Science News: A round-up of the week’s events

Find out all the latest and greatest news from the worlds of science and medicine. This week’s talking points include research into Alzheimer’s and both types of grass (pastural and recreational).

Is grass the new gas?

The quest for cleaner, renewable energy sources has been aided by new research into biofuels. The ongoing research is being conducted at the University of Georgia and it has already identified the perennial grass Miscanthus as a promising biofuel crop.

Miscanthus, which grows in stalks more than 3.5 meters high, requires very little fertilizer and can potentially provide more bioenergy per acreage than other candidate plants.

The DNA of this grass is now being studied in order to help breeders of Miscanthus in their future efforts to improve the crop.

Farewell to Alzheimer’s?

Neuroscientists at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have discovered a drug that quickly reverses Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice.

The medication, bexarotene, is already used to treat cancer, but this new research has now shown that it can speedily improve memory deficits and behaviour, as well as acting to reverse the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug not only cured instances of memory loss in the mice, but it also improved their ability to sense and respond to odours. If this drug can be shown to act similarly in humans, it would be a breakthrough in the quest of a cure of this disease.

Driving under the influence

New research based at Dalhousie University has shown that acute consumption of cannabis is associated with an increased risk of a car crash, especially fatal collisions.

The researches reviewed nine studies concerned with risk of vehicle collision after cannabis consumption. Records of a total of 49,411 people were included in the study.

The results show that drivers who consume cannabis within three hours of driving are nearly twice as likely to cause a vehicle collision as those who are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These findings are published in the British Medical Journal.