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Commerce / IMF expects less of the UK and a lot of the US and Europe
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:39:30 AM »
The IMF's updated forecasts for the global economy make for depressing reading for anyone in the UK, but might seem reassuring to anyone concerned with the world recovery as a whole.

For all the sombre talk about the global recovery losing momentum, the Fund has only nudged down its global growth forecast for 2012 and 2013 - and the forecast for just the advanced economies hasn't changed much either.

But beneath the surface there is still plenty to worry about.

Back in the spring, the IMF thought the UK would grow by 0.8% this year and by 2% in 2012, but the new forecast pencils in growth of just 0.2% this year and 1.4% in 2013.

For Labour, and even some senior figures inside the Fund, this downward revision in Britain's economic prospects ought to re-open the argument over the government's deficit plans and the need for a "Plan B".

In its World Economic Outlook last September, the Fund said: "If activity were to undershoot current expectations, countries that face historically low yields should also consider delaying some of their planned adjustment." It specified that the countries it was talking about were Germany and the UK.

At that time, the Fund was expecting the UK to grow by 1.1% in 2011 and 1.6% in 2012. Now we know it grew by 0.7% in 2011 and, as I said, the Fund has lowered the forecast for 2012 to just 0.2%.

So, to say that activity has "undershot" last year's expectations would itself be an understatement.

But, we went through all this at the time of the Fund's Article IV Report on the UK, in May - when, you'll remember, the Fund's managing director Christine Lagarde went out of her way to praise Mr Osborne and his policies.

The government will be trying to sound creative on the subject of growth later this week, when it provides more details of its plans to leverage more private sector infrastructure and housing investments.

But I think we can be confident it won't be described as any Plan B. For its part, the IMF, in a separate update to its fiscal forecasts also released today, describes the government's decision to maintain its medium term target for the deficit as "appropriate".

Avoiding dangers
So much for the UK. What about the rest of the world? Should we be reassured that Britain is the only advanced economy to see a major downward revision in its forecast since the spring? Perhaps. But remember that these revisions are always to some extent a catch-up exercise.

The new global forecasts are broadly stable, only because the start of the year looks better than it did before. The months after the first quarter look a bit worse.

More important, the forecast of 1.4% growth in the advanced economies in 2012 and 1.9% in 2013 assumes that politicians in Europe and America get their act together in avoiding some very real and present dangers.

Looking at the fractious state of political debate on pressing economic issues, on both sides of the Atlantic, you can hardly say that is a sure thing.

As we know, there are a lot of gaps in the agreement hammered out by European leaders at last month's summit, and a lot of doubts about when and how they will take crucial steps like permitting the new European Stability Mechanism bailout facility to inject capital directly into troubled eurozone banks.

Argument is also raging, within and around the European Central Bank, over whether the ECB should do more to help push down borrowing costs for Spain or Italy, for example by buying more of their governments' debt.

But the fears about the eurozone and its financial system, though increasingly apparent in the market, are well known to everyone. What many in Europe have perhaps not focused on enough is the looming "fiscal cliff" in the US.

Without a new agreement on the budget between now and the start of next year, a series of automatic tax rises and spending cuts would lead to drastic budget tightening in the US of 4% of GDP in 2013 alone. As the Fund notes, somewhat unnecessarily, "this would severely affect growth in the short term".

Most people outside the US have always expected this to get sorted out after the general election in November - regardless of who wins. But I can't help noticing, lately, that people closer to the situation, in Washington, are much less confident.

On balance, experienced and sombre folk who have seen a lot of US budget battles come and go tell me they still expect the US to step back from the cliff. In the end, even a very polarised Congress will just about manage to strike a deal, it is thought. But they do not say this with any confidence. The rest of the world should realise it is very far from guaranteed.

We have spent the past 18 months worrying almost exclusively about the eurozone. By the end of the year we might well be worrying about the US.

Update 1700: Jonathan Portes, the director of NIESR and well known opponent of the government's budget strategy, has pointed out an interesting nugget from the IMF's new fiscal report, which I referred to earlier.

In considering the right pace of spending cuts and/or tax rises to meet a given deficit target, it says:

"Within these plans, and to the extent that market financing remains at sustainable rates, adjustment should take place at a steady pace defined in cyclically adjusted terms. On average, an annual pace of adjustment of about 1 percentage point of GDP—as in advanced economies in 2011-13—seems to be broadly adequate in reconciling the need to address the challenge of fiscal consolidation while managing risks to growth."

The Fund's own figures show the UK's cyclically adjusted - or structural - deficit declined much faster than this between 2010 and 2011 - by 1.8% of GDP.

The authors also note that the the structural deficit will fall by much less than this in 2012 and 2013, which they say "is fitting given the weak growth outlook."

So Mr Portes says the IMF's own analysis now suggests the coalition's deficit plan was too front-loaded, even if the IMF cannot or will not admit it.

Treasury officials greatly dispute this, pointing out that the IMF's rough rule of thumb for a 1 percentage point cut doesn't take into account the size of the structural deficit at the start.

The UK clearly needed to move faster, in the Treasury view, because its structural hole was a lot larger than most.

The chancellor would also argue that the UK's cost of borrowing only remained "at sustainable rates" because of the tough stance taken on the deficit - something Mr Portes and other critics of the government would say owes more to the fact that the UK, unlike other high borrowers in the eurozone, has its own currency.

All of which is to say, the debate about deficit strategy is alive and kicking, even if the economy isn't.

Commerce / Small plan for big infrastructure
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:38:44 AM »
It's hard to find an economist or pundit who does not want to see more public infrastructure investment in Britain to support the economy. Today the chancellor and the chief secretary are telling us they finally have a plan to make it happen.

They are so keen to get new infrastructure projects up and running, they say they're using the government's "hard won fiscal credibility" to make it happen. What they will not say is that they are spending any new money.

There's a new guarantees scheme to help unlock up to £40bn worth of priority infrastructure projects, the first of which could be awarded in the autumn.

There's also a new one-year, temporary programme to allow departments to lend money to smaller public-private infrastructure projects that might otherwise get delayed.

Finally, there's a £5bn export refinancing facility to help insure UK companies against the cost of certain big ticket foreign orders falling through. (Though that piece won't be up and running until the end of the year.)

The big questions are: what is it all going to cost? And how much difference is it going to make?

The official answer to the first question is it won't really cost anything - or at least, nothing that will formally count as new spending or new debt. Perhaps that should come as no surprise. After all, any thing that did cost the government upfront would immediately be labelled a "Plan B".

The temporary lending scheme is coming out of departments' own budgets. That, incidentally, has some doubting whether the investments will happen, since many of the relevant departments are already short of cash.

The guarantees will all be "off balance sheet", like the investments carried out under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). In other words, the cost will only show up in government spending, when and if the government actually has to hand over any cash.

Mention of the PFI may well make some of you nervous. That was another wheeze dreamed up, years ago, to "unlock" a lot of new infrastructure projects, without the government having to take on the upfront costs.

In opposition, Mr Osborne criticised the way that PFI had been used simply to keep big projects off the government's balance sheet. The scheme had ended up costing taxpayers far too much, while private contractors had been offered a one-way bet.

But anyone who thinks the government is about to make the same mistake with these infrastructure guarantees can probably relax.

Read the details of today's guarantee scheme, and you see it has been written by an organisation determined not to take on one jot of unnecessary risk - and equally determined that private sector contractors not get a penny more than they need, even if the pennies in question are not going to show up in the public accounts.

Put it another way, it is a scheme that has been written by and for the UK Treasury.

It is unlikely to go down as another costly infrastructure fiasco. But it's possible it won't result in an enormous amount of new infrastructure either.

Here's a flavour of what I'm talking about. To qualify for consideration in this scheme, the Treasury says an infrastructure project has to be:

"Nationally significant, as identified in the Government's National Infrastructure Plan 2011
"Ready to start construction within 12 months (i.e. with all necessary planning etc consents)
"Financially credible, with equity finance committed and project sponsors willing to accept appropriate restructuring of the project to limit any risk to the taxpayer
"Good value to the taxpayer, assessed by HM Treasury to have acceptable credit quality, not present unacceptable fiscal or economic risks and to make a positive impact on economic growth."
All of that might sound reasonable. Prudent, even. But there is one further test, which some will find a bit over the top.

As well as jumping through all these hoops, to qualify for the partial guarantee (which will be tailor-made for each project) the backers must also be able to demonstrate that they definitely would not be able to go ahead without this carefully delineated government support.

In other words, it has to be a perfect project in every possible respect, but somehow not quite perfect enough to get up and running entirely on its own.

These are difficult times. There may well be projects that fall into this category. The Treasury itself says that up to £40bn worth could possibly qualify. But that is a maximum, spread over many years. And they have to pass all these tests first.

In today's tough environment, some will say if a project is that important, it's worth getting it up and running quickly, even if that does mean you end up giving more help than is strictly necessary. Put it another way, it might be worth incurring what economists would call some "deadweight loss" to make them happen. But that is not an argument that carries much weight at HM Treasury.

In its own national infrastructure plan last November, the government identified a pipeline of critical infrastructure projects worth £250bn.

Dieter Helm, a respected expert who has advised the government on this, says the true figure is closer to £500bn.

It would be nice to think there is a "free lunch" available here - a cost-free way for the government to lend its good standing in the financial markets to worthy private projects, to make it easier for them to raise the money they need.

That is why most economists thought this kind of scheme was worth exploring. There is now a massive gap between the government's current cost of borrowing and the cost for anyone else.

But, looking at the very careful way the guarantees have been designed, you have to wonder how much investment it will really unlock.

Diabetics / Men 'more prone to type 2 diabetes'
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:36:17 AM »
Researchers say they have discovered why men may be more likely than women to develop type 2 diabetes - they are biologically more susceptible.

Men need to gain far less weight than women to develop the condition, study findings suggest.

The Glasgow University team found men developed the disease at a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than women.

They believe distribution of the body fat is important - men tend to store it in their liver and around the waist.

Women, meanwhile, have greater amounts of 'safe' subcutaneous fat stored on the thighs and hips, for example.

This means women need to accumulate more fat overall than men to develop the harmful fat deposits linked with diabetes, the researchers explain in the journal Diabetologia.

Body fat
Type 2 diabetes is caused by too much sugar in the blood which occurs when the body's ability to regulate sugar levels in several different organs becomes disturbed. The condition is linked to excess fat in some of these organs such as the liver and muscles.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, who led the research, said: "Previous research has indicated that middle-aged men are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than women and one possible explanation is that men have to gain less weight than women to develop the condition.

"In other words, men appear to be at higher risk for diabetes."

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 51,920 men and 43,137 women in Scotland with diabetes, taking into consideration body weight and obesity using the BMI measurement based on height and weight.

The results showed women developed diabetes at a heavier BMI than men - the mean BMI at diabetes diagnosis in men was 31.83 but 33.69 in women.

The researchers say this helps explain why men have higher rates of diabetes in many parts of the world.

Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "It is worrying that men develop type 2 diabetes at a higher rate than their female counterparts. Research like this will help us understand reasons why and provide greater insight into what we can do to improve prevention of type 2 diabetes.

"Diabetes UK is calling on both men and women to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by losing any excess weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet and by taking regular physical activity."

Diabetics / Weight training 'reduces diabetes risk'
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:34:43 AM »
Weight training helps to prevent type 2 diabetes in men, research suggests.

Researchers found regular weights reduced the risk by up to a third, in the study of more than 32,000 men published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

It is already well known that regular exercise can prevent the disease.

But the report is considered important as weights provides an alternative to aerobic exercises such as running for people who are not so mobile.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in the US and the University of Southern Denmark followed the men over an 18-year period, during which time nearly 2,300 developed the condition.

They found 30 minutes of weights a day, five times a week could reduce the risk of diabetes by 34%.

But they also reported that even less regular exercise - up to an hour a week - had an impact, cutting the risk by 12%.

Nonetheless, aerobic exercise was still found to be slightly better with regular activity halving the risk.

The two combined had the greatest effect, reducing it by up to 59%, the study found.

Lead author Anders Grontved said: "Many people have difficulty engaging in or adhering to aerobic exericse.

"These new results suggest that weight training, to a large extent, can serve as an alternative."

It is not clear if the same results would be found with women.

Commerce / US versus China: Who will own the future?
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:33:33 AM »
Will this really be the Chinese century? Or, in our awe at what China has achieved in a single generation, do we give its economy the benefit of far too many doubts?

That was the first big question for my guests on Stephanomics this week, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 today. The follow-up was about America: for all its squabbling politicians and ballooning public debt, are we in danger of selling its economy short?

People often look at America and see a global super-power literally living on borrowed time - much of it borrowed, incidentally from China, which for all these years has been buying US bonds to soak up its massive cash reserves (now an astonishing $3 trillion).

US politics are probably more dysfunctional - more polarised - than at any time in living memory. The leading presidential contenders are in a statistical dead heat in the opinion polls and people despair of Congress getting even the smallest things done.

For the first time in the post-war era, there are fewer jobs in the private sector than 10 years ago. Real wages for the average US worker are no higher than in the 1970s. And the share of total income taken by the top 1% of taxpayers has risen from 10% to 21% between the 1970s and 2008.

And yet, as the Economist pointed out on its cover recently (see 14 July issue), there are signs that America's private sector is even now reinventing itself, yet again - just as it has so many times before.

The current account deficit is down, exports are up, and productivity has taken off. That could help sustain America's place in the global economy long-term, even if it produces a miserable jobs market right now.

Charles Dumas, of Lombard Street Research, is one of the US optimists. He's even co-authored a book called "The American Phoenix".

When I tell you that another guest, Arvind Subraminian from the Peterson Institute in Washington, has written a book called "Eclipse: living in the shadow of Chinese economic dominance", you will gather that he takes the opposite view.

When macroeconomists get together to talk about China and America, there's always a risk it will end up in a brawl over who has the biggest structural imbalances. (Piece of advice: never go to the pub with a macroeconomist who's not interested in sport.)

There was some of that on the programme, not to mention a lively debate about whether any of China's official statistics bore any relation to reality.

There's a line going around the City that "China's GDP is the next Libor" - a crucial number for the world economy that turns out to be, er, somewhat fictional.

But we also had Paul Ormerod to throw into the mix, an economist known for having a more unusual, microeconomic take on things. His new book (sigh) is "Positive Linking: how networks can change the world".

He was long-term optimistic about America as well, partly because the US does seem a lot better at innovating and creating powerful networks. But not without sizeable reservations.

It was a spirited discussion - and unexpectedly entertaining. I could barely get a word in, some of you will be relieved to hear.

But I was struck by the lack of disagreement about Europe, which all my guests were deeply gloomy about.

Paul Ormerod even thinks countries such as Greece and Spain could be facing an era of almost unprecedented "de-development", with the crisis and its aftermath reversing decades of economic progress.

That is, indeed, what many people see when they look at Europe. And looking at today's headlines, you can see why.

But when so many economists agree on something, you can't help thinking it might be time to buy some euros. When the dust settles from this crisis, years from now, we might discover we were missing the big picture on Europe as well.

Business / Supermarket chains plan to expand in a big way
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:33:13 PM »
Leading superstore brands will open at least 14 more outlets across the country by the yearend, mainly to cope with the growing habits of one-stop shopping among the urban middle-class.

A major expansion drive has been taken by one of the conglomerates, Gemcon Group. Its concern Meena Bazar will see another six outlets within the next five months.

ACI Logistics is set to add four outlets to its existing fifty, including the mini ones, under the brand of Shwapno, while Rahimafrooz Superstores, which operates Agora stores, will launch four new outlets. Agora has ten shops now.

The country has a huge potential to grow in superstore business thanks to changes in people's lifestyle, preferences and needs, said Kazi Inam Ahmed, director of Gemcon Group.

“We have added four stores so far this year and will open six more in Uttara, Gulshan, Elephant Road, Pallabi, Wari and Banasree. We have plans to open 12 in 2013,” said Ahmed.

Meena Bazar with sixteen outlets across the country sources vegetables directly from farmers, said Ahmed.

“The expansion will allow us to bring fresh vegetables, meat, fish and other products to customers and ensure fair prices for the farmers,” said Ahmed.

ACI Logistics would open three outlets in Khilkhet, Banasree and Azimpur in Dhaka and one in Sylhet.

“Consumer confidence is increasing and that's why many are planning to expand,” said Sabbir Hasan Nasir, executive director of ACI Logistics Ltd.

Nasir said they aim to increase the number of Shwapno outlets up to 100, including mini stores and chain stores, within the next three years with an investment of Tk 40 crore.

“It's a volume-based business. The more outlets we open the more will be the sales as we will be able to serve more customers,” he said.

The official said ACI Logistics is working to break the market cartels of essential products, which often influence prices, by sourcing directly from the farmers.

“We are offering competitive prices, which are even lower than the conventional market rates in some cases,” said Nasir.

He said the business model of Shwapno is somewhat different from that of other chain superstores as its targeted customers are not the affluent community, rather middle- and lower middle-class people.

The idea of superstore business flourished in Bangladesh last decade, fuelled by growing urbanisation, increasing number of working women, and rising per capita income, said industry leaders.

At present, there are 24 companies with more than 100 outlets across the country, according to Bangladesh Supermarket Owners' Association.

Their combined annual turnover stands at more than Tk 1,500 crore, with the government receiving around Tk 30 crore in value added tax, according to data of the association.

Rahimafrooz also plans to set up 40 new outlets in cities including Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet by 2015,” said Niaz Rahim, managing director of the company.

Their total costs of expansion may stand at about Tk 200 crore.

“The expansion will boost consumer confidence and help create markets for manufacturers,” said Rahim, who is also president of the supermarket owners' association.

“Once the supermarket culture is established, the prices of commodities will see stability,” he said.

Supermarket operators, however, said the sector is facing a number of challenges -- a lack of a unified monitoring system, higher import duties on capital machinery and higher VAT.

They said superstore owners have to pay up to 105 percent in duties on the import of capital machinery relating to the sector, while other industries pay a maximum of 5 percent, which is hurting growth of supermarkets in Bangladesh.

Supermarkets account for around 2 percent of the total sales in the country, which is around 10 percent in India, said Ahmed of Gemcon Group.

Around 38,000 shops, including supermarkets, are now in operation in Dhaka, he said.

Supermarkets have to pay 4 percent trade VAT, while other shops pay VAT at a flat rate, said Ahmed.

“It is a discriminatory policy, which is not only hampering growth of the sector, but also depriving the government of revenue,” he added.

“So, the government should introduce a flat rate for all the market players to protect consumer interest,” said Ahmed.

Health Tips / Gene-swapping vaccines spawn lethal poultry virus
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:30:13 PM »
Three vaccines used to prevent respiratory disease in chickens have swapped genes, producing two lethal new strains that have killed tens of thousands of fowl across two states in Australia, scientists reported on Friday.

The creation of the deadly new variant was only possible because the vaccines contained live viruses, even though they were weakened forms, said Joanne Devlin, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science.

Devlin and her team discovered how closely related the two new strains were with viruses in the vaccines after analyzing their genes.

"What we found was the field viruses ... were actually a mixture of the genomes from different vaccine viruses," said Devlin, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne's School of Veterinary Science. "They actually combined, mixed together."

The viruses emerged in 2008, a year after Australia started using a European vaccine along with two very similar Australian vaccines to fight acute respiratory disease in poultry. The illness causes coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulties in birds, normally killing 5 percent of them.

The two new strains, however, were far more harmful, and since they were created have killed up to 17 percent of chicken flocks across Victoria and New South Wales, the two main chicken rearing states in Australia.

"What could have happened was one chicken was vaccinated with one vaccine and later was exposed to the other vaccine somehow, from nearby chickens," Devlin said.

Agricultural authorities in Australia have been informed of the results of the study, and are considering how to prevent similar cross-overs happening again.

"Use of only one vaccine in a population of birds will prevent different viruses from combining," Devlin said.

"Authorities are reviewing labels on vaccine to change the way vaccines are used and prevent different vaccines being used in one population."

Hypertension / How can LDL cholesterol levels be lowered?
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:19:08 PM »
Medications to lower cholesterol

Medications are prescribed when lifestyle changes cannot reduce the LDL cholesterol to desired levels. The most effective and widely used medications to lower LDL cholesterol are called statins. Most of the large controlled trials that demonstrated the heart attack and stroke prevention benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol used one of the statins. Other medications used in lowering LDL cholesterol and in altering cholesterol profiles include, fibrates such as gemfibrozil (Lopid), resins such as cholestyramine (Questran), and ezetimibe, Zetia.

Hypertension / Causes of High Blood Pressure
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:16:19 PM »
What causes high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, and to the development of heart failure.

What Is "Normal" Blood Pressure?

A blood pressure reading has a top number (systolic) and bottom number (diastolic). The ranges are:

Normal: Less than 120 over 80 (120/80)
Prehypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159 over 90-99
Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above over 100 and above
People whose blood pressure is above the normal range should consult their doctor about steps to take to lower it.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:

Being overweight or obese
Lack of physical activity
Too much salt in the diet
Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
Older age
Family history of high blood pressure
Chronic kidney disease
Adrenal and thyroid disorders
Essential Hypertension

In as many as 95% of reported high blood pressure cases in the U.S., the underlying cause cannot be determined. This type of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension.

Though essential hypertension remains somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors. High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. Age and race also play a role. In the United States, blacks are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure, although the gap begins to narrow around age 44. After age 65, black women have the highest incidence of high blood pressure.

Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.

The majority of all people with high blood pressure are "salt sensitive," meaning that anything more than the minimal bodily need for salt is too much for them and increases their blood pressure. Other factors that can raise the risk of having essential hypertension include obesity; diabetes; stress; insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; lack of physical activity; and chronic alcohol consumption.

Secondary Hypertension

When a direct cause for high blood pressure can be identified, the condition is described as secondary hypertension. Among the known causes of secondary hypertension, kidney disease ranks highest. Hypertension can also be triggered by tumors or other abnormalities that cause the adrenal glands (small glands that sit atop the kidneys) to secrete excess amounts of the hormones that elevate blood pressure. Birth control pills -- specifically those containing estrogen -- and pregnancy can boost blood pressure, as can medications that constrict blood vessels.

Health Tips / Cancer stem cell discovery could signal 'paradigm shift'
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:14:29 PM »
Researchers have discovered the cells in tumours that seem to be responsible for the regrowth of tumours.

Three separate studies on mice appear to have confirmed the view that the growth of tumours is driven by so-called cancer stem cells.

The researchers claim to have resolved one of the biggest controversies in cancer research and say their work marks a "paradigm shift" in the field.

The studies have been published in the journals, Nature and Science.

Doctors often successfully reduce the size of tumours through various therapies, but often patients suffer a relapse and the tumour regrows.

Some researchers believe that this happens because therapies fail to eradicate a small proportion of cells that drive tumour growth known as cancer stem cells. They believe that these are the cells that should be targeted to eliminate the tumour forever.

Evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells has been weak. But now three separate groups of researchers working independently have found direct evidence of cancer stem cells driving tumour growth in brain, gut and skin cancers.

The suggestion is that the same may be true of all cancers which produce solid tumours.

"If these cells are indeed the cells that fuel tumour growth then maybe you can target these cells," he told BBC News.

But that may be easier said than done. The newly-identified cancer stem cells are very similar to healthy stem cells responsible for growing and renewing tissue in the body. Any therapy to target cancer stem cells may also destroy healthy tissues. A priority for researchers will be to see if there are important differences between normal and cancer stem cells so that therapies can distinguish between them.

But according to Prof Hugo Snippert of the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, who led the study into intestinal tumours, the confirmation that these cells exist is an important step in future cancer research.

"Many argued that these cells did not exist. But we have shown for the first time there is such a thing as a cancer stem cell and that tumours are maintained by them," he said.

Prof Luis Parada of the University of Texas, who led research that identified stem cells in brain tumours in mice, said he believed there would now be a new approach to developing new treatments for solid tumour cancers.

"Cancer stem cells change the paradigm. The goal of shrinking tumours may well turn out to be less important than targeting the cancer cells in that tumour."

Dr Michaela Frye, a Cancer Research UK scientist based at the University of Cambridge, said: "These results add even more weight to the theory that cancers are driven by a distinct group of cells called cancer stem cells. Because cancers are proving to be so complex, we don't yet know how relevant this research in mice is to humans, but it gives us new insights into how cancers might develop and why they can sometimes grow back after therapy."

Commerce / Sovereign ratings of Bangladesh
« on: July 10, 2012, 09:20:44 AM »
Stable monetary and fiscal management of Bangladesh earns Ba3 (Moody's) and BB-(S&P) sovereign rating with stable outlook for three consecutive years 2010, 2011,2012

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