• 14/03/2006

corrosive oceans: Increased carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly making the world's oceans more acidic. If this continues it could cause mass extinction of marine life similar to that which occurred 65 million years ago when dinosaurs disappeared, according to Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology.

The new finding, based on computer models, offers a glimpse of what the future might hold for ocean life if humans do not drastically curb carbon dioxide emissions. Marine animals, such as corals that use calcium carbonate to make their shells, would be at the greatest risk.

quick vaccine: Using cell-based methods, researchers have developed a commercially viable technique to mass produce effective vaccines against potential pandemic influenza strains in weeks instead of the months required for traditional egg-based vaccines.

According to Keyang Wang, a scientist at the Protein Sciences Corporation in the US who was involved with the study, the traditional method requires three to six months to develop the vaccine. With the cell-based method a matched vaccine can be mass produced within just four weeks as soon as the pandemic strain is identified.

colour gene: Zebrafish darting around an aquarium have led researchers to a gene that may play an important role in determining human skin colour, an attribute that has served as a basis for social discrimination through the ages.

Keith Cheng of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in the US and colleagues searching for cancer genes in zebrafish noticed that pigment cells in a peculiar golden variety of the fish looked like pigment cells from light-skinned humans. This human-fish similarity motivated the researchers to track down the zebrafish gene responsible for the golden hue and lighter-than-usual stripes. The scientists then identified the human version of the gene.

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