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Health Highlights: Sept. 3, 2004

Former President Clinton to Have Bypass Surgery: Report Protein Linked to Cancer Also Helps in Nerve Repair Live Music Benefits Premature Infants Rare Fever Kills New Jersey Man New Device Helps Children With Skeletal Disorder Injuries Rampant in U.S., Study Says

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

Former President Clinton to Have Bypass Surgery: Report

Former President Bill Clinton will undergo bypass surgery after complaining of chest pains Thursday night, HealthDay reported.

Clinton, 58, was taken Friday morning to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., where he underwent testing. He will undergo the bypass surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City within the next few days.

Clinton was at his Chappaqua, N.Y., home Thursday evening when he experienced shortness of breath and chest pains. He was taken to nearby Northern Westchester Hospital Medical Center in Mount Kisco, where tests were normal. But after the additional tests Friday, his doctors advised bypass surgery, according to a statement from the former president's office.

Clinton served two terms as president from 1993 to 2001. He delivered a prime time speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July, and released his memoir, My Life, earlier this summer.

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Protein Linked to Cancer Also Helps in Nerve Repair

A cancer gene that regulates a protein called c-Jun also helps repair damaged nerve cells, says a study by scientists with Cancer Research U.K.

This findings may help lead to new treatments for spinal injuries, BBC News Online reported.

The scientists have been studying c-Jun's function in both tumors and healthy tissue. High levels of the protein are present in a number of kinds of cancer. Previous research found that high levels of c-Jun were present when nerve cells were damaged.

In this study, the researchers examined the axonal response -- a chain of chemical reactions that occur when nerve cells are damaged -- in mice that lacked c-Jun in their central nervous system. Axonal response helps in nerve re-growth and recovery after injury.

The nerves in the mice that lacked c-Jun were far less likely to recover after an injury than the nerves of normal mice. That suggests that c-Jun is a major regulator of axonal response, BBC News said.

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Live Music Benefits Premature Infants

Live music, such as mothers singing lullabies, can help calm premature babies in hospital neonatal units, says an Israeli study.

The researchers compared the effects of 30 minutes of live and recorded versions of a female singer and harp music on 15 premature babies, BBC News Online reported.

After hearing the live music, the babies slept much more deeply and had a reduced heart rate than after they heard the recorded music.

"It could be that the live music is different to recorded music in its timbre, its echo, and other variables that could influence the baby," lead researcher Dr. Shmuel Arnon told BBC News Online.

He suggested that mothers be encouraged to sing lullabies to infants in neonatal units, which are often filled with the sound of medical machines monitoring the babies.

The study was presented at a British Psychological Society conference.

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Rare Fever Kills New Jersey Man

A fever common in Africa but rare in the United States has claimed the life of a New Jersey man who had traveled to Liberia, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Lassa fever hadn't been detected in the United States since 1989, the wire service said. The virus is spread through rat droppings and urine, but is only transmitted between people through exchange of bodily fluids, according to the AP account.

The 38-year-old Trenton man wasn't identified. State Health Commissioner Dr. Clifton Lacy told the wire service that other passengers on the man's flight back from Africa probably aren't at risk. The man's family said he had no symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting when he arrived home. As of Friday morning, authorities were still trying to identify which Newark, N.J.-bound flight the man had taken.

As many as 300,000 people in West Africa get Lassa fever each year, the AP reported, killing about 5,500. Most victims have few or no symptoms, the wire service said.

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New Device Helps Children With Skeletal Disorder

An implanted device used to treat a rare skeletal disorder called Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The disorder is characterized by severe deformities of the chest, spine, and ribs that prevent normal breathing and lung development, according to an FDA statement. The device, known as a vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib, was granted a humanitarian device exemption as a method of treating a disorder that affects fewer than 4,000 people annually in the United States.

Manufacturers granted this type of exemption must prove that a device has a probable medical benefit that outweighs any risk of injury or illness, the agency said.

The device, produced by Synthes Spine Co., of West Chester, Pa., is a curved metal rod that is attached to ribs near the spine. It's meant to help straighten the spine and separate the ribs so that the lungs can properly fill with air and develop normally.

The device is lengthened as the patient grows, requiring the child to undergo repeat operations every six months, the FDA said. It was found to be safe and of probable benefit to 147 children who participated in clinical trials.

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Injuries Rampant in U.S., Study Says

Injuries kill 18 Americans each hour, a new government report says.

That figure translated into 157,000 people in 2001 alone, with no age group, gender, or race exempt, said the first national report for both fatal and nonfatal injuries released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated one in six U.S. residents requires medical treatment for an injury, while one in 10 visits a hospital emergency room for such an injury, according to a HealthDay account.

Medical care as a result of these injuries costs an estimated $117 billion annually.

"When you look at all this together, it really does emphasize just how extensive the problem is," Lee Annest, lead statistician for the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and one of the main authors of the report, told HealthDay. "The CDC needs to really address prevention, and people need to become more aware of what they can do to address injuries."

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