Health Highlights: Sept. 16, 2007

China Recalls Two Leukemia Drugs Four Scientists Honored for Important Research and Development 15 New Blood Typing Tests Approved by the FDAUK Begins Health Guidelines for Fashion Models U.S. to Allow Imports of Older Canadian Cattle Gene Activity May Cause Poor Health in Lonely People: Study

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

China Recalls Two Leukemia Drugs

The Chinese government has recalled yet another group of products because of possible adverse medical reactions -- this time drugs designed to fight leukemia.

The Associated Press reports that the drugs -- methotrexate and cytarabin hydrochloride -- were causing leg pains and other problems. China's news agency said that most of the tainted drugs had been recovered but did not say whether any of the medications had been exported, the A.P. said.

The drugs were manufactured by the Shanghai Hualian Pharmaceutical Co., the wire service reported. It said China's State Food and Drug Administration and Health Ministry banned the two leukemia drugs after receiving reports that several children with leukemia who were taking them complained of leg pains and difficulty walking.

A number of products exported from China have had to be recalled during the past two years, ranging from millions of toys that had too much lead content to millions of pounds of pet food additives.

The most highly-publicized case resulted in the July execution of China's top drug regulator because he took bribes and approved substandard drugs that resulted in at least 10 deaths.


Four Scientists Honored for Important Research and Development

Four scientists, one of them a long-time U.S. government researcher, two others who developed the first prosthetic heart valve, and one who advanced knowledge of the body's immune system, have been awarded the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation awards, which are considered to be the nation's highest medical prize, the New York Times reports.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, 66, who has been director of the U.S. government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, was honored for his creation and oversight of President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in Africa, (Pepfar) and for a project to fight against bioterrorism, the Times says.

Dr. Alain Carpentier, 74, of Paris Dr. Albert Starr, 81, of Portland, Ore., were cited for their development of the first artificial heart valve more than 50 years ago. According to the Times, an estimated four million valve operations have been performed worldwide since they were developed, and about 300,000 heart valve replacements are performed in the united States annually.

The fourth Lasker award was given to Dr. Dr. Ralph M. Steinman, 64, of Rockefeller University in New York City. Steinman is credited with discovering a cell that is key to immune responses in the body and is also the basis for many experiments into finding a cure for cancer, the newspaper reports.


15 New Blood Typing Tests Approved by the FDA

In order to allow more choices in determining blood types, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has licensed 15 new blood typing tests.

Announcing the decision in a news release, the FDA said the tests, known as blood grouping reagents and manufactured by Alba Bioscience, Inc. of Durham, N.C., were previously unavailable in the United States.

As with other blood typing tests, the ALBAclone Blood Grouping Reagents will determine the blood type of donors, the key in making sure that a blood transfusion is carried out successfully.

In addition to the common ABO and Rh tests, the blood grouping reagents will also be used to test for rare blood types. The reagents used in the blood typing are monoclonal antibodies, the FDA said, and it is the highly specific nature of them that "ensures product uniformity and availability."

"Licensure of these additional blood grouping reagents will help ensure a more stable supply of these tests, especially important in the event of a product shortage," said Dr. Jesse L. Goodman, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in the news release.


UK Begins Health Guidelines for Fashion Models

Following up on its promise to do everything it could to ensure the health of fashion models after a series of eating disorder deaths of models in 2006, the British government has issued a set of recommendations for modeling during upcoming London Fashion Week.

BBC News reports that the government says fashion models should provide "good health" certificates from doctors who specialize in eating disorders, and the government is recommending that all female models under the age of 16 not participate in the week-long parade of fashions from international designers.

The death in 2006 of 21-year-old Ana Carolina Reston of Brazil who died of a an infection caused by anorexia caused the UK government to begin considering health guidelines, the BBC reports.

Other recommendations include establishment of a permanent model health panel and having models aged 16 to 18 being accompanied by chaperones "where appropriate."

In Spain the sponsors of Madrid Fashion Week banned U.S. size zero -- the equivalent of a UK size four -- and instead uses a ratio of height to weight to calculate the acceptable size for meach model, the BBC reports.


U.S. to Allow Imports of Older Canadian Cattle

The risk of mad cow disease from Canada is negligible and, as of Nov. 19, older Canadian cattle and meat products made from them will be allowed again into the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

In May 2003, U.S. borders were closed to all Canadian cattle and beef products after the first case of mad cow was reported in Canada, CBC News reported. In July 2005, the United States started to allow imports of Canadian cattle under the age of 30 months, which were believed to be at less risk for contracting the disease than older cattle.

Friday's announcement applies to cows born on or after March 1, 1999 and meat products made from those animals, CBC News reported.

"This rule is firmly based on science and ensures that we continue to protect the U.S. against BSE," (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the medical term for "mad cow") Bruce Knight, U.S. undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a prepared statement. "It also is consistent with our commitment to promote fair trade practices and further normalizes trade with countries that institute the appropriate safeguards to prevent the spread of BSE."


Gene Activity May Cause Poor Health in Lonely People: Study

A possible genetic cause of poor health in lonely people has been identified by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

They found that certain genes -- many of them with links to the immune system and inflammation -- are more active in people who feel socially isolated, BBC News reported. Previous studies have shown an association between lack of social support and health problems such as heart disease.

The authors of the new study assessed levels of social interaction of 14 people and examined gene activity in their white blood cells. Various genes tended to be overexpressed in people who were classified as lonely, BBC News reported.

"What this shows us is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most important basic internal processes -- the activity of our genes," said study leader Dr. Steven Cole. "These findings provide molecular targets for our efforts to block the adverse health effects of social isolation."


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