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Health Highlights: May 23, 2017

WHO Has First African Director General Former 'Bond' Actor Roger Moore Dies At Age 89 Space-Stored Mouse Sperm Creates Healthy Pups Dozens of Genes Linked to Intelligence Identified by Scientists

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

WHO Has First African Director General

The first African director general of the World Health Organization was voted into the position Tuesday.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 52, is from Ethiopia. He pledged to pursue health insurance even in the poorest nations, The New York Times reported.

Dr. Tedros -- who campaigned under his first name -- is best-known for having significantly reduced deaths from malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and neonatal problems in Ethiopia while he was that country's health minister.

He oversaw the training of 40,000 female health workers, hired outbreak investigators, improved the national laboratory, created an ambulance system and increased the number of medical school graduates tenfold, The Times reported.


Former 'Bond' Actor Roger Moore Dies At Age 89

Roger Moore, who portrayed super spy James Bond in seven films, died Tuesday at age 89.

The British actor died in Switzerland after a brief struggle with cancer, according to a family statement posted on Moore's official Twitter account, the Associated Press reported.

"We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF, which he considered to be his greatest achievement," the statement said.

Moore became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1991. In 1996, when his UNICEF invovlement took him to the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, he revealed that he had been a victim, the AP reported.

"I was molested when I was a child -- not seriously -- but I didn't tell my mother until I was 16, because I felt that it was something to be ashamed of," he disclosed without providing any details.

Moore said young victims needed to be encouraged not to feel guilty.

"They're being exploited. We have to tell them that," Moore told the AP.


Space-Stored Mouse Sperm Creates Healthy Pups

Freeze-dried mouse sperm stored in the near-weightless and radiation-bombarded environment of the International Space Station was used to create healthy baby mice, according to Japanese scientists.

They said this shows that transporting the seeds of life away from Earth is feasible, and that sperm banks could even be created on the Moon as a back-up for Earth disasters, BBC News reported.

The freeze-dried sperm was stored on the space station for nine months before being sent back down to Earth and thawed at room temperature. The sperms' DNA was slightly damaged, but was still able to fertilize eggs and lead to the birth of healthy pups.

Compared to a control group of conventional pups, the "space pups" had only slight differences in their genetic code and grew to adulthood. Some were allowed to mate and become parents themselves, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Dozens of Genes Linked to Intelligence Identified by Scientists

Scientists who identified 52 genes associated with human intelligence say their findings could help improve understanding of our thinking abilities and lead to improved treatment of learning disorders.

The findings, made by analyzing the DNA of 80,000 people of European descent, appear in the journal Nature Genetics.

The team of American and European researchers said these genes do not determine intelligence. Combined, the genes account for a small amount of the variation in intelligence test scores, with each gene affecting I.Q. by only a small fraction of a point, The New York Times reported.

It's likely there are thousands more genes that play a role in intelligence, according to the scientists, who added that environment also has a major impact on intelligence.

However, experts say identification of these 52 genes could lead to new experiments into the biological roots of intelligence, and may even help identify the best methods of helping children who are struggling to learn, The New York Times reported.

The study authors said they focused on people of European descent because it improved their chances of pinpointing common genetic variants associated with intelligence. But different genetic variants are important in different groups of people, and that may be the case with intelligence.

"If you try to predict height using the genes we've identified in Europeans in Africans, you'd predict all Africans are five inches shorter than Europeans, which isn't true," study senior author Danielle Posthuma, a geneticist at Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told The Times.

It's unclear what the 52 genes actually do. Four are known to control the development of cells, and three do a variety. of things inside neurons.

Experiments on brain cells may help shed light on what makes these genes special. For example, one possibility is to test cells from people with variants that predict high and low intelligence.

The cells could be prompted to develop into neurons, leading to the creation of neuron clusters -- or "mini-brains" -- that could be tested to determine if their genetic differences make them behave differently, The Times reported.

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