Breakthroughs put diseases on the back foot

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It has been a remarkable year of promise in medical science James Gallagher Incurable diseases from sickle cell to haemophilia now look as though they can be treated. Here are the highlights. BBC Huntington’s The defect that causes the devastating degenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time. It has been called the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. The disease is caused by an aberration in a section of DNA called the huntingtin ... Read More »

New Genome Scores Predict Breast Cancer Odds for Any Woman

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Drawing on giant population studies, the diagnostics company Myriad Genetics introduces a novel type of DNA test to predict cancer. Antonio Regalado MIT Technology Review The actress Angelina Jolie prompted droves of women to seek genetic testing after she revealed, in 2013, that a “faulty gene” called BRCA1 had given her an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. In the face of those odds, Jolie had decided to have her breasts removed. “I chose not to keep my story private because ... Read More »

Can WiFi cause cancer?

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WiFi operates in the 2 to 5 GHz range – part of the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Gary Larson Quora This is in the same part of the spectrum where cell phones operate so I may refer to WiFi or cellphone electromagnetic radiation interchangeably. These are radio waves – no different than those used to broadcast television programs – except that they are higher in frequency. They aren’t nearly as high a frequency as visible light – and ... Read More »

Michael Lee has motor neurone disease. This is what he thinks of euthanasia

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Michael Lee was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) 10 years ago, when he was 35 years old. Tracy Bowden Three years later he met his wife, Joanna, and they married in 2012. ABC Joanna is his primary carer, helped by a team of care workers. She is determined that her husband will not choose to end his life because he thinks he has become too much of a burden. Over the years the disease has taken its toll, causing ... Read More »

Parents In Ukraine Wary Of Vaccinations Even As Measles Numbers Rise

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Oksana has never vaccinated her 4-year-old son, convinced that such preventative measures against potentially lethal diseases do more harm than good. Tony Wesolowsky Natalya Saska “There is a lot of data that children who were vaccinated actually contracted diseases,” explains the 30-year-old mother from Kyiv, without providing specifics. “There’s also been lots of information about vaccinated children dying,” Oksana adds, declining to divulge her surname out of fear that her comments could trigger negative reactions among her friends. Such notions, ... Read More »

Health for All: The benefits of universal health coverage

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In much of the world today, the notion of equitable, universal access to health care remains a distant dream. Anthony Lake The Asahi Shimbun But universal health coverage is not unattainable–and Japan is among the inspiring countries that have proved it. For many years, Japan has been a leader in the movement to provide everyone with access to quality health care. Every human being, everywhere, deserves this, and every society benefits from it. Having achieved universal health coverage for its ... Read More »

The missing Alzheimer’s pill

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When it comes to some of the biggest diseases America faces in the future, our drug system is set up to fail. DAVID H. FREEDMAN Politico What needs to happen? If there’s a dream of what a new drug is supposed to do, it might look something like Kalydeco. In 2012, the new light-blue pill from Vertex Pharmaceuticals rocked the world of cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that affects 30,000 people in the United State. It’s best known for its ... Read More »

France is banning mobile phones in schools

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On Sunday, France’s education minister announced that mobile phones will be banned from primary, junior, and middle schools, calling it a matter of “public health.” Jenny Anderson World Economic Forum While phones are already prohibited in classrooms in France, starting in September 2018 students won’t be allowed to use them on breaks, at lunch, or between lessons either. “These days, the children don’t play at break time anymore,” Jean-Michel Blanquer said, according to the Local, an English-language publication. “They are ... Read More »

Huntington’s breakthrough may stop disease

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The defect that causes the neurodegenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time, the BBC has learned. An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain. The research team, at University College London, say there is now hope the deadly disease can be stopped. Experts say it could be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Huntington’s is one of the most devastating diseases. Some patients described it ... Read More »

The Brisbane nun who defied Sir Joh’s government to help AIDS sufferers

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Queensland was gripped by fear in the 1980s following the outbreak of HIV, so much so that then-premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson refused to curb the spread of the virus among Indigenous Australians because he believed it was “a punishment from God”. Toby Crockford Brisbane Times However, one Brisbane nun defied the wishes of Sir Joh and helped AIDS sufferers in any way she could, including setting up secret funding to the Queensland AIDS Council by moving the money through the Mater… Sister Angela ... Read More »

Man with intellectual disability jailed because NDIS couldn’t provide carer, released on bail

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Judge says he’s ‘horrified’ by isolation conditions 20-year-old Victorian man, Francis, was held in after service provider pulled out of care contract Calla Wahlquist  The Guardian A Victorian man with a profound intellectual disability will be released from jail on Monday after spending two months in isolation because he did not have an accredited care provider. Announcing his decision to release 20-year-old Francis on bail on Thursday, supreme court judge Lex Lasry reportedly said he was “horrified” by the conditions ... Read More »

Air pollution linked to poor sperm quality

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Study finds ‘strong association’ between high levels of fine particulate matter and abnormal sperm shape – but impact on wider fertility remains unclear Matthew Taylor The Guardian High levels of air pollution are associated with poor sperm quality and could be partly responsible for the sharp drop in male fertility, according to a new study. A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied the sperm of nearly 6,500 men and found a “strong ... Read More »

How a Native American tribe came to own one of the world’s most valuable patents

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Allergan, the drugmaker behind Botox, is using an unprecedented tactic to protect its valuable patents – angering lawyers and politicians, and keeping the price of its medicines high. Luke McDonagh The Conversation There has long been a debate about patents and traditional knowledge in developing countries. Pharmaceutical companies in the West, like Allergan, are often accused of “bio-prospecting”. They collect raw samples of traditional medicines and plants, whose healing properties have been known to locals for centuries, and patent modified ... Read More »

Radical new approach to schizophrenia treatment begins trial

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Exclusive: as evidence emerges that schizophrenia could be an immune system disease, two-year trial will use antibody drug currently used for MS Hannah Devlin The Guardian British scientists have begun testing a radically new approach to treating schizophrenia based on emerging evidence that it could be a disease of the immune system. The first patient, a 33-year old man who developed schizophrenia after moving to London from Cameroon a decade ago, was treated at King’s College Hospital in London on ... Read More »

The ethics of medical practice in offshore detention facilities

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As the standoff between hundreds of asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention facility and PNG authorities continues, we are witnessing a potential crisis of health and mental health among these detainees. Louise Newman The Conversation As a psychiatrist, I have had direct contact with current Manus detainees who are experiencing increasing anxiety and distress and an uncertain future. Some of these people are treated with medication, usually antidepressants, and some feel that this provides them with some symptomatic relief. ... Read More »

Doctors join forces for euthanasia

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A group of WA doctors have banded together to push for assisted dying laws in the State, arguing one of the country’s peak medical group is out of touch. Cathy O’Leary The West Australian The newly formed WA arm of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice has made a submission to the State’s parliamentary inquiry into end-of-life choices, which closed for submissions this week. The doctors include GP Alida Lancee, who was at the centre of a police investigation last year ... Read More »