Apr 21, 2009 | 1
Physicist Stephen Hawking remained hospitalized today, a day after he was admitted with undisclosed symptoms.
Hawking, 67, has suffered from the neuro-degenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for more than 45 years and is mostly paralyzed. The University of Cambridge, where he's a mathematics prof, reported that he was "very ill" when brought to nearby Addenbrooke Hospital. No details were released on the nature of his aliment, but he canceled an April 6 appearance at Arizona State University because of a chest infection.
Apr 17, 2009 | 1
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today released draft guidelines that permit federal funding for research on stem cells from human embryos set to be discarded by fertility clinics.
Under the new regs, the agency would fund studies on embryos created in test tubes — but no longer needed — for reproductive purposes, adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (skin or other adult cells that are nudged back into their pluripotent state, when they have the potential to become any cell type). Fertility patients would have to consent to their leftover embryos being donated for research.
Apr 17, 2009 | 2
A subsidy program intended to drive down the cost of lifesaving malaria drugs called artemisinin-based combination therapies—now considered the most effective treatment against the parasitic disease—was unveiled today in Norway.
The program, a partnership between nonprofits, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and 30 governments, could lower the cost of the treatment, whose main ingredient is a Chinese herb, to between 20 and 50 cents.
Right now, the therapy costs $6 to $10 at the roadside shops where remote villagers purchase the meds, according to the new project, the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm). The first 11 countries where the discounted meds will be available are Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
Apr 17, 2009
Children born to women who took the epilepsy drug Depakote while pregnant had lower IQ scores than those whose moms took three other antiseizure meds, research published this week shows. The results suggest that women of childbearing age should only use Depakote as a last resort, the American and British study authors say.
The average IQ among three-year-olds whose mothers took Depakote (chemical name valproate) was 92, compared with 101 for children exposed in utero to lamotrigine, 99 among kids whose moms took phenytoin and 98 for children whose mother took carbamazepine, according to the study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine. The results are based on 309 children being followed at 25 epilepsy centers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Apr 16, 2009
Pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer said today that they're creating a company dedicated to developing HIV medications. The unusual arrangement will give London-based GSK 85 percent equity and New York's Pfizer the remainder.
The companies said in a statement that the merger would "be more sustainable and broader in scope than either company's individually," giving the new partnership 19 percent of the HIV drug market through a combined portfolio of 11 already-available meds and six candidates in development. The idea is that the $2.4 billion in sales generated from the marketed drugs will keep the development pipeline moving, the companies said.
Apr 16, 2009 | 1
Are there any short-term solutions to climate change? One potentially quick fix being bandied about in India is the replacement of old cooking stoves that produce Earth-warming, lung-clogging black carbon (a.k.a. soot).
Soot accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to carbon-dioxide (CO2), which accounts for 40 percent of the emissions blamed for global warming, according to today's New York Times. Scientists including Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, are promoting solar-cookers as a quick fix to the soot problem while more complex technologies are developed to reduce the CO2 emissions, the Times reports.
Apr 15, 2009 | 3
Minnesota health officials are reporting an unusual death linked to a strain of polio once used in vaccines.
The Minnesota Department of Health said yesterday that a man, whom they did not identify, with symptoms of the paralyzing disease died last month. The officials said that he was infected with a strain of polio used in an oral, live-virus polio vaccine that was discontinued in the U.S. in 2000, suggesting that he caught the infection from someone who had received the live vaccine before it was pulled from the market. Polio vaccines used in the U.S. today are injected and contain only inactivated virus, though live-virus vaccines are still used in some developing countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Apr 15, 2009 | 11
Bedbugs have crawled their way onto the national agenda. Federal environmental regulators are hosting the first-ever "bedbug summit" to discuss emerging infestations of the insects around the country.
At the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some 300 people gathered in Arlington, Va., yesterday and today to swap ideas about how to get rid of the critters, whose bites make up to half of victims itchy with hives. While there's no official count of how many people are bitten, cities including New York, Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati have reported growing bedbug problems, which experts blame in part on declining use of pesticides amid concerns about their health effects.
Apr 15, 2009 | 2
Hey would-be moms, eager to pick up the pace of your delivery? One piece of advice: don't lie down.
Researchers report in today's Cochrane Review that women who knelt, sat or walked around during the early stages of labor instead of lying in bed sliced as much as an hour off of the birthing process. The would-be moms were also less likely to need an epidural (a painkiller injected into the spine). The conclusions are based on an analysis of 21 studies involving 3,706 women.
Women in industrialized countries tend to lie in bed during labor, possibly because that position makes it easier for health-care workers to monitor the progression of labor as well as the baby's health, according to the review. But by lying down, a pregnant woman is putting the weight of her belly on blood vessels in the abdomen. That pressure may weaken the strength of her contractions, which could slow the dilation of her vagina and the descent of the baby through the birth canal, the authors write.
Apr 14, 2009 | 3
North Korea says it's pulling out of disarmament talks and restarting its nuclear reactor, after its launch of a rocket that critics said was designed to test its long-range missile technology drew international outrage.
North Korea claimed it successfully launched the rocket on April 5, carrying a satellite into orbit for the purpose of exploring space. But the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said it had launched a missile whose top stages and payload landed in the Pacific Ocean. The U.N. Security Council condemned the launch yesterday, prompting North Korea's declaration today. Over the course of six years, the country has participated in talks (stalled since last year) with five countries — the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. The negotiations have led the country to disable some of its main nuclear reactor and to disclose some of its weapons program in exchange for fuel and food.
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