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“Nothing is known of Wodehouse’s friends at Elizabeth College. With Peviral and Armine alongside him in the school, he had all the limited companionship he required. Brotherly love is a recurrent theme in his later comedies of ecclesiastical life, but despite these childhood years spent in his brothers’ company, there was no real closeness, and their paths soon divert. As a young man Peviral grew up to be an Edwardian boulevardier who later followed his father out East and joined the Hong Kong police, lost an eye to an insect bite and settled into middle-aged expatriate comfort. With his glass eye and Chinese butler, whose brass buttons wore the Wodehouse crest, he was the very model of a colonial civil servant: Pompous, dull and exceedingly conservative. (

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Researchers at the University of Toronto appear to have isolated true self renewing retinal stem cells. They found about one in 500 cells from the ciliary body could divide indefinitely and adapt to a full variety of retinal cell types. These cells when transplanted into embryonic mice or chicks turned into cells of the type found in that animal at the stage of development of transplantation. Previous studies have identified retinal stem cells of limited capacity unable to divide indefinitely and transforming into only a few cell types. (

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Asperger’s disorder is seen as a subtype of autism at a relatively high functioning level. It is characterised by inflexible behaviour, rigid adherence to routines, narrow interest, serious types of behaviours, and difficulty in inhibiting responses. In a study from Massachusetts General Hospital investigators demonstrated that patients with Asberger’s disorders had deficient saccadic inhibitions, implicating prefrontal cortex dysfunction in this syndrome. Deficient saccadic inhibitions are not specific, however, to Asberger’s syndrome as they are also found in schizophrenia. However, the saccadic inhibition deficit in Asberger’s disorder may be qualitatively and quantitatively distinct. The saccades observed in Asberger’s disorder had normal latencies, amplitudes, and peak velocities. (

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Shark cartilage has been seen by some as a rich source of anti-cancer agents. Nevertheless, shark cartilage extracts have never been shown to be efficacious against cancer in any controlled clinical trial. One of the main arguments for the study of anti-cancer activity of shark cartilage has been the assertion that sharks rarely develop cancer. A recent study from the National Cancer Institute Registry of Tumors and Lower Animals, however, identified 42 cases of tumours in sharks and their close relatives, about a third of which were malignant. The authors suggest that cancer does occur in sharks and a lower rate of incidence of cancer in sharks may have nothing to do with the presence of protective compounds in cartilage. (

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Researchers have recently identified a gene that could explain why some people are depressed and also why some do not respond to antidepressant drugs that act on the neurotransmitter serotonin. Investigators from Duke University have found that a group of severely depressed people were 10 times as likely as non-depressed controls to have a gene variant that reduces the expression of serotonin in the brain. The gene identified controls tryptophan-hydroxylase-2, an enzyme that controls serotonin production in the brain. They found that human cells expressing one mutant form of the enzyme produced 80% less serotonin than is made by cells expressing the more common form. (

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In some circles transient ischaemic attacks are seen as relatively mild disorders. However, in a large observational multicentred study transient ischaemic attacks were found not be as benign as we think with a significant individual risk of early stroke, death, or disability. The authors suggest that management of ischaemic attacks and acute stroke should be similar. (

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As the role of Helicobacter pylori in certain diseases has become defined, concern has been raised as to the source of this bacterium. Recently, it has been proposed that houseflies are a reservoir and vector for Helicobacter. In a trial of insecticide spraying in villages in the Gambia it was shown that fly populations could be decreased but this did not prevent Helicobacter pylori infection. (

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A recent report from UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, shows that the proportion of women and children with HIV has increased in every region of the world since 2002. The study suggests that women may be biologically more vulnerable to HIV although other factors increasing their risk include poverty. The report also emphasises that society needs to rethink the belief that long term monogamous relationships are protective for HIV. Increasing numbers of infections within marriages reflect the fact that many men with previous or current other sexual partners transmitted the virus to their wives. (

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The recent development of the Ex-PRESS miniature glaucoma implant that provides shunting directly under the conjunctiva has promised a new way to treat advanced glaucoma. However, a report from the Wills Eye Hospital of 11 cases in which the Ex-PRESS miniature glaucoma implant was used documented a very high postoperative complication rate including choroidal detachment (27%) and suprachoroidal haemorrhage (18%). Of the seven successful cases additional intervention were required in four. Despite significant intraocular pressure reduction the incidence of complications following Ex-PRESS implantation directly under the conjunctiva was deemed to be unacceptably high in this group of patients. (

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The most famous of the early translators and physicians are Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, the head of Bayt al-Hikma, and Hunayn ibn Ishaq. With his students, Hunayn translated almost all of the then known Greek medical works into either Syriac or Arabic. At the same time these translations were made, original works were composed in Arabic. Hunayn, for example, composed a few medical treatises; of these, al-Masail fi al-Tibb lil-Mutaallimin (Questions on medicines for students) and Kitab al-Ashr Maqalat fi al-Ayn (Ten treatises on the eye) were both influential and considerably innovative. Although Hunayn’s works included very few new observations, their creativity lies in a new organisation and in the case of the second book, in its deliberate attempt to exhaust all questions related to the eye. In any event, a solid command of medical knowledge was needed to produce these works. (

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