Mild shake could kill a baby

Researchers now claim even a mild shake can kill a baby.

Scientists at the Royal London Hospital revealed that shaking, even very mildly, could damage nerve fibres in the neck that control breathing, causing oxygen starvation to the brain.

They believe this can cause brain damage of a kind usually only attributed to forceful shaking.

The research was based on a study of more than 50 brains of infants who had died from injuries caused by shaking. Only two appeared to have been violently shaken.

The majority had died because they stopped breathing due to damage to the craniocervical junction.

Anti-ageing drug to be tested on humans

A US company is seeking permission to test a new anti-ageing drug on humans. Eukarion, which is based in Boston, claims the new drug can extend the lifespan of tiny living organisms.

The unamed drug is made up of compounds called synthetic catalytic scavengers. When it was tested on the nematode worm, it increased the life of the creature by an average of 44 per cent.

Eukarion wants to use the drug on humans to see if it can help stroke victims and people who suffer skin burns from radiotherapy.

Scientists will, at the same time, look for any signs of the reduction of the ageing process on the patient.

The drug will be administered as a tablet or injection for stroke victims, but used as a cream for radiotherapy patients.

It is unlikely the drug will ever be marketed solely as an anti-ageing drug, but scientists hope it could one day help sufferers of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

New hope for asthma sufferers

Severe asthma sufferers could find hope in a new form of treatment being developed in Switzerland.

Xolai is an antibody that attaches itself to the proteins that trigger allergic asthma reactions and wipes them out.

The patient would have to take the drug, via an injection, just once every two to four weeks.

The treatment has been developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and trials have been taking place throughout Europe and the United States. It is a completely new method of treating asthma, but tests have so far been effective.

Apart from possibly doing away with inhalers and other drugs, which can have serious side effects, such as bone and skin thinning, Xolai is also thought to be a good weapon against other allergies, such as hay fever and eczema.

Doctors believe the treatment could be available very soon.

Bone loss is of greater concern to researchers

Bone loss in women given chemotherapy for breast cancer is more rapid than previously thought.

Researchers in Ohio, United States, were so surprised how fast the bone density the women under observation declined, they had to halt their studies to allow the patients to seek care.

All the pre-menopausal women, who had early-stage cancer, experienced eight per cent bone loss after 12 months of chemotherapy.

The majority – the average age was 42 – had entered into early menopause, which leads to rapid bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis.

The researchers concluded that the results supported a role bone density scans in women who develop chemotherapy induced ovarian failure. They were also concerned not enough focus had been put on early menopause, and the problems causes, as one of the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Artificial blood may be a solution in emergencies

Experts in the United States are predicting that artificial blood could be on the market within the next two years.

Though scientists at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington admit fake blood is no substitute for the real thing, it could be used as a short-term solution, such as during medical emergencies.

There has been concern that some artificial blood products can cause high blood pressure and even lead to a cardiac arrest, but scientists believe it could still be a lifesaver during emergencies and for those who refuse donated blood or are suffering from sickle cell anaemia.

The America Red Cross said artificial blood could also make the real thing more readily available where it is needed most urgently.

Thousands of small hospitals, which feel they need to have blood on hand even though it is rarely used, could
store artificial blood, as opposed to the real thing, scientists believe.

The other advantages of artificial blood is its longer shelf life.

It can also safely be stored at room temperature.

Drug to help fight eye problems in diabetics

Scientists in India have found a drug that can prevent and halt the progress of diabetes related eye ailments.

Simvastatin lowers the level of lipids in the blood by inhibiting the action of hmg CoA.

Diabetics who have a higher level of lipids are at an increased risk of having some deposition of hard material in their retina, which in turn puts them more at risk of visual impairment. The hard exudates make the retinal cells dysfunctional.

Eye problems in about 90 per cent of diabetics are associated with the leakage of blood capillaries, which later leads to lipid/fatty deposition in the retina. Simvastatin can reduce the leakage of retinal capillaries, according to the researchers at the All India Institute of Sciences, New Delhi.

Bone marrow stem cells could reduce kidney transplants

Scientists have discovered a new treatment for patients with kidney disease that could reduce the need for transplants.

They have concluded that stem cells from bone marrow can be changed into kidney cells.

Biologists at London’s Imperial Cancer Research Fund have found that cells from outside the kidney could now be used to repair or even replace damaged kidney cells.

Stem cell research is a controversial subject at the moment, but the scientists hope to use bone marrow stem cells containing genes that are resistant to cancer or other diseases in the near future.

Patients with failing kidneys could benefit from kidney cells, generated from their own bone marrow.

Gene blamed for eye disease is isolated by scientists

A newly-discovered gene could one day help in the treatment and prevention of retinitis pigmentosa.

Researchers in South Africa and Britain have isolated the gene that causes the disease.

RP13 carries a protein that plays a leading role in the production of other proteins.

The defective gene is thought to be responsible for impairing eyesight by causing a fragmentation of the retina, which can lead to tunnel vision and eventual blindness.

Scientists are hoping this new genetic information will aid the research into finding a cure.

Measles vaccine reduces health inequities among poor

A new study shows that vaccinating poor children against measles significantly improves their long-term chances for survival and dramatically reduces inequities in child health.

The study, undertaken by Johns Hopkins, was conducted among children living in Bangladesh.

Author Michael Koenig, PhD, MA, said: “Unvaccinated children from poor families are three times more likely to die before the age of five compared to vaccinated children from families of higher socioeconomic status.

“Our research shows that the measles vaccine decreases the mortality rate for children of poor families by more than 50 per cent, bringing it much closer in line with the mortality rate of children of wealthier families. In contrast, there was only a small differential in survival between vaccinated and unvaccinated children of higher socioeconomic status.” According to the research results, the measles vaccine had the greatest impact on reducing the health and survival inequities of the most vulnerable children.

Differences in the mortality rate between vaccinated and unvaccinated children became less significant as socioeconomic status improved.

The results also show that vaccinating female children for measles significantly raised their chances of
survival overall, bringing them to almost the same mortality rate as unvaccinated males.

New vaccine produced in the fight against bronchitis

A new vaccine being tested in Britain could be used in the fight against severe bronchitis.

Scientists are in the final stages of testing the vaccine, which they say could reduce deaths among babies and the elderly.

The vaccine can also be sprayed in the nose, as well as injected. If there is a successful conclusion to the
research, the new drug could be given to all new-born babies.

Figures suggest that about 10 per cent of patients with pneumonia may have been struck down by respiratory syncytial virus.

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