WPPB

Science

Science news

When Harry Selker was working as a cardiologist in the 1970s, clot-busting drugs were showing great promise against heart attacks. But their life-saving properties were very time sensitive. "If you give it within the first hour it has a 47 percent reduction of mortality; if you wait another hour, it has a 28 percent reduction; another hour, 23 percent. And people were taking about 90 minutes to make that decision," he recalls. "So they were losing the opportunity to save patients' lives."

American lives have been getting steadily longer, and since the 1960s that trend has been driven mostly by a remarkable reduction in heart disease. But those improvements have slowed dramatically. Scientists are now wondering whether we're approaching the end of the trend of longer, healthier lives.

That's because the steady decline in heart disease is fading.

In 1970, archaeologists excavating the site of an ancient synagogue in Israel dug up a cylindrical lump of charcoal that looked like the remains of a scroll.

The animal-skin document was badly burned and battered. It was so delicate, just touching its surface sent pieces flaking off. To attempt to read it by unwrapping the layers would be to destroy the artifact forever. For curious scholars hoping to know what was written inside, the so-called En-Gedi scroll was a hopeless enigma.

Until now.

For all the international furor over genetically modified food, or GMOs, the biotech industry has really only managed to put a few foreign genes into food crops.

The first of these genes — actually, a small family of similar genes — came from a kind of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Those genes make plants poisonous to certain insect pests.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages