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Male Hormones Could Soothe Dry Eye Agony

September 29, 1997|From Times staff and wire reports

A majority of the 10 million Americans whose incurable dry eye syndrome make them feel like their eyeballs are rolling around the Sahara Desert might get relief from daily eyedrops containing male hormones called androgens, Dr. David A. Sullivan of Harvard Medical School told a Los Angeles seminar sponsored by Research to Prevent Blindness. Animal studies suggest that the treatment could effectively treat 60% to 80% of all dry eye patients.

At its worst, dry eye causes pain, corneal ulcers and loss of vision. Until now, the disorder has been only temporarily helped with artificial tears, goggles to keep out sun and air, and plugs to prevent tears from draining. Clinical trials of the hormones could begin by 1999, he said.

Tests on Vaccine to End Corneal Rejections

University of Texas ophthalmologists told the Research to Prevent Blindness symposium that they are testing an oral vaccine on mice that could help prevent rejection of corneal transplants, the most common tissue transplant. The vaccine slowly trains the recipient's immune system to accept donated corneas.

About 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the United States each year, with a success rate of nearly 90%. Dr. Jerry Niederkorn's research, designed to help the remaining 10%, would involve feeding the cornea recipient cells from the cornea, blood or skin of the donor prior to the transplant.

About 45% of the mice who eat the cells accept the corneas without using immunosuppressive drugs, compared to none of those who received no treatment.

Obesity Risks Linked Between Parent and Child

Overweight kids are likely to grow to be obese adults, and the risk of obesity is higher for children who have at least one severely overweight parent, according to a study published in the Sept. 25 New England Journal of Medicine. Although it is widely believed that obesity is inherited to some extent, the study is one of the first to directly measure the risks, according to a team of five researchers led by Dr. Robert C. Whitaker of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Among the findings of the study:

* Overweight children aged 3 to 5 are four times more likely to be obese when they hit their 20s than kids who are not overweight.

* The risks increase with age. They are 10 times higher for overweight 6- to 9-year-olds, 28 times higher for 10- to 14-year-olds and 20 times higher for fat 15- to 17-year-olds.

* The child of an obese mother is about three times more likely to be severely overweight than if the mother is not obese. The risk if the father is obese is a little bit less.

Older Husbands Likely to Beget Male Heirs

Women who marry men older than themselves are more likely to have a son as their first child, British researchers reported in the Sept. 25 Nature. John Manning and colleagues at the University of Liverpool studied 301 families and recorded the differences in the age of mothers and fathers and the sex of their children.

Women whose husbands were more than five years older tended to have boys first, but if their partner was younger or the same age their first child was more likely to be a girl. "We found that this was the case, but only for first-born children. We don't know why, but that is the case in our data," Manning said.

Doctor Calls for Adoption of Circumcision in Europe

A U. S. doctor called for universal circumcision in Europe, arguing that the health benefits outweigh any of the complications or costs of the operation. In a report in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Dr. Edgar Schoen of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Oakland argued that newborn circumcision offered increased protection against urinary tract infections, cancer of the penis and sexually transmitted diseases. He said circumcision is a quick, easy and safe procedure that is completely safe when done properly.

Although 70% of men in the United States are circumcised, the operation is much rarer in Europe, where it is done mainly for religious or ethnic reasons.

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