Today's news

October 5, 2004

Medical students justify sex with patients
Four out of 10 medical students say they could justify having a sexual relationship with a patient, despite the strict ethic that forbids them from doing so. The findings, by John Goldie of the Department of General Practice, Glasgow University, are published in the Journal of Medical Ethics . Dr Goldie says the doctors most at risk of having a sexual relationship with patients are GPs, psychologists and gynaecologists.
Daily Telegraph

Nobel for pair who unlocked secrets of smell
Two American researchers who unlocked the secrets of how humans and other animals pick up and decode smells won the Nobel Prize for Medicine today. Linda Buck and Richard Axel shared the £770,000 prize for their discovery in 1991 of a family of around 1,000 genes that control olfactory receptors high up in the nasal cavity. Before then no one quite understood how the nose actually picks up smells. The medicine prize kicks off the Nobel award season. The physics prize will be announced tomorrow, the chemistry prize on Wednesday, and the peace prize on Friday. The economics prize, awarded by Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank, is scheduled for October 11. The literature prize is expected on Thursday.
Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times

Taste for G&T is all in the genes
The secret of why human beings have a taste for gin and tonic while chimpanzees do not may lie in the genes. Scientists at the Nestlé Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, have discovered that genes governing the taste of bitterness are subtly different in people and their closest animal relatives. The findings suggest that the sense of taste is an adaptation that can evolve relatively quickly to help animals to find nutritious food and avoid poisons.
Times  

Homo sapiens may have wiped out two close relatives
Researchers from the University of Utah, US, have discovered that Homo sapiens once lived alongside the human ancestor Homo erectus as well as Neanderthal man and that we may have been responsible for the extinction of both. A study tracing how head lice evolved in tandem with their hominid hosts has shown that Homo erectus died out considerably later than scientists had believed. The findings mean that Homo erectus must have coexisted with its taller, bigger-brained descendant Homo sapiens for tens of thousands of years. The two came into close contact suspiciously soon before one went extinct.
Times

Aspirin helps prostate cancer victims live longer
Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can delay the spread of prostate cancer in men who have the disease and improve their survival chances, according to scientists at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre in Philadelphia, US. The research did not look into whether taking aspirin-like drugs after diagnosis and treatment improved outcomes, but the findings suggest that it might. Scotsman

Stem cell experiment offers hope for stroke victims
Stem cells from an aborted foetus could be used to replace damaged brain tissue in stroke victims following a breakthrough by scientists from ReNeuron, a private biotechnology company. The company is presenting data at a US medical conference today showing that stem cells injected into rats' brains tissue migrated to the site of damage and then turned into mature neurones.
Financial Times

Higher education letters and comments
- Letter: Inclusive universities merely redress the balance: Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney writes that encouraging universities to widen access is intervention to redress the early social engineering that takes place in the independent school sector. Daily Telegraph
- Leave those dons alone: "If private education gives children things that many state schools do not, the answer lies in improving the poorer schools, not nobbling the better ones." Libby Purves says that the only logical way to treat the figures on state school entry to top universities is not as reproof, but as research. Times
- Open Eye: Brenday Gourley, vice-chancellor of the Open University, says that a fundamental part of her university's mission is to reduce inequalities in education. Independent

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