Health Highlights: Nov. 1, 2011

Obama in Excellent Health Scientists Rejuvenate Cells From Elderly Group Challenges J&J; on Chemicals in Baby Shampoo Vytorin Helps Reduce Heart Problems in Kidney Disease Patients: FDA Gene-Tweaked Mosquitoes May Lower Dengue Fever Cases

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

Obama in Excellent Health

President Barack Obama is physically active, eats a healthy diet, maintains a healthy weight, occasionally consumes alcohol in moderation, has quit smoking and is fit for his age, according to a new medical report.

"The President is in excellent health and 'fit for duty,'" Dr. Jeffrey C. Kuhlman, the physician who supervised the physical performed last week at the White House, wrote in the two-page report, USA Today said. "All clinical data indicate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency."

"The President is current on all age-appropriate screening tests," Kuhlman noted. "He is 'fit at 50' and 'staying healthy at 50+.'"

Obama's next physical should be held in December 2012, Kuhlman recommended. That's a month after the presidential election, USA Today said.


Scientists Rejuvenate Cells From Elderly

Age-worn cells in people over 90 were rejuvenated into stem cells that were identical to those found in embryos, a new study says.

The achievement could lead to new opportunities in regenerative medicine, especially for seniors, according to scientists, Agence France-Presse reported.

The research is reported in the journal Genes & Development.

"This is a new paradigm for cell rejuvenation," Jean-Marc Lemaitre, a researcher at the Institute of Functional Genomics at the University of Montpellier in France, told AFP. "The age of cells is definitely not a barrier to reprogramming."


Group Challenges J&J on Chemicals in Baby Shampoo

Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo sold in the United States contains trace amounts of two chemicals considered harmful to babies, but the company sells versions of the shampoo without the chemicals in other countries, according to a group called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The coalition of environmental and health groups has spent 2 1/2 years trying to convince Johnson & Johnson to remove the potential cancer-causing chemicals -- dioxane and a substance called quaternium-15 that release formaldehyde -- from the shampoo, the Associated Press reported.

The company says it is reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals but has not responded directly to the demand of the group, which is now calling for a consumer boycott of Johnson & Johnson baby products.

"Johnson & Johnson clearly can make safer baby shampoo in all the markets around the world, but it's not doing it," said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the AP reported. "It's clearly a double standard, something they can easily fix."

The group's new report on the issue will be released Tuesday, the same day that it will launch the boycott on its website.


Vytorin Helps Reduce Heart Problems in Kidney Disease Patients: FDA

The cholesterol pill Vytorin helps reduce heart problems in kidney disease patients, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.

The pill, a combination of the cholesterol drugs Zocor and Zetia, is already approved for treating high cholesterol levels. Merck & Co. has asked the FDA to approve the pill to reduce heart attack, stroke and related problems in kidney disease patients, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA review found that Vytorin reduced kidney disease patients' risk of heart problems by 16 percent compared to placebo. It found no safety concerns with the pill.

On Wednesday, an independent panel of FDA advisers will discuss the proposed new use of Vytorin and vote on whether to recommend approval, the AP reported.


Gene-Tweaked Mosquitoes May Lower Dengue Fever Cases

A new study suggests that genetically modified (GM) male mosquitoes might help reduce human cases of dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases.

The GM males -- who are modified so their offspring die before they can reproduce -- mated successfully with wild female mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, BBC News reported.

This is the first time that this type of mating -- which could reduce the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes -- has been proven in the wild, according to the researchers.

The study appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and the World Health Organization says there may be 50 million cases of the disease a year, BBC News reported. There is no vaccine against dengue fever.


Consumer News