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Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent

Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

This is my take on the medical and health issues of the day, especially those involving research and ethics

Olympics appeal for blood donors

Are you a lapsed blood donor? If so, what has stopped you donating? We are creatures of habit and it seems any change in our routine can get us out of the habit of giving blood.

Bad weather clearly affects stocks as donors struggle to reach appointments. But major sporting occasions - even national celebrations - can dent donations.

'Stop opposing assisted dying' - BMJ

The British Medical Journal has called on doctors' organisations to stop opposing assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

In an editorial the BMJ said it wanted the British Medical Association and royal colleges to move their position from opposition to neutrality.

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'Hope' for the paralysed?

Seven years ago I stood on a bridge over the M40 doing a "piece to camera" for a report about spinal repair. The aim was to come up with a metaphor for how researchers at University College London were trying to overcome spinal cord paralysis.

It went something like this: "Imagine your spinal cord as a motorway, the cars travelling up and down are the nerve fibres carrying messages from your brain to all parts of the body. If this gets damaged the cars can't travel. The messages are blocked, the patient is paralysed.

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Re-conditioning lungs for transplant

Only those who have lived with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) or cared for someone with the condition can know what Sam Yates and Philippa Bradbury have been through.

CF is caused by a faulty gene and affects the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with sticky mucus.

Morphine and pain control

Daniel Hopkins was told six weeks ago that he has advanced lung cancer.

The 85-year-old from Leeds knows his time left is limited, but he has also had to cope with terrible pain from the cancer, which had spread to his spine.

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Paralysed patients use thoughts to control robotic arm

You know the feeling when you watch something and your jaw drops? That happened when I saw the footage of Cathy Hutchinson use a robotic arm to lift a flask of coffee to her mouth.

It was the first time since her stroke nearly 15 years previously that she had served herself a drink. She is one of two patients who took part in a trial of a neural interface system. A sensor containing a grid of 96 tiny electrodes is fixed to the brain and this picks up neural activity from the motor cortex and sends it to a computer which converts it to commands.

The most important photo ever taken?

It may not look very exciting, but the photograph above has an important place in history. Known as Photo 51, it's an X-ray diffraction image of DNA and has at least a claim to be the most important image ever taken.

It's one of about a million artefacts being put online by the Wellcome Trust as part of an ambitious project to tell the story of genetics, from Mendel to the Human Genome Project.

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PIP implants 'lessons to learn'

A government review into the PIP breast implant scandal has found that serious lessons must be learned.

The review was led by Health Minister Lord Howe and examined the role of the Department of Health and the UK regulator the MHRA.

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Leonardo: the artist as anatomist

This was not like any display of anatomy I'd ever witnessed. Nearly 90 exquisite pen and ink drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

They are about to go on display at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

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Blind mice treated in transplant

British scientists have restored the sight of blind mice by transplanting light-sensitive photoreceptor cells into their eyes.

The work is a step towards a new treatment for patients with degenerative eye diseases.

H5N1 research to be published in full

The author of controversial research on the H5N1 bird flu virus is delighted his work looks finally set to be published.

Prof Ron Fouchier, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said it was the only way to advance scientific knowledge and public health.

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Are PIP breast implants safe?

In all the furore about the banned PIP breast implants, one question remains unanswered: are they safe?

The Commons Health Select Committee talks of a striking "absence of evidence" over safety issues.

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Should I take aspirin?

Should I be taking aspirin every day? It's a question that I hear frequently and I guess will hear even more often after the latest research from scientists at the University of Oxford.

In a series of papers in the Lancet, the team, led by Professor Peter Rothwell found that a daily low dose of the cheap drug cut the risk of a range of cancers, and could even treat the disease.

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Q&A: Animal research

News that all ferry companies and all but two airlines have stopped importing animals destined for research laboratories has led to warnings that it could setback the search for new medicines. But how important are animals in medical research and what are they used for?

There were 3.7 million "scientific procedures" on animals in 2010 according to figures from the Home Office. This total includes the breeding of genetically modified animals which nearly half that total. Excluding breeding, the number of procedures was 2.1 million.

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About Fergus

Fergus began working for the BBC in 1984 and has reported on health, science and medicine for nearly 20 years. Follow Fergus on Twitter.

He has reported for the BBC from around the world on topics such as stem cells, obesity, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, polio and swine flu.

Fergus has had his genes sequenced, his heart, brain and other body parts scanned, as well as being vaccinated against bird flu for his reports.

He appeared in a BBC TV drama with Julie Walters. He didn't win any awards for his acting, but has won several for his journalism.

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