- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

LASERS LOOK FOR CAVITIES WITHOUT THE PAIN

Researchers have developed a new painless laser technique that could make X-rays and scraping to find cavities obsolete. The tool, similar to a laser pointer, directs near-infrared light at different frequencies toward a patient's teeth. The light produces infrared radiation that reveals where the cavities are if any hide below the surface. "It can reveal suspicious regions invisible to the naked eye below the surface of the tooth," said Andreas Mandelis, professor of engineering at the University of Toronto. The technique, detailed in January's Review of Scientific Instruments, can catch cavities at very early stages of development, something X-rays cannot do. This ability could prompt preventive treatment. Researchers said the tool also might have uses in detecting skin and sub-dermal cancers.

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MANY PEOPLE IN THE DARK ABOUT CHEMICAL SAFETY

A new study reports many people are unaware of chemical plants or chemical accidents in their communities. The research, conducted by the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, found only half of participants knew a plant was in their area and fewer knew if any spills, which can have lethal results, had occurred. Researchers said despite the large size of the chemical industry, this is the first time such a report has been compiled. Although authors of the study said chemical accidents seem to have decreased, the numbers are not well charted. Companies should do more to track spills and educate the public, the researchers said.

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PARKINSON'S DRUG COULD INCREASE HEART DISEASE RISK

A drug that treats Parkinson's disease could increase a user's risk for heart disease, new research reveals in Archives of Neurology. The drug levodopa, though used for the past 40 years to fight Parkinson's — a disease that affects a person's balance and body movements — increases the level of a certain amino acid that might be responsible for the higher risk. Study authors from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said the drug is effective, however, and doctors should monitor patients' homocysteine blood levels rather than automatically stopping the therapy. Previous research has suggested too much homocysteine also increases the risk of dementia and depression.

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INCHING TOWARD A CANCER VACCINE

In animal experiments, researchers have found a way to attach antibodies to tumor cells, making them recognizable to the immune system. Although years off, this small step could bring scientists closer to developing a successful vaccine against cancer. Normally, immune systems do not recognize cancer cells as something that needs to be fought. Or they recognize them when it is too late. When animals received a vaccine made from the antibody-tumor cell complex, their immune systems responded. The researchers, from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said that theoretically, the vaccine could be used for prevention and treatment.

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(EDITORS: For more information about TEETH, contact Nicolle Wahl at 416-978-6974 or [email protected] For CHEMICAL, Mark Evans at 979-458-3597 or [email protected] For PARKINSON'S, Rachel Horton at 214-648-3404 or [email protected] For CANCER, Nalini Moerlie at 31-70-344-0713 or [email protected])



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