Latest research news

November 23, 2005

Relentless rise of Aids as HIV infections top 40m
The number of people living with HIV worldwide has exceeded 40 million for the first time, with more than 2.6 million adults and nearly 600,000 children dying from the disease in the past year alone. The Aids Epidemic Update 2005, published yesterday, reveals the extent of the relentless rise of HIV infection. It has now claimed more than 25 million lives since the early 1980s, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in history, with the vast majoriy of cases being in the developing world. The report, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids and the World Health Organisation, estimated that globally there will be an extra five million infections in 2005.
The Times, The Scotsman, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph

How to save Venice: inject it with more water
A group of engineers and geology experts said yesterday they are considering injecting sea water under Venice to raise the waterlogged Italian city 30 centimeters and rescue it from the tides and floods that bedevil it. "The main advantage of this project is that it would allow Venice to regain ... nearly the same amount of centimeters by which it sank over the last 300 years," said Giuseppe Gambolati, the head of the project. The $117-million (€100-million) project entails digging twelve holes with a 30-centimeter diameter within a 6-mile area around the city of Venice, and to pump sea water into the ground at a depth of 766 yards, said Gambolati, an engineer and professor at the University of Padua. The sea water is expected to make the sand that lies underneath expand, which combined with a topping of waterproof clay would eventually push up the soil, Gambolati said.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

Education link to rise in Parkinson's risk
Parkinson's disease is more likely to strike the highly-educated than manual workers, say researchers. Scientists found people who had studied for nine years or longer had the highest risk of developing Parkinson's, with physicians most at risk of contracting the debilitating condition. The researchers said it was possible that early Parkinson's triggered a desire to spend a lot of time studying, rather than long periods of education increasing susceptibility to the condition. However, they said further study was needed to explain the link between education and the disease and warned that, while the findings reflected an association between a long academic career and Parkinson's, this did not necessarily mean a causal connection.
The Scotsman

Lack of cuddles in infancy may affect development of brain
Depriving young children of cuddles and attention subtly changes how their brains develop and in later life can leave them anxious and poor at forming relationships, according to a study published today. Love and affection from parents and carers are vital to developing brain pathways associated with handling stress and forming social bonds, the researchers found. Seth Pollak, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues compared the progress of children being raised by their biological parents in America with children who had come from crowded orphanages in Russia and Romania and had been adopted by American parents.
The Guardian

Only 40 genes separate your pet dog from a wolf
The difference between an obedient, friendly dog and a big bad wolf could be down to as few as 40 genes, according to a study into tameness. The research also found that to adapt to a life on the farm or in the home takes many more changes in gene activity than that required to love humans. A Swedish team compared two groups of farm-raised silver foxes in Siberia, one where for 40 generations the foxes have been selected for their friendly nature, while the other was raised in the farm but not selected for tameness. The comparison was reported yesterday in the journal Current Biology by Dr Elena Jazin and colleagues at Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and the Norwegian University of Life Science.
The Daily Telegraph

How the brain copes with Sudoku's stress
Scientists have pinpointed what goes on in the brain when people wrestle with a mathematical puzzle such as Sudoku. For the first time, a team has visualised the effects of everyday stress - that created by mathematical puzzles - in a healthy human brain. The advance, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , was made by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The team believes that it will pave the way for the development of improved strategies for preventing or correcting the long-term health consequences of chronic stress.
The Daily Telegraph

To sleep... but not well
This Christmas millions of us will sleep in a strange bed - in hotels, holiday homes or the houses of friends or family. We will return home tired and cranky, not just because we have eaten and drunk too much but because we have slept badly. Sleep loss can affect concentration, the ability to think flexibly, memory and even speaking ability. Professor Jim Horne, who runs the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, says that a bad night over the Christmas period makes us more likely to feel sleepy in the afternoon, find the in-laws irritating, snap at the children - and have an accident on the motorway.
The Times

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