Planting Vaccines, Detecting Lies and Paternal Men

A round up the week's science news including the planting of vaccines, lie detection, elements at risk and testosterone levels in fathers...
18 September 2011

Interview with 

Brian Ward, McGill University; Frances Wall, University of Exeter; Prashant Pillai, University of Bradford; Hassan Yugail, University of Bradford; Christopher Kuzawa, Northwestern University.


Planting Vaccines

A field of tobacco plants in Chatham, VA Meera - Tobacco plants could hold the key to large scale production of flu vaccines in the future.

In research unveiled at the ESWI conference on Influenza in Malta this week, Canadian biotech company Medicago add genes encoding the outer coat of the influenza virus to tobacco plants. These produce immune stimulating particles that resemble the flu virus but are devoid of any infectious content. Professor Brian Ward is Medicago's medical officer...

Brian -   The viral protein then migrates to the surface of the plant cell and it auto assembles into this small virus-like particles that look, from the outside, like a virus but have nothing on the inside.


Elemental risk List

Mobile PhoneMeera - The British Geological survey have published a 'risk list' of 52 chemical elements that could soon be in short supply.

Abundance, location of reserves and political stability of countries mining the elements were taken into account in compiling the list at the top of which were metals like platinum, tungsten, and the rare earth elements. From the university of Exeter, professor of Mineralogy, Frances Wall...

Frances -   So things like hybrid cars, wind turbines, mobile phones, they all use a huge number of elements.  In a mobile phone, there are something like 66 different chemical elements incorporated into that technology.  So we now need to be looking at the availability of elements all across the periodic table.


Eye Movement Controlled wheelchaireye controlled wheelchair

Meera - Wheelchair users could soon use their eyes to direct where they go.Dr. Prashant Pillai's team at the University of Bradford have developed a tracking device resembling a pair of glasses that, in combination with an electric wheelchair, uses cameras to track the position of the wearer's eyes.

Prashant -   The most important thing about this is to try and give a lot of independence to the disabled.  Our final aim is just to try to have a house which you could control just by looking at different appliances.  So you can look at the TV and switch it on, look at the radio and switch it on and then get on to the wheelchair, and then look exactly where you want to go and it takes you.


Emotion Detection Scanner

Meera - A camera developed by UK scientists can detect when someone is not telling the truth.

The device looks for tell-tale facial changes, including altered expressions, blood flow and eye movements known to be associated with lying...Inventor Hassian Yugail is at the University of Bradford...

Hassan -   Our accuracy rate is 70% which means we can catch 2 out of 3 lies.  We hope to go beyond that up to a level of 90%.  We see this in police interrogation scenarios, immigration, border-control points, anywhere where interviewing is involved, including potentially job interviews.


Testosterone in Fathersfather and baby

Meera - And finally, Levels of testosterone in men drop when they become fathers.

A trial of over 600 young men in the Philippines, led by Christopher Kuzawa from Northwestern University, found that single men have higher levels of testosterone than those who have become fathers and amongst those helping with childcare levels fell by up to 34%...

Christopher -   Interacting with a child can lower a man's testosterone it seems, but we also know from prior studies that men, during pregnancy of their mate, approaching birth, you see a drop in their testosterone before the child is born.  And so, that suggests that there's something psychological perhaps and it also could be the stress of an impending birth.  We don't really know, but it seems that there are multiple ways by which having a child can lower a man's testosterone.

The work suggests an evolutionary adaptation, using high levels of testosterone to attract and secure a mate with levels lowering at fatherhood, biologically wiring men to help with parenting.



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