Health Highlights: April 15, 2007

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

Blood Pressure Regulation May Be 'All in Your Head'

Can the brain control Blood pressure?

As improbable as that sounds, BBC News reports that scientists at Bristol University in England say their research on laboratory rats indicates that a protein known as JAM-1 could actually be the substance that determines a person's blood pressure.

JAM-1 appears to trap white blood cells in the brain, obstructing blood flow, which in turn, causes inflammation in the brain, the scientists found. And this condition triggered elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

    • Blood Pressure Regulation May Be 'All in Your Head'
    • DNA Marker for Early Detection of Liver Cancer Identified
    • Possibility of Botulism Prompts Imported Italian Olives Recall
    • Teen Sexual Abstinence Education Program Not Working, Report Says
    • Court Won't Order FDA to Tighten Rules on Mercury Fillings
    • New HIV Drug Shows Promise

The researchers don't know why this happens, BBC News reports, but the finding could initiate new methods for treating hypertension.

"We are looking at the possibility of treating those patients that fail to respond to conventional therapy for hypertension with drugs that reduce blood vessel inflammation and increase blood flow within the brain," Bristol University professor Julian Paton is quoted as saying.


DNA Marker for Early Detection of Liver Cancer Identified

Using a DNA component, Columbia University scientists say they've discovered a new way to detect liver cancer much earlier than before, a finding that may successfully fight what has been considered a death sentence for most people who get the disease.

According to a news release from the university's Mailman School of Public Health, hepatocellular or liver carcinomas (HCC) are usually diagnosed at such an advanced stage that survival is usually not possible. Using blood from 24,000 Taiwanese people from a study begun in 1991, the researchers were able to isolate a DNA biomarker from blood serum.

The researchers then were able to identify the gene changes that identified malignancy in the liver. The change was detected one-to-nine years before actual clinical diagnosis, according to the University news release.

"Having the tools to identify hepatocellular carcinoma at earlier stages, is truly a breakthrough for addressing the challenges that result from this highly lethal form of cancer," the news release quotes Regina Santella, the principal investigator, as saying.

The study results are published in the April 15, 2007 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.


Possibility of Botulism Prompts Imported Italian Olives Recall

The latest U.S. government alert about food that may cause serious illness concerns olives imported from Italy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that olives made by Charlie Brown di Rutigliano and Figli S.r.l, of Bari, Italy may contain the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum, which causes botulism, a disease that often leads to death. The olives were initially recalled by the maker on March 27. They had been distributed in the United States to both restaurants and retail stores.

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