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Health Highlights: July 26, 2003

India's Prime Minister Urges AIDS Action 'Test-Tube Babies' Celebrate Procedure's Silver Anniversary FDA Approves Growth Hormone Shots for Short Kids A Stretch in Time Doesn't Save Anything Aussie Researchers Ace Tennis Elbow With Heart Medication

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

India's Prime Minister Urges AIDS Action

India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called for a concerted national effort to combat HIV and AIDS, in the wake of new government figures showing a major leap in the number of those infected.

Addressing the biggest forum on HIV/AIDS ever held in India, Vajpayee said Saturday that the epidemic demanded an "effective and undelayed response" from all sections of society, the BBC reported. "It is obvious that political parties in our country need to pay far greater attention to issues of health care than they do now," he told more than 1,000 politicians at the two-day conference in New Delhi.

India Health Ministry estimates, made public Friday, show about 4.58 million people -- or about 0.8 percent of the country's adult population -- have the HIV virus, compared with 3.97 million cases last year. That means that India has the second-largest population of HIV sufferers after South Africa, according to UN officials.

Despite the large number of infections, the percentage of the population affected in a country with more than 1 billion people is significantly lower than in many African countries, the Associated Press reports.

Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said on Friday that the Indian government's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS were patchy, with some states taking up the campaign vigorously, "while others were still in denial."

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'Test-Tube Babies' Celebrate Silver Anniversary of Procedure

Hundreds of children born through in vitro fertilization gathered Saturday in Bourn, England, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the procedure that revolutionized fertility treatment.

Louise Brown, the first of more than 1 million test-tube babies and now a postal worker living in Bristol, marked her birthday with one of the two doctors who made it possible, the Associated Press reports.

The two doctors made medical history when they implanted a fertilized embryo in the uterus of Brown's mother, Lesley. Louise was born July 25, 1978; the Bourn Hall celebration of her 25th birthday came a day late.

Dr. Robert Edwards recalled meeting with Brown's parents in Oldham, northern England, and explaining to them the technique and its risks before she was conceived.

"What we did was help a lot of people," he said at a news conference. However, he noted that IVF still has frustrating limitations because only 20 percent of human embryos -- whether they're created naturally or outside the body -- implant in the uterus. He said he hoped to see fertility technologies improve further.

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FDA Approves Growth Hormone Shots for Short Kids

The Food and Drug Administration has OK'd the use of growth hormone injections on children who are healthy but abnormally short and who hope to gain 1 to 3 inches of height.

The drug, called Humatrope, is only for the shortest 1.2 percent of children, which manufacturer Eli Lilly says includes 400,000 such children between the ages 7 to 15. The drug maker, however, predicts that only about 10 percent ultimately would receive growth hormone because of tight eligibility restrictions, and because many families won't want to endure up to six shots a week for years, Newsday reports.

Growth hormone has been used for 16 years to treat children who are extremely short because their bodies don't naturally produce the substance or because of a few other growth-stunting diseases. Some 200,000 children worldwide have taken it; the cost range is between $10,000 and $25,000 a year for the drug.

The FDA has long struggled to define just what constituted medically appropriate use of the drug without opening floodgates to children of normal height, the paper reports. Last month, the agency's scientific advisers were persuaded by a New York teenager, who described being ostracized in elementary school when she couldn't reach the water fountain. Now 17, the girl had seven years of growth hormone shots that left her 5 feet 2 inches tall, 6 inches taller than her doctor predicted she'd ever be.

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A Stretch in Time Doesn't Save Anything

This latest bit of research may seem a stretch, but it isn't really.

Researchers are now saying that holding a stretch for significantly less time than is usually recommended is just as effective as holding it for a longer time.

The recommendations for how long a stretch should last for maximum benefit range from 15 seconds to two minutes. So researchers at the Medical College of Ohio set out to test whether total time each day not the duration of a stretch is more beneficial, the Baltimore Sun reports.

They asked 23 healthy students and staff members to do hamstring stretches twice a day. The volunteers stretched one leg six times for 10 seconds, with a five-second rest in between, and stretched the other leg twice, holding it for 30 seconds each time. At the end of the day, they had accumulated a total stretch time of two minutes.

After six weeks of following this routine, measurements by a physical therapist found that the range of motion in both hips had improved equally well, according to the findings, which were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

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Australian Researchers Ace Tennis Elbow With Heart Medication

A topically applied angina medication appears to be effective in treating tennis elbow.

New research on the use of nitric oxide in patches was presented by Australian researchers Friday at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine(AOSSM) in San Diego.

"Patients with tennis elbow, who use patches to deliver nitric oxide to the affected area, recover on average about 20 weeks earlier than those not receiving the treatment," says George A.C. Murrell, director of the Orthopaedic Research Institute at St. George Hospital, University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Tennis elbow, a common cause of chronic elbow pain and wrist dysfunction, typically affects people between 35 and 54 years of age. Nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels, has been used for more than 100 years to treat angina, which is chest pain caused by clogged arteries, and also enhances collagen synthesis, which is crucial to tendon healing.

Murrell and his colleagues conducted a study of 86 patients with tennis elbow to evaluate the continuous topical nitric oxide effect on patients with chronic tennis elbow. Half the patients were given nitric oxide patches and tendon rehabilitation exercises; the other half received placebo patches and tendon rehabilitation exercises.

At six months, 81 percent of the patients using the nitric oxide patches were pain-free compared to 60 percent of patients using placebo patches, Murrell says in a news release.

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