Healthy Dose of Science: Vaccinations and voyages to Mars

[Kat Clements | Contributing Writer]

Working out what science stories matter and which ones are just a flash in the pan can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a science background. UniVerse is here to help with our regular roundup of the biggest news in science, environment and health.

30 Seconds to Mars – Or not

Mars One, a Dutch non-profit, has a big promise. It aims to put people on Mars by 2024 – only 9 years in the future. 100 people have been shortlisted for the mission, including five Britons.

But new research suggests that this is just science fiction. Researchers from MIT predicted in October that, given the current specifications, the colony would lose oxygen after around 60 days, killing the crew.

The blueprints were quickly updated, and the Mars One plans have been changed since, but there are still serious concerns about the specifications and budget.

The trip would be a one-way ticket – nobody has yet devised a way to make it back, and even if they could, the conditions on Mars would cause physiological changes in the colonists which would kill them should they ever return to Earth.

So let’s not get too optimistic – no holidays on another planet for us yet.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in British women. In 2011, around 970 people died from it, and there are around 3,000 diagnoses per year. It’s caused by some strains of the HPV (human papilloma virus), which is spread via sexual intercourse.

Currently, the NHS offers a free vaccine against HPV to all girls aged 12 & 13 – you might remember it from your Year 9 jabs. That vaccine protects against 4 strains of the virus, all of which cause cancer.

Now, a new vaccine has been developed which protects against nine types of the virus – seven of which are cancer causing – and was found to be 97% effective against the various cervical, vaginal and vulvar diseases caused by the others, in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new jab, Gardasil 9, “offers the potential to increase overall cervical cancer prevention from 70 to 90 per cent, nearly eliminating this cancer among vaccinated women,” the Times quoted co-author Jack Cuzick (Queen Mary University of London) as saying.

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