Bad alternatives
ALTERNATIVE medicines have failed to comply with health and safety rules in up to 90% of cases, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. An Australian National Audit Office report casts doubt over the safety and efficacy claims of alternative medicine companies, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration has been unable to explain why it has not taken firmer measures regarding these claims. About 10 000 complementary or alternative medicines, including vitamins, herbal products and fish oil, are not required to show scientific proof of their claims.

Older father concerns
AUSTRALIAN researchers have provided a possible explanation for the observation that children of “older” fathers are more susceptible to schizophrenia and autism, The Australian reports. A study, published in Translational Psychiatry, used ageing male mice to demonstrate that older fathers are more likely to produce offspring with copy number variants — a type of genetic mutation that boosts the risk of schizophrenia and autism.

Failure to thrive
SCIENTISTS have discovered a genetic cause of extreme thinness that can lead to a diagnosis of failure to thrive in children, The West Australian reports. The research, published in Nature, showed that people with surplus copies of certain genes were much more likely to be underweight, both as children and adults. It found that 1 in 2000 people had part of chromosome 16 duplicated, making men 23 times and women five times more likely to be seriously underweight.

Sleep-hypertension link
NEW research shows that men who get the least deep sleep have a higher risk of hypertension, the New York Times reports. The study, published in Hypertension, is one of the first to find that it’s not just how much sleep, but the quality of nightly slumber, that can affect blood pressure. The study followed 784 initially normotensive older men, who were part of an ongoing sleep study, for a mean of 3.4 years. It found that the men who spent the least time in slow-wave or deep sleep were the most likely to develop high blood pressure.

Sunscreen in a pill
BRITISH researchers say that a compound produced by algae growing within coral in the Great Barrier Reef could be used to produce a sunscreen pill, ABC News reports. The scientists from Kings College London found that the algae produce a compound that protects the coral from the sun’s rays. The pill, which could potentially prevent sunburn for weeks, could be on the market in a decade.

Cancer-attacking virus
AN engineered virus injected into the blood can selectively target cancer cells throughout the body, BBC News reports. The engineered poxvirus only attacks tumours, not healthy tissue. Researchers believe the discovery could one day transform therapies by delivering anti-cancer agents in high concentrations directly to cancer cells. The findings from the small trial involving 23 patients were published in Nature.

Posted 5 September 2011

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