Health Highlights: Feb. 8, 2011

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

Chromosome Fault Linked to Sleepwalking: Study

A genetic link to sleepwalking has been identified by researchers.

They studied four generations of a family of sleepwalkers and concluded that the condition is associated with a fault in a section of chromosome 20, BBC News reported.

Just one copy of the defective DNA is enough to cause sleepwalking, according to Dr. Christina Gurnett and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine.

The next step is to identify the specific gene(s) in sleepwalking. That could lead to new treatments for the condition that affects up to 10 percent of children and two percent of adults, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

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Safety Restrictions Added to Avandia Labeling

Labeling of the diabetes pill Avandia has been updated to include safety restrictions ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

The FDA ordered the action because of Avandia's link to heart attack, the Associated Press reported. The updated labeling says the drug is only intended for diabetes patients whose blood sugar cannot be controlled with any of the other available diabetes drugs.

Avandia, which was approved by the FDA in 1999, became the top-selling diabetes drug in the world by 2006. But it's use has sharply dropped since a 2007 analysis linked it to heart attack.

Avandia has been banned in Europe and is the subject of thousands of lawsuits and a Department of Justice investigation, the AP reported.

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Universal Flu Vaccine Effective in Humans

For the first time, scientists have shown that a universal flu vaccine is effective in humans.

Unlike current flu vaccines, the universal vaccine does not need to be changed every year to match the latest flu strain, the team at Oxford University in the U.K. told The Guardian newspaper, msnbc.com reported.

They infected 22 healthy volunteers with a flu virus. Half of them had been given the universal vaccine and half were not vaccinated.

"Fewer of the people who were vaccinated got flu than the people who weren't vaccinated," team leader Dr. Sarah Gilbert told the The Guardian, according to msnbc.com.

She said a universal vaccine would make it easier to protect people against the flu.

"It would become a routine vaccination that would be manufactured and used all the time at a steady level. We wouldn't have these sudden demands or shortages -- all that would stop," Gilbert said.

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FDA Investigates Early Failure of Jaw Implants

Reports about early failure of some makes of jaw implants are being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said the devices made by three companies are expected to last five years but a "substantial number" of patients have had to have the implants replaced after three years or less, the Associated Press reported.

The implants, which connect the lower jaw to the skull, are used in patients with severe arthritis, injuries or other problems that limit their jaw movement.

The FDA said it will require the three companies -- Biomet Microfixation, TMJ Solutions, and TMJ Medical -- to track the life cycle of the jaw implants, the AP reported.

After it has gathered more information about the devices, the agency may recommend changes.

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Posted: February 2011


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