Monday, September 21, 2009

Genetic variations behind increased prostate cancer risk identified

London, Sep 21 (ANI): Taking a major step in prostate cancer research, scientists have found a host of genetic variations that could tell which men are at the highest risk of contracting prostate cancer.

The results come from two studies today, which open up the prospect of new tests and treatments for the commonest male malignant disease.

The existing blood test is unreliable, often leading to unnecessary, painful and invasive investigations when there is no cancer, or sometimes incorrectly giving men the all-clear when they actually have the disease.

The two studies reveal nine new genetic variations that contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

With these discoveries, the number of genetic variations associated with the disease has come to 20- the largest number of genetic risk factors uncovered for any cancer.

According to the researchers, the latest advances help to explain why the disease runs in families.

Ros Eeles, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the first of the two studies, said that the finding was based on the analysis of the genomes of 38,000 men from 21 studies and confirmed previous research published two years ago.

“These results will help us more accurately calculate the risk that a man could develop prostate cancer which will enable more targeted screening. Understanding more about these genes could also lead to the development of new treatments,” the Independent quoted him as saying.

The study has been published in Nature Genetics. (ANI)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

'Radical' surgery uses patient's tooth to restore her sight

Doctors in Miami announced Wednesday that they had performed a vision-restoring surgery that used the 60-year-old patient's tooth.

The surgery, the first in the USA, was performed Labor Day weekend at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Afterward, patient Sharron Thornton was able to see for the first time in nine years. "Sharron was able to see 20/60 this morning. She was seeing only shadows a couple of weeks ago," says ophthalmologist and surgeon Victor Perez.

Sharron Kay Thornton talks with her lead surgeon Victor Perez who restored sight to her left eye at the University of Miami Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida. The procedure implanted one of her teeth in her eye, as a base to hold a prosthetic lens.

Thornton was blinded in 2000 by a reaction to a drug she was taking, which damaged her cornea. Perez likened Thornton's cornea to a dirty car windshield. He says her eye surface was too dry for a corneal implant, a standard treatment.

Thornton's eye tooth and part of her jaw bone were removed, then sculpted to create a hole in the tooth through which a optical cylinder lens fit. The tooth acts as a base to hold the lens.

The prosthesis was then placed in a pouch just under the skin of Thornton's cheek, where it would remain for several months to allow for the growth of a living capsule around it.

To surgically implant the tooth-lens prosthesis, a hole was made in the cornea and the capsule embedded over the top of the cornea. The mucous membrane was then pulled back over the eye like a blanket and a hole made for the lens.

"It's a pretty radical operation and can be disfiguring," says James Chodosh, a faculty member at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. But he says the results are worth it to patients.

Thornton says being able to see again is "like Christmas."


Monday, September 7, 2009

iPod rumours abound over Apple announcement

Once again, it's time to peer into Apple CEO Steve Jobs' cup and try to read the tea leaves.

Apple, as usual, has said almost nothing about the new products it plans to unveil at an invitation-only affair tomorrow in San Francisco. Playing their part, bloggers and Apple fans have filled the vacuum with "leaks", rumours and wish-list items that, while often far-fetched, can't completely be ignored. Sometimes, just sometimes, a bit of truth shines through.

In recent years, the company has used its September event to unveil new iPods, which have grown smaller, sleeker and more powerful with each new generation.

This year's event is along the same lines, if Apple's e-mail to reporters is any indication.

The invitation looks like an iTunes gift card and features one of Apple's iconic, iPod-toting silhouettes and the words, "It's only rock and roll, but we like it," a reference to a 1970s Rolling Stones song.

Will the classic iPod be discontinued? ... Nanos were on display at Apple's special event in September last year. Photo: Getty Images

That still left room for creative speculation. Detail-starved bloggers took a close look at the image and noted that the headphones jack into the large-ish iPod at the bottom — making it an iPod Touch, not an iPod classic. The observation has added weight to one rumor that Apple could discontinue the classic, the only model left to use a hard drive instead of flash memory.

Of course, other rumours postulate an even bigger hard drive on an updated iPod classic, which already boasts a 120-gigabyte hard drive, far beefier than any other iPod. Still more speculation, this time based on what appear to be photos of new iPod cases, call for built-in digital cameras on Touch and Nano models.

Apple watchers are also looking out for the ninth incarnation of iTunes, the media management software that helps people keep track of their music, videos, podcasts and data and send it to iPods and iPhones.

"Leaked" screen shots of unknown origin and varying quality have cropped up online that indicate iTunes might be melded into social networking sites including Facebook and music-enthusiast network According to the buzz, iTunes 9 may also get better at helping people organise their iPhone and iPod Touch applications, and support Blu-Ray disc playback.

One of the more solid predictions is that Apple will be packaging digital albums with videos, liner notes and album art that could be viewed in iTunes — to help revive consumers' interest in buying more than just one or two tracks. The Associated Press and other media reported in July that Apple and the four major recording labels were working on launching this package in the fall.

Two of the flashiest predictions have lost steam in the run-up to 9/9/09. For a while, the date itself seemed to portend that Apple might finally have scored the right to sell the Beatles' music on iTunes. A digitally remastered collection of the Beatles' oeuvre is due out on CDs on the same day, as is an all-Beatles edition of the popular play-along video game "Rock Band". Beatlemania-infected Apple fans also point to the recurrence of the number nine in band lore.

But the use of the Rolling Stones line in the invitation has quieted most proponents of this scenario. It might just be standard Apple misdirection, but a person familiar with the situation told the AP there's no Beatles-Apple deal. The person was not authorised to talk about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. A statement from EMI, the Beatles' record label, said simply that discussions on digital distribution continue.

Analysts with contacts in Apple's supply chain have predicted all year that the company will come out with at least one "tablet"-style device resembling a giant iPod Touch, based on Apple's purchases of screens that are bigger than an iPod but smaller than a MacBook. Blogs and message boards lit up when it seemed Apple was finally ready to show it off. But analysts including Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster and Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. both see a 2010 release as more likely.

One more thing: CEO Jobs hasn't presided over one of these pep-rally-style product launches since Apple gave its laptop line a light makeover last October. His lieutenants, Tim Cook and Phil Schiller, Apple's COO and top marketing executive, have been holding their own. But now that Jobs is back from his nearly six-month medical leave, fans are still holding their breath for an appearance from the maestro.


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