Health Highlights: May 29, 2009
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Scientists Turn Skin Cells Into Stem Cells
Scientists who found a safe way to transform skin cells into stem cells say their achievement is an important step forward in making grow-in-a-dish transplant tissue available to patients.
The researchers used four introduced genes to reprogram skin cells to become indistinguishable from stem cells, Agence France Presse reported. The results, published online in the journal Cell Stem Cell, are so promising that the scientists hope to begin clinical trials by the middle of 2010.
"This is the first safe method of generating patient-specific stem cells," study author Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine International, told AFP. "This technology will soon allow us to expand the range of possible stem cell therapies for the entire human body."
He added that this method "allows us to generate the raw material to solve the problem of rejection (by the immune system) so this is really going to accelerate the field of regenerative medicine."
Malaria Showing Signs of Drug Resistance
There's evidence that malaria in some parts of Cambodia is becoming resistant to front-line artemesinin drugs, a situation that needs to be contained because full-blown resistance would pose a serious worldwide health crisis, scientists warn.
Until now, these drugs cleared all the malaria parasites from a patient's blood within two or three days. But two teams of scientists conducting research in western Cambodia have found this process can now take four or five days, BBC News reported.
It's not clear why this resistance appears to be developing in this region of Cambodia, but the use of anti-malaria drugs isn't properly controlled and the local public health system is weak. Currently, malaria kills about a million people a year. About half the world's population faces exposure to malaria, BBC News reported.
Deadly New Virus Identified in Africa
A deadly new hemorrhagic virus has been identified in Africa after it infected five people, killing four of them. The so-called "Lujo" virus causes bleeding like the Ebola virus.
The outbreak of the new virus began last September when a women in Zambia became ill with a fever-like illness that quickly became much more serious. She was taken to a hospital in South Africa, where she died, the Associated Press reported.
A paramedic who treated the woman and three health-care workers also became infected and three of them died. It's believed the virus spreads from person to person through contact with infected body fluids, investigators said.
"This (virus) is really, really aggressive," Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist involved in the discovery of the new virus, told the AP. He and his colleagues reported on the virus in a paper published online in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
Genes Main Cause of Premature Ejaculation: Study
Genes, not nerves, are the main cause of premature ejaculation, according to a Finnish study that included more than 3,000 men.
The men, all pairs of male twins and their younger or older brothers, were interviewed about the first time they had sex. Many of them said they experienced erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, United Press International reported.
The researchers concluded that premature ejaculation appears to be strongly associated with genetic factors, but not with external factors such as nervousness or intoxication. However, external factors can cause erectile dysfunction.
The study was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.