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See Inside July 2007

Updates: July 2007

Methane Mystery, Edible Vaccines, Sun's Swift Core and Painkillers

▪ Hepatitis-Beating Bananas

Potatoes, tomatoes and other edible plants might someday serve to immunize people, especially those in the developing world [see “Edible Vaccines,” Scientific American, September 2000]. In a review published in the June issue of Biotechnology Progress, Indian researchers conclude that bananas are the most promising edible vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, which lives in about 5 percent of the world's population. Potatoes have received more extensive study, but the researchers argue that bananas are the better choice because they can be eaten raw and taste good to most children. The task remains to boost the level of immune-triggering hepatitis protein in the fruit.

▪ Spin in the Sun

After staring at the sun for the past 11 years, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) still has not gone blind. Designed to last only two years, the instruments onboard continue to provide surprises [see “SOHO Reveals the Secrets of the Sun,” Scientific American, March 1997]. Among the latest revelations: the sun's core rotates faster than its surface. Researchers reporting online May 3 in Science Express analyzed tiny vibrations in the solar surface that may originate from down-rushing plumes, which create waves that can pass through the core and reach the surface on the other side. These waves raise the surface only millimeters, but that is enough for researchers to analyze them and to conclude that the core rotates three to five times faster than its overlying layers. The extra spin may be a remnant of the sun's formation.

▪ Not beyond Vioxx Yet

The world still needs more effective ways to combat pain. On April 27 the FDA rejected Arcoxia, a COX-2 inhibitor for osteoarthritis intended as Merck's follow-on to Vioxx. New drugs under development might avoid the cardiovascular problems linked to the COX-2 compounds [see “Better Ways to Target Pain,” Scientific American, January 2007].

This article was originally published with the title "Updates."

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