A drug-based therapy appears to restore breathing in rats paralysed from the neck down by a spinal injury, according to scientists.
They hope their “exciting but early” findings could ultimately help free patients from ventilators.
The pioneering work, in Cell Reports, suggests the brain may not be needed for respiration if a nerve pathway in the spine can be awakened.
More studies are now needed to better understand and exploit this system.
‘No brain’ breathing
Normally, messages to and from the brain control breathing.
If the spinal cord is damaged high up in the neck, these messages can’t get through and a person will need mechanical assistance or a ventilator to breathe.
Experts have been looking at ways to repair spinal cord damage to reconnect with the brain, but the latest therapeutic approach, being explored at Case Western Reserve University, is entirely different.
Dr Jerry Silver and colleagues believe they have found an alternative nerve pathway for breathing in the spinal cord itself.
The researchers used a drug and a light therapy known as optogenetics to dial up this spinal system.
It appeared to control the body’s main muscle of respiration – the diaphragm, a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that sits underneath the lungs, separating the chest from the abdomen.
The live adult rats that they studied had severed spinal cords, meaning the brain could not be the source of the diaphragm movement or breathing that the researchers saw after they administered the therapy.
They believe the treatment works by stopping other nerve signals that would normally silence the spinal system that they found.
Dr Silver said: “This is a primitive response that has been kept in the spinal cord for emergencies, like gasping and screaming in response to danger.”
Although the researchers say the movements they saw resembled breathing, it’s not clear yet if it would be enough to sustain life. They plan more animal studies to check.
Dr Silver said: “Ultimately, the goal of this research would be to free people with these neck injuries from having to use mechanical ventilators.
“Infections and other complications from mechanical ventilators are a leading cause of death after spinal cord injuries.”
Dr Thomas Becker, an expert in neuroregeneration at Edinburgh Medical School, said: “This is an important discovery on the fundamental working of the spinal cord.
“Understanding the spinal network is the first step toward future therapies.
“This knowledge could be used for future therapies to restore breathing in patients who lost nerve connections from the brain as a consequence of spinal cord injury.”
“It was extremely clear to me when I walked into the actress’s profession that my humiliation and role as a lesser, sexually-harassed being was the norm,” she said.
“I became aware… that it is a universal thing that a director can touch and harass his actresses at will. When I turned the director down repeatedly he sulked and punished me.”
Von Trier’s denial was accompanied by a statement from Peter Aalbaek Jensen, the producer of Dancer in the Dark, who told Jyllands-Posten that he and Von Trier “were the victims”.
“That woman was stronger than both Lars von Trier and me and our company put together,” he said. “She dictated everything and was about to close a movie of 100m kroner [$16m].”
‘Clear sexual intention’
Dancer in the Dark went on to win the Palme d’Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, where Bjork also picked up the best actress prize.
But rumours about the troubled production circulated in the movie press. Bjork was alleged to have walked off the set for two days, while more outlandish stories suggested she had eaten her costume and taken to living in the woods.
She said she was providing a fuller explanation of her experiences, in part, to combat those stories.
“It feels extremely difficult to come out with something of this nature into the public, especially when immediately ridiculed by offenders,” the star said.
“I fully sympathize with everyone who hesitates, even for years. But I feel it is the right time especially now when it could make a change.”
She went on to claim the director “stroked me, sometimes for minutes, against my wishes” and made “constant awkward paralysing unwanted whispered sexual offers”.
When she demanded that he stop, “he exploded and broke a chair in front of everyone on set”, she said.
When filming in Sweden, she alleged, “he threatened to climb from his room’s balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention, while his wife was in the room next door”.
Bjork added that attempting to dismiss her account by accusing her of “being difficult” paralleled the “Weinstein methods” of “bullying” victims who dared to speak up.
“I have never eaten a shirt,” she continued. “Not sure that is even possible.”
Following the singer’s initial accusations, Von Trier’s assistant told the BBC: “Lars declines the accusations Bjork has made, but doesn’t wish to comment any further.”
He has yet to respond to a request for a response to the latest allegations.
One of the UK’s aims is for a new security treaty with the EU, and Ms Rudd told the Commons Home Affairs Committee contingency plans were being made in case this was not in place by the UK’s departure in March 2019.
Asked whether, if there was “no deal of any form”, Britain would be as safe and secure as it currently is, she replied: “I think it is unthinkable there would be no deal.
“It is so much in their interests as well as ours – in their communities’, families’, tourists’ interests to have something in place.”
Ms Rudd also said it was “unthinkable” EU citizens would be asked to leave the UK after Brexit, but was unable to offer guarantees while negotiations continue.
Mr Davis was asked about a “no deal” scenario as he updated MPs on Monday’s dinner between Theresa May and EU officials.
Reaching agreement with the EU is “by far and away the best option” he said, adding: “The maintenance of the option of no deal is for both negotiating reasons and sensible security – any government doing its job properly will do that.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said there was no reason to fear the impact on the economy of no deal being agreed, saying it “would not be the Armageddon that people project”.
He told the BBC: “I think that we need to concentrate on the realities, get rid of the hyperbole around the debate and focus on the fact that if we can get a good agreement with the EU, both Britain and the EU would be better off for it.”
A UK-EU free trade deal cannot be discussed until the EU deems sufficient progress has been made on other matters and gives the green light.
In his statement to MPs, Mr Davis said the UK was “reaching the limits of what we can achieve” in Brexit talks without moving on to talk about trade.
He urged EU leaders to give counterpart Michel Barnier the green light at this week’s EU summit to begin trade talks.
Mr Barnier said he wanted to speed up talks but “it takes two to accelerate”.
This was a reference to comments made by Mrs May after her dinner with the EU’s chief negotiator, in which she said the two sides had agreed on the need to “accelerate” the process.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Barnier said a “constructive dynamic” was needed over the next two months but “there was a lot of work to do” and issues must be tackled in the “right order”.
“At the moment we are still not yet at the first step which is securing citizen rights, guaranteeing the long term success of the good Friday agreement and finalising the accounts,” he said.
The talks – which were held as EU member states prepare to assess progress so far on Thursday – were said to be “constructive and friendly” but the UK’s financial settlement with the EU continues to be a sticking point and the EU will not discuss trade until this has been settled.
Along with the UK’s “divorce bill”, the EU is insisting agreement be reached on citizens’ rights and what happens on the Northern Ireland border before agreeing to open talks on the free trade deal Mrs May’s government wants to strike.
In his Commons statement, Mr Davis urged the EU to give Mr Barnier a mandate to start discussing its future relations with the UK, including trade and defence, telling MPs he was “ready to move the negotiations on”.
He suggested the UK was “reaching the limits of what we can achieve without consideration of the future relationship”.
“Our aim remains to provide as much certainty to business and citizens on both sides. To fully provide that certainty, we must be able to talk about the future.”
On citizens’ rights, he said key issues such as the rules on family reunion, the right to return, the onward movement of British expats in Europe and the right of EU residents to export benefits had still to be settled.
Announcing that EU citizens who currently have permanent residence in the UK would not have to go through the full process of re-applying before Brexit, he said the UK had consistently “gone further and provided more certainty” on their status than the EU had done.
While the UK had “some way to secure the new partnership with the EU”, he was “confident we are on the right path”.
Speaking in the Commons earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he thought a reported bill of £100bn was too high and urged the EU to “get serious” and agree to settle the citizens’ rights question.
For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said EU and UK citizens were still no wiser over their future while it “appeared the deadlock over the financial settlement is such that the two sides are barely talking”.
“Nobody should underestimate the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in. At the first hurdle, the government has failed to hit a very important target.”
The winner of the Man Booker Prize is to be revealed by the Duchess of Cornwall in a ceremony later.
Six authors are in the running for the prestigious £50,000 fiction award.
They include bookies’ favourite Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders – about Abraham Lincoln’s grief after the death of his 11-year-old son.
Scottish novelist Ali Smith is shortlisted for Autumn, the first of a quartet, alongside debut authors Emily Fridlund and Fiona Mozley.
The list is completed by US author Paul Auster and Pakistan-born Mohsin Hamid.
Mozley, a PhD student at the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies, is one of three female writers on a shortlist that is evenly divided between the sexes.
She’s nominated for Elmet, which she started writing on her phone while commuting in London – and which she now finds herself selling to customers at the bookshop in York where she works part time.
It’s a family drama exploring the loss of rural community in northern England.
Hamid, who was shortlisted in 2007 in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is once more in contention thanks to Exit West, while Smith is shortlisted for the fourth time for her book, which is “in part about Brexit”.
There are three US authors on the shortlist – Fridlund, Saunders and Auster.
Auster’s book 4321 is set against the background of the civil rights movement, while Fridlund’s History of Wolves looks at the effect of “neglectful parenting”.
If Lincoln in the Bardo does win for Saunders, who is best known for his short stories and novellas, he will be only the second American to win the prize.
Business rates will go up by September’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) of 3.9%.
The fall in the pound since last year’s Brexit vote has been one factor behind the rise in the inflation rate, as the cost of imported goods has risen.
ONS head of inflation Mike Prestwood said: “Food prices and a range of transport costs helped to push up inflation in September. These effects were partly offset by clothing prices that rose less strongly than this time last year.”
Analysis: Kamal Ahmed, economics editor
Inflation has hit a five year high and is now 0.9% above the rate of wage growth – meaning that the incomes squeeze is becoming tighter.
And if you are employed in the public sector – where pay rises are capped at 1% – or rely on benefits – which are frozen – that squeeze is even tighter.
With poor economic growth figures and uncertainty over the Brexit process, the Bank of England’s decision on whether to raise interest rates next month is finely balanced.
Yes, “price stability” is the main purpose of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee which makes the decision.
But many believe that inflation may now have peaked as the effects of sterling’s depreciation following the referendum dissipate.
An interest rate rise now, which increases prices for millions of mortgage holders and could dampen economic activity, could be just the medicine the economy doesn’t need.
The Bank of England is tasked with keeping CPI inflation at 2%, and last month its governor, Mark Carney, indicated interest rates could rise in the “relatively near term” if the economy continued on its current path.
The governor of the Bank of England has to write a letter of explanation to the chancellor if the inflation rate is more than 1% either side of the 2% target.
On Tuesday, Mr Carney told MPs on the Treasury Committee that “inflation rising potentially above the 3% level in the coming months is something we have anticipated”, because of the fall in the value of the pound.
He said he expected inflation to peak in October or November, and at that point he thought it would be “more likely than not that I would be writing on behalf of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) a letter to the chancellor.”
Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The tick upwards in inflation will increase expectations of a rate rise from the Bank of England later on this year, stoked by a flurry of hawkish rhetoric coming from Threadneedle Street.”
However, he added, it is not a foregone conclusion, “so it’s probably best not to count those chickens until they’re hatched”.
Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the Bank of England’s policymakers “should resist the temptation to raise interest rates, particularly during this period of heightened political uncertainty”.
“Raising rates before the UK economy is ready risks undermining consumer and business confidence, weakening the UK growth prospects further,” he said.
Analysis: Brian Milligan, personal finance reporter
Pensioners will be celebrating again. Today’s CPI inflation figure means they will get a 3% rise next April, their largest pension increase for six years.
Those on the new state pension will see their weekly income rise to £164.
Compare that to workers, who’ve seen their earnings rise by 2.1% over the last year.
This is all thanks to the triple lock, which sees the state pension rise by the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5%.
Food for thought for the chancellor, perhaps, who’s reported to be considering tax concessions for younger people in his forthcoming budget, to even-up the inter-generational unfairness that the triple lock has contributed to.
The 2.5% element of the triple lock is due to be dropped in 2021.
An increase in the price of sugary drinks in restaurants and the offer of healthier alternatives could encourage customers to cut back on sugar, a study suggests.
In Jamie’s Italian restaurants, sales of sugar-sweetened soft drinks declined by 9% following a 10p price rise.
The chain also redesigned the menu and explained that money from the levy would go to charity.
Experts said more research was needed to pin down what measures worked.
Consuming too many sugary soft drinks has been linked to a higher risk of serious health problems such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and tooth decay.
To help tackle obesity, the UK government is introducing a tax on high-sugar soft drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Irn-Bru in April 2018 – and Jamie Oliver had been vocal in his support of the plan.
This study, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, analysed sales of sugary non-alcoholic beverages at 37 of Jamie Oliver’s national chain of restaurants after a 10p levy was introduced in September 2015.
Low-sugar fruit spritzers (fruit juice mixed with water) were also added to the menu, which clearly explained why the levy was being introduced.
After 12 weeks, sales of sugary drinks per customer had declined by 11%, and after six months they had gone down by 9.3%.
But the study did not look at any other restaurant chains to compare sales figures.
The study also showed there was a general decrease in the number of soft drinks sold per customer, including diet drinks and bottled waters.
The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Cambridge, said more people could have chosen tap water, but these figures had not been recorded.
Sales of fruit juices had increased by 22% six months after the changes were introduced.
Prof Steven Cummins, lead study author and professor of population health at LSHTM, said: “A small levy on sugar-sweetened drinks sold in restaurant, coupled with complementary activities [such as redesigning the menu], may have the potential to change consumer behaviour.”
But he said it was not possible to say that the price increase alone had caused the decline in sales of sugar-sweetened drinks.
There was also no separate data on what adults and children ordered.
Prof Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said it was plausible that the levy “played an important role” but he also called for “more investigation, in other restaurants, and with a longer follow-up period, to try to pin down more clearly what really works”.
Prof Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, said the findings were “encouraging news for public health”.
But she said there was a disappointing lack of data on alcohol sales, which could have increased over the same period.