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Today's Health Highlights: Jan. 4, 2002

'Posthumous Twins' Awarded Heredity Rights If You Don't Like Viagra, Just WaitDolly Has ArthritisFDA OKs Heart Monitor With Internet Smarts Being Belted in the Back Seat Could Save Those in Front Pregnant Women Who Smoke Raise Diabetes Risk for Kids

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

'Posthumous Twins' Awarded Heredity Rights

Michayla and Mackenzie Woodward are definitely their father's children, even though they were born about two years after he died.

HealthDay reports a Boston court ruled that the Massachusetts twins, who were conceived through artificial insemination using their father's frozen sperm 16 months after he died from leukemia, are his legal heirs. The lawsuit was brought by their mother, who had applied for -- and been denied -- Social Security benefits as the result of the twins' father's death.


If You Don't Like Viagra, Just Wait

It had to happen sooner or later: Viagra, the hallmark for fixing male sexual dysfunction, is about to get some competition.

ABC News reports that Lilly's Cialis and Bayer's Vardenafil may actually work better than Viagra. The Europeans call Cialis "le weekend," according to the network.

Both drugs, which have chemical properties different from Viagra, have been submitted to the FDA for approval.


Dolly Has Arthritis

Dolly the cloned sheep is only five years old, rather young in the ovine kingdom.

But according to the latest wire reports, the world's most famous ewe has developed arthritis. Concerned scientists are centering their investigation on whether the cloning process itself brought about the premature condition.

Sheep usually don't develop arthritis until they're about 11 or 12, the Associated Press reports.


FDA OKs Heart Monitor With Internet Smarts

An implanted heart monitoring device that sends vital data to a cardiac patient's doctor has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the device's manufacturer says.

Minneapolis-based Medtronic says its Carelink monitor will allow doctors to evaluate a patient's heart activity over the Internet, without requiring the patient to leave home.

The company says a patient would collect the data by holding a small "antenna" over the implanted device. An external monitor would then transmit the data via a standard phone line to a secure Internet site for physicians.

Medtronic says the device will not eliminate the need for office visits entirely, but will "provide clinicians with access to important information to determine when patients need to be seen."


Being Belted in the Back Seat Could Save Those in Front

A front-seat passenger is five times more likely to die in an accident if the passenger behind him isn't buckled up, Japanese researchers report in the Jan 5. issue of The Lancet.

The report, cited in an article today by HealthDay, says the front-seat passengers -- whether belted or unbelted themselves -- are at risk of being hit by flying bodies that strike their seats from behind.

But a car safety expert quoted by HealthDay calls the figures "highly exaggerated," saying that rear passengers are present in only a small number of fatal car crashes. He says while belting the rear passengers is a good idea for their own safety, it probably wouldn't cut the number of front seat fatalities by up to 80 percent, as the Japanese researchers claim.


Pregnant Women Who Smoke Hike Diabetes Risk for Kids

Children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to become obese and develop Type II diabetes later in life, HealthDay reports today.

The study, reported in the Jan. 4 issue of the British Medical Journal, was conducted by researchers at the Karolinsk Institute in Stockholm. They say 28 men and women whose mothers had smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy developed Type II diabetes by the time they turned 33. That's a fourfold increase compared to children whose mothers hadn't smoked.

The researchers, while stressing that their finding are preliminary, say the study further demonstrates why women should not smoke during pregnancy. While they did not elaborate on the exact link between maternal smoking and a child's risk of developing diabetes later in life, they say these findings could provide clues to the causes of obesity, insulin resistance and Type II diabetes itself.

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