Latest research news

March 8, 2006

Scientists in revolt against cuts that will undermine Britain's climate research
A torrent of high-level opposition is building up to the proposals to scrap Britain's three leading wildlife research centres, which are due to be voted on tomorrow. More than 1,000 formal objections have been received by the Natural Environment Research Council to its plans to close the centres at Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire, Winfrith in Dorset and Banchory near Aberdeen. The scheme, which will also see 200 wildlife scientists sacked, has caused anger among environmentalists, many of whom believe more, not less, specialised wildlife research is needed to protect Britain's habitats and species from growing threats, especially climate change.
The Independent

Diet and habitat have caused recent tweaks in human DNA
Scientists have spotted signs of recent evolution in the human genetic code, suggesting that diet and changes in habitat have had a lasting effect on our make-up. In one of the first detailed scans of the entire human genome, researchers discovered more than 700 tweaks to genes they believe have arisen in the past 5,000 to 10,000 years, a period of time that saw humans spread north from equatorial regions and develop agriculture as a means of securing food. As the fledgling human race encroached on new territories, shifts in climate and food saw that the best-adapted genes survived as less useful variations disappeared from the population.
The Guardian

Future extinction hotspots unveiled
What do the frozen expanses of northern Canada, the balmy Bahamas and the verdant islands of Indonesia all have in common? They have all been pinpointed as places where the world's mammals are most at risk of future fights against extinction. The animals that live there are not threatened now, but could yet find their populations in peril. Researchers led by Marcel Cardillo of Imperial College London compiled the list of the world's top 20 potential hotspots for mammalian extinction by looking at current and predicted data on the extinction risk to almost 4,000 terrestrial mammals. The hotspots are defined as areas where predicted extinction risks are much higher than they are today.
Nature

Mum's exercise boosts baby's brain
Pregnant mice who take daily runs boost the production of new brain cells in their babies; but investigators say it is premature to say whether the same could be true in humans. Researchers already knew that exercise in adult animals can bump up the production of new neurons in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. But now it seems that the effect can be passed from mother to offspring. The team gave one group of pregnant mice a running wheel and kept another group without. Given the chance, the animals ran about two to three kilometres per night, although they cut back as their pregnancy progressed.
Nature

Bottle-feeding link to obese children
Bottle-fed babies who start eating solids early are more likely to become obese children, says research published today. With three quarters of babies on bottles rather than being breast fed by the age of four months and a growing number of children becoming obese or overweight, the study has wide implications. The researchers believe that breast-fed babies are good at regulating their milk intake in relation to their needs. The study is published today in the journal Pediatrics . Dr Ken Ong, from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and Cambridge University, said: "There is a growing awareness that some infants may be fed excessively and develop a higher risk for overweight or obesity."
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

More research urged on antidepressant heart risk
Medical experts are calling for more research into how antidepressants affect people with coronary artery disease. The call comes after a preliminary study of heart patients taking the drugs unexpectedly found the patients face a greater risk of death. But experts stress that depression itself is a risk factor for heart patients and say that doctors should not stop prescribing antidepressants to people who need them.
New Scientist

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