US women are having fewer and fewer babies. In some ways, it’s a sign of progress
American women are having so few babies these days that the fertility rate has hit a historic low, according to stunning provisional data just published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of births in the US dropped by 2 percent between 2016 and 2017, to 60.2 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, continuing a general downturn that started with the Great Recession of 2008. It’s the lowest the fertility rate has been in 30 years. Read more.
For a condition that affects up to 10% of reproductive-age women worldwide, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) remains mysterious. It’s a leading cause of female infertility and often boosts the risk of metabolic problems such as type 2 diabetes. It’s also highly heritable: The sister of an affected woman has at least a 20% chance of developing it herself, and the risk for identical twins is even higher. Read more.
*Update, 18 May, 10 a.m.: Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first in a new class of drugs designed to prevent migraines. This feature, originally published on 8 January 2016, describes the history of these drugs, the powerful relief they can bring some patients, and the limitations that still exist with them. Read more.
Getting old can be a real itch. In addition to having memory and muscle loss, many elderly people develop supersensitive skin that gets itchy at the lightest touch. Scientists don’t know what causes this miserable condition, called alloknesis, or how to treat it. Now, however, a study in mice has revealed a counterintuitive mechanism for the disorder: a loss of pressure-sensing cells in the skin. Although the findings have yet to be replicated in humans, the study raises the possibility that boosting the function of these cells could treat chronic itch in people, both young and old. Read more.
Human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists.
Understanding this hidden half of ourselves – our microbiome – is rapidly transforming understanding of diseases from allergy to Parkinson’s.
The field is even asking questions of what it means to be “human” and is leading to new innovative treatments as a result.
“They are essential to your health,” says Prof Ruth Ley, the director of the department of microbiome science at the Max Planck Institute, “your body isn’t just you”. Read more.
Like that baby, the vast majority of the nearly half-million infants born prematurely in the United States are given antibiotics, even without evidence of infection. Many preemies are kept on the drugs after blood tests say they are not sick. Yet that practice, once considered the best way to protect a hospital’s most vulnerable patients, is now being challenged. “We’re beginning to recognize that the risk of giving that antibiotic may actually outweigh the benefit,” says Josef Neu, a neonatologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Read more.
Partly because of that experience gap, doctors and drug companies are keen to learn from online communities, too. They’re analyzing social networks to get a faster, wider look into how patients react to drugs, sometimes picking up information about side effects that clinical trials missed. Read more.