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Health Highlights: Dec. 18, 2012

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

NIH Launches Effort to Boost Number of Minority Scientists

A program to boost the number of biomedical researchers from minority groups has been launched by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

It will provide research opportunities for undergraduate students, financial help for undergraduate and graduate students, and a mentoring program to help students and researchers beginning their careers, The New York Times reported.

There will also be a pilot program to test a grant review process in which there is no identifying information about the applicant.

When fully implemented, the program will cost about $50 million a year and support about 600 students, The Times reported.

The NIH created the program after receiving recommendations in June from an advisory committee created to study the reasons for the low number of medical researchers from minority groups.

Each year in the U.S., only about 500 doctoral degrees in biological sciences go people in minority groups such as blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, The Times reported.


Virus Creates New Pacemaker in Guinea Pigs' Hearts: Study

A genetically-modified virus turned a part of guinea pigs' hearts into a new, working pacemaker, a new study says.

The virus was injected into the hearts of seven guinea pigs and five later had heartbeats which originated from their new pacemaker, BBC News reported.

The U.S. scientists published their results in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

It's likely the same method can be used in humans, but much more animal testing is needed before that could ever be considered, researcher Dr. Hee Cheol Cho, of Cedars-Sinai, told BBC News.

This research "opens up the tantalizing possibility of using cell therapy to restore normal heart rhythm in people who would otherwise need electronic pacemakers," Prof. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.

"However, much more research now needs to be done to understand if these findings can help people with heart disease in the future," he added.


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Posted: December 2012