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Eat less live longer–20 year research on primates revealed;test tube sperm,is it the end of men? Coral reefs at risk; how chimps learn by watching videos; can man’s best friend be replaced by a robot?

Two major research breakthroughs on delaying the aging process have emerged this week.

One group of researchers has found that a drug normally given to humans to prevent organ rejection after transplantation has increased the lifespan of mice by up to 14 percent. Rapamycin seems to mimic the effect of eating less food on a long term basis – what scientists call Caloric Restriction or CR.

CR has been shown to extend the natural lifespan of fruit flies and rats but this week, another team of scientists, revealed for the first time that eating less slows down ageing in non-human primates – rhesus monkeys to be precise.

Eating less not only keeps the animals younger-looking and acting, but also much healthier, reduces their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other age related conditions.

Scientists in the UK believe they have been able to create sperm in the lab – in a move that could eventually help infertile men have children. The same team managed do similar work in mice some years ago.

The new work uses human embryonic stem cells. Now, for the first time, the scientists claim to have been able to make them transform into sperm – cells that can give rise to a whole new body.

The work made the headlines, and it’s easy to imagine why. The potential, as we’ll hear, of an advance like this is huge, and it’s raised some concerns about creating human life in a test tube.

Coral Reefs provide shelter for fish populations and protect shorelines.
This week there was a warning that coral reef survival around the world is on a knife edge. The warning that we are close to losing them came from an international meeting organised by the Zoological Society of London.

Chimpanzees, it seems, are copy cats. They are able to build their own tools after watching a video demonstration. This was a test of what’s known as social learning – to figure out how well chimps learn from each other.

Can virtual reality ever replace the real thing? Engineers are offering us alternatives - from robotic pets to artificial views, but maybe there really is nothing better than nature.

Scientists in the US have been investigating. Jon Stewart went to visit them to find out more.

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Sun 12 Jul 2009 03:32GMT


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