Latest research news

December 21, 2005

Fresh doubt cast on Korean scientist's stem cell breakthrough
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk's groundbreaking stem cell research was cast into fresh doubt today as a former collaborator said he provided hundreds more human eggs than the professor claimed to have used, a report said. Roh Sung-il, the chairman of the board at Seoul's Mizmedi hospital, said the hospital provided more than 900 eggs from 65 people for a paper Professor Hwang published in the journal Science this year. The professor, however, claimed in the article that he used just 185 human eggs to create custom-made embryonic stem cells for 11 patients, winning international acclaim for his cloning efficiency.
The Guardian

Genes breakthrough in Parkinson's research
Hundreds of malfunctioning genes have been discovered in the brains of Parkinson's patients, in a significant breakthrough that could enable doctors to stop the disease in its tracks. A team at Imperial College London and Liege University in Belgium discovered that 570 out of the 25,000 human genes were acting abnormally. Further research will now be carried out in the hope of finding new treatments. Scientists believe that by manipulating the way the genes act "we may be able to control or even stop" Parkinson's from developing further after diagnosis. The Parkinson's Disease Society, which funded the research, said the cause of the condition was unknown and it would continue to pay for such work in the hope of finding the answer.
The Scotsman

US research 'endangered Amazon villagers'
Health officials in Brazil have launched an investigation after claims that at least 10 impoverished Brazilians from an Amazon village may have contracted malaria while being used as human "guinea pigs" during a study by an American university. The $1 million (£570,000) research project, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by the University of Florida, was being carried out in three villages on the Matapi river in the northern state of Amapa. It intended to study feeding patterns among mosquitoes over a four-year period in order to help control malaria outbreaks.
The Guardian

Chocolate's dark secret: it's good for your heart
A couple of squares of dark chocolate every day could help stave off heart disease, researchers say today. Swiss scientists say that just two ounces of good quality chocolate with a high cocoa butter content can help to prevent narrowing and hardening of the arteries. A study was carried out on smokers - smoking is known to damage arterial function - but the effect of eating dark chocolate is believed to be true for non-smokers. The subjects ate either two squares of dark chocolate with 74 per cent cocoa solids or white chocolate. Dr Roberto Corti and colleagues from the cardiovascular centre, University Hospital, Zurich, observed the activity of endothelial cells, which line the arteries, and platelets, which are involved in the formation of blood clots.
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

Diesel link to blood-clot risk
Inhaling diesel exhaust fumes may lead to an increased chance of blood clots, according to researchers at Edinburgh University. An investigation into the link between air pollution and heart disease has found exposure to diesel exhaust fumes may disrupt normal blood vessel and clotting activity. Researchers found that exposure to diesel exhaust for just one hour during exercise caused a significant reduction in the natural ability of blood vessels to expand.
The Scotsman

Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops
An extraordinary fungus that manages to thrive in the super-salty Dead Sea could one day open up new genetic approaches to creating crops that can tolerate saline soils. The fungus Eurotium herbariorum is able to tolerate the Dead Sea's incredible salt content of 340 grams per litre – about 10 times saltier than ocean water. Most of the Earth's organisms are far less tolerant of salt, and will dehydrate and die if exposed to too much of it. But researchers are interested in developing salt-tolerant food crops because soil salinity is increasing in some parts of the world. Land that needs to be constantly irrigated gradually becomes more saline, and crop yields go down.
New Scientist

Long time no see
This time of year, the dark and cold can make getting out of bed feel like climbing Everest. So spare a thought for the blind Mexican cavefish, which lives its entire life in deep caves never reached by the sun. Researchers used to think that creatures like the cavefish, shielded from changes in light and temperature, lose the ability to tell the time of day. But now a team of scientists from University College London is setting out to prove that not only can Astyanax mexicanus tell the time, they have an "alarm clock" that makes them tick in unison with the outside world.
The Guardian

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