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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

EPA issues new gas-powered engine standard

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new standards for small gas-powered engines to reduce pollutants from machines including lawn mowers.

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The EPA said the new standards are designed to substantially reduce the amount of gas fumes, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and smog-forming pollutants emitted from a wide range of small gas-powered engines. The regulations go into effect in 2010 and 2011.

The EPA's new small-engine standards will allow Americans to cut air pollution as well as grass," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. "These standards help fight smog in our neighborhoods and waterways as we continue to improve the environmental landscape."

The federal agency said the new standards, when fully implemented, will yield annual emission reductions of 600,000 tons of hydrocarbons, 130,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, 5,500 tons of direct particulate matter and 1.5 million tons of carbon monoxide. Officials said they expect the new standards to save approximately 190 million gallons of gasoline each year.

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The rule becomes effective in 2011 for lawn and garden equipment of 25 horsepower or less, while the standards for gas-powered personal watercraft and inboard and outboard engines goes into effect in 2010.

Additional information is available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/marinesi.htm.


FDA approves hepatitis B viral DNA test

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first hepatitis B nucleic acid test that measures the amount of viral DNA in a patient's blood.

The FDA said assessing a patient's viral load provides health care professionals with a highly sensitive method for gauging the progress of antiviral therapy in patients with chronic HBV infections.

"The COBAS TaqMan HBV Test extracts and then amplifies sections of viral DNA from human plasma or serum," the federal agency said. The viral DNA sections are measured to establish a baseline level before beginning treatment, and then used again during treatment to assess an individual's response to therapy.

"Measuring a patient's HBV viral load is an important aspect of managing chronic hepatitis B infections," said Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "The COBAS TaqMan test gives health care providers a new and sensitive tool for this process."

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The newly approved test is manufactured by Roche Diagnostics of Basel, Switzerland.


New air traffic control system developed

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. engineers say they've creating an air traffic control system that will operate without human input, basing flight recommendations on myriad variables.

University of Texas Professor Constantine Caramanis and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the system will monitor weather conditions as well as current aircraft locations and probable routes.

"There is currently no unified decision-making framework for air traffic flow optimization," said Caramanis. "The complicated nature of the process, and the need to make quick adjustments when changes occur, will best be addressed with a mathematical model that combines theories and calculations from probability, statistics, optimization modeling, economics and game theory."

The researchers, led by MIT Professor Cynthia Barnhart, are also considering ways to reduce flight delays and cancellations, including allowing airlines to barter for slots when one airline can't get a flight off the ground and others could do so.

"The idea is to have an overarching optimization model that allows balance and flexibility to the decisions being made so that we can successfully exploit whatever slack in the system we can," Caramanis said. "Our model will have autonomous re-configurability which is the ability to adapt to new information on its own."

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Aggressive cancer survival predictor ID'd

SIENA, Italy, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- An Italian-led international study has identified a tumor suppressor gene as the first independent prognostic biomarker in cases of soft tissue sarcoma.

The scientists said they examined specimens taken from 41 patients with soft tissue cancer. In a subset of 31 cases of non-metastatic cancers, they found a direct relationship between gene pRb2/p130 expression and the clinical outcome of patients.

"We found that pRb2/p130 expression was lost or decreased and significantly correlated with recurrence of disease and poor survival rates in the subset of patients with non-metastatic tumors," said Dr. Valeria Masciullo of the University of Siena, the study's lead author.

She said those findings show a reduction in the expression of pRb2/p130 can mean a higher risk of recurrence and death from STSs.

The finding might help physicians determine which patients have a higher risk of disease recurrence and who might benefit from a more aggressive adjuvant therapy.

The researchers -- including scientists from Temple University in Philadelphia, the University of Siena and the Center of Oncological Research of Mercogliano in Avellino, Italy -- report their findings in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

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