Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am


Five million ART reproductions

Assisted reproduction technologies (ART), which have been giving infertile couples the chance to have children for 34 years, have reached a milestone: five million births achieved through in-vitro fertilisation and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. The figure, from the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies, was announced at a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. The number of ART cycles performed is rising: it's now about 1.5 million annually, producing 350,000 babies. The two most active countries are the US and Japan, but the most active region by far is Europe with 537,287 treatment cycles in 2009. The pregnancy rate from a single 'fresh' treatment cycle is said to have stabilised at about 32 per cent. 'This technology has been highly successful in treating infertile patients. Millions of families with children have been created, thereby reducing the burden of infertility,' says Dr David Adamson, the committee's chairman. Britain's Louise Brown was the world's first ART baby, born on July 25, 1978.

Cancer drug on trial

A Hong Kong biotechnology company has achieved a breakthrough with a drug it has been developing since 2001 for the treatment of liver cancer. The drug, BCT-100, has obtained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to commence human clinical studies in the US - a first for a home-grown drug. Using recombinant DNA technology, the research team produced an enzyme that could deplete an amino acid called arginine, which is necessary for the growth of liver tumours. A phase I clinical study in 2008, which was conducted at Queen Mary Hospital and published in the Journal of Investigational New Drugs, indicates that BCT-100 is well tolerated and safe. With the FDA approval, a new phase I clinical trial will be initiated at Loma Linda University in California at year's end to evaluate its efficacy against a variety of cancer types.

Painless pins

Tired legs? You could get a massage, but for a portable solution, Algotherm's Tonic Spray (HK$360) promises to tone and relieve your pins and provide a long-lasting cooling sensation. The active ingredient is palmaria palmata, a seaweed that's said to be rich in vitamins A and B12, which regulate blood flow and encourage elimination of water and toxins that cause tired legs. Other ingredients include menthol and rosemary essential oil. Get it at The Strand Hair and Beauty Salon in Cochrane Street, Central.

Secrets of a longer life

Restricting your diet is not enough to help you live longer; physical activity counts, too. Researchers at Buck Institute in California studied fruit flies and found that those on dietary restriction shifted their metabolisms towards increasing fatty acid synthesis and breakdown, specifically in muscle tissue. 'Our work argues that simply restricting nutrients without physical activity may not be beneficial in humans,' says Professor Pankaj Kapahi, a researcher on the study, published today in Cell Metabolism. Another finding: a potential target that could yield a drug that mimics the effects of dietary restriction. Lead author Dr Subhash Katewa of the institute says flies genetically engineered to overexpress a circulating peptide showed increased fat metabolism, spontaneous activity and extended lifespan even though their diet was unrestricted. The peptide plays a critical role in glucose and lipid metabolism. 'These results suggest that enhanced fat metabolism could help slow ageing and age-related disease,' says Katewa.