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Health Highlights: Aug 19, 2015

ALS Research Advance Helped by Ice Bucket Challenge Jimmy Carter to Provide More Details About Cancer Diagnosis Second Yosemite Visitor Diagnosed With Plague

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

ALS Research Advance Helped by Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge that was so popular on Facebook a year ago helped lead to an advance in ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research, scientists say.

The challenge involved videos and photos of people pouring buckets of ice cold water on their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS, widely known as Lou Gehrig's disease, The Washington Post reported.

The more than $220 million raised through the campaign gave a significant boost to ALS research, according to Johns Hopkins scientists.

"The money came at a critical time when we needed it," Philip Wong, who led the research team, told the Post.

"Without it, we wouldn't have been able to come out with the studies as quickly as we did," he said. "The funding from the ice bucket is just a component of the whole -- in part, it facilitated our effort."

The Hopkins team focused on a protein called TDP-43, which is supposed to decode DNA. ALS patients often have clumps of the protein in their brain cells, but it wasn't known if this was a cause or effect of the disease.

In experiments with mice brain cells, the researchers uncovered how TDP-43 breaks down and becomes sticky, causing the cells to die within a few days. They inserted a protein designed to mimic TDP-43 into affected cells and found that the cells came back to life and returned to normal, the Post reported.

The findings were published in the journal Science.

The next step is to conduct experiments on mice, Wong said. If that's successful, the research would move onto clinical trials in people, the Post reported.

About 15,000 Americans have ALS. There is no cure for the disease and patients usually die two to five years after diagnosis.


Jimmy Carter to Provide More Details About Cancer Diagnosis

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will reveal more about his cancer diagnosis during a press conference Thursday morning.

Carter, 90, announced Aug. 12 that while he was undergoing liver surgery, doctors discovered cancer that has spread to different areas of his body. The brief written statement did not say what type of cancer or where it originated, the Associated Press reported.

Thursday's press conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta will be closed to the public.

In the statement, Carter said he would undergo treatment at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. Carter's father, brother and two sisters died of pancreatic cancer, and his mother also had the disease, the AP reported.


Second Yosemite Visitor Diagnosed With Plague

A second plague case linked to California's Yosemite National Park was announced Tuesday.

The patient was a visitor from Georgia who got tested after learning that two campgrounds in the park had been closed to spray pesticides to kill fleas that carry the infection, according to California officials, NBC News reported.

The spraying began after a Los Angeles girl was diagnosed with plague after visiting the park, and two dead squirrels were found to be infected.

"Although the presence of plague has been confirmed in wild rodents over the past two weeks at Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds in Yosemite, the risk to human health remains low. Action to protect human and wildlife health by closing and treating campgrounds was taken out of an abundance of caution," California's health department said in a statement, NBC News reported.

Symptoms of plague can resemble the flu and included sudden fever, severe headache, nausea and chills. The infection can be deadly if patients do not receive prompt antibiotic treatment.

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