Belgium approves child euthanasia.

Opinion polls suggest broad support for the law, as Duncan Crawford reports

Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.

When, as expected, the bill is signed by the king, Belgium will become the first country in the world to remove any age limit on the practice.

It may be requested by terminally ill children who are in great pain and also have parental consent.

Opponents argue children cannot make such a difficult decision.

It is 12 years since Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults.

In the Netherlands, Belgium’s northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over the age of 12, if there is parental consent.

Conditions for child euthanasia

  • Patient must be conscious of their decision
  • Request must be approved by parents and medical team
  • Illness must be terminal
  • Patient must be in great pain with no treatment available to alleviate their distress

Under the Dutch conditions, a patient’s request for euthanasia can be fulfilled by a doctor if the request is “voluntary and well-considered” and the patient is suffering unbearably, with no prospect of improvement.

‘Immoral’ law

One man in the public gallery of Belgium’s parliament shouted “murderers” in French when the vote was passed, Reuters news agency reports.

Supporters of the legislation argue that in practice the law will affect an extremely small number of children, who would probably be in their teens, the BBC’s Duncan Crawford reports from Brussels.

The law states a child would have to be terminally ill, face “unbearable physical suffering” and make repeated requests to die – before euthanasia is considered.

Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to agree before a decision is made.

Protesters have lobbied politicians against the changes.

Church leaders argued the law is immoral.

“The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die,” Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said at a prayer vigil last week.

Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.

Last week 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter against the law, claiming that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain.

But opinion polls have suggested broad support for the changes in Belgium, which is mostly Catholic.

Computers select personal medicine.

Peter Cpveney

Peter Coveney holds up a model of the HIV protease and a blocking drug molecule

UK scientists have given one glimpse of the future of personalised medicine.

Using supercomputers, they simulated the shape of a key protein involved in HIV infection in an individual patient and then ranked the drug molecules most likely to block the activity.

The research was reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the future, it is expected that patient-specific drug selection will become routine.

Researchers now recognise that pharmaceutical products do not have the same effects in all people. Subtle genetic differences between individuals will lead to a range of outcomes.

Prof Peter Coveney and colleagues from University College London have demonstrated how you might tackle this problem using the latest genetic sequencing techniques and big computation.

They took as their target the HIV protease molecule, which is critical in helping to build the viral particle, or virion, in a cell that will eventually break out to infect the next cell.

The protease has a slightly different shape in each individual, in particular in the protein’s active zone where it slices the components that will form the next virion.

This is a consequence of the very specific genetic sequence of the virus in that person, but unless that shape is known, there is uncertainty as to which particular drug will bind to the protease and stop it in its tracks.

The UCL team showed how one could take the specific viral sequence, infer the shape and then work out the most appropriate drug.

HIV treatments
Pharmaceutical products do not have the same effects in all people

“We show that it’s possible to take a genomic sequence from a patient; use that to build the accurate, patient-specific, three-dimensional structure of the patient’s protein; and then match that protein to the best drug available from a set. In other words, to rank those drugs – to be able to say to a doctor ‘this drug is the one that’s going to bind most efficiently to that site. The other ones, less so’.”

There are currently nine US Federal Drug Administration-approved HIV-protease inhibitors on the market. The UCL project ranked seven of them in its proof of principle experiment.

Although the idea sounds simple, working out how each drug molecule would fit into the patient’s shape-specific protease protein required enormous computing capability.

“We’re having to run upwards of 50 simulations of these models, each one of which needs a hundred cores on a computer. So that’s a machine with 5,000 cores, and then you run the calculations for about 12 to 18 hours,” explained the director of the Centre for Computational Science at UCL.

“You get a huge amount of output data, and then do post-processing and analysis to get the ranking.

“A doctor need not know about any of this complexity; all they’d be interested in would be the list of best-to-worst drugs for that patient.”

Although the required computing power might make this approach look somewhat impractical today, Prof Coveney’s point is that the relentless improvement in processor capability means these types of simulations will become much more reasonable in the future.

“Today’s supercomputer is on your desktop in 10 years, right?”

What it is more, in principle, it is possible to turn the calculations around in two to three days, which is very relevant to the timescales required by doctors to make treatment decisions for their patients.

As well as reporting this work at the AAAS meeting, Prof Coveney’s UCL team has also written up the research in the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation.

This graphic depicts how one gets from the patient’s particular viral sequence for the HIV protease to a ranked list of treatments, after going through multiple simulations to find the drug molecule most likely to bind to the protease and block its activity

Electric fish inspire agile robots

Electric fish inspire agile robots

Posted from WordPress for Android

More healing sleep for newborns

premature baby

Sleeping like a baby is an oft-used cliche. But while sleep is crucial for sick and premature babies to grow and recover, it can be difficult in a bright, noisy hospital.

However those in a specially-designed ward in Bath can be confident of getting plenty of rest.

When we try to soothe a baby at home we keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Yet many sick babies are cared for in hospital wards that are neither particularly restful, dark nor quiet.

“There’s not usually any controllable light in a hospital, it’s very brightly lit and noisy – a technical environment,” says Bernie Marden, a consultant neonatologist at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

The nappy sensor
The nappy sensor

The new neonatal ward he runs has been designed with the needs of the families, babies and clinicians in mind – resulting in a fifth more sleep for the infants.

To check that the new unit provided a better environment for the babies a special movement monitor was created to record the babies’ behaviour.

The man behind the device is Professor Mark Tooley, head of medical physics at the hospital.

It is about the same size and shape as a domino and even though it is a relatively simple device, there were challenges in its design.

“We had to make sure it couldn’t get hot or interfere with the baby’s wellbeing in any way. The hospital’s ethics committee were rightly very strict about this,” he said.

It contains three accelerometers, to detect movement in three different planes and this information is fed wirelessly to a computer. The device’s battery can last up to five weeks.


Putting it under the babies’ armpit was the initial idea but the ethics committee said no.

“Putting it onto the nappy seemed the ideal solution.. but we did lose a few when nappies were changed because they were white and became almost invisible. We have now put a colourful sticker on them.”

Baby Laila and her twin sister Aicha were born nearly three months early and will stay in the neonatal unit until around their original due date.

Their mother Samantha Rhodes relaxes in a comfortable reclining chair, with Aisha cradled on her chest.

Laila and Aicha in the new unit with their mother Samantha
Laila and Aicha in the new unit with their mother Samantha

Both girls are now both feeding well and growing in the peaceful, dimly-lit neonatal unit.

Samantha and her daughters will be here for quite a while – probably until close to their original due date – so it is just as well they feel at home here: “It’s not like a hospital, it’s really relaxing.”

It’s not just premature babies who need extra help and support.

One in 10 of all babies born at this hospital will spend some time in the neonatal unit for a variety of reasons – usually because they are premature or the stress of birth.

Bernie Marden says: “In the new unit we have noticed that materials like wood have encouraged a calming environment – the families tend to tone down their voices.

“In the babies we studied we found that they had 20% more sleep here in the new unit – and while they’re resting they’re growing, and recovering.

“There is a slightly noisier time during the morning but after then it quietens down again. The overall noise level dipped by eight decibels, compared with the old unit. And the parents are more involved in their care.”

Flatpack ward

The architects behind the new unit – Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios – had never built a healthcare facility before.

Hospital room
Natural light streams into the new neonatal unit at the Royal United Hospital in Bath

The calm atmosphere in the unit was created by consulting with everyone from the lead doctors to the cleaners.

Jo Wright, who was in charge of the project, said: “In the old unit space was very tight, everyone was on top of each other. We didn’t want to go the tried-and-tested route.

“The use of natural materials like wood came out of a desire to be sustainable. We obviously had to verify it was OK with the infection control team.

“Much of it came as a flatpack and minimised disruption as we were building close to the delivery suite.”

The impact of the new neonatal unit was evaluated by Mike Osborn – a clinical psychologist at the hospital who specialises in supporting patients affected by chronic pain and cancer.

“The old unit had no natural light – it was like being inside a hot, dusty submarine, you couldn’t tell if it was day or night.

‘Less anxious and tense’

“And because babies are small there was a feeling that the department could be small, but it was difficult for the mums to get to their babies it was so cramped.”

The parents appear to benefit also from the light and space in the new unit – the bar stools they used to sit on have been replaced with reclining comfortable chairs.

“I used to get called down to parents in a panic – as if they’d had 17 espresso coffees. Now they’re less anxious and tense and I sometimes have to wake them up to talk to them.”

Breastfeeding rates have gone up – in the new unit 90% of the babies go home breastfeeding, compared with 64% in the old unit.

Mike Osborn says the positive experience in the neonatal unit has provided a blueprint for the rest of his hospital: “We are hoping to rebuild our cancer department and now we have a benchmark for building compassionate environments here and elsewhere.

“Treatments can be horrible but we can do something to soothe our patients.”

Jet stream ‘may be changing’

Pallab Ghosh: “We may have to get used to winters where spells of weather go on for weeks – or even months”

New research suggests that the main system that helps determine the weather over Northern Europe and North America may be changing.

The study shows that the so-called jet stream has increasingly taken a longer, meandering path.

This has resulted in weather remaining the same for more prolonged periods.

The work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.

The observation could be as a result of the recent warming of the Arctic. Temperatures there have been rising two to three times faster than the rest of the globe.

According to Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey: “This does seem to suggest that weather patterns are changing and people are noticing that the weather in their area is not what it used to be.”

“Start Quote

We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently”

Prof Jennifer FrancisRutgers University

The meandering jet stream has accounted for the recent stormy weather over the UK and the bitter winter weather in the US Mid-West remaining longer than it otherwise would have.

“We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently,” says Prof Francis

The jet stream, as its name suggests, is a high-speed air current in the atmosphere that brings with it the weather.

It is fuelled partly by the temperature differential between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

If the differential is large then the jet stream speeds up, and like a river flowing down a steep hill, it ploughs through any obstacles – such as areas of high pressure that might be in its way.

If the temperature differential reduces because of a warming Arctic then the jet stream weakens and, again, like a river on a flat bed, it will meander every time it comes across an obstacle.

This results in weather patterns tending to becoming stuck over areas for weeks on end. It also drives cold weather further south and warm weather further north. Examples of the latter are Alaska and parts of Scandinavia, which have had exceptionally warm conditions this winter.

In the UK, storm after storm has rolled across the country
In the UK, storm after storm has rolled across the country

With the UK, the US and Australia experiencing prolonged, extreme weather, the question has been raised as to whether recent patterns are due to simple natural variations or the result of manmade climate change? According to Prof Francis, it is too soon to tell.

“The Arctic has been warming rapidly only for the past 15 years,” she says.

“Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get a very clear signal.

“But as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change.”

Prof Francis was taking part in a session on Arctic change involving Mark Serreze, the director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

He said the idea that changes in the polar north could influence the weather in middle latitudes – so-called “Santa’s revenge” – was a new and lively area of research and somewhat controversial, with arguments for and against.

“Fundamentally, the strong warming that might drive this is tied in with the loss of sea-ice cover that we’re seeing, because the sea-ice cover acts as this lid that separates the ocean from a colder atmosphere,” Dr Serreze explained.

“If we remove that lid, we pump all this heat up into the atmosphere. That is a good part of the signal of warming that we’re now seeing, and that could be driving some of these changes.”

Chicago 6 January
Chicago is now warming after being gripped by frigid polar air in January

The Love Frequency : How 528 Hz Is The Frequency The Resonates At The Heart Of Creation.

According to Dr. Leonard Horowitz, 528 Hertz is a frequency that is central to the “musical mathematical matrix of creation.” More than any sound previously discovered, the “LOVE frequency” resonates at the heart of everything. It connects your heart, your spiritual essence, to the spiraling reality of heaven and earth.

The Love frequency is the “Miracle” note of the original Solfeggio musical scale. Independently confirmed by researchers, these core creative frequencies were used by ancient priests and healers in advanced civilizations to manifest miracles and produce blessings.

Math scientist Victor Showell describes 528 as fundamental to the ancient Pi, Phi, and the Golden Mean evident throughout natural design. Vic Showell and John Stuart Reid (a pioneer in acoustic research and cymatic measurements) have proven that 528 is essential to the sacred geometry of circles and spirals consistent with DNA structuring and hydrosonic restructuring.


528 resolves to a 6, the icon for physical manifestation. That is, 5+2+8=15; and 1+5=6 (using Pythagorean math). The symbol “6” reflects the “spiraling down from heaven into the wholeness of earth.” In fact, the Love frequency can be fundamental to broadcasting all matter and energy into reality according to the laws of physics.

Definition of the Love Frequency

528 is known as the ‘Miracle’ tone which brings remarkable and extraordinary changes. Dr. Joseph Puleo analyzed the meaning of the tone using Latin dictionaries and hidden entries from Webster’s Dictionary. The “Mi” tone is characterized as:

1. an extraordinary occurrence that surpasses all known human powers or natural forces and is ascribed to a divine or supernatural cause, esp. to God.

2. a superb or surpassing example of something; wonder, marvel [1125-75]; ME L Miraculum=Mira(Ri) to wonder at. fr(French): sighting, aiming to hold against the light. (gestorum: gesture; movements to express thought, emotion; any action, communication, etc. intended for effect.)

The 528Hz tone alone is associated with ‘DNA Repair‘

How it cleaned polluted water in the Gulf of Mexico

In 2010, John Hutchinson, an electromagnetic energy expert from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, helped purify poisoned water off the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. He and his research partner, Nancy Hutchinson (formerly Nancy Lazaryan), used the 528 Hz frequency and other Solfeggio tones to reduce the oil and grease in polluted waters.

The polluted area was treated with the frequencies for four hours the first day, and by the next morning, the waters were cleared. They also did four more hours of RF frequency to complete the test. The frequency device was situated about 25 feet up the beach from the water.

They restored the water’s vitality as manifested by the return of fish, dolphins and even barnacles. Nancy said that ‘the water that had been murky brown was a clear green. Two dolphins came into 5 feet of water to visit. Lots of schools of fish and crabs [were] very active’.

Their results were certified by Dr. Robert Naman, President of Analytical Chemical Testing Laboratory, Inc. of Mobile, Alabama. Dr. Naman, an analytical chemist with almost 30 years in the field, tested the samples and confirmed the complete removal of oil and grease from the after treatment sample source tested.

Now running shoes that help muscles.

Running shoes should be designed to complement the function of the muscles rather than work against them, the research suggested. File Photo: K. Pichumani

The HinduRunning shoes should be designed to complement the function of the muscles rather than work against them, the research suggested. File Photo: K. Pichumani
Scientists have found how foot muscles support the arch of the foot, a finding that could spark a change in the design of running shoes.

The findings of the study led by The University of Queensland can also impact the treatment of foot conditions, the design of efficient prosthetic and robot limbs and improve understanding of how humans came to walk and run efficiently on two feet.

Dr. Glen Lichtwark at UQ’s School of Human Movement Studies said the importance of muscles in moving a person’s legs was already well-known, but muscles in the foot had been deemed less important.

“Ligaments in the foot have generally been regarded as the main support for the foot arch, which helps us walk and run by acting as a spring,” Dr. Lichtwark said.

“As you compress the arch it stretches the bottom of the arch and that causes some tension in the ligaments that store elastic energy, which can be released when you push off.

“Anatomical research suggests that muscles in the feet may also be important in supporting the arch of the foot as well and we were really interested in whether or not these muscles have any capacity to assist this function of the foot,” he said.

Researchers conducted two experiments to investigate the role of muscles in the foot.

The first experiment required seated participants to have a weight applied to their knee while the researchers studied activation of foot muscles, using needle electrodes.

“We found that after a certain amount of force was applied, these muscles started to activate and the more weight we applied, the more these muscles turned on,” Dr. Lichtwark said.

In a second experiment researchers electrically stimulated the foot muscles under different loads.

“We found that as the muscles were stimulated, they caused the arch of the foot to rise, actively supporting the arch,” Dr. Lichtwark said.

“The muscles were basically acting as a parallel support to the ligaments effectively stiffening the foot,” he said.

The researchers believe the findings may have implications for the design of running shoes. “Running shoes should be designed to complement the function of the muscles rather than work against them,” Dr. Lichtwark said.

“Because we think these muscles respond to how much load you put on them, if you put in some kind of cushioning effect on one side of the foot for instance, then that might slow the response of these muscles in being able to adjust to different surfaces or uneven terrain,” he said.

The findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.


Google working on offering 10 gigabits per second Internet speed

Google’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette, said that the project was part of the search giant’s broader, long-term obsession with speed, USA Today reports. File photo

APGoogle’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette, said that the project was part of the search giant’s broader, long-term obsession with speed, USA Today reports. File photo
Currently, Google Fiber service offers data speeds of 1 gigabit per second, and the search giant is working on technology to provide faster data transfer speeds.

Google is reportedly working on offering data transfer speeds of 10 gigabits per second as part of its project to develop ‘next generation’ of the Internet.

Currently, Google Fiber service offers data speeds of 1 gigabit per second, and the search giant is working on technology to provide faster data transfer speeds.

Google’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette, said that the project was part of the search giant’s broader, long-term obsession with speed, USA Todayreports.

According to the report, faster speeds would increase the use of software as a service because users would be able to trust that critical applications that are data intensive would run smoothly over the Internet.

Mr. Pichette said that Google is trying to make the technology available in three years.

The report said that Google is not the only one working on this technology as last year, researchers in the UK announced that they achieved data transmission speeds of 10 gigabits per second using “li-fi“ — a wireless Internet connectivity technology that uses light.


Breast milk contains natural stress hormone.


 A hormone that is released when someone is under physical or emotional stress has been found in breast milk and appears to affect babies differently depending on their sex, a study of laboratory monkeys has shown.
  • Scientists found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol in breast milk can vary between mothers and that it affects sons and daughters in a different way. The researchers believe the same is likely to be true for human breast milk.

Female babies fed on breast milk with relatively high concentrations of cortisol showed behavioural changes, such as irritability, fear, anger and discomfort, which were not shown in sons fed on breast milk with similar concentrations of the hormone, said Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The findings lend further support to the idea that “breast is best” and that formula milk does not provide the same nutritional benefits as breast milk. However, when formula milk is unavoidable, the results also suggest that its make-up might be altered depending on whether the baby is a boy or a girl, Dr Hinde said.

“We have good reason to be sceptical of one size fits all for formula milk,” she told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“These studies are showing that mother’s milk affects behaviour and there seems to be differences in that effect for sons and daughers,” she told the meeting

“Our study is a step forward in that it integrates the food aspect of milk as well as the signal from the hormone,” she said.

Cortisol receptors, which are activated in the presence of the hormone, are present in the lining of the gut wall of a baby as well as within the brain. The presence of the hormone in breast milk suggests its plays an important role in influencing the behaviour of breast-feeding infants, depending on the baby’s gender, Dr Hinde said.

Baby boys and girls should get different formula milk, claim scientists

A mother’s milk may contain different levels of nutrients depending on the sex of her baby to meet different growth needs.
Baby drinking milk from a bottle

Levels of nutrients in baby milk have effects on a child’s growth, behaviour and temperament that may last a lifetime. Photograph: Alamy

Baby formula should be tailored for boys and girls to reflect the differences in milk that mothers produce depending on their baby’s sex, researchers say.


Tests on mothers’ milk in both monkeys and humans have showed that levels of fat, protein, vitamins, sugars, minerals and hormones vary enormously, but there is evidence that milk made for female and male babies is consistently different.


The make-up of the milk has a direct impact on the child’s growth, but also on his or her behaviour and temperament, which may last for the rest of their life. Scientists suspect that breast milk may be tailored by nature to meet the different growth needs of the sexes.

The findings have led some researchers to suggest that baby formula should come in boy and girl formulations to match the differences seen in breast milk.

“We have good reason to be sceptical of a one-size-fits-all formula,” saidProf Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago, Hinde described her work in rhesus monkeys that showed mothers produce milk with 35% more fat and protein for male babies, and even richer milk when the male was first-born.

But when mothers fed female babies, their milk was less fatty and had more calcium, probably to support the faster growth of their skeletons. Mothers produced more milk overall for females, and over the course of their breast feeding, they received the same amount of fat as the males.

“The recipes for milk for sons and daughters may be different, and the difference may be greater depending on where the mother is at in her reproductive career,” said Hinde.

“Boys and girls have different developmental trajectories, so if they are not getting what they need, their development will not be optimal.”

In another study, Hinde looked at levels of the stress hormone cortisol in mothers’ milk and how they affected the babies’ behaviour. The research builds on previous work in humans that found milk with higher concentrations of cortisol made baby girls more irritable and harder to calm down.

Hinde measured levels of cortisol in breast milk for 108 baby monkeys at one month old, and later when the animals were three or four months old. She found some subtle but important differences. Female monkeys became more nervous when cortisol was high early on in their breast feeding. Male monkeys behaved more nervously when cortisol rose over time.

Taken together, the work suggests that mothers make breast milk differently for male and female babies, and that male and females respond to the milk they drink in their own ways.

Hinde said far more work was needed to understand not only how and why milk varies for boys and girls, but also why constituents of milk affect them in different ways.