SCIENCE IN THE NEWS #2101 - Digest

By StaffThis is Sarah Long.And this is Bob Doughty with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in science. Today, we tell about the American government's Office of Research on Women's Health. We tell about the importance of washing your hands. And we tell about efforts to teach birds to fly south for the winter.

The United States government's Office of Research on Women's Health is observing its tenth anniversary. During those ten years it has made important discoveries about differences in the health of men and women. Within the next ten years the research office will learn the results of several major long-term studies.

Two of these studies concern menopause. That is the time in a woman's life when she can no longer become pregnant. Information from this research may show which women will have health problems after menopause. One study will measure the effectiveness of replacing hormones that a woman's body no longer produces after menopause.

Another study offers the possibility of a treatment to help prevent ninety percent of cancers of the cervix. The cervix is the narrow end of a woman's uterus.The Office of Research on Women's Health is part of the National Institutes of Health. It is in Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington, D-C. The research office began work in Nineteen-Ninety. The N-I-H established the research office after four female members of Congress discovered something that made them angry.

They learned that the N-I-H had not been including women in research studies. The N-I-H was testing the effectiveness of new treatments only on men. The four female members of Congress forced the N-I-H to set goals for women's health research.

Today, almost two-thirds of people taking part in N-I-H testing are women. Studies organized by the Office of Research on Women's Health have shown that differences between men and women can influence medical treatment.For example, researchers learned that men and women can react differently to a heart attack. Men usually have chest pain. But women may not. Instead, they may suffer pain in the abdomen. They also may have stomach sickness and feel very tired. Women may not recognize that they are having a heart attack.

Research also has shown that the brains of men and women use the chemical serotonin differently. Serotonin helps prevent the condition of continued severe sadness called depression. Men's brains use serotonin much more effectively than women's brains do. This may help explain why women suffer depression two or three times more often than men do.Other research shows that alcohol affects men and women differently. Men and women in one experiment drank the same amount of alcoholic drinks. Then researchers measured their blood for alcohol levels. The women had higher levels of alcohol in their blood. Women produce less of a substance called gastric alcohol dehydrogenase. This causes them to break down alcohol more slowly than men.Vivian Pinn directs the Office of Research on Women's Health. She says it is good science to learn about sex differences that can affect treatment. The Office of Research on Women's Health has other goals. It works with other N-I-H agencies to identify new research needs. It supports general research linked to women's diseases. And it tries to help interested young women to become scientists. For example, the research office is producing a series of videos for students. One of these was written for young girls. It tells about the work of women doctors who perform operations.

Doctor Pinn has good reason to urge women to become scientists. Years ago she was the only woman in her medical school class at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Doctor Pinn says she is pleased that this has changed. Today, about forty-percent of American students studying to become doctors are women.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are listening to the Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS on VOA. This is Bob Doughty with Sarah Long in Washington.


Health experts say washing your hands reduces the spread of viruses and other organisms that cause disease. This advice may sound simple. However, experts say a lot of people do not follow it.

A recent study found that many Americans fail to wash their hands after using public toilets. More than ninety-five percent of Americans questioned said they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However, the study found that only sixty-seven percent of them actually do so. The study also found that American men are less likely than women to wash their hands after using a public restroom.The American Society for Microbiology announced the findings. Judy Daly works for the group. She admits that hand washing may seem an unusual subject to study. But she says hand washing is a very serious issue. Experts say hand washing is the simplest and most effective way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Infections can spread by touching surfaces that have harmful organisms on them. Shaking hands with another person also can spread infection. Harmful bacteria may enter your body if you touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

Among the most common infections spread by hand are colds, influenza, and throat and ear infections. In addition, millions of food poisoning cases each year are blamed on people who prepare food who do not wash their hands. More serious diseases like cholera and hepatitis are spread this way, too.Many patients in hospitals also get infections. Some die from them. The spread of infections often is blamed on health workers who do not wash their hands after treating patients.

The American Society of Microbiology has launched a public information campaign to get more people to wash their hands. Experts say following the correct method is important. You should wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least fifteen seconds.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Recently, scientists successfully led a group of birds on a one-month flight from the American state of Wisconsin to the state of Florida. The experiment was designed to help save another bird called the whooping crane.

Whooping cranes are the largest birds in North America. They are close to disappearing. There are only about two-hundred of the large black and white birds left in the world. There is only one population of whooping cranes left in North America. They lay their eggs in Canada and fly south to the American state of Texas for the winter. The experiment was part of an effort to establish a second population of whooping cranes. That would help guarantee the bird's survival.Scientists used sandhill cranes in the experiment. Sandhill cranes lay their eggs in the northern state of Wisconsin. They fly to the southern state of Florida to spend the winters. The goal of the experiment was to see if a group of sandhill cranes could be trained to migrate south. If so, the scientists believe that whooping cranes could be taught the same migratory path.

The scientists raised the sandhill cranes in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. The flight began with three planes and thirteen birds. The birds flew more than two-thousand kilometers. They battled strong winds and rain. Two birds were lost during the trip. The group made several stops along the way so the birds could rest.The flight lasted thirty-nine days The group landed at the Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Wildlife Preserve, near the west coast of Florida. Scientists say it was the longest flight of its kind in history.

Researchers hope that the sandhill cranes will return to Wisconsin on their own in February or March. If they do, scientists say they will repeat the trip next year with whooping cranes.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Jerilyn Watson, George Grow and Cynthia Kirk. It was produced by George Grow. This is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

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