Health Highlights: April 26, 2010

By on April 26, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Vein Stem Cells Trigger Blood Vessel Growth

Stem cells extracted from human veins left over from heart bypass surgery can stimulate new blood vessel growth in mice, British researchers say.

“This is the first time that anyone has been able to extract stem cells from sections of vein left over from heart bypass operations,” said research leader Professor Paolo Madeddu, of the University of Bristol, BBC News reported. “These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body’s own stem cells.”

In heart bypass surgery, surgeons take a section of vein from somewhere in the body (usually a leg) and use it to replace a blocked or narrowed section of heart artery.

After harvesting the stem cells from a leftover piece of vein, the researchers injected them into the leg muscle of a mouse in which the blood supply had been cut off in order to simulate conditions in a damaged heart. The cells seemed to promote the development of new blood vessels and improve blood flow in the muscle.

The study appears in the journal Circulation.

The research “brings the possibility of ‘cell therapy’ for damaged hearts one step closer, and importantly, if the chemical messages produced by the cells can be identified, it is possible that drugs could be developed to achieve the same end,” said Professor Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, BBC News reported.

The foundation funded the research.

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Covidien Recalls Tracheostomy Tubes

Tracheostomy tubes made by Massachusetts-based Covidien are being recalled after the company received about 1,200 complaints about leaks and was informed that three patients had died while using the tubes.

Trachestomy tubes are placed in patients’ throats to help them breathe while on ventilators. A leak could cause a sudden decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood or a sudden rise in the amount of carbon dioxide, both of which can lead to serious injury or death, the Associated Press reported.

The recall covers certain cuffed Shiley-branded tracheostomy tubes and Shiley-branded custom tracheostomy tubes that may have a leak in the pilot balloon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is “investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three patients that may be associated with leaks in the tracheostomy tubes made by Covidien,” said agency spokesman Tom Gasparoli, the AP reported.

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Spending Will Increase Under New Health Law: Report

Under the new health care law, about 34 million more Americans will have health coverage, but health spending will increase about 1 percent over 10 years, according to a new report.

The increase in costs may be even larger if Medicare cuts in the law prove to be unsustainable, said the economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department, the Associated Press reported.

It’s possible that Medicare cuts could push about 15 percent of hospitals and other institutional health providers into debt and possibly jeopardize seniors’ access to care, warned the paper from Medicare’s Office of the Actuary.

Some cost-control measures in the law — such as a tax on high-cost insurance, Medicare cuts, and a commission to identify ongoing Medicare savings — may help reduce the rate of health cost increases after 2020, the AP reported.

“During 2010-2019, however, these effects would be outweighed by the increased costs associated with the expansions of health insurance coverage,” wrote Richard S. Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary. “Also, the longer-term viability of the Medicare … reductions is doubtful.”

The document carries a disclaimer that it does not represent the official position of the Obama administration, the AP reported.

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