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Birth of a Baby conceived through a “three person” Fertility Technique wipes out trauma of Zika

In November, the WHO declared that Zika was no longer a global emergency, but it did not change the global risk assessment even in December

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FILE - A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA

New Delhi, December 22, 2016: The rapid rise of the Zika infections across many parts of the world had a large section of the population mightily worried till its “global emergency” tag was removed, but there was much cheer at the birth of a baby conceived through a “three person” fertility technique.

The outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus ultimately led to the terrifying discovery that Zika infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly in their babies — that results in unusual smallness of their heads — and other severe fetal brain defects.

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In November, the WHO declared that Zika was no longer a global emergency, but it did not change the global risk assessment even in December. Like most mosquito-borne diseases Zika too is a seasonal disease that could repeatedly return.

A vaccine for Zika therefore seemed to catch the imaginations of medical researchers across the world with several papers reporting positive results for experimental vaccines in animal models and raising hope of an effective vaccine for humans in the near future. In August, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institute of Health, even announced the launch of a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate intended to prevent Zika virus infection.

In terms of vaccine development, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving the first clinical trial to test a lung cancer vaccine developed in Cuba could prove to be a watershed moment in fighting the deadly disease which can result from lifestyle factors such as smoking.

A big boost in the fight against cancer, however, came from Chinese scientists who used for the first time the revolutionary gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 to treat a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial.

While the results of the trial are yet to be disclosed, a US advisory panel also approved the human use of CRISPR, for a study designed to target three types of cancer.

The experiment, proposed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, would use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to modify patients’ own T-cells to make them more effective in attacking melanoma, multiple myeloma and sarcoma.

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If the technology is found to be safe for human use, it could open up pathbreaking new approach to treating several deadly diseases, not just cancer.

In a major step towards understanding what happens when pregancies go wrong, for example, during miscarriage, as well as towards improving IVF rates, a team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge succeeded this year to keep human embryos alive in a petri dish for an unprecedented 13 days. Until now scientists were unable to keep embryos alive beyond seven days.

The technique shed new light on how embryos develop and researchers believe that it could open up new avenues of research aimed at helping improve the chances of success of IVF.

In yet another good news for parents who cannot conceive naturally, a baby boy was born earlier this year in Mexico through the use of a new “three person” fertility technique, called the “spindle nuclear transfer,” for the first time.

The boy, born to a Jordanian couple, has the usual DNA from his parents, and a small amount of genetic code from a donor. The use of this reproductive technology was intended to prevent the newborn inheriting Leigh syndrome, a genetic disorder. The parents were being treated by a US-based team but the delivery was carried out in Mexico because of absence of laws preventing it.

Later this year, Britain’s fertility regulators approved the use of the three parent technique that uses DNA from three progenitors (two women, one man) to prevent children being born with deadly genetic illnesses.

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This is also the year that made us aware that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality can have greater use in medical science — from predicting risk for Alzheimer’s disease to providing effective stimuli to increase movement speeds in people with Parkinson’s Disease.

The launch and increased use of numerous healthcare apps, wearable devices to track your heart rate or how well you slept the previous night, and so on, along with the rise in use of other digital technologies to offer diagnosis and care helped the year take a giant stride towards achieving what we have yearned for years — reducing dependence on others for management of our own healthcare.

After all, what else is technology for if not giving you more control over your own life? (IANS)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)