Adrenaline and aphrodisiacs

Brian D. Johnson July 7 1997

Adrenaline and aphrodisiacs

Brian D. Johnson July 7 1997

'No' to euthanasia


The not U.S. have Supreme a constitutional Court ruled, right tentatively, to medically that assisted terminally suicide. ill patients Chief Jusdo tice William Rehnquist, whose wife died ¿ter a long battle with cancer in 1991, said a factor in the decision was “the risk that a dying patient’s request for assistance in ending his or her life might not be truly voluntary.” The ruling upheld laws in Washington and New York states making doctor-assisted suicide illegal. But Rehnquist also said the court’s decision “does not absolutely foreclose” a terminally ill patient’s claim for assistance to die in the fu-

ture. In Canada, assisted suicide is a criminal offence. Rejecting an appeal by

Sue Rodriguez, a Vancouver woman stricken by a crippling neurological disease, for medical assistance to die, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in September, 1993, that any change in law would have to come from Parliament. Rodriguez died in February, 1994, in the presence of an unidentified doctor.


Japanese biologists have developed a strain of mice that they call “the world’s first lightemitting mammals.” A team at Osaka University injected DNA from light-emitting jellyfish into the fertilized eggs of mice to create the genetically altered rodents that emit a green glow when exposed to ultraviolet rays. The ordinary mice look purple. The process could ultimately be used to monitor new cancer drugs by devising a way of having only cancer cells glow.

Vaccine search and prostate. Company officials

say Ottawa's decision to lend it up

So far, attempts to develop a vacto $60 million helped persuade it cine that would persuade the to locate the project in Canada, body’s immune system to defeat Attempts to devise cancer vaccancer have produced limited recines are usually frustrated by the suits. Now, Pasteur Mérieux Condifficulty of making the body’s imnaught, the North York, Ont.-based mune defences—designed to wipe subsidiary of the French pharout bacteria and other foreign inmaceutical giant Rhône-Poulenc, vaders—react strongly against mafias announced a $350-mi 11 ion lignant cells that arise in the body

program to seek vaccines for eight itself. Still, company officials sound confident, types of cancer—bladder, breast, Says president Randal Chase: “We’re looking at about cervical, colon, lung, ovarian, skin six years to get the first products on the market.”

Pinpointing a biological cause of obesity

In a discovery that could eventually pave the way for improved obesity-fighting drugs, scientists in England have for the first time pinpointed genetic defects as the cause of abnormal weight gains in humans. An international team led by researchers at Cambridge University found that two cousins—an eight-year-old weighing 189 lb. and a two-year-old weighing 64—have flawed copies of a gene that makes the hormone leptin. Produced in fatty tissue, leptin circulates through the blood and signals the brain about the body’s fat content—information that, in turn, regulates appetite. The re-

Tender loving care for the donor heart

Toronto doctors have developed a new way of preserving human hearts that doubles the time that an organ can survive between its removal from a donor and implantation in another person. Until now, donor hearts— which often have to be transported large distances—have been immersed in ice for a maximum of four hours, after which the or-

searchers, whose findings were reported in the British journal Nature, concluded that because the cousins do not produce leptin, their brains continually issue instructions for more nutrients to be taken in—in other words, to eat more. The cousins’ condition is rare—most overweight people have normal leptin levels, but researchers believe their systems are unable to properly interpret the messages from the hormone. Experts say the new finding is important partly because it shows that obesity can have biological causes—and does not simply reflect a lack of willpower.

gans start to lose their ability to beat again.

In a technique devised by a team under Dr. Christopher Feindel of the Toronto Hospital, blood from the donor’s body is fed through the organ, supplying it with oxygen and other nutrients. Initially tested in pigs, the system has since been used in successful human transplants. Feindel, surgical director of the hospital’s heart transplant program, said that in animal tests, hearts preserved by the new system functioned better after transplants than hearts handled the old way.

Surgeons who go south

Fed up with poor pay and deteriorating working conditions, large numbers of newly qualified orthopedic surgeons left Canada between 1985 and 1994 to practise in the United States or other countries, according to a study carried out by a Montreal doctor. Dr. Ruth Chaytor, an orthopedic surgeon at Montreal’s Notre Dame Hospital, mailed a questionnaire to nearly 500 recently qualified Canadian orthopedic surgeons, who deal with skeletal problems ranging from fractured bones to hip and knee replacement. Of the two-thirds who replied, 27 per cent had left Canada and the majority of those now work in American hospitals. Chaytor told a meeting of the Canadian Orthopedic Association that young surgeons in her field were frustrated by relatively poor incomes and hospital budget cuts that reduced operating time and created equipment shortages. “It costs a lot to train an orthopedic surgeon in Canada,” she said, “and it’s a shame that so many are going to the U.S., where the pay is higher and conditions in many ways are better.”