Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Osteoporosis Drugs Can Cause Severe Musculoskeletal Pain: FDA
Anti-osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates may cause severe and sometimes incapacitating bone, joint, and/or muscle (musculoskeletal) pain, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned doctors and patients Monday.
The risk of severe musculoskeletal pain is outlined in the prescribing information for all bisphosphonates, but the association between the drugs and this kind of pain may be overlooked by doctors, resulting in delayed diagnosis, prolonged pain/impairment, and the need to use painkilling medications, the FDA said.
Severe musculoskeletal pain may occur within days, months, or years after a patient begins taking bisphosphonates. The risk factors for, and the incidence of, severe musculoskeletal pain associated with bisphosphonates are unknown. Some patients experience complete relief after they stop taking a bisphosphonate, while others report slow or incomplete resolution of symptoms.
Doctors should consider whether a bisphosphonate may be responsible for patient complaints of severe musculoskeletal pain. In such cases, doctors should think about temporary or permanent discontinuation of the drug, the FDA said.
Study May Offer New Hope for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
The central nervous system can reorganize itself to redirect brain messages around spinal cord damage and control limb movement, a University of California, Los Angeles study with mice found.
The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, suggests it may one day be possible to reroute the nervous system to help patients with serious spinal cord injury regain the ability to move their legs, reported The Daily Telegraph in the U.K.
"Imagine the long nerve fibers that run between the cells in the brain and lower spinal cord as major freeways," said study leader Professor Michael Sofroniew. "When there's a traffic accident on the motorway, what to drivers do? They take shorter surface streets. These detours aren't as fast or direct, but still allow drivers to reach their destination."
He and his colleagues saw something similar in their research with mice.
"When spinal cord damage blocked direct signals from the brain, under certain conditions the messages were able to make detours around the injury. The message would follow a series of shorter connections to deliver the brain's command to move the legs," Sofroniew told the Telegraph.
Study Reveals How Bird Flu Viruses Infect People
New information about how influenza viruses carried by birds can infect people has been discovered by U.S. scientists. The finding may aid in the development of a vaccine to protect against the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and other types of influenza, Agence France-Presse reported.
The study, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Ram Sasisekharan, found that the shape of sugar receptors in human lung cells play a major role in the ability of flu viruses in birds to infect people. In humans, these receptors come in two shapes -- umbrella and cone. Flu viruses must attach to the umbrella-shaped receptors in order to infect humans.
The study, funded by the National Institute for General Medical Sciences, appears in the journal Nature.