Latest research news

July 27, 2005

Cloning plan poses new ethical dilemma
Healthy women could be asked to donate their eggs for cloning research in a controversial bid to speed up the development of new treatments for disease. Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, is to seek permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments designed to shed light on the debilitating condition motor neurone disease. Until now, cloning experts in Britain have justified their work by using only spare eggs left over from couples undergoing treatment at fertility clinics. The eggs are typically rejects of the IVF process and are routinely discarded if not used in experiments.
The Guardian

Scientists seek fresh chance to dig up Stonehenge's secrets
Stonehenge has always mystified. Julius Caesar thought it was the work of druids, medieval scholars believed it was the handiwork of Merlin, while local folk tales simply blamed the devil. Now scientists are demanding a full-scale research programme be launched to update our knowledge of the monument and discover precisely who built it and its burial barrow graves. This is the key recommendation of Stonehenge: an Archaeological Research Framework, edited by Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University, soon to be published by English Heritage. It highlights serious flaws in our knowledge of the monument, which is now a World Heritage Site.
The Observer

Could a Mars a day really help keep killer illness at bay...?
The confectionery maker Mars yesterday unveiled new research showing that cocoa, the central ingredient in most of its products, has properties that can be used to treat diabetes, strokes and vascular disease. The privately owned company, which makes M&Ms and Mars bars, said it hoped to make medications based on flavanols - plant chemicals with health benefits found in cocoa. Worried in the late 1960s that the cocoa plant was prone to disease, Mars began working to understand how the plants could be insulated against disease. In the course of the research they discovered flavanols, a plant chemical that occurs not only in cocoa beans but green tea, red wine and tomatoes, were good for human health.
The Scotsman

Why the world doesn't go black when your eyelids flicker
Because a critical part of the brain switches off and fails to detect the blackness behind closed eyes, says a team of neuroscientists. We blink about ten times a minute without noticing any change in what we see. Researchers had suspected that this is because the visual system is inactivated during blinking, but were not able to prove this. A team at University College London have cracked the problem by inserting an optical fibre into the mouths of people wearing black-out goggles. The fibre illuminated the back of the subjects' retinas, so that they saw a light at all times, even when they blinked. This allowed the researchers, to distinguish between the effects of the act of blinking and the darkness that it causes.
Nature

Oil on troubled waters may stop hurricanes
Sailors who traditionally dumped barrels of oil into the sea to calm stormy waters may have been on to something, a new study suggests. The old practice reduces wind speeds in tropical hurricanes by damping ocean spray, according to a new mathematical “sandwich model”. As hurricane winds kick up ocean waves, large water droplets become suspended in the air. This cloud of spray can be treated mathematically as a third fluid sandwiched between the air and sea. “Our calculations show that drops in the spray decrease turbulence and reduce friction, allowing for far greater wind speeds – sometimes eight times as much,” explains researcher Alexandre Chorin at the University of California at Berkeley, US.
New Scientist

Research could lead to cures for heart attacks and brittle bones
Cures for heart attacks, liver disease, brittle bones and other conditions are about to enter clinical trials, according to research published today. A method of repairing the damage caused by heart attacks is to be tested on human patients after stem cells injected into pigs were found to restore their hearts' capacity to pump blood from 50 per cent of normal to 75 per cent. Professor Joshua Hare, of Johns Hopkins University, who led the study, said: "Ultimately, the goal is to develop a widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been infarcted, or destroyed, after losing its blood supply. There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans."
The Scotsman

Men 'winning' caring profession sex war
Men working in traditionally female-dominated caring professions such as nursing and teaching are winning a new gender war with their female colleagues, according to a study. Research from Brunel University's business school found that men in caring careers believe they get more respect and more challenging roles than their women counterparts. Male primary teachers and nurses are carving out niche areas, opting for more typically "masculine" activities and emotionally demanding specialisms, the study found.
The Guardian

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