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Health Highlights: March 20, 2018

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

Mississippi Bans Abortions After 15 Weeks Gestation

A federal judge has scheduled a Tuesday morning hearing to consider blocking new abortion restrictions approved by Mississippi on Monday.

The state's only abortion clinic sued within six hours of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signing the nation's most restrictive abortion law, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, the Associated Press reported.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization is seeking an immediate halt to the law, telling U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves that a woman who is 15 weeks or more pregnant is scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon.

The new law is unconstitutional, according to the lawsuit handled by the Center of Reproductive Rights. Current federal law does not allow states to impose such restrictions.

In 2017, the clinic performed 78 abortions involving a fetus 15 weeks or older. A total of about 2,500 abortions were performed statewide, mostly at the clinic, the AP reported.

The Mississippi law considers pregnancy to begin on the first day of a woman's previous menstrual period, meaning the abortion time limit begins two weeks before states whose abortion limits begin at conception.

"Under decades of United States Supreme Court precedent, the state of Mississippi cannot ban abortion prior to viability, regardless of what exceptions are provided to the ban," according to the lawsuit.

North Carolina, which has an abortion limit of 20 weeks, is the only other state that has the same definition of the start of pregnancy as Mississippi.

"We certainly think this bill is unconstitutional," Katherine Klein, equality advocacy coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, told the AP. "The 15-week marker has no bearing in science. It's just completely unfounded and a court has never upheld anything under the 20-week viability marker."

The only exceptions to the new Mississippi law are if a fetus has health problems making it "incompatible with life" outside of the womb at full term, or pregnancy threatens a woman's life or a "major bodily function." There is no exemption for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.


Stem Cell Transplant Successful in Macular Degeneration Patients: Study

Stem cell therapy restored some vision to two patients with a common cause of blindness called age-related macular degeneration, U.K. doctors say.

Stem cells from a human embryo were converted into a patch of a specific type of eye cell and grown in the lab. The patch was then inserted into the back of one eye in each patient, BBC News reported.

The operations on a woman in her sixties and an 86-year-old man were performed at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. A year later, both patients still have improved vision in the treated eye.

The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Eight more patients are scheduled to take part in the clinical trial.

"We've restored vision where there was none," Professor Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told BBC News.

"It's incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the first time we've been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that's failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back," he said.

However, da Cruz stopped short of calling this a cure because it does not completely restore normal vision, BBC News reported.

"What's exciting about this study is that the patients recorded an increase in vision," according to Carmel Toomes, Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine.

"To see an improvement is a good sign that this therapy may help patients in the future, although further studies are needed before real conclusions can be drawn," Toomes told BBC News.


Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Arizona Pedestrian

A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona in what may be the first known death of a pedestrian hit by an autonomous vehicle on a public road.

The woman was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk when she was struck by the Uber vehicle in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel, according to Tempe police, The New York Times reported.

The incident occurred overnight, but police did not say whether it was late Sunday or early Monday and did not release any details about the woman.

Uber is "fully cooperating" with local authorities, a company spokesman said, and Uber has suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.The Times reported.

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Posted: March 2018