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Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2002

First Cat Cloned R-Rated Films Affect Kids' Smoking, Drinking Sleep Study Turns Back the Clock Images of Their Own Clogged Arteries Help Smokers Quit Diet May Help Ease Attention Disorder Staph Vaccine Shines in Difficult Test

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

First Cat Cloned

Researchers at Texas A&M University have cloned what's believed to be an American shorthair "research cat," according to wire reports.

The feline, called "Cc:", was born late last year after no less than 188 tries that yielded 82 embryos, but only the one kitten.

Cloning involves the implantation of a cell from an adult into an egg to form an embryo, which is then transferred to a surrogate mother.

In a letter published in the journal Nature, the researchers say the kitten was created using what's known as a cumulus cell, which nurtures eggs that are developing in a female's ovary.

The process has been used in cloning other animals and according to the report, the white-and-calico shorthaired kitten was vigorous at birth and appears to be completely normal.

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R-Rated Films Affect Kids' Smoking, Drinking

Kids who watch R-rated movies are much more likely to try smoking and drinking.

That's the conclusion of a study by Dartmouth Medical School researchers that appears in the current issue of Effective Clinical Practice.

The researchers surveyed 4,544 students from fifth through eighth grade who were enrolled at 15 schools, reports HealthDay.

The study found that 35 percent of the kids who had no restrictions on the type of movies they were allowed to watch had tried smoking, while only 12 percent of kids who reported having some restrictions on their film choices had smoked. Only 2 percent of the children who were not allowed to watch R-rated movies at all had tried to smoke.

The numbers were similar for alcohol use. Forty-six percent of youngsters with no restrictions had tried alcohol; 16 percent of those with partial restrictions had given liquor a try, while only 4 percent of the kids with complete restrictions had done so.

"Children who are not restricted from watching R-rated movies are three times more likely to smoke or drink than those who never watch them," says one of the study's authors, Dr. Michael Beach, an associate professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.

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Sleep Study Turns Back the Clock

The old adage that you need at least eight hours of sleep a night for a long, healthy life may need to be put to rest.

You should get no less than four, no more than eight, but six or seven hours of nightly rest is preferable if you want to live longer, HealthDay reports.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the American Cancer Society surveyed 1.1 million adults between the ages of 30 and 102. They found that individuals who sleep eight hours or more hours a night, or less than four, have a significantly higher mortality rate than those who get an average of six to seven hours of shut-eye. Those who rise after seven hours have the best odds.

The researchers also found that people who reported occasional insomnia had no elevated risk, while those who said they took sleeping pills did have an increased mortality rate.

The findings appear in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Images of Their Own Clogged Arteries Help Smokers Quit

A picture is worth more than a thousand words -- and, apparently, more than extensive counseling -- if you're trying to kick a smoking habit, new research shows.

A study appearing in this month's issue of Prevention reports that smokers who were forced to view first-hand what their own hardened arteries looked like were nearly four times more likely to quit than those simply subjected to counseling, according to wire reports.

For the study, part of a group of 153 patients who'd received counseling on quitting smoking were shown ultrasound images of their thickening artery walls by the team of Swiss researchers. They were also given explanations of how the thickening could lead to a heart attack or the need for bypass surgery.

In a six-month follow-up, the researchers found that 22 percent of those who had viewed images of their clogged arteries had quit smoking, whereas only 6 percent of those who'd only received the counseling had quit.

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Diet May Help Ease Attention Disorder

A diet rich in fatty acids can help treat children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), a new study finds. The condition, which affects about 4 percent of American children, is characterized by an inability to concentrate and hyperactivity.

After a three-month trial, children given a supplement rich in the fatty acids showed marked improvement in their behaviors, say the Oxford University researchers who led the study. Specifically, the children were less shy and anxious, reports BBC News.

The fatty acids are naturally found in oily fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna. Other foods rich in the substances include nuts and green, leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage.

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Staph Vaccine Shines in Difficult Test

An experimental vaccine for one of the most aggressive bacterial infections has passed a major test, proving it can protect even patients with severely hobbled immune systems from the deadly illness, HealthDay reports.

The vaccine is the first to ward off so-called opportunistic pathogens, microbes that thrive in people with weakened immune function. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the worst, a usually drug-resistant bacterium that kills between 10 percent and 25 percent of the people it infects.

However, a study in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine finds the new vaccine, called StaphVax, cut the incidence of blood-borne staph infections by nearly 60 percent in patients with end-stage kidney disease.

The vaccine also managed to provoke an immune response in 86 percent of these patients, who are extremely vulnerable to infections.

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