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A new tool to measure anxiety levels
Scientists have developed a new instrument to help clinicians determine more objectively a patient’s level of anxiety.

Dan Johnson of Washington and Lee University has created the Attention Control Capacity for Emotion (ACCE) task, which will be tested in a clinical setting at Manchester University in England in the coming year.

“Psychologists are heavily reliant on self-reporting to diagnose a patient’s level of anxiety. This is a big problem.”

“Although self-reporting is important, patients can distort, exaggerate or minimise their condition. And there is no way to tell if they are doing this. The ACCE task can also be used to track the effectiveness of therapies,” said Johnson.

For the past five years, Johnson has tested almost 400 participants from the general population across four studies in creating the ACCE task.

Chemicals in mother’s blood linked to child’s obesity
A team of scientists has revealed that babies whose mothers had relatively high levels of the chemical DDE in their blood were more likely to both grow rapidly during their first 6 months and to have a high body mass index (BMI) by 14 months.

DDE, an endocrine disrupter, is a by-product of the pesticide DDT.

Scientists based in Barcelona, Spain examined data collected between 2004 and 2006 on a representative sample of 518 Spanish women in their first trimester of pregnancy.
Among babies whose mothers were normal weight pre-pregnancy, those babies whose mothers had DDE levels in the top 75 per cent of exposure were twice as likely to grow rapidly during their first 6 months as babies whose mothers had the lowest DDE levels. Infants in the top 50 per cent of exposure were three times more likely to have high BMI scores at 14 months. The researchers did not observe an association between DDE and weight for babies of mothers who were overweight before pregnancy.

Two other human studies have shown an association between prenatal DDE exposure and obesity later in life.

Womb transplant offers new hope to infertile women
Infertile women may soon be able to conceive with scientists bringing womb transplant closer to reality. After successful animal trials, doctors hope to try the transplant with a human within two years.

“This is a breakthrough, fantastic news for patients who do not have a functioning uterus and want to have children,” said Dr Cesar Diaz-Garcia, a key researcher. “Until now no one has been able to prove pregnancy is possible after transplantation. We have overcome one of the last steps in achieving this and our aim is to get a human pregnancy using these techniques within two years.”

The work has raised the prospect of creating a male pregnancy with a donor uterus and fertility treatment, however Diaz-Garcia insisted: “We are not carrying out work in this area.”

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