UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

FDA OKs combination oral contraceptive

WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval Thursday of Natazia, a combination hormonal tablet for use as an oral contraceptive.

Officials said Natazia contains two female hormones — an estrogen (estradiol valerate) and a progestin (dienogest) — and is the first four-phasic oral contraceptive marketed in the United States. The FDA said “four-phasic” refers to the doses of progestin and estrogen varying at four times throughout each 28-day treatment cycle.

“Nearly 12 million women in the United States and more than 100 million women worldwide currently use oral contraceptives,” said Dr. Scott Monroe, director of the FDA’s Division of Reproductive and Urologic Products. “The approval of Natazia provides another option for women who choose to use an oral contraceptive as their method of contraception.”

The federal agency noted women older than 35 who smoke shouldn’t use the product. The FDA said cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events from combination oral contraceptive use.

Natazia is manufactured by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals of Wayne, N.J.

Less than 6 hours of sleep can kill you

WARWICK, England, May 6 (UPI) — People who sleep for less than 6 hours each night have an increased risk of dying prematurely, British and Italian researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and the Federico II University Medical School in Naples, Italy, found that those who slept for less than 6 hours a night were 12 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who slept the recommended 6-8 hours a night.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, also said sleeping more than 9 hours a night is not linked to premature death, but can indicate a serious or potentially fatal illness.

The researchers reviewed 16 studies from Britain, the United States, Europe and East Asia that involved more than 1.3. million people with up to 25 years of follow-up.

“Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take, and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work,” Francesco Cappuccio of the University of Warwick and physician at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said in a statement.

“Consistently sleeping 6 to 8 hours per night may be optimal for health.”

Study: ‘Spring creep’ is hurting ecology

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 6 (UPI) — The Union of Concerned Scientists says human-induced warming is causing spring to arrive earlier than normal, posing a major threat to plants and animals.

The organization says spring is arriving about 10 days earlier than usual, and while it’s not difficult for people to adjust, “spring creep” can create mismatches when some plants bud earlier and the animals that depend on them haven’t adjusted their internal clocks.

For example, researchers said bees might fly to an area that provide habitat for plants they historically pollinate only to find the plants already have bloomed.

In a recent telephone briefing sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Jake Weltzin, the executive director of the National Phenology Network and an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a number of states, caterpillars, which in the past would have been eaten by migratory birds, are now falling to the ground before the birds show up.

That’s not only bad for the birds, Weltzin said, but a recent study found thousands of grazing pregnant mares in the Ohio River Valley ingested the caterpillars, causing them to abort their fetuses.

But the UCS said even if all global warming emissions stopped today, the planet would still experience more climate changes because carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases remain in the atmosphere for decades.

The organization says our near-term choices about energy, transportation and land use will not stop climate change, but they will determine its extent and severity.

Stem cells may aid Parkinson’s patients

NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 6 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests endometrial stem cells might be able to take over the function of the non-working brain cells of Parkinson’s disease patients.

Yale University researchers led by Dr. Hugh Taylor said they injected the stem cells into the brains of mice with a laboratory-induced form of Parkinson’s disease. The cells appeared to take over the functioning of brain cells eradicated by the disease.

The scientists said their finding raises the possibility that women with Parkinson’s disease could serve as their own stem cell donors. Similarly, because endometrial stem cells — derived from the lining of the uterus — are readily available and easy to collect, banks of endometrial stem cells could be stored for men and women with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement.

“Endometrial tissue is probably the most readily available, safest, most easily attainable source of stem cells that is currently available,” said Taylor. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we will be able to do with these cells.”

The findings appear in the early online edition of the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

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