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Gene therapy for Parkinson´s, the non-hormonal Pill and a swimming pool health alert

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 17 March.

By Alisdair Stirling

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 17 March.

The Independent is among the papers reporting on a study suggesting that gene therapy could help Parkinson's disease sufferers. US researchers drilled holes in the skulls of 45 patients and infused a solution containing a movement co-ordination gene called GAD along with a harmless virus into the subthalmic nucleus of half the group. The virus was used to carry the gene into the cells by infecting them.

The remaining half of the patients were the control group. They had sham surgery – holes were drilled halfway through their skulls and were washed with catheters carrying saline solution. The results showed patients who received the gene therapy had twice the improvement in motor control compared with the sham surgery group after six months – an average gain of 23.1% on the Parkinson's rating scale against 12.7%, the paper says.

The Daily Mail raises the prospect of a side-effect free contraceptive Pill. It says that scientists have tracked down the signal of ‘fertile attraction' between egg and sperm. Laboratory experiments show a hormone released by an egg ready to be fertilised acts as a ‘come hither' message to sperm – which then reacts in less than a second. The discovery, reported in Nature, suggests it may be possible to develop non-hormonal contraceptives to turn the signal off, thus replacing the Pill.

The Daily Telegraph warns that swimming too much - or even taking too many baths or showers - could increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. Carcinogenic chemicals called trihalomethanes, created as a byproduct of chlorinating water, can be absorbed through the skin, according to the paper. People who regularly swim in chlorinated pools or take lots of showers or baths could therefore be putting themselves at risk. Researchers from Castilla La Mancha in Spain, said the effects negated the 'purity' benefits of drinking unchlorinated bottled mineral water.

Spotted a story we've missed? Let us know in the comments and we'll update the digest throughout the day...

Daily Digest

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