Code breaking success
Last week scientists announced the end of the race to crack the human genetic code. After years of work by thousands of researchers across the world, scientists revealed that they have read all three billion 'letters' of the genome. Dr Peter Little, department of biochemistry, compared it to Christopher Columbus arriving in America. He told the Daily Mail (26 June): "It was an exciting moment but actually the world didn't change. But now, when you look at who is living and working in America, you realise the importance of what had been discovered."
Leaning tower safe to climb
Reported in most of the national media, the first visitors for 10 years were recently invited to climb the steps of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was a proud moment for Professor John Burland, civil and environmental engineering, who put forward the idea of removing soil from one side of the tower so that it would sink back and straighten slightly. Since digging started in February the tower has straightened by six inches. However, Professor Burland spoke with an air of caution to the press and warned that most of the hard work was still ahead. "You don't wave a flag and shout you have climbed Everest when you are only a third of the way up," he said.
One in 200 children in Britain is allergic to nuts. Only 40 years ago, such allergies were almost unheard of. The Guardian (24/6/00) carried a feature looking at this increase in allergies. According to the dominant school of thought today, it reported, children may be becoming increasingly sensitive after encountering peanut proteins in the womb as a result of the mother eating nuts during pregnancy, or through breast milk. Paediatric allergy specialist, Dr Gideon Lack, division of paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, St Mary's, told the Guardian that there is no evidence to support this theory. "If you look at studies of interventional diets, where mothers have had to avoid commonly allergenic foods during the last trimester of pregnancy and during breastfeeding, there's no data to show that these children develop less allergy to these foods," he said. "At the moment, I don't believe we have enough information on which foods to ban from mothers' and children's diets. Children should not eat peanuts and nuts because they can choke on them. There's no evidence that it's harmful for a one-year-old to eat peanut butter."
The role of the gasman
Anaesthetists do much more than give injections, argued Andrew Lawson, division of surgery, anaesthetics and intensive care, Chelsea and Westminster campus, in an article he wrote for the Times (27/6/00). "Nobody comes to hospital for an anaesthetic, so people forget our role," he lamented. In an attempt to dispel the assertion that a low profile reflects a lack of importance, he illustrated the complex process of anaesthesia.