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     Volume 4 Issue 42 | April 16, 2005 |

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Ouchless Injections
There is good news for people who are terrified at the sight of an injection, which makes a visit to the doctor's clinic for immunisation vaccines or other drugs, an ordeal. A new MicroJet injector being developed by bioengineering students at the University of California, Berkeley, may help ease some of that dread by taking the needle and the pain out of the equation. The MicroJet uses an electronic actuator that could one day propel vaccinations, insulin or other drugs through the skin of the patient - without the device even touching the skin - with far less pain than a hypodermic needle. "The World Health Organisation advocates developing needleless drug delivery technologies because of the problems of contamination and disposal that go along with hypodermic needles," said Laleh Jalilian, one of the three UC Berkeley bioengineering undergraduates on the project. "There are other jet injectors on the market but they are plagued by variability in the percentage of liquid delivered, which means that it is difficult to know exactly how much of the drug actually gets into the patient. The MicroJet we are developing uses a tunable electronic circuit to offer a finer level of control than the air- and spring-powered models available now."

Computer+Overuse=Kids Poor in Studies
A new study suggests that the less students use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and maths. The team analysed the achievements and home backgrounds of 100,000 15-year-olds in 31 countries taking part in the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) study in 2000 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. They found that being able to use a computer at work - one of the justifications for devoting so much teaching time to ICT (information and communications technology) - had no greater impact on employability or wage levels than being able to use a telephone or a pencil. "Despite numerous claims by politicians and software vendors to the contrary, the evidence so far suggests that computer use in schools does not seem to contribute substantially to students' learning of basic skills such as maths or reading," the authors of the study said. The more access pupils had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they diverted attention from homework. Pupils tended to do worse in schools generously equipped with computers, apparently because computerised instruction replaced more effective forms of teaching.

No Black Holes!
Black holes have been the centre of science fiction novels and many think astronomers have observed them indirectly. But according to a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, these awesome breaches in space-time do not and indeed cannot exist. Over the past few years, observations of the motions of galaxies have shown that some 70 percent the Universe seems to be composed of a strange 'dark energy' that is driving the Universe's accelerating expansion. George Chapline thinks that the collapse of the massive stars, which was long believed to generate black holes, actually leads to the formation of stars that contain dark energy. "It's a near certainty that black holes don't exist," he was quoted by Nature as saying. Black holes are one of the most celebrated predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity, which explains gravity as the warping of space-time caused by massive objects. The theory suggests that a sufficiently massive star, when it dies, will collapse under its own gravity to a single point. It is a near certainty that black holes don't exist.

Technology Threatens
Doctor-patient Relationships
Family doctors no more play the role of a 'father figure', with most patients increasingly turning to the Internet for medical advice, a new study reveals. Elaine Brohan, a psychologist from the University of Surrey in Guildford, conducted in-depth interviews with nine rural and urban GPs in Ireland and found that patients had acquired enough medical knowledge from the Internet and were confronting doctors showing them web site print-outs. Presenting her findings at the British Psychological Society's conference at the University of Manchester, Brohan said that in the past, a GP represented the face of authority, but doctors were switching from being a 'father figure' to a 'facilitator'. The study suggested that doctors are now providing guidance and advice rather than acting as the source of all medical knowledge, because patients were already crammed with information.

Key to Immortality
In a new study, researchers at the University of Sydney believe they may be able to significantly increase people's lifespans by learning why cancer cells are immortal. "They never die. They'll go on forever. Cancer cells survive at the expense of every other cell in the body. The cancer cells take all the nutrients and the rest of the body goes through organ failure and death," said lead researcher Brian Morris. He added that a molecule in cancer cells called tolomerase which prevented the degradation of tolemeres - or protective caps at the end of chromosomes - was believed responsible for keeping the cells alive. "Some people suggest that by over-expressing tolomerase in all cells in the body, maybe we could make humans ... immortal. If it can be applied in a totally regulated, controlled manner to all cells of the body, we could massively extend the human lifespan," he added.

Source: Google, Webindia123 and Scientific America.

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

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