Health Highlights: Feb. 10, 2008

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

Computer Program Guides Medical Students Through Complicated Hip Surgery

Using a computer program similar to the GPS navigation system, 32 medical students at four hospitals in the United Kingdom have successfully completed a complicated hip surgical procedure that usually takes years to perfect.

BBC News reports that the procedure, known as hip resurfacing, uses a chrome alloy to smooth and redefine diseased or damaged ball joints in the hips. It takes years to become proficient at doing this, the BBC reports, but the computer guidance system has allowed medical students to do the surgery almost flawlessly.

WHAT TO KNOW
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The surgical trial was used on various models of diseased or damaged hips, the BBC reports, but those who supervised the project seemed confident enough from the outcome to consider the experiment successful.

Dr. Justin Cobb, head of the Biosurgery and Surgical Technology Group at Imperial College London, told a recent scientific meeting that the computer-driven surgery augers well for other procedures. "Even students, with the right technology, can achieve expert levels straight away," the BBC quotes him as saying. "More importantly, we've also demonstrated that no patient has to be on an inexperienced surgeon's learning curve."

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Breakdown of Body's Iron Transporter May Be Cause of Brain Lesions

British and Indian scientists say they have possibly found the method by which particles of iron get into the brain and cause Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur say that the collapse of the mechanism that carries iron safely through the body can cause worm-like fibrils of iron rust to form outside a protective cover, and this exposes iron oxide in dangerous ways to cells.

According to a news release from Warwick University, the key element in this process is a protein called transferrin, which safely carries iron through the bloodstream without exposing it to other cells until it is needed.

But when transferrin is disrupted in some way, it no longer seals the iron particles from the rest of the body, and some of the iron can find its way to the brain and cause the lesions associated with Alzheimer's Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, the scientists found.

This discovery is only one step in helping to find causes of these neurological diseases, and more research is being planned, according to the university news release.

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Aspirin Use Effective in Preventing Colon Cancer in Men, Latest Study Confirms

If you're a man and take at least two standard 325 milligram (mg) aspirin tablets weekly, you may be able to reduce your chances of getting colon cancer by more than 20 percent, the New York Times reports.

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