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Science
LEADING EDGE
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Leading Edge brings you the latest news from the world of science. Geoff Watts celebrates discoveries as soon as they're being talked about - on the internet, in coffee rooms and bars; often before they're published in journals. And he gets to grips with not just the science, but with the controversies and conversation that surround it.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 14 September
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GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
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Thursday 14 September 2006
Chickens for sale in a market in China
Leading Edge discovers why avian flu is so lethal to humans

NEANDERTHALS AND HUMANS LIVED SIDE BY SIDE 

Neanderthals survived in Europe for thousands of years after the arrival of modern humans according to evidence from what appears to be their last refuge.

Excavations in Goram's Cave in Gibraltar have dated Neanderthal artefacts to as recently as 24,000 years ago. The consensus had previously been that Neanderthals died out not later than 35,000 years ago.

The discovery reported in Nature suggests that the arrival of modern humans might not have caused the demise of Neanderthals and the two species peacefully coexisted.

So did we make love not war with our ancient cousins? Geoff Watts talks to Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, to find out more about the finds.

WHY IS AVIAN FLU SO LETHAL TO HUMANS?

Of 244 cases of bird flu confirmed by the World Health Organisation, 143 patients have died.

Why is bird flu so lethal if it's caught by humans?

Dr Malik Peiris from the University of Hong Kong was part of a Vietnamese team looking at the difference between deaths from human flu and bird flu in people.

Their studies suggest the human immune response is out of control in bird flu causing pneumonia type symptoms and often death.

Geoff finds out how their research might help in the treatment of any possible bird flu pandemic.

AIR TRAVEL AND THE SPREAD OF FLU

After the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre, air travel to and from the United States was drastically limited.

This week researchers studying the patterns of flu across different seasons noticed both the spread of flu across the country was reduced and its onset delayed by this restriction of flights.

This week they publish their findings. Could there be a lesson here for controlling any future global flu pandemic? Jon Stewart reports

SLIME MOULD

Also this week, how is a creature that normally forages the forest floor for bacteria helping biologists develop treatments for human disease?

Dictyostelium is an example of a curious slime mould. When threatened by starvation, hundreds of thousands of individual cells get together to form a curious 'fruiting body'.

Geoff Watts talks to Robin Williams from University College London who tells him how understanding this curious social behaviour is helping develop treatments for illnesses like manic depression and epilepsy.
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