Latest research news

Pill that slashes the risk of breast cancer
A contraceptive pill that could reduce rather than increase the risk of breast cancer should be available within five years, scientists have said. It works by stopping periods altogether and would put an end to the symptoms of pre-menstrual tension. It could also reduce the chances of other problems such as endometriosis and cut the increased risk of heart disease in older women who are overweight or smoke and use oral contraception. Several groups of scientists and pharmaceutical companies are carrying out research on the use, as contraceptives, of anti-progesterone compounds, also known as progesterone receptor modulators.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent

Research backs theory that vitamin C shrinks tumours
New research suggesting that vitamin C can be effective in curing cancer will renew interest in the "alternative" treatment for the terminal disease. Three cancer patients who were given large intravenous doses over a period of several months had their lives extended and their tumours shrunk, doctors reported. A 49-year-old man diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer in 1996 was still alive and cancer-free nine years later, having declined chemotherapy and radiotherapy in favour of regular infusions of vitamin C.
The Independent

Green explosive is a friend of the Earth
A new type of explosive may make blowing things up a little more environmentally friendly, according to a new study. US researchers say they have developed "green" chemicals that could replace the lead-based primary explosives that are used to detonate everything from blasting caps to ballistic missiles. They also claim their process may make the manufacturing of such energetic compounds safer. Primary explosives are the relatively weak yet highly sensitive materials used to set off powerful explosions. Lead-based chemicals came into use for this purpose one hundred years ago to replace the even more toxic mercury fulminate.
New Scientist

A pill to beat fear?
Does the prospect of public speaking make you panic? Do you run for the hills at the mere mention of spiders? Help could be at hand: researchers have come up with a way to ease the crippling symptoms of phobia. The treatment, developed by a Swiss-led research team, could one day help sufferers to face their fear simply by popping a pill before facing a stressful situation. The researchers hope that it may even have permanent effects, by helping phobics deal with the daunting prospect of undergoing therapy in which they come face to face with their fears.
Nature

Chip ramps up neuron-to-computer communication
A specialised microchip that could communicate with thousands of individual brain cells has been developed by European scientists. The device will help researchers examine the workings of interconnected brain cells, and might one day enable them to develop computers that use live neurons for memory. The computer chip is capable of receiving signals from more than 16,000 mammalian brain cells, and sending messages back to several hundred cells. Previous neuron-computer interfaces have either connected to far fewer individual neurons, or to groups of neurons clumped together.
New Scientist

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