October 29, 2007 “Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Microsoft Corporation is the latest company to offer a digital health record (DHR) aimed at consumers. Called “Healthvault,” it can be found at www.healthvault.com. This secure Web site allows consumers to manage and monitor their personal health information, including weight loss and disease management information, such as for diabetes. The Web site also includes a search tool to allow consumers to view and organize articles and other information on health.

MORE ON: Health Vault

Microsoft’s strategy is to get other organizations to build services that allow consumers to upload and store data on Healthvault. According to Microsoft, 40 organizations, ranging from the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, along with such medical device companies, such as LifeScan Inc. and Omron Healthcare Inc., have announced their intention to build features that will allow consumers to interact with Healthvault.

PROBE LIGHTS UP CANCER MOLECULES

Seeking to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, pathology researchers at Stanford University Medical Center have discovered an in vivo marker with unique properties. The probe’s main ingredient is a molecule that labels active proteases—protein-destroying enzymes—that run amok in cancerous cells. The molecule is normally invisible to the naked eye but it carries a fluorescent tag that lights up when it binds to the protease. The tag beams out near-infrared light that passes through skin and is detectable with a special camera. This novel imaging technique was described in the September issue of Nature Chemical Biology. “We think these probes may ultimately provide a less harmful, noninvasive method of detecting cancer,” said Galia Blum, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in the pathology laboratory. Blum was lead author of the study.

ADD TO: New Probe

“Unlike other enzyme-targeting molecules, it’s very specific, sticks to where it binds and does it all very rapidly—in 30 minutes or less,” noted Matthew Bogyo, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology at Stanford University Medical School. Another characteristic sets this marker apart from other molecular probes. This type identifies only active enzymes. “We went one step beyond just telling if the enzymes are there. We can answer the question, ‘Are they active.’ That’s important because an accumulation of inactive enzymes doesn’t necessarily indicate disease,” explained Bogyo.

Dark Daily Update

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…the number of physician pay-for-performance (P4P) programs has almost quadrupled in the past 5 years, going from 39 in 2003 to 148 in March of this year, with more payers embracing this approach.

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