Health Highlights: Sept. 19, 2011

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

New Technology Improves Early Stage Cancer Surgery: Report

A new technology that makes cancer cells glow can increase the amount of early stage cancer that surgeons can detect and remove from patients.

Cancer cells need folic acid to grow. Purdue University researchers found that adding a glowing dye to folic acid caused cancer cells to light up, CBS News reported.

The technology isn't approved in the United States, but doctors in the Netherlands have performed 20 successful trial surgeries in ovarian cancer patients. The procedure enables the removal of five times more cancer during surgery, according to some doctors.

"We know (that) the more aggressive you are in the surgical removal of the tumor, the better the outcome of the patient will be," said Dr. Gooitzen van Dam, a surgeon with the University of Groningen, CBS News reported.

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Gamers Decipher Enzyme of AIDS-Like Virus

The structure of an enzyme of an HIV-like virus has been deciphered by online gamers playing a video game in which the goal is to unfold chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Scientists have been trying for a decade to produce an accurate model of a monomeric protease enzyme. The gamers accomplished the feat in just three weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

The achievement could help efforts to develop new antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS patients.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib, of the University of Washington's biochemistry lab, said in a news release, AFP reported. "The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

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Bachmann's Cervical Cancer Vaccine Claim Challenged

If Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann can back up her statement that the human papillomavirus vaccine causes mental retardation, a respected Philadelphia bioethicist said he will give $10,000 to charity.

Bachmann brought up the HPV vaccine, which protect girls and women from a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer, during the Republican presidential debate on Monday. On television the next day, she said the vaccine was linked to retardation.

Medical experts disputed her remarks, and on Thursday Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania called on Bachmann to support her claim or to pay up, the Associated Press reported.

If the Minnesota Congresswoman can produce a legitimate vaccine victim within a week, Caplan said he will make the donation to any charity of her choice. If she cannot prove her claim, he suggested she make a $10,000 donation to a pro-vaccine organization, the AP said.

Caplan told the news agency he had not heard back from Bachmann, who received a similar, $1,000 challenge from a University of Minnesota bioethicist, Steven Miles.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends girls receive all three doses of the vaccine at age 11 or 12.

Posted: September 2011


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