Lab Report: Health, Science and Medicine

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Good news for chocolate lovers: not only can your favorite indulgence improve your overall cholesterol levels, but researchers now know why it works that magic. Japanese investigators have found that polyphenols in cocoa attach to genes in the liver and intestines, activating the ones that produce HDL, or good cholesterol, as well as those that help suppress LDL, or bad cholesterol.

The Long-Ago Roots of Cancer

Our most feared disease may be a billion years old. A new paper says the rapid cell division that defines cancer may have originated in single-cell organisms battling for supremacy of the ancient planet. Studying the genes of their one-celled descendants may give scientists new clues about how to stop or control the disease.

FETAL-SURGERY BOON

Researchers report a better way to help babies with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal bones do not fuse properly. Corrective surgery is typically done after birth, but in the first study of its kind, doctors found that performing the operation in utero reduces complications--including the need to divert fluid away from the brain--and improves children's mental and motor function.

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