Published: Monday 31 May 2004

only mother's son: Japanese and Korean scientists have created a mouse without using a sperm. The feat is akin to the birth of Dolly, the world's first cloned mammal. Bees, ants, aphids, some fish and reptiles reproduce without having sex in a process called parthenogenesis. But creating a living mammal from same sex parents was thought to be impossible. The birth of Kaguya, the daughter of two female mice, proves otherwise.

hapkeite's discovery: A chunk of Moon that landed on Earth as a meteorite contains a new lunar mineral. Grains of the substance consist of iron and silicon. Scientists from the University of Tennessee, USA, have named the substance Hapkeite after Bruce Hapke, a researcher who predicted the existence of iron and silicon compounds on Moon 30 years ago. Hapkeite has the chemical formula Fe2Si, indicating the presence of two atoms of iron to one of silicon. Some iron-silicon minerals are also formed on Earth when lightning strikes, but their composition is different from that Hapkeite.

brewing the coffee map: Brazilian scientists have mapped the genome of the arabica coffee plant, deciphering 200,000 genetic sequences of its DNA. These sequences represent just two per cent of the plant's genome, but they will permit the identification of 30,000 to 35,000 genes. This is enough to provide a good idea of how the plant species evolved. The feat could help develop better coffee plants. It would be of particular help to Brazil, the world's leading producer and exporter of the commodity.

double is trouble: Rick A Relyea, a biologist at USA's University of Pittsburgh, has found that standard toxicology may greatly underestimate the affect of pesticides on frogs. According to him, carbaryl, a commonly used pesticide, is up to 46 times more lethal to tadpoles when it is combined with another stressor: presence of predators. During his study, Relyea kept tadpoles in water tanks containing varied levels of carbaryl. Concentrations considered harmless for standard testing had no affects on the animals. But many of the creatures died when they were exposed to the contaminated water along with tadpole eaters, the red-spotted newts.

deadly link: El Nio is responsible for the very high rates of hepatitis A in Australia, as per researchers from Queensland University of Technology. They analysed the country's incidence of hepatitis A from January 1991 to December 2000. They also studied the intensity of Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), a measure of El Nio. Comparison of both the results showed that years with intense SOI even had very high rates of the disease transmission.

cheaper aids drug: Chinese authorities have for the first time approved the use of a traditional medicine to treat AIDS. The country's State Food and Drug Administration recently licensed the medicine called tangcaopian. The drug increases levels of CD4 immune cells in AIDS patients. This implies that it strengthens their immune response to the HIV virus. Its cost is US $725 per patient every year, which is much less than the US $2,400 expense incurred for the generic AIDS drugs available in Chinese markets at present.

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