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Health Highlights: Sept. 2, 2006

Journal to Clarify Paper on Stem-Cell Research FDA Offers Food-Safety Advice for Storm Victims NYC Issues Health Guidelines for Ground Zero Workers California Man With Bad Habits Dies at 112 FDA Urges Testing for Tissue Recipients

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

Journal to Clarify Paper on Stem-Cell Research

The editors of the journal Nature said they will clarify a research paper published last week that described a way to create embryonic stem cells without destroying human embryos.

Many newspapers, TV stations and Web sites around the world portrayed the embryos' survival as the study's main innovation, the Associated Press reported.

In the paper, researchers at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., described their historic success in developing stem cells using single cells taken from early embryos. But none of the embryos that the researchers used to harvest cells was left intact.

In the study, the researchers took up to seven cells from 16 human embryos, then tried to grow stem cells from each individual cell. The researchers said this was done to maximize the number of cells they could test and improve the chances of obtaining stem cells. The scientists hope to show they can make stem cells from intact embryos that have had just one or two cells removed, the AP said.

Although the study's main findings remain unchallenged, the journal may modify the paper and a potentially misleading diagram, a Nature spokeswoman said.

Study leader Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology said the clarification "doesn't change the scientific point of the paper."

Scientists believe stem cells have the ability to develop into any cell type in the body, potentially leading to medical advances in which the cells might help replace diseased or injured tissue, thereby treating a host of diseases and conditions.


FDA Offers Food-Safety Advice for Storm Victims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about the food-safety risks that could arise from power outages and flooding as storms threaten the coastal United States this time of year.

"Foods that are inadequately refrigerated during storm-related power outages, and foods or bottled water contaminated by flood waters, present a potential health risk to consumers," said Robert E. Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Some of the safety steps recommended by the FDA include:

In advance of storm-related power outages and flooding:

  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours. Have ice or gel packs ready for use in coolers.
  • Keep a supply of bottled water stored where it will be safe from flooding.
  • Purchase an appliance thermometer to monitor refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Make sure your freezer is at or below 0 F and the refrigerator is at or below 40 F.

In the event of a power outage:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours, and a half-full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 24 hours, if the door remains closed.
  • Buy dry or block ice to keep refrigerators as cold as possible during prolonged power outages. Fifty pounds of dry ice will keep an 18-cubic foot, fully-stocked freezer cold for two days, or a half-stocked freezer of the same size cold for one day.
  • Throw out meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are at room temperature for more than two hours.

If flooding occurs:

  • Don't eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Use bottled drinking water that has not come in contact with flood water.
  • Boil tap water to kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. Filter cloudy tap water through clean cloths, or allow it to settle and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • Discard food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come in contact with flood water. Food containers that aren't waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap-lids, pull-tops and crimped caps.


NYC Issues Health Guidelines for Ground Zero Workers

Long-awaited guidelines to help doctors treat Ground Zero-related illnesses were released Thursday by the New York City Health Department, the Associated Press reported.

The medical advice is considered vital for the thousands of people who worked at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center (WTC). The health department had previously offered guidelines for treating mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse linked to the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But there were numerous complaints from politicians, health experts, and advocates that the city had shelved instructions on how to deal with physical problems caused by 9/11 and its aftermath, the AP reported.

The medical guidelines offer suggestions to doctors about particular questions to ask 9/11 patients, tests to give, and treatments. The guidelines also include a specific warning about tobacco, saying that tobacco use heightens the risk and severity of many WTC-related diseases.

The guidelines will be mailed to all doctors in New York City. Elsewhere in the United States, they will be distributed by the federal government, the AP reported.


California Man With Bad Habits Dies at 112

Even though he had a poor health habits that included a diet dominated by sausages and waffles, George Johnson of Richmond, Calif., managed to live for 112 years. Good genes may be the reason.

Johnson, the state's last surviving World War I veteran, died of pneumonia this week.

"A lot of people think or imagine that your good habits and bad habits contribute to your longevity. But we often find it is in the genes rather than lifestyle," Dr. L. Stephen Coles, founder of the Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Associated Press.

He took part in an autopsy Thursday on Johnson's body. Johnson had told his relatives that he was in favor of an autopsy if it would help science.

"All his organs were extremely youthful. They could have been the organs of someone who was 50 or 60, not 112. Clearly his genes had some secrets," Coles told the AP.


FDA Urges Testing for Tissue Recipients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urging doctors to contact patients who received tissue from a human tissue supply company in Raleigh, N.C., that was closed down a few weeks ago because of "serious deficiencies" in the way it operated.

The FDA said additional information from its ongoing investigation into Donor Referral Services and operator Philip Guyett Jr. "has heightened our concern," the Associated Press reported.

Tissue from the company was used across the U.S. and patients who received the tissue need to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis, health officials said. It's estimated that fewer than 100 donors are involved in the company's case, according to the American Association of Tissue Banks.

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