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Health Highlights: March 2, 2017

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

New Technique Might Lead to Frozen Donor Organs for Transplant

Researchers have taken the first step toward being able to thaw frozen tissue, according to a new study.

Deep-freezing donated organs could improve the transplant supply, but scientists first need to find a way to thaw frozen organs without damaging them, the Associated Press reported.

University of Minnesota researchers said Wednesday that they used nanotechnology to safely and rapidly thaw larger amounts of animal tissue than current tools can.

This "nanowarming" method involves covering pieces of tissue in magnetic nanoparticles and then using radiofrequency energy to activate the nanoparticles, turning them into microscopic heaters that evenly warm the tissue around them, the AP reported.

The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Much more research is needed before attempting to use this method to thaw human organs, according to the researchers.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we're going to be able to get into a kidney or maybe a heart. But we are not, in any way, declaring victory here," said research team leader John Bischof, a mechanical engineering professor, the AP reported.

The study is an important proof of concept, said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer at the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system.

"If you could pull this off, it would really be transformational," he told the AP.

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Brisk Walking May Benefit Some Early-Stage Alzheimer's Patients: Study

Some people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease may benefit from frequent, brisk walks, new research suggests.

Along with improving physical abilities, the walks might also slow the loss of memory and thinking abilities, according the University of Kansas study in the February issue of the journal PLoS One, The New York Times reported.

The study included 70 patients. Some were assigned to a supervised walking program that eventually had them briskly walking for at least 150 minutes a week. Others were assigned to a control group that did stretching and toning classes.

After six months, many participants in both groups showed improvements in physical functioning. Those in the control group showed a slight decline in thinking and memory, and many of the walkers showed declines or no improvement, The Times reported.

But some of the walkers did show notable improvements in thinking and memory, along with slight increases in the size of their brain's hippocampus, an area affected early in the course of Alzheimer's disease.

The fact that thinking and memory improvements in the walking group were modest and not universal raises questions about how and why exercise may benefit some people with Alzheimer's but not others, The Times reported.

"It seems likely that the right exercise programs could be disease modifying. We just don't know yet what the ideal exercise programs are," study leader Jill Morris, a senior scientist at the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center, said.

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Posted: March 2017

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