CELL TRANSPLANT OFFERS TEMPORARY DIABETES CURE Transplanting islet cells from the pancreases of deceased donors into people with type 1 diabetes will free many of them from insulin -- but only for a short time. A new report from the largest and most pioneering group of doctors involved in this work -- at the University of Alberta -- finds that the treatment doesn't work for everyone. Out of 36 people, 21 stopped needing insulin at some point after the transplant. But after two years, most -- 76 percent -- needed insulin again. However, there is one potential lingering benefit to the islet cell transplants. Some patients who had to return to insulin still had enough function in their transplanted islet cells that they were protected against severe drops in blood sugar levels. These results were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
ANOTHER REASON TO QUIT SMOKING A small study of 20 smokers found that the number of potentially harmful bacteria in their noses goes down after they stop smoking. Doctors from Georgetown University tested the smokers both before and 12 to 15 months after they had stopped smoking. Before the smokers quit, 11 types of disease-causing bacteria were isolated from their noses, with nine people testing positive for these bacteria. After quitting, only two people tested positive for the disease-causing bacteria. These findings were presented at the annual American Society for Microbiology Meeting in San Francisco.
HAIR-PULLING DISORDER LINKED TO FAULTY GENE For some people, the hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania may be caused by a problem in their genes. Researchers at Duke University tested families with one or more members with trichotillomania. Their results, published in Molecular Psychiatry, found a few small gene mutations that appeared to be linked to a higher likelihood of having the disorder. However, these gene disruptions would account only for a small percentage of trichotillomania cases, researchers say.
URBAN E R DEPARTMENTS MOST CROWDED A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that emergency departments in metropolitan areas suffer the most from nursing shortages, ambulance diversions and, especially, overcrowding. Overall, 40 to 50 percent of U.S. hospitals say they have to deal with overcrowded E Rs, but nearly two-thirds of metropolitan ERs are overcrowded. One in 10 hospitals had a very large volume, with more than 50,000 patients each year.
REDUCING MATERNAL DEATH WORLDWIDE The medical journal Lancet has released a series of papers focusing on the issue of maternal death during pregnancy and childbirth, which kills more than half a million women worldwide each year. The problem is greatest in poor countries, where women are more than 1,000 times more likely to die than in rich countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, where one in 16 pregnant moms do not survive, and South Asia, where one in 43 pregnant moms do not survive, are the hardest hit. Over half the world's women deliver babies without professional care. Researchers recommend increasing mothers' access to health centers where assistance can be provided by experienced professionals.
STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.