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Dr. P. J. Johnson of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong have developed a method using isoelectric focusing to detect isoforms of alpha-fetoprotein which appear relatively specific for hepatoma. In a study of 582 consecutive patients with chronic liver disease, Dr. Johnson's group analyzed total and hepatoma-specific alpha-fetoprotein isoforms in a single blood sample taken from each patient. With the application of hepatoma-specific alpha-fetoprotein, the positive predictive value of the test was 73.5%, compared with only 41.5% using the conventional test.
Source: British Journal of Cancer 1997;75:236-240.
Research directed by Dr. Alice M. Tang at Johns Hopkins has shown that a low serum concentration of vitamin B-12 appears to be an early and independent marker of HIV-1 disease progression. They report a nearly a two fold increased risk of progression to AIDS in HIV-positive subjects with serum B-12 concentrations of less than 120 pmol/L, compared with subjects with normal B-12 levels.
Research directed by Dr. David Martin of Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans has shown that Chlamydia pneumoniae readily infects cells that comprise atheromas, supporting the possibility that this organism is involved in atherosclerotic disease. The organism readily infected rabbit, bovine, and human aortic smooth muscle cells. Cholesterol-loaded smooth muscle cells were even more susceptible to C. pneumoniae infection. Conversely, C. trachomatis did not efficiently infect smooth muscle cells, demonstrating that this is not a characteristic of all members of the genus. A causal relationship has yet to be proven
Source: Infection and Immunology, 1997;65:503-506.
Increased production of C-reactive protein is common in patients with angina and is significantly associated with increased risk of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death reported investigators with the European Concerted Action on Thrombosis and Disabilities Angina Pectoris (ECAT) Study Group. They found that there was about a two-fold increase in the risk of a coronary event in patients whose CRP concentration was in the fifth quintile (>3.6 mg/L), compared with the first four quintiles The findings confirm results reported in patients with severe unstable angina, but it is the first evidence of this association in patients with stable angina.
Source: Lancet 1997;349:462-466.
German researchers at the University of Ulm have found that C-reactive protein can be used to identify the time point when an antibiotic treatment can safely be discontinued in a group of neonates treated for suspected bacterial infection.
Source: Pediatrics February 1997;99:216-221.
In the February issue of The Lancet, Dr. J. Y. Yiannakou and colleagues at the University of Liverpool describe their study of a combined lectin/antibody enzyme-linked mucin assay, CAM 17-1. The researchers tested serum samples from 250 patients whose differential diagnosis included pancreatic cancer and from 75 controls with no pancreatic cancer symptoms. The sensitivity and specificity of the CAM 17-1 assay were 86% and 91%, respectively, in all patients, 85% and 81% in those who presented with jaundice, and 89% and 94% in patients who did not have jaundice.
Source: Lancet 1997;349:389-392.
A team of urologists at the University of Michigan have reported that percent free PSA is clearly lower in patients with prostate cancer and discriminates between benign and malignant disease most effectively when the total serum PSA is 3.0 to 10.0 ng/mL
Source: Urology 1997;49:19-27.
Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, Scotland working with biotechnology company PPL Therapeutics have reported the first-ever cloning of an adult animal -- a sheep named Dolly. PPL is in the final stages of testing transgenic sheep that produce milk containing a human protein that can help treat cystic fibrosis, a serious genetic disease causing difficulty breathing, digestive disorders and lung infections.
Source: Nature February 28, 1997
Research conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has shown that two human cell proteins that regulate cell growth are excellent markers for determining survival of women with breast cancer. Cyclin E and p27 are two key regulators of the cell cycle. Cyclin E regulates the process by which cells divide and multiply. Studies suggest that cyclin E production correlates with the stage of disease and the grade of a tumor. The p27 protein acts as an inhibitor of cell division. High levels of p27 in the cell halts proliferation of these cells. Women who had breast cancer tumors with high levels of p27 and low levels of cyclin E (similar to normal breast tissue levels) had the best rates of survival and that the opposite pattern of low levels of p27 and high levels of cyclin E was associated with a nine-fold increased risk of mortality.
Source: Feb. 1, 1997, issue of Nature-Medicine
In anemic patients, serum transferrin receptor measurements are a valuable, noninvasive alternative to bone marrow examination for the diagnosis of iron depletion, according to a team of researchers at the University Hospital of Turku, Finland, headed by Dr. Kari Punnonen. The research involved 129 anemic patients who underwent bone marrow examination. 48 had iron deficiency anemia, 64 anemia of chronic disease, and 17 patients had depleted iron stores and an infectious or an inflammatory condition. Serum transferrin receptor levels were elevated in the majority of patients with iron deficiency anemia and in those with depleted iron stores and an infectious or an inflammatory condition. In patients with anemia of chronic disease, however, serum transferrin receptor levels were within the reference limits reported earlier for healthy subjects.
Source: Blood 1997;89:1052-1057.
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