Published: Friday 15 October 2004

no fishy treatment: A human blood clotting agent required for treating haemophilia and serious bleeding has been produced using genetically modified fish by researchers from the University of Southampton, the UK. There is still a long way to go before the product reaches the market, but if the project is a commercial success, many other proteins might be made this way.

more than just beautiful: Hibiscus flower extract may have the same health benefits as red wine and tea, according to new research by scientists in Taiwan. Hibiscus contains antioxidants that help control cholesterol levels and reduce heart diseases, says Chau-Jong Wang and his team at Chung Shan Medical University. The scientists have found that the antioxidant properties of flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds and anthocyanins contained in the flower can prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, which are associated with heart diseases.

genes and means: A genetic trait enabling some Tibetan women to achieve relatively high oxygen levels in their blood, despite living at oxygen-scarce altitudes, is associated with higher infant survival, according to an international team of researchers. They have found that Tibetan mothers who have oxygen-enriching gene(s) give birth to infants who are more likely to survive their first year of life than those who lack the genes. This implies that infants getting more oxygen supply in the womb are born healthy, and hence survive.

styrene put to good use: Scientists from UK-based University College Dublin have discovered a bacterial strain that uses styrene, a toxic byproduct of the polystyrene industry, as fuel to make a type of biodegradable plastic polymer called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA).

The polystyrene industry manufactures styrofoam, used for making disposable cups and plates. The slow rate of degradation of styrene means that it can last thousands of years in our environment. To tackle the problem, the Irish scientists turned to a species of bacterium, Pseudomonas putida, that occurs naturally in soil and can live on styrene. They grew it in a bioreactor with styrene as the sole source of carbon and energy. Their efforts resulted in the isolation of the styrene-eating P putida strain CA-3, which converts styrene into PHA.

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