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Health Highlights: Nov. 21, 2012

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

Abortion Rates Drop 5 Percent for Biggest Fall in Decade

Abortions in the United States declined by 5 percent -- both in number and rate -- for the largest one-year drop in a decade or more, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.

That drop occurred in 2009 and some experts say the recession may have contributed, the Associated Press reported.

In hard financial times, women "stick to the straight and narrow ... and they are more careful about birth control," Elizabeth Ananat, a Duke University assistant professor of public policy and economics, who has researched abortions, told the AP.

While actual numbers are likely higher, the CDC documented about 785,000 abortions in 2009. Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate at four per 1,000 women of childbearing age and New York had the highest, the AP reported.

Most abortions occur by the eighth week of pregnancy, the news service said.

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New Type of Flu Vaccine Approved by FDA

The first seasonal flu vaccine made using animal cell technology, instead of the standard egg method, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Novartis' Flucelvax was approved for use in people 18 years and older, the Associated Press reported.

The new animal cell method is faster than egg-based vaccine production and could increase manufacturing speed in the event of a flu pandemic.

With the new technique, small amounts of flu virus are placed in fermenting tanks with nutrients and cells derived from mammals. The virus is then inactivated, purified and placed into vaccine vials, the AP reported.

In the egg method, virus samples are injected into specialized chicken eggs and incubated. Later, the egg fluids are collected, concentrated and purified into the flu vaccine.

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Dogs Regain Ability to Walk After Nose Cell Transplant: Study

Paralyzed dogs regained the use of their hind legs after they received injections of cells grown from the lining of their nose, U.K. researchers say.

They're cautiously optimistic that the approach could be used to restore movement in people with spinal cord injuries, BBC News reported.

The Cambridge University team took olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of the noses of 23 pet dogs with spinal injuries that prevented them from using their hind legs. The cells were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory and then injected into the dogs' spinal injury sites.

Many of the dogs showed significant improvement and were able to walk on a treadmill with the help of a harness. Eleven other paralyzed dogs that were injected with a neutral fluid showed no improvement, BBC News reported.

The study, published in the journal Brain, is the first to test this type of transplant in "real-life" injuries, rather than in laboratory animals.

"Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement," said study co-author Professor Robin Franklin, BBC News reported.

"We're confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that's a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function," Franklin added.


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