theoretically

Americans are fatter now than at any time since the US government began keeping track in the Sixties, thanks to TV remote controls, garage door openers, etc, according to a survey which examined 22,388 people. "There have been a lot of conveniences that essentially eliminate activity," said Richard Troiano, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study found that more than one-third of adults, 12 per cent of teenagers and 14 per cent of children are overweight.

A clone? Maybe not. Belgian doctors were quick yesterday to deny a report in the Sunday Times that they had cloned humans during an in vitro fertilisation experiment. True, they obtained twins after implanting only one embryo, but Professor Robert Schoysman, head of the fertility laboratory at the Van Helmont hospital in Vilvoorde, a northern suburb of Brussels, said that the embryo can spontaneously "later divide and produce identical twins". And, he insists, "It's nothing to do with cloning."

If you're hungry for more information on sheep cloning or E coli 0157, and have an Internet connection, you could look at CAB International's Web site on http://www.cabi.org and follow the "What's New" links. These offer extracts from scientific papers.

Maybe anti-inflammatory drugs are the literal panaceas, or cure-alls. Scientists from the US National Institute on Ageing and Johns Hopkins University announced yesterday that taking ibuprofen regularly for as little as two years reduces the likelihood of getting Alzheimer's disease. Aspirin and acetaminophen did not reduce the risk, although the researchers felt further study was warranted of people taking larger doses of aspirin. The work, tracking 2,800 people over 30 years, reported in the journal Neurology, found that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) halved the risk of developing degenerative brain disease. However, full clinical trials are needed; long-term NSAIDS use can cause ulcers and kidney problems.

Gene of the week was the one tracked down by a team at the University of Glasgow. It's important for turning on and off the production of telomerase - the enzyme that keeps the telomere, the "fuse" that burns down as a cell divides, from shortening. The gene, hTR, appears to be damaged in some cancers; its normal function is to provide some of the blueprint for the enzyme. If the hTR gene is damaged, then telomerase levels are too high. Hence a cancer cell can keep dividing indefinitely. The work is reported in the latest issue of Oncology.

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