Health Tips

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer  |  Jan. 11, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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A report in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates a new chemotherapy regimen can extend the life of patients with a deadly form of lung cancer. More than half of the patients with small-cell lung carcinoma survived at least a year with the treatment, which includes CPT-11 (CAMPTOSAR). As a followup to the report, Dr. Alan Sandler, director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program, is leading a study of 300 patients at 47 centers to further evaluate the treatment's effect on survival. The original Japanese study of 150 patients found treatment with CPT-11 and cisplatin produced better results than those from the standard therapy of cisplatin and etoposide. "Up until this study, no treatment had been identified that increases survival to this extent," Sandler said. "This is the first to show a dramatic difference."


Researchers have come up with a better way to make a mouse. They use specially prepared HIV-derived viruses stripped of their disease-causing potential. Then, says biologist David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, they introduce foreign DNA into animals. The method, reported on the Science Express Web site, could have wide-ranging applications in biotechnology and experimental biology, scientists said. When single-cell mouse embryos are thus treated, a new gene from a jellyfish is permanently deposited in their genomes. The mice carry at least one copy of the gene in 80 percent of the cases. Of these, 90 percent show high levels of the jellyfish protein. The study also shows that the offspring of the mice inherit the genes and make the new protein. Thus the method makes transgenic mice that have new genetic potential, Baltimore said. The use of the HIV-like viruses could prove superior to the current method of producing transgenic animals -- ones with transferred genes -- by pronuclear injection, said Baltimore, Nobel Prize winner and Caltech president. The techniques can be used to "engineer" new, desirable traits in plants and animals. A cat with an altered visual system, for example, might better accommodate fundamental studies of the nature of vision, scientists said.


Chemical engineers at Purdue University in Indiana have developed a technique to reduce the amount of liquid in drops emitted by nozzles such as those used in inkjet printers and for experiments aimed at discovering new drugs. Because each drop is smaller, the technique might decrease the cost of experiments by reducing the amount of material consumed by labs searching for new medications or studying the human genome, said Osman Basaran, professor of chemical engineering. Reporting in the journal Physics of Fluids, the scientists said their technique makes it possible to achieve at least a 10-fold reduction in the volume of liquid in each drop while using the same types of nozzles now available commercially. "Reducing drop size is really a boon because it would reduce costs," Basaran said. "The fluids in these applications are expensive."


When HIV-infected white blood cells leave the blood circulation and form reservoirs in the tissue, it could spell trouble for patients -- even those on the most effective courses of therapy, a study in the journal AIDS suggests. "Infected cells can also carry virus back out of these reservoirs and this might explain how virus could leave the brain to infect other parts of the body," said Dr. Holly Birdsall, associate professor of otorhinolaryngology at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and lead study author. "Cells come through the brain, pick up virus and move on out." As part of the study, Birdsall and her colleagues identified HIV patients who were on the most highly active anti-retroviral treatment and had undetectable levels of virus in their blood. But even of these patients, a third had white blood cells that spontaneously carried infectious virus across an artificial blood vessel membrane. Cells carrying infectious HIV can also move back across the vessel membrane. "Those in whom the migratory cells carried infectious virus, over time, lost control of their disease," said Birdsall. "They also had a better chance of being hospitalized for their disease or infections associated with it."

(EDITORS: For more information about CANCER, call 310-297-7421; about ANIMAL, call 765-494-4709; about METHOD, call 765-494-4061; about HIV, call 713-798-4712.)

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