Just in time for the government's new effort to fight alcoholism, especially among young people, Hadassah University Medical Center researchers have found that taking a new slowrelease pill before having a drink can lower the level of alcohol in the blood, dramatically improve motor and cognitive functions and decrease alcohol cravings. Metadoxine, a drug currently used to treat alcoholism, is ordinarily effective for less than an hour. But a slow-release formula developed by an Israeli start-up company named Alcobra Ltd. vastly extends the effects. Although those tested on Metadoxine were included in only a Phase-I clinical trial on healthy people, the effects are very significant. The clinical trials were conducted by researchers from Hadassah's liver unit, psychiatry department and internal medicine unit. Internal medicine specialists Dr. Meir Mizrahi and Dr. Gadi Lalazar, who headed the team, presented their findings Sunday at the annual conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in Boston. More than 7,000 researchers from 55 countries, including eight Israelis from Hadassah, attended. After a 10-hour fast, the six participants in the first phase of the clinical trial took one dose of the slow-release Metadoxine formula (1,190 to 2,100 ml.) and then drank 70 ml. of alcohol. During the 12-hour observation period, blood was drawn for alcohol and Metadoxine levels, and the subjects were graded on a driving simulator and a continuous performance test used to diagnose attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder, memory and cognitive skills. They also answered a questionnaire about their level of craving for alcohol. All of participants had a decreased blood level of alcohol and the results of their motor and cognitive tests were positive; none developed any related side effects, the researchers said. They believe that slow-release Metadoxine can help in the treatment of alcoholism and its side effects, and are planning to enlarge the scope of their study in the coming months. The Hadassah-Alcobra project is being conducted under the auspices of Hadasit, Hadassah's technology transfer company. A methacetin breath test (MBT) that can be performed quickly and noninvasively has been proven to accurately predict survival in patients with viral hepatitis, and may be used as an adjunctive tool to MELD (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease). It serves as a scoring system adopted by the United Network for Organ Sharing to assess liver disease severity and determine threemonth mortality. Viral hepatitis progresses at an unpredictable rate, and the addition of another way of assessing progression can serve as an important adjunct to MELD. Researchers in the Liver Unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem studied 395 patients with viral hepatitis. The MBT accurately predicted survival. Of those patients, 11 had died in the two years in which data were collected. MBT identified 9 of these 11 as being high-risk. Whereas six of those 11 deaths occurred in patients with a MELD score less than 15 - patients considered at low risk by the MELD scoring system. In addition, MBT accurately predicted survival in patients with a higher MELD score and, therefore, at increased risk as defined by MELD. PSORIASIS CLARIFICATION Last week's Health Scan item on a small protein named IGFBP7 whose lack causes rapid division of skin cells being "discovered" by dermatologists at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was incorrect and based on information provided by Sourasky. In fact, the protein's significance related to psoriasis was discovered three years ago by Dr. Malka Hochberg and colleagues at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem. The Sourasky team based its findings on the Hadassah discovery.