2005 Nobel Prizes: Medicine Honor Goes to Discovery That Many Dismissed

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This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.  I'm Faith Lapidus.  And I'm Bob Doughty.  This week on our show: A report on the Nobel Prize winners for two thousand five in medicine, chemistry and physics.

Then, a study finds that restricted blood flow to the brain may lead to dementia in older people.

And scientists finally have pictures of a giant squid in the wild.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced winners of the Nobel Prizes in science last week.  This year, two Australians will share the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered the main cause of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.  They showed that these stomach problems are usually the result of an infection caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori.  This discovery meant that ulcers could be cured by treatment with antibiotic medicine instead of operations.

The men reported their findings in nineteen eighty-two.  However, Doctor Marshall says it was almost ten years before the medical community widely accepted their explanation.  Doctors thought that tension and an unhealthy way of life were the major causes of ulcers.

The Nobel Assembly praised Doctor Marshall for what he did as part of his research.  Doctor Marshall himself drank some of the bacteria.  Several days later he had a severe case of gastritis.

Doctor Marshall is a researcher at the University of Western Australia.  Doctor Warren was a pathologist at Royal Perth Hospital until nineteen ninety-nine.

Barry Marshall and Robin Warren will share more than one million dollars in prize money when they receive their award in December.

The Nobel Assembly chose three scientists to share the prize in physics.  Roy Glauber of Harvard University in Cambridge,  Massachusetts, will receive one-half of the prize money.  Mr. Glauber was honored for his theoretical description of how particles of light act.  His research helped explain how light can spread around a large area or form a narrow line of intense light, as from a laser.

The other two scientists honored are American John Hall and German Theodor Haensch.  Mr. Hall is a government physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.  He also works at the University of Colorado.  Mr. Haensch is a physicist at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany.  He also teaches at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich.

The Nobel Assembly says Mr. Hall and Mr. Hansch greatly improved the scientific measurement of light.  It says their work has led to better lasers, clocks and global positioning technology.

You are listening to SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, from Washington.

The Swedish academy chose scientists from France and the United States as winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Yves Chauvin is a chemist at the Institut Francais du Petrole.  His work from nineteen seventy-one explained the activity of metathesis [meh-TAA-theh-sis] reactions.  These are when bonds between carbon atoms are broken and formed in ways that cause atom groups to change places.  Such reactions have become an important way for chemists to produce new molecules.

Mr. Chauvin explained what kinds of metal compounds would act as a catalyst to cause metathesis to happen.  American Richard Schrock later produced a metal compound that worked well as a catalyst.  For his work, the Nobel Assembly named Mr. Schrock also as a winner of the two thousand five chemistry prize.  He works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The other American to win the chemistry honor is Robert Grubbs of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.  He developed an even better metal catalyst for metathesis.  Mr. Grubbs made his discovery in nineteen ninety-two.

Metathesis reactions are used mostly in the production of medicines and plastics.  In the words of the Nobel committee: "Imagination will soon be the only limit to what molecules can be built."

A new study suggests that loss of blood flow to the brain may lead to dementia in older adults.  Researchers from the Netherlands said the decreased blood flow might be partly to blame for the brain damage linked to dementia.  Their report appeared in the publication Radiology.

Dementia is the loss of thinking ability.  It can be caused by many kinds of disorders that affect the brain.  Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause.  Memory loss is a common sign of dementia.  However, memory loss alone does not mean that a person has dementia.

The decreased flow of blood can have a number of possible causes.  High blood pressure can lead to hardening and narrowing of the blood passages, or arteries.  Low blood pressure can be an issue if the body is not able to deal with the problem.  Heart failure also can be a cause.

In the Dutch study, researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging tests on the brains of seventeen persons.  All seventeen had dementia and were more than seventy-five years old.  Researchers compared the results with those of sixteen older adults who had normal brain activity and fifteen young, healthy adults.

The imaging tests showed the individuals with dementia had more brain damage than those who did not have dementia.  The researchers also found that those with dementia had a much lower blood flow rate than members of the other two groups.

The researchers said their findings suggest that doctors may be able to reduce a patient's risk of developing dementia.  They said doctors should measure blood pressure in older adults and provide treatment if there is a problem.

Scientists from Japan have captured images of one of the world's most mysterious deep-sea animals.  It was the first time scientists took pictures of a giant squid in the wild.  The pictures may help scientists to better understand the giant squid.

Little is known about these creatures.  They are excellent at hiding and often live in deep waters.  The equipment needed to search for giant squid is very costly.  Scientists cannot always gather the financial support necessary for such a search.  In the past, scientists found only dead or dying squid.  They were never able to observe or take a picture of a living example.

Two Japanese scientists had some good luck on September thirtieth of last year.  Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori used sperm whales to guide them to where giant squids live.  Sperm whales hunt squid for food.  So the animals can provide valuable information as to where giant squids might be found.

The Japanese scientists set up a squid trap in the Pacific Ocean, about eight hundred kilometers south of Tokyo.  The scientists tied some food to the trap.  After an eight-meter long squid attacked the trap, a digital camera started taking pictures of the event.  This happened at a depth of nine hundred meters.

The camera took more than five hundred pictures over several hours as the squid explored the trap, got caught, then struggled to free itself.  The squid finally broke free, but in doing so it tore off one of its arms.  The tentacle measured over five meters in length.  It was still active when the scientists pulled the trap in.

Recently, the scientists released a report explaining their experiences.  The pictures they took help to explain a lot about the way the giant squid acts.  For example, the pictures show that squids are a much more active when attacking than many scientists had thought.  After they attack, squids appear to place their long tentacles around their target, holding it like a ball.

While these images provide much information, there is still much more to learn about these secretive creatures.

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver, Lawan Davis and Dana Demange.  Cynthia Kirk was our producer.  I'm Faith Lapidus.  And I'm Bob Doughty. Our programs are on the Web at voaspecialenglish.com.  Join us again next week for more news about science, in Special English on the Voice of America.

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