In today’s talking points: Beijing launches clean-air pilot program in public schools; Nobel Prize winner Tu Youyou becomes first female to win China’s top science award; Australian breakthrough on determining the success of liver transplants before surgery; Latest ANU study shows link between the use of heartburn rugs and an increased risk of developing gastroenteritis.
Beijing launches clean-air pilot program in public schools
Education authorities in Beijing, amid pressure from parents, have launched a pilot program to install smog-filtering ventilation systems at kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, to protect children from the severe bouts of smog that have covered Beijing in recent months. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission said it would offer subsidies to the 13 randomly picked schools in the Haidian district to install the expensive ventilation systems. Authorities said that all kindergartens and schools in Beijing would be fitted with the ventilation systems after a review of the pilot program. However, the Commission failed to say how long the trial would last. For months now parents have been urging authorities to do something to protect their children from the severe smog, which has worsened in winter due to the coal being burnt to provide warmth to the city. It will cost authorities at least 10 billion yuan to install the ventilation systems in every school and kindergarten in Beijing. It is not clear whether or not parents will have to pitch in to help cover the cost.
Read more at: Caixin
Nobel Prize winner Tu Youyou becomes first female to win china’s top science award
Tu Youyou, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, has finally received some official recognition from her home country by winning China’s top government science award on Monday. At a ceremony in Beijing, the 86-year-old was finally given the National Supreme Science and Technology Award, which comes with a cash prize of 5 million yuan. Tu was credited with discovering artemisinin to treat malaria by using ether to extract active ingredients from plants some 45 years ago. It wasn’t until 2011, when two researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Health, Louis Miller and Su Xinzhuan, looked into the history of artemisinin and identified Tu and the main contributor to its discovery. In 2012 Tu was nominated for China’s top government science award but didn’t win. Many scholars believe the members on the award investigation team had a grudge against Tu. Then in 2015 Tu was awarded the highest international recognition the Nobel Prize. However, China still failed to recognize her work, exposing the flaws in how China chooses its award winners. The delay for Tu’s recognition in China showed that the nation’s scientific community has been doing some introspection and finally have given her the recognition for her life saving work.
Read more at: Caixin
Australian breakthrough on determining the success of liver transplants before surgery
A Melbourne-based Australian surgeon has developed a world-first computer program to determine the likelihood of success of a liver transplant before the surgery takes place. In a curious twist of fate, this program is inspired by the algorithm used by dating websites to pair two people together and uses the top 15 factors known at the time of the transplant to predict the early success of a liver donation and has proved significantly more successful than the current method which is the surgeon’s intuition. Lawrence Lau, the junior surgeon responsible for the development of the program, said he was inspired to develop the machine-learning program by a friend who worked for popular dating website eHarmony. He hopes that the program will help decrease the risks associated with liver transplants offer thousands of Australians in need of a transplant a second chance at life with less reliance on intuitive judgements on behalf of the surgeons.
Latest ANU study shows link between the use of heartburn rugs and an increased risk of developing gastroenteritis
According to recent research, led by the ANU’s Dr. Yingxi Chen, Australians who use heartburn drugs such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have a 70 percent higher chance of being admitted to hospital with infectious gastroenteritis. The study found a link between the heartburn drugs and the illness, commonly known as gastro, which results in more than 13 million “lost days of work” in Australia every year. Chen said those over 45 years old were particularly susceptible to developing the illness as a result of using heartburn drugs, as the PPIs manipulate the stomach into producing less acid, meaning some viruses and bacteria are not killed off in the system before causing gastro. According to the ANU, PPIs are one of the most commonly used gastric acid suppressants in the world, with nearly 20 million prescriptions filled annually in Australia alone. The results demonstrate that it is important for those using heartburn suppressants to be aware of the risks associated with the medicine, especially if they are elderly or suffer from chronic bowel problems.