Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (April 2006)

Science news and science current events archive April, 2006.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from April 2006

Penn researchers discover gene that creates second skeleton
Investigators at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have located the cause of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) - a gene that, when damaged, causes the body's skeletal muscles and soft connective tissue to undergo a metamorphosis into bone, progressively locking joints in place and rendering movement impossible. This important discovery is relevant, not only for patients with FOP, but also for those with more common skeletal conditions.

Brain communicates in analog and digital modes simultaneously
Contrary to popular belief, brain cells use a mix of analog and digital coding at the same time to communicate efficiently, according to a study by Yale School of Medicine researchers published this week in Nature.

Woods Hole Research Center scientists create satellite map to show Chesapeake Bay urban development
The way in which buildings, roads, parking lots and other components of the built environment are integrated into communities impact a wide range of biogeochemical and hydrological processes. Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center have developed a new map, expressed in terms of impervious surface area, for the 168,000-square-kilometer Chesapeake Bay watershed, a region that has been highly altered by human land use.

Carbon cycle was already disrupted millions of years ago
Dutch researcher Yvonne van Breugel analysed rocks from seabeds millions of years old. Carbon occurs naturally in two stable forms; atomic mass 12 (99 percent) and atomic mass 13 (1 percent). Episodes in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were characterised by a relatively strong increase in 12C. The analyses have shown that this was caused by a sudden large-scale release of carbon from stocks stored in the ocean floor or peats and bogs.

Marketing products as remedies can promote risky behavior
Just like a

First FDA clearance of sterile field cord blood collection bag
The first US Food and Drug Administration clearance of a cord blood collection bag suitable for use in a sterile field was announced today. The new sterile field bag will give families and their health care providers the ability to more safely and easily collect umbilical cord blood from newborns, even when born by cesarean section. Umbilical cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells used to treat more than 40 life threatening diseases.

Evolution follows few of the possible paths to antibiotic resistance
Darwinian evolution follows very few of the available mutational pathways to attain fitter proteins, researchers at Harvard University have found in a study of a gene whose mutant form increases bacterial resistance to a widely prescribed antibiotic by a factor of roughly 100,000. Their work indicates that of 120 harrowing, five-step mutational paths that theoretically could grant antibiotic resistance, only about 10 actually endow bacteria with a meaningful evolutionary advantage.

Disease-impact models may rely on incorrect assumptions
Even when we know how a disease affects individual animals, it is challenging to predict what impact it will have on the whole population, and yet predicting how disease affects a population is a primary concern for wildlife conservation and even public health. In a new study from the May issue of American Naturalist, researchers from Princeton University and the University of Groningen contest two assumptions commonly present in models that try to predict how individual disease will impact populations.

Scientists design potent anthrax toxin inhibitor
Scientists funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have engineered a powerful inhibitor of anthrax toxin that worked well in small-scale animal tests.

HEBE: Detection of falls and monitoring of the elderly
HEBE is an EU-funded joint research project. A mechanism that detects falls and monitors the activity of the elderly has been developed.

Easy to use emergency mobile device for people at risk
Mobile phones can save lives in emergencies, but are not widely used among those considered to be most at risk: elderly people and sufferers of age-related and chronic diseases. A new device gives users the benefits of instant wireless communication, combined with location detection, without the complications of normal mobiles.

Gladstone Institutes receives funding for training grant from stem cell institute
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) today announced that the J. David Gladstone Institutes and 15 other California nonprofit institutions have received the first year of funding for a three-year program designed to train the next generation of stem cell scientists. These are the first grants awarded by the California stem cell agency.

IOF announces Tetra Pak's support of World Osteoporosis Day
The International Osteoporosis Foundation announced today that Tetra Pak, one of the world's leading food processing and packaging companies, will be a major partner for the IOF during 2006 in promoting awareness of how individuals can build strong bones and contribute to their bone health. Tetra Pak will also be a key partner in the World Osteoporosis Day (WOD) activities.

UCSF receives funding for training grant from stem cell institute
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine today announced that UCSF and 15 other California non-profit institutions have received the first year of funding for a three-year program designed to train the next generation of stem cell scientists. These are the first grants awarded by the California stem cell agency.

Researchers trawl the origins of sea fishing in Northern Europe
For decades the study of fish bones was considered one of the most esoteric branches of archaeology, but now it is helping to reveal the massive significance of the fishing trade in the Middle Ages.

Liver signal critical for insulin's brain action
New research in the April 5, 2006 Cell Metabolism identifies a key player in the body's ability to respond to insulin action in the brain by ratcheting down the export of blood sugar from the liver. The findings point to a potential new drug target for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Massive German floods monitored from space
Torrential rain and melting snow caused Germany's Elbe River to rise to a record high level in northern parts of the country over the weekend, flooding cities and damaging historic town centres. ESA's ERS-2 satellite has been monitoring the situation from space.

Higher self-awareness of memory complaints predict brain function decline
A UCLA team found that a higher self-awareness of memory difficulties may be associated with brain function decline over time, particularly in older adults with a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. Published in the April 3 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the study offers a greater understanding of how different types and degrees of memory complaints may relate to brain function decline, a finding that may lead to early treatment interventions for people who could develop Alzheimer's disease.

HealthGrades patient safety study shows increase in hospital incidents, gaps among state, hospitals
Patient safety incidents in American hospitals grew from 1.18 million to 1.24 million among the 40 million hospitalizations covered under the Medicare program, and incidents varied widely from state to state, and among the best and worst hospitals, according to a study released today by HealthGrades, the leading healthcare ratings company.

USC and AAAS/Science convene leading innovators to discuss challenges to US preeminence
The University of Southern California (USC) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the journal Science, will bring together some of the world's most innovative thinkers and futurists on 11 April to raise the nation's awareness of global challenges in science and innovation.

Biologists estimate the value of services provided by insects
The economic value of dung burial, control of crop pests, pollination, and wildlife nutrition provided by non-domesticated insects in the United States is conservatively estimated at $57 billion per year.

Code for 'unbreakable quantum encryption generated at record speed over fiber
Raw code for

Study reveals new genes for excessive alcohol drinking
Researchers supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have identified new genes that may contribute to excessive alcohol consumption. The new study, conducted with strains of animals that have either a high or low innate preference for alcohol, provides clues about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the tendency to drink heavily. A report of the findings appears in the April 18, 2006 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Micro-pump is cool idea for future computer chips
Engineers at Purdue University have developed a tiny

Lack of a key enzyme dramatically increases resistance to sepsis
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, The La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, and Merck Research Laboratories have uncovered a

Seven UK cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease associated with transplanted human tissue
Seven cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) associated with transplanted human tissue have occurred in the UK over a period of 33 years, reveals a study published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The great Easter egg hunt: The void's incredible richness
A 300 million pixel image was obtained with ESO's telescope covering an 'empty' region of the sky five times the size of the full moon, and opening an exceptionally clear view towards the most distant part of our universe. Albeit nothing is visible in this area with the unaided eye, the image reveals tens of thousands of deep sky objects that, as with Easter chocolate eggs, come in the wildest variety of colours and shapes.

Nanofibers created in orderly fashion by UC Berkeley team
Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to spin polymers into nanofibers in a direct, continuous and controllable manner. The new technique, known as near-field electrospinning, offers the possibility of producing out of nanofibers new, specialized materials with organized patterns that can be used for such applications as wound dressings, filtrations and bio-scaffolds.

New evidence suggests the need to rewrite Bronze Age history
The Santorini volcanic eruption occurred about 100 years earlier than previously thought, which means Bronze Age history needs to be rewritten, according to a radiocarbon study led by Cornell's Sturt Manning, published in Science.

Low vitamin D levels associated with increased total cancer incidence
Low levels of vitamin D may be associated with increased total cancer incidence and mortality in men, particularly for cancers of the digestive system, according to a study in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Tufts' David Walt named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor
Tufts University's David Walt was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor. He will receive $1 million from HHMI to infuse undergraduate and K-12 education with the excitement of discovery that characterizes his own research. Walt's laboratory applies micro and nanotechnology to urgent biological problems like analysis of genetic variation and behavior of single cells, as well as practical application of arrays to detection of explosives, chemical warfare agents, and food and water borne pathogens.

APS lecturer shows rare video of 'teacher-student' immune cell interactions in live animal
Dendritic cells meet T cells in the lymph node where they teach them, over the course of days, to recognize a foreign invader. Harvard University researcher Ulrich H. von Andrian shows rare footage of the teacher-student cell interactions as part of the American Physiological Society-sponsored Henry Pickering Bowditch Award Lecture at the Experimental Biology conference. The groundbreaking research advances knowledge of the immune system and could be a key to better vaccines.

Research team to examine impact of genetics and exposure to secondhand smoke
Whether exposure to secondhand smoke increases the chance that children with a family history of cardiovascular disease will develop the disease themselves is under study at the Medical College of Georgia.

'Resonance' may explain virologic failure in STI drug therapy
Based on the assumption that viral dynamics have an intrinsic periodicity, or cycle, that varies from patient to patient, the researchers suggest that these forces interact with therapeutically prescribed, structured treatment interruptions (STI) in a way that causes high fluctuations in the patient's viral load and, ultimately, virologic failure. At that point, the drugs can no longer reduce the levels of virus in the patient's blood.

Making multiple lifestyle changes is beneficial, achievable in lowering high blood pressure
Men and women with elevated blood pressure who make healthy lifestyle changes and sustain them for up to a year and a half can substantially reduce their rates of high blood pressure and potentially decrease their heart disease risk.

Rutgers College of Nursing's NJ Collaborating Center for Nursing hosts National Workforce Forum
The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, based at the College of Nursing at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will host the National Forum for State Nursing Workforce Centers annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City April 27-28. The conference is funded in part by a $50,000 planning grant from the New Jersey Health Initiatives program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Joslin's C. Ronald Kahn, MD, to discuss genetics of obesity at AACE meeting
Joslin's C. Ronald Kahn, MD, is scheduled to discuss genetics of obesity at American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) Meeting this week in Chicago.

Ginger causes ovarian cancer cells to die, U-M researchers find
Ginger is known to ease nausea and control inflammation. But researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are investigating a new use for this age-old remedy: treating ovarian cancer.

Movement of chromosome in nucleus visualized
Researchers from the University of Illinois' Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses offer the first images of active transport within the cell nucleus.

Historic plant type specimens to go digital
A unique collection of plant specimens that is part of The Academy of Natural Sciences' world-renowned herbarium soon will be viewable through the Internet, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. The three-year, $262,500 grant will be used to produce high-resolution images of some 30,000

Training on virtual 'patient' improves carotid angiography skills
Cardiologists can learn to perform risky catheter procedures such as carotid angiography on a virtual patient simulator, rather than on real patients.

Smoking may cause far more cancer deaths in Asian Americans than previously recognized
Among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, tobacco smoke exposure may cause more deaths from non-lung cancers than from lung cancer. More funding and study is needed to address smoking-related cancer in Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

New model of p53 regulation proposed that suggests novel anticancer strategy
Genetically engineered mice convinced scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies that it was time to overhaul widely held beliefs about how a powerful tumor suppressor called p53 is controlled in cells. Their new model of p53 regulation has important implications for the development of anticancer drugs.

Fertility drugs given 'all-clear' in new study
Concerns about the use of letrozole, an easy-to-use and inexpensive drug for the treatment of infertility, appear to be unfounded, according to a major study co-authored by Dr. Togas Tulandi, Director of Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

Researchers resolve how COX inhibitors cause heart hazards, and offer alternative treatment strategy
A higher incidence of myocardial infarction associated with COX-2 inhibitors led to their highly publicized withdrawal from the market in 2004. In a study appearing online on April 13 in the JCI, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reveal the mechanism by which COX-2 inhibitors increase the incidence of myocardial infarction and stroke. They also propose a new therapeutic approach that offers the beneficial anti-inflammatory effects of COX-2 inhibitors, while avoiding their adverse cardiovascular consequences.

The complexity of tropical forest structure defies simple characterization
In a forthcoming pair of papers in Ecology Letters, Muller-Landau and collaborators associated with the Center for Tropical Science test the predictions of the theory of metabolic ecology using large datasets from tropical forests around the world. Observed patterns of tree growth, mortality and abundance deviate substantially from the predictions of metabolic ecology theory, especially for large trees. Alternative models presented incorporate the complex variation in tree shapes, growing conditions, and mortality threats.

Starvation response in worms points to common hunger pathway
New evidence in the April 5, 2006 Cell Metabolism reveals a molecular mechanism that may play a general role in animals' ability to respond appropriately when starved. The researchers discovered a pathway in worms that underlies their ability to adapt to food scarcity by remodeling their primary feeding organ.

Very long or short intervals between pregnancies associated with increased poor perinatal outcomes
Intervals between pregnancies shorter than 18 months and longer than 59 months are associated with increased risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age, according to an article in the April 19 issue of JAMA.

Who knows their children best, teachers or parents?
Researchers have generally believed that teachers are better than parents at evaluating the behavior of school children, because teachers have a bigger group of children for comparison. A University of Virginia study, however, shows that parents are better at assessing their child's emotional states, while teachers are better at rating bad behaviors. The results emphasize the importance of teachers and parents working together in the child's best interest.

Calcium supplements may be little help for healthy kids
There's little question that most kids get too little calcium, but a new review of evidence casts doubt on the value of supplements and calcium-fortified foods to build stronger bones.

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