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Five recently discovered amazing facts in 2012

Updated on October 13, 2012

Latest Technologies Discovered

Malaria parasites resist drugs

Researchers from Thailand, Oxford and the US have found new evidence that the malaria parasite is becoming resistant to the most powerful drugs used to treat the disease. Fears about resistance to artemisinin-based compounds (derived from the Chinese plant Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood) were raised in 2009, when scientists in Cambodia found evidence that the treatment was becoming less effective. Previously, the drug had cleared the patient’s bloodstream of parasites in one-and-a-half days — hut in their trial, around half the patients were still testing positive up to five days later. Efforts were made to wipe out the drug- resistant strain, but these appear to have failed: similar signs of resistance are being observed hundreds of miles away on the Thailand-Burma border. There is now concern that the resistance will follow previous patterns, and spread across Asia and into Africa. “Anti-malarial control efforts are vitally dependent on artemisinin combination treatments,” say US scientists commenting on the latest research, published in The Lancer. “Should these regimens fail, no other drugs are ready for deployment, and drug development efforts are not expected to yield new antimalarials until the end of this decade.”

Poor sleep linked to diabetes

Shift workers and others with irregular sleep patterns may be at greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, says BBC Online. In a study in the US, 21 people were placed in a controlled environment where researchers determined when and for how long they could sleep, over a six- week period. At first they were allowed to sleep up to ten hours a night; then just 5.6 hours, with everyone sleeping at different times. (The lighting was kept dim, so that the subjects’ body clocks couldn’t tell if it was day or night.) Finally, everyone was allowed nine hours of sleep, at the normal time. The researchers found that during the period when the subjects slept less, at irregular times, their resting metabolic rate decreased. Their bodies also produced less insulin — a risk factor for diabetes — so that their blood sugar levels were higher after they ate. The researchers calculate that these changes would lead to people gaining more than l0 lbs a year, assuming they didn’t diet or take more exercise.

A new submarine spy

It’s not as suave as 007, but it’s more discreet: scientists backed by the US military have developed a new kind of spy which can patrol the oceans disguised as a jellyfish. The robot, known as robo-jelly, Consists of two silicone bell-like structures that fold and unfold like an umbrella, reports the New Scientist. Connecting the umbrella are “muscles” that contract to make the robo jelly move. It requires no batteries, as it is powered by the hydrogen and oxygen in seawater. These react with the robot’s platinum- powder coating to produce heat, and the only waste released is more water. “It can stay underwater and refuel itself while it is performing surveillance,” said lead author Yonas Tadesse, of the University of Texas at Dallas.

Don’t eat and drive

If you feel hungry when driving, pull over. New research has revealed that eating and drinking behind the wheel can be as dangerous as talking on a mobile phone, says The Daily Telegraph. In a study involving nine drivers using a simulator, researchers at the University of Leeds found that reaction times were 44% slower when eating than when driving with two hands, and 22% slower when drinking. Drivers were also 18% more likely to swerve into a neighbouring lane if they were drinking.

How to make men cuddly

Forger Viagra — there is evidence that a whiff of oxytocin not only boosts men’s sexual performance, hut makes them more affectionate, too, says the Daily Mail. A case report in The Journal of Sexual Medicine describes how a married father of three with social anxiety disorder was given oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone which helps new mothers bond with their babies) to help him develop social relationships. Spraying the chemical into his nose twice a day didn’t have much effect on his phobia, but it appears to have had a
remarkable impact Ofl his love life: both sexual desire and performance were significantly boosted. He said he felt closer to his wife, and even hugged a colleague, which was very “out of character”.


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