Health Highlights: Oct. 24, 2008

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

New Test Checks Embryos for 15,000 Inherited Diseases

British researchers say they've developed a gene mapping test that, within a matter of weeks, can determine whether an embryo is affected by any one of 15,000 inherited diseases. Current tests focus on a specific gene mutation or can take much longer to provide results.

For the new test, a single cell is taken from an 8-day-old embryo. DNA samples are then collected from the parents and their parents. In many cases, a DNA sample is taken from another member of the family, such as a child affected by an inherited disease, BBC News reported.

All the family members' DNA is analyzed for 300,000 specific DNA markers, creating a map of the family's genetics, said Professor Alan Handyside and colleagues at London's Bridge Center, who are currently conducting trials of the gene mapping test.

"The effectiveness and efficiency of the procedure is quite exciting, and the fact that it's quicker means it could be helpful to couples at risk of inherited diseases -- and that in itself is significant," Dr. Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, told BBC News.

"We can currently test for several hundred conditions, but the claim is that the spectrum of conditions which could be screened for is enormous," he added.

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Sales of Anti-Obesity Drug Acomplia Suspended in Europe

Hours after European health authorities warned doctors to stop prescribing the anti-obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant), the drug's maker announced Thursday that it was suspending European sales, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) warned that patients who took the drug had approximately twice the risk of serious psychiatric problems.

Maker Sanofi-Aventis said Acomplia has been sold in 18 European Union countries since 2006. The company said it would immediately begin talks with nations outside the EU to suspend sales in those countries as well, the AP reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year refused to approve the drug, citing company studies that associated it with depression, anxiety and stress disorders.

In its warning Thursday, the EMEA said people taking the drug didn't need to immediately stop using it, but should consult their doctor. It also urged physicians to review the cases of anyone taking the drug.

There have been ongoing concerns about the risks of depression and suicide among patients taking Acomplia. Last year, the EMEA said the drug may be unsafe for patients also taking antidepressants, BBC News reported.

At that time, doctors were also advised not to give the drug to people with a history of major depression, and to watch for new symptoms of depression in people already taking the drug.

Between June and August 2008, BBC News reported, there were five suicides among clinical trial participants taking the drug, compared to one suicide among participants taking a placebo.

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Didj Gaming System Batteries, Rechargers Pose Overheating Risk

About 35,000 rechargeable batteries and recharging stations for the Didj Custom Gaming System are being recalled due to an overheating and burn risk, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

The batteries can overheat if the gaming system is placed into the recharging base upside down. So far, California-based game maker LeapFrog has received 12 reports of batteries overheating, including one report of a minor hand burn, WPXI.com in Pittsburgh reported.

The recalled recharging station is item number 30676, which is printed on the box and on the bottom of the recharging base. The rechargers and batteries were sold at department stores and toy stores across the United States, at www.leapfrog.com, and by other online retailers from July 2008 through October 2008.

The CPSC said consumers should stop using the recharging base and rechargeable batteries and contact LeapFrog at 800-701-5327 for a full refund, WPXI.com reported.

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ADHD Increases Risk of Nicotine Addiction: Study

Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases a young person's risk of nicotine addiction, according to a Massachusetts General Hospital study that included 166 participants, ages 15 to 25.

The researchers found that 69 percent of the 80 participants with ADHD had ever smoked and 41 percent were current smokers, while 44 percent of those without ADHD had ever smoked and 17 percent were current smokers, United Press International reported.

The ADHD patients who smoked began using tobacco more than a year earlier than smokers without ADHD. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

"Knowing that ADHD increases the risk of more serious nicotine addiction stresses the importance of prevention efforts aimed at adolescents and their families," study leader Dr. Timothy Wilens said in a news release, UPI reported.

Posted: October 2008


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