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Science fought back against avian flu with a successful test of a new vaccine. In a study of 451 subjects, the preparation caused no significant side effects and produced antibodies at a level that is usually sufficient to protect against common strains of flu--a good sign that it will work against the avian variety too. It's the common strains, of course, that ought to cause us concern, since avian flu has yet to kill anybody in the U.S. and the common flu kills 36,000 each year. Girding for this winter's assault, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new vaccine against several flu strains likely to cause infections in North America, bringing to five the number of vaccines in this season's anti-influenza arsenal.
Would-be mothers who fear time is running out can take comfort from a Finnish study that showed that it's the quality of the embryo--not the age of the woman--that determines the success of in vitro fertilization. The study found that the pregnancy rate for women in their late 30s who had a single, top-quality embryo transfer was as good as that of younger women. What makes a grade-A embryo? Belgian researchers found that the transplant of a single fresh (not frozen) Day 5 embryo in infertile women under age 36 led to pregnancy and delivery in 47% more women than with a less mature, Day 3 embryo
We've all shared in the pain of a bad joke, but can a good laugh help the heart? Watching 15- to 30-min. clips of comedies--one used by researchers was There's Something About Mary--increased blood flow to the heart up to 50%, compared with, say, the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. Watching a funny film was like a jolt of aerobic activity; a sad film triggered the same vascular response as doing a math problem or remembering an incident that made one angry.
Doctors diagnose 173,000 cases of lung cancer in patients each year, 95% of whom will die from it--more than from breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. But New York--Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center researchers found that low-dose, spiral-computed-tomography (CT) screening drastically improved the odds. In a study of 31,567 people, annual CT screening (about 600 images per scan) detected Stage 1 lung cancer in 412 patients, and when the cancer was surgically removed within one month of diagnosis, their 10-year survival rate was an impressive 92%.
Americans may be meeting more people online, but the number we count among our closest friends--the ones with whom we discuss important matters--shrank over the past 20 years, from three friends to two. At the same time, the number of Americans who have no one at all to confide in more than doubled, to 1 in 4. Sociologists from Duke University and the University of Arizona report that we increasingly rely solely on family members (80%) and spouses (9%). There could be health consequences: other studies link robust social networks to lower blood pressure, reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and greater longevity.