Science Podcasts

Naked Scientists episode

Sun, 30th Jan 2011

Leprosy: The Low Down

24 year old man from Norway, suffering from leprosy (c) Pierre Arents

Leprosy goes under the microscope this week as we uncover the origins of one of the oldest known human diseases, recognised this week on World Leprosy Day. A quarter of a million new cases are diagnosed every year, but how is the illness spreading, what damage does it do to the body and can it be stopped? We also hear what archaeologists are unearthing about the history of leprosy and where it came from in the first place. Plus, why it's time to rethink the workings of the circadian clock, brain scans for bilingualism, cow-stomach bacterial genes for biofuels, and the engineering that lies behind the cat's eye...

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 01:53 - Resetting the Circadian Clock

    Biological clocks play an essential role in physiology and in controlling behaviour Ė from regulating sleep cycles in animals to balancing photosynthesis in plants. Now, research published in Nature suggests that our model of how the clock works might be wrong...

  • 04:46 - Chewing the cud (and how it got there)

    Researchers in America this week have dramatically enlarged the catalogue of known genes which allow an organism to break down plants. This new information could be very useful in producing biofuel from plant matter.

  • 06:08 - Rapid Change in Bacterial Genome

    New research sheds light on how some bacteria are capable of extremely quick genetic change, incorporating whole sections of DNA from other cells to evade our immune system and invalidate our vaccines...

  • 13:09 - Many heads are better than one

    Animals come to better decisions more quickly in larger groups, according to research published in the journal PNAS this week...

  • 16:02 - Brain activity can demonstrate how fast a second language is learned

    This week teams in both Hong Kong and Chicago have found that the levels of activity in two specific areas of the brain can be used to predict how well someone is learning a second language.

  • 18:05 - Planet Earth Online - The Music Of Earthquakes

    In todayís world, it can seem as if there were more earthquakes than ever before and scientists at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh are often being asked whether earthquakes are becoming more frequent. Planet Earth Podcast presenter Richard Hollingham went to talk to ...

  • 23:16 - Naked Engineering - Cat's Eyes and Retroreflectors

    Whilst driving on motorways or busy roads at night, many of us will have noticed the small beacons of light in the middle of the road that help to position and guide us on our travels. You probably know that these are called catís eyes and this week, Meera and Dave have been ou...

  • 31:15 - Leprosy in the World Today

    Leprosy is caused by an infection of Mycobacterium bacteria, the same family as the pathogens that cause TB. Most people here in the UK think of leprosy as a medieval disease, one long since wiped out, but sadly, that's not the case. Leprosy still affects people worldwide and ...

  • 38:18 - Leprosy in the Past - the Story in the Bones

    To help us understand leprosy, itís important to look into the past and see what evidence we can find from when and where itís prevalent. One way to do this is to look for the marks it leaves on the bones. Diana O'Carroll spoke to Professor Charlotte Roberts, a Bioarchaeologis...

  • 44:38 - Does leprosy interact with TB and other diseases?

    I've heard that the BCG vaccine can actually give you some protection against leprosy Ė that's the vaccine against TB. So, what's the relationship between leprosy and TB in the past?



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