Thursday, March 11, 2004

From Keep

A little health, a little science


A new study shows that laughter really is the best therapy for stroke patients, according to scientists.

The research, conducted at Graz University in Austria, showed that laughter therapy helped people recovering from strokes lower their blood pressure.

Thirty patients in the study were split up into two groups. One group took part in regular "Laughter Yoga" sessions over a six-week period, while the other practised movement exercises only.

This laughter therapy combines laughing techniques with breathing exercises and patients involved in the test took part in three half-hour weekly sessions.

Psychologist Ilona Papousek, who headed the research, says, "This is the first study that shows that laughter has an effect on blood pressure.

"Blood pressure levels remained roughly the same in the movement group but dropped significantly in the laughter group.

Physical exercises were similar in both groups, meaning we can ascribe the positive effects to the laughter training. The mood improved in both groups but more noticeably so in the laughter group."


A short strand of DNA could become the sunscreen of the future, according to American researchers.

Scientists at Boston University School of Medicine found a DNA fragment called pTT can help repair and prevent skin damage caused by UV radiation.

PTT triggers a protein, called p53, that suppresses the growth of tumours, and helps repair damaged DNA.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists exposed hairless mice to UV radiation through sunlamps and found that mice with pTT rubbed into their skin were six times less likely to develop a tumour.

Lead researcher Dr David Goukassian says the pTT was "effectively telling the cells to cope better with the UV".

He adds, "We hope that this could lead to new treatments being developed and we are working on it as fast as we can."


The American space agency's Mars rovers may work for up to 240 days on the Red Planet, about 150 more than the mission team had originally projected.

Mission engineers have analysed power data for both Spirit and Opportunity which shows the vehicles are performing much better than they had expected.

It means the rovers can keep scouting Mars for many more interesting rocks.

Lead scientist Professor Steve Squyres made the announcement by satellite link-up to a Mars conference in London. But the mission team adds that its original estimates of Mars' environment and the rovers' performance were very conservative.

The rovers use energy from the Sun to power their batteries, using triangular solar panels that sit horizontally around their waists. The panels have proven to be very efficient.

In addition, the rovers have not needed to use up as much power for heating because the Mars climate has been warmer than projections implied.

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