Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 15th 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Monday, May 15, 2017
Baby brain scans reveal trillions of neural connections
UK scientists have
released the first batch
medical scans that re-
veal step-by-step how
the human brain de-
velops in babies. Re-
searchers around the
world can use the data
to understand what
healthy growth looks
like, say the Developing
The detailed MRI scans
could also improve under-
standing of conditions
such as autism and cer-
They precisely plot
how the billions of neu-
rons form and connect
The team from King's
College London, Impe-
rial College London and
the University of Oxford
say their task has been
Newborn human brains
contain trillions of path-
ways, packed into an or-
gan that is about the size
of a small tangerine.
So far, the scientists
have released data they
collected by scanning 40
babies a few days after
Lead investigator Prof
David Edwards said get-
ting permission from new
parents to allow their ba-
bies to be scanned was "a
"It's perfectly safe.
There's no radiation or
X-rays involved. But we
are incredibly grateful
to the families who have
taken part in this work.
It's contributing hugely
Their plan is to scan
many more newborns, as
well as babies still grow-
ing in the womb.
Then they will create a
dynamic map of human
Prof Edwards said:
"Having lots of data will
mean we can study what
is normal and abnormal
in terms of brain devel-
"We can start to answer
important questions, like
what happens to the brain
when babies are born pre-
maturely or how does the
brain develop differently
in children with autism."
The work, which is
funded with a 14.9m euro
European Research Coun-
cil grant, will take a few
more years to complete.
When it is finished,
the researchers say theirs
will be the biggest and
best-quality collection of
baby brain development
images ever gathered.
A map of adult brain
connections has already
been made. (BBC)
A third of drugs
have safety issues
Safety problems emerge with nearly one in three
prescription drugs after they've been approved
by the US Food and Drug Administration, a new
Researchers examined data on drugs approved by the
FDA between 2001 and 2010, with follow-up through
2017. The investigators found that 32 per cent of the
drugs had safety issues after approval.
"That is very rarely a drug withdrawal, but more
commonly a black-box warning or drug safety com-
munication issued by the FDA to let physicians and
patients know that new safety information has been
determined," said study leader Dr Joseph Ross. He is
an associate professor of medicine and public health
at Yale University.
Of 222 drugs approved by the agency during the
study period, three were withdrawn, 61 received boxed
warnings and 59 prompted safety communications, the
Drugs most likely to have post-approval safety con-
cerns included biologics, psychiatric drugs and medi-
cines approved through the FDA's accelerated approval
The report is timely because the FDA is under pressure
to accelerate drug approvals, the study authors noted.
"It shows that there is the potential for compromising
patient safety when drug evaluation is persistently sped
up," Ross said in a university news release.
At the very least, the study should inform the on-
going debate about pre-market drug evaluation, the
To assess experimental drugs for safety and effec-
tiveness, the FDA relies on pre-market drug testing and
clinical trials. Most of the trials involve fewer than 1,000
patients studied over a period of six months or less.
This makes it hard to detect safety issues that might
surface once more patients use the drug over a longer
time period, the researchers explained.
According to study author Dr Nicholas Downing, from
the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's
Hospital, in Boston, "The fact that so many new safety
risks are being identified after FDA approval indicates
that the FDA is taking its responsibility of ensuring the
safety of new drugs throughout their lifetime seriously."
However, "these safety risks emerge, on average, four
years after approval. This means that many patients are
exposed to these medications before the risks become
clear," Downing added in a hospital news release.
Some of those risks included serious skin reactions,
liver damage, cancer and even death, the Associated
The findings were published May 9 in the Journal of
the American Medical Association.
Many scans of baby brain growth will help create a
dynamic map of human brain connectivity.
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