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Scientists find ‘off switch’ for HIV virus

hile there is no cure for lingering viral infections such as HIV and herpes, a recent study by Princeton University researchers suggests it may be possible to deactivate such viruses indefinitely with the flick of a genetic switch. The researchers studied how an HIV protein, called Tat, plays a major part in initiating and also interrupting the cascade of chemical reactions that leads to full-blown infection. Based on their work and previous studies by others, they have proposed that the Tat protein and the enzymes that modify it serve as a “resistor”. “Understanding how to activate the Tat resistor to interrupt the reactions leading to viral infection could one day have repercussions in both the lab and the clinic,” the researchers write in the journal Plos Biology.

Home arms to homicide

irearms are used to kill two out of every three homicide victims in America. In the first US-wide study to examine the relationship between household firearm ownership and state-level rates of homicide, researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that homicide rates among children, women and men of all ages are higher in states where more households have guns. The study appears in the February issue of the Social Science and Medicine. Respondents were asked whether any firearms were kept in or around their home. The survey found that approximately one in three American households reported firearm ownership.

Easier blood tests

cientists at Monash University, Australia, have developed a process for rapidly and efficiently separating blood plasma at the microscopic level without any moving parts, potentially allowing doctors to do blood tests without sending samples to a laboratory, the journal Biomicrofluids reports. The new method uses the same principle that causes tealeaves to accumulate at the centre of the bottom in a stirred teacup, a phenomenon first explained by Einstein. Separating blood plasma is an essential step in many common medical tests, including those for cholesterol and glucose levels, drugs in athletes and blood types in donors.

Nobel Prize boosts life span

ew research at the University of Warwick reveals that a Nobel Prize brings more than just cash and kudos — it can also add nearly two years to your life. The researchers wanted to find out whether social status alone can affect people’s well being and life span. The research is published this month in a study entitled Mortality and Immortality.

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