Report highlights baby-bottle risk



Parents who heat plastic baby bottles risk feeding their children a synthetic hormone linked with medical, reproductive and developmental problems, according to a University of Missouri study released last week.

The chemical - bisphenol A - is used in making hard, polycarbonate plastic and leaches out of the bottles when heated to 80 degrees or filled with hot liquids, researchers said. Bisphenol A is a synthetic estrogen that can cause feminization in boys, an onset of early puberty in girls, prostate and breast cancer, and some forms of diabetes.


At a news conference, consumer groups said the new Missouri study confirmed earlier warnings and is significant because it examined major brands of baby bottles sold in the United States and Canada.

Approximately 90 percent of all plastic baby bottles sold in the United States are made with bisphenol A.

Industry groups, however, disputed the study's conclusions.

Amy Chezem, a spokeswoman for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association, which represents baby-bottle makers, said the findings are not new.

"The industry has been dealing with the issue - it's just scare tactics for parents," she said.

Chezem noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration studied the issue and had not found a problem.




Gene therapy makes virus self-destruct

For the first time, researchers have slowed and possibly stopped the AIDS virus from reproducing in patients by using a gene therapy that tricks it into self-destructing.

The results, announced last week, are heartening not just for people infected with HIV but also for the field of gene therapy, which remains highly experimental more than 20 years after scientists figured out how to use viruses to insert therapeutic genes into a cell's genome.

Mostly, the results are a big step forward for the biotech start-up that is developing the novel therapy and for its collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The buzzword in the field is viral 'fitness,' meaning how well the virus can replicate," said Gary McGarrity, executive vice president for scientific affairs at VIRxSYS Corp. in Gaithersburg.

"In eight of the nine patient samples we studied, we see diminished HIV fitness up to two years after treatment."


That raises the hope that even if medical science cannot come up with the Holy Grail of AIDS research - a vaccine to prevent HIV infection - patients might be able to keep HIV under control, perhaps without relying on the toxic drug cocktails that commuted what was once a death sentence.


Sexual health

Gel might boost low libido in women

Thanks to Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, men with erectile dysfunction can get on board the Food and Drug Administration-approved love train. But women who experience a different sexual problem - sagging libido - have been left at the station.

That may be changing.


BioSante Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing the safety and effectiveness of LibiGel, a testosterone gel for women designed to combat declines in sexual arousal associated with menopause. There are currently no drugs available in the U.S. specifically approved for pumping up lackluster libido in women.

The Lincolnshire, Ill.,-based company is conducting two trials, comprising 1,000 women, to test the effectiveness of the gel, which is applied to the upper arm. The company will also test the gel's safety in a trial of as many as 3,100 women using LibiGel or a placebo.

If the trials go well, the drug could be available by prescription by 2011, says BioSante chief executive Stephen Simes.

Los Angeles Times