SCIENCE IN THE NEWS #2077 - Digest

By StaffThis is Bob Doughty.And this is Steve Ember with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in Science. Today, we tell about a new study of how long people can expect to live. We tell about a small camera that travels through the human digestive system. We tell about a new way to treat the disease diabetes. And we tell about a new island formed by a volcano.

The World Health Organization has released the results of a study about healthy life expectancy. The study is based on a new system developed by WHO scientists to measure living conditions around the world.

Life expectancy estimates are based on how long someone can expect to live. The new report estimates the number of years someone may expect to live in good health. It considers the diseases and disabilities that prevent people from living in good health.

The report says people in twenty-four countries have healthy life expectancy rates of seventy years or more. Japan has the highest rate among the one-hundred-ninety-one countries studied. Someone born in Japan last year can expect to live in good health for seventy-four and one-half years.The United States is twenty-fourth on the list. An American born last year can expect to live seventy years in good health. Several conditions reduce the healthy life expectancy in the United States. They are poor health among minorities, the effects of the disease AIDS, cancers related to smoking tobacco, heart disease and violence.

The WHO report says people in China have a healthy life expectancy rate of about sixty-two years. In India, the rate is about fifty-three years.

WHO officials say the years lost to sickness or disability are much greater in poorer countries because of some conditions that affect children and young adults. These include injury, blindness and the effects of malaria and other diseases.All of the ten countries with the lowest healthy life expectancy rates are in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. WHO officials say life expectancy in much of southern Africa has dropped sharply during the past ten years. They blame the spread of AIDS, the leading cause of death in the area.

The west African nation of Sierra Leone has the lowest healthy life expectancy rate in the study. Someone born there last year can expect to live a healthy life of fewer than twenty-six years.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Scientists have developed a medical test that lets doctors see detailed images from inside the human digestive system. The digestive system is about nine meters long and includes the stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

The test involves a very small video camera, as small as a medicine pill. The patient swallows the camera. The camera has its own power supply. It sends images to a special receiving device worn by the patient. Doctors can see images made by the camera as it travels through the body.

An Israeli scientist, Gavriel Iddan, invented the camera. Paul Swain of the Royal London Hospital in Britain directed the tests. Doctor Swain said the camera was tested successfully in ten people in London and Israel. The publication Nature reported the test results of the new camera.Doctor Swain said muscles in the body guide the camera painlessly through the digestive system. He said the camera produces detailed images of the small intestine and other body parts. The body later expels the camera with human wastes.

In the future, the new test may be offered to patients instead of endoscopy -- the current method of providing images of the intestines. Doctors commonly use endoscopy to discover and treat colon cancer and other conditions. Endoscopy can be painful for the patient, however. Doctors must place a long, narrow tube into the body. The developers of the camera plan more tests on people in the United States later this year.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are listening to the Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS on VOA. This is Steve Ember with Bob Doughty in Washington.


Medical researchers in Canada report they have used insulin- producing cells to treat people with the disease diabetes. About one-hundred-thirty-five-million people around the world have diabetes. They have high levels of the sugar called glucose in their blood. Glucose levels increase when the body lacks or cannot use the hormone insulin.

The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Insulin helps glucose enter cells so that it can be used for fuel. Without insulin, glucose levels increase. This results in diabetes. The disease damages blood vessels. It also injures the kidneys, eyes and nerves. It stops blood flow to the feet and legs. And it increases the chances of heart disease and strokes.There are two kinds of diabetes. The Canadian researchers are trying to cure Type One diabetes. It develops when a person is a child or young adult. People with this kind of diabetes do not produce enough insulin. Their bodies' defense systems attack and destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. They must inject insulin every day to control their glucose levels.

A medical team at the University of Alberta in Edmonton treated eight people who have Type One diabetes. The doctors took insulin-producing cells from the pancreases of healthy people who had died. The doctors placed the insulin-producing cells in the livers of the diabetes patients. The cells produced insulin in all eight patients. The cells are still producing insulin, two to fourteen months after the treatment. The patients all have normal glucose levels without having to inject insulin.The Canadian team is not the first to try such a transplant method. However, they used many more pancreas cells than in the past. And they used a new group of drugs to prevent the patients' bodies from rejecting the insulin-producing cells.

The Canadian researchers announced the results of their work last month at meetings of transplant experts and at the Juvenile Diabetes Association. They also have reported their results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The group is planning to begin another experiment soon at eight hospitals, including some in the United States. Doctors will treat thirty-two more diabetes patients with insulin-producing cells. Experts say this work could prove to be an important step in curing Type One diabetes.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))An international team of scientists recently watched a new island being created in the Pacific Ocean. Twelve scientists were travelling on an Australian research ship to the Solomon Islands when they saw an underwater volcano explode. It was the first explosion of the Kavachi volcano in nine years. The scientists said it was a lucky accident that they were nearby and able to observe the small island being formed. It was created from fiery liquid rock and ash.Waves were breaking on top of the volcano as the ship passed. The volcano was exploding every five minutes. The scientists said the redness of these volcanic eruptions looked like fireworks in the night sky. The volcano sent liquid rock seventy meters above sea-level. Steam rose five-hundred meters into the air.

The chief officer said the ship got within seven-hundred-fifty meters of the center of the exploding volcano. He said the volcano had grown a lot since it was last observed in Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

Researcher Gary Massoth said the team learned a lot about how volcanoes affect the ocean. The Kavachi volcano is south of Vangunu Island, far from major aircraft and shipping areas. The volcano has produced islands several times since its first recorded eruption in Nineteen-Thirty-Nine. The top of the volcano now is forming a sand beach two meters below sea level.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by George Grow, Nancy Steinbach and Jerilyn Watson. This is Bob Doughty.And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

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