Updated: 2011-08-17 07:54

(China Daily)

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Study into stroke risk for Chinese

Scientists in Hong Kong are embarking on a study to identify genes that are responsible for high cholesterol and heart disease in patients in southern China, which they hope will pave the way for the design of better drugs.

While cholesterol levels are coming under control in some Western countries due to drugs and healthier lifestyles, they are shooting ever higher in China, leading to higher incidence of heart disease and stroke.

By teasing out the culprit genes, experts will know if they match the rogue genes in Caucasian patients, for whom cholesterol-fighting statins like Pfizer's Lipitor, AstraZeneca's Crestor and Merck & Co's Zocor were designed.

"If we find that the (culprit) genes (in Chinese patients) are different, it means what works for Western populations won't work for us. If we find that a different set of genes may be responsible for high cholesterol, we may need a different drug," says principal investigator Tse Hung-fat in an interview.

Clinician skills still the best

Examining patients and taking a medical history are more useful to hospital doctors in diagnosing patients than high-tech scans, according to a study from Israel.

Tests such as CT scans and ultrasounds add to hospital bills, but doctors said that such tests given right after patients showed up in emergency rooms only helped with diagnosis in roughly one of three cases, says the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

There is also research showing that the radiation from multiple CT scans might increase the risk of cancer over the long term.

To see whether such scans were really helpful, researchers led by Ami Schattner of Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel, followed all the patients who showed up at the emergency room of a teaching hospital and were subsequently admitted.

"Basic clinical skills remain a powerful tool, sufficient for achieving an accurate diagnosis in most cases," Schattner and his colleagues write.

Ankle braces do prevent injuries

The ankle braces many basketball players strap on to prevent injuries may actually work, according to a study of teenage basketball players.

Of the nearly 1,500 basketball players followed for a season, those assigned to wear ankle braces during games and practice were 68 percent less likely to suffer an ankle sprain or fracture, the authors write in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

"Ankle braces could be a cost-effective way to prevent ankle injuries in basketball players, but they're not a panacea," says Timothy McGuine, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study.

Abused kids end up depressed

Doctors treating people for depression should delve into the childhoods of their patients before prescribing, because a history of mistreatment has a significant impact on their illness and ability to recover, scientists say.

Researchers who conducted a combined analysis of 26 studies involving more than 23,000 people found that those who suffered maltreatment as children were twice as likely as those who had normal childhoods to develop persistent and recurrent depression.

Those who had stressful or abusive childhoods were also less likely to be helped with drug or psychological treatment, the analysis found, suggesting doctors and scientists should look for new kinds of treatments and ways of intervening earlier.

"Identifying those at risk of multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes is crucial from a public health perspective," says Andrea Danese of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, who led the study.



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