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Health Highlights: Dec. 16, 2007

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Blood Brain Flow Scan Can Identify Smokers' Nicotine Urges

Anyone who has attempted to quit smoking has experienced the sometimes overwhelming urge to resume that bad habit once the nicotine begins to leave the system.

For the first time, scientists have identified a brain activation that creates the nicotine craving and the continuing need to smoke. The findings by University of Pennsylvania scientists, to be published in the December 19, 2007, issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, measure brain blood flow, according to a university news release.

The blood brain flow measuring system using an MRI scan was developed by Dr. John Detre, a University of Pennsylvania associate professor of neurology. The senior author of the paper, Caryn Lerman, the director of the university's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center, said, "MRI may aid in the identification of smokers at increased risk for relapse who may require more intensive therapy."

Each of 15 regular smokers received an MRI scanned within an hour of the first scan and got the second MRI after abstaining from smoking overnight. The findings showed that "abstinence-induced, unprovoked cravings to smoke are associated with increased activation in brain regions important in attention, behavioral control, memory, and reward," according to the news release.

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Liposuctioned Fat Stem Cells Effective in Breast Reconstruction after Lumpectomy, Study Finds

A small Japanese study shows promise for using stem cells from liposuctioned fat to reconstruct a woman's breast after she has had a procedure called a lumpectomy to remove small, malignant tumors.

Other methods for reconstructing the breast after lumpectomies have met with only limited success, the Associated Press reports. But the use of fat that contains stem cells appears to allow the tissue to keep from dying and to grow normally.

The study was presented Dec. 15 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the wire service reported. San Diego-based Cytori Therapeutics, which developed the procedure, says it will have more studies in Europe and Japan next year.

The Japanese study involved 21 breast cancer patients who had liposuctioned fat removed their tummies, hips or thighs. Half of the fat was used to extract stem cells and was then added to the remaining fat, the A.P. reported. The subjects were injected in three places around the breast.

There was a statistically significant improvement in breast tissue thickness at one and six months after treatment, the lead researcher, Dr. Keizo Sugimachi of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, reported. Eight months after treatment, "about 80 percent of the patients are satisfied" with the results, Sugimachi told the wire service.

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CDC Cancels Bids for National Medical Processing Center for Ground Zero Workers

A national plan to provide medical assistance workers from outside the New York metropolitan area who came to assist in The World Trade Center cleanup immediately after its destruction in 2001 has been put on hold, the New York Times reports.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had requested bids to establish a business processing center to administer medical claims at clinics across the country from workers who were experiencing after-effects, especially respiratory problems.

But late in the day on Dec. 13, the CDC cancelled the bidding process, saying that those interested in giving a proposal seemed confused about the requirements for obtaining the government contract, the Times reports.

This latest snag in systematizing medical relief for the thousands of people who came to ground zero from outside new York City after Sep. 11 2001, was "a sign of continued confusion and lack of commitment to this program within this administration," the newspaper quotes Dr. James M. Melius, chairman of the steering committee for the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, as saying.

The national business center was to help in recruiting doctors to treat those who had medical problems resulting from working at ground zero and to standardize reimbursement. Melius told the Times the national program also would administer a centralized pharmaceutical benefits plan designed to save money over separate prescription plans.

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New Human Bird Flu Cases Reported in Asia

The avian flu that health officials worry may still cause a worldwide pandemic has surfaced again in Asia, claiming more human victims, the Associated Press reports.

While there is still no evidence that the H5N1 flu virus has mutated to allow human-to-human transmission, people who raise fowl or are constantly around birds continue to be vulnerable.

Indonesia Friday announced its 93rd human death this year, out of 115 people infected with avian flu, the wire service said.

And the first human case of bird flu case in Myanmar was reported by the World Health organization, the A.P. said. The 7-year-old girl, who became ill in late November, has recovered.

In the eastern Nanjing province of China, a father and son became ill earlier this month. The son, 24, has died, the wire service said, becoming Chinas 17th bird flu victim.

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Recalled Valucraft Booster Cables Pose Shock Hazard

About 140,00 Valucraft car booster cables are being recalled because the clamps were assembled incorrectly, resulting in reverse polarity. This poses electrical shock and explosion hazards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The Chinese-made cables were sold for between $12 and $20 at AutoZone stores across the United States and on AutoZone's Web site from June 2007 through October 2007.

valucraft recall

AutoZone Parts Inc., of Memphis Tenn., has received four reports of incidents of reverse polarity that led to minor property damage.

The recall includes Valucraft eight-gauge and 10-gauge booster cables, which are orange and have "8GA" or "10GA" printed on them. Consumers should stop using these cables and return them to any AutoZone store for a full refund or a free replacement.

For more information, contact AutoZone at 1-800-230-9786.

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More Blood Contaminants Found in People with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Study

People with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have higher levels of environmental contaminants, such as PCBs and organochlorine pesticides, in their blood than people without the disease, a Canadian study found. This suggests that the chemicals may be a factor in the disease, the study authors said.

B.C. Cancer Agency researchers collected blood samples from 900 residents of British Columbia, including 422 people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, CTV News reported.

Compared to those without the disease, the cancer patients had higher levels of almost every chemical tested for in the study. People with the greatest exposure to PCBs were twice as likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma than those with the least exposure.

The findings will appear in the International Journal of Cancer.

"We know that the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been steadily rising for the past 30 years worldwide, but there hasn't been clear evidence to explain the increase," lead author John Spinelli, a senior scientist at the B.C. Cancer Agency, told CTV News.

"Our study helps to provide answers to this puzzle by showing a strong link between these specific environmental contaminants and this particular type of cancer," he said.

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Posted: December 2007


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