Latest research news

June 26, 2002

Babies make eye contact in 48 hours
Two-day old babies have the ability to make eye contact and can sense when they are being looked at directly, according to a new study funded by the Medical Research Council. The report from an Anglo-Italian team appears to settle the argument over whether this powerful form of communication, one of the foundations of all social skills, is innate or learned. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Padua and Birkbeck, University of London, is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . (Daily Telegraph)

Crisis over cancer foods
Scientists will today hold an emergency meeting over the discovery that many cooked and processed foods contain a cancer-causing chemical. Experts have found "significant levels" of acrylamide in potatoes, crisps and breakfast cereals. The substance has been liked to cancer, nerve damage and infertility. In response, the World Health Organisation has convened unprecedented emergency talks to evaluate the research and decide what action to take.  (Daily Mail, Times)

Biological test may predict onset of severe 'baby blues'
The first biochemical "marker" that could help to predict which women will suffer from postnatal depression has been found by a team from the University of Tilburg in The Netherlands. (Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Fears over natural resources shortfall
Demand for the earth's natural resources has been outstripping supply since the start of the 1980s, says a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by experts who include scientists from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge and Oxford University. (Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent)

Cases of skin cancer in men treble in 20 years
Cases of skin cancer among men have trebled in the past two decades, according to new research by Glasgow University's department of dermatology. (Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

How lack of exercise can beat anorexia
Scientists claim to have found a way to treat anorexia and bulimia, the eating disorders that blight many women's lives. A combination of measured food portions and enforced lack of exercise helped 14 out of 16 patients in just over a year of therapy, a study at Huddinge, Sweden, found. (Daily Mail)

IVF could save wombat
Australian researchers have teamed up with an IVF clinic to try to halt the extinction of one of the world's most endangered species, the northern hairy-nosed wombat. (Daily Telegraph)

Immunity to TB gets a boost
Tiny pieces of bacteria blended to form an edible vaccine may help boost waning immunity to tuberculosis, according to new research. A boost to TB immunity could be crucial. The World Health Organization predicts 100 million new cases of tuberculosis in the next 50 years - many of them among adults. (Nature)

Going against the flow
Physicists have devised a way to dodge one of the most fundamental laws of nature: the fact that heat flows only from hot to cold. At face value, it implies they have invented a never-ending source of energy. Well they haven't - but it could provide a method for carrying out unheard-of chemical reactions. (Nature)

3D maps show brain gene activity
A rapid way to create a 3D map of the brain's genetic activity should help researchers pinpoint the neurological underpinnings of autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Desmond Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues developed the technique called "voxelation" to study Parkinson's disease in a mouse model. The team found that one group of genes shifted their activity away from the striatum - a region known to be highly disrupted by Parkinson's disease. (New Scientist)

Microsoft plans to toughen up computers
The first blueprints for a Microsoft personal computer system built around security and data-protection have been revealed. Future versions of the Windows operating system will be designed to run only digitally signed code, to stop hackers uploading malicious programs and to prevent computer viruses from spreading. The system will also secure documents using encryption, and authenticate users and companies to each other via the internet through public key cryptography. The company's software designers say the system should even automatically bin unwanted email, or "spam". (New Scientist)

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