Archive by category | Health and medicine

WHO postpones decision on destruction of smallpox stocks — again

The stalemate continues over the question of when to destroy the last stocks of the virus that causes smallpox, a killer disease that was eradicated in 1980. One of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) two advisory committees on smallpox supports their destruction, while the other opposes this. Last weekend, health ministers of the WHO’s 194 member states again postponed a decision, and decided to set up a third WHO smallpox advisory committee in a bid to broker a consensus.  Read more

European Commission rejects petition on embryonic stem cells

The European Commission has, as predicted, turned down a request from more than 1.7 million citizens for new legislation to ban the funding of research using human embryonic stem cells, including those which do not involve destruction of new embryos.  Read more

‘Misreading’ of data led to errors in statin papers

The BMJ is modifying, and is considering whether to retract, articles that questioned whether many patients should be given cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. The articles made a critical statement about the rate of side effects that were based on a “misreading” of another study, according to the journal’s editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee.  Read more

German research agencies condemn animal-rights attack on neuroscientist

A timid silence often follows public attacks on scientists who use animals in their research. But today a group of ten heavyweight academic organisations in Germany shed its habitual reserve and raised a stern collective voice against animal-rights activists whose recent advertising campaign targeted an individual neuroscientist.  Read more

Acid-bath stem-cell scientist apologizes and appeals

Haruko Obokata, the Japanese scientist at the centre of a controversy over studies purporting to turn mature cells to stem cells simply by bathing them in acid or subjecting them to mechanical stress, today apologized for her errors in the work.  Read more

New cholesterol drugs make strides in clinical trials

The excitement around PCSK9 – a promising new protein target for cholesterol-lowering therapies – appears to be justified. This week, at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Washington DC, several pharmaceutical companies presented data from advanced clinical trials showing that monoclonal antibodies that target and degrade PCSK9 are effective at treating patients with high cholesterol, especially when combined with statins such as Lipitor.  Read more

WHO doubles estimates of air pollution’s health toll

The World Health Organization has singled out air pollution as the number one environmental health risk in the world. In 2012, more than 7 million people worldwide died as result of exposure to either indoor or outdoor air pollution — one of every eight deaths — the Geneva-based organization warns in a report released today.  Read more