Latest research news

January 17, 2007

Skull shows possible human-Neanderthal link
A 40,000-year-old skull found in a Romanian cave shows traits of both modern humans and Neanderthals and might prove the two interbred, researchers reported on Monday. If the findings are confirmed, the skull would represent the oldest modern human remains yet found in Europe. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , will add to the debate over whether modern Homo sapiens simply killed off their Neanderthal cousins, or had some intimate interactions with them first. Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis has in the past found bones that he believes show both modern human and Neanderthal traits, and now he and colleagues have found a skull.
The Scotsman

Why lions are smaller than elephants
Evolution has never fashioned a lion or wolf the size of an elephant. Nor is it likely to, because such a "super-carnivore" would be unable to catch prey fast enough to fuel the energy demand of its enormous body, researchers conclude. "As a mammalian carnivore, you can only be so big," says Chris Carbone, a carnivore biologist at the Institute of Zoology of the Zoological Society of London, UK. Carbone and colleagues sifted through the published literature for estimates of daily energy intakes and expenditures for different sized species of carnivorous mammals. Not surprisingly, they found that larger carnivores used more energy, with every doubling of body size causing a roughly 1.6-fold increase in energy needs.
New Scientist, Nature

Men should eat their reds and greens
Eating tomatoes and broccoli in the same meal could help men to fight prostate cancer.
A study suggests that when they are both present in a regular diet, the two foods - known for their cancer-fighting qualities - help to reduce tumours more effectively than when they are eaten separately. Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in Britain, accounting for almost one in four cancers in men. Each year about 32,000 cases are diagnosed and more than 10,000 men die from it. Researchers from the University of Illinois believe that different compounds in the vegetables can work together to attack cancer cells along different biological pathways. They suggest that men should regularly consume servings of up to three quarters of a head of raw broccoli and two to three tomatoes to help fight the disease.
The Times

British scientists find 'superbug cure'
Scientists say they have found three drugs which kill the MRSA superbug - after developing them on a computer. New research firm e-Therapeutics claimed the treatment even works on strains of the bug which have defeated the best existing drugs. MRSA has been blamed for thousands of deaths of hospital patients every year. It has been notoriously difficult to treat as it resists antibiotics. Patients are currently most likely to be given the antibiotic vancomycin as a last resort treatment, but some strains of MRSA have developed resistance. The drugs discovered by Newcastle-based e-Therapeutics have been demonstrated in the laboratory to kill even vancomycin-resistant strains of MRSA.
The Daily Mail

Amnesiacs struggle to imagine future events
People with amnesia have difficulty imagining future events with any richness of detail and emotion, a new study reveals. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that memories help people visualise the future. Eleanor Maguire at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging in London, UK, and colleagues studied five patients who suffered from classic amnesia. The patients had all suffered infections that had damaged a brain region called the hippocampus. The damage left the subjects unable to recall past events, although they could remember facts such as the names of their relatives.
New Scientist

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