Latest research news

May 21, 2003

DNA study says chimps should be classified as humans
A molecular comparison of the chimpanzee with man at the level of their DNA has concluded that they should both be classified as members of the human genus Homo. Chimpanzees have traditionally been classified as belonging to the pongid family as they were considered to be closer to other non-human primates, such as gorillas and orang-utans, but the latest study by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit puts chimps close enough to humans for them to become practically indistinguishable. Some of the most important genes share about 99.4 per cent of their genetic sequence, bringing them far closer together than the 98 per cent similarity that previous studies have suggested.

Immune group in Uganda raises Aids vaccine hopes
Scientists believe an effective Aids vaccine may be a step closer after studying an unexpected response to the HIV virus in individuals in Uganda who appear to be immune. Just over two dozen people near Lake Victoria have been found to remain uninfected even though they have unprotected sex with HIV-positive partners, a phenomenon termed "discordant couples". Researchers in Entebbe found that the immune systems of the 28 resistant individuals behaved in surprising ways, which, it is hoped, will point the way to a vaccine within ten years.

Is there life on Mars?
The countdown to a journey to Mars has begun as European scientists enter the final phase of their £110 million mission to search for life on the Red Planet. The Beagle 2 Mars Lander is scheduled to be launched on June 2 and is expected to arrive seven months later. During the mission the Beagle 2 probe will search for evidence of "long-dead or still living" life by measuring the ratio of two different types of carbon in the rock.

Digital Noah's Ark launched
A huge website designed to provide an electronic safe haven for endangered animals and plants goes online today. ARKive is described as a 21st-century "Noah's Ark" that will house information about species in danger of extinction. Anyone wanting to research the natural world will have free access to audio and video "portraits" of endangered animals. Highlights of the £4 million resource include the only surviving film of the extinct Tasmanian tiger and the last known shots of the golden toad, believed to be extinct.

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