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Lots of coffee seems to protect the body from diabetes, Finnish researchers report in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientists looked at health surveys of almost 15,000 Finnish adults with no history of diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Compared with people who don't drink coffee, those who drank three to four cups a day were roughly 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

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People guzzling 10 cups a day see more startling results: a risk reduction of 55 percent for men, 79 percent for women. The authors -- who note that Finland has the world's highest per-person coffee consumption -- say they don't know how a cup of joe staves off diabetes.

Biologists use jellyfish gene to research butterfly wings

Biologists who study butterfly wing patterns have developed the first transgenic butterflies that express DNA from another species.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo inserted a marker gene from a jellyfish species into an African butterfly. They said the research will allow them to explore how novel features, such as color patterns on butterfly wings, evolved from colorless, winged ancestors.

The research, with the butterfly Bicyclus anynana, is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.

The jellyfish gene, a common marker gene, was chosen for its ability to fluoresce, providing an easy method of tracking where it was being expressed. Seven transgenic butterflies were produced from the experiments. All of the butterflies expressed the jellyfish marker gene -- enhanced green fluorescent protein, or EGFP -- in their eyes.

Antonia Monteiro, an assistant professor of biological sciences and senior author on the paper, said the genetic technique has been used in the fruit fly, which has become a model organism for studying gene function and regulation. "But now that we can perform it in butterflies, we will, for the first time, be able to compare gene function and regulation across these two very different insect species," Monteiro said.

Europe's killer summer 2003 was hottest in five centuries

In Europe, last year's scorching summer that killed about 20,000 people probably was the hottest on the continent in at least five centuries, say researchers who analyzed old records, soil cores and other evidence. Researchers at the University of Bern, Switzerland, collected and analyzed temperature data from all over Europe, including such climate measures as tree rings from 1500. They found that the climate has been generally warming, and last summer was the most torrid of all.

Jurg Luterbacher, a climatologist and co-author of a study appearing in the current issue of Science, said the study showed that the average European winter and annual temperatures during the three decades from 1973 to 2002 were the warmest of the half millennium.

Luterbacher said his team did not attempt to find a cause for the warming.

Winter holiday hospital stays deadliest for heart patients

Researchers have found that heart attack patients admitted to U.S. hospitals during the winter holidays have higher mortality rates than those admitted the rest of the year.

The researchers from Duke University Medical Center also found that during holiday hospitalizations, patients were less likely to receive effective life-saving drugs or procedures.

Duke cardiologist Trip Meine said the study suggests that critical services for life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack need to be maintained at full levels during holiday seasons.

Meine presented the results of the Duke analysis Monday in New Orleans at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

The Duke team studied the records of 134,609 heart attack patients maintained by the Cooperative Cardiovascular Project, a database of patients admitted to U.S. hospitals from 1994 to 1996. -- Compiled by Richard L. Hill


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