Bespoke bones Japanese hospitals are testing the world's first bespoke bones, which are custom-made for each patient's skull, with tolerances of one millimeter, and can eventually be replaced by their real bones. The developers hope the technique will be commercially available in three or four years, with the bones able to be made up within hours once a person's medical-imaging details are on file. Until now, bone repairs have entailed transplants or ceramics. The bespoke bones are made from calcium phosphate, like real bones, and a solidifying liquid that's mainly distilled water, AFP reports. The trials are focusing on skull bones because they don't carry any body weight. Youth advantage Daily exercise appears to help keep the brain young - but the sooner you start, the better, say Taiwanese researchers, based on studies of mice. The team previously found that, whereas young brains create new cells, this slows dramatically as animals get older and is linked to impaired memory. Now, they've found that mice trained to exercise every day grew 2.5 times more new brain cells than those that didn't. More of these new cells integrated into existing brain networks, WebMD reports. However, mice that started exercising in early middle age (eight months) did much better than those that started in later middle age (12 months). Virus vanquished An experimental drug that attacks viruses in a new way has proved successful in trials on guinea pigs and mice. Viruses mutate to evade or resist conventional drugs, but bavituximab waits until the virus has infected a cell, then latches onto it, signalling the immune system to send white blood cells to destroy it. The breakthrough opens the way for a completely new class of anti-viral drugs, says Philip Thorpe, of UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Texas. One out of two inoculated rodents survived the Pichinde virus (related to lassa fever), compared with none that weren't; 100 per cent survived the cytomegalovirus, compared with 25 per cent that weren't treated, AFP reports. Psoriasis success An ointment containing the Chinese herbal remedy indigo naturalis clears psoriasis in patients who don't respond to western drugs, say Taiwanese doctors, based on studies over five years involving 42 patients. Nor does the ointment seem to have any side effects - unlike long-term oral use, which has been linked to stomach and liver problems. The ointment costs much less than corticosteroid treatment, says team leader Lin Yin-ku, of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. Psoriasis is a non-contagious condition that causes red scaly patches, typically on the elbows or knees. After 12 weeks of treatment, 31 of the patients' psoriasis cleared or almost cleared, WebMD reports. Asthma's autumn link Autumn babies - those born four months before the peak cold and flu season - are at significantly higher risk of developing asthma, say US researchers, based on analysis of the records of 95,000 infants and their mothers in Tennessee. 'The timing of birth and the risk of developing asthma move in time almost to the day with the peak of these viral infections each winter,' says Tina Hartert, of Vanderbilt University. The team is now targeting the respiratory syncytial virus, with which almost every baby is infected between three and six months, but in most cases clears without complications, Reuters reports.