Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No genetic link found for heart risk, study says

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Genetic testing failed to find any gene mutations that predict a higher risk of heart disease, a study released on Tuesday said.

Scientists at Yale University worked up the genetic profiles of nearly 1,500 people to examine 85 genes that smaller, earlier studies suggested might confer susceptibility to heart problems.

More than half the patients had come to a hospital having suffered a heart attack or other acute symptoms, while the others had experienced no heart trouble.

Only one genetic variation showed even a modest association to heart problems in the study, which was published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We therefore conclude that our findings, in this large sample ... cannot support that this panel of gene variants contains bona fide (heart disease) risk factors," study author Dr. Thomas Morgan wrote. Morgan is now at Washington University in St. Louis.

A significant proportion of pregnant women opt for genetic testing to determine if the fetus will develop an array of potential ailments such as cystic fibrosis or a form of mental retardation.

Increasingly, genetic testing is also being performed later in life to detect if a person has a higher risk of contracting diseases such as Alzheimer's or inherited breast cancer.

The availability of genetic testing also raises complex ethical questions, such as who should know about a person's risk and what should be done about it.

"Our findings come at a critical juncture in complex disease genetics," Morgan wrote, adding that several clinics offer genetic tests for several of the gene mutations his study examined.

"However, our findings suggest that such clinical genetic testing is premature and underscore the importance of robust replication studies of reported associations prior to their application to clinical care," he added.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Scottish Scientists Develop "Spray-On Computers" for Healthcare

Scottish ingenuity has graced the world with some of the world's greatest inventions. First there was the game of golf, which was quickly followed by the development of Scotch whiskey, and last but not least, spray-on computers. Yep, entirely self-powered, self-networking digital "specks" which will be capable of collecting volumes of data on patients.

Speckled computing - some of the most advanced computing technology in the world - is currently being researched and developed by a group of Scottish experts.

The individual appliances, or 'specks', will form networks that can be programmed like ordinary computers.

Spraying them directly onto a person creates the ability to carry out different tests at the same time, for example muscle movement and pulse rate. This allows a complete picture of the patient's condition to be built up quickly.

The computing innovation, being developed by scientists at Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde universities, will be displayed at the Edinburgh International Science Festival next Friday as part of a talk by Damal Arvind, leading speckled computing professor and director of the Scottish consortium.

Arvind said: "This is the new class of computing: devices which can sense and process the data they receive. They also have a radio so they can network and there's a battery in there as well, so they are entirely self-powered.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Self Pap Smears??

A New Frontier in Awkward: Do Your Own Pap-Smears

Sure, we here at Medgadget are big fans of patients doing self-exams. Self breast exams and self testicular exams are excellent ways for patients to take their health into their own hands (bad pun intended). But doing your own pap smear? Will the kit come w/ a speculum and an angled mirror? No...there's just nothing good that can come from this.

Women who forgo screening for cervical cancer may be more inclined to participate in such programs if they're provided with a kit to obtain cervical samples at home, Dutch investigators report.

It's estimated that 28 percent of women in the Netherlands do not participate in cervical screening programs. Dr. Chris J. L. M. Meijer from VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, and colleagues wanted to see if such women would agree to testing if they could provide samples without going to a clinic.

As reported in the International Journal of Cancer, 2,546 women who had not undergone regular cervical screening were mailed a self-sample kit. It included a small brush for collecting a cervical specimen, a collection tube, easy-to-follow instructions and a padded envelope for returning the sample to the lab. There it would be tested for human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

The rate of high grade pre-cancer detected in the self-sampling responders (1.67 percent) was significantly higher than in the other group (0.97 percent).

"Importantly," the researchers say, the costs of detecting one such lesion via self-sampling "are in the same range as those calculated for conventional ... screening."

Furthermore, they calculate that if the strategy was extended to the entire Netherlands, self-sampling could result in the early detection of 1,085 extra pre-cancerous lesions, "leading to roughly 100 cervical cancers being prevented or detected earlier."

Hmmm...maybe we spoke too soon...apparently Dutch women are very comfortable taking their own cervical samples. As always, our female fans, we need your help on this one: Would ya', Could ya', Should ya'?