02/02/2012

Malaria drug production
Artemisinin Combination Therapy, or ACT, is the worldwide standard for Malaria therapy. The active compound, artemisinin, comes from a tree, and can only be extracted in small amounts, which has always limited production of the drug and meant prices are high. Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Germany have developed a way to make it which could cut production costs by a third. Using a process called "flow chemistry" the scientists calculate they could increase yields tenfold. Kevin Booker-Milburn, a Professor of Synthetic Chemistry and a flow chemistry expert at the University of Bristol, joins Jon Stewart on the programme to explain how the new process works.

Microplastics
Plastic waste is accumulating in the marine environment across the world. That may not be a surprise to anyone who has ever seen old bottles or bags littering the beach, but its reach could be further than that, according to research just published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Researchers say that we should also be worried about what they are calling microplastic waste, which could come from larger bit of plastic being broken up, or from synthetic clothes. Apparently polyester and nylon garments can release up to 1,900 tiny fibres every time they are washed. Marine Biologist, Professor Richard Thompson has collected samples from beaches from around the world and says he has found similar plastics on every continent.

Mind reading
When we hear something sound waves that reach our ears are converted to electrical impulses and sent to out brains for interpretation. Now scientists have reversed that process - effectively reading minds. Using sensors on the brains of subjects, they have managed to figure out what they were listening to. The research from the University of California, Berkeley, could one day lead to new ways to communicate with patients in a coma, for example. Professor Sophie Scott from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, came into the Science in Action studios to explain more.

Brain Size and friendship
Could the size of your brain show how many friends you have? A new study suggests that it does. Published in the Royal Society Proceedings B journal, the research shows that people who have a larger "orbital prefrontal cortex", the area just above the eyes, have more friendships. Professor Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford led the team behind the work.

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Sun 5 Feb 2012 00:32 GMT

Gravitational Waves

'Ripples' from black holes detected

Gravity and ripples in the fabric of space time - what do these mean for us?