Latest research news

April 23, 2003

Scientists claim malaria advance
British scientists claimed yesterday to have made a breakthrough in finding a permanent treatment for malaria. Scientists say they have identified in the parasite responsible for the disease the element in its make-up that enables it to become quickly resistant to new treatments, a property that has hampered drug companies' efforts to develop a vaccine.
(Financial Times, Guardian)

Weak hearts saved by stem-cell injections
A failing heart can be rejuvenated by injections of stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow, research has revealed. Doctors from the US and Brazil found that the technique transformed the health of people desperately ill with end-stage heart failure, which occurs when a damaged heart cannot pump enough blood to serve the body's needs. Results from the study were published yesterday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
(Independent, Guardian)

Baby teeth revealed as source of stem cells
Scientists have discovered that teeth are a source of stem cells. Researchers can currently isolate two types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell in the body, but their harvesting requires the destruction of embryos, which pro-life groups oppose. Adult stem cells avoid this problem, but have more limited abilities. Now it appears that the stem cells from children's lost teeth could provide an intermediate and easily accessible source.
(New Scientist)

Tea helps fight off infections
Drinking tea may prime the immune system to fight infections and even cancer, according to research from the US. Tea contains chemicals called alkylamine antigens, which are also present in some bacteria, tumour cells, parasites and fungi. Because these are present in tea, the body is exposed to them so it can build up a defence against them if it comes up against them as part of a disease. US researchers looked at the effect of the antigens on gamma-delta T cells in the immune system, which act as a first line of defence against infection. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Siberia yields oldest authenticated DNA
The oldest verified sample of DNA has been pulled from soil deep within the permafrost of northeast Siberia. The DNA belonged to grasses, sedges and shrubs estimated to be between 300,000 and 400,000 years old. Previously, the oldest confirmed plant DNA was about 20,000 years old. The most ancient identified animal genetic material is about 50,000 years old.

Genetic 'smart bomb' knocks out hepatitis
Human liver cells harbouring the hepatitis C virus can be selectively targeted and destroyed by a new gene-therapy approach, according to research by virologists at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, Canada. The key is a genetically engineered "suicide" gene, delivered aboard a harmless virus, which is triggered only when it enters a hepatitis-infected cell. It might also help tackle other viruses, such as HIV.
(New Scientist)

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