First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Trial Underway
For the first time, human embryonic stem cells have been used in an experimental treatment: A partially-paralyzed patient with a spinal cord injury was injected with the stem cells on Friday, according to an announcement made yesterday by Geron, the company that developed the cells. The stem cells came from human embryos left over from fertility treatments and were converted into nerve cells before being injected into the damaged area of the spinal cord. If successful, the treatment would repair nerve cells around that area, potentially restoring some movement to the patient, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The patient, who has not been identified, is now at Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. "The surgery went well," Anna Krassowska, a Geron spokeswoman, told the AJC. "We just don't know. This has never been done before in humans."
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7 Marketing Claims That Took Heat
A snack that prevents heart disease. A drink that bolsters the immune system. A supplement that burns off pounds. Is all of this stuff true? Is any of it true? What's behind claims like these?
In recent years, dozens of companies have gotten heat from government watchdog agencies because of inflated or unsupported claims of health benefits, U.S. News reports. Two weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission sued POM Wonderful, accusing the company of deceptively advertising its pomegranate juice and POMx supplements. The company's claims of "super health powers" capable of treating or preventing prostate cancer and other conditions are "false and unsubstantiated," according to the FTC. Days later, the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to three mouthwash makers that had been touting their products for prevention of gum disease, although no such benefit had been proven in studies.
"We're all looking for ways to be healthier, and that makes us easy prey to slick marketing campaigns," says George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "These campaigns identify buzz words that encourage us to try the product. Words that imply improvement in performance, endurance, or overall health do influence consumers' purchasing habits." [Read more: 7 Marketing Claims That Took Heat.]
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Thinking Pink Hasn't Helped Find Causes of Breast Cancer
It's that time of the year again, when women are told to don pink and think about breast cancer, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. And, yes, we're thinking about it: An illogical but attention-grabbing Facebook breast cancer awareness campaign to get women to post "I like it on the floor/I like it on the couch" status updates—where they like to put their purse, not have sex—went viral last week. And thanks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation pink ribbon campaign, which first launched 25 years ago, we are much more aware now about the importance of early detection via mammograms and regular breast exams. (U.S. News is participating in a fundraising campaign for the foundation.) Yet many of those who are deeply engaged in research to find a breast cancer cure aren't happy with the way things are going. "I really don't feel like celebrating," wrote Fran Visco on Monday in this Huffington Post blog; she's president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for more research. "Twenty-five years ago, in the United States, 110 women died of breast cancer every day," she continued in her blog. "Twenty-five years and billions of private and public research dollars later, that number is 110. Every day. Not much progress, is it?" (She's right, but that doesn't take population growth into account. The death rate from breast cancer is about 15 percent below what it was in 1985.)
Breast cancer surgeon Susan Love expressed these same negative sentiments. She recently published the 20th-anniversary edition of her best-selling Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. It's much thicker than it used to be, due to bulked-up chapters with new information on the science of breast cancer and the wider assortment of treatments. But, she says, the chapters on causes and prevention of the disease haven't changed that much over the past two decades. "There's frustration out there that we don't know more," she adds. "We're wearing pink, walking and running to raise money for research, God knows we're aware, and yet we still don't really have a clue what causes this disease." [Read more: Thinking Pink Hasn't Helped Find Causes of Breast Cancer.]
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