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Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A09

About Half of 'Miracle Babies' Have Disabilities by Age 6

Nearly half of all infants born extremely premature have significant learning and physical disabilities by the time they reach school age, the largest such study has found.

Medical advances have allowed doctors to save earlier and smaller babies.

Normal pregnancy is 37 to 42 weeks. Neil Marlow, a neonatologist at the University of Nottingham in Britain, and colleagues looked at 241 children about 6 years old who had been born between 22 and 25 weeks. They found that 46 percent had severe or moderate disabilities such as cerebral palsy, vision or hearing loss and learning problems; 34 percent were mildly disabled; and 20 percent had no disabilities. They report the findings in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Energy Burst May Have Been Spawned by Giant Black Hole

Scientists have discovered the most powerful outburst of energy in space ever observed, which they believe was caused by a fast-growing black hole that is a billion times the mass of the sun.

The outburst has produced shock fronts and giant X-ray cavities about 650,000 light-years across in a distant galaxy cluster, they reported yesterday in the journal Nature.

Both the source of the burst and the cavities dwarf the galaxy, one the largest in the universe, at the center of the cluster.

"The huge proportion of this event suggests that it was powered by accretion onto a black hole," said the team led by Brian McNamara of the Astrophysical Institute and the department of physics and astronomy at Ohio University.

Galaxy clusters are large clumps of thousands of galaxies, gas and dark matter, particles that emit little or no radiation.

The findings support theories that supermassive black holes have a major impact on the structure of the universe, McNamara said.

The black hole that produced the outburst is as big as our solar system and affected a region about 600 times the size of the Milky Way.

In Study, Antibiotics Effective Against Lou Gehrig's Disease

Antibiotics could one day help patients suffering from neurological diseases, scientists said yesterday.

If a family of antibiotics produces the same effect in humans as it did in mice, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore believe the drugs could help to prevent nerve damage and death in illnesses such as dementia, stroke and epilepsy.

In studies of mice genetically engineered to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, researchers discovered that daily injections of the drug ceftriaxone improved survival and reduced symptoms of the disease that attacks nerve cells and causes paralysis and death.

They found that the drug turned on a gene that increased the number of transporters that remove the brain chemical glutamate from nerves. Glutamate usually helps electrical signals travel from one nerve to another, but too much of the chemical can kill nerves.

A team led by Jeffrey Rothstein, a professor of neurology and neuroscience, reported the findings in the journal Nature.

-- From News Services

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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