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Recent Developments In Science:
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Vitamin B3 'helps kill superbugs'
Vitamin B3 could be the new weapon in the fight against superbugs such as MRSA, researchers have suggested. US experts found B3, also known as nicotinamide, boosts the ability of immune cells to kill Staphylococcus bacteria. B3 increases the numbers and efficacy of neutrophils, white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bugs. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to a "major change in treatment", a UK expert said. B3 was tested on Staphylococcal infections, such as the potentially fatal MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Such infections are found in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military and among athletes.
Americas 'settled in three waves'
The biggest survey of Native American DNA has concluded that the New World was settled in three major waves. But the majority of today's indigenous Americans descend from a single group of migrants that crossed from Asia to Alaska 15,000 years ago or more. Previous genetic data have lent support to the idea that America was colonised by a single migrant wave. An international team of researchers have published their findings in the journal Nature.
New studies nix report of arsenic-loving bacteria
It was a provocative finding: strange bacteria in a California lake that thrived on something completely unexpected ó arsenic. What it suggested is that life, a very different kind of life, could possibly exist on some other planet. The research, published by a leading scientific journal in 2010, led to overheated speculation about how life might exist elsewhere ó and quickly some dissent about the original finding. On Sunday, that same journal, Science, released two papers that rip apart the original research. They "clearly show" that the bacteria can't use arsenic as the researchers claimed, said an accompanying statement from the journal.
Goodbye Lonesome George
Lonesome George symbolized the precarious state of biodiversity around the world. At the time of his death, he was also a symbol of the tremendous advances that can be made when science, conservation expertise, and political will are aligned on a common cause. --GC President, Johannah Barry
'Brake gene' turned off in pancreatic cancer
Aggressive pancreatic tumours may be treatable with a new class of drugs, according to Cancer Research UK. Less than one in five people with this form of cancer are still alive a year after being diagnosed. A study, published in the journal Nature, showed that a gene was being switched off in the cancerous cells. The reseachers said drugs were already being tested which had the potential to turn the gene back on, to stop the spread of the cancer. Around 7,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year and it is the fifth most deadly cancer.
Scientists find signs of ancient man-made fire
Scientists have uncovered evidence that humans used fire at least 1 million years ago, potentially for cooking purposes. The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Michael Chazan of the University of Toronto led an investigation into the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. The team found burned bones and ash plant material, including grasses, leaves and twigs. The bones originated from a variety of animals: small rodents, antelopes and horselike mammals. "The evidence that we have is compatible with low temperatures of cooking, but itís a little bit too early to be sure" if these early humans were cooking or not, said Francesco Berna, research assistant professor of archaeology at Boston University, and lead author of the study on the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Skin transformed into brain cells
Skin cells have been converted directly into cells which develop into the main components of the brain, by researchers studying mice in California. The experiment, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, skipped the middle "stem cell" stage in the process. The researchers said they were "thrilled" at the potential medical uses. Far more tests are needed before the technique could be used on human skin. Stem cells, which can become any other specialist type of cell from brain to bone, are thought to have huge promise in a range of treatments. Many trials are taking place, such as in stroke patients or specific forms of blindness.
Stem cell retinal implants safe
Early results from the world's first human trial using embryonic stem cells to treat diseases of the eye suggest the method is safe, say researchers. US firm Advanced Cell Technology told The Lancet how two patients who had received the retinal implants were doing well, four months on. Trials of the same technique have now started at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital. But experts say it will be years before these treatments are proven. The aim of these first human studies is to establish that the treatment is safe to use. The treatment takes healthy immature cells from a human embryo, which are then manipulated to grow into the cells that line the back of the eye - the retina.
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