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Genetic Test for Heart Disease Risk in the Works

SUNDAY, Feb. 8 -- Perhaps five years from now, you might actually hear your doctor casually say, "While we're at it, let's do a blood test to see if your genetic makeup puts you at high risk of having a heart attack." So says Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of preventive cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the leader of a group that has identified three new genetic variants associated with an increased risk of heart attack. That finding, which brings the total of such risk-associated variants to nine, is reported in the Feb. 8 online issue of Nature Genetics. The journal highlights a total of five papers from groups around the world looking at the genetics of heart disease. The study led by Kathiresan, done by a group of six organizations called the Myocardial Infarction Genetics Consortium, is the largest of the five. It compared the genomes of about 3,000 people who had suffered heart attacks rel ...

Age No Bar to Aggressive Rx for Cardiogenic Shock

MONDAY, Feb. 16 -- Age shouldn't prevent the aggressive treatment of elderly patients with heart attack complicated by cardiogenic shock, Australian researchers report. Cardiogenic shock (CS) occurs when the heart fails to supply enough blood to the body's organs. It is the most common cause of death after heart attack among Americans over the age of 75. There's typically been widespread reluctance to use invasive treatments on elderly heart patients. However, this study found that elderly patients with heart attack complicated by CS who underwent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) had a one-year survival rate similar to that of younger patients. "Elderly patients who are admitted to the hospital with massive heart attacks may still benefit from emergency coronary artery balloon angioplasty with stenting, despite their advanced age. Although mortality occurs in roughly half of patients in these high risk situations, without this aggressive treatment, the prospect of s ...

Scientists May Have New Way to Fight the Flu

SUNDAY, Feb. 22 -- A new scientific discovery could someday lead to medications to fight the flu as well as a vaccine that would not have to be changed every year because it could target a broad range of flu strains. "We identified new human antibodies that inactivate influenza, not just bird flu, but any of the seasonal influenza viruses that affect us in the winter," said researcher Dr. Wayne A. Marasco, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The antibodies recognize a new part of the influenza virus and inactivate the virus by a new mechanism, Marasco said, "so it's really a new target, new mechanism, new human antibodies." Antibodies can be used as drugs, he noted, adding that drugs derived from antibodies are commonplace in treatment for such cancers as colon, breast and lymphoma. Drugs developed from the newly identified antibodies could, in combination with other treatments, prevent or treat certain avian an ...