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Ilene is an editor at Phil's Stock World, Market Shadows and other financial publications. Her educational background is in biology, pathology and law. After working in biochemistry and pathology during her graduate years, she attended Law School at Loyola. She practiced law in a number of... More
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  • TIME's Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs  0 comments
    Jan 16, 2010 5:23 PM

    Interesting list on medical breakthoughs - with my comments in bold. - Ilene

    TIME's Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs

    By Alice Park at TIME

    stem cell created mouse - TIME And the top ten are:

    1. New Mammography Guidelines
    2. AIDS Vaccine
    3. Funding Ban Lifted on Stem-Cell Research
    4. H1N1 Vaccine
    5. Stem-Cell-Created Mice
    6. Prostate-Cancer Screening
    7. New Research on Autism
    8. New Drug for Osteoporosis
    9. New Alzheimer's Genes
    10. Brown Fat in Adults 

    New Mammography Guidelines

    It usually takes a Washington scandal to put the discussion of women's breasts on political agendas, but in November it was a routine update of breast-cancer-screening guidelines by a government panel of medical advisers that stirred up a furor. Based on new calculations weighing the risks and benefits of routine screening, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's new recommendations advised women to begin routine mammograms at age 50 instead of 40 and to switch from yearly to biennial screenings; it also advised women to eliminate breast self-exams altogether... 

    That might be a bit of a relief to those of us who have been less than perfect in following the previous requirements, these new ones may be easier and less guilt-generating.  And we all know stress is unhealthy.  

    AIDS Vaccine

    In a field that has seen more failure than success, experts received the news of an effective new AIDS vaccine with a fair share of skepticism...

    31% effective - but that's about as good as it gets so far.  

    Funding Ban Lifted on Stem-Cell Research

    It was eight years in coming — which felt like eons to some researchers — but on March 9, President Obama rescinded his predecessor's Executive Order prohibiting the use of federal money to fund research on stem cells. A congressional law still prevents scientists from using government funds to create new lines of embryonic stem cells,..

    The less politics is involved with science the better, maybe now we can move on? 

    H1N1 Vaccine

    ...In many places around the country, there was not enough vaccine even to cover members of priority groups targeted by the government, including young children, pregnant women, health care workers, parents of infants younger than 6 months and those with underlying conditions such as asthma or diabetes. And yet according to the latest polls, 55% of Americans said they would not get the new vaccine — which was created and tested in record time after H1N1 first appeared last spring — because of worries about its safety.

    First, we can't get enough of it, and now we're swimming in excess.  Is the threat over?  I don't think so, but time will tell.  For my latest update on swine flu, click here. >>

    Stem-Cell-Created Mice

    Breeding an entire mouse that is itself capable of reproducing — as the mice did in one of the Chinese labs — is a strong sign that iPS cells may be as useful as embryonic stem cells for a potential source of treatments for disease, scientists said.

    Am I wrong to be a little skeptical?

    Prostate-Cancer Screening

    ...Based on this and other studies, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said there was insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate-cancer screening in men younger than age 75. The task force recommended against prostate-cancer screening in men 75 and older.

    This is really not new information, the benefits of screening for prostate cancer have been uncertain and unproven for years, and that is still the case.  I cannot tell from this write-up whether the details of the study provide more specific information on which to come to any conclusions.  I should probably read the study.

    Autism, TIME New Research on Autism

    Some blame vaccines, while others target mercury. But the truth is that nobody knows what causes autism or what exactly accounts for the recent rise in cases. According to new data released by the Federal Government in October, 1 in 100 American children is now affected by an autism spectrum disorder, up from the previous federal estimate of 1 in 150. The roots of the increase are still unclear, but researchers this year identified one possible genetic clue: variations on a region of chromosome 5, which appear to play a crucial role in about 15% of cases of autism. Working with the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange — a DNA database of more than 2,000 families affected by autism, and the largest genetic study of the disorder ever attempted — researchers zeroed in on variations in genes that code for proteins involved in forming connections in the brain. Differences in these particular genes are extremely common — present in more than half of healthy people — but they are even more common in people with autism, affecting 65%.

    I'll make my prediction regarding autism and causes: genetic susceptibility, harmful environmental influences, and epigenetic mechanisms will be found to contribute to the still growing numbers of kids with autism spectrum disorders.

    For those with interest in autism and alternative therapies, I wrote a brief article on that here.>>

    New Drug for Osteoporosis

    ...But a new compound under review by the FDA tackles the problem in a different way — by curbing the formation of the bone-gnawing cells. That tilts the balance in favor of bone-building. In two studies published in August, the experimental compound denosumab was shown to reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women as well as men being treated for prostate cancer, the two largest patient populations at risk for bone loss. What's not clear, however, is how the new drug, if approved, would compare with existing osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax, Boniva and Reclast.

    New Alzheimer's Genes

    ...Two groups of researchers, working separately, homed in on three genes linked to the late-onset form of the disease, the type that hits people in their 60s or later and accounts for 90% of Alzheimer's cases in the U.S. Two of the genes are known to interact with the amyloid-protein plaques that build up in the brain of Alzheimer's patients and eventually cause nerve-cell death and cognitive problems. The third affects the junction of nerve cells, where various neurochemicals work to relay signals from one nerve cell to another. It's not clear yet exactly how the genes increase Alzheimer's risk...

    Brown Fat in Adults 

    When you're struggling to button your pants around your ever expanding waistline, it probably doesn't occur to you to wonder whether your body fat is brown or white. But perhaps you should. Researchers have long known that brown fat, so called because it is packed with dark-hued mitochondria (the engines that feed cells with energy), actively breaks down sugar into heat and consumes a lot more energy than white fat does. In other words, brown fat burns energy instead of storing it. However, researchers also known that while brown fat is abundant in rodents and newborns, who need it to keep warm right out of the womb, those brown-fat stores shrink and white fat emerges as people age...

    I wonder if anyone is working on finding a chemical, which could perhaps be turned into pill form, that converts white fat to brown fat!?


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