Latest research news

October 22, 2003

Embryo brain shows sex signs early
Genes drive the brains of male and female embryos apart as early as midway through gestation, a new study suggests. These gender differences were assumed to arise around birth due to hormones pumped out by males' budding testes. The discovery hints that unknown genes hardwire our gender - perhaps influencing the way that men and women think, tackle problems or perceive themselves.

'Viking sperm' may add to the gene pool again
An acute lack of sperm donors in Britain has forced the fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to consider "bulk" imports from Denmark. Richard Fleming, an infertility specialist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said he saw no problem importing Danish sperm. "The Vikings have been sharing their gene pool for centuries."
(Daily Telegraph)

Stoned age discovered in Northamptonshire
Archaeologists from Newcastle report finding the first opium poppy seeds in Britain at a Neolithic burial site in Northamptonshire dating from about 3,800BC. Details are published in the magazine British Archaeology . (Guardian)

Scientists hope to end flu misery within five years
A drug that prevents all the symptoms of flu, from high fever to a stuffy nose, could be available within five years as a result of research by British scientists. Researchers at Imperial College London have disclosed that the drug was so effective in tests on mice that they could not tell healthy animals from those that had flu. Details of the study are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine .

Scots research considers banding together
The need to compete with English research departments has led Scottish universities to consider banding together to bid for research funds.

Japan's invasion of the jellyfish
Thousands of giant jellyfish, some as big as the boot of a car, have appeared off Japan's west coast for the second year running, tangled in fishing nets. Scientists say the species, known as Stomolophus nomurai, was discovered in the East China Sea. They think rising water temperatures are to blame for its sporadic appearances in the Japan Sea, between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, since 1920.

Dinosaurs got cancer
Many dinosaurs had cancer, researchers have discovered. Their tumours were like those of human patients, showing that cancer has been around, essentially unchanged, for a very long time. "Diseases look the same independent of what critter is affected," says radiologist Bruce Rothschild of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

World's 'oldest' rice found
Scientists have found the oldest known domesticated rice. The handful of 15,000-year-old burnt grains was discovered by archaeologists in Korea. Their age challenges the accepted view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago. The rice is genetically different from the modern food crop, which will allow researchers to trace its evolution.

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