Health Highlights: Jan. 17, 2008

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

U.S. Student Murders Decline

Overall rates of school-associated student murders in the United States declined from 1992 to 2006, says a study released Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study looked at public and private elementary and high schools.

An analysis of data from the School-Associated Violent Death Study found that during the seven school years from July 1999 to June 30, 2006, there were 116 students murdered in 109 school-associated incidents. That works out to an average of 16.5 per year and an average annual murder rate of .03 cases per 100,000 students.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • U.S. Student Murders Decline
    • U.K. Approves Human-Animal Stem Cell Research
    • CDC Funds Morgellons Study
    • Scientists Produce Cloned Human Embryos
    • Minnesota Company Recalls Ground Beef Products
    • FDA Warns of Chemical Name Confusion

The study also found that:

  • School-associated murders account for less than one percent of overall murders of school-aged young people.
  • Gunshot wounds were the leading cause of death (65 percent) in school-associated murders, followed by stabbing or cutting (27 percent), and beatings (12 percent). Because deaths may result from multiple causes, the total exceeds 100 percent.
  • Males, secondary school students, and students in central cities were most likely to be murdered.

"The decline in episodes of school-associated violence is promising and encouraging," Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the CDC's Injury Center, said in a prepared statement. "However, we are still facing challenges to build on the improvements that schools have made and continue to implement effective prevention strategies to keep our children safe."

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U.K. Approves Human-Animal Stem Cell Research

U.K. authorities have given scientists permission to create human-animal embryos for stem cell research, BBC News reported.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority decided to give one-year research licenses to King's College London and Newcastle University after public consultations showed people were "at ease" with the idea. Further licenses for this kind of research would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

The scientists plan to merge human cells with animal eggs in order to create hybrid embryos from which they can extract stem cells. The embryos would be destroyed within 14 days, BBC News reported.

The stem cells from these embryos are needed because researchers currently have to rely on human eggs left over from fertility treatments. But there's a shortage of such eggs, which sometimes are of poor quality.

The King's College team will use the hybrid embryos to study diseases known to have genetic causes, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and spinal muscular atrophy, BBC News reported. The Newcastle University researchers will examine how stem cells develop in different tissues in the body.

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CDC Funds Morgellons Study

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding a one-year study of a strange condition called Morgellons. People with the ailment develop sores on their skin -- out of which pop mysterious red, black or blue fibers -- and have the sensation of tiny bugs crawling all over them.

Some experts believe it's a psychiatric disorder, while others say it's a physical condition, the Associated Press reported.

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