Newsletter : 6fax0112.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Jan. 12, 1996 V4, #5
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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World's Flattest Rechargeable Battery Developed
The Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot has developed the
world's flattest rechargeable battery and is receiving queries from
around the world, including the Siemens Corp. It uses a solid,
rather than a liquid, electrolyte, saving space and is ideal for
portable electronic appliances and instruments, including
computers, cellular telephones and video cameras.
Christopher and Assad will Discuss the Golan
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
US Secretary of State Warren Christopher has arrived in Damascus
for today's talks believed to be crucial to the future of the
Israel-Syria peace negotiations. Christopher calls this a critical
moment in the negotiations. He declined to say exactly what
Israeli proposals he has brought to Damascus, but says he didn't
One Israeli official says the proposals include the expansion of
talks to cover a variety of specific issues -- such as security
arrangements and water rights -- with experts in those fields
joining the delegations. That would likely include military
generals and would cover the same issues which brought the
talks to a standstill in the middle of last year. Israel wants
security guarantees after a withdrawal from the Golan Heights,
which it captured from Syria in 1967.
Christopher's last trip to the region, in December, resulted in the
resumption of the direct Israel-Syria talks in a new format, at a
secluded site outside Washington. The talks recessed last week
after what both sides have called a good start. Diplomats hope
this shuttle will result in an agreement to resume those talks
before the end of the month.
Jewish Women Found Prone to Breast Cancer
By David McAlary (VOA-Washington)
US researchers have discovered that the risk of breast and ovarian
cancer might be much higher in Jews of Eastern and Central European
ancestry than in the general population. The scientists have found
a relatively common genetic defect in this group that may
predispose many Jewish women to the diseases, and possibly Jewish
men to prostate and colon cancer.
The Ashkenazim of Central and Eastern European origin -- who make
up most American jews and half of those in Israel -- are prey to a
unique set of genetic ailments. Now, cancer of the breast and
ovaries might be added to the list.
Scientists at the US National Institutes of Health near Washington
say this population is prone to a defect -- or misspelling, as they
call it -- in a breast cancer gene discovered last year. Francis
Collins heads the National Center for Genomic Research, one of two
NIH branches involved in the finding.
"What is being reported here is that in a particular population --
in this case, the Ashkenazi Jewish population -- there is a
specific misspelling that turns up over and over again at a
surprisingly high frequency of about one in 100."
This single chemical defect is five to eight times more frequent
in Ashkenazi Jews than all other known defects in this gene are
in the overall population. The researchers suspect it might
account for 16 per cent of breast cancers and 39 per cent of
ovarian cancers in Jewish women under 50. This is roughly four
times the rate of the other mutations in women at large.
Another difference is also significant: while mutations in this
gene are usually found in families with an inherited susceptibility
to breast cancer, the newly-discovered defect was found in
Because it is a single defect in a specific location in a single
population, the National Cancer Institute's director, Dr. Richard
Klausner, says a genetic screening test should be easy to develop.
"The discovery that's being announced is important because it
raises the feasibility essentially for the first time of testing
for a genetic predisposition to cancer in a defined population."
But Klausner warns that testing people now would be premature
because researchers need more time to learn whether the incidence
of the defect is the same in larger groups of Ashkenazim and, if
so, what its association with cancer is.
"We need to know whether the presence of this alteration in this
gene conveys to an individual who carries that alteration an
increased risk of developing cancer. Additionally, of course, this
mutation is carried equally in the population presumably by men and
women. We need to know whether only women may be at risk for
cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer, and/or whether men that
carry this mutation are also at an increased risk for cancer."
Evidence from cancer-prone families shows that men who have defects
in the breast cancer gene may have an increased risk of prostate
and colon cancer.
The questions about the genetic mutation could take years to
answer. For this reason, Patricia Barr -- an Ashkenazi Jew and
breast cancer survivor who leads a US public interest group
devoted to the issue -- says Jewish women should avoid demanding
screening until the relationship between the mutation and cancer
are better understood.
"The results presented are not -- are not! -- cause for Ashkenazi
Jewish women to seek private breast cancer genetic testing. We
simply don't know enough."
Further research is planned with a study of this defect in a
group of 5,000 Ashkenazim living in a Washington suburb. The NIH
also plans research in Poland to see if it is present in non-Jewish
people who are historically related to Ashkenazim by region.
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