Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Alzheimer’s: carriers of risk gene show brain changes in their 20s – here’s why we shouldn’t worry

Alzheimer’s: carriers of risk gene show brain changes in their 20s – here’s why we shouldn’t worry StunningArt/Shutterstock Dramatic developments in genetics research and the availability of commercial genetics tests have put us in a very modern predicament – we can now find out (quickly, easily and cheaply) whether we personally hold genetic risk factors that put us at a substantially increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, we have…

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New blood screening may detect ovarian cancer two years before other methods

New blood screening may detect ovarian cancer two years before other methods fototip/Shutterstock Ovarian cancer has a high mortality risk because it is so often diagnosed at a very late stage. In a new study, our team has shown that detection rates can be significantly improved by screening for a specific set of proteins in the bloodstream. This could mean detection of ovarian cancer up to two years before current…

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Skin cancer and sun damage: moles on the body largely determined by genetics, our new research suggests

Skin cancer and sun damage: moles on the body largely determined by genetics, our new research suggests Albina Glisic/Shutterstock Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer – with 16,000 cases diagnosed and 2,400 deaths every year in the UK. Over the last decade, diagnoses have increased by almost half – with a more considerable rise in males (55%) than in females (35%). Yet, this is not the only…

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Fitness trackers and eating disorders – is there a link?

Fitness trackers and eating disorders – is there a link? nelen/Shutterstock Fitness and health tracking devices are becoming increasingly popular and a huge variety of wearable tech and apps now exist. Indeed, many smartphones and smart watches now come primed and ready to track our activity, sleep and nutrition. Research has for a long time highlighted how monitoring behaviours can help to lead to positive changes in our lifestyles. It…

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Liver disease: how new intelligent testing could save thousands of lives

Liver disease: how new intelligent testing could save thousands of lives Shutterstock Since the 1970s, liver disease in the UK has increased by more than 400%, particularly in people under 65 – in marked contrast to all other major causes of death which have been decreasing in younger age groups. This epidemic has been driven by alcohol, obesity and hepatitis C. The liver is the factory of the body, making vital proteins and breaking down waste products or excreting them. Liver disease is usually a silent disease in its early stages. Liver function tests (LFTs) are routinely available blood tests associated with liver damage, so should be able to detect liver problems early on. Millions of these tests are performed each year in the UK by doctors and nurses for…

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Dog training for babies? Only if you want to raise kids who are anxious and unsympathetic

Dog training for babies? Only if you want to raise kids who are anxious and unsympathetic Otsphoto/Shutterstock Despite calls to cancel the programme, Channel 4 aired its new documentary “Train Your Baby Like a Dog” on August 20. To give a brief synopsis of the show, an expert dog trainer (yes, a dog trainer) told parents to use dog training techniques with their young children to shape their behaviour. This included putting a child in a different room when they “misbehaved” and bribing them with treat foods to encourage good behaviour – including sitting obediently on the floor like a dog and being called a good boy or girl. It may sound ludicrous, but there could be serious consequences for parents repeating this advice. Babies and toddlers need loving support…

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Organ transplants: why so many people are put off donating

Organ transplants: why so many people are put off donating irinabdw/Shutterstock It’s well known that there’s a worldwide shortage of organ donors. More than 100,000 organ transplants have taken place around the world every year since 2008 but this is way below what’s needed. In the UK, for example, figures show 6,077 people were on the waiting list for an organ transplant in March 2019. And that 408 people died in the previous 12 months while waiting for a donor. The number of people signing up to be an organ donor in the UK has gone up for nine years in a row – reaching 25.3m. During 2017-2018, 1,575 people in the UK became organ donors after they died. This was 162 more donors than the previous year, making it…

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Baby boomers are keeping booze Britain afloat – but the young are drinking less

Baby boomers are keeping booze Britain afloat – but the young are drinking less Master1305/Shutterstock It looks like sobriety is having a moment in the spotlight, with drinking rates around the world on the decline – particularly among young people. In the UK, the amount of alcohol consumed per person actually peaked in the mid-2000s and seems to have been decreasing ever since. But is this the case for everyone? Researchers have observed that young people across the UK are drinking less, as shown in a recent report from the University of Sheffield. The report highlights a number of changes in drinking habits over the last ten to 15 years. These include lower consumption and drunkenness levels among young people – with abstinence rates among 16-24 year-olds on the rise…

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What happens to biopsy tissue after it’s tested? Your cells could be helping important cancer research

What happens to biopsy tissue after it’s tested? Your cells could be helping important cancer research Vladimir Borovic/Shutterstock If you’ve ever had a tumour removed or biopsy taken, you may have contributed to life-saving research. Though you probably won’t have been told exactly what research your cells would be used for, tissue samples like these are vital for helping us understand and improve diagnosis and treatment of a whole range of illnesses and diseases. But once they’re removed, how are these tissue samples used exactly? How do they go from patient to project? When tissue is removed from a person’s body, most often it is immediately put into a chemical preservative. It is then taken to a lab and embedded in a wax block. Protecting the tissue like this retains…

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AMPK: new research into cancer’s ‘good cop/bad cop’ protein could help develop more effective drugs

AMPK: new research into cancer’s ‘good cop/bad cop’ protein could help develop more effective drugs Shutterstock The basic unit of all living things is the cell – and the human body contains tens of trillions of them. Cancer can be triggered by the abnormal growth and division of just one of these, which goes on to form a lump or tumour. Research over the past 30 years has shown that cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of single cells. Many of these mutations are harmless, but if they affect DNA that provides instructions for making proteins controlling cell growth and division, they can trigger cancer. The conventional view is that these changes cause cancer if they either switch off “good cop” proteins that normally restrain cell growth and…

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