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Health Highlights: June 29, 2004

Woman Gets Pregnant After Ovarian Transplant Popcorn Factory Workers Lose Lawsuit Over Lung Damage Starbucks to Offer Lower-Calorie Frappuccino Bird Flu Could Become Deadlier to People: Study More Women Having Planned C-Sections Sex Drug May Benefit Both Sexes

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

Woman Gets Pregnant After Ovarian Transplant

In a medical first, a 32-year-old woman has become pregnant after receiving an ovary tissue transplant.

The baby was conceived naturally and is due in early October. News of the pregnancy was made public at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Conference in Berlin, BBC News Online reported.

The woman, diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997, had some of her ovarian tissue removed and frozen before she started chemotherapy. One ovary was left intact.

When the woman was declared cancer-free in 2003, doctors transplanted the ovary tissue back into her body, just below her intact ovary. Within four months, the woman was menstruating and ovulating normally, the BBC reported.

This success offers hope to female cancer patients whose treatment leaves them infertile. Ovary tissue transplants may also help women who want to become pregnant after menopause.

At the same conference, Israeli scientists said they found that hypnosis can double the success of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

Their study of 185 women receiving IVF found that 28 percent of those who underwent hypnosis became pregnant, compared to 14 percent of women who weren't hypnotized.

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Popcorn Factory Workers Lose Lawsuit Over Lung Damage

Four Missouri popcorn factory workers have lost a lawsuit that alleged they suffered disabling lung injuries from a butter-flavoring ingredient.

A jury ruled Monday that the makers of the flavoring, International Flavors and Fragrances Inc., and its subsidiary, Bush Boake Allen Inc., were not responsible for the lung damage suffered by the four workers at the popcorn plant in Jasper.

This was the third in a series of lawsuits by 30 people who worked at the plant. There are another 27 lawsuits pending, the Associated Press reported.

In March, a married couple who worked at the plant was awarded $20 million in damages. A second lawsuit led to a confidential settlement.

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Starbucks to Offer Lower-Calorie Frappuccino

Following the food industry trend to offer lower-calorie fare, Starbucks on Wednesday will announce a light version of its Frappuccino drinks.

The new drinks will be made with lower-fat milk and artificial sweeteners. A 12-oz. serving of the light drink will contain 110 calories and a gram of fat. Regular Frappuccinos have 190 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, the Associated Press reported.

Starbucks stores will also offer brochures that contain nutritional information about all their drinks. That information is already available on Starbucks' Web site.

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Bird Flu Could Become Deadlier to People: Study

The H5N1 strain of bird flu that swept through Asia earlier this year led to the deaths of millions of birds and at least 24 people in Vietnam and Thailand. A new study finds that the strain is progressively becoming more deadly to mammals, leading experts to worry that it may cause the next global pandemic in humans.

According to Chinese scientists reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is historically rare for an avian virus to make the jump to people. In addition to this year's instance, the team from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture cited a 1997 outbreak that led to six human deaths.

But as viruses do, the H5N1 strain is constantly mutating, and there's evidence that recent variants are becoming more deadly to mammals. For example, viruses isolated in 1999 and 2000 were significantly less pathogenic when injected into lab mice than H5N1 forms isolated in 2001 and 2002, the researchers said in a statement.

These scientists and other experts worry that the bird flu strain will combine with an ordinary human flu virus, creating a lethal hybrid that's as dangerous to mammals as the bird flu strain -- and as contagious as the human flu.

While there's no evidence that this type of outbreak is about to occur, the scientists caution that the possibility is very real and should not be ignored.

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More Women Having Planned C-Sections

While Caesarean section surgery has been a lifesaver for countless mothers and babies, critics are deploring a recent trend that finds more pregnant women choosing to deliver their infants this way when there's no clear medical need, the Associated Press reports.

In 2002, C-sections accounted for 26.1 percent of all births, an historical high. Denver-based HealthGrades, which studies health-care quality issues, said its recent review of insurance claims found that some 80,000 women had pre-planned, elective C-sections that year, up from just under 63,000 in 2001, according to the wire service.

Those numbers represent a small fraction of the 4 million births each year in the United States. And experts say while C-sections are safer than ever before, they still represent major abdominal surgery. Complications could include hemorrhage, infection, blood clots, and risks to future natural deliveries, according to the AP.

Proponents of elective C-sections say natural childbirth has its own drawbacks, including labor pain and a slight risk of incontinence caused by vaginal tears.

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Sex Drug May Benefit Both Sexes

A drug that acts on certain hormonal responses promises to improve the sex life of women as well as men -- even though it acts on each sex differently, HealthDay reports.

The drug, PT-141, is believed to act on receptors for a hormone called melanocortin, which are found in the brain and elsewhere in the body. By contrast, existing medications like Viagra and its competitors increase blood flow to the penis and are not known to affect female sexual activity.

According to a report in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, female rats given the new drug and placed in a chamber with a male showed a marked increase in behaviors intended to solicit sexual contact, such as hopping and darting.

And trials on people have found that the drug causes an increase in erections when given to men in the form of a nasal spray.

Dr. Hunter Wessells, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, said it's not surprising that the drug could affect sexual activity in both males and females.

"The interesting thing is that in men it induces erections but doesn't seem to have a significant effect on sexual desire," he said. "In female rats, we get a different response pattern that may translate into a usable drug for female sexual dysfunction."

Wessells is taking part in human tests of the drug, which he says are moving ahead for both men and women.

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