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Words in the News
Wednesday 25 December 2002
Vocabulary from the news. Listen to and read the report then find explanations of difficult words below.

Silkworms help surgery
Summary: Scientists in Japan have genetically engineered silkworms to produce the substance collagen, which is used in cosmetic surgery. They say that these silkworms are a good way to make different materials for use in medicine, including perhaps ways of reducing the risk of HIV infection. This report from Richard Black.
The News Listen  
  Scientists at Hiroshima University inserted human collagen genes into the DNA of silkworm eggs. In due time the eggs hatched and the worms began spinning their cocoons - but these cocoons included not just silk, but collagen too. Collagen is widely used in cosmetic surgery, but also for re-constructing damaged flesh - currently most of it comes from cows, but the Hiroshima researchers have calculated that making human collagen from silkworms would be commercially viable.

But potentially they could produce many other useful things too. Some researchers are developing GM silkworms to make drugs for thinning the blood; other scientists believe they could produce substances able to reduce the risk of HIV infection. In many countries researchers are developing genetically modified farm animals such as sheep to make the drugs of the future. But in many Asian countries such as Japan, where there's a tradition of silk production and limited space for keeping animals, the humble silkworm could be a better option.

Richard Black, BBC science correspondent

The Words Listen
put something inside something else

when an egg or cocoon hatches, it opens and the animal that is growing inside comes out

a soft shell made by an insect to protect it while it is growing

  widely used
often used in many places

  cosmetic surgery
operations which are performed not for medical reasons but because people want to change the way they look

  commercially viable
if something is commercially viable then it can be produced and sold and will make a profit

  GM – (genetically modified)
something that is genetically modified has had its genes changed so that it grows and develops in a particular way

  a tradition of
a history of, something that has been done for many years

  limited space
where there is not much room

  a better option
a more suitable choice

  Read more about this story  

Other Words in the News archives


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