Health Highlights: April 14, 2008

"If you're not telling them what kinds of chemicals could be in there, how could they even make an informed decision. If you're telling them it's absolutely safe, then it's not ethical," McBride told the AP.


Gene Discovery May Lead to New Treatments for Iron Disorders

The discovery of a gene (TMPRSS6) that causes a rare form of iron deficiency may help in the development of new ways to treat iron disorders in the general population, according to researchers who studied five families with iron-refractory iron-deficiency anemia (IRIDA).

The families all had a variety of mutations in TMPRSS6. Deficiency of the TMPRSS6 protein results in overproduction of a hormone called hepcidin, which inhibits intestinal absorption of iron, Agence France-Presse reported.

The finding suggests that drugs designed to stimulate TMPRSS6 production may help some patients with anemia, particularly those with hepcidin overproduction. On the other hand, a drug that blocks TMPRSS6 production could help patients with iron overload disorders by increasing levels of hepcidin in order to limit intestinal iron absorption.

The study was published online Sunday in the journal Nature Genetics.

Lack of iron is the most common of nutritional deficiencies and a leading cause of anemia, AFP reported.


Exercise Boosted Prostate Tumor Growth in Mice

Exercise caused prostate tumors to grow more quickly in mice, but men shouldn't take that to mean they can protect themselves by not exercising, say Duke University Medical Center researchers.

They implanted prostate tumors into 50 mice and then put half the mice in cages with exercise wheels and half in cages with no wheels. The exercising mice ran an average of more than one-half mile a day. All the mice were fed the same diet, United Press International reported.

"Our study showed that exercise led to significantly greater tumor growth than a more sedentary lifestyle did, in this mouse model," senior investigator Lee Jones of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

The study was presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego.

The Duke team urged caution in interpreting the findings, UPI reported.

"These mice were not receiving (cancer) treatment and we were allowing aggressive tumors to grow unchecked for the sake of the experiment. Patients would not find themselves in the same situation," study investigator Stephen Freedland said in a prepared statement.

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