Health Highlights: Dec. 23, 2005

Stem Cell Research Faked: Report Barley Products May Claim to Lower Heart Risks: FDA FDA OKs Tamiflu for Children 1 to 12 U.S. Cancer Death Rate Continues to Decline Alistair Cooke's Remains Illegally Harvested: Report

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

Stem Cell Research Faked: Report

South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk faked at least nine of the 11 stem cell lines he claimed to have created, a Seoul National University expert panel said Friday when it announced findings from its investigation into the controversy.

In response to the panel's report, Hwang resigned his post at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"I sincerely apologize to the people for creating a shock and disappointment," Hwang told reporters as he left his university office.

In a study published in the journal Science in May, Hwang said he used cloned human embryos to create 11 stem cell lines matched to specific patients. Recently, Hwang has been plagued by accusations that his research had been faked.

In its report, the university's panel concluded that "the laboratory data for 11 stem cell lines that were reported in the 2005 paper were all data made using two stem cell lines in total."

DNA tests are currently being conducted to determine if the two remaining stem cell lines were actually successfully cloned from a patient, the Associated Press reported.

The panel said that Hwang faked DNA results purporting to show a match by splitting cells from one patient into two test tubes for the analysis, rather than actually matching cloned cells to a patient's original cells.

"Based on these facts, the data in the 2005 Science paper cannot be some error from a simple mistake, but cannot be but seen as a deliberate fabrication to make it look like 11 stem cell lines using results from just two," the panel noted.

The panel also said it would now investigate Hwang's other landmark papers, which included another Science article in 2004 on the world's first cloned human embryos, and an August 2005 paper in the journal Nature on the first cloned dog.


Barley Products May Claim to Lower Heart Risks: FDA

Whole barley and barley-containing products can now carry labels that claim they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

Food manufacturers can make this claim immediately on products that provide at least 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per serving of the food. Consumers can expect to see the health claim on whole barley and dry milled barley products such as flakes, grits, flour and meal.

The claim may look something like this: Soluble fiber from foods such as (barley), as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of (barely) supplies (x) grams of the soluble fiber for necessary per day to have this effect.

CHD causes almost 500,000 deaths each year in the United States. CHD risk factors include high total cholesterol levels and high levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Research indicates that consuming barley can lower serum cholesterol.

The diet choices that people make can have a major impact on their health, and these kinds of food health claims can help consumers make wise choices, noted Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, in a prepared statement.


FDA OKs Tamiflu for Children 1 to 12

The use of Tamiflu for prevention of seasonal flu in children ages 1 to 12 who've had close contact with an infected person has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This is the first approval given to a drug for prevention of both influenza A and B in pediatric patients. Tamiflu, an oral anti-viral drug, is already approved in the United States for treatment of adults and children 13 years and older and in children younger than 1.

In granting this latest approval, the FDA looked at the results of a study of the spread of flu in households, which involved more than 1,100 people, including 222 children ages 1 to 12.

When someone in a household was diagnosed with flu, the other family members were given either Tamiflu once a day for 10 days or received no Tamiflu at all unless they became ill with the flu.

The flu rate was 17 percent among children who received no preventative treatment with Tamiflu, compared to 3 percent among children who received the drug as a preventative measure.

The findings were similar to those seen for older children and adults in earlier studies.


U.S. Cancer Death Rate Continues to Decline

The overall cancer death rate in the United States continues to decline, according to a new U.S. National Cancer Institute biannual report.

Death rates for the four most common types of cancer -- prostate, breast, lung and colorectal -- are all declining but there is a continuing increase in women's lung cancer deaths, although it isn't rising as rapidly as before, the Associated Press reported.

There are also increasing rates of breast, prostate and testicular cancer, as well as leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, melanoma, and thyroid, kidney and esophagus cancer, the report said.

It noted that there have been some improvements in cancer-prevention behaviors, such as reductions in smoking and consumption of fat and alcohol. Smoking by youths has been on the decline since 1997, the AP reported.

Among the report's other findings -- screening for colorectal cancer remains low; blacks and poorer people have the highest rates of both newly diagnosed cancers and cancer deaths; and people are getting slightly better at protecting themselves against the sun.


Alistair Cooke's Remains Illegally Harvested: Report

The body of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke was removed before cremation and some of his bones sold for reconstructive surgery, said U.S. investigators looking into the trafficking of human body parts.

Cooke, who died March 30, 2004, was among dozens of dead people whose body parts were harvested at one or more New York funeral homes without the permission of the families, CanWest News Service reported.

Police said that New Jersey-based tissue recovery firm Biomedical Tissue Services, Inc. falsified documents to indicate that permission had been granted by the families. The company is also alleged to have made other changes to documents.

For example, in Cooke's case false documents showed he was 85 and healthy when he died. In truth, he was 95 and died of lung cancer, which had spread to his bones, CanWest reported.

The use of bones from people that age is discouraged, and offering cancerous bones for medical procedures is a violation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules, the report said.

It's possible that Cooke's bones may have been used for different kinds of orthopedic procedures or even for dental implants.

So far, police have not charged anyone in connection with the body part trafficking scheme.

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