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PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2008, 12:00am

At cell level

Harvard researchers have created stem cells for 10 genetic disorders, including Parkinson's and Down's syndrome, enabling them to watch the diseases develop in a laboratory and possibly find cures. Team leader George Daley says they'll make the cell lines available to other researchers. The new cells will enable them to see 'what goes right or wrong', AP reports.

Silence of the genes

Meanwhile, other Harvard researchers have come up with a so-called gene-silencing technique that completely blocks the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in mice, offering hope for the development of a powerful new therapy with few side effects. The technique uses tiny pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) to target specific genes and make them inoperative. In laboratory tests it has successfully shut down HIV and infected T-cells. Treated mice showed no signs of the virus 'for a long period of time', according to WebMD.

Kindest cut

Circumcision may protect men from HIV more effectively than previously thought and partially protect them from one sexually transmitted disease, according to two milestone Africa-based studies. Robert Bailey of the University of Illinois says circumcised men are 60 per cent less likely to contract HIV after two years, and 65 per cent less likely after four. And Dirk Taljaard says his trial in South Africa suggest that circumcised men are 36 per cent less likely to contract the human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cancer, AFP reports.

Smoking gun

People with a particular genetic variation are more likely to become lifelong smokers, say University of Michigan researchers, following a study of almost 500 people. Variations in the so-called nicotine-receptor gene CHRNA5 have been linked to dependence levels, the number of cigarettes smoked, and increased risk of lung cancer, reports.

Digging in the past

Adults being treated for severe mental disorders, particularly personality issues, often suffered greater than normal stress as children, say German researchers, based on studies of about 125 people. The University of Konstanz study is the latest suggesting that traumatic or adverse experiences in childhood can influence adult mental health, Reuters reports.

Keeping abreast of issues

British researchers say children who were breastfed appear to cope with stress and anxiety more effectively by the time they reach school age. Studies of almost 9,000 aged five to 10 show that those who hadn't been breastfed and whose parents divorced or separated were 9.4 times more likely to be highly anxious, reports.


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