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Advances in Stem Cell Research Mark Field of Medicine in 2007


2007 was a year notable for breakthroughs in medicine. VOA's Carol Pearson looks back at some of the top medical stories of the year.

One of the most promising developments in health in 2007 was the discovery that adult skin can be made into cells like embryonic cells.

The major ethical advantage: no embryo has to be destroyed.

Dr. George Daley, a researcher at Harvard University, explains the primary medical advantage. "These scientists have allowed the skin cells to take on the chameleon like properties of embryonic stem cells," he explains. "They can now make any tissue in the body."

Researchers say stem cells could hold the cure to spinal cord injuries and neurological diseases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this year cloned meat and milk are safe.

The agency concluded that because cloned foods cannot be distinguished from their conventional counterparts, no special labeling is needed.

Meanwhile, the agency's advisory committee reported that American lives are at risk due to a severe staffing shortage and outdated technology. The Food and Drug Administration was once a leader on food and drug safety.

In other health news: statins, which are cholesterol reducing drugs, not only protect the heart but may help delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Finally, we look at two devastating diseases: AIDS and measles.

Deaths from measles have decreased by 68 percent. In Africa, the decrease is 91 percent. The World Health Organization credits this achievement to government immunization programs for children.

And there has been some progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization reports both the percentage of people living with HIV-has leveled off as have the number of new infections.

Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of this disease.