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IVF can make children taller

A New Zealand-based study has revealed that IVF can produce taller children.
Scientists found that children conceived using a certain in-vitro fertilisation technique were several centimetres taller, by age 6, when compared with naturally conceived peers. The height advantage, however, was not seen in children born as a result of IVF on frozen embryos.

“We don’t know the reasons for the height difference,” said Dr Mark Green, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute.

“But can I suggest that it may have something to do with the hormones that are given to the mother to stimulate the ovary in fresh embryo transfer,” he added.

Children from fresh embryos, particularly the girls, were found to be on average 2.6 cm taller than their peers.

A £100 sticking plaster to cure skin cancer at home

A light-emitting sticking plaster, which could be used at home at a cost of just 100 pounds, could now potentially help thousands of people diagnosed with skin cancer.
The high-tech device, Ambulight, contains photodynamic therapy (PDT) that combines with a light-sensitive drug to destroy cancer cells. Less painful than surgery, the plaster leaves no scar and reduces the amount of time patients need to spend in hospital.

Photosensitising cream is rubbed on to the skin, and the Ambulight is attached to the skin with a plaster. The cream takes three hours to penetrate the skin, then the pod turns on. Three hours later the light switches off and the device can be disposed of. Patients can move freely during treatment.

PDT treatment is used to treat non-melanoma-type skin cancers — basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

Ambulight developer James Ferguson, at Dundee University, hopes the treatment will eventually be offered at GP surgeries.

Air filters linked to cardiovascular health

Scientists have suggested that using inexpensive air filters may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk that results from exposure to air pollution. Researchers from Canada, who studied healthy adults living in a small community in British Columbia where wood burning stoves are the main sources of pollution, found that high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters reduced the amount of airborne particulate matter, resulting in improved blood vessel health and reductions in blood markers that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers recruited 45 adults from 25 homes. Each participant’s home was monitored for two consecutive seven-day periods, during which time a HEPA filter was operated in the main activity room and a quieter HEPA filter was operated in the participant’s bedroom. HEPA filters were operated normally during one seven-day period and without the internal filters in place during the other period.

After analysing their data, the researchers found portable HEPA filters reduced the average concentrations of fine particulates inside homes by 60 per cent and woodsmoke by 75 per cent, and their use was associated with improved endothelial function (a 9.4 per cent increase in reactive hyperemia index) and decreased inflammation (a 32.6 per cent decrease in C-reactive protein).

Nighttime falls are caused by sleep medicine

Adults who take one of the world’s most commonly prescribed sleep medications are significantly more at risk for nighttime falls and potential injury.

The study by the University of Colorado, Boulder, involved 25 healthy adults. It showed 58 per cent of the older adults and 27 per cent of the young adults who took a hypnotic, sleep-inducing drug called zolpidem showed a significant loss of balance when awakened two hours after sleep.

The findings are important because falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults, and 30 per cent of adults 65 and older who fall require hospitalisation each year, said Kenneth Wright, lead study author.

To measure balance, the research team used a technique known as a ‘tandem walk’ in which subjects place one foot in front of the other with a normal step length on a 16-foot-long, six-inch-wide beam on the floor. In 10 previous practice trials with no medication, none of the 25 participants stepped off the beam, indicating no loss of balance. All participants were provided with stabilising assistance to prevent falls during the trials, he said.

“The balance impairments of older adults taking zolpidem were clinically significant and the cognitive impairments were more than twice as large compared to the same older adults taking placebos,” said Wright.

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