Health Highlights: April 14, 2009
EPA Holds Bed Bug Summit Prostate Cancer Drug Improves Patient Survival: Study New Drug Targets Alzheimer's-Related Protein: Report Pleasure Fibers in Skin Help Humans Bond: Researchers
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
EPA Holds Bed Bug Summit
In response to a resurgence of bed bugs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is this week hosting its first-ever summit on the little blood suckers.
"The problem seems to be increasing, and it could definitely be worse in densely populated areas like cities, although it can be a problem for anyone," said Lois Rossi, director of the registration division in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, the Associated Press reported.
Bed bugs live in mattresses, sofas and sheets. They're not known to transmit any diseases, but people can have an allergic reaction to their bites.
Once common, bed bug problems in the United States were rare over the past few decades. That's changed in recent years, and infestations of the tiny reddish-brown insects have been reported in hotels, hospital wings, college dormitories and homeless shelters in a number of cities, the AP reported.
Currently, there are few chemicals on the market approved for use on mattresses that are effective at combating bed bugs. Heating, freezing or steaming the bugs may be considered as alternatives to chemicals.
Prostate Cancer Drug Improves Patient Survival: Study
The experimental prostate cancer drug Provenge prolonged patient survival, according to a study by Seattle-based drug maker Dendreon Corp. Full data from the study is expected to be presented April 28 at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association, in Chicago.
Early last year, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel endorsed Provenge, but the FDA refused to approve the drug without additional clinical data, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Impact trial, which included about 500 patients, was structured according to a Special Protocol Assessment. This is an agreement with the FDA on a study design that meets requirements for a drug's approval.
An interim analysis of Impact trial data late last year showed patients taking the drug were 20 percent less likely to die than those taking a placebo, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Provenge triggers the immune system to attack prostate cancer. The drug is produced from the patient's own cells and used when their prostate cancer no longer responds to hormone blockers.
New Drug Targets Alzheimer's-Related Protein: Report
A new drug that appears to remove an Alzheimer's disease-related protein from the blood and brain has been developed by U.K. scientists.
The drug, called CPHPC, targets the protein serum amyloid P component (SAP), which is found in the harmful plaques and tangles of nerve fibers found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, BBC News reported.
SAP disappeared from the blood and brains of five Alzheimer's patients after three months of treatment with CPHPC, said the University College London researchers.
The findings were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Larger and longer clinical trials of the drug are being planned, BBC News reported.
Pleasure Fibers in Skin Help Humans Bond: Researchers
Nerve fibers in the skin that transmit pleasure messages to the brain have been identified by U.S. and Swedish scientists, who said their finding may improve understanding of how touch sustains human relationships.
Along with identifying these "C-tactile" nerve fibers, the researchers also found that a person's skin must be stroked at a certain rate -- four to five centimeters per second -- to activate the pleasure sensation, BBC News reported.
If the stroke rate was faster or slower, the nerve fibers weren't activated, and the touch wasn't pleasurable, according to the study of 20 people. It also found that C-tactile fibers are only present on hairy skin and are not found on the hand. The findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The preferred stroke rate is the same as that used by a mother to comfort a baby or by couples when they're showing affection, BBC News reported. These nerve fibers are part of the evolutionary mechanism that helps humans bond, said study author Professor Francis McGlone.
"Our primary impulse as humans is procreation, but there are some mechanisms in place that are associated with behavior and reward which are there to ensure relationships continue," McGlone said.