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Posted - Sep. 27, 2004 at 7:20 a.m.



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Sep 27, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- HIGH-TECH PACIFIER HELPS PREEMIES SUCK

University of Kansas scientists are developing a high-tech pacifier to help premature babies suck and, thus, thrive. Babies born too soon often cannot suck, swallow or breathe on their own. Some suffer strokes or bleeding during or shortly after birth. Many have subtle brain injuries that affect the development of intelligence and speech. The new pacifier trains babies to suck at the right time in the right way so they can feed, thrive and leave intensive care units earlier. The developers hope their pacifier also may reduce the incidence or severity of certain developmental disabilities. The pacifier is undergoing a three-year test on 390 infants in neonatal intensive care units at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka and the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

CANCER DRUG MAY ALSO HELP LUPUS PATIENTS

University of Rochester researchers in New York state say rituximab, used to treat lymphoma, appears effective against lupus. In the study, the investigators found one injection could ease symptoms for a year or more, says rheumatologist John Looney. He and colleagues think lupus -- a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues -- involves the same immune cells as lymphoma, so, they reasoned, one drug may be able to treat both. Tests of rituximab in lupus patients, described in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, showed health improvements that lasted at least a year. The patients also experienced fewer side effects than with current medications. "These patients were treated for a very brief period of time, and some of them are still doing just great, several years later," Looney said.

WALKING SHARPENS OLDER MINDS

Boston researchers says older women who walk six hours a week face a 20 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment than their inactive peers. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health found women 70 and older who exercise regularly, including walking at an easy pace for at least 1.5 hours a week, appear to have sharper minds than those who lead sedentary lives. Those who walk at least six hours a week show cognitive functioning of someone three years their junior, the researchers say in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Walking is a popular, accessible and inexpensive activity for older adults that appears to provide many health benefits," said lead author Jennifer Weuve of Harvard. "In addition to studies showing a reduced risk of heart disease, pulmonary disease and diabetes, a moderate level of walking also appeared to reduce the rate of cognitive decline in our study."

CHICKEN POX VACCINE SAVES MONEY, HEALTH

University of Michigan investigators say the chicken pox vaccine is saving America millions by keeping children and adults out of the hospital. Since being introduced in 1995, the vaccine has prevented severe cases among children, teens and adults and even protected those not immunized by decreasing their chances of exposure to sick individuals. Those thus exposed were among the most likely to need hospitalization, the team from the UM C.S. Mott Children's Hospital reports in the journal Pediatrics. "The results show an annual savings of $100 million since the varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine was introduced, just in the cost of hospital care for people with severe cases," said lead author and pediatrician Dr. Matthew Davis. "That's greater than the savings predicted in the vaccine's pre-approval analysis."

(Editors: For more information about PACIFIER, contact Karen Henry at (785) 864-0756 or kahenry@ku.edu. For CANCER, call Tom Rickey (585) 275-7954. For WALKING, Melanie Franco at (617) 534-1600. For VACCINE, Kara Gavin at (734) 764-2220 or umhsmedia@umich.edu)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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