Latest research news

December 14, 2005

Stem cell pioneer back at work, only to face inquiry
The South Korean stem cell pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk left hospital yesterday and made a tearful return to work after being treated for stress brought on by an ethics scandal over his research. Meanwhile, Seoul National University launched an investigation into a controversy over the veracity of his work. Professor Hwang, who gained international renown for cloning the world's first human embryos and extracting stem cells from them, had been in hospital since last Wednesday. "I am sorry for causing anxiety to the public," he told reporters, vowing to continue with his stem cell research.
The Guardian

Thought control brings pain into line
Researchers have managed to teach people suffering chronic pain to reduce their own discomfort simply by controlling their thoughts. It's unclear how long the effect lasts, but the researchers hope that this approach could one day be used to treat chronic pain, which affects tens of millions of people in the United States alone and is a major reason for sick leave. The team, led by Christopher deCharms, showed eight patients real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging, of the activity in their rostral anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain known to be involved with pain control. They asked participants to try to increase or decrease activity in this area, by focusing on their pain or by distracting themselves from it.
Nature, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian

Why a cold could set off childhood leukaemia
Infections such as the common cold could play a significant role in triggering childhood cancers, according to a study. The discovery of linked clusters of leukaemia and brain tumours in children suggest many cases could be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and common contagious illnesses such as colds, measles and flu viruses. The findings support previous research showing young children who are socially active, such as those who attend nurseries, are less at risk than those who are more sheltered because they develop stronger immune systems. Dr Richard McNally, an epidemiologist at Newcastle University and the study's lead author, said: "The patterns we observed suggest that the cause may be linked to diseases passed from person to person.
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

Drinking tea may cut ovarian cancer
Drinking two cups of tea a day may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, research in Sweden suggests. A study involving more than 60,000 women indicates that women who drank two cups or more of tea a day had an almost 50 per cent lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who did not drink tea. The research comes after studies that have suggested that green and black tea may provide protection from several cancers.
The Times

Patient died during cannabis drug trial
A woman taking part in trials of an experimental cannabis-based drug appeared drunk and became so confused that she was admitted to hospital where she later died, an inquest was told yesterday. Rene Anderson, 69, of Frecheville, Sheffield, was prescribed the drug Sativex by researchers to ease pain caused by diabetes. She developed pneumonia, respiratory problems and died of kidney failure, the hearing in Sheffield was told. Some patients claim that cannabis-based medicines relieve their symptoms and ease pain but Sativex has yet to win a licence in Britain, pending further data from GW Pharmaceuticals, its manufacturer. It has been licensed in Canada and can be used in Britain under special licence from the Home Office, and at a doctor’s discretion.
The Times

Violent video games alter brain's response to violence
A brain mechanism that may link violent computer games with aggression has been discovered by researchers in the US. The work goes some way towards demonstrating a causal link between the two - rather than a simple association. Many studies have concluded that people who play violent video games are more aggressive, more likely to commit violent crimes, and less likely to help others. But critics argue these correlations merely prove that violent people gravitate towards violent games, not that games can change behaviour.
New Scientist

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