Latest research news

July 16, 2003

Warmer seas threaten Antarctic's food chain
Thousands of the world's oddest sea creatures are threatened with extinction because of rising temperatures. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab in the US told a British Antarctic Survey conference on the Southern Ocean yesterday that maritime predators abundant elsewhere could colonise Antarctica soon. Global warming could bring crabs to the Southern Ocean for the first time in 35 million years, displacing predators such as sea spiders and ribbon worms at the top of the Antarctic food chain.
(Times, Guardian)

MPs told of core research meltdown
The closure of 79 science and engineering departments in UK universities in six years has provoked fears of meltdown in core research disciplines. The Commons select committee on science and technology heard last week that years of relative decline in research staff and income in universities in subjects such as chemistry, physics, maths and engineering had reached the point at which industry could be seriously hampered. The trend is thought to be accelerating as universities adjust to losing funding for departments graded 4 in the research assessment exercise.

Modified mice show super-healing powers
Mice with a remarkable ability to heal wounds have been genetically engineered by scientists at Keio University in Tokyo. The researchers were analysing the role of a gene linked to blood vessel formation when they inadvertently created mice with significantly thickened skin, swollen ears, noses and eyelids. Tests showed these mice also had the ability to rapidly heal wounds - two millimetre-wide holes created in the mice's ears closed completely within 28 days.
(New Scientist)

Frog eggs rejuvenate human cells
Scientists at Cambridge University have discovered that immature frog eggs can rejuvenate adult human cells. Molecules in the amphibian nucleus coax mature human and mouse DNA back to an adaptable, stem-cell-like state. The researchers now hope to isolate the substances responsible and use them to reprogramme ordinary adult cells, from skin or blood, say. This would yield a limitless supply of donor-matched stem cells with which to repair tissue damaged in diseases such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

Artbots show off talent
Portraits sketched by a robotic arm in New York's Eyebeam gallery are the creation of brain cells growing more than 1,300 km away. The project is a collaboration between an art-science group at the University of Western Australia in Perth and the neuroscience lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. A spider-like hinged arm is connected via the internet to a dish of embryonic rat brain cells growing in the Atlanta lab. The cells live on a grid of 64 electrodes that fires electrical signals into the cells - or detects those that shoot naturally along them.

Anti-blight gene found
A protective gene that could have prevented the Irish potato famine, in which more than 1 million people died in 1845, has been discovered by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

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