Health Highlights: March 14, 2008

In the 2005 paper, Kim claimed to have found a way to use magnetic nanoparticles to find target proteins in the human body, a discovery he claimed could lead to the development of anti-aging drugs. In the 2006 paper, Kim said he had used the technology to identify target proteins and had developed two chemical substances that could slow aging.

In 2005, it was revealed that leading South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk faked evidence in what had been hailed as breakthrough stem cell research.

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Microwave Popcorn Chemical Damages Airways: Study

Inhalation of a chemical used in microwave popcorn artificial butter flavoring damaged the airways of mice, which developed a condition that can lead to a life-threatening lung disease, says a study by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Mice exposed to diacetyl vapors for three months developed lymphocytic bronchiolitis, a precursor to obliterative bronchiolitis (popcorn lung). None of the mice developed the more serious disease, said ConsumerReports.org.

"This is one of the first studies to evaluate the respiratory toxicity of diacetyl at levels relevant to human health. Mice were exposed to diacetyl at concentrations and durations comparable to what may be inhaled at some microwave popcorn packaging plants," study co-author Daniel L. Morgan, chief of the Respiratory Toxicology Group at the NIEHS, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues concluded that workplace exposure to diacetyl contributes to the development of obliterative bronchiolitis, but noted that more research was needed. The study was published online in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Obliterative bronchiolitis has been noted in microwave popcorn packaging plant workers who have inhaled significant concentrations of artificial butter flavoring. Late last year, a number of leading popcorn makers said they planned to eliminate diacetyl from their products, ConsumerReports.org said.

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Officials Investigating Possible CJD Deaths in Quebec

Health officials are investigating whether two people who died in Quebec in the last few months had a form of neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), CBC News reported.

The two deaths in the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region -- one in December and another in February -- are being treated with extreme caution by Canadian health authorities, who said it generally takes a few months to get test results in such cases. They refused to release any details.

So-called classic CJD appears only in humans, while variant CJD is believed to occur in humans who have eaten beef from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease. Both forms are fatal. Classic CJD kills one in a million Canadians each year.

The two Quebec cases were made public in a story first aired Wednesday by CKRS-FM radio in Chicoutimi, CBC News reported. The radio story noted that two patients have never died of CJD within such a short period of time in one area of Canada.

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More Americans Getting Colorectal Cancer Screenings

The percentage of Americans age 50 and older who had a colorectal cancer screening test increased from 53.9 percent to 60.8 percent between 2002 and 2006, a new report found.

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