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Health Headlines - June 9

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Day-Care Centers a Potent Source of Allergens

Day-care centers are a major source of indoor air allergens for children, according to a new study by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

"Because children spend a significant portion of time in day-care settings, it is important that parents understand the risks of allergen exposure and know where these allergens can be found," NIEHS director Dr. David A. Schwartz said in a prepared statement.

The study of 89 day-care centers in two counties in central North Carolina found that each of them had detectable levels of seven common allergens from fungus, cats, cockroaches, dust mites, dogs and mice. The levels of these allergens were similar to those found in homes in the South in previous studies.

Concentrations of five of the allergens were much lower on non-carpeted surfaces than on carpeted surfaces, the researchers said.

"Interestingly, similar to other studies, dog and cat allergens were detected in nearly all the facilities tested, although no dog or cat was observed in most. It is likely the pet allergens are brought in on the children's clothing," said study author Samuel Arbes, an NIEHS researcher.

"The similarities in allergen levels between the day-care centers and Southern home living rooms means children and the day-care workers may be getting prolonged exposure to allergens. More research needs to be conducted to determine the effects of allergen exposure outside of the home," Arbes said.

The findings were published June 1 in the online issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

First-Ever Birth After Ovarian Transplant

In a first, an American team reports that a previously infertile, 24-year-old woman who received an ovary transplant from her identical twin sister has gone on to give birth to a healthy baby.

Stephanie Yarber of Muscle Shoals, Ala., gave birth Monday night to a daughter after receiving the transplant last year from her sister, Melanie Morgan, according to news reports.

Ovarian transplant is a new method of restoring fertility to women whose ovaries are not functioning normally. However, it is an invasive procedure and carries risks similar to any organ transplant.

While the procedure took place between identical twins, which avoids potential tissue-rejection issues, experts expect it might eventually work in the broader population.

"We will probably be doing more of that in the future," said Dr. Hugh Taylor, an assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Yale University School of Medicine. "This will include ovarian freezing for women undergoing chemotherapy and other procedures that can result in the loss of ovarian function," he added.

The breakthrough was reported in an article released Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the birth. The report will appear in print in the July 7, 2005, issue.

The transplant team was led by Dr. Sherman Silber, of St. Luke's Hospital, in St. Louis.

According to the report, Yarber's ovaries began functioning abnormally when she was 14. Her twin sister had normally functioning ovaries and bore three children, all of whom were conceived naturally.

The sterile twin tried egg-donation therapy, which was not successful. With an ovary donated by her sister, doctors transplanted ovarian tissue into the sterile sister's ovaries.

Within three months of transplantation, the sterile sister's menstrual cycles returned and during the second cycle she conceived. After a normal 38-week pregnancy she gave birth to a healthy girl, the researchers reported.

Because the sisters were identical twins, there was no fear of tissue rejection or other problems, which are common in other transplants.

"Although ovarian transplantation between monozygotic (identical) twins will be rare, the demonstration that ovarian function can be restored and that natural conception and successful pregnancy can be achieved after transplantation of ovarian tissue may have broader implications for preserving fertility in young women, such as those who require potentially sterilizing treatment for cancer," the authors concluded.

The technique has the potential to change the way women think about childbearing, Taylor said. He speculated that women who wish to delay having children might want to have their ovaries frozen, to be transplanted at a later time.

"Ovarian transplantation can serve as a prophylaxis against aging and diminishing ovarian function as women pursue careers, etc., delaying child bearing," he explained.

By removing a piece of their own ovary and freezing it, that tissue can be transplanted at a later date without fear of rejection and potentially restore fertility, Taylor noted.

"I think the potential is huge," he said. However, he stressed that this report doesn't prove that the egg really came from the donated ovary. "This has been a problem with the other reports of pregnancy from ovarian transplant."

The Yale expert also noted that premature ovarian failure spontaneously reverts in about 5 percent to 10 percent of cases.

Most important, while the use of ovarian transplantation will no doubt grow in the future, it won't replace egg donation, which is highly successful and not nearly as invasive as a transplant, Taylor said.

"Where ovarian transplantation will come into play is with somebody who knowingly wants to preserve their fertility," he said. "It could be because they are having radiation treatments, or they know they are going to put off childbearing for many years. This is the future of fertility preservation."

Another expert was more cautious. "It's a remarkable thing that was done, but it's not something that is going to help a lot of patients," said Dr. Jaime A. Grifo, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at New York University Medical Center and a professor at the NYU School of Medicine. "Not many people with ovarian failure have a twin sister."

As for women who are having cancer treatment, Grifo is skeptical of how useful freezing ovarian tissue will be. "The problem is: what cancer are you talking about?" he said. "If you're talking about ovarian cancer, it's not an option. If you are talking about other cancers, you still wonder if that will have any impact on their cancer."

Safer techniques would be freezing eggs or embryos, Grifo said.

As for preserving fertility over time, Grifo thinks the technique is too invasive to make that practical. "It's pretty invasive for that," he said. "And to freeze the tissue and have it function, well, that hasn't been done."

Health Tip: Using a Mouth Rinse

Using a mouth rinse is a regular morning ritual for many people. While it may freshen your breath and help prevent cavities and plaque buildup, a mouth rinse may actually prove harmful in some circumstances.

That's because it may mask symptoms of an oral disease or condition, according to the Loyola University Health System.

With some oral health problems, such as periodontal disease, an unpleasant taste in your mouth and bad breath help alert you that there's something wrong. You may miss those clues if you use a mouth rinse.

Health Tip: Of Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew inside the home can cause problems for those with allergies. They grow wherever it's damp and warm and there is little air movement.

You can take some simple measures to keep your home free of mold and mildew. Tips suggested by the University of Illinois Extension include:

  • Keep clothes, closets, drawers, and walls clean.

  • Eliminate sources of moisture in your home.

  • Try to maintain air movement in all areas of your home.

  • Dry air prevents mold and mildew. Use a dehumidifier.

  • Treat cotton items such as awnings and tents with fungicides before using them.

  • Paste-wax shoe polish or saddle soap will help protect leather goods.

Study: Public Disclosure Makes Docs More Cautious

Do heart doctors who have to publicly report the outcome of every procedure they perform cherry-pick the best patients for surgery, to keep their success rates high?

Maybe so, contends a study in the June 7 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Insurance Costs Could Trigger Ob/Gyn Shortage

Soaring malpractice insurance premiums are discouraging many doctors from specializing in obstetrics and gynecology and also affecting where obstetricians are offering their services, a new study finds.

Raisins Contain Beneficial Compounds for Dental Health

Dentists frequently advise patients to limit their consumption of raisins because this sweet, sticky treat is believed to promote dental decay.

But a study being presented Wednesday at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting in Atlanta found that raisins contain compounds that fight bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

Alcohol May Cut Lymphoma Risk

Regular drinkers may be at a 27 percent lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the sixth most common cancer, researchers report.

Science Finds New Class of Cancer Genes

American scientists say they've identified a whole new class of cancer-causing genes.

Viagra Ingredient Helps Blood Pressure Disorder

The active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat a dangerous form of high blood pressure called pulmonary hypertension.

Gene Therapy Offers Promise Against Arthritis

For the approximately 2.1 million Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, treatment has consisted of painkillers and exercise but no cures for this degenerative joint disease.

Web-Based Home STD Tests Can Work

More than a third of young women are willing and able to use home test kits for the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, researchers at Johns Hopkins University report.

Exercise Won't Harm Aging Bones

Exercise helps maintain and, in some cases, improve bone mass in people ages 55 to 75, according to a new study that challenges the idea that fat-burning exercise harms bone health in this age group.

Statin Treatment Doesn't Help Heart Valve Problem

Hopes that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could slow the progression of a heart valve problem called aortic stenosis have been dampened -- but not killed -- by negative results in a Scottish study.

Genes May Play Role in Women's Orgasms

A woman's ability to have an orgasm is at least partly determined by her genes and can't be blamed entirely on cultural influences, new research suggests. Experts say that's likely to be interpreted as both good and bad news.

Scientists Eye Older Athletes for Insights

Plenty of research has been done on young athletes, but little is known about marathoners, swimmers and softball players over age 50. That's about to change.

Members of Two Families Share Kidneys

Two families, once strangers 400 miles apart, are now forever bonded by blood, tissue and four surgeons' knives. In transplants involving four people, an Ohio man suffering from diabetes-related organ failure received a kidney from a healthy Wisconsin woman whose sick sister, in turn, received a kidney from the Ohio man's healthy wife.

Peru's 'Miracle Baby' Recovering Well

One week after surgery to separate her fused legs, 13-month-old Milagros Cerron was recovering quickly, with daily treatments inside a super-oxygenated hyperbaric chamber to speed her healing, her doctors said Wednesday.

Food Fact:
The great pumpkin.

Pumpkin in its pure form -- including canned -- has fat-busting potential in baked goods. Use it to replace up to 3/4 of the fat in some of your favorite spiced muffins and quick-bread recipes. Pumpkin, a winter squash, is especially rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, with some iron and few calories.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Get a grip.

Grab a tennis or racquetball for a quick workout off the court. Squeeze one and strengthen the muscles of your hands and arms at the same time. Simply grasp the ball and perform 12 - 15 reps per hand. You may want to start with a "used" tennis ball at the start, then graduate to a ball with more resistance as your conditioning improves.

FAQ of the day:
Can I lose weight by walking 30 minutes a day?

If that's 30 minutes more than you're doing now, go for it, but 45 minutes a day is usually recommended for weight loss. It doesn't have to be all at once; you'll benefit just the same from four 10-minute walks and a 5-minute stroll as from one 45-minute hike. As you get into shape, increasing your pace or walking uphill will burn more calories while challenging your cardiovascular system to make you more fit.
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