Frequent sex associated with greater enjoyment of life for men, but not women: Study

tetmc/iStockBY: Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez

(NEW YORK) -- Frequent sexual activity leads to greater enjoyment of life for men -- but not for women, a new study has found.

For women, frequent kissing, petting, fondling, and feeling emotionally close to their partner was associated with higher enjoyment of life.

In a study of almost 7,000 people ages 50-89 in England, researchers correlated self-reported sexual activity in the past year with greater enjoyment of life in men and women.

Frequent sexual activity was defined by the study's authors as having sex more than twice per month, according to the study.

The data was obtained from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, an ongoing long-term study of the English population above 50. Researchers examined sexual activity as a modifiable target in overall well-being, which has in turn been correlated with positive health outcomes.

“Previous research has suggested that frequent sexual intercourse is associated with a range of benefits for psychological and physiological well-being, such as improved quality of life and mental health, and lower risk of certain cancers and fatal coronary events,” said Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Exercise Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University in a press release.

Although the women in this study did not report higher enjoyment of life following frequent sexual activity, previous studies in older women have associated sexual pleasure, and specifically orgasms, with increased longevity.

Beyond the benefits for individual men and women, encouraging older adults to have more sex may be beneficial to the health care system.

"Promoting well-being in later life is a public health priority…If encouraging and supporting people to continue to enjoy a healthy sex life in old age could help to boost well-being, there may be benefits both for the individual and for the sustainability of health services,” said Dr. Sarah Jackson from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care in a press release.

Yet English adults have been shown to decrease their sexual activity substantially with age.

In a 2016 study, 94 percent of adults in their fifties reported being sexually active, which progressively declined to 31 percent in adults over 80.

Similar trends have been observed in American adults.

The authors acknowledge the type of study they conducted -- anonymous, self-administered questionnaires at only one point in time -- does not allow them to establish frequent sex as the cause of greater life enjoyment, as it is also possible that those who enjoy life more are in turn more likely to have sex.

Edith Bracho-Sanchez is a board-certified pediatrician, a Stanford Global Health and Journalism Fellow, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Scientists are getting ahead of Rift Valley fever after learning from the Zika epidemic 

nechaev-kon/iStock(NEW YORK) --  The Zika virus epidemic of 2015 resulted in thousands of Brazilian babies being born with severe brain defects after the virus was transmitted to pregnant mothers from mosquitoes. It became a public health emergency around the world because scientists weren’t prepared; they didn’t understand the virus, its transmission or how to treat the defects that it caused.

In an effort to prevent history from repeating itself, scientists are now working to develop effective vaccines for Rift Valley fever, another mosquito-borne disease that poses a risk to unborn children. Though the disease is uncommon in humans, it can spread rapidly. Since there aren’t human treatments for it, the World Health Organization says there is an “urgent need for accelerated research and development.”

In a new study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research, lay the groundwork for a vaccine.

“What we don’t want is a situation like Zika again, where the virus emerges and then we learn that it has detrimental effects on developing babies,” Amy Hartman, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, told ABC News.

Although Rift Valley fever has only been reported in Africa and the Middle East, the species of mosquitoes that have been identified as able to transmit the virus — Aedes and Culex — can also be found in The United States and Europe.

Hartman said that with climate change, the urgency to find a vaccine is amplified.

“With the climate changing, the mosquito habitats are expanding. This changes the areas of the world where mosquito-borne illness, including Rift Valley fever, will be found,” said Hartman, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.

Human cases of the fever during pregnancy have not been studied on a large scale yet. Outbreaks have mostly been in remote areas of African nations like Madagascar, Kenya and The Republic of Niger, and those who were affected were people who worked in the vicinity of slaughtered animals, such as cattle, camels, lamb, sheep and ewes.

The outbreaks in these animals have led to high rates of miscarriages in those that were pregnant. Ewes, for example, experienced a miscarriage rate of 100 percent, according to WHO. There is a vaccine for livestock, but not for humans.

To give them a better idea of how the virus may affect humans, Hartman and her colleagues developed the first lab-friendly rodent model to study the virus’ gestational impact. In their study, the researchers showed that Rift Valley fever could be transmitted from pregnant mother to child through the placenta, resulting in high rates of stillbirths. There were no outward signs of disease, just like with Zika.

“Our model is similar to what is seen in livestock,” Cynthia McMillen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Hartman’s lab, said in a press release. “The adults may have little or no disease symptoms, but still have significant damage to the placenta and their offspring. This observed pathology and vertical transmission of the virus can explain how Rift Valley fever virus infection leads to fetal demise.”

When the researchers tested the virus in human placental tissue, they found similar results. In fact, not only was the virus successful in infecting the tissue, it was even better at passing through the mother-child barrier than other vertically transmitted viruses, such as Zika.

“Zika has to take smaller ‘side roads’ through the placenta, and it’s a less efficient process. That’s why not all women who contract Zika go on to have babies with congenital defects,” said Carolyn Coyne, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and a leading expert on viral infections of the placenta, in a press release.

“But Rift Valley fever virus has mechanisms that overcome the placenta’s antiviral strategies. It takes ‘the expressway’ to get into the placenta fastest and easiest,” Coyne added. “Rift Valley fever is more pathogenic in fetal tissue than Zika ever has been.”

While Hartman and her colleagues work on laying the groundwork for a vaccine, she has advice for the rest of us.

“Right now, the main thing to take away would be education,” she said. People should be aware that this virus has the potential to affect fetuses, and they should “take utmost precaution to prevent mosquito bites. Since we don’t have a vaccine yet, it would be an awareness effort.”

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More schools are starting classes later to let students sleep: Why good sleep is important

maroke/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Seattle school district joined dozens of school districts around the country in the fall of 2016 by delaying the start of school. Under the new rules, instead of beginning at 7:50 a.m., class began at 8:45 a.m.

This gave researchers at the University of Washington an opportunity to determine just how much teens need sleep. In a new study, they used activity monitors to study a group of high school sophomores before and after the changes were implemented and found that with later start times, students were not only getting an extra half-hour of sleep, their grades had improved by nearly five percentage points.

Sleep is important for everyone, but even more so for teens, who are constantly losing sleep because of their busy schedules. Here’s why they need it even more:

Losing sleep puts teen health at risk and can lower their performance

Studies have shown that teens who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk of having a variety of health problems, including obesity, depression and even hypertension. Teens who lose sleep also risk poorer school performance and drowsy driving, which can increase their risk for car crashes that result in injuries or death.

A variety of factors keep teens awake.

There are many reasons for teens’ lack of sleep. Between extracurricular activities, school work, their social lives, new jobs, it seems there’s hardly any time for sleep.

Many teens are also often on their cell phones and electronics late into the night. Although their conversations with friends might keep them awake on their own, electronics have also been shown to emit blue light, which delays the time at which melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleepiness, is released.

Because of that, many phone manufacturers have started to include light settings on their phones so that they switch to red light after sundown — a color of light that does not suppress melatonin.

Still, even with these modifications, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends enforcing a media curfew at home — a time when all electronics are turned off and removed from the bedroom.

Beyond electronics and responsibilities, puberty itself is known to change the biological clock of teens, shifting their sleep cycles to later in the night and making it harder for them to fall asleep early.

Napping can help teens who feel drowsy but it’s not a long-term solution.

Afternoon naps, sleeping in on weekends and drinking coffee can improve sleepiness in the short-term, but they shouldn’t be considered a substitute for getting the right amount of sleep on a regular basis, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That’s because naps don’t actually restore optimal alertness in anyone. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends teens get between eight and 10 hours of sleep per night — a far cry from the average seven hours they actually get.

Getting a full night’s rest has been associated with improved attention, behavior, learning, memory and emotional regulation, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Schools across the country are now recognizing the benefits of more sleep for their teens.

Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Sleep Foundation have advocated for later school start times for the past few years.

When Minneapolis high schools changed start times from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., teens reported getting an extra hour of sleep, a study from the University of Minnesota found. This, in turn, led to improvements in attendance and reductions in the number of dropouts.

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E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce connected to a single water reservoir, CDC says

undefined undefined/iStock(ATLANTA) -- The E.coli outbreak in romaine lettuce has been linked to a single water reservoir on a farm in California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration identified sediment from a farm as being the source for the November outbreak.

The CDC reported that the farm in question is owned by Adam Bros. Farming Inc., located in Santa Maria, California, about 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Santa Barbara County is one of three California counties, along with San Benito and Monterey, that the CDC is advising consumers to avoid when choosing romaine lettuce. Some romaine products are now being labeled with their harvest regions.

In addition to romaine, the farm's website notes that it produces red and green leaf lettuce, celery, cauliflower and broccoli.

 Adams Bros. Farming is also recalling red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce and cauliflower harvested between Nov. 27 and Nov. 30 “out of an abundance of caution, because it may be contaminated” with the same strand of E. coli that was found in the earlier romaine, according to a statement it released on Thursday.

“The recall was initiated after it was discovered that sediment from a reservoir near where the produce was grown tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Filtered and treated water from the reservoir may have come in contact with the produce after it was harvested. None of the filtered, treated water has tested positive for E. coli, all E. coli tests returning negative,” the farm said in the statement.

All told, there have been 59 reported cases in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-three people have been hospitalized.

Two individuals developed a type of kidney failure, though the CDC did not disclose the states where those individuals were located.

California and New Jersey had the most reported cases.

The illnesses were reported between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16.

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'Young miracle': Newborn girl recovers from Ebola in world's 2nd deadliest outbreak

Nixxphotography/iStock(BENI, Democratic Republic of the Congo) -- A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo just six days after she was born is now recovered from the lethal virus, according to health officials who called her the "young miracle."

The newborn girl, named Benedicte, received treatment in the city of Beni, one of the current epicenters of the outbreak, after her Ebola-stricken mother died in childbirth on Oct. 31.

Benedicte was discharged Wednesday. The baby is said to be the youngest survivor thus far in the world's second-largest, second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.

"She went home in the arms of her father and aunt," the country's health ministry said in a statement Thursday

Pediatricians, intensive care specialists and nannies took turns watching over the infant 24 hours a day for over a month, according to the health ministry. The nannies at the Ebola treatment center in Beni are former patients who have recovered from the disease and are better able to care for sick children by wearing lighter protective gear.

"They play a fundamental role in caring for sick children who need more attention and a reassuring presence at their side during treatment," the health ministry said.

Global health organizations have sounded the alarm over the high number of young children infected in the current Ebola outbreak, which began on Aug. 1 and now has 515 confirmed and probable cases, resulting in 303 deaths, across two northeastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo bordering South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda.

Children, who are at greater risk than adults of dying from the often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever, account for more than one-third of all these cases, while one in 10 Ebola patients is a child under the age of 5, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

"We are deeply concerned by the growing number of children confirmed to have contracted Ebola," Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa who returned this week from Beni, said in a statement Tuesday.

"The earlier children infected with Ebola receive treatment in a specialized health facility, the greater their chances of survival. Community mobilization and public awareness activities are also crucial to ensuring early detection and quick referral of suspected cases to Ebola treatment centers."

More than 400 children have been orphaned or left unaccompanied in this outbreak as their infected parents or caregivers are taken away for treatment or die, according to UNICEF, which said it has opened a kindergarten next to the Ebola treatment center in Beni "to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated" there.

"Children are suffering a lot because of this epidemic –- both those who have lost parents or caregivers as well as those who have been infected themselves," Poirier said. "That’s why it’s imperative that children are put at the heart of the Ebola response."

This is the 10th outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the most severe that the country has seen since 1976, the year that scientists first identified the virus near the eponymous Ebola River.

The virus, which has a long incubation period of approximately eight to 21 days, is transmitted through contact with blood or secretions from an infected person, either directly or through contaminated surfaces, needles or medical equipment.

The ongoing outbreak is one of the world's worst, second only to the 2014-2016 outbreak in multiple West African nations that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time that a vaccine for prevention and therapeutic treatments are available for use in an Ebola outbreak. Yet this epidemic has posed a number of challenges to health workers, as they struggle to contain the spread in both remote villages and densely populated urban areas amid sporadic attacks from armed groups and resistance from the local population in an area that had never before experienced an Ebola outbreak.

The World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations, described the context of this outbreak as "unforgiving" in its latest assessment on Thursday.

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Tennessee doctor charged with 'massive opioid fraud distribution and healthcare fraud scheme'

iStock/Thinkstock(CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.) -- A Tennessee doctor has been charged in connection with "a massive opioid distribution and healthcare fraud scheme," authorities said, accusing him of preying "upon an already addicted population" and engaging in "reckless disregard for patient safety."

Dr. Samson Orusa was charged in an indictment unsealed Thursday with "maintaining a drug-involved premises, 22 counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance outside the bounds of professional medical practice, 13 counts of healthcare fraud; and nine counts of money laundering."

If found guilty, Orusa could face up to 20 years in prison for each drug-related count and up to 10 years for healthcare and money laundering counts.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Dan Cochran alleges that Orusa opened up his practice with the purpose of distributing controlled substances such as oxycodone "not for legitimate medical purposes and beyond the bounds of medical practice," the indictment reads.

“Anyone who contributes to the opioid epidemic plaguing this nation should expect to be targeted by our law enforcement partners and held accountable,” Cohran said.

The indictment alleges that in 2015 Orusa prescribed what is known as "The Holy Trinity" of drugs which contains oxymorphone, Soma which is a muscle relaxer and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug. The combination is potentially dangerous and, in fact, according to the indictment, the patient who took the combination of drugs overdosed as a result.

The indictment alleges another patient overdosed on heroin in the waiting room of the doctor's office after being prescribed oxycodone and other "Schedule II drugs" which have a high potential for abuse. Orusa wrote almost 2,500 prescriptions for Schedule II drugs between July and August 2018, authorities said.

The pattern was so bad, they said, that on the same day this past September that the state of Tennessee revoked his pain management certificate, Orusa wrote 12,754 Schedule II controlled substance prescriptions.

The government also alleges that Orusa defrauded health insurance benefit providers such as Medicare and that he transferred money to disguise "the nature of the unlawful activity."

“The arrest of Dr. Orusa should serve as a warning to all doctors who fail to practice medicine in an ethical and responsible manner,” Special Agent in Charge D. Christopher Evans of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Field Division, which oversees DEA activity throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, said in a statement.

“The men and women of DEA are committed to using every available resource to stop the flow of drugs into our communities, especially when the drug dealer is a physician.”

Orusa has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

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Breakthrough new fertility test offering hope for families who have suffered miscarriages

Rawpixel/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A Chicago couple who previously suffered two miscarriages recently welcomed a healthy baby boy thanks to a breakthrough new fertility test which helps women struggling with achieving a successful pregnancy by examining the mother's DNA.

The test is offering new hope to many family's struggling to conceive.

Carolyn Bilson and Tim O'Brien met three years ago, and say it was love at first sight.

"Literally a month later we knew, we wanted to have children," Bilson told ABC News' Good Morning America.

But after two miscarriages, Bilson, then pushing 40, said the couple sought help from a fertility specialist in Chicago who recommended in vitro fertilization.

Their first attempt at IVF, however, failed too, according to Bilson.

"I think it was just so devastating, because we didn't anticipate that," she said. "We thought the hard part would be getting pregnant, not staying pregnant."

O'Brien added that the most "frustrating thing" was that "you didn't learn anything from the previous miscarriage. So, there wasn't, 'What could we do differently?'"

The couple then learned about a new way to tailor fertility treatments specifically to the DNA of the mother, using a test that can help couples figure out the perfect time for conception, based on that DNA.

The Endometrial Receptivity Test uses a tissue sample to look at 238 genes to find out the optimum time for conception, thus increasing the couple's chance to conceive.

For Bilson, that time is two days later than the average woman.

Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa, an OB-GYN and the director of Chicago's Institute for Human Reproduction, described the process as "personalized medicine."

"This is what we are trying to do here by personalized medicine," Tur-Kaspa said, adding that you can "make sure" that "the uterus is ready, and optimize a time for implantation."

The result: Their beautiful baby Westley, who is now nine months old.

"We're so lucky," Bilson said. "We're so blessed."

OB-GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd told GMA that this breakthrough new treatment is very exciting to the medical community because it offers another avenue for women who have recurrent miscarriages to potentially get pregnant, when it is something they never thought they could look forward to.

The new technique works by having a doctor take a sample of the women's endometrial tissue, which you can get DNA from, and from that DNA you can tell what part of the cycle is prime time to take the fertilized egg and implant it via IVF, Shepherd added.

Shepherd said that the ideal candidates are women who have had three or more miscarriages or women over 40, but emphasized that the test is not for everyone and infertility is a spectrum.

One risk of the procedure many women may not take into account is the emotional effects of it not working and you still miscarrying, Shepherd said. It is a new process and important to go over the risks of the procedure -- which can vary per person -- with your health care provider.

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CDC: Fentanyl, other opioid drugs behind 54% increase in overdose deaths in six years

Hailshadow/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A new federal report shows the astonishing pace in which fentanyl rose to become the drug associated with the most overdose deaths in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report Wednesday detailing the top 15 drugs involved in drug overdose deaths from 2011 to 2016.

During that time frame, fentanyl rose from 10th place to take the top spot. From 2011 to 2016, the potent opioid went from being involved in 4 percent of drug overdose deaths to 28.8 percent.

Fentanyl's involvement in overdose deaths was drastic and sudden. It was mentioned in approximately 4,223 overdose deaths in 2014, then 8,251 overdose deaths in 2015, and 18,335 overdose deaths in 2016.

“Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, depending on how pure the heroin is,” Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, an addiction specialist, told ABC News.

“It was the most powerful and potent painkiller that, back a few years ago, used to be used for end-stage terminal cancer patients via a patch, and the patch was time released,” he said.

Overall, in the six years observed in the report, the number of annual drug overdose deaths increased by 54 percent. In 2011, there were 41,340 overdose deaths, and by 2016, that number had increased to 63,632 deaths.

“The spike in fatal overdoses can best be explained by availability and the prevalence of extremely powerful opiates like OxyContin and fentanyl, and a population that's in increasing psychological and emotional distress that's looking to escape,” Kardaras said.

While fentanyl use skyrocketed, however, the CDC found there was a drop in overdose deaths connected to OxyContin, a prescription opioid whose generic name is oxycodone. Whereas in 2011, oxycodone was associated with 13.5 percent of overdose deaths, in 2016, that dropped to 9.7 percent.

The most consistent drugs at the top of the yearly lists were heroin and cocaine, both of which were ranked within the top three spots every year between 2011 and 2016.

That said, the number of deaths -- and, therefore, the percentages -- were always larger for heroin, with the exception of 2011.

This report comes amid the ongoing opioid crisis, which President Donald Trump has declared a nationwide public health emergency.

Heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone are all opioids, while cocaine and methamphetamine are stimulants.

The CDC report also looked at which drugs were used when the overdose death was intentional -- for suicide -- versus when it was unintentional or when the intent of the overdose death was undetermined.

The report states that in cases where the intention was for the person to kill themselves, they most often turned to oxycodone or several other drugs that were listed in the study. Heroin, fentanyl and cocaine were not included in the list of the 10 drugs most commonly associated with suicides.

Fentanyl and heroin were ranked first and second for the drugs most commonly associated with unintentional overdose deaths and overdose deaths where the intent was undetermined.

Kardaras explained this by saying that if someone is going to kill themselves, it's more likely they're going to use a prescription drug where they know what the effect is going to be.

"It's a much more precise way of to potentially hurt yourself," he said. "But with street drugs [like fentanyl, cocaine or methamphetamine], it’s much more Russian roulette."

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Trump administration mulls restrictions on fetal tissue in federally-backed research

nicolas_/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Institutes of Health said Thursday it has stopped procuring human fetal tissue for some research projects while it waits for the Trump administration to complete an audit of the role the tissue plays in federally-funded experiments.

The NIH, a primary federal hub for U.S. medical research overseen by the Health and Human Services Department, also said it has initiated a $20 million effort to find alternatives.

The review is likely to revive a fierce debate between anti-abortion groups, which contend the use of fetal tissue in science is unethical, and much of the scientific community, which says it plays a vital role in studying things like cancer in children, the impact of the Zika virus and new therapies for HIV.

The dispute is reminiscent of President George W. Bush's fight to restrict stem cell research, which divided Republicans and ultimately resulted in his administration allowing government-funded research using 21 existing stem cell lines created before August 2001. President Barack Obama reversed that restriction.

“We are a pro-life, pro-science administration,” said Caitlin Oakley, a spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department, in an emailed statement to ABC News.

“This means that we understand and appreciate that medical research and the testing of new medical treatments using fetal tissue raises inherent moral and ethical issues,” she said. “This also means that we place a high value on the work NIH does in creating new discoveries that result in cures and improved quality of life.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar is conducting a review of fetal tissue use in federally-funded research "with the utmost seriousness and concern," Oakley said.

Last week, the Science Insider first reported that the Trump administration had ordered NIH to stop acquiring fetal tissue for experiments.

HHS had already announced last September it was reviewing the use of fetal tissue.

On Thursday, an NIH spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to ABC News that the organization had decided to "put a pause in place for procuring new human fetal tissue within its intramural program (research conducted by NIH investigators) until the conclusion of the audit, an action NIH thought was prudent given the examination of these procurements."

The spokeswoman added that "research with tissue already on hand could proceed, and NIH leaders asked to be notified by intramural investigators if new procurement would be necessary." She said there was no procurement block for "extramural research," or work done at institutions that receive funding from NIH.

"The intent was to pause procurement, not the research," according to NIH. "We are determining appropriate next steps to obtain tissue so that the research project can resume."

Researchers use fetal tissue to create cell cultures that can mimic certain attributes of the human body in a way that's difficult to replicate, many scientists say. According to the Congressional Research Service, NIH began supporting research involving fetal tissue in the 1950s, and in 2017 spent $98 million on grants and projects that had some involvement with fetal tissue.

"This tissue would be discarded if not donated for crucial biomedical research," said Sally Temple, former president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and co-Founder of the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer, New York.

Temple testified Thursday on the matter before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. In prepared testimony, she said fetal tissue has been vital in studying developmental conditions such as the effects of the Zika virus on an unborn child.

"The use of donated fetal tissue, including placental tissue, improved our understanding of how Zika behaves in the body and crosses the placenta to infect specific types of fetal brain cells" and cause malformations such as microcephaly, she said. Other "research models" don't exist, she said.

Tara Sander Lee, an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion group, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that "very little research" currently relies on "abortion-derived fetal tissues."

"We do not need fetal body parts from aborted babies to achieve future scientific and medical advancements," she said in prepared testimony.

On Monday, NIH announced that it plans to spend $20 million to find other alternatives.

"Research using these tissues has been important in shedding light on scientific questions fundamental to biomedical research, ranging from understanding basic physiologic mechanisms to understanding normal human tissue developmental and disease processes," the NIH wrote. "However, new technologies raise the potential of reconstituting these model systems without fetal tissue yielding more replicable and reproducible system for broader uses."

House Democrats said Thursday they aren't convinced there is a viable alternative to fetal tissue, setting up a potential clash between the Trump administration and Congress when Democrats take control of the House next year.

"Scientists are actively investigating potential alternative sources, and we should support those efforts," said Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"But for now, fetal tissue is simply irreplaceable, and any efforts to substitute it would be harmful to the critical research it supports," he said.

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Expert tips to avoid holiday weight gain

YinYang/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Don't worry -- it's possible to indulge in delicious Christmastime treats this holiday season without gaining the extra pounds by following some simple tips.

Nutritionist and health writer Jessica Sepel, creator of the JS Health brand, shared some of her favorite tips and tricks for getting through the holidays without maxing out your calorie bank. Read them below:

Don't deprive yourself of your favorite foods, but practice 'moderation'

Sepel said her first tip for those looking to avoid holiday weight gain is not to deprive yourself, but to "enjoy everything in moderation."

"When we deprive ourselves of food, it often backfires," she said. "We want to give ourselves permission to try all of the holiday treats ... You want to balance with the healthier options, but don't deprive yourself."

'Never arrive at a holiday event hungry'

While some people will "fast all day long" because they know they have a big Christmas dinner coming up, Sepel said this tactic often results in you overindulging or overeating when it comes to dinner time.

"I say eat balanced meals throughout the day and especially have a healthy, protein-rich snack in the afternoon," Sepel said. "You will find that you can really control your portion sizes and control by doing that."

Watch what you drink

Sepel also acknowledged that alcohol can be a big contributor to holiday weight gain, and while she says she recommends "absolutely" allowing yourself to drink, try to "go for the sugar-free version of cocktails, in moderation."

"My personal stopping at one to three drinks at a sitting, and then sipping the alcohol slowly," she said. "So many of us drink so fast, it's really nice to slow down and sip alcohol slowly."

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