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Health Highlights: Feb. 10, 2002

Cancer-Fighting Cell Identified, May Work As Vaccine Woman Dies, Seven Others Fall Ill From N.J. 'Mystery Illness' Testosterone Patch Aims To Rev-Up Women's Sex Drives Cloned Mice Die Young, Say Researchers Mice Cloned From Mature Cells Stroke Victims Need Drugs Sooner: Study

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

Cancer-Fighting Cell Identified, May Work As Vaccine

Researchers say a part of cancer cells that help the body fight cancer have been identified and a synthetic form of the chemical may be someday used as a cancer vaccine.

An experimental form of the vaccine, called CAVAX and developed by Cancer Immune, Inc., replicates chemicals that stimulate the production of high levels of antibodies that the body naturally produces to defend itself against cancer.

The vaccine has already been shown to stimulate the production of the cancer-fighting antibodies in animal studies and trials of the vaccine on humans are due to begin next year.

Details of the vaccine were presented today at the International Society of Preventive Oncology meeting at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

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Woman Dies, Seven Others Fall Ill From N.J. 'Mystery Illness'

A 45-year-old woman died and seven others attending the same New Jersey sales convention were sent to hospitals with flu-like symptoms from a mystery illness that has public officials concerned, the Associated Press reports.

The woman, identified as Joanne Hemstreet, of Kingston, Mass., died early Sunday at Kennedy Memorial Hospitals-Cherry Hill, after suffering from the symptoms for two days and then becoming severely ill Saturday night.

Hemstreet and the others were among 500 Cendant Mortgage employees attending a national sales convention at the Cherry Hill Hilton.

The seven others, including one man and six women, were hospitalized today with similar symptoms of fever, chills and sore throat, and two reportedly had pneumonia. None were in critical condition.

Officials had initially worried that conditions including meningococcus, anthrax or Legionnaires' disease may have been behind the illnesses, but they say none appear to have been causes.

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Testosterone Patch Aims To Rev-Up Women's Sex Drives

Proctor & Gamble is gambling that a good dose of testosterone will be just the thing to boost post-menopausal women's sex drives.

The Cincinnati company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into a testosterone patch that holds promise of restoring a healthy libido in women whose sexual drives have driven away, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers for the company stop short of calling the patch the next Viagra, saying the product is only intended for women with a medically documented loss of a sex drive.

The patch, called Intrinsa, is about the size of an egg. It would be worn just below the navel and changed twice weekly.

A large-scale study of the patch on volunteers is due to begin this month.

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Cloned Mice Die Young, Say Researchers

The early deaths of nearly all in a group of 12 cloned mice has researchers questioning the safety and effectiveness of cloning, according to wire reports.

The team of Japanese researchers who cloned the mice said that aside from some abnormal liver enzyme levels, the animals looked normal at birth, but they started to die 311 days after their birth and all of two of the mice had died within 800 days.

A control group of mice born through natural mating and artificial fertilization lived much longer, the researchers said.

The researchers, with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo, speculated that cloned animals may be born "old," with genetic make-ups associated with aging.

Other experts said the particular method used in cloning the mice may have damaged the embryos.

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Mice Cloned From Mature Cells

In what could be another breakthrough in genetics, researchers have cloned animals from fully mature adult cells, not embryonic stem cells, HealthDay reports.

But there appears to be a caveat. The two-step method requires coaxing the mature cells back to the embryonic stem cell phase before they are implanted in an embryo.

The cloned mice produced by the study the first ever cloned from lymphocytic cells, the white blood cells active in immune defense raise hopes of producing cells for medical applications in humans, say the researchers.

The research, performed at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., will be published online Feb. 11 by the journal Nature.

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Stroke Victims Need Drugs Sooner: Study

New research indicates that time is even more important than previously believed in getting drugs to stroke victims to improve their chances of recovery, the Associated Press reports.

A clot-dissolving drug called TPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, has been shown to have the ability to reverse strokes if administered within three hours of a stroke.

But research presented at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting in San Antonio yesterday indicates that the earlier the treatment, the better: Those who receive the drug within the first 90 minutes after symptoms begin have double the chance of a full recovery compared to those who get treatment later.

Only about 2 percent of stroke patients end up receiving TPA, because most get help too late for the drug to be effective.

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