Bird flu breakthrough Japanese scientists have developed a prototype multi-virus flu vaccine they say is effective against the deadly H5N1 bird flu and will work even if viruses mutate. The researchers, from Hokkaido and Saitama medical universities and NOF Corp, have successfully tested the drug on mice implanted with human genes, but a commercial version is several years away, AFP reports. Unlike other flu vaccines, the prototype attacks stable proteins inside the viruses, rather than those outside, which typically mutate. Stem cells help combat MS US researchers have reversed multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms using chemotherapy and bone-marrow stem cells to destroy and then rebuild patients' immune systems. The technique, devised by a team from Chicago's Northwestern University, was used on 21 people with early-stage MS who hadn't responded to standard drug treatment. After three years, 17 had improved by at least some degree and all had stabilised, Reuters reports. Food for thought Cutting back on calories may significantly boost older people's memories, say German researchers, based on a three-month study of 50 normal and overweight people aged about 60. Diets low in calories but rich in unsaturated fatty acids have been shown to improve the memories of ageing rats, and the University of Muenster team wanted to see if that occurred in humans, Reuters reports. Those whose calorie intake was cut by almost one-third showed a 20 per cent average increase in so-called verbal memory scores and lower insulin levels. Acupuncture for the armed forces The US Air Force has begun training 44 combat doctors to use acupuncture for emergency care in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. So-called battlefield acupuncture is based on traditional ear acupuncture, but uses short needles that fit under combat helmets, so that soldiers can continue their missions, AP reports. Richard Niemtzow, who runs an acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, and who devised the technique, says most patients report pain relief within minutes. He says it's 'remarkable' that a conservative institution such as the military has adopted and adapted the ancient Chinese treatment. Heart-worming news By studying worms that can survive with almost no oxygen, Washington University researchers hope to devise a drug to counter the worst effects of heart attacks and strokes, when cells are starved of oxygen. They've found a gene in Caenorhabditis elegans worms that allows them to live in low-oxygen atmospheres that kill other worms. It appears to help slow cells when oxygen levels fall, Reuters reports. Squid shed light on new drugs University of Wisconsin researchers have identified a gene in glowing bacteria used by tiny squid and reef fish to hunt at night that may pave the way for powerful new antibiotics. A key difference between the two strains of Vibrio fischeri bacteria, which enables them to live in bobtail squid and pinecone fish, provides a clue to new ways to attack bacteria, AFP reports. Helping hand for the prostate gland Masturbation has been linked to a higher risk of early prostate cancer, say researchers from the University of Nottingham, based on studies of 840 men. Sex appears to have no association, but masturbating two to seven times a week does: men in their 20s who masturbated that often had a 79 per cent higher risk of cancer by their 60s than those who did so less than once a month. But men in their 50s who masturbated one or more times a week had a 70 per cent lower risk than those who didn't. High levels of male sex hormones have been linked to higher cancer risks, WebMD reports.