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Health: News In Brief

Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK

Obesity threatens ill health epidemic

Europe is on the brink of a public health catastrophe and could face a new epidemic of diabetes, heart and other diseases, international obesity experts have warned.

The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) has called for action from governments to deal urgently with the need to improve people's diet and levels of activity.

The EASO plans to establish national steering groups across Europe to provide further evidence to persuade politicians to act.

EASO president, Professor Jaap Seidell, said his members want to see more action by governments to prevent weight-related health problems getting any worse and to improve the availability of treatment for those in greatest need.

Professor Seidell said: _Already, we are seeing overweight and obesity rising in most European countries and there are signs that a larger proportion of the next generation are becoming obese and overweight at an earlier age.

_While a great deal has been achieved in reducing levels of heart disease, those gains could easily be wiped out by this threat._

Cell transplants restore sight

Patients blinded by damage to their corneas could be given their sight back by a specialised cell transplant, a study has shown.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could help patients with damage not only to the surface of the eyeball, but damage to vital cells underneath.

Normal corneal transplants fail because these damaged "stem cells" are not replaced.

But the study at Japan Dental College found that in half the patients given "stem cell" transplants, sight was restored successfully.

Exercise could prevent colon cancer

Taking exercise every day may prevent colon cancer by suppressing the production of a harmful chemical in the gut, researchers have discovered.

The US study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, took tissue samples from 63 men aged 42 to 78.

Levels of a natural compound called prostaglandin E2 - which is implicated in tumour growth - went up as patients got older.

But those who said they did the equivalent of 30 minute job or hour-long walk every day had lower than expected levels.

Pregnancy screening call after liver disorder

Pregnant women who develop a sever liver disorder could be screened for a genetic mutation that could kill their baby, say researchers.

Acute fatty liver of pregnancy occurs in one in 14,000 pregancies in Western Europe, and is fatal in one in ten cases, says the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But women with this disorder, and another, less serious liver problem, occasionally have a genetic mutation which can be passed on, with fatal consequences , to their babies.

Dr Arnold Strauss, of Washington University in St Louis, said: "Families shoudl be tested before the babies are born, so that the babies can be appropriately treated and death can be prevented."

Gene therapy for haemophilia under test

The first ever gene therapy for the blood clotting disease haemophilia is to be given to a 50-year-old man.

Haemophiliacs have a missing gene which means they do not produce the chemical needed to make blood clot - which means they can bleed to death from even small cuts.

Scientists from Pennsylvania plan to use a virus to carry in the missing gene, which they hope could permanently restore clotting ability.

Previous gene therapy experiments have found that either the gene is not taken up by the cells, or works in the wrong place or for too short a time.

Nude woman promotes cheap cover

A 44-year-old woman wearing only a pair of leopardskin slippers will help sell health insurance to the people of South Wales, believe advertising experts.

The nude figure of Elaine Ward, a part-time decorator, will be seen plastered on billboards and buses promoting the Cardiff-based Welsh Hospitals and Health Services Association.

A spokesman for the association, which provides insurance for dental and optical care, said she represented the "family-orientated, down-to-earth" attitude of their members.

Elaine is unconcerned by the prospect. "I think I'm a refreshing change," she said.

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