Advance In DNA Testing Could Make Law and Order Easier to Keep

Comstock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- When it comes to cracking crime, DNA analysis can often help investigators confirm or eliminate suspects. But it has one central limitation: when one DNA sample mixes with another, there's no method to identify one DNA strand beyond a reasonable doubt -- making evidence inadmissible in court. But a new technique developed in Israel may change that.

The method -- developed at Hebrew University and written up in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics -- uses existing technology to look for a person's very rare DNA sequence changes.

"If in the DNA mixture you find the presence of all the, say, 100 rare variants, that's proof that the DNA of that specific person is present in the mixtures," said developer Ariel Darvasi.

He says the algorithm he developed to test his method proves it's accurate enough to be used in court.

Darvasi is in talks to develop the product.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Identify Possible Target for Liver Cancer Treatment

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y.) -- A new study identifies the first ever possible target therapy approach for liver cancer.

The authors of the study –- conducted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and published in the journal Cancer Cell –- identified a gene that is overactive in 15 percent of liver cancers. Experiments in mice showed that shutting down this gene with a drug led to tumor shrinkage.

Researchers believe that this is a promising target for liver cancer treatment and can be tested in humans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Car Seats Marketed for Heavier Kids Not Federally Regulated

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Government health experts say obesity among American children is a national epidemic and now, that is showing up in the family car.

Makers of child car safety seats traditionally designed for children up to 65 pounds are now marketing for heavier kids -- up to 85 pounds.  The redesign, experts say, is largely because of the increasing rate of childhood obesity.

The manufacturers reportedly are responding to parents with overweight children who are still too young for booster seats.  But the Washington Post reports that federal regulations do not cover seats for toddlers that heavy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radiation Exposure: Five Things You Need to Know

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images. Satellite view of Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.(NEW YORK) -- Evacuees in Fukushima grew more fearful Monday of radiation exposure as Japan experienced its second explosion at a nuclear power plant.

On Good Morning America Monday morning, ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser discussed some potential hazards of radiation.

Here are five facts to help you better understand radiation exposure:

1. Radiation can be found naturally and nearly everywhere in the environment.  Heat, light and microwaves all emit some form of radiation.  Uranium, thorium, and radium that emit radiation are found naturally in the earth's soil.  This type of exposure is generally not considered a health concern.

2. Our bodies are all exposed to small amounts of radiation.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 percent of human exposure comes from natural sources and the remaining 20 percent comes from man-made radiation sources, mainly medical x-rays.  Overall, scientists do not find our everyday exposures harmful.

3. During a nuclear explosion, people are overexposed to high amounts of radiation over a short period of time and may develop acute radiation syndrome (ARS).  Within the first few hours of exposure, people with ARS may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin damage.  Over time, the radiation can damage a person's bone marrow and cause internal bleeding and infections.  Most people who do not recover from ARS will die within several months of exposure.

4. Local communities should have a plan in place in case of a radiation emergency.  Check with your town to learn more about its emergency preparedness plan and possible evacuation routes.

5. During a radiation emergency, such as fears of a nuclear plant explosion, you may be advised to create a "shelter in place."  This means you should stay inside your home or office, or perhaps another confined area indoors.  To keep your shelter in place effective, you should: close and lock all doors and windows; turn off fans, air conditioners, or any units that bring in air from outside; move to an inner room or basement; keep your radio tuned to the emergency response network or local news to find out further instructions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nebraska Mother Denied Abortion Even as Uterus Crushed Fetus

Comstock/Thinkstock (file photo)(GRAND ISLE, Neb.) -- Danielle Deaver was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke and doctors gave her a devastating prognosis: With undeveloped lungs, the baby likely would never survive outside the womb, and because all the amniotic fluid had drained, the tiny growing fetus slowly would be crushed by the uterus walls.

"What we learned from the perinatologist was that because there was no cushion, she couldn't move her arms and legs because of contractures," said Deaver, a 34-year-old nurse from Grand Isle, Nebraska.  "And her face and head would be deformed because the uterus pushed down so hard."

After having had three miscarriages, Deaver and her husband, Robb Deaver, looked for every medical way possible to save the baby.  Deaver's prior pregnancy ended the same way at 15 weeks, and doctors induced her to spare the pain.

But this time, when the couple sought the same procedure, doctors could not legally help them.

Just one month earlier, Nebraska had enacted the nation's first fetal pain legislation, banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation.  So the Deavers had to wait more than a week to deliver baby Elizabeth, who died after just 15 minutes.

Abortion opponents have hailed the law, and legislators in 12 other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oregon -- are considering similar restrictions.

They say the law is based on medical evidence gained since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that led to legalized abortion in 1973.  But abortion rights advocates say the motive behind the laws is to challenge legalized abortion in the United States Supreme Court.

In her case, Danielle Deaver insisted, "We didn't want an abortion."

She said her doctors consulted attorneys about exceptions in the law because of the risk of infection that might destroy her chances of ever getting pregnant again.

"What we wanted," she said, "was our labor induced so that I would go into labor and give birth to her and the outcome of her life would not have been different."

"My health was at risk, as well," she added.  "We decided going forward it [premature labor] would be inevitable and we wanted nature to take its course.  We were told we couldn't do that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinical Trial Participation Dampened by Motives, Fears

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- Across cancers and a range of other life-threatening diseases, researchers struggle to recruit enough patients for trials to generate meaningful results.

Clinical trials are a crucial step in the search for disease treatments, tests and causes.  But fears, misconceptions and a lack of awareness -- among patients and doctors -- are major barriers that researchers across all fields are working hard to overcome.

"In just about every major disease, less than 10 percent of patients are enrolling in trials," said Dr. Richard Bedlack, director of Duke University's Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Clinic in Durham, North Carolina.

Bedlack said only five percent of people with ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease) -- a fatal neurological disease with no cure and only one treatment that extends the average three-to-five-year survival only slightly -- enroll in clinical trials.

Bedlack has been studying what motivates people to participate in trials and what dissuades them from signing up. Patients worry that participating in trials will spur out-of-pocket expenses, impose heavy time burdens, and possibly expose them to dangerous or unethical procedures, according to a survey he presented in December at the 21st annual International Symposium on ALS-Motor Neuron Disease in Orlando.

Websites touting bogus treatments and trials abroad also hinder research efforts in the United States.

Lack of awareness and worries about time burdens and paperwork dissuade doctors from recommending trials, too, Bedlack said.  Many doctors go with the standard treatments, and don't even mention trials unless asked.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Japan, Fukushima Evacuees Screened for Radiation

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Evacuees from the 13-mile-radius danger zone surrounding Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant are being screened for radiation.

Japanese health authorities confirmed that at least 22 people have been exposed to radiation following the hydrogen explosion at the plant's No. 1 reactor building early Saturday morning. Up to 160 more are suspected to have been exposed while waiting for evacuation in the nearby town of Futabe, according to Ryo Miyake, a spokesman from Japan's nuclear agency.

A cooling system malfunction at the plant's No. 3 reactor could lead to a similar explosion.

Workers wearing masks and protective clothing are using handheld scanners to measure radiation after more than 300,000 were urged to flee the 450-square mile zone.

Officials have set up evacuation centers bordering the zone and are working to establish decontamination facilities.

Depending on the level of contamination, evacuees are being advised to dispose of clothing and shower. Potassium iodide is also being distributed to guard against thyroid cancer. Iodine is taken up by the thyroid -- a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism. Radioactive iodine in environment after a nuclear accident can cause thyroid cancer. But potassium iodide can block the radioactive iodine from entering the gland.

"One of the things after Chernobyl, you saw massive numbers of cancers in children. The radioactive iodine got into the grass, the cows ate the grass, it got into the milk," said ABC News chief medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "If there is a big fallout, they'll tell people not to drink milk or eat food from that area."

Children and pregnant women are most at risk, Besser said.

Low-dose radiation has also been linked to cardiovascular disease.

Japanese authorities deny that the exposures reported so far pose any health risks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Are the Health Risks of Radiation?

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The steam plume drifting from the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant that exploded after Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the looming possibility of a meltdown there have U.S. scientists warning of possible serious health risks.

Although the steel container protecting the plant's No.1 reactor was not damaged in the explosion, radiation levels near the plant rose to roughly twice that which constitute an emergency situation, according to Japanese officials, prompting a doubling of the evacuation radius to 20 kilometers.

Japan's nuclear safety agency has since reported a malfunctioning cooling system at a second reactor in the same plant.

"Members of the public are not in imminent danger at a distance of 20 kilometers, so long as they are not downwind," said John Williams, professor of nuclear and energy engineering at the University of Arizona.

But while the breadth of the evacuation zone may limit the risk of acute radiation sickness, the potential for chronic conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease remains.

Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said wind over the Fukushima prefecture could boost radiation to cancer-causing levels up to 100 miles away. Tokyo, home to nearly 13 million people in 2009, is roughly 200 miles away.

Low dose radiation exposure is also linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the National Research Council. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Regis and Kelly's Run Across America' Tackles Childhood Obesity

Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision(NEW YORK) -- The television show LIVE with Regis and Kelly has teamed up with ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes to raise awareness about childhood obesity and encourage Americans to have healthy lifestyles.

In a cross-country challenge called “Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America,” Karnazes will run from Southern California to New York City in hopes of inspiring Americans to get active and healthy. The nearly 3,000 mile journey began on Feb. 25, and will see Karnazes passing through several states including Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and Maryland, before finishing the run live on the air at LIVE's New York City studio in mid-May. Karnazes expects to run 40-50 miles per day, and runners in the states that he’s passing through can sign up to run along with him in organized 5K events.

Runners wishing to participate will be asked to donate to Action for Healthy Kids, a nonprofit network dedicated to fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Your Home Protected from Radon Gas?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Radon can pose a potential threat to nearly every home in the U.S., according to HealthDay News.

This odorless, invisible, radioactive gas causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths yearly, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Radon is a byproduct of broken-down uranium in rocks, soil and water.  It becomes a risk to American households because it seeps into the foundation cracks of homes from the ground.

"It's a naturally occurring decay product of uranium," Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society told HealthDay.

But Dr. Thun added that the carcinogen is avoidable.  Thun said the best method for protection is to check for high levels present in the home.

"If one lives in an area where radon is prevalent, it's a good idea to have your home tested," he said.

The EPA suggests a two-level test.  Homeowners can purchase a short-term test that is left in the house for 90 days and sent to a lab for analysis.  Next, homeowners can perform a follow-up test, which is longer than 90 days.  Homeowners should have the home fixed if the average of the two tests remains above 4 pCi/L.

The testing process, called radio mitigation, can cost between $800 and $2,500, according to Kristy Miller, a spokeswoman for the EPA's indoor environments division.

Dr. Thun warned that individuals and families residing in the Northeast and Midwest are at greater risks. These regions tend to have higher radon levels than anywhere else in the United States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio