The trend – as parents try to give their children an auspicious start in life or to avoid being stuck in hospital during the holidays – has prompted insurance companies to double their fees or even halt some maternity policies.
Tradition dictates, according to some fortune tellers, that babies born in the Year of the Horse are more vigorous than those born in the Year of the Goat, which begins on Thursday. Well-known Hong Kong fortune teller Mak Ling-ling said some parents were keen to have their babies early in order for their “luckier” offspring to collect lai see – cash gifts given over Lunar New Year – from their relatives. READ MORE HERE >
Experts believe that a simple breath test could help doctors detect and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
The test looks for a unique signature of chemicals in exhaled breath.
Small studies in volunteers have begun and early findings suggest the test can identify those with the debilitating brain condition.
Larger trials are now planned to see if it could truly be a useful test, particularly for picking up Parkinson’s in its earliest stages.
Currently, no test can conclusively show that a person has Parkinson’s.
Instead, doctors reach a diagnosis based on a person’s symptoms and test results – such as brain scans to rule out other diseases.
At this stage, Parkinson’s may already be fairly advanced.
Identifying it earlier would be beneficial because it would mean treatment could be given sooner.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition where there is gradual loss of nerve cells from the brain.
And it is thought that this degradation leaves a chemical footprint in the body that could potentially be used in diagnostic tests.
Scientists have been exploring different ways of finding such biomarkers, including looking in blood, spinal fluid, and exhaled breath.
The breath test looks for traces of volatile organic compounds or VOCs in the air we exhale.
In a small trial in Israel with 57 people, some with Parkinson’s and some without, the test could identify the individuals with Parkinson’s by looking for distinctive patterns of VOCs.
It also appeared to distinguish between different sub-types of the disease based on the presence and quantity of different VOCs.
The charity Parkinson’s UK and experts at the University of Cambridge were intrigued by these early findings and are now setting out to do a bigger study involving 200 volunteers from England.
Dr Simon Stott, who is part of this UK team and will be working alongside the scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, said: “We would like to find biomarkers that can identify patients early.
“A breath test would be really appealing because it’s non-invasive, non-painful and can be done in seconds.
“While it wouldn’t replace what doctors already do, it could be a useful diagnostic tool to help them.”
The biggest hope is that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson’s which throw up new options for drug targets.
The researchers say they have many years of work ahead of them before they will know if the test can be used in clinics.
Frequent eye movements in babies could be a clue to whether they will develop an autism spectrum disorder, a Medical Research Council study suggests.
Using eye-tracking technology, researchers measured 100 six-month-old babies looking at a static image.
Those later diagnosed with ASD moved their eyes around more often, which could be a cause of learning problems.
Women with type 1 diabetes face a greater risk of dying from a range of diseases compared with men with the same condition, research suggests.
This is particularly the case when it comes to heart disease, Australian scientists report.
They say their findings could have “profound implications” for how women with the condition are treated.
Charities warn that the study highlights a failure of care that needs to be changed urgently.
Type 1 diabetes is a disorder that often appears in childhood. Patients’ pancreases are unable to produce the insulin needed to convert sugar and other foods into energy.
Compared with the general population, people with type 1 diabetes have a shorter life expectancy. But researchers say it hasn’t been clear until now whether this affects men and women equally.
To investigate this, scientists from the University of Queensland analysed data from more than 26 studies involving some 200,000 people with the disease.
Overall, they found women had a 40% increased risk of deaths from all causes.
They faced a greater risk of stroke than men and were also more likely to die from kidney disease.
No-one is entirely sure what lies behind these trends.
Simon O’Neill, of Diabetes UK said there had been evidence to suggest changes to girls’ bodies during puberty could make it more difficult for them to get their diabetes under control.
He added: “We need the NHS to urgently improve diabetes care so that all people are offered care that is tailored to their individual needs and so are able to manage their condition effectively and reduce their risk of devastating complications and early death.
“With the right care and support in place there is no reason why people with type 1 diabetes – both men and women – can’t live long, healthy lives.”
Sarah Johnson, from type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “I’m angry. These findings show that type 1 diabetes care is failing and these failings should be addressed urgently for everyone with the condition – not just women.”
Prof Rachel Huxley, lead researcher on the project, said in a statement: “The marked difference between the sexes for vascular-related disease is likely to have profound clinical implications for how women with type 1 diabetes are treated and managed throughout their lives.”
The study appears in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.