New Device Approved

To Remove Blood Clots

The federal government has approved the first device to remove blood clots from the brains of people suffering strokes, a new treatment option that could save lives and shave the $53 billion annual bill to treat strokes.

In 80 percent of strokes, a blood vessel in the brain becomes clogged by a blood clot, increasing the chance of severe disability or death. The Merci Retriever, a tiny corkscrew threaded through an artery to remove the clot and restore blood flow, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The device, produced by Concentric Medical of Mountain View, Calif., was tested at 25 medical centers around the nation in 141 patients ineligible for a drug that clears clots but must be used within three hours of suffering a stroke.

Gary Duckwiler, a University of California at Los Angeles professor among the investigators involved in that clinical trial, said 40 percent of patients whose blood clots were successfully removed had positive outcomes. Duckwiler said the recovery included instantly regaining the ability to move or speak.

Larry Goldstein, director of Duke University's Center for Cerebrovascular Disease, called the approval "interesting" but added that it remains unclear how many patients would benefit from the new treatment option.

Cholesterol-Lowering

Drugs Could Slow AIDS

Statin drugs that lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease may also help slow down the AIDS virus, Spanish researchers reported yesterday.

Statins alone given to HIV-infected patients suppressed the virus and helped replenish immune cells known as T-cells, two key measures of health in patients with the virus.

The drugs seem to stop the virus from infecting cells by stopping them from opening the cell membrane, and stop the virus from getting out of already infected cells, a team at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Drugs called highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, can suppress the virus and allow the immune system to function, but they are expensive and have side effects. One is lipodystrophy, a series of metabolic changes that can raise cholesterol levels and cause a redistribution of body fat.

Patients with lipodystrophy are often given statins. Immunologist Gustavo del Real and colleagues wanted to see if the statins may themselves affect the course of infection.

After testing the drugs on HIV-infected cells in a lab dish and then in mice, they tested six people infected with HIV. They received lovastatin for a month.

Levels of the virus, measured by genetic material, fell, and T-cell count went up. When the patients stopped taking the statin the viral levels rebounded, the researchers reported.

"The data suggest that statins can inhibit HIV-1 replication in chronically infected individuals, and support future clinical studies of statins as possible antiretroviral agents," the researchers concluded.

-- From News Services