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Health Highlights: April 25, 2017

Last Updated: April 25, 2017.

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

'Artificial Womb' Kept Premature Lambs Alive: Study

An artificial womb kept premature lambs alive for weeks, and this approach might one day improve premature human babies' chances of survival, according to a new study.

The womb resembles a plastic bag and provides the fetus with what it needs to keep growing and maturing, including a nutrient-rich blood supply and amniotic fluid, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Human trials may be possible within a few years, according to the team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, BBC News reported.

In premature babies, the likelihood of survival is close to zero at less than 23 weeks, 15 percent at 23 weeks, 55 percent at 24 weeks and 80 percent at 25 weeks. The baby lambs in the study were equivalent in age to 23-week-old human infants.

Despite the success in keeping the premature lambs alive, there are a number of challenges with this technique. There is a significant risk of infection and achieving the proper mix of nutrients and hormones to support a human baby will be difficult, BBC News reported.

"This study is a very important step forward. There are still huge challenges to refine the technique, to make good results more consistent and eventually to compare outcomes with current neonatal intensive care strategies," according to Colin Duncan, professor of reproductive medicine and science at the University of Edinburgh, U.K.

"This will require a lot of additional pre-clinical research and development and this treatment will not enter the clinic any time soon," Duncan said, BBC News reported.


No Answers Yet in Child Paralysis Disease Outbreak: CDC

The cause of an outbreak of a rare, polio-like paralyzing condition that's affected hundreds of children in 37 states is still unknown, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say.

There were 138 reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis in 2016 and five more have been reported so far this year. Patients have been tested for more than 250 viruses but no single one appears to be a major cause of the condition, NBC News reported.

Officials also don't know who might be more at risk or how cases of the disease tend to progress, the CDC's Tracy Ayers said at a meeting of the agency's Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, which can leave patients disabled for months, include sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, drooping facial muscles, including the eyelids, and difficulty moving the eyes, NBC News reported.

Most patients require hospitalization and a few have been completely paralyzed. The CDC does not know of any deaths. There is no specific treatment for the condition.

"This is such a brand-new disease that we don't know what the long term outcomes are," Ayers said, NBC News reported.

The CDC is asking physicians to collect blood and spinal fluid samples from patients believed to have acute flaccid myelitis. "We need as much information as possible," Ayers said.


University Vending Machine Offers Morning-After Pill

The morning-after pill is being sold in a vending machine at the University of California, Davis and many people support this type of availability.

Along with condoms and pregnancy tests, the Wellness-To-Go Machine in a study lounge also dispenses the Plan B pill for $30 a box, CBS News reported.

It took economics major Parteek Singh nearly two years to get the vending machine into the lounge.

"There was an incident where my friends went to the one pharmacy in town on a Friday night and they were all out of emergency contraception," said Singh, CBS News reported.

Along with being popular at UC Davis, Singh is getting calls from student across the country who want the same type of vending machine. "I want to see this on every college campus," he said.

A school spokeswoman told NBC News the school senate worked with administration and health care officials in establishing the Wellness Machine.

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