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The gene that controls the body clock, NHS patients that are unwittingly going private and good news for paralysed patients – and dogs

We start off today with news that scientists have managed to reverse paralysis in dogs using cells grown from the lining of their noses.

The Cambridge University research team is ‘optimistic’ the treatment could, in time, be used in the treatment of human patients, the BBC reports.

Cells were removed from the dogs’ noses, expanded in a lab for weeks, and then injected into the spine. Each of the dogs used had spinal cord injuries which meant they could not move their hind legs.

The scientists found that the dogs which had the cells injected were able to move their hind legs when on a treadmill. A control group which had a neutral solution injected, were unable to move their hind legs.

Professor Robin Franklin, a regeneration biologist at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute and report co-author, said: ‘We’re confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that’s a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function.’

News reaches us that scientists in America have discovered a gene variation which is hoped could be used to determine the optimum time that heart and stroke patients should take medication.

The Daily Mail reports that the gene variation affects the body clock so much that it predicts the time of day that a patient is most likely to die.

According to the report – which looked at the sleeping patterns of 1,200 healthy 65-year-olds - the scientists found a single molecule near a gene called ‘Period 1’ that had as its base, either adenine (A) or guanine (G).

Type A is more common by a ratio of six to four, so because people have two sets of chromosomes, an individual has a 36 per cent chance of having two As, a 16 per cent chance of having two Gs, and a 48 per cent chance of an A and a G

The report said that people AA or AG genotype died just before 11am on average, but those with the GG genotype tended to die at just before 6pm. 

The study’s lead author Andrew Lim, from the Department of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said: ‘The internal “biological clock” regulates many aspects of human biology and behaviour. It also influences the timing of acute medical events like stroke and heart attack.’

The Guardian is reporting that almost 20 per cent of all NHS patients are treated by private firms.

The figures are reported to come from a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which also said that the previous Labour Government’s embrace of competition was partly to blame.

The report shows that private firms not carry out 17 per cent of hip replacements, 17 per cent of hernia repairs and six per cent of gall bladder removals each year in England.

According to the report, in 2006, GPs referred patients to an average of 12 different healthcare providers a year, mainly in the NHS.

By 2010 that had risen to 18, mainly because they were encouraged to offer patients a wider list of places to be treated.

A Labour spokesman said: ‘The last Labour government used these agreements to add extra capacity to the NHS and allow patients to be treated in record times.’