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DNA breakthrough, sweet dreams for rats, and the wonders of fish oil

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 6 September

Stretches of  DNA  which had been dismissed as ‘junk'  hold a key to the way the human genome works.

A team of international scientists have discovered that a fifth of the genome governs the 2% which makes protein, reports the Guardian and the BBC and was first published in Nature, Genome Biology and Genome Research

The breakthrough in the international Encode project paves the way for new research in the hunt for cures for diabetes, Crohn's disease and heart disease which have some of their origins in problems in the DNA sequence.

In the past researchers had concentrated on looking for faults within the genes themselves but the Encode project points the  quest to look elsewhere in the DNA sequence.

Researchers have managed to give rats sweet dreams according to a report in the Daily Mail. 

The experiment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology controlled the dreams by playing an audio cue linked to the previous day's activities , including running through a maze. Scientists recorded the rodents' brain waves when they were in the maze and later when they were sleeping.

They confirmed that the rats really were dreaming about their exploits as they brave waves changed when they played a different cue. Neuroscientist Matt Wilson said the experiment exploited the way the brain's hippocampus encodes experiences but the tests wanted to discover what happened  if environmental cues could trigger those memories.

The Daily Telegraph examines research that fish oil can boost the benefits of exercise in the elderly

Researchers at Aberdeen University put a group of women in theirlate 60s through their paces over a 12 week exercise programme of two 30 minute sessions twice a week and shared their research at the British Science Festival. They tested balance, walking speed and the time taken to get up out of a chair.  Those who also took fish oil supplements increased their muscle power by 20 per cent, whilst those in the control group just increased their strength by 11 per cent.

It's thought that the anti-inflammatory benefits of DHA and EPA in Omega 3 could be the key to the difference.

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