Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Health Highlights: June 13, 2012

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

Man 'Cured' of HIV May Have Traces of Virus

New data about the only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection has experts wondering if he still has traces of HIV in his body.

Timothy Ray Brown is a 45-year-old American whose HIV appeared to cured after he had two bone marrow transplants in 2007 and 2008 to treat leukemia unrelated to his HIV infection. The donor for his transplants had a rare genetic mutation that makes blood cells immune to HIV, National Public Radio reported.

Last week, researchers who analyzed cells from Brown's blood, lymph nodes, spinal fluid and intestinal tract said they found fragments of HIV genetic material in some of the samples.

However, the fragments don't completely match those of the HIV Brown had before his bone marrow transplants. Scientists say this suggests that the finding is a false reading caused by laboratory contamination, NPR reported.


Spray Tan Chemical Could Pose Health Risk: Experts

The active chemical in spray tans has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage, according to a panel of medical experts who reviewed 10 of the most current publicly available scientific studies on dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

The panel, which included six experts ranging across the fields of toxicology, dermatology and pulmonary medicine, reviewed the evidence at the request of ABC News.

After reviewing the studies, the panel member said they "have concerns" about DHA. It is the main chemical component in spray-on tans, which are touted as a safe alternative to tanning beds.

None of the studies involved humans, but some found that DHA altered genes in numerous types of cells when tested in labs, ABC News reported.

"These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies, and if that's the case then we need to be wary of them," said panel member Dr. Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.


NYC Health Board Supports Ban on Large, Sugary Drinks

A proposal by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of large, sugary beverages at local restaurants has strong support from the city's board of health.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the board decided to begin a public comment period on the proposal and several members spoke strongly in favor of the move to limit sizes of sugary drinks to 16 ounces, the Associated Press reported.

A public hearing is scheduled for June 24 and a formal vote on whether to approve the measure will come later.

The proposal is opposed by the New York City Restaurant Association, which considers it an infringement on consumers' legal rights, the AP reported.


Scientists Harvest Stem Cells Long After Death

It's possible to harvest certain stem cells from people more than two weeks after they've died and then revive the cells to divide into new, functioning cells, according to a new study.

"Remarkably, skeletal muscle stem cells can survive for 17 days in humans and 16 days in mice, post mortem well beyond the 1-2 days currently thought," the French scientists said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported.

These stem cells also retained their ability to develop into perfectly functioning muscle cells, says the study in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers also found that stem cells taken from bone marrow remained viable for four days after lab mice died, AFP reported.

While further research is required, the findings suggest that dead people could provide a new source of certain types of stem cells that can be used to treat a number of diseases.


NYC Wants Parental Consent Form for Circumcision Ritual

Orthodox Jewish parents should be required to sign a consent waiver before male babies undergoes a circumcision ritual that may expose them to dangerous infections, New York City health officials proposed Tuesday.

During the ritual, an adult male uses his mouth to suck away blood from the wound created by the removal of the infant's foreskin, according to The New York Times.

A report released last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that between 2000 and 2001, 11 newborn babies in New York contracted the herpes simplex virus after the ritual.

Ten of the babies were hospitalized, two suffered brain damage, and two died, The Times reported.

In response to the CDC findings, the NYC health department issued a statement strongly urging that direct oral-genital suction not be performed during the circumcision ceremony, and also announced that a number of hospitals agreed to distribute a pamphlet warning parents about the risk of at-home circumcision.

City health officials said Tuesday that the next step is to get the Board of Health to require all parents who want direct oral suction to be used at a circumcision ceremony to sign a consent form indicating that they are aware of the risk of infection, The Times reported.


WHO Expert Panel Cites Diesel Exhaust as Carcinogen

Diesel exhaust causes cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in a ruling released Tuesday after a weeklong discussion.

The agency, a part of the World Health Organization, said its decision means that diesel exhaust could be ranked as important a public health threat as secondhand smoke, CBS News and the Associated Press reported.

The risk of developing cancer from diesel fumes is small but so many people breathe in the fumes that boosting the status of diesel exhaust from probable carcinogen to carcinogen was an important change, said the agency.

"It's on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking," said IARC Director Kurt Straif, CBS/AP reported. "This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines."


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