Latest research news

September 14, 2005

Fresh hope of vaccines for killer diseases
Vaccines to combat major killers such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV might be available in just a few years. Scientists are developing ways of offering protection against these infections - massive killers in Third World countries - and prototypes have been tested in human trials. Adrian Hill of Oxford University yesterday outlined the developments at the Health Protection Agency's conference at the University of Warwick. His team is carrying out trials of a malaria vaccine in Kenya, while TB trials are being conducted in The Gambia and South Africa.
The Scotsman, The Guardian

Mistakes with pills 'put diabetics at risk'
Nearly two thirds of Type 2 diabetes patients risk heart attacks, blindness and kidney failure because they do not take their pills correctly. Researchers say that six out of 10 are left with glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure levels that are too high. The results of a study of 20,000 people were announced at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting in Athens. Naveed Sattar of Glasgow University said the number of pills people with late-onset diabetes had to take could be a reason for the failure to follow treatment correctly.
The Daily Telegraph

Probe to raid asteroid to unlock solar system secrets
Under the gentle puff of its ion drive, a Japanese space probe is positioning itself for an extraterrestrial first: a smash and grab on a speeding asteroid. The Hayabusa (or falcon) probe has been chasing the asteroid since 2003 and has this week reached within tens of miles of its surface. Scientists at the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science will spend the next few weeks using Hayabusa's cameras to build up a detailed map of the asteroid. The probe will close in on the asteroid and try to knock lumps of material from it to bring back to Earth.
The Guardian

Bacteria may ease common cold
Supplements of “friendly bacteria” can reduce the duration of the common cold by nearly a quarter, research has suggested. A study comparing the effects of probiotic supplements with standard vitamins and minerals indicated that taking the supplements could help to lower the impact of winter infections. In the study, which will be presented today at the European Influenza Conference in Malta, a group of 479 healthy adults aged between 18 and 67 was followed for three months. Half were given vitamin and mineral tablets, and half took Multibionta, a supplement that also contains probiotic bacteria.
The Times

Crystal clumps preserve fossilised DNA
Clumps of mineral crystals in fossil bones preserve DNA better than other parts of the bones, a new study shows. The results promise new hope for research on both ancient humans and extinct animals. Extraction of DNA from fossil bones promises to be a powerful tool for analysing relationships among vanished populations, tracing their migrations and finding their closest living relatives. But DNA degradation and potential contamination makes obtaining reliable samples difficult. The powerful PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technique can multiply tiny traces of DNA to produce large amounts for genetic sequencing. In principle, those sequences could be a road map to relationships among early humans and extinct animals.
New Scientist

Astronomers study 13 billion-year-old starburst at edge of universe
Astronomers have observed a massive explosion of a star that took place on the other side of the universe nearly 13 billion years ago. The death throes of the star released 300 times the amount of energy as our Sun will do over its lifetime of 10 billion years. This event took place 12.7 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 900 million years old, but its light has only just reached Earth. "Its luminosity is such that within a few minutes it must have released 300 times more energy than the Sun will release during its entire life," said Guido Chincarini of Milano-Bicocca University in Italy, who led a team studying the object.
The Scotsman

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