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CAPSULE CAMERA DETECTS GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Imagine swallowing a camera in a capsule the size of a vitamin pill to
help doctors identify gastrointestinal problems that might otherwise go undiagnosed.
That's exactly what patients at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, are doing. The
clinic is one of only three centers in the nation to feature this technology, and the only
one west of New York State. The capsule includes a miniature color video camera, a light,
a battery, and a transmitter. The video camera transmits images to sensors attached to the
patient's torso, and a Walkman-like device the patient wears around his waist records them
digitally. It takes about 8 hours for the camera to make its way through the digestive
tract. The device can help doctors evaluate intestinal bleeding and conditions that cause
pain, diarrhea, or weight loss, such as Crohn's disease. David Fleischer, M.D., chair of
the clinic's gastroenterology department, calls the procedure "the medical equivalent
of space ex! ploration of the moon."
GENETIC APPROACH TO BLOOD PRESSURE MANAGEMENT STUDIED
Doctors at the University of California, San Diego are trying to
determine if subtle genetic variations among people with high blood pressure produce
differences in response to treatment. The study is one of the first in the emerging field
of "pharmacogenomics," in which drug therapy is tailored to a person's genetic
profile. "Why some people respond to blood pressure medications and others don't has
always puzzled physicians," says Daniel T. O'Connor, M.D., professor of medicine and
the project's director. "We believe that a substantial part of that variability is
the result of differences in genes that either metabolize drugs or are the target of
drugs." Working with scientists at Celera Genomics, the company that recently
sequenced the human genome, O'Connor and his colleagues will see if they can find an
association between genetic variations and differences in individual responses to drugs.
The next step will be animal studies to clarify the mechani! sms through which the genetic
variants give rise to different drug responses.
DRUG RELIEVES DIABETIC PAIN
Doctors at the Rambam Medical Center in Israel have found that
lamotrigine, a drug commonly used to treat epilepsy, may also relieve the pain of diabetic
neuropathy, a potentially serious complication that often results in limb amputation. They
compared 27 diabetics taking the drug to 26 patients who received a placebo. The people
taking lamotrigine had had diabetes nearly 4 years longer than the placebo group. From the
beginning of the study to its end 8 weeks later, patient-rated pain intensity scores
dropped significantly in the lamotrigine group, and many patients were able to reduce
their use of pain medication. The placebo group, on the other hand, continued to use pain
medication throughout the treatment period. These findings "support preliminary
research showing that [lamotrigine] may be effective for this serious pain syndrome,"
says Elon Eisenberg, M.D, the lead investigator.
CANCER DIAGNOSIS DOES NOT AFFECT QUALITY OF LIFE
Despite the physical and emotional struggles cancer patients face, many
survivors report good quality of life. In fact, often it is better than the general public
or even their physicians would expect, say the authors of a new study conducted at King
Edward Memorial Hospital in Western Australia. They had 202 survivors of gynecological
cancers fill out questionnaires asking about quality of life. At the same time, each
woman's doctor was asked to rate the patient's overall quality of life at the end of each
consultation. The doctors' ratings were consistently lower than those of the patients
themselves. Interestingly, of the patients who responded to questions about sexual
function (25 percent did not), those who lived with a partner were more likely to report a
worsening in that aspect of their lives. These findings are important because quality of
life is key to the assessment of new cancer treatments, particularly when several kinds of
treatments yiel! d similar survival rates.