Wednesday July 13, 2005

Growing arteries

United States medical researchers will be able to grow arteries by bio-engineering for use in heart bypass operations in about five years, according to the British medical journal, The Lancet

Bypass operations often make use of the saphenous vein, utilising tissue from it to circumvent obstructions in the arteries around the heart. 

Previous attempts to grow arterial tissue from the patient have run into the difficulty that cells taken from elderly people – who are most commonly in need of bypass surgery – have a limited lifespan. Cells taken from the patient concerned are preferred to avoid the complications of rejection. 

A team led by Laura Niklason from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, used a gene therapy technique to produce apparently natural arteries under laboratory conditions.  

The arteries were made from the patient’s own blood vessels. 

Further work is required to strengthen the arteries, but Niklason’s team believes this will be completed within five to 10 years. 

“There is a great need for viable alternatives to our current available options for treating patients with coronary artery or peripheral arterial disease,” Niklason said. 

“In this current study, we took vascular cells from four men with heart disease and engineered new blood vessels. The ability to grow new vessels from older cells represents a crucial initial step towards growing blood vessels from a patient’s own cells that can be used to treat that patient’s vascular disease,” she said.  

No increase in unsafe sex 

Allowing morning-after contraceptive pills to be sold over the counter does not increase their use, suggesting that easy availability does not lead to an upsurge in unprotected sex, British investigators report. Beginning in January 2001, emergency contraception has been available without prescription in the United Kingdom, Dr Cicely Marston and associates note in an online report from the British Medical Journal

Reducing amputations 

People with diabetes face a high risk of having to have a foot or lower leg amputated, but timely surgery may prevent this. When bone inflammation – osteomyelitis – occurs in the foot and toes, surgery to remove dead areas and to restore circulation can spare more extensive amputations, according to a new report. “Our series suggests that medical therapy alone is inferior to combined medical and surgical therapy for wound healing and limb salvage,” Dr Peter K. Henke from the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, and colleagues conclude. 

Stay cool 

People who are hostile or angry for longer periods of time are more at risk of health problems, according to a review of recent literature on anger and health. Does chronic anger really affect health? “Scientists now are pretty confident that it does,” Dr John Swartzberg of the University of California, Berkeley, said. 

Less stress on knees 

For overweight people hobbled by knee arthritis, losing even 0.45kg (one pound) can diminish the stress the knees take with every step, a new study shows. The study, of 142 overweight adults with knee arthritis, found that for each 0.45kg participants were able to shed, there was a 1.81kg (4 lbs) reduction in the force hitting their knees with every stride they took while walking.  

Preventing hip fractures 

Exercise that targets a weak region of the hipbone may help prevent fractures, but simple walking will not, new research indicates. As people age, the outer “cortical” layer of bone in a particular region the hipbone or upper femur become thinner, making the hip more prone to fracture, according to the report in The Lancet medical journal.  

Higher incontinence risk 

More than half of postmenopausal women have had a recent episode of urinary incontinence, according to new research, and the severity of symptoms increases with a history of diabetes. “Women with diabetes were disproportionately more likely to report severe incontinence, difficulty controlling urination, mixed (stress and urge) incontinence, use of pads, inability to completely empty the bladder, being unaware of leakage, and discomfort with urination,” Dr Sara L. Jackson said.  

Fast fat and sodium intake 

Girls who frequently eat fast food also consume significantly more fat, calories and sodium overall than girls who order fast food less often, study findings show. On average, fast food lovers – eating the high-fat and high-calorie fare at least four times per week – downed an extra 130 calories and 150 mg of sodium every day, along with more total and saturated fat, relative to girls who ordered fast food less than once per week.  

If one antidepressant doesn’t work, try another 

Not everyone with depression will respond to a particular antidepressant medication, but there’s a good chance that a second or third choice will be effective, researchers have found. Dr Frederic M. Quitkin and colleagues from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, examined remission rates when patients who did not get better on one drug were switched to another, and then to a third if necessary. – Stories from dpa & Reuters


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