By Brian Collett


Rosemary essential oil scent has been shown to improve schoolchildren’s memories. Northumbria University scientists tested pupils aged 10 and 11 and found those in a scented room performed “significantly” better, particularly in word recall. The researchers believe aromas may stimulate brain electrical activity or that pharmacologically active compounds may be absorbed through exposure to odours. The findings, presented at a British Psychological Society conference, may offer an inexpensive simple means of enhancing academic performance, said Dr Mark Moss.


Vitamin D3 has been found twice as effective as D2 in raising levels of the vitamin that protects against osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and rickets. Surrey University researchers, conducting the first study of its kind into low vitamin D doses in fortified food, challenged the guidance of government bodies throughout the world that D2 and D3 were equally effective. Dr Laura Tripkovic said the findings turned “current thinking ... on its head”. Professor Susan Lanham-New said: “This is a very exciting discovery which will revolutionise how the health and retail sector views vitamin D.”


Gut bacteria and how they react with genetic make-up and the immune system are being investigated in a three-year study into the cause of Crohn’s disease in children and the sudden worsening of symptoms. Dr James Ashton, who leads the team at Southampton Children’s Hospital, funded with £240,000 from Action Medical Research, said: “We hope our findings will help in the development of better ways to predict disease severity, as well as new and improved treatments.”


An HIV-resistant cell culture has been created at the Scripps Research Institute in California. Immunologist Dr Richard Lerner calls the achievement “cellular vaccination”. The Scripps team delivered a gene to laboratory-grown human cells to produce specific antibodies, which gave protection after adhering to immune cells. The researchers report: “The ultimate goal will be the control of HIV in patients with AIDS, without the need for other medications.” However, more research will be needed before patient testing.


A technique employing powerful magnets that work like radar by firing energy pulses at sperm to reveal their molecular structure could help fertility experts to distinguish between good and poor samples. Sheffield University scientists have used magnetic resonance spectroscopy because existing diagnostic methods damage sperm. This less aggressive technique enables them to choose sperm for IVF treatment and may lead to new male fertility therapies. Professor Martyn Paley called the results “a world first”. Professor Allan Pacey said having the technique was “really exciting”.


An international team centred on Plymouth University has received more than £400,000 from Innovate UK, the government agency that supports scientific innovation, to develop a vaccine against the spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans. The first task is a project studying sheep, goats and cattle, which pass on Rift Valley fever, a virus whose effects include muscle pain, bleeding and liver problems, and Q fever, a bacterial infection causing muscle and joint pain and breathing and digestive conditions. The work involves a bovine herpes virus that produces an immune response in domestic ruminant animals.


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