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The importance of life extension

One of the most important ideas in public health is that we can never really save lives: we just extend them. If a doctor ‘saves the life’ of a 60 year old patient who later dies at 90 years of age, then she hasn’t actually stopped the patient dying, but has extended the patient’s life by 30 years.

With this in mind, consider the recent research by a team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. They investigated the effects of a vast array of different chemicals on a test organism, the tiny nematode worm C. elegans. While many were found to be harmful, one chemical was greatly beneficial, significantly extending the worm’s short life span.

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Is this the end of the debate for human embryo research?

Two landmark papers published this week have demonstrated that stem cells (“Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells”) capable of developing into a wide range of different tissues can be made from human skin cells. It has been claimed in some quarters that this breakthrough will end the debate about the use of embryonic stem cells.

This news comes fast on the heels of the successful generation of stem cells from cloned monkey embryos, discussed in this blog last week (see also Raffaela Hillerbrand’s post), and was anticipated in the weekend papers by the news that a pioneer in cloning research had decided to move his research efforts into the same work on “induced pluripotent cells”.

But is this discovery really likely to end the ethical debate about research using human embryos?

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It is 10 O’clock, do you know what your cells are?

BBC File On 4 recently learned that “millions of pounds
of charity donations and taxpayers’ money have been wasted on worthless cancer
studies”. Labs have been using contaminated cell lines – rather than
experimenting on the cancer cells they thought they had researchers have been
studying other kinds of cancers or even mice cells. Perhaps the most remarkable (and newsworthy)
aspect of the whole affair is that it is not a recent surprise: researchers
sounded the alarm bell – repeatedly – in the early 1970’s. Science noted in
1974 that “a lot of people may have been spending a lot of time and money on
misguided research.” That was 33 years ago, a millennium of time in cell

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Imaging the Political Brain

In an interesting study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2006 but widely circulated earlier, Drew Westen and his colleagues at Emory University used fMRI to image the brains of committed Democrats and Republicans before the 2004 Presidential election. Although the subject matter was topical, the aim of the study was not to… Read More »Imaging the Political Brain

Good drug, bad drug?

News The Lancet has published two articles on the efficacy and safety of the anti-obesity drug Acomplia.  This has been widely reported in the news as showing that patients using the drug have well over double the risk of depression and anxiety.  This comes on top of US studies linking Acomplia to suicidal thoughts. Commentary… Read More »Good drug, bad drug?

Home medical diagnosis

The earlier we can diagnose serious illnesses, the more we can do to cure them. Many advances have been made in diagnosis over the last century, but a serious bottleneck has remained. The patients need to come to a medical practitioner in order to be diagnosed and this means that they need to wait for… Read More »Home medical diagnosis

Supermouse and Superman: The Dawn of Biological Liberation

News Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have created a genetically engineered mouse nicknamed Supermouse which can run for up to six hours at a speed of 20 metres per minute before needing a rest. According to Professor Richard Hanson the special ‘athletic’ abilities of the mice are due to the way… Read More »Supermouse and Superman: The Dawn of Biological Liberation