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Health Highlights: Oct. 25, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Creator of 'Lorenzo's Oil' Dies At Age 80

The Italian man who helped create an oil that saved his son's life and whose story was depicted in the movie "Lorenzo's Oil" has died at age 80.

Augusto Odone's son was 6 years old in 1984 when he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that doctors said would lead to a loss of voluntary movement and death within a few years. Augusto and his wife Michaela learned everything about the disease called adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), the Los Angeles Times reported.

Those efforts ultimately led to a treatment that was based on two common cooking oils and slowed Lorenzo's decline. The treatment was ridiculed by many doctors and researchers, but a 2005 study showed it prevented the onset of symptoms in boys who had been diagnosed early.

Lorenzo died in 2008 at age 30 and Michaela died of cancer in 2000. Augusto had heart problems and other ailments when he died Thursday, according to his daughter Cristina, the Times reported.

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New Safety Rules for Animal Food Proposed by FDA

The first rules to govern production of pet food and farm animal feed were introduced Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The proposed regulations are meant to prevent foodborne illnesses in both animals and humans, FDA officials said. They noted that people can become sick from handling contaminated animal food and from touching pets that have eaten it, The New York Times reported.

If passed, the proposed rules would regulate production of pet food and feed for millions of farm animals, including cows, pigs and chickens. They would require companies that make animal food sold in the U.S. to develop a written plan to prevent foodborne illnesses and put it into effect.

Companies would have to implement preventive procedures at critical points in the production process were problems are likely to occur. For example, producers of canned dog food would might have to create a system to monitor whether the food has been cooked long enough at the proper temperature and keep records to document it, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, told The Times.

The proposed regulations -- which are open for public comment for 120 days -- would also require animal food producers to re-evaluate their plans at least every three years and to maintain standards of cleanliness for the facilities and workers. The proposal does not address the contentious issue of giving antibiotics to farm animals, sometimes in their feed.

The FDA's proposed rules come six years after the largest pet food recall in history. It occurred when dog and cat food from a Chinese producer was contaminated with melamine, a compound used in plastics, resulting in the deaths of animals across the U.S., The Times reported.

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New Program Seeks to Advance Brain Implant Technology

More than $70 million will be spent over the next 5 years in an effort to advance brain implant technology, U.S. government officials say.

About 100,000 people worldwide have electrical implants in their brains to control the involuntary movements caused by Parkinson's disease, and this type of treatment is being tested for depression and other disorders, The New York Times reported.

But current deep brain stimulation technology only treats patients -- it is not able to monitor its own effectiveness. This is because complex disorders such as depression do not have clear biological markers.

The new program to advance brain implant technology was announced Thursday by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

At the moment,"there is no technology that can acquire signals that can tell them precisely what is going on with the brain," Justin Sanchez, DARPA program manager, told The Times.

This new program is "trying to change the game on how we approach these kinds of problems," he explained.

The project is partly driven by the needs of combat veterans who suffer from mental and physical disorders, and is the first to invest directly in researching human illness as part of the brain initiative, The Times reported.

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Ready-to-Eat Foods Recalled Over Listeria Concerns

Possible listeria contamination has led to the recall of about 109,000 cases of refrigerated ready-to-eat foods produced by Reser's Find Foods of Oregon and distributed in the United States and Canada.

The products include ham, potato, chicken and macaroni salads, slaws and salsas sold under brand names such as Cobble Street Market, Cross Valley Farms, Dillon's, Miller's, Target, 7-11, Reser's Fine Foods, Walmart and Yoder's, CBS News reported.

A list of the recalled products and their UPC codes can be found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service website. There have been no reported illnesses linked with the recall, the agency said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency discovered the problem and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration then conducted follow-up testing and an investigation, CBS News reported.

Listeria is a bacteria that can cause serious illness in seniors, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.


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