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Genetic Baby Possible From Donor Egg

May 01, 2000|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

A new fertility technique may help women who are unable to conceive because of defects in the cytoplasm of their eggs--the material outside the eggs' nucleus. About 10% of infertile women are thought to suffer from such problems, and the only way to get around the problem now is to use donated eggs.

Researchers from France, Spain and Italy report in the May issue of Human Reproduction ( that they have been able to take the nucleus from the egg of such women and insert it into a donor egg from which the nucleus has been removed. This technique is widely used for cloning the eggs of other mammals, but has not been successful in human eggs because the treatment inactivates them, rendering the treated eggs impervious to fertilization. The researchers said they had found two different ways to transfer the nucleus without inactivating the eggs.

The researchers did not attempt to fertilize the treated eggs, however, because the formation of human embryos for research purposes is forbidden in France and Spain and strictly regulated in Italy. They now plan to use the technique to treat infertile women, however.

New Neck Surgery Cuts Recovery Time

UCLA surgeons have developed a new treatment for arm and neck pains caused by a herniated disc or bone spur in the neck, a problem that affects as many as 500,000 Americans.

Patients with the problem suffer symptoms such as pain, numbness, limb immobility, a "pins and needles" sensation, a burning sensation or a swollen feeling in the affected limb. The current treatment involves surgically removing the affected disc, replacing it with bone from the patient's hip or from a cadaver, and fusing that bone to the disc on either side of it. But that procedure puts stress on areas next to the fused vertebrae and can require eight weeks of recovery.

Dr. J. Patrick Johnson and his colleagues have developed a technique using microsurgery to remove only the herniated (protruding) portion of the disc. They report in the April issue of Spine that the 1 1/2-hour procedure can be done on an outpatient basis and that patients can return to full activity in as little as two weeks. More information is available at

Cessation Aids Help Smokers Kick the Habit

Quitting smoking is tough, but using cessation aids can double the success rate, according to researchers from UC San Diego.

Psychologist Shu-Hong Zhu and colleagues studied 4,480 individuals in California who had attempted to quit smoking in the previous year. About 3% of those read self-help materials, 3% used counseling, 12% employed nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum) and 2% used a combination of counseling and nicotine replacement. The rest simply threw their cigarettes out.

The team reported in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that about 15% of those who sought assistance were able to quit for 12 months, compared with only 7% of those who didn't use an aid. A 1986 study had shown that cessation aids were less effective than simply quitting, but that study was performed before nicotine replacement therapy was available.

Iron Level Linked to Stroke Damage

People with high levels of iron in their blood suffer heavier damage in a stroke than those with low levels of the element, Spanish researchers have found.

They speculate that high iron levels increase the production of free radicals, a normal byproduct of stroke that damages cells. Alternatively, the iron might trigger the release of glutamate, a brain messenger that is lethal to cells at high concentrations, said Dr. Antoni Davalos of Hospital Universitari Doctor Josep Trueta in Girona.

Davalos and his associates studied the level of ferritin--an indicator of the total amount of iron stored in the body--in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of 100 stroke victims. They reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn. ( that those with the most severe stroke damage had an average of 2 1/2 times as much ferritin in their blood and three times as much in cerebrospinal fluid.

The main source of iron in a normal diet is red meat. Previous studies have linked high iron levels indirectly to heart attacks. Men who donate blood regularly, for example, have a lower risk of heart attack, presumably because blood donation depletes iron levels. Premenopausal women also have a lower risk, in part because of their regular monthly blood loss.

More Evidence on Eating Right

More evidence that a balanced diet is good for you: Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats and poultry can reduce one's overall risk of death by as much as 30%, according to New York researchers. The study reinforces what was already known about the benefits of such well-balanced diets.

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