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The Top 10 Health Stories of 2008, from the Harvard Health Letter
Date:12/4/2008

uot;adult" stem cells might do for you.

Last year, several research groups discovered ways to genetically tinker with adult cells so they look and behave like stem cells from embryos. These reprogrammed cells are called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. This year, researchers showed how iPS cells might be used. Skin cells from two older patients with Lou Gehrig's disease were transformed into iPS cells and then coaxed into becoming neurons and other cells that might be used to treat the disease. Insulin-producing pancreatic cells were made from iPS cells that came from human skin. And two research teams reported that they had found new ways to make iPS cells, another step toward the day stem cell therapy will leave the lab and enter the clinic.

5. Gene tests: Progress and Pandora's Box.

Personalized medicine based on an individual's genes inched closer to routine use this year. Doctors have started to order gene tests to assess how sensitive people are to the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin), although there are some doubts about how useful such tests will be. Meanwhile, many direct-to-the-consumer genetic tests hit the market. The tests have raised some concerns. Will they be done correctly? And even if they are, the predictive powers of this early generation of gene tests might be oversold, so some people could be unduly scared while others are falsely assured.

6. Seeing right through you.

A new generation of imaging machines, called multidetector CT scanners, is making pictures of the inside of the body faster and with incredible detail. Speedy CT scanners are proving to be especially valuable in hospital emergency departments, where time is of the essence. But are we going to pay a price for all of these pictures? The cancer-inducing radiation from CT scans is much higher than that of the traditional x-ray. Radiologists are taking steps to reduce the amount of radiation per scan and to eliminate unnecessar
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