This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a program in VOA Special
English. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Shirley Griffith. This week, we will
tell about a study involving monkeys and a gene from jellyfish. We will tell about an agreement to ban nine dangerous
chemicals. We will also report on problems
linked to cigarette smoking and alcoholic drinks.
in Japan say they have produced monkeys with a gene that gives the skin of the
animals an unusual look. The skin is
said to look bright green under ultraviolet lighting.
scientists say the monkeys represent an important step in how researchers study
human disease. These marmosets are the
first fully transgenic primates.
Primates are the biological group of animals that includes monkeys and
apes. An animal that has received
foreign genetic material is considered transgenic.
almost thirty years, researchers have used transgenic mice to carry out
biomedical research. To produce these
animals, researchers inject fertilized mice eggs with foreign genes, and then
place them in the uterus of a female mouse.
The specially chosen genes are then expressed in some of the mouse's
mice help researchers study the appearance and treatment of human diseases. But mice are not as helpful as primates are
for studying the behavior of human diseases.
Scientists at Japan's Central Institute for Experimental
Animals led the study that made the transgenic marmosets. The scientists say they injected a green
glowing protein found in jellyfish into fertilized marmoset eggs. They chose this gene because it is easy to
see with a fluorescent light.
of the five marmosets born as part of the experiment carried the foreign gene in
several kinds of tissue. The fifth only
carried the green protein in its placenta tissue at birth. Two of the animals later showed the foreign
gene in their reproductive cells. This
means they would pass on the gene for the green protein to their young.
Later, a male
transgenic marmoset reproduced and passed on the green gene to a baby. This is the first time scientists have
successfully passed on a foreign gene to a future generation. And, it means that transgenic marmosets can be
produced from breeding instead of by the lengthy process of injecting
scientists say the marmosets could one day be easily produced for medical
research. They could be used to study
conditions like Parkinson's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. A report about the experiment was published
last month in Nature magazine.
Officials from more than one hundred sixty governments have
agreed to ban production of nine of the world's most dangerous chemicals. The agreement was announced last month at a
United Nations conference in Switzerland.
chemicals are joining twelve other substances that are already banned under a treaty
known as the Stockholm Convention. The
treaty was signed in two thousand one.
The Stockholm Convention governs some kinds of industrial
chemicals and pesticides -- products meant to kill insects. These substances can damage the human nervous system
and natural defenses against disease.
They have also been linked to cancer, reproductive disorders and interfere
with normal child development. The
substances can also kill people.
Donald Cooper is Executive
Secretary of the Stockholm Convention.
He says the substances are especially dangerous because they travel
through the air and stay in the atmosphere, soil and water. It takes many years for them to weaken. Mister Cooper says the substances build up in
the cells of plants, animals and human beings.
One of the newly banned chemicals is perflurooctane
sulfonic acid, or PFOS. It is found in
electrical parts and fire-fighting products.
Another banned chemical is the pesticide Lindane. It is used in some areas as a treatment for
governments at the U.N. conference also reached a decision on another pesticide,
DDT. They said they want DDT banned, but
recognize that some countries use it to protect people from diseases like
malaria. The governments said they will
consider a plan that supports safer, effective choices to DDT. And, they hope to ban its use by two thousand
obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as C.O.P.D., blocks airflow through
the lungs. It makes breathing difficult.
The leading cause is cigarette smoking. America's National Institutes of Health says
the damage to the lungs cannot be repaired and there is no cure.
Dawn DeMeo is an assistant professor at
Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.
DAWN DeMEO: "By two thousand and twenty, C.O.P.D. will likely
be the third leading cause of death across the world."
C.O.P.D. is a new name for emphysema and chronic
bronchitis. These are the two most
common forms of the disease. Many people
with C.O.P.D. have both of them.
DeMeo wrote about a study by a team from Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital
and the University of Bergen in Norway. The
study adds to findings that women may be more at risk than men for the damaging
effects of smoking.
The team examined results from a
Norwegian study of more than nine hundred people with C.O.P.D. Inga-Cecilie Soerheim
also wrote about the team's findings. She
says they show that women suffered the same severity of C.O.P.D. as men. But, the female smokers were younger and had
smoked a lot less.
team also looked at two groups among the people in the study. These were people under the age of sixty and
those who had smoked for less than twenty years. In both cases, women had more severe C.O.P.D.
and a greater loss of lung function than men.
The study was presented last month to the American
Soerheim says there are several possible explanations why women may be more at
risk from the effects of cigarette smoke than men. Women have smaller airways, she says, so each
cigarette may do more harm. Also, there
are differences between males and females in the way the body processes
cigarette smoke. And, she says, genes
and hormones could also play an important part.
a listener in Taiwan wrote to ask why his face turns red when he drinks
alcohol. This effect called facial
flushing is a common reaction to alcohol among East Asians. It affects an estimated thirty-six percent of
Japanese, Chinese and Koreans.
For many people, even a little alcohol
can cause unpleasant effects. Most
commonly, their face, neck and sometimes their whole body turns red. People might also feel sick to their stomach
and lightheaded. They might experience a
burning sensation, increased heart rate, shortness of breath and headaches.
The cause is a genetic difference that some people are
born with. It prevents their bodies from
processing alcohol the way other people do. But the effects might be more serious than
just a red face. Researchers have warned
of a link between this condition and an increased risk of cancer of the
esophagus from drinking alcohol.
A report about facial flushing appeared recently in PLoS
Medicine, a publication of the Public Library of Science. The report says the more alcohol that persons
with this deficiency drink, the greater their risk. It estimates that at least five hundred forty
million people have the deficiency.
cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. It
can be treated when found early. But
once it grows the chances of survival drop sharply.
Brooks is a researcher at America's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism. Doctor Brooks says it is
important to educate people about the link between the alcohol flushing effect
and esophageal cancer. He says doctors
should ask East Asian patients about their experiences with facial flushing
after drinking alcohol. Those with a
history of it should be advised to limit their alcohol use. They should also be warned that cigarette
smoking works with the alcohol in a way that further increases the risk of
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Lawan Davis, Dana Demange and June Simms. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Bob
Doughty. Join us again next
week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.