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Health Highlights: Feb.4, 2013

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

TB Vaccine Doesn't Protect Infants: Study

An experimental tuberculosis vaccine that has shown promise in adults does not protect babies against the deadly infectious disease, a new study says.

The MVA85A vaccine was given to infants in South Africa, who were then followed for up to three years. The researchers said there was no proof that the vaccine prevented TB in the infants, the Associated Press reported.

The vaccine did not cause any serious side effects, according to the study published online in the journal The Lancet.

The results are "pretty disappointing," Dr. Jennifer Cohn, a medical coordinator at Doctors Without Borders, who was not part of the study, told the AP. "Infants are at really high risk of TB but this doesn't seem to offer them any protection."


New Study May Improve Understanding of Panic Attacks

A moment of fear experienced by a woman who previously could not feel afraid may help scientists learn more about panic attacks, according to researchers.

A rare illness had damaged the woman's amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear. As a result, no external threats -- such as spiders, snakes, horror movies or risk of violence -- scared the woman, The New York Times reported.

However, she suffered a panic attack during an experiment in which she inhaled carbon dioxide through a mask in amounts that weren't harmful but created a brief feeling of suffocation, according to the study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Two other women -- identical twins with amygdala damage similar to the first woman's -- also felt intense fear when they took part in the same experiment.

The findings support the theory that while the amygdala is central to fear generated by external threats, there is a different brain path that triggers fear in response to internal bodily experiences such as a heart attack, Antonio Demasio, of the University of Southern California, told The Times.

"I think it's a very interesting and important result," said Damasio, who was not involved in this study but has worked with the first woman in the study.


NFL, GE Partnership Seeks to Improve Concussion Detection, Prevention

The NFL will partner with General Electric to promote development of new imaging technology that would detect concussions, and also work together to encourage the creation of new materials for helmets to better protect the brain.

The four-year program is expected to begin in March and will receive at least $50 million from the NFL and GE, The New York Times reported.

New technologies from the collaboration could appear within a few years, according to experts.

"If they were to be putting more focus on technology for concussion management, that's obviously a good thing," Stefan Duma, an instructor at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and creator of the STAR helmet ratings system, told The Times.

"I would expect that to bear fruits. We're definitely not 10 years away. I would expect in a two- to five-year window you could have some real advances in imaging's ability to see concussions. Helmets are the same way," Duma said.

This is the latest of a number of efforts by the NFL to deal with growing concerns about player concussions.


Skeleton Found Beneath Parking Lot is King Richard III: Researchers

A skeleton found beneath a parking lot in Leicester is that of English king Richard III, who was killed in battle in 1485.

University of Leicester researchers said DNA from the bones matched that of Canadian descendants of the king's family. "Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard," lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said at a press conference, BBC News reported.

The skeleton had 10 battles wounds, including eight to the skull, that were inflicted around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

The researchers also said that the bones were those of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died. The skeleton will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

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Posted: February 2013