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  1. Nose key to paralysis breakthrough

    Smelling cells in the nose have provided the first ever cure for spinal paralysis, it was announced last night.

    The cell transplants, discovered in London, UK, have helped a man called Darek, from Bulgaria, to recover his ability to move his legs.

    Darek had been paralysed in a stabbing attack.

    The London researchers worked with surgeons in Poland on the project with backing from campaigners at the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.

    Today they announce their discovery in the journal Cell Transplant.

    According to the researchers, they have successfully used smelling cells from the nose to bridge the injury in the spinal cord that leads to paralysis.

    The treatment became possible because Professor Geoffrey Raisman, from University College, London, studied so-called olfactory bulbs - which capture smell. His studies showed how the body repairs its sense of smell by creating new nerve fibres, which are able to enter the bulbs.

    This is made possible by olfactory ensheathing cells - and transplanting these has helped nerve fibres in the human spine to regrow, according to the researchers.

    The operation was undertaken by Dr Pawel Tabakow, of the Neurosurgery Department of Wroclaw Medical University, Poland. Some four months after the operation Darek began o recover and has since been able to walk with a frame.

    David Nicholls founded the charity for his son Dan, who was paralysed at the age of 18 in 2003.

    He said: "I promised Dan that I would not give up until a cure had been found. Professor Geoffrey Raisman and Dr Pawel Tabakow’s breakthrough marks the first step.

    "The scientific information relating to this significant advancement will be made available to other researchers around the world so that together we can fight to finally find a cure for this condition which robs people of their lives."

    Professor Raisman said: "We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which – as it is further developed – will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury."

    Functional regeneration of supraspinal connections in a patient with transected spinal cord following transplantation of bulbar olfactory ensheathing cells with peripheral nerve bridging. Cell Transplantation 21 October 2014

  2. Study backs Ebola exit screening

    Screening air passengers leaving the African countries worst affected by Ebola would be the most effective way of preventing the global spread of the virus, according to a leading medical journal today.

    The analysis, published in The Lancet, confirms that the UK and France are the most high risk countries outside Africa.

    According to researcher Dr Kamran Khan, on present trends about three infected people a month would board planes leaving Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

    He found that 8.7% of passengers travelled from the three countries to the UK and 7.1% to France. The top destination was Ghana, accounting for 17.5% of travellers.

    The analysis came as the World Health Organisation officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola, following Senegal last week.

    Dr Khan, of St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Canada, said many of the destination countries would not be able to implement entry screening, as the UK has done.

    He said: "Exit screening at the three international airports (Conakry, Monrovia, and Freetown) in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone should allow all travellers at highest risk of exposure to Ebola to be assessed with greater efficiency compared with entry screening the same passengers as they arrive in cities around the world.

    "However, this will require international support to effectively implement and maintain."

    Assessment of the potential for international dissemination of Ebola virus via commercial air travel during the 2014 west African outbreak. Lancet 21 October 2014 [abstract]

  3. E-consultation study planned

    Academics have revealed their plans to find the best way of switching GP consultations to email, the internet, text or telephone.

    Some £458,000 worth of NHS research money is being put into the project involving academics at the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Exeter and Oxford.

    The researchers say they plan to study practices which have tried to introduce alternatives to face-to-face consultations to establish what works and what does not.

    Doctors have been concerned that without seeing a patient they may not pick up crucial clues about illness. And some studies have suggested that introducing alternative means of consultation simply increase the workload.

    But the government says it wants general practice to move rapidly to introduce new technologies.

    Researcher Professor Chris Salisbury, of Bristol University, said: "By focusing on practices which have tried to use alternatives, including some that feel they have done so successfully, we hope to learn how practices have overcome the potential problems, the key factors that made it possible, the benefits they have found and the difficulties they face.

    "By talking to patients in these practices we can learn more about their views about the pros and cons of alternatives to face-to-face consultations and how these affect the nature of the consultation or the doctor-patient relationship.

    "This research, based on the actual experience of patients and doctors who have used alternatives to face-to-face consultations, offers better insights than earlier research based on the views of people who have never used them."

  4. Cancer nurses hit record

    The number of specialist cancer nurses has reached an all-time record, according to a new study.

    There are more than 3,000 of these nurses working in the NHS with adult patients, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

    The census shows that over the last three years an additional 283 posts have been created in hospitals.

    The charity says that this is partly because it has increased the number of specialist nurses it has supported.

    And it warned of future recruitment problems - as a third of the specialist nurses are over the age of 50.

    And, it said, demand for nurses would increase as it is predicted that the number of people living with cancer will double within 15 years, reaching four million.

    Charity chief executive Ciarán Devane said: “It is really encouraging that the number of specialist cancer nurses in England is keeping pace with the rapidly growing numbers of people diagnosed with cancer, but not so good that 10% of cancer patients don't have a specialist nurse.

    “Research shows that having access to one of these cancer nurses is the one most important factor in making sure patients feel treated as human beings, supported and engaged in their care, rather than just a set of symptoms."

    The Royal College of Nursing said the NHS should increase funding support for specialist nurses.

    Chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: "The health service is increasingly reliant on the excellent work of Macmillan, which is providing a greater proportion of cancer nurses than in previous years.

    "Other long-term conditions face a real shortage of experienced specialist nurses, and patient care is suffering as a result."


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