It's safe to go into the sauna, even for most pregnant women and some heart patients. An analysis of 130 studies of sauna safety published in the American Journal of Medicine found no evidence that saunas lower fertility rates or cause birth defects or other health problems in healthy people. The studies suggest saunas are safe for people with stable heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, rheumatic disease or skin disease. People who shouldn't use saunas are those with unstable angina, recent heart attack victims, people with narrowed arteries and women with high-risk pregnancies.
Fears that the hepatitis B vaccine can cause multiple sclerosis are unfounded, according to two new studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, fears of such a link have worried some doctors and patients for years. But, in two independent studies, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and McGill University in Montreal found the vaccine doesn't cause MS in healthy people or trigger flare-ups in MS patients.
Artificial heart OK'd: The government has given the go-ahead to a Massachusetts company to try its artificial heart in humans. Abiomed Inc. received Food and Drug Administration approval to test AbioCor, the first totally implantable artificial heart, in five patients. Five medical centers will be included in the trial and the first device probably will be implanted during the first half of this year. If things go well, the trial will expand to include 25 additional facilities, Abiomed said.
Gene of the week, part 1: A common version of an immune system gene raises the risk of developing the most severe kind of diabetes, a study suggests. The finding might someday help doctors treat the disease, which can lead to kidney failure and other organ damage. The new work is reported in the journal Nature Genetics by Australian researchers, who found that a gene called IL12B plays a significant role in the development of type 1 diabetes.
Gene of the week, part 2: Scientists have tracked down a gene that makes some families prone to prostate cancer. Overall, it may play a role in up to 5 percent of cases, they said. Scientists have already implicated a few known genes in prostate cancer risk, and there appear to be at least a half-dozen more. But the new work, reported in Nature Genetics by University of Utah researchers, is the first to start with families with a strong inherited predisposition to the disease and to identify the responsible gene, called ELAC2.