Entries in San Francisco (10)


Skin Cells May Offer New Hope for Alzheimer's

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A team of scientists has discovered what could be a novel source for researching and potentially treating Alzheimer's disease and other conditions involving the destruction of brain cells.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes converted skin cells from mice and humans into brain stem cells with the use of a protein called Sox2. Using only this protein to transform the skin cells into neuron stem cells is unusual. Normally, the conversion process is much more complex.

Neuron stem cells are cells that can be changed into the nerve cells and the cells that support them in the brain. The neuronal stem cells formed in this study are unique because they were prepared in a way the prevented them from becoming tumors, which is what often happens as stem cells differentiate, explained David Teplow, professor of neurology and director of the Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA. Teplow was not involved in the study, but is familiar with this type of research.

These immature brain stem cells then developed into different types of functional brain cells, which were eventually able to be integrated into mouse brains.

The idea that these cells can become fully functioning brain tissue is significant, the authors explained, because by becoming part of the brain, the cells can replace the cells killed off by the disease process.

These cells also offer a potential way to learn about the mechanisms behind neurodegenerative disorders as well as lead to research into new drugs, explained Dr. Yadong Huang, a study co-author and associate investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease.

"The next step is, we are trying to get these skin cells from patients with this disease so we can reprogram and convert the diseased cells into these neuron stem cells and develop those into neurons in culture," he said.

After that, researchers can study how these diseases develop based on what's observed in culture dishes.

"It's really hard to get neurons from human brains for research, and now, we can generate them," Huang said. "Secondly, we can do some drug screening. If we have patient-specific neurons in culture, we can test some or develop some drugs to see how they work on these neurons."

These neuron stem cells, Huang explained, also don't develop into tumors as other types of stem cells are prone to do.

"This is a significant step forward," said Teplow. "Thus far, the challenges with stem cells have been to make the right cells and also be able to make a cell preparation where the risk of having cells that can form tumors is low." Teplow was not involved in Huang's study.

There are still a number of steps this area of research must undergo determining whether these cells can really replace lost brain cells, but experts are encouraged.

"One of the target areas of the brain in Alzheimer's disease is the hippocampus, where there is tremendous loss of neurons, and there is also loss in the outer part of the brain as it progresses," Teplow said. "If we can introduce these cells into these two areas to replenish cells that are lost, we can theoretically reverse the disease."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lawyer: Lawmaker Stole Leather Pants due to Brain Tumor

BananaStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A San Francisco lawmaker pleaded no contest after stealing nearly $2,500 of clothing from an upscale department store and a benign brain tumor may have impaired her judgment, her lawyer says.

Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s lawyer says her medical condition might have played a role in her shoplifting, but her spokesman says she is not using it as an excuse, according to ABC station KGO-TV.

Hayashi, 44, was arrested in October for stealing leather pants and other articles of clothing from Neiman Marcus in Union Square. Prosecutors said before leaving the store, Hayashi took the clothes into a dressing room and stuffed them into an empty shopping bag.

Investigators say store security was tracking Hayashi after a saleswoman told guards she suspected the assemblywoman of stealing a dress the week before.

A spokesman hired by Hayashi to deal with the incident said she was going to pay for the items, but she was distracted by cell phone calls.

“She stepped outside the door, realized something was wrong, but before she had the opportunity to go back and correct her mistake, security was there,” Sam Singer told KGO-TV.

When Hayashi appeared in San Francisco Superior Court on Friday, the judge reduced the charge from felony grand theft to a misdemeanor at a prosecutor’s request. Hayashi pleaded no contest, and was given three years probation, a fine of $180 and ordered her to keep a distance of 50 feet from Neiman Marcus.

Hayashi’s lawyer, Doug Rappaport, said outside the courtroom that she suffers from a medical condition that experts say may have affected her judgment when she was caught.

But her spokesman, Singer, sent an email Friday saying Hayashi’s brain tumor “did not play a role in her forgetfulness and distraction in accidentally walking out.”

The district attorney’s office says Hayashi’s medical condition did not have an impact on the judge’s decision.

Regardless of the conflicting statements, the prosecution at the district attorney’s office says the brain tumor had nothing to do with their decision to change the felony to a misdemeanor. They say she is a first-time offender with no priors and that she admitted her guilt early on.

“Her condition never factored into our decision,” Stephanie Ong Stillman, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, told Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

District Attorney George Gascon said at a press conference before the hearing that his office would accept the judge’s decision.

“She is a first-time offender. She has no criminal record. So while what she did is inexcusable and she needs to be held accountable for her actions, I think it’s appropriate to examine and explore all the different possibilities,” Gascon said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prosecutors: Phony Doctor Botched Liposuction Then Flushed Fat

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The story sounds almost too bizarre to be believed.  A man posing as a physician’s assistant performs a cut-rate liposuction on a woman who is awake but anesthetized.  He asks her to hold her IV bag while he works, all the while smoking a cigar.  A few days later, he shows up at her house with six pounds of her fat and, telling her he needs to dispose of it, flushes it down her toilet.

As first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, this account was what city prosecutors allege happened to an as yet unidentified woman and led to the Thursday arrest of Carlos Guzmangarza, 49, on a litany of charges.

Messages left Monday with the San Francisco district attorney’s office and the Medical Board of California were not immediately returned, though yesterday was a federal holiday. But according to the story in the Chronicle, prosecutors allege that Guzmangarza stole the identities of a physician and a physician’s assistant, which he used to operate a bogus clinic.  Prosecutors said he charged only $3,000, and that he also gave the patient’s daughter a series of injections he said would help treat her acne.

According to the story, prosecutors said it was only when the woman who received the liposuction experienced an infection in her abdomen that she saw a real doctor and learned that she had been swindled.

The Chronicle reports that Guzmangarza’s bail is set at $750,000, and he faces up to 12 years in state prison if convicted of the charges against him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hawk with Nail in Head Is Eating, Rescue Group Says

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Rescuers searching the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for a red-tailed hawk with a nail in its head are heartened by pictures showing that the hawk is eating.

The injured hawk was seen on Wednesday eating a gopher, said Rebecca Dmytryk, director of WildRescue, the Monterey-based group leading the effort to save the bird. Rescuers had spotted the raptor a day earlier killing and trying to eat a squirrel.

"Thank goodness he's eating, but the ongoing stress can compromise his immune system," said Dmytryk. WildRescue has been trying to find the hawk since a Bay Area wildlife group notified rescuers about the nail condition on Sunday.

They believe someone shot the hawk with a nail gun, probably intentionally, and have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. "Let's get this sucker," Dmytryk said.

Rescuers plan to try to capture the bird again Friday, hoping he's hungry again by then. "The hungrier the animal is, the easier to get it to come in for bait," Dmytryk said. The group uses a special trap rather than nets, which could harm the hawk.

Sympathizers moved by the hawk's plight are sending in photos showing the bird on apartment railings and at other area spots which will help rescuers build a strategy for finding the injured bird, Dmytryk said. "People have really shown concern and interest -- the pictures that are coming in really help us," she said. Contributions from the public enabled WildRescue to up its reward, she added.

If the hawk is captured, it will be taken to the Peninsula Humane Society wildlife center to be treated. Rescuers worry the injury could make the bird vulnerable to a fungal infection of the lungs.

The red-tailed hawk is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No School for You! Unvaccinated Students Shut Out

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The San Francisco Chronicle reports that roughly 2,000 of the city’s middle and high school students were barred from attending class Thursday because they had yet to be immunized against pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, and they can’t return until they get the shot.

The action was taken under a new state law that requires all seventh- to 12th-graders, in both public and private schools, to get the pertussis vaccine by the first day of school.

California is no stranger to the ravages of the illness. Last year, the state experienced the worst whooping cough epidemic it had seen in 50 years. By January 2011, the state Department of Public Health reported more than 8,000 cases and 10 infant deaths.

The students had apparently been given fair warning. District officials said the lockout of unvaccinated kids came only after phone calls to homes, numerous written reminders, in-school announcements, free community vaccination clinics and a 30-day extension on the vaccination deadline, according to the Chronicle.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and an ardent supporter of vaccination efforts, said that despite the lockout of unvaccinated students, the impact on these kids’ class schedules should be minimal, because free vaccinations were made available immediately to those who had yet to receive them.

“The California example shows that if you do the right thing and provide the resources to get it done quickly and appropriately, it works,” he said. “And it works to protect the individual as well as the community.”

In addition to being highly contagious, whooping cough is a grueling illness. Its advanced stages are characterized by a severe, hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, or the “whoop” that gives the disease its nickname.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Circumcision Ban May Get Snipped from San Francisco Ballot

Pixland/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- It looks as if the City by the Bay may not be voting on a controversial circumcision ban after all.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi tentatively ruled Wednesday that the measure to criminalize circumcision must be withdrawn from the November ballot because it violated a California law which makes regulating medical procedures a state -- not a city -- matter.

Giorgi then ordered San Francisco's election director to remove the measure from city ballots.

The ban would have made it illegal to "circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years." Under that ban, any person who performed circumcisions would face a misdemeanor charge and have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 or serve a maximum of one year in prison.

San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield spearheaded the movement with a group of local "intactivists," people who believe that infant boys have the right to keep their foreskin intact. Together they created an advocacy group called the Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Germ Test Shows Some Public Seats Full of Bacteria

Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- You might want to sit down for this -- or maybe not. This is a story about germs on public seats, and just how common and hazardous they might be.

When ABC's Good Morning America heard that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter train seats in the San Francisco Bay Area had recently tested positive for all sorts of bacteria, producers wanted to know whether it was just BART, or if all public seats are germ factories. A team of GMA sleuths decided to travel from the East Coast to San Francisco to visit BART and test every seat along the way.

Here's a list of the seats that were tested and how they did.

The Not-So-Bad Seats: These seats contained low bacteria counts and/or harmless bacteria that will not make you sick.

  • New York City taxi seat
  • San Francisco restaurant seat
  • Hotel lobby seat
  • Hotel room seat
  • BART seat
  • Toilet seat

The So-Bad Seats: These seats contained high bacteria counts, including E Coli. (The strains of E. coli we found are not the deadly type, but are an indicator of the presence of fecal matter.)

  • Movie theater seat
  • Airport lounge seat
  • Airplane seat
  • Rental car seat
  • Park bench

How to Handle Germs on Public Seats

When GMA tested a dozen different kinds of public seats on a trip from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, it discovered that more than half contained traces of fecal matter and nearly a third were positive for E. coli.

Wash your hands thoroughly after you sit in a public seat, especially before eating. If you don't have access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer solution is effective in killing germs.

It's a good idea to avoid sitting on your bed and anywhere else you want to keep extra clean after sitting in a public seat. And if you placed your purse or backpack on the seat, then you won't want to put it on your kitchen or bathroom counter -- or other places that you need to keep sanitary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Circumcision Ban to Appear on San Francisco Ballot

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Lloyd Schofield has come one step closer to achieving his mission to ban circumcision -- the surgical removal of the penile foreskin -- in the City by the Bay. San Francisco city officials said Wednesday that Schofield had collected enough signatures -- more than 12,000 -- to put the measure on the city ballot in November 2011.

Schofield began researching circumcision several years ago and found a local group of "intactivists," people who believe that infant boys have the right to keep their foreskin intact. Together they created an advocacy group called the Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors. The ban would make it illegal to "circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years."

The group has not only collected thousands of signatures but a fair share of ire from religious groups and the medical community alike.

If San Francisco residents vote for the ban, doctors, mohels and any other person who performs circumcisions would face a misdemeanor charge and have to pay up to a $1,000 fine or serve a maximum of one year in jail.

Circumcision, performed on 8-day-old males, is an important ritual in the Jewish -- and Muslim -- faiths. Marc Stern, associate general counsel for legal advocacy at the American Jewish Committee, said the Jewish community is "clearly appalled" by the proposed ban.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of circumcision among baby boys in the United States seems to be declining. The government agency found that the incidence of circumcision dropped from 56 percent in 2006 to 32.5 percent in 2009. But those numbers do not include procedures performed outside of hospitals, including Jewish rituals that are usually performed in the home, or circumcisions that were not reimbursed by insurance.

While male circumcision is usually performed for religious or cultural reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there is some scientific evidence that points to potential medical benefits, but the data are insufficient for the organization to recommend routine circumcision in newborns.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


San Francisco May Vote on Banning Male Circumcision

David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Lloyd Schofield is a man on a mission to ban circumcision from his community.

"The foreskin is there for a reason," said Schofield, who is retired from a career in the hotel industry.  "It's not a birth defect.  It serves an important function in a man's life, and nobody has a right to perform unnecessary surgery on another human being."

And this November, San Francisco voters may have the opportunity to vote on whether they feel the practice -- often associated with religious protocol -- should be banned in the city and county of San Francisco.

He and his fellow organizers have created an initiative known as the "Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors.  The proposal would make it illegal to "circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years."

The group has collected more than 12,000 local signatures to put the proposal on the city ballot in November 2011.  They have also collected a fair share of ire from religious groups and medical experts alike.

Doctors, mohels and any other person who performs the procedure would face up to a $1,000 fine or a year of jail time.

Circumcision, where the foreskin of the penis is surgically removed, has been a hot topic for some time.  Schofield began researching the procedure several years ago and found a local group of "intactivists," or people who believe that infant boys have the right to keep their foreskin intact.

Circumcision is an important ritual in the Jewish faith, where it is performed on eight-day-old males.

Marc Stern, associate general counsel for legal advocacy with the American Jewish Committee, said the Jewish community is "clearly appalled" by the proposal.

"This is the most direct assault on Jewish religious practice in the United States," said Stern.  "It's unprecedented in American Jewish life."

Stern said that the Jewish community has held strategy meetings to diminish the proposal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


San Francisco Passes Ordinance on Kids' Meals, Addressing Child Health Issues

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- On Tuesday, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to vote in favor of an ordinance that will limit toy giveaways in children's meals that are excessively high in fat, sodium and calories.

With the 1979 introduction of the McDonald's Happy Meal, fast food chains have used toy giveaways as the primary vehicle to sell more than a billion kids' meals to children 12 and under.

The ordinance's sponsor, Eric Mar, called the regulation a "victory for our children's health," citing "disturbingly high" rates of obesity.

"This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children's health  first and join the range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment," he said.

Local restaurants are also joining the measure along with public health professionals, parents, educators, small business and community advocates. 

Citing the critical value of toy giveaways to fast food chains, McDonald's and its counterparts have gone to great lengths to fight the new rule, from threatening lawsuits to lobbying public officials.  The fast food chains have also touted recent "healthier options" such as apple dippers with a caramel sauce. 

Dr. Carmen Rita Nevarez, vice president of the Public Health Institute, points to the relativity of the term "healthier," and challenges fast food marketers to look at the reality of the current children's health crisis.

"One in three kids are, or will become, sick from the food they eat.  We see it not only in our city's waiting rooms and classrooms, but in our soaring health care bills.  It's time for fast food promotions to stop contravening our efforts to change this reality."

The San Francisco ordinance will take effect December 1, 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio