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Health Highlights: Oct. 24, 2012

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

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Switching Egg DNA Shields Against Mitochondrial Disease: Study

U.S. researchers who switched bits of defective DNA in a human egg with the same healthy DNA from another egg say this technique could prevent women from passing rare and potentially deadly mitochondrial disease to their children.

Half of the eggs with the transplanted DNA got fertilized, and many of those developed into healthy human embryos, according to laboratory test results published in the journal Nature, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a previous experiment, the team of researchers conducted the same type of DNA transfer in monkeys and let the eggs proceed to live births. Those animals are now three years old and doing well.

Based on the results of these two experiments, "we expect to be in clinical trials in two or three years," Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a lead author of the new study and a development biologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., told the WSJ.

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Medicare Policy Change Helps Patients Who Need Rehab Services

A proposed Medicare change will enable thousands of patients with disabilities or severe chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease to keep getting rehabilitation and other services.

The change agreed to by the Obama administration in a national class action suit would mean that these patients would continue to receive physical and occupational therapy and other services at home or in a nursing home, even if they don't show improvement, Gill Deford, a lawyer with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, told the Associated Press.

Longstanding Medicare policy says patients must show improvement to keep receiving rehabilitation services. This was challenged in court by the Center for Medical Advocacy and other groups.

"If you have a chronic condition, by definition you are not improving," Deford told the AP. "Our view is that Medicare regulations were intended to allow people to maintain their health status. They don't have to show they are getting any better. The point is to allow them not to get any worse, if possible."

The change could affect tens of thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of patients in the U.S. with conditions such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and chronic lung disease.

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