Health Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Health Media Articles in Major Media
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What do you do when one arm of the government says everything is O.K. and another tells you to watch out? That is what is happening with bisphenol-A — a chemical used in many plastics and epoxy resins now found in baby bottles and liners for canned goods. The answer is a truism in every family rulebook — when in doubt, especially when it comes to children, err on the side of caution. That means it is a good idea to keep the young away from bisphenol-A, or BPA. Then this week, the National Toxicology Program, the federal agency for toxicological research, reported that their research shows “some concern” about the effects of BPA on the brain development and behavior of fetuses and young children. A new study by the Yale School of Medicine is cause for even more concern. In tests on primates, researchers found that BPA “causes the loss of connections between brain cells” that could cause memory or learning problems and depression.” John Bucher, the associate director of the toxicology program, said ... "We have concluded that the possibility that BPA may affect human development cannot be dismissed.”
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Food and milk from the offspring of cloned animals may have entered the U.S. food supply, the U.S. government said on Tuesday, but [then claimed] it would be impossible to know because there is no difference between cloned and conventional products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in January [that] meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as products from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their offspring. While the FDA evaluated the safety of food from clones and their offspring, the U.S. Agriculture Department was in charge of managing the transition of these animals into the food supply. "It is theoretically possible" offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman. Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother. There are an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States. Critics contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical issues. "It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health.
Note: For a revealing summary of the health risks associated with genetically modified foods, click here.
Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease, two articles in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine conclude. Both vaccines target the human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus that usually causes no symptoms and is cleared by the immune system, but which can in very rare cases become chronic and cause cervical cancer. The two vaccines, Gardasil by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline, target two strains of the virus that together cause an estimated 70 percent of cervical cancers. “Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer,” Dr. Charlotte J. Haug ... wrote in an editorial in Thursday’s issue of The New England Journal. “With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious.” The vaccines have been studied for a relatively short period — both were licensed in 2006 and have been studied in clinical trials for at most six and a half years. Researchers have not yet demonstrated how long the immunity will last, or whether eliminating some strains of cancer-causing virus will decrease the body’s natural immunity to other strains. Because cervical cancer develops only after years of chronic infection with HPV, Dr. Haug said there was not yet absolute proof that protection against these two strains of the virus would ultimately reduce rates of cervical cancer.
Scientists are exploring the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD to treat a range of ailments from depression to cluster headaches and obsessive compulsive disorder. The first clinical trial using LSD since the 1970s began in Switzerland in June. It aims to use "psychedelic psychotherapy" to help patients with terminal illnesses come to terms with their imminent mortality and so improve their quality of life. Another psychedelic substance, psilocybin, has shown promising results in trials for treating symptoms of terminal cancer patients. In the Swiss trial eight subjects will receive a dose of 200 microgrammes of LSD. This is enough to induce a powerful psychedelic experience. A further four subjects will receive a dose of 20 microgrammes. Every participant will know they have received some LSD, but neither the subjects nor the researchers observing them will know for certain who received the full dose. During the course of therapy researchers will assess the patients' anxiety levels, quality of life and pain levels. Before hallucinogenic drugs became popular with the counter culture, they were at the forefront of brain science. They were used to help scientists understand the nature of consciousness and how the brain works and as treatments for a range of conditions. Dr Rick Doblin is president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in California, a nonprofit organisation which funds clinical studies into psychedelic drugs, including the Swiss LSD trial. "These drugs, these experiences are not for the mystic who wants to sit on the mountain top and meditate. They are not for the counter-culture rebel. They are for everybody," he said.
Sandra Levy wants to do everything she can to safeguard the health of her 11-year-old daughter -- and that, of course, includes cancer prevention. She has had her child inoculated with one shot of Gardasil, the human papilloma virus vaccine that may prevent cervical cancer. But now, she says, she has serious reservations about going ahead with the next two injections of the course. Though most medical organizations strongly advocate using the HPV vaccine, some doctors and parents, like Levy, are asking whether the vaccine's benefits really outweigh its costs. A report released in June stirred up more doubts. Although cause and effect were not proved, the report listed serious events -- such as seizures, spontaneous abortions and even deaths -- among teens, preteens and young women who had earlier had Gardasil shots. [The] analysis, released June 30 by the Washington, D.C.-based public interest group Judicial Watch, [has] raised [these] red flags. Judicial Watch obtained records from the FDA's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a voluntary system used by doctors, patients and drug companies to report side effects with vaccines to the federal agency. The report revealed that since the vaccine's 2006 approval, when girls began getting it, nearly 9,000 had bad health events after receiving Gardasil. The incidents included 10 miscarriages, 78 severe outbreaks of genital warts and six cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can result in paralysis. There were also 18 reported deaths.
Note: For many key reports on the problems with vaccines from reliable sources, click here.
Scientists have stopped the ageing process in an entire organ for the first time, a study released today says. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine ... also say the older organs function as well as they did when the host animal was younger. The researchers, led by Associate Professor Ana Maria Cuervo, blocked the ageing process in mice livers by stopping the build-up of harmful proteins inside the organ's cells. As people age their cells become less efficient at getting rid of damaged protein resulting in a build-up of toxic material that is especially pronounced in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative disorders. The researchers say the findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompanies old age. In experiments, livers in genetically modified mice 22 to 26 months old ... cleaned blood as efficiently as those in animals a quarter their age. The benefits of restoring the cleaning mechanisms found inside all cells could extend far beyond a single organ, says Cuervo. "Our findings are particularly relevant for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," she says. "Many of these diseases are due to 'misbehaving' or damaged proteins that accumulate in neurons. By preventing this decline in protein clearance, we may be able to keep these people free of symptoms for a longer time." If the body's ability to dispose of cell debris within the cell were enhanced across a wider range of tissues, she says, it could extend life as well.
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Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans. Collecting and analyzing personal health information in commercial databases is a fledgling industry, but one poised to take off as the nation enters the age of electronic medical records. Some insurers have already begun testing systems that tap into not only prescription drug information, but also data about patients held by clinical and pathological laboratories. Privacy and consumer advocates fear [the trend] it is taking place largely outside the scrutiny of federal health regulators and lawmakers. The practice also illustrates how electronic data gathered for one purpose can be used and marketed for another -- often without consumers' knowledge, privacy advocates say. And they argue that although consumers sign consent forms, they effectively have to authorize the data release if they want insurance. "As health care moves into the digital age, there are more and more companies holding vast amounts of patients' health information," said Joy Pritts, research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Most people don't even know these [companies] exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them." Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "We've got to stop these practices before the marketplace is fully developed and patients lose all control over their medical information."
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What would you do if had an incurable disease and heard that something simple and common may help -- a chemical found at a pet store, or in an allergy drug, or a breakthrough injection a man in California developed? It's the sort of dilemma Alan Romantowski, a former airline pilot, faces with each news story about Alzheimer's disease treatments. "It is tempting; I'm taking ginseng, fish oil, ginkgo and all the over-the-counter things that the doctors say don't have any proof that it helps, but it doesn't hurt," said Romantowski, 55, who is suffering from the early stages of the disease. Whether scientifically sound or wacky, any news about potential Alzheimer's treatments can fill a doctor's voicemail with calls from desperate families. And a new potential treatment announced Tuesday may be no exception. Discussed at the annual Alzheimer's Association Meeting in Chicago, a drug called Rember sparked hope among researchers and within the Alzheimer community. Rember has completed a phase II trial, which means it's a long way off from meeting FDA approval as a legal therapy. But, thus far the data has shown promise -- double the improvement in cognition than a placebo gives for patients with moderate Alzheimer's disease. "There was an article about that in our paper this morning," said Josie Romantowski. "I actually even called my husband about it... as far as trying [a drug], what is there to lose really, at this point?"
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It's likely that most people have never heard of Gaucho. And no, it's not a South American cowboy. I'm talking about a pesticide. There is increasing reason to believe that Gaucho and other members of a family of highly toxic chemicals -- neonicotinoids -- may be responsible for the deaths of billions of honeybees worldwide. Some scientists believe that these pesticides, which are applied to seeds, travel systemically through the plant and leave residues that contaminate the pollen, resulting in bee death or paralysis. The French refer to the effect as "mad bee disease" and in 1999 were the first to ban the use of these chemicals, which are currently only marketed by Bayer (the aspirin people) under the trade names Gaucho and Pancho. Germany followed suit this year. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 grant an "emergency" exemption allowing increased use of Gaucho -- typically invoked during a major infestation -- when only a few beetles were found in blueberries? Why did the agency also grant a "conditional" registration for its close relative, Pancho, allowing the chemical on the market with only partial testing? And why is the agency, hiding behind a curtain of "trade secrets," still refusing to disclose whether the additional tests required of companies in such cases were conducted and, if so, with what results? [Pesticides] are regulated ...- under the antiquated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This law allows a chemical on the market unless it's proved to pose "an unreasonable risk," far too weak a standard.
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The next time you make some microwave popcorn or cook a frozen pizza, consider this: The packaging of many of these products contains a chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency considers potentially carcinogenic and wants businesses to voluntarily stop using by 2015. Studies show that this chemical -- perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA -- is present in 98% of Americans' blood and 100% of newborns. It doesn't break down and thus accumulates in the system over time. PFOA ... is used to make Teflon pans, Gore-Tex clothing and to prevent food from sticking to paper packaging. The industry says that while the EPA's carcinogen concerns are based on animal tests, there's no evidence that PFOA is harmful to humans. Public-health advocates counter that the industry is being disingenuous. "There's never been a chemical found that affects animals but has no effect on humans," said Bill Walker, vice president of the Environmental Working Group. PFOA is part of a broader constellation of substances known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. When PFCs are heated, they break down into compounds that can be absorbed into food and make it into the bloodstream. Federal investigators determined in 2005 that PFOA is a "likely carcinogen" and called for expanded testing to study its potential to cause liver, breast, testicular and pancreatic cancer. Walker at the Environmental Working Group said the voluntary phaseout supported by the EPA was insufficient. It wouldn't apply to Chinese companies, which are among the leading manufacturers of food packaging.
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They're some of the most trusted voices in the defense of vaccine safety: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend. The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces. A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine - which makes $2 billion a year in sales. A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck's HPV vaccine - which made $1.5 billion a year in sales. Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too - but wouldn't tell us how much. Then there's Paul Offit, perhaps the most widely-quoted defender of vaccine safety. He's gone so far as to say babies can tolerate "10,000 vaccines at once." In fact, he's a vaccine industry insider. Offit holds in a $1.5 million dollar research chair at Children's Hospital, funded by Merck. He holds the patent on an anti-diarrhea vaccine he developed with Merck. And future royalties for the vaccine were just sold for $182 million cash.
Note: For an excellent report endorsed by dozens of respected doctors and nurses on the serious risks and dangers of vaccines, click here. And read an excellent list of questions related to the usefulness of vaccines that are almost never raised by the major media. This US government webpage states, "Since the first National Vaccine Injury Compensation (VICP) claims were filed in 1989, 3,981 compensation awards have been made. More than $2.8 billion in compensation awards has been paid to petitioners."
The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer. The warning [came] from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children. "Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said. [His] advice is sure to raise concern among many cell phone users and especially parents. In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff, he says children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing. Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone's electromagnetic fields. Herberman cites a "growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer." "Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use," he wrote in his memo.
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The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday. The American Human Development Index has [issued a report] measuring well-being ... with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners. The report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities. "The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said. Some of its more shocking findings reveal that ... Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the two groups. Using official government statistics, the study points out that because American schools are funded primarily from local property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.
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Most parents have never heard of him, but Joseph Biederman of Harvard may be the United States' most influential doctor when it comes to determining whether their children are normal or mentally ill. In 1996, for example, Biederman suggested that drugs like Ritalin might serve 10 percent of American kids for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. By 2004, one in nine 11-year-old boys was taking the drug. Biederman and his team also are more responsible than anyone for a child bipolar epidemic sweeping America (and no other country) that has 2-year-olds on three or four psychiatric drugs. The science of children's psychiatric medications is so primitive and Biederman's influence so great that when he merely mentions a drug during a presentation, tens of thousands of children within a year or two will end up taking that drug, or combination of drugs. This happens in the absence of a drug trial of any kind - instead, the decision is based upon word of mouth among the 7,000 child psychiatrists in America. That's why [the] recent revelation that Biederman did not declare $1.6 million in drug company consulting fees is so important, scary and tragic. American medicine, with psychiatry the most culpable, has fallen back to a time more than 100 years ago. Now once again, drug company money is corrupting medical practice and the maintenance of our country's health. Virtually all doctors who receive drug company money say they are not influenced, but every independent study examining the effects of such money says they are.
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It seemed an ideal marriage, a scientific partnership that would attack mental illness from all sides. Psychiatrists would bring ... their expertise and clinical experience, drug makers would provide their products and the money to run rigorous studies, and patients would get better medications, faster. But now the profession itself is under attack in Congress, accused of allowing this relationship to become too cozy. After a series of stinging investigations of individual doctors’ arrangements with drug makers, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is demanding that the American Psychiatric Association, the field’s premier professional organization, give an accounting of its financing. "I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry can shape the practices of nonprofit organizations that purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions," Mr. Grassley said. In 2006 ... the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the association’s $62.5 million in financing. One of the doctors named by Mr. Grassley is the association’s president-elect, Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg of Stanford, whose $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company raised the senator’s concern. Commercial arrangements are rampant throughout medicine. In the past two decades, drug and device makers have paid tens of thousands of doctors and researchers of all specialties. Worried that this money could taint doctors’ research plans or clinical judgment, government agencies, medical journals and universities have been forced to look more closely at deal details.
Note: For many powerful reports of corporate corruption, click here.
Three Polish doctors and six nurses are facing criminal prosecution after a number of homeless people died following medical trials for a vaccine to the H5N1 bird-flu virus. The medical staff, from the northern town of Grudziadz, are being investigated over medical trials on as many as 350 homeless and poor people last year, which prosecutors say involved an untried vaccine to the highly-contagious virus. Authorities claim that the alleged victims received Ł1-2 to be tested with what they thought was a conventional flu vaccine but, according to investigators, was actually an anti bird-flu drug. The director of a Grudziadz homeless centre, Mieczyslaw Waclawski, told a Polish newspaper that last year, 21 people from his centre died, a figure well above the average of about eight. Investigators are also probing the possibility that the medical staff may have also have deceived the pharmaceutical companies that commissioned the trials. The news of the investigation will come as another blow to the reputation of Poland's beleaguered and poverty-stricken national health service. In 2002, a number of ambulance medics were found guilty of killing their patients for commissions from funeral companies.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on the bird flu scare, which resulted in many deaths from vaccines and anti-viral pharmaceutical products, click here.
In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project. She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open. But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day. "I feel more centered in who I am and what I'm doing," said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. "I don't seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected." Scientists reported ... that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience. Two-thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they'd ever had. The drug, psilocybin, is found in so-called "magic mushrooms." It's illegal, but it has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries. The project made headlines in 2006 when researchers published their report on how the volunteers felt just two months after taking the drug. The new study followed them up [to] a year after that. Fourteen months after taking the drug, 64 percent of the volunteers said they still felt at least a moderate increase in well-being or life satisfaction, in terms of things like feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible and optimistic. The questionnaire answers indicated lasting gains in traits like being more sensitive, tolerant, loving and compassionate.
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While carrying out field work in Papua New Guinea in the late 1980s, [Dr. David Pritchard] noticed that Papuans infected with the Necator americanus hookworm, a parasite that lives in the human gut, did not suffer much from an assortment of autoimmune-related illnesses, including hay fever and asthma. Over the years, Dr. Pritchard has developed a theory to explain the phenomenon. "The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive," he said. "That's why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms." To test his theory, and to see whether he can translate it into therapeutic pay dirt, Dr. Pritchard is recruiting clinical trial participants willing to be infected with 10 hookworms each in hopes of banishing their allergies and asthma. Never one to sidestep his own experimental cures, Dr. Pritchard initially used himself as a subject. After Dr. Pritchard's self-infection experiment, the National Health Services ethics committee let him conduct a study in 2006 with 30 participants, 15 of whom received 10 hookworms each. Tests showed that after six weeks, the T-cells of the 15 worm recipients began to produce lower levels of chemicals associated with inflammatory response, indicating that their immune systems were more suppressed than those of the 15 placebo recipients. Despite playing host to small numbers of parasites, worm recipients reported little discomfort. Trial participants raved about their allergy symptoms disappearing.
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Between 1983 and 1999, men’s life expectancy decreased in more than 50 U.S. counties, according to a recent study by [Majid] Ezzati, associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and colleagues. For women, the news was even worse: life expectancy decreased in more than 900 counties—more than a quarter of the total. This means 4 percent of American men and 19 percent of American women can expect their lives to be shorter than or, at best, the same length as those of people in their home counties two decades ago. The United States no longer boasts anywhere near the world’s longest life expectancy. It doesn’t even make the top 40. In this and many other ways, the richest nation on earth is not the healthiest. Poor health is not distributed evenly across the population, but concentrated among the disadvantaged. But in the United States, the gap between the rich and the poor is far wider than in most other developed democracies, and it is getting wider. That is true both before and after taxes: the United States also does less than most other rich democracies to redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Living in a society with wide disparities—in health, in wealth, in education—is worse for all the society’s members, even the well off. People at the top of the U.S. income spectrum “live a very long time,” says Cabot professor of public policy and epidemiology Lisa Berkman, “but people at the top in some other countries live a lot longer.”
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In a major breakthrough in the search for a cure for cancer, the first human trials are to begin using a technique that has already been shown to destroy the disease in mice. The trials are the culmination of years of research prompted by the discovery of a cancer-proof mouse by researchers almost a decade ago. More than 20 cancer patients will be given white blood cells with cancer-killing properties in an attempt to boost their immune system's fight against the deadly illness. The work stems from experiments into the metabolism of a humble laboratory mouse whose immunity to cancer defied the repeated attempts of scientists to kill it with high-level doses of cancer cells. White blood cells taken from the animal and its offspring were subsequently used to cure other mice of advanced cancers. The white blood cells destroyed the cancer cells but left normal cells alone. This discovery encouraged scientists to study how people might be helped to fight off cancer by being given a boost of white blood cells called granulocytes. Laboratory tests have since shown how human granulocytes can destroy cervical, prostate and breast cancer cells, provided sufficient numbers of cancer-killing granulocytes from healthy donors are used. Scientists are now confident that the treatment will prove just as successful in humans as it has been in mice. Hundreds of donors will be recruited for the new treatment – which is called leukocyte infusion therapy – and a process similar to platelet donation will be used to collect the granulocytes.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.