Latest research news

March 31, 2004

Genetic surgery in the womb moves closer
British scientists are preparing to conduct genetic surgery on an unborn child. The team reported on Monday that it is the first to use gene transplants in the womb to cure an inherited disease - the blood clotting disorder Haemophilia B.
( Daily Telegraph )

'Dead zones' in world's oceans are growing, say alarmed UN scientists
Marine "dead zones" - oxygen-starved areas of the oceans that are devoid of fish - are one of the greatest environmental problems facing the world, UN scientists have warned. There are nearly 150 dead zones across the globe, they are increasing, and they pose as big a threat to fish stocks as over-fishing.
( The Independent )

UK told to clean up nuclear waste
Britain faces an order today to end years of stalling and clean up more than a ton of highly dangerous radioactive waste at Sellafield, in an embarrassing ruling from the European Commission. The move comes after years of complaints from environmentalists and the government of Ireland about pollution from Sellafield, and marks a new tough attitude towards nuclear safety standards from officials in Brussels.
( The Independent )

Methane may be clue to life on Mars
Methane has been found in the atmosphere of Mars, raising the possibility of past or present life on the planet. The gas has been detected in the past by telescopes on earth and its presence has been confirmed by an instrument aboard the European Space Agency orbiter Mars Express .
( The Times )

Chinless wonder shows isle had whale of a time
Zoologists have appealed for help in solving the mysterious disappearance of two giant jawbones from a rare fin whale that was washed up on a remote beach on the isle of Coll in Scotland. The missing 12ft-long jawbones, weighing about 250 kilograms (550lb) and legally the property of the Queen, were cut neatly from the remains of the dead mammal with a chainsaw.
( The Times )

Foreign 'weeds' run rampant in Australia's farmland
Exotic weeds are choking Australia's prized farmland inch by inch and costing the nation £1.6 billion a year in lost agricultural output, a report revealed yesterday. The sprawling plants, most of which were deliberately introduced as ornamental garden species, have encroached on huge areas of farming land, as well as national parks, the outback and pristine coastal areas.
( Daily Telegraph )

Blind as a bat?
The radar system used by bats to navigate in the dark is more sophisticated than previously known and can even help the flying mammals to distinguish between different types of tree. Bats carry out a complicated statistical analysis of the world around them using their echolocation system, according to a new study.
( The Independent )

Liquorice extract sweetens old age
A drug derived from liquorice may boost brain function and slow age-related memory loss, research suggests. Carbenoxolone, which is traditionally used to soothe ulcers, improves mental functioning in healthy elderly men and cognitively impaired diabetic patients.
( Nature )

Snakes help with the laundry
Chemists have stumbled on a bizarre source for a useful detergent: poisonous snake venom. Enzymes in the Florida Cottonmouth's spit dislodge blood-stains from clothes, researchers this week told a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California.
( Nature )

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