Latest research news

October 30, 2002

Breakthrough in DNA fingerprinting
An invisible dusting of dandruff or a sweaty palm could be enough to identify criminals, by using a revolutionary DNA technique developed by an Australian researcher. Dr Ian Findlay, of the Australian genome research facility at the University of Queensland has managed to take DNA fingerprints from single cells with an accuracy of 10 billion to one. The technology, which is to be outlined at a science conference in Sydney today, could allow investigators to pick up DNA identities from pieces of plastic and even build up a complete history of the people who have handled a paper document.

Paracetamol linked to wheezing infants
Women who take paracetamol frequently in late pregnancy are twice as likely to have a child that suffers from persistent wheezing at the age of three, compared with those who never take the drug during pregnancy. The authors of the study of 9,000 pregnant mothers at King's College London, published in the journal Thorax yesterday, said animal research had suggested very high levels of paracetamol could damage airway linings. (Independent, Times)

Hands up if you can spot a star
Our fingers may point the way to understanding more about our own characters and skills, if new research is to be believed. Scientists at Liverpool University have suggested that men whose index and ring fingers are the same length are likely to be good communicators with verbal dexterity but poor sporting skills. Meanwhile, men whose ring fingers are longer are said to be fertile, sporty types who are not so good at communicating. They also suggest that women with even index and ring fingers are prone to worrying and have poor assertiveness, while those with a longer ring finger are assertive risk-takers likely to have small families.
(Daily Mail)

Natural justice for Napoleon as scientists debunk poisonous tale
Just when many eminent historians were coming around to the view that Napoleon was poisoned on St Helena, a team of French scientists has concluded he died a natural death. The French magazine Science et Vie devoted part of its November issue to what it calls a "40-year-old detective story". It asked three top French scientists to examine evidence that Napoleon died of arsenic poisoning, as concluded by laboratories in France and the United States two years ago.

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