Latest research news

September 21, 2005

Human stem cells allow paralysed mice to walk
Scientists have used injections of human stem cells to heal spinal injuries in paralysed mice, allowing them to walk normally again. The research, which was funded by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, suggests that stem cells could be used to repair spinal damage caused by accidents or disease, although further studies, including safety tests, are needed before the treatment can go into human trials. Neuroscientist Aileen Anderson and her team at the Reeve-Irvine Research Centre at the University of California, Irvine, used stem cells taken from the neural tissue of aborted foetuses. When injected into the body, they can develop into any type of nervous tissue.
The Guardian

System to spot heart disease 'fails to identify key factors'
Thousands of lives are being put at risk because doctors are failing to take account of key factors that might cause people to develop heart disease. A ten-year study of 13,000 Scots by researchers at Dundee University found people were being deprived of life-saving treatment because the standard assessment did not take into account key social contributory factors to the condition. Researchers found that living in the most economically deprived parts of the country could pose an equivalent risk to being ten years older or suffering from diabetes in determining a person's likelihood of developing heart disease.
The Scotsman

Stripped sperm may boost ICSI success rate
Removing the tiny cap of potent enzymes from human sperm prior to the common assisted-fertility treatment, ICSI, could boost the efficiency of this reproductive technology, new research suggests. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where a whole sperm is injected straight into an egg cell, has become a popular option for infertile couples for whom conventional IVF has failed. But the success rate is still low. “In most infertility clinics, only three of ten couples bring babies home after ICSI,” says Ryuzo Yanagimachi at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine, US.
New Scientist

Nasa plans another giant leap to the moon
Astronauts could be walking on the moon once again by 2018 under ambitious plans unveiled yesterday by Nasa. And they will get there in Apollo-style spacecraft that hark back to the glory days of the space race. The announcement marks a bold step for the embattled space agency, setting out an exploration plan for the next few decades. But critics argue that the moon-shot is set to be another of Nasa's grand visions that, along with the space shuttle and the International Space Station, will one day wither away through political apathy.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

Edinburgh scientists in fight to conquer killer malaria
Edinburgh scientists are to begin work on a new generation of groundbreaking anti-malaria drugs. The team from Edinburgh University has worked out how some strains of the killer parasites are able to survive current treatments in a discovery hailed as a breakthrough in treating the disease. Several medicines are used to treat malaria, but the parasites, carried by mosquitoes, have quickly learnt ways to resist their effects. Now the Edinburgh team, along with scientists from Bangkok, have discovered exactly how they have been able to escape. They say the research could have a "significant effect" on the disease, which claims at least a million lives across the globe each year.
The Scotsman

Cassini sees dusty ‘spokes’ in Saturn’s rings
The Cassini spacecraft has finally spotted dusty "spokes" in Saturn's rings that were first seen about 25 years ago. Researchers hope to monitor how the spokes wax and wane over time to see if the dusty streams signal a change in Saturn's rotation rate. Wedge-shaped trails of dust stretching up to 20,000km in length were first seen radiating outward in Saturn's outer B ring during flybys of Nasa's twin Voyager spacecraft in 1980 and 1981. Since then, the Hubble Space Telescope has also imaged the spokes, which are thought to be caused by dust particles that become charged and float above the plane of the main ring.
New Scientist

Geordies provide Neanderthal clues
A suggestion that the life of Neanderthals was too brutish and short for them to enjoy adolescence is overturned today by comparing their teeth with those of modern Geordies. Last year a French analysis of Neanderthal front teeth suggested an accelerated childhood, with adulthood by 15, while our ancestors took at least three more years to mature. But this is ruled out by researchers from Ohio State University and the Newcastle University, who found that the tooth growth present in Neanderthal fossils was comparable to that of three modern populations: people living in Newcastle upon Tyne; indigenous people from southern Africa, and Inuit from Alaska, dating from 500 BC until the present.
The Daily Telegraph

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