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Sand playground safer for kids

Kids playing in sand-covered playgrounds are safer than those playing on the wood fibre surfaces, suggests a Canadian study.

Toronto-based researchers found that kids were nearly five times less likely at risk of breaking arms, legs or parts of their bodies on playgrounds with sand surfaces.
“We suspect that the fracture rates are lower on sand because of lower surface friction. A lower friction surface allows the hand to slide or sink limiting the bending moment and preventing a fracture,” said researchers.

“Updating playground safety standards to reflect this information will reduce the most common and severe injuries seen on modern playgrounds, without limiting children’s access to healthy outdoor play,” they added.

Australian playground safety expert David Eager, University of Technology, Sydney,
said: “Both sand and wood fibre, or bark, are excellent surfaces for playgrounds and it’s the rubber that is the bad surface which causes the rebound and lots more breaks.”

“The forces are significantly greater on the rubber than they are on the bark or the sand.”

Vaccine to improve immune system in newborns

University of Missouri researchers are working on a vaccine to improve immune system in newborns. As soon as babies are born, they are susceptible to diseases and infections, such as jaundice and e-coli. For up to a month, their immune systems aren’t adequately developed to fight diseases.

Although these infections are often minor, they can lead to serious problems if left untreated. To help strengthen newborns’ immune systems, the researchers have pinpointed a group of depleted white blood cells, which might lead to an immune-strengthening vaccine.

“We’re trying to improve the immune system of newborns to make them more like adults’ immune systems and, therefore, less susceptible to diseases,” said Christine Hoeman, doctoral student in the MU School of Medicine.

“Although our testing has only been on animal models thus far, our ultimate goal is to create better paediatric vaccines for humans to improve the balance within the immune system,” Hoeman added.

The researchers have found that newborns have an imbalance of two different groups of T-helper cells (TH cells), which are white blood cells and the main fighters in the immune system.

Sounds during sleep may aid memory, says study

Science has never given much credence to claims that you can learn Chinese or French by having the instruction CDs play while you sleep. If any learning happens that way, most scientists say, the language lesson is probably waking the sleeper up, not causing nouns and verbs to seep into a sound-asleep mind.

But a study about a different kind of audio approach during sleep gives insight into how the sleeping brain works, and may eventually come in handy to people studying a language, cramming for a test or memorising lines in a play.

Scientists at Northwestern University reported that playing specific sounds while people slept helped them remember more of what they had learned before they fell sleep, to the point where memories of individual facts were enhanced. The study adds a dimension to a theory that sleep allows the brain to process and consolidate memories.

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