devastating disease and possibly as a vaccine to prevent it," Elan said in a statement.

In a document not previously disclosed, the SEC's Division of Corporate Finance sent a comment letter in January 1999 to Elan, raising numerous questions about its accounting, especially in the area of research and development, according to the paper. The comment letter, which is sent out as part of an SEC staff review of a company's filing, says that Elan's accounting for transactions with third parties funded by Elan "may materially inflate reported earnings and interfere with an objective analysis of operating trends," a practice that the letter calls "pervasive" at Elan. Elan Corp said it expected a resolution to the inquiry by the U.S. SEC into its accounting procedures within a couple of weeks. "The letter referred to is a letter that we have substantially dealt with, and there are relatively few outstanding issues that we expect to be resolved in the next few weeks," Elan's Chief Financial Officer Thomas Lynch said in a telephone interview with the newspaper.

Once again we see a battle between legalists and a research organisation. Conspiracy theories could abound - it is a plot to prevent the introduction of a substance that would upset the financial aspects of Alzheimer's disease treatment? Is it a ploy by Elan to prevent its share price falling on the SEC enquiry? I would say probably neither - I would tend to believe what Mr Lynch said in his statement and that the whole thing is a storm in an accountant's tea cup. If the juxtaposition of the two stories stops Elan's stock quotation becoming upwardly unstable on the Alzheimer's news, then this is a good thing - I don't think it does the image of companies much good when their quotations double overnight and halve again the following day back to where it was.

In the long term holding a portfolio companies such as Elan is bound to bring investors enormous capital gains as humanity uses technology to throw off the horror of ageing and death. But this is not a sensible area for short term speculation more suitable for the race track or gold mines.

Authorities Attempt to Set Aside Fears that Gastroscopy May Spread CJD

Eire has become the third country to report a case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin reported that a patient who had submitted to a gastroscopy (sometimes known as "the deep throat test"- a tube is inserted through the mouth of a usually un-anaesthetised patient into the stomach to examine its interior) earlier this year was diagnosed with nvCJD on May 31, 1999. The scope used on the nvCJD-infected patient was subsequently used on 49 patients who are being contacted to attempt to alleviate any concerns they may have over possible infection. Although the patient was not identified by the hospital, it is understood she is a mother in her 30s who had been resident in England during the high-risk bovine spongiform encephalopathy period. CJD has been shown to be transmitted from one infected patient to another via certain neurosurgical procedures. There is no evidence of nvCJD being passed through instruments used in non-brain procedures. Reference: The Lancet (Vol. 353, No. 9171, June 26, 1999)

I would comment that experts could well try and predict degrees of probability of infection after an incident such as this. But the fact remains that if you took two groups of people, one in which there had been no gastroscopy, and the other in which gastroscopies had occurred, one or more people in the latter group is more likely to have contracted a disease transmitted by the gastroscope. Of course one has to align this with the benefits to the particular patient of submitting to the gastroscopic examination. There may well be cases where medical opinion differs - maybe, for example, in some instances diagnosis by applying various drugs and observing the results is equally effective. Obtaining multiple opinions and selecting one where the doctor suggest this may be advantageous in some instances.

Inhaled Drug Effective Against Flu

A drug inhaled once a day proved effective in helping to prevent two common flu strains, researchers reported 7 July 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The leader of the study, University of Michigan epidemiologist Dr. Arnold Monto, said current flu vaccines remain the best defence against the flu, but they require two to four weeks to take effect after getting the shot. His research found that inhaling Relenza, known generically as Zanamivir, works against both the Type A and B strains of influenza. Monto found that more than two-thirds of adults who used the drug for four weeks avoided the flu, compared with a group that received a placebo. It was even more effective at stopping flu with fever, working 84% of the time.

News Item Demonstrates How Cremation Defeats Future Technology

Japan will begin carrying out selective DNA tests to identify the remains of Japanese who died abroad during World War II, a government official said Thursday, 8 July 1999. The Japanese government annually conducts excavations abroad to unearth the remains of Japanese, mainly soldiers, who were killed as a result of conscription or enlistment during the war. Until now, the bodies have been burned immediately and the ashes returned to Japan. DNA tests cannot be performed on ashes, however. With the growing sophistication of DNA-testing, more and more relatives of those killed during World War II are calling for stepped-up efforts to identify the dead.

Alternative to Angioplasty Surgery

Pfizer Inc's and Warner Lambert's Lipitor product reduces the incidence of cardiovascular events as effectively as angioplasty, according to a study. In a press release, Pfizer said the atorvastatin calcium tablets reduced by 36% cardiovascular events in patients with stable coronary artery disease, compared with such patients who received angioplasty. Lipitor, which reduces lipoprotein cholesterol, also delayed the first cardiovascular event compared with angioplasty in patients taking part in the 18-month trial at 37 centres in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Warner-Lambert's Parke-Davis Ltd. drug making unit discovered the treatment, which it is co-marketing with Pfizer.

Human Genome Project Reveals New Immune System Booster

A company set up to sift through the entire human gene collection in search of possibly useful genes said Thursday it had found an immune-system protein that might be used to treat diseases ranging from cancer to AIDS. The protein, named B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), revs up immune cells known as B cells to produce antibodies, which mark invaders such as viruses or bacteria for other cells to attack and kill. William Haseltine, chairman and chief executive of Human Genome Sciences, said he hopes to produce the protein to use as an immune system stimulant and to fight a range of diseases.

Human Genome Sciences Inc. says the newly identified protein B lymphocyte stimulant, or BLyS, could have many uses. These include boosting immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, organ transplant drugs or diseases such as AIDS, leukemia and lymphomas. The findings were published Friday in the journal Science. The company announced Thursday 8 July 1999 that it is developing an experimental drug based on the discovery and hopes to see it tested in humans this year.

U.S. Philanthropy Boosted by High-tech Billions

In life, David Packard literally built the Silicon Valley legend from the ground up - transforming a simple garage workshop into the Hewlett-Packard global computer empire. Now the charitable foundation bearing Packard's name is taking the lead in building what could be the next big legacy of the high-tech boom, vaulting into major international philanthropy with massive grants for everything from managing population growth to preserving the environment.

If only there was a way of promoting cryopreservation as a philanthropic service. It seems strange that it does not seem to be possible, as humanity is willing to spend vast sums of money on projects such as cancer surgery which can in an appreciable number of cases leave patients mutilated and often with little time further to live, with a poor quality of life. One could legitimately argue that without such practises successful treatment and cures for cancer may not be developed. But one could also argue that without cryopreservations being performed now, a future more successful version of that operation may not be developed.

Doctor to Exterminate Unclaimed Embryos

The ad ran deep in the Sunday classifieds. "If you feel you have embryos or sperms stored with Arizona Institute of Reproductive Medicine," the ad began, "please contact us immediately." The 12 lines of eye-straining type announced one fertility clinic's answer to a question with dizzying implications: What do you do with frozen embryos whose donors cannot be found? "All unclaimed specimens will be destroyed as of July 15th, '99," the ad warned. Experts say the notice, appearing in The Arizona Republic June 27, may mark the first time that a fertility clinic in the United States has announced such plans.

Nasal Spray Effective in Preventing Flu

An experimental nasal spray is effective at preventing the flu in healthy adults, researchers say, and could make it to the market as soon as next year. The nasal vaccine, called FluMist, would offer a painless alternative to the standard flu shot millions of Americans get each year. The research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 July 1999, looked at the vaccine's effectiveness among healthy, working adults, who are not normally urged to get flu shots. The researchers said flu causes millions of doctor visits and days lost from work each year, and leads to millions of dollars spent on over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

If an appreciable portion of the population were vaccinated it would severely dent the ability of the virus to reproduce. Some (as far as I know unproven) theories suggest that influenza and cold viruses can actually modify the behaviour of the host to be more sociable at the most infectious stage of the disease, so that more people are contaminated with it.

Chemical Process May Aid Computers

Researchers have developed a chemical process that could lead to computer components no thicker than a single molecule, an important step toward the creation of new, ultrafast machines. The team from the Hewlett-Packard Co. and the University of California at Los Angeles say their work could ultimately lead to computers 100 billion times faster than today's most powerful personal computers. Their findings were published on 16 June 1999 in Science magazine. Until now, integrated circuits - the on-off switches that are the basis for computing - have been made by etching silicon wafers with beams of light. The ability to shrink those circuits is limited by the wavelength of light.

U.S. Seeks Government Finance for Limited Cell Research

President Clinton's top ethics advisers are finalizing recommendations that federal law be changed to allow the government to finance a certain type of human embryo research, but the White House says it doesn't want to go that far. Instead, the White House is opting for a more conservative approach advocated by the National Institutes of Health - and in so doing, perhaps can avoid a fight with Congress. The issue is over experiments with embryonic stem cells, the "master cells" that in early embryos generate all the other tissues of the body.

The result of such research will be the ability to clone organs, thus ending the transplant program. An early application could be growing new teeth to replac those lost by gum disease decay or extraction.

Changes in dental practises.

Years ago when I started this column I wrote of the dental profession as "mainly an extractive industry". I was discussing this with a dental hygienist recently, and she told me that for the past 25 years or so the trend was the other way - dental surgeons would often do anything rather than pull a tooth. Sometimes hygienists would say that a patient would be better off without it, yet the surgeon would take quite a lot of persuading by the patient to extract. Nevertheless, this trend could change again when it is possible to seed new teeth as a result of work done at Geron, or as the above item hints, as a result of government research. Instead of extracting, the dental surgeon could inject the seed under the old tooth, which would then be shed like a milk tooth as nature takes its course.

Study: Pharmacists Curb Drug Errors

Harmful drug mistakes in intensive care units dropped a whopping 66% when a pharmacist accompanied surgeons and physicians on rounds and was present to catch prescribing errors, researchers reported 21 July 1999. The practice cost no money - it just used the staff pharmacist's time differently, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They estimated the averted harm saved $270,000 a year. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston tried the approach after discovering that most harmful drug errors in intensive care occurred because doctors knew too little about drugs or patients' conditions.

Vaccine Against "Gastric Flu"

U.S. researchers said that a new vaccine prevented a severe childhood vomiting and diarrhea (misleadingly known as "gastric flu") in nearly 90% of cases in a recent trial. Children, particularly when concentrated in schools, often pass this disease amongst themselves, and can bring it home to adults when they are in day school. The rotavirus vaccine, developed at The Children's Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio, contains a weakened strain of the human rotavirus. The disease terminates up to 600,000 children worldwide each year, although most do get over it. The vaccine is licensed to Avant Immunotherapeutics Inc, which has licensed it to Smithkline Beecham PLC for subsequent development.

Nanometer Sized Dosage System

Elan Corp has signed a technology transfer and license agreement with U.S. group Merck & Co on Elan's NanoCrystal technology. Elan said it would receive up to $30 mln in pre-commercialisation payments, milestone fees and royalties and sales of products formulated using its technology. The technology improves the delivery of poorly water-soluble medicines by transforming the drug compounds into nanometer-sized particles that can be used in traditional forms of dosage, including oral, injectable, and aerosol.

Parkinson's Disease News

Smithkline Beecham PLC said on 26 July 1999 that Parkinson's disease patients taking its drug Requip were far less likely to encounter side effects of severe shaking called dyskinesias than those taking the current standard of treatment, an older drug named levodopa. Researchers said the results, released on Monday at a medical conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, could spur more doctors to prescribe drugs like Requip early in therapy rather than later as add-on treatment for patients with advanced symptoms.

Laughter Can Help When Facing Grief

Go to any bookstore and you'll find loads of advice on coping with the death of a loved one, how to "work through" grief. But psychologist George Bonanno contends there's little science to back up much of the advice. So he set out to study bereavement - and found that contrary to much of the self-help grief industry, some people may find laughter helps. Not forced laughter. Bonanno's not advising anyone to peddle jokes to the bereaved. But the Catholic University professor studied recent widows and widowers by videotaping them as they recalled their spouse. He says those who were able to give a heartfelt laugh once or twice during the reminiscence appeared to cope better over time.

Giving Money Away

Bill Gates, the world's richest man and Microsoft's founder, plans to become the biggest charity donor in history with a 65 billion pound ($100 billion) give-away, the billionaire's father told the Sunday Times in August,1999. Gates Senior, the namesake father who manages the William H. Gates Foundation, told the paper his son planned to donate his fortune to help rid the planet of diseases including AIDS and malaria. The charity will announce a series of new funding programs in the next three months.

Skin's Cancer Defence Explored

Sun-damaged skin cells that could become cancerous are killed by a special protein produced in sunburned tissue, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center report in the journal Science that sunburned skin cells make a cell-killing protein called Fas that guards the body against skin cancer by killing genetically flawed skin cells.

"Our finding is the first to identify a protein that is a natural defense against skin cancer development," said Lauri Owen-Schaub, an associate professor at M.D. Anderson. She said the discovery could lead to new therapies to treat skin cancer.

Researchers said they had found two new cancer-fighting proteins they think will prove especially powerful in starving cancerous tumours. The proteins will join an arsenal of drugs being developed to fight cancer in a novel way, by choking off the blood supply that cancers create to feed themselves. Human Genome Sciences, a Rockville, Maryland-based publically quoted company that specializes in searching the collection of human genes for useful new proteins, has named its discoveries METH-1 and METH-2.

Cutting the Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

The relatively inexpensive drug gemfibrozil can boost the amount of "good" cholesterol in the blood, and by doing so can cut the risk of death, heart attack and stroke in some patients by 22 to 29%, according to a new study. The drug is sold under the brand name Lopid by the Parke-Davis Division of Warner Lambert, which helped pay for the research. A generic version is made by several companies. "The drug is safe. The drug is cheap," said lead author Dr. Hanna Bloomfield Rubins of the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center.

For A Fit Brain, Drive with Mittens

Ever try driving with mittens on? Sniffing vanilla or peppermint first thing in the morning? Brushing your teeth or eating with the "wrong" hand? Choosing potatoes at the grocery with your eyes closed? No, it's not a Dr. Seuss story. A Duke University scientist and a New York writer say the brain needs novelty and multisensory experiences to stay sharp. They propose those activities as part of their brain fitness regimen, which they call "neurobics." Dr. Lawrence C. Katz and Manning Rubin lay it out in Keep Your Brain Alive, throwing in 83 exercises to get the brain's cerebral cortex and hippocampus off the couch and out the door. The book has gone into a fourth printing since it hit bookstores April 1.

Religion Linked to Good Health

Seniors who attend church or synagogue regularly might possess the secret of longevity. In another report linking good health with religion, Duke University researchers say seniors with regular church or synagogue attendance are not only healthier but also more likely to live longer than the non-religious. The researchers, studying nearly 4,000 North Carolinians over 64 years old, found that the death rate of the faithful was 28% less than those who didn't attend services regularly.

I wonder whether the same could be said of those who attend any regular meetings of any group where the proceedings at the meetings were calm and predictable.

Debate on Reuse of Medical Devices

A piece of metal broke off a catheter and lodged inside the heart of a 32-year-old Kansas woman earlier this year - and reignited a simmering medical controversy. The catheter was disposable, supposed to be thrown away after its first use. Instead, critics contend it was resterilized and reused six times, a process they argue stressed the device until it broke. Unknown to most patients, every day hospitals recycle disposable medical devices. They range from simple products like surgical clamps to complex cardiac catheters, bronchoscopes, even angioplasty balloons.

Secondhand Smoke Inreases Stroke Risk

Breathing in other people's cigarette smoke makes nonsmokers 82% more likely to suffer a stroke, a new study suggested 17 August 1999 - indicating the dangers of so-called passive smoking are much worse than originally believed. The study by researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand is the largest and most rigorous to date, and gives more ammunition to those campaigning to have smoking banned in all workplaces and public areas. Current estimates of how smoking increases the risk of various diseases are dramatically underestimated because the ill effects of secondhand smoke inhalation are not taken into account, say the researchers, whose work is published in the British medical journal Tobacco Control.

Crohn's Disease Treatment - US Ahead of Europe

Centocor Inc and Schering Plough said the European Union (EU) has approved the sale of Remicade, a treatment for the debilitating gastrointestinal tract disorder called Crohn's disease. The drug, approved in the United States since 1998, can now be sold in the 15-nation EU as treatment for severe, active Crohn's disease in patients who have not responded to standard therapies and as therapy for Crohn's disease fistulas in patients who have not improved through conventional treatment.

This is interesting because it shows that Europe is not always ahead of the US when it comes to drug approvals.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Researchers have concluded that Eli Lilly's drug, Evista, increases bone density and reduces vertebral-fracture risk in women taking the drug for three years. Evista, known generically as raloxifene, is approved only for prevention of osteoporosis, but Lilly hopes to get it approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoporosis that has already begun. The findings regarding 7,705 women aged 31 to 80 were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association publushed during the week ending August 21.

Sent 21 October 1999

More Gains for Pharmacological Treatment

G.D. Searle & Co. said its blockbuster arthritis drug Celebrex will get priority review by the FDA to treat certain growths in the colon which can become cancerous. Searle, the pharmaceutical unit of Monsanto co, and Pfizer Inc co-market the drug, which was approved by the FDA on December 31, 1998, for the relief of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and adult rheumatoid arthritis. In a joint statement, the companies said the FDA granted the priority review designation to use Celebrex to prevent colorectal adenomatous polyps in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

G .D. Searle & Co. and Pfizer INC on 8 September 1999 took Celebrex directly to consumers via an advertising campaign in 50 top U.S. newspapers and magazines, a spokeswoman said. The ads, by Chicago agency Leo Burnett, carry the tagline: "What will you do on the day you discover Celebrex?" No spending figure was disclosed. A spokeswoman for Searle, the pharmaceutical division of Monsanto co, said 10 mln prescriptions have been written for the drug, which has been on the market for less than eight months. Searle and Pfizer co-market the drug, which was approved by the U.S. FDA last December

Preventative Pharmacology - strokes

Parke-Davis, a unit of Warner Lambert, and Pfizer Inc began a study on the ability of Lipitor to reduce stroke or transient ischemic attack in patients without a history of coronary artery disease. In a press release dated 1 September 1999, Parke-Davis said the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled multicenter study will compare aggressive lipid lowering with Astatin versus a placebo in patients who have had a previous stroke or ischemic attack and are at high risk of recurrent events but don't have documented coronary artery disease.

Scientists Create Smarter Mice

Scientists have genetically engineered smarter mice, pointing the way to a brave new world in which parents could - in theory, at least - create baby Einsteins. The breakthrough could also lead someday to drugs for treating Alzheimer's and stroke. By inserting an extra gene, researchers produced a strain of mice that excelled in a range of tasks, such as recognizing a Lego piece they had encountered before, learning the location of a hidden underwater platform and recognizing signs that they were about to receive a mild shock. The mice - nicknamed "Doogie" after the boy genius in the TV show Doogie Howser, M.D. - carried their enhanced intelligence into adulthood, when learning ability and memory naturally taper off, and passed it on to their offspring.

Now if the same process could be applied to existing people, that would be real news.

Gases Could Show How Body Works

In a laboratory at the University of Virginia, a handful of patients inhaled a deep breath of helium and watched their lungs light up. Scientists are exploring a dramatic new way to peer into patients' bodies: using specially treated gases that let doctors watch, for the first time, how breath flows through the lungs. But the technology isn't just for lungs - it promises to light up other organs now difficult to see with conventional scanning. Researchers are poised to try it as a colon cancer test, and say it might also offer better images of the brain or a woman's reproductive tract,
without the discomfort or radiation of some of today's tests.

Lower Leg Pain May Be Serious

Do your lower legs hurt after you walk a few blocks? Are they sometimes numb, tingly or cold? If the answer is yes, doctors say you need a checkup - you may have a problem that could threaten not just your ability to walk, but your life. It's called peripheral vascular disease, a long name that simply means arteries in your legs are blocked, preventing proper blood circulation. It can be extremely painful - some patients can't even walk through their house without stopping to rest. Left untreated, parts of the leg or foot can become gangrenous and have to be amputated.

Human Genome Sciences

(adapted from an article in the California Technology Stock Newsletter. For subscription information, email ctsl@ctsl.com Anyone interested in life extension who does not buy at least 100 shares in HGSI and keep them though thick and thin cannot be serious, in my view. But see the text below and wait until the present heat has worn off a bit though. The October dip or the dip expected in January may be a good time. For a page of links to technology companies web sites, please goto http://www.longevity-report.com/shares.htm )

Human Genome Sciences has had a blizzard of press lately. After that big piece in the Sunday New York Times on August 29 th , CNN dedicated their September 7 th "Pinnacle" show to HGSI and CEO Bill Haseltine. It's a fascinating profile of an invalid boy who became a Harvard prof and now wants to be "the Bill Gates of biotechnology." (Hmmm.. shouldn't he have dropped out of Harvard?) There's even footage of a lady whose leg was saved from amputation by HGSI's angiogenesis drug VEGF-2. (There's a hint to young doctors here - don't study to become a surgeon.)

Meanwhile, that same VEGF-2 protein got a favorable nod from the heart docs gathered in Barcelona for European Society of Cardiology meeting. The stock bounced $12 1/2 in one day in response to the apparently new-to-Wall Street thought that gene therapy might be useful in cardiac disease. Entremed and Genzyme are trying to profit from Judah Folkman's angiogenesis compounds but California Technology Stock newsletter thinks HGSI has a better approach.

Wall Street Journal had an article in mid September about urotensin-II, a powerful blood-vessel constricting hormone for which HGSI found the receptor and SmithKline is now developing a drug. Dr. Bill dwelled with pleasure on the article while giving a presentation at the Bear Stearns Health Care Conference in New York. Check out SmithKline's press release on the web: it lists all the genes they've gotten from HGSI. http://www.sb.com/rd/dna_c.htm

HGSI stock got a little ahead of itself by lunging up over $96 on the Barcelona news before backing off last week after the first biotech
conference of the new season. (Usually, the reverse happens.) We expect the stock to retrace further as the momentum crowd is disappointed and cashes out their winnings, but buying this stock when they went public is still the equivalent of buying Coca-Cola in 1907. CTSL plan to buy more in the next dip. Find HGSI on http://www.hgsi.com

FDA Approves New Antibiotic

The government approved a long-needed new weapon against the growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria:


Synercid, the first alternative in 30 years to the antibiotic of last resort. The new drug comes at a critical time, as doctors are warning that more and more germs are developing resistance to that "silver bullet" antibiotic, vancomycin. Indeed, the need was so great that the Food and Drug Administration for the past year has allowed hundreds of patients at risk of death from drug-resistant germs to be treated with Synercid under a special emergency program, while the agency decided whether the drug was safe and effective enough for broad sale.

Stem Cells May Help Muscle Disease

Researchers have found that bone marrow transplants might be a new way to restore strength to patients with muscular dystrophy and other muscle-wasting diseases. In very preliminary experiments, scientists at Children's Hospital infused mice weakened with muscular dystrophy with bone marrow stem cells taken from healthy donor mice. The stem cells generated new bone marrow and blood cells in the sick mice, whose own bone marrow had been destroyed with radiation. The stem cells also generated healthy, mature muscle cells that travelled through the blood stream to ravaged skeletal muscles and to a certain extent, restored them

Cancer Gene May Attack Immunity

A mutated gene that already has been linked to cancer in humans has now been found in mouse studies to cause the immune system to attack organs in the body. The gene, called PTEN, normally combats cancer by killing abnormal cells that could form tumors. But when one of the normal pair of PTEN genes is missing or flawed, the single mutation can trigger cancer or cause white blood cells to damage the kidneys and other organs, researchers found. "Our study shows that the loss of just one PTEN gene is enough to...begin the process of uncontrolled cell growth (cancer)," said Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York

Tired Teen-agers Need More Sleep

Your teen-ager insists she cannot fall asleep until after midnight. Every morning means yelling to wake her up in time to be at school by 7:15 a.m. She loves history class, but it is first period and many days she snoozes through it. This is the daily grind for millions of students and their parents. If it is any comfort, scientists say it is not the teen-ager's fault: Biology is behind adolescents' sleep problems, and earlier bells at the nation's high schools are turning many students into zombies. You cannot just order a sleepy teen-ager to bed earlier and expect the problem solved. Sophisticated studies of teen-agers' sleep patterns show adolescents need more slumber - 9 hours and 15 minutes - than the eight hours recommended for adults.

I would comment that the effect of not being able to go to sleep at night and yet not being able to wake up in time to synchronise with something else in the morning is not restricted to teenagers.

Annual Flu Shots May Be Eliminated

An experimental vaccine that might help eliminate the need for annual flu shots is showing early promise in mice. Currently, the standard flu vaccine is altered every year to keep up with changing virus strains. The vaccine focuses on protein targets on flu viruses, and these targets vary a lot from one strain to the next. The experimental vaccine uses a different target, one that is virtually identical across strains. And in the October 1999 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, Belgian scientists show it works in mice.

Six Scientists Win Lasker Awards

Six scientists have won prestigious Lasker awards for research into the brain, the development of a heart drug and discoveries about electrical signals in the body. The awards, presented 1 October 1999 in New York, are administered by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. The $25,000 award for special achievement in medical science went to Dr. Seymour S. Kety of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is cited for a lifetime of contributions to neuroscience, including discovery of methods to measure blood flow in the brain, studies showing that genes contribute to schizophrenia, and "visionary leadership in mental health that ushered psychiatry into the molecular era."

Blocking Enzyme Could Help Cancer

In an experiment that could point the way to a new approach to fighting cancer, scientists blocked the enzyme that most forms of cancer need to continue growing. Working with laboratory cell cultures, researchers prevented cancer cells from producing the enzyme telomerase. That caused the cells to stop their reproduction and die. "We haven't developed a...therapeutic drug," stressed Dr. Robert Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., a member of the research group. He said the method used in the laboratory study is not practical in humans.

Volunteers Sign Up for Cancer Drug

Volunteers began signing up 28 September, 1999 for the first human trials of endostatin, an experimental drug that has been shown to shrink tumours in mice. Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care was seeking 15 to 30 Boston volunteers over age 17 with solid tumors that have not benefited from other treatment. Patients with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma or primary brain tumours are not eligible for the study. A telephone number for applicants was printed in local newspapers and the response the following morning was heavy, with four nurses answering calls, said Steve Singer, spokesman for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care is a collaboration of the institute and several local hospitals.

This shows clearly how patients are dissatisfied with present surgical and chemotherapeutic practices.

Antibiotic May Kill Resistant Germs

An antibiotic designed from scratch to attack germs in an entirely new way has proven effective in human tests and should soon give doctors a fresh weapon against drug-resistant bacteria. Developers of the medicine, called Zyvox, say it is the first example of what they call the first new class of antibiotics in more than three decades. The drug appears effective against bugs that have grown resistant to all other medicines, including vancomycin, now the drug of last resort for lingering infections.

Migraine Treatment

Vanity may have its blessings: Women who got injections of the botulism toxin to smooth out wrinkles in their foreheads discovered that the shots cured their migraines. Their plastic surgeon, Dr. William J. Binder of UCLA, checked it out and found that the toxin can stave off the crippling headaches for months. "This is very exciting," the head of LSU Medical School's department of otolaryngology, Dr. Daniel Nuss, said after Binder described his findings 28 September 1999 at a medical conference in New Orleans.

Osteoporosis Reversal

The Food and Drug Administration on 30 September 1999 gave Eli Lilly and Co. approval to sell anti-osteoporosis drug Evista as a preventative for brittle bones in women who are past menopause. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found the drug reduced the risk of spinal fractures by 30% to 50% in women who already had the bone-thinning disease. The three-year study of 7,705 women in 25 countries was funded by Lilly, an Indianapolis-based drug manufacturer. Evista, known generically as raloxifene, was first approved in 1997 for the prevention of osteoporosis. It is one of four anti-osteoporosis drugs currently on the market.

The U.S. FDA said late September 1999 Eli Lilly's's drug Evista can now be used to treat, not just prevent, the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. The FDA approved Evista for treating osteoporosis in women who already have gone through menopause, an agency spokeswoman said. The drug has been sold in the United States since January 1998 for preventing the disease. Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones that affects many older people, especially women.

Gene-altered Vein Used in Bypass

Harvard Medical School researchers have genetically altered the blood vessel used in heart bypass surgery in a quest to keep it from re-clogging, and they said on 5 October 1999 that the first few patients treated have shown a significantly lower incidence of relapse. Failure of heart bypass surgery is a big problem: Up to 30% of bypass patients have their heart arteries re-clog badly in just a year. Few patients survive 10 years without needing retreatment, and high-risk patients - such as those who already have undergone repeat surgery - re-clog at even greater rates. The question is how to make bypasses last longer.

Men May Bid 'Hairwell' to Baldness

Hair's some hopeful news for men concerned about baldness. Gene therapists at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University report that they have used injections of a gene in mice to force resting hair follicles into a growth phase. The lead researcher, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, used a virus to carry a gene nicknamed Sonic Hedgehog, a hereditary factor essential for development, into young mice whose hair follicles had gone into a normal resting phase. The animals' black fur was bleached blond, and a few days after the injections tufts of new black hair sprouted, apparently after their follicles were forced back into active phase.

Enzyme May Treat Some Disorders

Scientists have built a compound that mimics a human enzyme important for mopping up destructive molecules inside the body. They hope this synthetic enzyme might one day treat disorders ranging from inflammation to stroke. When oxygen breaks down, it produces molecules highly damaging to cells. These molecules particularly build up in many inflammatory conditions and cause much of the destruction of brain cells that occurs after a stroke. The cells of animals and people produce an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, or SOD, that can mop up the damaging molecules.

Weight: Genes Or Discipline?

America's problems with extra weight are not so much in our genes as they are in our discipline, researchers say. Only a little less eating or more activity is all it would take to turn around weight problems that kill many Americans early, the researchers say. Just the same, we don't do it. "Modest changes in what we are eating, and what we are doing may go a long way," said Dr. William H. Dietz, director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers Diagnose Leukemia

A device that measures the activity of genes in medical specimens has been used to identify two different types of leukemia, researchers report. In a study published 15 October 1999 in the journal Science, researchers at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., say that a DNA array, a biological device that can detect compounds linked to genes, and a special computer program were used to correctly identify specimens from patients with two different types of leukemia. If the DNA array method for cancer diagnosis can be developed, then the various types and varieties of cancer could be identified by genetic activity, making diagnosis quicker and more accurately, the researchers said.

Hopkins Study Finds Prostate Cure

A team of Johns Hopkins Oncology Center researchers has developed a vaccine that helps strengthen the body's immune system against prostate cancer, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Research. The study, released 19 October, 1999, showed a vaccine can trigger the immune system to fight cancer in the manner that it fights infection, said Dr. Jonathan Simons, who led the study. "For years, people have said there is no way to turn the immune system against prostate cancer," he said. "We were astounded to find that every part of the immune system was alerted and turned on." Researchers injected 11 prostate cancer patients with a genetically engineered vaccine. The patients had their prostates removed prior to the clinical trials, but their cancer was still spreading. Tumor shrinkage occurred in eight of the 11 patients, according to study.

Vitamin E May Lower Cancer Risk

Lung smokers who eat a diet rich in vitamin E foods may lower their risk of lung cancer by about 20%, a new study says, but experts stress that the best health advice is still to quit smoking. In a report published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers say a study of more than 29,000 male smokers in Finland shows that those with high blood levels of a form of vitamin E reduced their risk of lung cancer by 19% to 23%. The benefits were most dramatic, the study found, among men under age 60 and among light smokers who had been using cigarettes for less than 40 years. The reduction in lung cancer risk in these groups was from 40% to 50%.

The following sent 22 December 1999

Happy New Millennium

It is quite possible that there are people alive today who will never die. Assuming such a group of people exists, it is highly likely that some of them will be reading these words, either on the Internet or in The Immortalist. So, Many Happy Returns of the Millennium - you could be reading more of this on New Years Day 3000.

Vitamins may lower prostate risk

Researchers looking for connections between prostate cancer and outside influences found no statistical link with vasectomies, a study says. But men seemed to lower their risk of the disease significantly by taking certain vitamins. The study, by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, found that 39.4% of those with prostate cancer had undergone vasectomies compared to 37.7% of the non-cancer group. Researchers said those who took vitamins C or E seemed to have a 23% lower risk of prostate cancer, while those who took zinc had a decreased risk of 45%.

Scientists seek Alzheimer's clues

Yale University researchers say they have found a way to restart the growth of brain cells, a potential step toward understanding and perhaps preventing Alzheimer's disease. Brain cells normally stop growing when people reach adolescence, but the Yale team found the cells can be stimulated to grow again as people get older. The study, which appears in the journal Science, says scientists were able to trigger a kind of "on-off switch" in the brains of mice. There is no known cure for Alzheimer's, a disease believed to affect more than 4 million Americans.

Brain Cell Xeno Transplants

Scientists said 25 October 1999 they had transplanted brain cells from pigs into monkeys using a new process that made the neurons hold up longer under attack from the monkeys' immune systems. The idea is to come up with ways to treat Parkinson's and other diseases involving the destruction of brain cells. The team, from Harvard Medical School and Connecticut-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals, said they had protected the pig cells from attack by the immune system using a product being developed by Alexion. Dr. Ole Isacson and colleagues at Harvard's McLean Hospital said that the transplanted brain cells survived and functioned.

Studies: Obesity on the Rise in U. S.

Obesity is a U. S. epidemic that has surged in the past decade and now affects nearly 1 in 5 adults, killing some 300,000 a year, a collection of new studies suggest. The studies, which will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are the latest to spread the warning that Americans are getting fatter - and that fat kills. "Obesity is a major cause of mortality in the United States," concludes one of the surveys. One study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the number of Americans considered obese - defined as being more than 30% over their ideal body weight - soared from about one in eight in 1991 to nearly one in five last year.

FDA Approves New Flu Pill

Flu sufferers are about to get a second new drug that promises to ease miserable influenza symptoms a little this winter. The FDA approved Tamiflu, the first pill
effective against both types A and B flu. Tamiflu joins a competing but inhaled drug, Relenza, that the FDA approved earlier to also fight both flu types. Health experts say neither drug should replace flu vaccines - the shots clearly offer people a better chance at staying flu-free all winter. The flu kills 20,000 Americans a year, a toll doctors say would drop if more people got vaccinated.

New Drugs Against Hepatitis c

Schering Plough said late Thursday it has identified the molecular structure of a complex consisting of key enzymes needed for the growth and replication of the hepatitis C virus. The N.J.-based drug maker, which already sells a leading hepatitis C treatment, said the new discovery could lead to new, more powerful drugs against the virus which kills 8,000 to 10,000 Americans each year. The discovery completes an effort by Schering-Plough to determine the molecular structure of all key enzymes of hepatitis C. The finding was published in the November issue of Structure.

Study: Stereotypes Affect Elderly

Negative stereotypes about getting old can hurt how people function, says a study that found healthy elderly people could suddenly walk faster when they were subconsciously fed positive images of aging. How well older people walk - both their speed and whether they shuffle unsteadily - can predict their future health and independence. Falls are a huge health problem, and doctors recommend exercise programs for even the very elderly to strengthen muscles important for walking and balance. But the new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggests the mind also may play a powerful role - and that bleak expectations of aging may hurt even healthy people's strides.

Cost of Medicine for Elderly Rises

Prices for the prescription drugs most often used by older Americans are skyrocketing far beyond inflation generally, says an advocacy group that wants Congress to add drug benefits to Medicare. In 1998, wholesale prices for 50 prescriptions commonly filled by the elderly rose 6.6%, more than four times the year's 1.6% overall inflation rate, said Families USA in a report. Between January 1994 and January 1999, the report said, prices for the same prescriptions rose 25.2%, more than double the 12.8% overall inflation rate during that five-year period.

Kids May Overeat Due to Hormones

Craving a cheeseburger or dish of ice cream? It's all in the head, especially for kids nearing puberty, new research suggests. The theory is that hormones trigger production of a chemical called galanin that stimulates intake of fatty foods - which, in a vicious cycle, increases production of even more galanin, especially in females. The researchers so far have examined only rats, but their work will be presented at an Agriculture Department conference on why people eat what they eat. "The brain and diet work very closely together. We can't escape that," said study author Sarah Liebowitz, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University in New York.

Blood Pressure Drug Holds Promise

Widely used blood pressure pills called ACE inhibitors can lower the risk of heart attacks and death by nearly one-quarter in people with bad hearts or diabetes, and they may become routine treatment for everyone with these common conditions, researchers say. The study suggests that ACE inhibitors should be added to the fistful of pills - typically aspirin, beta blockers and cholesterol-lowering drugs - that are already recommended for people with bad hearts. "This extends the use of ACE inhibitors in a massively broad way," said Dr. Peter Sleight of Oxford University in England, one of the researchers.

Update: Alcohol Cuts Stroke Risk - Study

An occasional drink with dinner could reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to a new study. Researchers found that light to moderate drinkers can lower their risk by about 20% compared with teetotalers. The study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, was the biggest ever to examine the link between alcohol and stroke. It showed that as little as a single cocktail or glass of wine or beer per week can significantly reduce stroke risk. The study involved more than 22,000 men, but one of the researchers said the results could also apply to women.

Scientists Make Pain Relief Strides

A biological "smart bomb" that combines a natural protein with a toxin is able to permanently block chronic pain without the side effects common to narcotic pain drugs, researchers report. In laboratory studies using rats, researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis report they have identified nerve cells that cause chronic pain and devised a drug that knocks out those cells without affecting other nerve signals. The Society for Neuroscience estimates that about 100 million Americans endure chronic pain.

Stock Market Computer Growth to Continue for At Least 15 Years

Computer-chip makers should be able to keep boosting chip performance for at least 15 years despite some serious technical hurdles, the industry's trade group said, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Semiconductor Industry Association said chip makers may face problems within five years in maintaining improvements at current rates, the paper said late November 1999. But the group has identified enough possible solutions to those bottlenecks to predict that the industry will continue to produce chips that will double in performance every 18 months as it has in the past, the Journal said.

This is relevant and important for those who cannot afford life insurance (or would prefer to spend the money enjoying themselves) and need to make their money work for them in growing a cryonics trust. If the current growth in technology persists for the foreseeable future (which it will have to if cryonics revivals are ever possible), it is possible for someone with 20 or more years left to finance an entire cryopreservation on $50/month into a technology mutual fund for just two years.

Drug May Help Lower Risk of Strokes

Certain Americans at high risk for strokes are about to get a new drug that research suggests can help prevent attacks significantly better than typical daily aspirin therapy. The Food and Drug Administration approved Aggrenox for patients who have suffered a mini-stroke called a transient ischemic attack and hope to prevent a full-blown stroke, and for stroke survivors hoping to ward off a recurrence. The pill combines the drug dipyridamole with low-dose aspirin. Both drugs work together as antiplatelet medicines, preventing sticky blood cells from clumping together to form a clot. Strokes are the nation's third-leading killer, striking some 600,000 Americans a year and killing 160,000 of them, according to the American Heart Association.

Learning Brain Cells Identified


Neurons flashing signals about the brain undergo a dramatic change as the mind learns new habits of behaviour, researchers report. Brain scientists using rats taught to run a maze found that as the rats learned, there was a change in the firing pattern of certain neurons in the brain. This new pattern may mark the way habits are acquired. "We have made one small step toward figuring out what the brain does when we develop a habit," said Ann M. Graybiel, a brain researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and senior author of a study that appeared on 22 November in the journal Science.

Good Health Habits Can Extend Life

People who don't smoke and who maintain low cholesterol and blood pressure levels can live about 6 to 9.5 years longer than those less careful about their health, according to studies of more than 360,000 patients. The research, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found dramatic, life-extending benefits for adults of all ages who have low heart disease risk factors, including abstaining from cigarette smoking. "These findings are relevant for the national effort to end the coronary heart disease-cardiovascular epidemic," the study says. "For upcoming generations this means encouraging favourable behaviours beginning in early childhood in regard to eating, drinking, exercising and smoking."

Gum Disease Linked to Enzyme Lack

Floss, brush and rinse to protect your winning smile - it's advice that shouldn't be ignored. But a new study suggests that gum disease may result from reduced levels of a key enzyme in cells, as well as indifferent dental hygiene. The enzyme, known as cathepsin C, appears to trigger a complex web of immunological reactions that destroy diseased cells and eliminate infections in the mouth, a notoriously filthy place. How dirty? Scientists estimate that 6 billion microbes representing 500 different species of bacteria constantly are trying to breach your gums and attack the attachments of your teeth. The new research suggests that even slightly reduced levels of cathepsin C as a result of a genetic mutation may reduce a person's ability to ward off periodontitis, or deep pockets of infection below the gum line.

Telomerase Research Shows Way to Kill Cancer Cells in Culture

Geron Corp announced that specific researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have confirmed that inhibitors of telomerase can remortalize human cancer cells, ultimately leading to their cell death. The research, published in the December 7, 1999 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded in part by Geron Corporation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Cancer Institute. The data presented
in the paper confirm that potent and specific inhibitors targeted to an essential component of the enzyme telomerase cause telomere shortening and ultimately death of transformed human breast epithelial cells and human prostate cancer cells in culture.

New Colorectal Cancer Test Created

Scientists have devised a new blood test that may help doctors better diagnose how colorectal cancer will spread, according to a preliminary study published 7 December, 1999. Because up to 40% of colorectal cancers return within three years from when they were thought to be cured by surgery, the test promises a more accurate picture of the extent of the disease, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. To better detect the spread of colorectal cancer to the lymph nodes, the test developed at Jefferson Medical College detects the presence of a certain protein found in colorectal cancer cells. To diagnose this kind of cancer now, surgeons cut out lymph nodes and pathologists examine them.

Eye Chip May Help Restore Vision

Scientists say wireless video goggles and a laser-powered microchip stapled to the retina could someday give blind patients a small measure of sight. The intraocular retinal prosthesis, or "eye chip," uses a small video camera in a set of goggles to send images to the microchip fastened to the back of the retina. Electrodes on the chip form an image that can stimulate the retina and be "seen" by blind people. "The beauty of it is that you're hooked up to the most powerful computer in the world, which is the human brain," said Dr. Mark Humayun, an ophthalmologist at Johns
Hopkins.

The World's Best Selling Prescription Medicine

The world's best selling prescription drug is not Viagra or Prozac. It's Prilosec, a once-a-day pill for ulcer and heartburn. Sales are expected to exceed $6 billion this year. But the drug is scheduled to lose patent protection in April 2001, making it susceptible to generic competition. Before that can happen, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc hopes to have its new and improved version on Prilosec on the market. Earlier this week, the company applied for U.S. regulatory approval for its new ulcer drug Nexium. U.S. FDA reviews generally take about a year.

I must say that I thought that most ulcers were curable by exterminating helicobacter pylori with antibiotics. But I suppose there must be other causes that still require treatment.

New Cold Treatments

Preliminary data released at a scientific meeting suggest new drugs being developed by Viropharma Inc and Warner Lambert may reduce the length and severity of the common cold, the Wall Street Journal said. If trials this cold season are successful, the first of these drugs, called Pleconaril and developed by ViroPharma, could be available for commercial use in 2001. Warner-Lambert's common-cold drug, AG7088, might also get approved for use in late 2001, the report said. The data, which suggest the drugs could reduce the length and severity of colds by one-third, were discussed 12 December 1999 at the Second Annual Symposium in Grand Cayman
Island.

Warner Lambert's Agouron Pharmaceuticals unit said that cold symptoms were significantly reduced for patients receiving AG7088, which targets human rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold. Agouron said that in a Phase II trial, volunteers were given multiple daily intranasal doses of its investigational
compound, AG7088, after deliberate exposure to human rhinovirus. The company said it is proceeding with a large Phase II clinical trial of AG7088 in the treatment of people with naturally acquired colds.

BioGlue news

Cryolife Inc said that the FDA has approved its BioGlue surgical adhesive for use in aortic dissections. The maker of living human tissue implantable devices said that the approval was granted under Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) regulations. The HDE allows BioGlue surgical adhesive to be used only adjunctively with sutures or staples to facilitate surgical repair of acute thoracic aortic dissections. BioGlue is a protein-based surgical adhesive which the company has sold in international markets since March 1998.

Nutrition Urged As Medicare Benefit

Medicare should begin covering nutrition counselling for the elderly whenever it is recommended by a doctor, the Institute of Medicine said 15 December. "Evidence exists to conclude that nutrition therapy can improve health outcomes for several conditions
that are highly prevalent among Medicare beneficiaries while possibly decreasing costs to Medicare," said a report requested by Congress from the institute - a scientific organization that advises the government. Adding the new benefit to Medicare would cost an estimated $1.4 billion for the first five years, but could help
prevent complications from common problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, said the report.

Alzheimer's Treatment Undergoing Trials

Elan Corp said it had started Phase I clinical studies of Betabloc, a therapeutic agent intended for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Elan said animal studies showed Betabloc prevented the buildup, and reduced the level, of established amyloid plaue, considered by many scientists to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer's disease. "Based on these results, Elan has initiated clinical development to study the potential of this product candidate as a disease modifying agent," Elan said. The studies, including up to 48 patients, will take a year to complete, Elan said.

The Establishment Finds Out That Vitamin C Can Lower Blood Pressure

Heart patients with high blood pressure may receive substantial benefit from a daily dose of vitamin C - something researchers said could be an inexpensive alternative to prescription drugs. A dose of 500 milligrams each day lowered blood pressure by up to 9%, a level comparable to expensive prescription drugs, according to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. "It may provide a way to bring their blood pressure back within acceptable levels without the cost or possible side effects of prescription drugs," said one researcher, adding vitamin C is not a substitute for professionally monitored medication.

Study Links Mad Cow, Brain Diseases

Mad cow disease and a new type of fatal human brain disease that has killed 51 people in Europe may be one and the same, according to a new lab experiment. A study published 21 December 1999 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes clear that people in Britain who developed a new type of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease could have contracted it from eating meat from cattle contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the so-called mad cow disease. Neither mad cow disease nor the new type of Creutzfeldt-Jakob have been confirmed in the United States.

Honesty May Fight Malpractice Suits

A hospital's policy of owning up to its mistakes shows health care facilities can be honest about errors and still reduce costly malpractice litigation, patient advocates say. "You don't go to court unless you're angry, unless it's the last resort," said Ray McEachern, president of the Association for Responsible Medicine in Tampa, Fla. "Most everybody would rather settle things man to man rather than go through some fantastic legal process." A study published 21 December 1999 in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests hospitals can forestall lengthy, expensive litigation by admitting mistakes and offering fair compensation before the patient or the patient's family even realizes the error.

I would wonder whether any legal department of any hospital business or whatever would advocate what is suggested here.

Another problem that needs to be tackled with fee paying surgery is the one where the operation goes wrong and extra costs are incurred. If there is a limit on what the patient's insurance company will pay then the patient could even be bankrupted by what started out as a routine and affordable procedure.

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