Science, Technology and Innovation

Breakthroughs put diseases on the back foot

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It has been a remarkable year of promise in medical science James Gallagher Incurable diseases from sickle cell to haemophilia now look as though they can be treated. Here are the highlights. BBC Huntington’s The defect that causes the devastating degenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time. It has been called the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. The disease is caused by an aberration in a section of DNA called the huntingtin ... Read More »

New Genome Scores Predict Breast Cancer Odds for Any Woman

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Drawing on giant population studies, the diagnostics company Myriad Genetics introduces a novel type of DNA test to predict cancer. Antonio Regalado MIT Technology Review The actress Angelina Jolie prompted droves of women to seek genetic testing after she revealed, in 2013, that a “faulty gene” called BRCA1 had given her an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. In the face of those odds, Jolie had decided to have her breasts removed. “I chose not to keep my story private because ... Read More »

Managing Mars: Who Has a Right To It’s Resources?

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Two scientists propose a method of divvying up Martian resources based on the concept of “Cooperative Sovereignty” Sciworthy Spandan Dash BMSIS Young Scientist Program Humans have long been fascinated by the huge Cosmos above us Perhaps this fascination has been best put to words by Carl Sagan in his influential book, Cosmos: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, ... Read More »

Can WiFi cause cancer?

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WiFi operates in the 2 to 5 GHz range – part of the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Gary Larson Quora This is in the same part of the spectrum where cell phones operate so I may refer to WiFi or cellphone electromagnetic radiation interchangeably. These are radio waves – no different than those used to broadcast television programs – except that they are higher in frequency. They aren’t nearly as high a frequency as visible light – and ... Read More »

Michael Lee has motor neurone disease. This is what he thinks of euthanasia

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Michael Lee was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) 10 years ago, when he was 35 years old. Tracy Bowden Three years later he met his wife, Joanna, and they married in 2012. ABC Joanna is his primary carer, helped by a team of care workers. She is determined that her husband will not choose to end his life because he thinks he has become too much of a burden. Over the years the disease has taken its toll, causing ... Read More »

Parents In Ukraine Wary Of Vaccinations Even As Measles Numbers Rise

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Oksana has never vaccinated her 4-year-old son, convinced that such preventative measures against potentially lethal diseases do more harm than good. Tony Wesolowsky Natalya Saska “There is a lot of data that children who were vaccinated actually contracted diseases,” explains the 30-year-old mother from Kyiv, without providing specifics. “There’s also been lots of information about vaccinated children dying,” Oksana adds, declining to divulge her surname out of fear that her comments could trigger negative reactions among her friends. Such notions, ... Read More »

Insight: The Scots investors in the Bitcoin boom

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Some Scots investors in the cryptocurrency can barely believe their luck, writes Dani Garavelli Around 18 months ago, Norman, a pensioner from Inverness, was contacted about an investment opportunity: bitcoin. Dani Garavelli The Scotsman A financial dabbler, he had once been defrauded out of quite a large sum of money, so he was reticent about getting involved. But eventually he was persuaded to take the risk. He bought just over six bitcoins at just under £500 each, through a London-based ... Read More »

China’s CCTV surveillance network took just 7 minutes to capture BBC reporter

Flag of the People's Republic of China (Photo: Sam Bloomberg-Rissman/Getty Images)

It took Chinese authorities just seven minutes to locate and apprehend BBC reporter John Sudworth using its powerful network of CCTV camera and facial recognition technology Jon Russell TC This wasn’t a case of a member of the media being forcibly removed from the country. The chase was a stunt set up to illustrate just how powerful and effective the Chinese government’s surveillance system can be. It’s a stark example of the type of monitoring that China has invested heavily in over ... Read More »

The missing Alzheimer’s pill

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When it comes to some of the biggest diseases America faces in the future, our drug system is set up to fail. DAVID H. FREEDMAN Politico What needs to happen? If there’s a dream of what a new drug is supposed to do, it might look something like Kalydeco. In 2012, the new light-blue pill from Vertex Pharmaceuticals rocked the world of cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that affects 30,000 people in the United State. It’s best known for its ... Read More »

Huntington’s breakthrough may stop disease

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The defect that causes the neurodegenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time, the BBC has learned. An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain. The research team, at University College London, say there is now hope the deadly disease can be stopped. Experts say it could be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Huntington’s is one of the most devastating diseases. Some patients described it ... Read More »

Air pollution linked to poor sperm quality

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Study finds ‘strong association’ between high levels of fine particulate matter and abnormal sperm shape – but impact on wider fertility remains unclear Matthew Taylor The Guardian High levels of air pollution are associated with poor sperm quality and could be partly responsible for the sharp drop in male fertility, according to a new study. A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied the sperm of nearly 6,500 men and found a “strong ... Read More »

How a Native American tribe came to own one of the world’s most valuable patents

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Allergan, the drugmaker behind Botox, is using an unprecedented tactic to protect its valuable patents – angering lawyers and politicians, and keeping the price of its medicines high. Luke McDonagh The Conversation There has long been a debate about patents and traditional knowledge in developing countries. Pharmaceutical companies in the West, like Allergan, are often accused of “bio-prospecting”. They collect raw samples of traditional medicines and plants, whose healing properties have been known to locals for centuries, and patent modified ... Read More »

How a DNA revolution has decoded the origins of our humanity

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Mapping the genomes of our ancestors has allowed scientists to uncover secrets and discover new mysteries in our evolution Robin McKie, Observer science editor The Guardian cientists made a remarkable discovery at Trou Al’Wesse in Belgium earlier this year. Inside a cave that overlooks the Hoyoux river they found clear evidence it had been occupied by Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago. Yet the cave contained no skull fragments, no teeth – nor any other skeletal remains of this extinct species ... Read More »

Message to the gods: the space poetry that transcends human rivalries

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Sputnik 1 started it all. The beachball-sized satellite was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 and, despite a relatively short mission of only 21 days in orbit around Earth, quickly became regarded as a device that changed the world. Phil Leonard The Conversation It represented the beginning of the Space Age – and immediately heightened tensions between the US and the USSR, prompting fears about the weaponising of space. But Sputnik, and the missions that were to ... Read More »

Why is it nice to be nice? Solving Darwin’s puzzle of kindness

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World Kindness Day is a global 24-hour celebration dedicated to paying-it-forward and focusing on the good Eva M Krockow Andrew M Colman Briony Pulford We are encouraged to perform acts of kindness such as giving blood, cleaning a communal microwave at work, or volunteering at a nursing home. The Conversation Of course, even without the encouragement of an international awareness day, kindness and selflessness are widespread among both humans and animals. Many people donate to charity and feel significantly happier ... Read More »

Radical new approach to schizophrenia treatment begins trial

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Exclusive: as evidence emerges that schizophrenia could be an immune system disease, two-year trial will use antibody drug currently used for MS Hannah Devlin The Guardian British scientists have begun testing a radically new approach to treating schizophrenia based on emerging evidence that it could be a disease of the immune system. The first patient, a 33-year old man who developed schizophrenia after moving to London from Cameroon a decade ago, was treated at King’s College Hospital in London on ... Read More »