<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Health News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Tue, 01 Dec 2015 19:54:54 -0800 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 19:54:54 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Mutant Protein Research Could Pave Way for Cystic Fibrosis Treatment]]> Mon, 30 Nov 2015 18:52:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/yates_group.jpg

 San Diego scientists’ work on a mutant protein responsible for most cases of cystic fibrosis may pave the way to treating the root cause of cystic fibrosis.

Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) scientists working with the mutant protein – called cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) -- discovered the protein frequently “talks” to the wrong cellular neighbors.

The protein becomes so busy talking to the wrong neighbors, it stops functioning normally and is prematurely degraded. In most patients with the mutated CFTR gene, called ΔF508, the gene that encodes the protein stops it from folding correctly. In turn, the protein is not processed correctly in cells.

“The proteins and the interactions we’ve identified really fuel the pipeline for new drug targets to treat cystic fibrosis,” said Casimir Bamberger in a statement. Bamberger is a research associate in the lab of TSRI Professor John R. Yates and co-first author of the new study with TSRI Staff Scientist Sandra Pankow.

People diagnosed with the disease suffer from persistent infections and mucus build-up in their lungs. Antibiotics can treat the infections resulting from the disease, but there is no treatment to date to fully restore lung function.

In their study, researchers built upon previous studies showing the mutant gene regains its function at low temperatures.

Freezing people is not a practical treatment, of course, but this showed us mutant CFTR can be functional,” said Pankow in a statement. “So the idea behind our new study was to find new drug candidates that could mimic what we see at low temperatures.”

Co-Purifying Protein Identification Technology (CoPIT) helped scientists analyze cell samples and identify the proteins CFTR interacted with.

In studying the mutant protein, they found that it created an entirely new “disease-specific” interaction network. For comparison, most mutant proteins only lack one or two crucial interactions, researchers said.

“Three hundred proteins changed their level of interaction, and an additional 200 proteins interacted with the mutated CFTR,” said Pankow in a statement. “It’s like the wrong people are talking to the mutated CFTR all the time.”

TSRI scientists narrowed the “disease-specific” interactions to eight key proteins that disrupted the mutant protein and used a gene silencing technique to block the mutant protein’s interactions with them. By doing so, they found the CTFR returned to partially normal functions.

Next, scientists will search for small molecule drug candidates that can target those eight disruptive proteins, in hopes of finding a treatment.

The CoPIT data has been publicly released by TSRI researchers so others can look into clinical implications.

Diego Calzolari, Salvador Martínez-Bartolomé, Mathieu Lavallée-Adam and William E. Balch of TSRI also worked on the study.

The study was published in the Nov. 30, 2015 issue of Nature.

Photo Credit: The Scripps Research Institute]]>
<![CDATA[New Voice for Mass. Teen]]> Thu, 26 Nov 2015 08:17:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Max+Plansky+112515.jpg

We all have unique voices - with their pitches and their tones, they belong to us.

But for Max Plansky, a Massachusetts teen who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, the voice he uses is not his own.

"I have 'Perfect Pete' on my device because it was the only American male voice on my device," Max said. "I chose it, but there were not many choices."

It's the voice used by many who are non-verbal - and for Max, it's not him.

"I think my voice sounds like my dad's voice," he said.

But Vocal ID, a new technology, is changing that. Founder Rupal Patel has created a way to make a voice just for Max.

"In the case of someone like Max, he never spoke," said Patel. "So it's sort of what he would have sounded like had he been able to control his tongue and lips and so on."

But Max can make a vowel sound - in this case, "ah."

"There are three 'ahs' that he was able to produce in a row for us, which you can hear," said Geoff Meltzner, the director of research and technology for Vocal ID.

"We're taking that sample and mixing it with a matched donor that we find from our database," said Patel. "The matched donor has to be matched in age, in gender, in acoustic quality, and then we bring those two together."

Patel says Max will have his new voice before Christmas of this year - it's a gift both he and father, never thought they'd have.

"It's very emotional. Thank God he can say 'daddy' and some other words," said Michael Plansky. "But for him then to be able to carry on other conversations, and it be in his voice, we just anticipate that we're going to be able to get away from yes-no questions and actually have conversations."

"I do think I will like the way my new voice sounds more," said Max.

Students in Max's hometown are helping out - Danvers High School held a voice drive to contribute to Vocal ID's database.

Students donated about five hours of their weekend to record sentences which will be broken down into sounds to create someone's new voice.

"I love helping people out," said senior Madison Mucci. "Just the thought of changing someone's life is amazing."

Changing someone's life one sentence at a time is a goal that Patel says will be achieved. Her company is growing, and so is the donor database.

This year, Max will be one of the first with a new voice - a trailblazer for what she hopes will, one day, be the norm.

"We wouldn't give a little girl the prosthetic limb of a grown man, so why would we give her the same prosthetic voice? That's exactly what we're doing," said Patel. "There are little girls around the world that are using voices like the Stephen Hawking voice."

So what does she hope for Max?

"I hope he engages more fully in conversations," she said. "I hope he seeks out more communication partners. I hope he seeks out more opportunities to express who he is.

And that's exactly what Max is hoping for, too.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Approves New, Boosted Flu Vaccine]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:25:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/flue-shot.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new type of flu vaccine called Fluad that uses a compound to help stimulate the patient’s immune system, NBC News reported. 

Fluad contains MF59, an adjuvant made out of an oil-in-water mixture that includes squalene, an oily nutrient produced by the liver, and some preservatives. The vaccine was made specifically for people who are 65 and over.

Seniors are the most vulnerable segment of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimate that 80 to 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths are from people in that age group.

U.S. government officials have been cautious about using MF59 in vaccines because so many Americans are fearful of vaccines — and especially of new ingredients. But they are widely used in Europe and Canada. Fluad has been in use since 1997 and the FDA says it's been shown to be safe.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Mom of Teen Fighting Flesh-Eating Bacteria Thanks Community]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 20:44:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/giancarlo+gil+flesh+eating+bacteria+recovery+1124+2.jpg

The mother of a San Diego-area teenager fighting for his life against a flesh-eating bacteria thanked the community Tuesday for their support, saying the family was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love. 

"You really don't realize what an impact you have on people's lives until you go through something major like this," mother Silvia Gil said. "And it's just amazing how we were overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support with family and friends."

Giancarlo Gil, 14, a Chula Vista High School freshman has undergone more than 11 surgeries at Rady Children's Hospital after complaining of pain in his calf Saturday, Sept. 26 after playing baseball. His condition quickly changed and Gil was taken to urgent care and then to the emergency room.

Only once he was admitted and authorities treated him for shock and other immediate issues did doctors realize the extent of the swelling and injury to his tissue. 

John Bradley, a Pediatric Infectious Disease doctor, said the teen contracted a strain of Group A Strep that ate through his tissues and destroyed blood vessels and nerves. 

"Unlike regular strep, which just causes local inflammation, the flesh eating strep that was the cause of his infection, just ate through the tissues destroying blood vessels and nerves, allowing the strep to spread very, very quickly," said Bradley.

Surgeons performed a series of surgeries on the young teen, taking out only what they needed to take out, but at one point, two orthopedic surgeons discovered all of the muscle in his lower leg had died. 

Doctors originally amputated the teen's leg to the knee and then days later the leg had to be amputated all the way up to his groin.

Throughout the entire process, Gil said the family has leaned on their faith and the overwhelming support of their family and friends.

"It's been a rough two months, needless to say. That's definite," she said. "But definitely we want to thank God, first and foremost. We are family of faith, and we know that our faith is the one thing that has truly sustained us throughout this whole ordeal."

Though the Giancarlo has been in the hospital for two months, his mother says it's "seemed like we've been here for two years."

She is thankful for everyone that has gone to donate blood for Giancarlo while he was losing a lot of blood, for those that offered prayers and for those that offered their love and support. 

"It's just amazing to look back and to see how quickly my son has truly recovered. It's unbelievable," the mother said. 

"I can never say thank you enough," she said. 

Bradley said the parents did the right thing, bringing him into the ER. 

"I told mom and dad if they had waited even six hours more, he would have died," Bradley said.

Photo Credit: Gil Family]]>
<![CDATA[Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Block Malaria Transmission]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 21:00:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_432922569679.jpg

Southern California scientists have created a genetically modified batch of mosquitoes capable of blocking malaria, a development that could help eradicate the disease, UC San Diego officials announced Monday.

Biologists at UC San Diego worked with their colleagues at UC Irvine used a gene editing technique to modify the mosquitoes, which can then quickly introduce the modified genes into the general population. By inserting a DNA element using the Crispr method, researchers found that 99.5 percent of the offspring would have the malaria-preventing gene.

“This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria,” said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology & molecular genetics at UCI, in a statement.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms usually include fever, chills and a flu-like illness, and if left untreated, the patient may die. Annually, 300 to 500 million cases occur each year, the CDC says, and more than 40 percent of the world’s population lives in at-risk areas for developing the disease. 

James has spent 20 years researching and engineering anti-disease mosquitoes in the James Lab. 

Researchers collaborated to fuse two previous ideas by UC San Diego biologists Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz with James’ mosquito theory to create the method. Scientists inserted a Cas9 enzyme, which cuts DNA, and a guide RNA to create a genetic “cassette”. By targeting a specific spot of the DNA’s germ line, they were able to insert an anti-malaria antibody.

Though further testing is needed to confirm that the antibodies are efficient, James said, this step could lead to field studies in the future.

“This is a significant first step,” said James in a statement. “We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations.”

The research may also have a larger impact on the field when it comes to ‘active genetic’ systems, Bier said.

The study appeared in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Nijole Jasinskiene, Olga Tatarenkova, Aniko Fazekas and Vanessa Macias of UCI contributed to the study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the W.M. Keck Foundation and a gift from Drs. Sarah Sandell and Michael Marshall.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UnitedHealth May Withdraw From Obamacare]]> Sun, 22 Nov 2015 22:15:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UnitedHealth-AP_580078387860.jpg

Experts are divided over Thursday’s news that the No. 1 U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, might withdraw from health exchanges mandated by so-called Obamacare legislation, NBC News reported.

The company lowered its earnings forecast for 2015, and expects to lose $275 million on its exchange business next year.

Critics of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, said the news pointed to a flawed system that could trigger the withdrawal by other insurers, while advocates blamed the insurer’s late, tentative entry into the market for the company’s financial stumble.

Fewer enrolled are signing up for health insurance through the exchanges. Experts say insurers taking part in the exchanges can’t break even, and customers may see premiums climb, according to NBC News.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Will Nation's Top Health Insurer Kill Obamacare?]]> Sun, 22 Nov 2015 00:19:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Obamacare-Website-AP_249581118509.jpg

Thursday's news that the No. 1 U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, might withdraw from the health insurance exchanges mandated by so-called Obamacare legislation divided experts into two camps. 

On one side were critics of the Affordable Care Act, the proper name of the 2010 federal legislation, who said the news pointed to a fundamentally flawed system put in place by the law and could trigger a flight for the exits by other insurers, NBC News reported.

On the other were advocates of the law and efforts to execute its policies, who blamed UnitedHealth's late, tentative entry into the market for the company's financial stumble.

UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley stirred up the somewhat-dormant debate over Obamacare on Thursday by announcing that the company was lowering its earnings forecast for 2015 from between $6.25 and $6.35 a share to $6 a share for the year and expects to lose $275 million on its exchange business next year.

Experts say that, in terms of the numbers, UnitedHealth dropping out wouldn't be huge. Exchange enrollees comprise less than 5 percent of UnitedHealth's business, Goldman Sachs analyst Matthew Borsch said in a research note.

Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Award Continues Research on Heroin Vaccine]]> Sat, 21 Nov 2015 14:49:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Generic+Heroin+Needles.jpg

 Recovering addicts may have a new tool helping them stay on track as a heroin vaccine enters a preclinical phase. 

The National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) the prestigious Translational Avant-Garde Award. The award’s two year, $1.6 million grant will fund preclinical studies for a potential heroin vaccine. There is a possible additional three years of funding attached to the award.

Heroin use and heroin overdose deaths have been growing across the country and law enforcement seizures of heroin have nearly doubled in the past five years. 

“There are a lot of people and families affected by heroin addiction,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI, in a statement. Janda will lead the new project.

Here’s how the vaccine works: it trains the immune system’s antibodies to spot and bind to heroin molecules. By doing so, the vaccine stops the brain from reaching a high by blocking the drug’s active products. Scientists believe that without the high, recovering drug addicts will be way less likely to relapse. Janda and his fellow researchers developed the vaccine in 2013.

In the next phase of the process, TSRI researchers will be working with collaborators from Virginia Commonwealth University and Molecular Express, Inc. to test, refine and optimize the manufacturing processes.

Janda said he hopes he can develop a similar vaccine for other abused opioid drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone.

After this phase, the vaccine may head to clinical trials and potential approval later down the road from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

<![CDATA[Uber Rolls Out On-Demand Flu Vaccinations]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 01:08:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UberFlu-Health+Photos+3.jpg

Haven't gotten your flu shot yet?

Between long work hours, household responsibilities, errands and child care, making a trip to the doctor's office or local pharmacy for that flu shot doesn't seem too appealing, especially for non-emergency care.

Uber wants to make it easier for you to roll up your sleeve and get the shot by closing the excuse gap this year. After the success of last year’s “house calls,” the ride-sharing service is again offering on-demand flu shots around the country.

“Convenience and delivery method are both key components of many people’s decision of whether or not to get a flu shot,” the company said on its website.

On Thursday, between the hours of 11 a.m and 3 p.m., Uber will deliver flu shots in 35 cities around the country. All you need is your Uber app and choose the UberHealth option to find the location near you. Once there, vaccines will be given by a registered nurse.

The flu is a preventable virus which affects 20 percent of the population. But less than 50 percent of adults ever get a flu shot, according to Uber.

Flu viruses circulate at higher levels between October and May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends everyone over six months of age get the flu shot. But those who are at a higher risk for developing the flu — children under five, adults over 65 years of age and pregnant women — are urged to get vaccinated.

As many as 49,000 people have died in flu seasons between 1976 and 2007. The highest number of flu-related deaths — between 80 and 90 percent — occurred in people 65 years and older in recent flu seasons.

If you can't use UberHealth to get your flu shot, you can find a vaccine provider near you here.

Photo Credit: Alyssa Greenberg]]>
<![CDATA[NIH's Last 50 Chimpanzees Are Retiring]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 03:18:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ChimpsAP_421866916958.jpg

The National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that the last 50 chimpanzees set aside for federal medical research will be retired, NBC News reported.

The chimpanzees, which are kept at three facilities in Texas and New Mexico, will be gradually sent to Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana.

No one's applied to use the chimpanzees for almost three years and it appears there is no pressing need to study the apes, the closest genetic relative to humans, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said.

"There will be no more federally supported research done on chimpanzees. The benefits of that appear to be negligible," Collins told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Photo Credit: AP Images for The Humane Society]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Aims to Brighten Cancer Patients' Visits]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 07:20:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rooms+that+rock+2.jpg

When it comes to directions, taking a left where you normally take a right, can lead to some unexpected places.

During a routine visit to her doctor's office six years ago Nancy Ballard took such a turn, and hasn't turned back since.

"I didn't think it would grow this large," the 64-year-old from San Francisco said.

The left turn Ballard took back then lead to a chemotherapy treatment room, a place Ballard says she had, thankfully, never been to before.

She wasn't impressed with what she saw. It was drab, depressing, and lifeless.

"As an artist and as a person, it just hurt me that it was that horrible and that ugly," Ballard said.

Though not an interior designer, Ballard vowed to renovate the room.

"When I saw that room and I knew what people had to go through in there, it kind of clicked," Ballard said. "I wouldn't want to be there on a good day let alone a day that I was fighting for my life."

With the help of other designers Ballard found willing to donate their time, she made-over that room and two others in her doctor's office. She didn't stop there.

Ballard has since gone on to found a non-profit, Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo, that does nothing but update and beautify spaces where cancer patients, and those who care for them, spend the many hours the treatment requires.

Since 2009, Ballard and her team have renovated more than 150 rooms in 15 different facilities. The spaces RTR4C have touched are used for more than 800,000 patient visits each year.

This past weekend they made over three rooms at San Francisco's St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

The rooms were dedicated on Monday with the help of former San Francisco Giant, and cancer survivor, Dave Dravecky.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Home Abortions Rise After Texas Law Closes Clinics: Study]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 08:50:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-2758562.jpg

A Texas law aimed at restricting abortions, which took effect in 2013, has led to more women trying to end a pregnancy on their own, while the number of clinical procedures in the state has declined, according to a study released on Tuesday, NBC News reported.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 women aged 18 to 49 in Texas have tried to self-induce abortion since the law went into effect, using such methods as herbs, teas and medications obtained in Mexico without prescription. The study showed that poor women bear the brunt of the law.

"This important new research paints an alarming picture of what the future may be like for women across the country if the Supreme Court does not block this cruel law," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scientists Find New Weapons in Fight Against HIV]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 17:13:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HIV-AP-972825092223.jpg

 Four antibodies that target weak spots on the HIV virus may pave the way for scientists to create a vaccine for the virus, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) announced Tuesday.

The study, published in the November issue of ‘Immunity’, looks at the four prototype antibodies that target specific weak spots on the HIV virus.

“This study is an example of how we can learn from natural infection and translate that information into vaccine development,” said TSRI Research Associate Raiees Andrabi, the first author of the study, in a statement. “This is an important advance in the field of antibody-based HIV vaccine development.”

The four antibodies scientists examined targeted the V2 apex, a spot on the surface of about 90 percent of known HIV virus strains.

“This region helps stabilize the virus, so it’s an important area to target if you want to neutralize HIV,” said Andrabi in a statement.

Unlike other antibodies, two of those four antibodies bound with the V2 apex without having to mutilate, scientists said, demonstrating that our body’s immune system could develop antibodies to neutralize many strains of HIV with prompting, according to a new study.

If scientists were to build a vaccine targeting the V2 apex, they said, the vaccine may be able to protect against many known strains of the HIV virus.

The immune system naturally produces a small number of these antibodies, and in the study, scientists said they successfully mimicked the structure of those antibodies.

The next step is testing the candidates for the vaccine in animals.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Tyson Recalls Over 52,000 Pounds of Cooked Chicken Wings]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 09:01:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/tyson-anytizers-recall.jpg

Tyson Foods Inc. is recalling about 52,486 pounds of chicken wing products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced on Tuesday.

Consumers who contacted Tyson Foods Inc. complained that "Any'tizers Fully Cooked Hot Wings, Chicken Wing Sections Coated with Flavorful Hot, Tangy Sauce" had an "off-odor" scent.

The USDA said the product may be adulterated because of having the scent. 

The problem was discovered when Tyson Foods Inc. received consumer complaints of odor as well as mild illness associated with consumption. The USDA has categorized the chicken recall as a class II recall, which indicates that there's low health risk to consumers.

"We're still investigating into what caused the odor," Derek Burleson, public relations manager for Tyson Foods Inc. said.

The fully cooked buffalo style chicken wing section item sold in 28-ounce bags was produced on Oct. 24, 2015 and Oct. 25, 2015. The items have the use by/sell by dates of Oct. 24, 2016 and Oct. 25, 2016. 

Consumers who have purchased these products should not eat them. The products, sold nationwide, should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Consumers can contact Tyson's Consumer Relations department at 866-328-3156.

Photo Credit: USDA]]>
<![CDATA[Sharp Chula Vista to Build $239M Hospital]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 08:06:39 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sharp-Chula-Vista-Rendering-1117.jpg

Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center announced plans Monday to build a $239 million hospital called Ocean View Tower in South County.

The 170,000-square-foot hospital will add 138 private patient rooms, six operating rooms, and advanced health care technology, programs and services, according to a news release.

The cost of the project is being funded through a combination of philanthropic donations to Sharp HealthCare Foundation, bonds, cash reserves and the Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. The Ocean View Tower at Sharp Chula Vista is Sharp HealthCare’s largest single investment to date.

Sharp Chula Vista selected Hensel Phelps, AVRP Studios and Smith Group JJR as the design-build team to lead the expansion project. Groundbreaking is expected in late 2016 with a grand opening anticipated in fall 2019.

“As the South County region continues to grow, we’ve made a promise to grow with it to ensure
community members have access to high-quality medical care close to home,” said Dan Gross, executive vice president of Hospital Operations at Sharp HealthCare.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sharp Chula Vista
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Engineers Make Girl New Hand]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 21:05:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/crop-sophie-top.jpg

Engineers from UC Berkeley are using their genius to lend a helping hand – literally.

Researchers at the school’s CITRIS lab are working hard to create low-cost, customizable prosthetics made from 3-D printers, according to the engineering department’s magazine. For an 8-year-old girl named Sophie, their work means that she’ll finally be able to climb the monkey bars at school.

Sophie was born with symbrachydactyly, a condition which interrupts the normal development of finger bones. The condition affects an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 babies every year and can severely interfere with a child’s ability to partake in playtime activities.

When engineer and recent graduate Daniel Lim heard Sophie’s story from Chris Myers, a lab manager, he immediately knew he wanted to help.

"I studied engineering for the past five years, and I thought this is the first project where I can directly improve someone’s life," Lim told the magazine. "When I saw Sophie’s picture, I wanted to do this."

So, Lim and Myers worked together to take measurements of Sophie’s hand and design the prosthetic. She also had a say in its design, according to Myers.

"If she gets to help design it, then it’s hers and she’ll have a sense of ownership, and it won’t just be a fancy version of a store-bought version that we made in the lab," Myers told the engineering magazine. ‘I’m a big proponent of getting kids involved with technology at a young age, so they can know more about how their world works."

In order to keep costs low, they used parts printed from the same material as Legos. Though far less durable than the typical $10,000 to $40,000 prosthetic, this meant that Sophie’s new hand could cost less than $10 to make – a potential game changer for families who may not be able to afford much more.

Though Sophie has not yet been able to master the monkey bars, she did pull off a few cartwheels with her lab-made prosthetic, her mother said.

Lim told the magazine that he plans on continuing his research into prosthetics, perhaps even for a Ph.D.

"In the end," he told the magazine, "we want Sophie to be able to do the monkey bars."

Photo Credit: Adriel Olmos/CITRIS]]>
<![CDATA[Daily Pills Protect People Against HIV: Study]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 18:58:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_120510048917.jpg

People who took a daily pill to protect against HIV were protected aganist the virus but caught other sexually transmitted diseases through unprotected sex, researchers reported on Monday. 

Over a four-year study, only two out of about 500 participants, all at high risk for getting the virus, got infected with HIV, the team reported to the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Each volunteer was given a free supply of Truvada, the pill that's been shown in other studies to protect uninfected people from the virus. It's called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. 

Out of the 437 participants who stuck with the study over four years, most did not stop their high-risk behaviors like anal sex without condoms.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Diabetes 'Never Gives Us a Break:' San Marcos Family]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 13:14:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/diabetes-addison-gidner-san-marcos.jpg Although there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, a San Marcos community is hoping to change that. NBC 7's Diana Guevara has the story.]]> <![CDATA[New Survey Method Finds More Kids With Autism]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 04:35:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Autism-AP_197615588239.jpg


A new government survey finds that more than 2 percent of U.S. kids have been diagnosed with autism — or 1 in 45 children aged 3 and older, NBC News reported. 


That seems like a startling increase from the last estimate of 1 in 68 kids.

But the researchers are quick to point out that the latest survey was done in a new way, asking parents different questions about their kids and any diagnosis of autism. They say it's probably the most accurate estimate yet, and stress that it almost certainly doesn't show some big increase in autism actually occurring among children.

Instead, they say, it's clear that doctors are changing the way they diagnose autism, and that parents are far more likely than in years past to seek a diagnosis for their kids.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[SpaghettiOs Recalled Due to Choking Hazard]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 03:57:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SpaghettiOs-Recall-111215.jpg

The Campbell Soup Company is voluntarily recalling 355,000 cans of SpaghettiOs due to a potential choking hazard.

Campbells said pieces of red plastic from the can lining have been found in a small number of cans.

The affected 14.2 ounce SpaghettiOs Original product has a date of February 22, 2017 stamped on the base of the can, and a UPC of 51000 22432 printed under the bar code.

The issue was identified after the company received consumer complaints.

The recall is limited to the United States.

Campbell Soup Company apologizes for the inconvenience and says the product should not be eaten.

People who have bought the affected product should return it to the store where it was purchased for an exchange or full refund.

For more information call 1-866-535-3774 between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST, Monday to Friday or visit Facebook.com/SpaghettiOs.

Photo Credit: Campbell Soup Company]]>
<![CDATA[Uterus Transplant Trials Underway For Infertile Women]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 14:13:09 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-524811211.jpg

A health clinic is spearheading a trial of uterus transplants for women with an infertility disorder.

"There are women who won't adopt or have surrogates, for reasons that are personal, cultural or religious," Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, the director of solid organ transplant surgery at a Cleveland Clinic hospital in Weston, Florida told the New York Times.

The transplant, unlike a heart or liver transplants, will be temporary. After the women give birth to one or two children, the uterus will be removed so the candidate does not have to continue taking anti-rejection drugs after having children. 

Candidates for the trail are women between the ages of 21 and 45 who were either born without an uterus or had their uterus removed, according to the Cleveland Clinic's website.

Approximately 1 in 4,500 newborn girls are born without a uterus or an underdeveloped reproductive system, a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome.

As an experiment, the clinic will preform the procedure 10 times and track the number of successful live births from the transplant before deciding to continue, the New York Times reported.

The transplant will be the first of its kind in the United States, however, Sweden is the only known country to successfully preform the surgery, the University of Gothenburg notes on its website. The babies were delivered premature but overall healthy, according to reports.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Senators Call for 'Independent' Crumb Rubber Turf Study]]> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 06:02:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Crumb_Rubber_Turf.jpg

Two senators have urged federal officials to lead an "independent investigation into the health risks of crumb rubber" turf, a surface made of recycled tires used on playgrounds and athletic fields across the country, NBC News reported. 

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Bill Nelson of Florida sent a letter to Chairman Elliot Kaye of the Consumer Product Safety Commission asking the CPSC to "devote additional resources to conclusively determine whether these products can be safely played on by young children and people of all ages."

The senators wrote that CPSC said in September it would provide technical assistance to an evaluation of crumb rubber now being conducted by the California Office of Environmental Hazard, but said the CPSC should "lead the independent federal investigation on this important matter."

The two senators are the latest Congressional officials to call for research on crumb rubber since NBC News begun airing and publishing a series of reports on the playing surface more than a year ago.

Photo Credit: NBC Nightly News]]>
<![CDATA[SJ Restaurant Allowed to Reopen]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 07:15:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mariscos+San+Juan.jpg

The San Jose restaurant that was ground zero for last month's Shigella outbreak reopened Thursday afternoon.

The Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health gave the green-light to Mariscos San Juan No. 3 on North 4th Street. In a statement, the agency says health inspectors have revisited the restaurant and determined there is no risk to public health.

"The facility voluntarily discarded all food products, cleaned and sanitized the facility, and retrained its employees on proper food handling methods," a county spokesperson said in a statement. "All employees who tested negative for Shigella have been allowed to return to work."

Nearly 200 diners from six counties were sickened after dining at the restaurant last month, but health experts never pinned down the precise source of the outbreak. They said that's commonly the case, and in most cases, authorities are never able to identify a so-called "smoking gun."

The outbreak has prompted at least three lawsuits.

Photo Credit: TELEMUNDO 48 ]]>
<![CDATA[Nearly Half of Pregnant American Women Put on Too Much Weight]]> Thu, 05 Nov 2015 14:34:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-558948623-%281%29.jpg

Nearly half of U.S. women gain too much weight while they're pregnant, and another 20 percent don't put on enough, federal health experts reported Thursday.

Fewer than a third of pregnant women put on the right amount of weight - something that's important for both mother and baby, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

"It's not about eating twice as much. It's eating twice as healthy," she said.

How much moms should gain depends on their weight when they become pregnant.

Experts say women of normal weight should add 25 to 35 pounds. Overweight women should gain 15 to 25, and obese women should only add 10 to 20. For unusually thin women, weight gain should be about 30 to 40 pounds. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF]]>
<![CDATA[New HIV Pill Delivers 4 Drugs in 1 Daily Dose]]> Thu, 05 Nov 2015 14:01:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-531390989.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new daily drug that delivers four different HIV medications in one dose. 

The pill combines four HIV drugs: elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide.

There is no cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but there are now 36 different HIV drugs on the market. They fall into six different classes, each one attacking the virus from a different direction. The most effective cocktails of these drugs can keep the virus at extremely low levels so that it doesn't damage the immune system and so that patients are far less likely to infect others.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tapeworm Transmits Cancer Cells to Man]]> Thu, 05 Nov 2015 06:39:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1316392.jpg

Tapeworms get inside people, lay their eggs, and cause symptoms such as diarrhea and weakness. And they can infest a body for a lifetime.

But doctors were stunned to find out they can do something worse: infect people with tumors.

"We were amazed when we found this new type of disease — tapeworms growing inside a person essentially getting cancer that spreads to the person, causing tumors," said Dr. Atis Muehlenbachs, a pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As many as 75 million people globally carry the parasite. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DEA Finds Heroin Use Skyrocketing]]> Wed, 04 Nov 2015 11:24:55 -0800 > on February 6, 2014 in Burlington, Vermont.]]> > on February 6, 2014 in Burlington, Vermont.]]> http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/GettyImages-467512357.jpg

The growth in abuse of heroin is now considered the number one drug threat by the nation's police, overtaking methamphetamine, according to a new survey by the Drug Enforcement Administration, NBC News reported.

"Heroin availability is up across the country, as are abuses, overdoses, and overdose deaths," says the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, released Wednesday.

Law enforcement seizures of heroin have nearly doubled in the past five years, and the number of heroin users is up 51%, according to the latest findings from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Artificial Turf Linked to Cancer? CA Spends $3M on Study]]> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 07:20:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/1102-2015-ArtificialTurf.jpg

California is spending $3 million to study whether artificial turf made of recycled tires is a health risk.

State officials hope the study will provide answers after mounting concerns of the so-called "crumb rubber" on artificial turf is linked to causing cancer.

Parent Heather Buckfire will not let her 11-year-old daughter play soccer on artificial turf. She is afraid the shredded tire material is causing cancer.

Buckfire drove from Sacramento to Berkeley late Monday to attend a study session with California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The agency is conducting its third study on the material

"There are about 250 chemicals in crumb rubber artificial turf," said Sam Delson with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. "There is already three dozen studies to date that have not identified health risks, but troubling questions have been raised."

The state said there are many unanswered questions and it plans to focus on skins and digestive tract exposure.

The study is expected to take three years to complete.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Covered California Enrollment Begins]]> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 17:03:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/covered-california-bus-el-cajon.jpg

A big teal bus rolled through San Diego Friday to share an important message about health insurance open enrollment.

The bus is on a 38-stop tour of California to raise awareness and get residents without health insurance to sign up.

At Borrego Health Center in El Cajon, staff members were preparing to help people enroll in a health insurance plan starting next week.

Open enrollment for California Covered starts Sunday, November 1.

Californians have until January 31, 2016 to enroll in affordable health insurance. If they miss the deadline, they may face penalties.

The Affordable Care Act, known by many as Obama Care, kicked in two years ago but there are still millions of California residents eligible for Medi-Cal or financial help but not registered.

Get information on the enrollment period at this website.

<![CDATA[Pink Plates Are Ready to Order]]> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 16:06:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pink-Plate-Breast-Cancer-California.jpg

Breast cancer survivors, friends, families and other supporters can now order a California license plate with a pink ribbon.

The state needs 7,500 orders to begin producing the plates, which will help fund breast cancer screenings for underserved Californians.

Carla Kimball, one of five sisters who had breast cancer, is working to get the word out about the license plates.

“We found a tumor when I was 50 and I ended up having a double mastectomy. Because of early detection, my life was saved,” she said.

Kimball said if the plate helps one woman remember to make that mammogram appointment, it’s worth it.

“Hopefully pink just ends up being a color again and not a reminder of breast cancer,” Kimball said.

The funds will go to the Breast Cancer Control Account, which funds the state's Every Woman Counts program.

“Early detection saves lives,” said Monica Nelson with the California Department of Health Care Services. “Every time they see these when they’re driving down the road, on the highway, we just want to increase breast cancer awareness.”

Get information on how to order the plates here.

<![CDATA[FDA Acts to Shut Down Tobacco Sales at Stores That Sell to Minors]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:56:30 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_791184962081.jpg

The Food and Drug Association is taking aim at eight shops that have repeatedly sold tobacco products to kids under 18, NBC News reports.

The stores — in New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri, Maryland and Illinois — have 30 days to stop selling tobacco products or they can file an appeal, the FDA said.

"The FDA plans to conduct unannounced compliance check inspections during that period to check whether the establishment is complying with the terms of the order," the agency said in a statement.

The agency has been flexing its muscle since Congress gave it the power to regulate tobacco in 2009.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Launches Collaboration4Cure]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 11:13:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/185653772.jpg

San Diego is leading the charge in an unprecedented effort to cure Alzheimer's disease.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer launched a program called Collaboration4Cure on Wednesday.

The innovative local grant program funds eight researchers to pursue global breakthroughs, treatments and cures to Alzheimer's.

Selected researchers will be given access to drug-screening robots, and other resources available at Sanford Burnham Prebys and the Scripps Research Institute.

The mayor's office says these projects will help to bridge the gap between academic research and drug development.

Get more information on the program here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Could Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs Hurt a Flu Shot's Effect?]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 08:34:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-462668561.jpg

A popular cholesterol-lowering drug, taken by about 28 percent of U.S. adults over 40 and 48 percent of those over 75, may interfere with the effectiveness of flu vaccines, researchers report.

Two studies find that statin drugs may reduce the body's immune response to the vaccine in older people, who already have a lowered immune response, NBC News reported.

In one of the studies, a team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital looked at data from 7,000 people over the age of 65 who got flu vaccines over nine years. Those who took statins produced fewer virus-fighting antibodies after vaccination, they reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The researchers say their reports are meant to kick off more investigation — not to make people worry about taking statins when they get their flu shots. But they may help explain why flu vaccines often work so poorly among older people. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Two-Thirds of World Has Herpes Virus: WHO]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 06:34:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-122375454-herpes-coldsore.jpg

Two-thirds of the world's population — 3.7 billion people — has the incurable herpes virus, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. 

The virus is known to cause cold sores, but it can also cause sores on the genitals — and oral sex is becoming a leading way it's being transmitted, the WHO reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

"An estimated 140 million people aged 15-49 years were calculated to have prevalent genital HSV-1 infection globally in 2012," the WHO research team wrote. 

That means two kinds of incurable herpes viruses are causing sexually transmitted infections in the populations.

HSV-2 is traditionally called genital herpes, and it's the kind most people think of as causing sexually transmitted infections. HSV-1, while annoying and sometimes painful, is usually caught in childhood and often via kisses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra]]>
<![CDATA[Fundraiser to Help Girl Born With Heart Outside Chest]]> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 05:22:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/102815+Virsaviya+Borun.jpg

A six-year-old girl, born with her heart outside of her chest, needs help paying for life-saving surgery, and the community is responding.

"I like to draw Jesus, ponies and angels," said Virsaviya Borun, who also likes to dance. "I don't go to the school and I don't go to the ballet but I want to do it at home."

Virsaviya comes across like any other little girl, but there's something special about her, "My heart is right here. It's outside of my chest and I really love my mom, she's always touching my heart because she likes it."

Virsaviya's heart, about the size of a fist, is outside of her chest and has been that way since birth.

"When she started to cry, I saw how her heart and her intestine go out," explained Virsaviya's mother, Dari Borun. "Every day, she comes over and asks me, 'Can you touch my heart?'"

Since birth, even before, the big question has been: How long can Virsaviya live like this? She suffers from a rare condition called Pantalogy of Cantrell. Her intestines are also outside of stomach. She has no abdominal muscles or a diaphragm.

"I believe that Jesus would heal her," said Dari, who's from Russia but now lives in Hollywood with Virsaviya.

For six years, Dari went against all her Russian doctors' advice and against all odds, they've found a surgeon in Boston to treat her but it's costly. She's a single mom who barely has enough money for the basics.

"It's gonna be expensive for sure and I tried to work with social worker and she said we don't have opportunity to apply for insurance," Dari explained.

But through all of these challenges, it's the heart that keeps them strong.

"My mom always told me that she loves my heart and I really like it," Virsaviya said.

The family has raised some money, but they need more. If you'd like to help, click here. This link provided is the only fundraising page. To make sure you're donating to the appropriate fund, click the link above or follow Dari on Instagram: @DariBorun.

Since the NBC 6 story first aired about Virsaviya on Wednesday, our Facebook post has been viewed nearly 5 million times and in a matter of hours, hundreds of dollars poured in to their fundraising page.

An anonymous donor also reached out to NBC 6, offering to cover the remainder of Virsaviya's goal.

"I don't have a family here. It's just me and Virsaviya, but now I feel like I have a family because a lot of people just caring about us. They love us. They want to help," Dari said.

Dari said some of these funds will be used to cover emergency medical expenses, but as for an immediate solution to Virsaviya's condition, doctor's told them she cannot get surgery at the moment.

"She can't get it because of her high blood pressure and pulmonary arteries. So if it goes down, if she will feel better, they're going to check her in two years," Dari explained.

Dari said right now, it's about covering the basics. It's just the two of them trying to survive in South Florida. The weather here makes Virsaviya's heart feel warm. 

"She can't be in cold anymore. And when we were in Boston, they said the same. It was really cold and she got sick there too, but when she came here she feel better," Dari said.

Again, the correct link to donate to help Virsaviya is available here.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[WHO: TB Now Kills as Many People as AIDS]]> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 09:57:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_120324112412.jpg

The number of tuberculosis cases has fallen by 18 percent since 2000, but the completely curable infection now kills as least as many every year as the AIDS virus, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, NBC News reported.

TB killed 1.5 million people in 2014, WHO said — about the same as in 2013. The total HIV death toll in 2014 was estimated at 1.2 million, but that number included 400,000 TB deaths among HIV-positive people. Because estimates for deaths from HIV and TB both include the same 400,000 people, it is difficult to say which infection killed more people.

The reason? Countries are not spending enough money to treat people infected with the highly infectious disease, which takes weeks or months of daily antibiotics to eradicate.

Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of WHO's Global TB Program says it is "unacceptable in an era when you can diagnose and cure nearly every person with TB."

Photo Credit: AP]]>