Latest research news

June 30, 2004

Atkins diet may cut chance of pregnancy, study shows
The high-protein Atkins diet may be damaging the chances of weight-conscious women getting pregnant and having a healthy baby, scientists said yesterday. They advised those hoping to conceive to switch to more normal eating patterns. Researchers in Colorado revealed at a European fertility conference that embryos from mice that had been fed a high-protein diet showed a failure to implant in the womb. They believe the results should be a warning to women who want children.
(The Guardian)

Crucial moment approaches for Saturn probe
On Thursday, one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever built will reach probably the most beautiful planet in the Solar System. While skimming over the rings of Saturn, the Cassini mission will fire its main engine to slow down and enter orbit, beginning a planned four-year tour of the planet and its moons.
(New Scientist)

Embryo gene test brings designer babies closer
A single test that simultaneously screens embryos for dozens of genetic disorders could soon be available, greatly advancing the prospect of designer babies. New research suggests that “gene chip” technology will be able to detect multiple defective genes in an embryo at the same time. This promises to allow doctors to perform a general health check on embryos, assessing their risk of many inherited diseases before transferring the healthiest ones to a mother’s womb.
(The Times)

Designers challenged to build 'city on ice'
Researchers will today launch the world's most demanding architectural challenge: to design a hotel and workshop on an Antarctic ice shelf. The five predecessors of the new Halley Bay research station - always home to at least 16 people, and 50 in summer - tended to sink at the rate of at least 1m a year as the ice melted beneath them and snow built up around them. Temperatures drop as low as -55C, so building will be possible outdoors only in January and February, when they average -5 C.
(The Guardian)

Rice yields plunging due to balmy nights
Rice yields are crashing as a result of global warming at twice the rate predicted by climate modellers, according to the first “real world” experiment on the impact of rising temperatures. The detailed study of crop yields and temperatures took place on long-standing research plots at the International Rice Research Institute at Los Banos in the Philippines. The results suggest that global rice yields could potentially fall by 50 per cent during this century.
(New Scientist)

Leaf stimulant may help fertility
Qat, the plant chewed for the euphoria-inducing properties of its leaves, may increase the potency of men's sperm, scientists said yesterday. Qat has been widely used in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula for centuries, but as people from those regions have come to live in the UK, they have brought the chewing habit with them. Researchers at King's College London have found that immersing sperm in chemicals extracted from qat stimulates them to become more active more quickly, and thus more likely to fertilise an egg.
(The Guardian)

Pandemic looms as bird flu mutates
The bird flu virus is mutating and becoming more dangerous to mammals, say researchers. The discovery reinforces fears that a human pandemic of the disease could yet occur. Immediate action is needed to stem the virus's transmission, says Hualan Chen from Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, China, who was involved in the research.
(Nature)

Hangover is spiked by cactus extract
Forget about the hair of the dog. The skin of a prickly pear cactus has been shown to reduce the suffering caused by a hangover. Volunteers who took an extract of the desert cactus Opuntia ficus indica before a binge had fewer hangover symptoms than those who took a placebo, according to a study published yesterday by American researchers.
(Daily Telegraph)

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