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PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 October, 2008, 12:00am

HIV drugs fear

Drug-resistant strains of the human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) are appearing at an alarming rate outside high-risk groups on the mainland, says the head of the Aids Institute in Hong Kong, Chen Zhiwei. Although there's no cure for HIV, cocktails of drugs can help control it. However, the mainland has only seven of the more than 20 different drugs available, Reuters reports. Chen says it's likely the drug-resistant strains will spread because of the lack of proper treatment. He recently published a report in Nature warning that HIV infection is rising sharply among women and gay and bisexual men across the border and 'is moving into the general population'.

Replacement hope

Cells from testicles appear to be as versatile as those from embryos, say German researchers, suggesting a way to grow replacement tissue - for men, at least - without the controversy surrounding stem cells. The team from the Centre for Regenerative Biology and Medicine in Tuebingen has had encouraging results with cells taken from 22 men, aged from 17 to 81. Their tests follow promising trials using mice. Embryonic stem cells can be used to grow almost any human tissue, and scientists hope they'll help in treating the likes of Parkinson's, diabetes and spinal cord injuries, AP reports.

Walk like a robot

A Japanese company has begun leasing robot suits that enable paralysed people to walk by anticipating their movements and moving the relevant muscles. A wheelchair-bound Japanese man used a prototype of the 11kg Hybrid Assistive Limb (Hal) in 2006 to try to climb a mountain in the Swiss Alps. The suit anticipates the person's desired movements by detecting natural electrical currents that pass over the skin's surface, AFP reports. Hal's creator, Yoshiyuki Sankai of Tsukuba University, is working on another version that enables the wearer to easily carry heavy loads.

Stirring news

Using a fan in the room where a baby sleeps appears to significantly cut the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids), say US researchers, based on a study of more than 500 children in California. Sids describes the death of a seemingly healthy baby that can't be attributed to any particular cause. Among the many theories is that victims have brain abnormalities that prevent them from gasping when they're not getting enough air. The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research team says fan use was associated with a 72 per cent lower risk of Sids, AP reports.

Herbal help

Taking high-quality supplements of the herb St John's wort can be as effective as standard prescribed antidepressants for some severely depressed people, with fewer side effects, say researchers from the Technical University in Munich, who received some funding from a company that makes the extract. Their study entailed a review of 29 trials of the supplement involving almost 5,500 people. The extract is commonly used in Germany for people with anxiety, sleep disorders and depression, although scientists aren't sure why it seems to work, WebMD reports.

Myth dispelled

A popular belief that hormonal changes during pregnancy can make women befuddled seems to have no factual basis, and pregnancy may even make women sharper. An Australian National University team based their conclusions on analysis of three sets of logic and memory tests (in 1999, 2003 and last year) given to 2,500 women. None of those who were pregnant during subsequent tests scored significantly differently than before. The researchers say tests on pregnant rats show they're actually better at multitasking and navigating mazes, WebMD reports.