Latest research news

January 11, 2006

Scientist faked it all, except cloned dog Snuppy
With the exception of a single cloned dog, all the major scientific discoveries claimed by Woo Suk Hwang, once the world's leading stem cell scientist, were faked, a university panel concluded today. In its final report on the research of Dr Hwang, who claimed to have cloned the world's first human embryo in 2004 and then to have created patient-specific stem cells in 2005, Seoul National University said that South Korea's former "top scientist" had become a "scandalous case". "These individuals cannot be regarded to represent science in Korea," wrote Myung Hee Chung, the chairman of the panel. Today's report completed the ignominy of Dr Hwang, a national hero in South Korea who was given free first-class flights on Korean Air for a decade and had a set of stamps commissioned to honour the achievements that made him one of the world's most famous scientists.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Papa's Cuban life unfurled for British academic
A lecturer from the University of Wales, Swansea, has been granted access to the unpublished archive of Ernest Hemingway's life in Cuba, the first time the material has been made available to anyone outside the country. Philip Melling, a reader in the department of American studies, has been given permission to study research conducted by Cuban writers and academics over the past 40 years. The research has not been publicised outside Cuba and Dr Melling hopes the archive will uncover some "groundbreaking findings" in helping to understand the writer's life and work in the country in which he lived for more than 30 years.
The Guardian

Suffocation leaves a mark in the genes
A murderer could leave a telltale genetic fingerprint in their victim's genes, say researchers in Japan, helping forensic sleuths to identify how they were killed. Experts often struggle to diagnose whether someone died by strangulation or suffocation, rather than by some other means. In some cases, the crime scene or marks on the body make the case clear cut; in others there are no such clues. Now a team at Nagasaki University has shown that a person's own genes might help to reveal how they met their end. Kazuya Ikematsu and his colleagues anaesthetized and then killed two small groups of mice, by either strangulation with a string, or by decapitation. They dissected skin samples from the animals' necks and compared the activity of a broad spectrum of genes inside the skin cells, by looking at the amount of RNA pumped out by those genes.
Nature, The Scotsman

Bird flu might be less deadly than feared
H5N1 bird flu may be less deadly to people than feared, suggests a study in Vietnam, although the results will require more work to confirm. This might be good news if H5N1 ever starts spreading more readily among humans. But it is bad news if it means there are far more human infections with the virus, as it means more opportunities for the virus to adapt to humans. To date, about half the people confirmed to have H5N1 have died – a terrifying fatality rate. By comparison the 1918 pandemic flu virus killed just 3 per cent it made ill. But it is possible that many mild or symptom-free H5N1 infections have gone undetected, meaning the real fatality rate is lower.
New Scientist, The Guardian

Spitting mad staff's art cure
A trip to an art gallery could be the perfect antidote for stressed workers, according to a new study. Researchers say it is the best way for under-pressure workers to combat stress, which was measured through saliva samples. A group of 28 stressed-out City high-fliers were studied by psychologists at the University of Westminster in London. They were taken to galleries in London during their lunch-breaks and left to spend their time looking at art. The scientists claimed staring at painting and statues brought the subjects' stress levels plummeting down.
The Scotsman

Why you can't get work done
Office workers are interrupted every 11 minutes by e-mails, phone calls or taps on the shoulder from colleagues, according to a new workplace study. Lack of focus caused by such interruptions has led to a host of psychological disorders, including adult attention deficit disorder, researchers said. It is also costing Western economies billions of pounds in productivity, despite hopes that devices such as Blackberries and laptops would increase efficiency. Researchers studying a random sample of office workers found they devoted an average of just 11 minutes to a project before the ping of an e-mail, the ring of the phone or a verbal interruption from a manager or colleague distracted them.
The Scotsman

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