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Sci Tech

Pollinating the Crime Scene

Criminals often escape detection because fingerprints don't stick to the smooth surfaces of bullet cartridges. So a team of scientists at five British universities has tried applying tiny "nanotags" to the cartridges. These latch on to the shooter's hands and don't easily wash off. So cops can match the tags on the cartridge with those on the perp's hand. The tags are made with one of nature's most effective adhesives: pollen. It's mixed with fine metals to give each tag a unique signature.

How Dachshunds May Show Us the Light

The noble wiener dog may offer new hope for blind people—and not by serving as a guide. An international team of scientists, writing in Genome Research, says it has found a gene mutation in the standard wirehaired dachshund that is responsible for one type of inherited blindness in that breed. Now breeders may be able to eradicate the mutation. But more important, knowing the genetics could lead to a treatment for humans, who sometimes suffer from the same condition. In dogs and people, it's linked with diseases known as cone-rod dystrophies (CRDs), which destroy the light-processing cells in the retina, robbing victims of the ability to see bright light.$tx

Soy Vey! The Trouble with Tofu

A new study may cast a shadow over soy's reputation as the ultimate health food. Scientists at North Carolina State University discovered that two compounds in soy can cause changes in the structure of female rats' brains that, they believe, can cause early-onset puberty and menopause.

Doctors have long understood that soy contains natural estrogens, which may not be great for growing boys. In this study, the researchers injected newborn female rats with quantities of soy proportionate to what's found in normal servings of soy-based baby formula. They then observed the brain throughout the rodents' lives and discovered changes in the region of the hypothalamus that regulates puberty and ovulation.

Viagra and Brain Tumors

Neurologists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles discovered that pairing chemotherapy with Viagra improved the chemo's ability to reach brain tumors in rats. Animals that got both drugs had smaller tumors and lived longer than rats that got chemo alone. Makes sense. Erectile dysfunction drugs work by increasing blood flow to the penis. The same process seems to speed life-saving medicines to the brain.

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