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Earprint Lands Burglar in Jail.

You've heard the expression that someone "fingered" a criminal, and dusting for fingerprints is a routine part of a crime investigation. But have you heard of the thief whose earprints got him into trouble?

In February 1998, London's Metropolitan Police (+44 171-230-1212) successfully prosecuted a burglar for the first time by using his earprints as their main evidence. The criminal had pressed his ear to his targets' front doors to listen for activity inside. Now police are coordinating research on earprint evidence throughout Britain.

Ears are as distinct as fingers--identical twins leave different prints, and there are even variations between an individual's left and right ears. By using traditional ink and paper imprints as well as impressions made with acetate film and then dusted with aluminum powder, forensics experts have a new way to snag a criminal by the ear. Circle 203

Pigment Keeps Body Clock Ticking

A light-sensitive pigment found in the eye, skin, and part of the brain appears to control the body's internal clock, according to researchers at the Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (919-966-8596), and Northwestern Univ., Evanston, Ill. Known as cryptochrome, the pigment regulates mammals' circadian rhythm, the 24-hour biological clock that regulates processes like body temperature, blood pressure, and intellectual performance.

Understanding cryptochrome's effects could lead to better depression treatments and fewer accidents during night shifts. The discovery also could help cancer experts understand what times of day are best for administering certain medications.

To test the importance of cryptochrome, researchers created mice lacking the gene responsible for making the pigment. When compared with normal mice, the mutant mice produced 50% less of a light-controlled protein that helps regulate mammals' internal clocks.

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Mouse Helps `Produce' Elephant Egg

Although myth has it that elephants are terrified of mice, a recent development in tissue transplantation could make the tiny creature an elephant's new best friend. A mouse has produced an elephant egg from transplanted ovarian tissue, creating a breakthrough that could help endangered species and humans with reproductive problems.

Researchers at Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, Ind. (317-278-3215), and the Advanced Fertility Institute at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, used ovarian tissue that had been cryopreserved at -160 [degrees] C. When transplanted, the elephant tissues contained only one or two immature follicles the microscopic structures that contain developing eggs. But the mice developed mature follicles after 10 to 11 weeks, and one mouse even developed a mature egg.

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Author:Merrick, Amy
Publication:R & D
Date:Feb 1, 1999
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