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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

The Francis Crick Institute

If anyone doubted Britain's ambition to be at the vanguard of biomedical research then take a look at the huge building going up in central London behind the British Library and St Pancras station.

The Francis Crick Institute will be home to around 1,400 scientists and 120 research groups. It is a partnership between six organisations: Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King's College London.

Sedentary lifestyle can kill

The world is just days away from the greatest global showcase of elite sport.

But while a few thousand athletes will be pushing their bodies to the limit, most of the world will be watching on TV, sitting inactive for hours on end.

Family planning - a global issue

Governments and donor groups have pledged to provide access to family planning services to an additional 120 million women in many of the poorest countries by 2020.

The promise was made at the London Family Planning Summit, which was co-hosted by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the Microsoft boss and his wife to improve global healthcare and tackle extreme poverty.

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Dramatic fall in monkey research

There has been a dramatic fall in the use of monkeys in animal research according to the Home Office.

Annual statistics show that the number of "procedures" on non-human primates fell by 47% in 2011.

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Whooping cough makes a comeback

The sound of a baby struggling for breath with whooping cough is as distressing as it is distinctive. A hacking cough is often followed by silence and then the long "whoop" as they are finally able to breathe in.

It is what happened to Katie Lodge from Weston-super-Mare just before she was due her first immunisation. She ended up on oxygen in hospital. You can hear her parents talking about her illness in the above video.

Fewer and bigger - shape of NHS

Politicians are usually quick to speak out about changes that should lead to improved services for patients. But ministers will leave it to surgeons and health officials to champion the proposed changes to children's heart surgery.

This is not surprising given that the entire process was free of ministerial input and the decision given to a Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts.

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Controversial H5N1 work published

A few of you may remember that this blog started life with the unlikely title 'Fergus on flu' during the swine flu pandemic.

It has since undergone a few changes to its present form. So I could hardly ignore some long-awaited and important research on H5N1 bird flu.

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Fergus added analysis to:

Locked-in man's 'years of misery'

The hearing at the High Court represents a fundamental challenge to the law on murder. It amounts to an appeal to allow euthanasia - the deliberate killing of a person on their request - which is strictly prohibited.

It goes further than the case of Diane Pretty, who had motor neurone disease. The House of Lords rejected her appeal in 2001 to allow her husband to assist her suicide.

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Is there a right to die?

Tony Nicklinson scans the screen, blinks, and then his words - which he has painstakingly compiled - are read out by a computer-generated voice.

Mr Nicklinson can do almost nothing for himself - nothing except make a few eye and head movements. But it is enough for him to make his views crystal clear.

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PIP implants not toxic - report

The final report into the PIP breast implant scandal has concluded that the gel material does not cause a long-term threat to human health.

It says the implants, which were made with unauthorised silicone filler, are not toxic nor carcinogenic.

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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.

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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