Japanese to Allow Using

Human Embryos for Cloning

A Japanese government panel decided yesterday to permit human embryos to be cloned for research, a controversial process that has set off international debate, media reports said.

Supporters of medical cloning say therapeutic cloning studies indicate a huge potential for treating diseases and saving lives. But the issue is contentious, and opponents fear such research could lead to the cloning of human beings.

The Kyodo news agency said the panel's decision will not permit cloning for basic research until proper conditions are met -- for instance, the creation of a government system to evaluate research.

Ten of the 15 members who attended voted in favor of the decision, which is to be included in a final report to be issued by the panel next month, news reports said.

Human Breast Milk Touted

In Treatment of Warts

A cream made from human breast milk can dramatically reduce, and often eliminate, stubborn common warts, Swedish doctors reported.

A cream containing human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells forces wart cells to self-destruct by accumulating in the nucleus and interfering with control processes. Researchers gave the cream the acronym HAMLET.

The results, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, may extend well beyond wart treatment because the same class of viruses is responsible for cervical cancer, genital warts and some types of skin cancer.

Doctors can cheaply eliminate warts by freezing, so the new cream "will probably never be able to compete with existing inexpensive therapies," said Jan Bouwes Bavinck and Mariet Feltkamp of Leiden University Medical Center in a commentary.

The Swedish team, led by Lotta Gustafsson of the University of Lund, found that three weeks of daily treatments with alpha-lactalbumin and oleic acid reduced the size of the warts by 75 percent or more in all 20 volunteers. A similar reduction was seen in 15 percent of another 20 patients who got a placebo cream.

U.S. Health Officials Warn

Of Mosquito-Borne Disease

As if the disease caused by West Nile virus weren't bad enough, health officials are on the lookout for another mosquito-borne disease. They fear it could become a permanent part of the American landscape if it enters the country.

Rift Valley fever originated in Africa and has not been seen outside that continent in three years. It is the only disease at the top of both human health and agriculture lists of dangerous diseases.

The virus can kill people, with almost a 1 percent mortality rate. But Rift Valley kills as much as 30 percent of the livestock it infects.

"This is not a disease that occurs here now, but we want to make sure people are aware of the signs and symptoms," said Thomas Ksiazek, chief of the special pathogens branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people get flu-like symptoms when infected. Some may develop serious illness, including liver or kidney disease, Ksiazek said.

-- From News Services