Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (April 2009)

Science news and science current events archive April, 2009.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from April 2009

'Dramatic' increase in Ph.D.s awarded to minority scientists, AAAS report shows
Efforts over the past decade to boost minority participation in the sciences and engineering have been successful, a AAAS report shows. Analysis of Ph.D. recipients revealed that the annual number of Ph.D.s awarded to underrepresented minorities in science and technical fields increased by 33.9 percent, from 623 to 834. When looking at the natural sciences and engineering fields alone, the increase was even greater: 382 to 573, a 50 percent increase.

Alzheimer's: New findings resolve long dispute about how the disease might kill brain cells
For a decade, Alzheimer's disease researchers have been entrenched in debate about one of the mechanisms believed to be responsible for brain cell death and memory loss in the illness.

Rice students win NASA national design award
Five senior bioengineering students have designed a device to help astronauts keep their skeletons strong and healthy by measuring bone mineral density loss, literally on the fly. Their design of a bone-remodeling monitor for use in microgravity shared the top prize in NASA's third annual Systems Engineering Competition.

ASU professor tracks Columbine media discourse from 'school shooting' to 'terrorism'
Arizona State University's David Altheide builds on his two-decade study of mass media messages of fear to argue that Columbine and other school shootings were redefined as a form of terrorism that was consistent with news emphases and social control efforts that emerged prior to the invasion of Iraq. One result was to extend terrorism frames and discourse into public policy and funding sources that influenced school districts' priorities, rules and student discipline.

Researchers identify specific lung cancer susceptibility gene
University of Cincinnati cancer cell biologists have identified a distinct gene linked to increased lung cancer susceptibility and development. They say this gene -- known as RGS17 -- could result in a genetic predisposition to develop lung cancer for people with a strong family history of the disease.

Snakes and how they helped our big brains evolve
The threat of snakes gave primates superior vision and large brains -- and fueled a critical aspect of human evolution, UC Davis anthropology professor Lynne Isbell argues in a new book.

First noninvasive technique to accurately predict mutations in human brain tumors
Donald O'Rourke, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and colleagues, were able to accurately predict the specific genetic mutation that caused brain cancer in a group of patients studied using magnetic resonance imaging.

Quantum link to memory
Quantum mechanics could be used to describe the way memory works and revolutionize the way we think about the human mind, a Queensland University of Technology researcher says.

Scientists identify key gene that protects against leukemia
Researchers at UCSF have identified a gene that controls the rapid production and differentiation of the stem cells that produce all blood cell types -- a discovery that could eventually open the door to more streamlined treatments for leukemia and other blood cancers, in which blood cells proliferate out of control.

Potentially harmful chemicals found in forest fire smoke
Researchers have detected common plant toxins that affect human health and ecosystems in smoke from forest fires. The results from the new study also suggest that smoldering fires may produce more toxins than wildfires - a reason to keep human exposures to a minimum during controlled burns. Finding these toxins -- known as alkaloids -- helps researchers understand how they cycle through earth and air.

A potential new target for treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer
A new study identifies a protein that modifies the androgen receptor and influences its ability to regulate target genes linked with the progression of prostate cancer. The research, published by Cell Press in the April 7 issue of the journal Cancer Cell, may also drive creation of new strategies for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to traditional anti-hormone therapies.

Sleep: Spring cleaning for the brain?
If you've ever been sleep-deprived, you know the feeling that your brain is full of wool.

Packard/Stanford study suggests two causes for bowel disease in infants
New research from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine is helping physicians unravel the cause of a deadly and mysterious bowel disease that strikes medically fragile newborn babies. The findings could lead to a better understanding of the disease and its medical management, and also shed light on the causes of sepsis, a major killer of children and young adults.

Methylprednisolone added to interferon beta reduces relapse rate
Addition of oral methylprednisolone, the standard treatment of subcutaneous interferon beta-1a, substantially reduces the relapse rate in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. The findings are reported in an article published online first and in the June edition of the Lancet Neurology

Researchers identify missing target for calcium signaling
An international study led by Ohio State University researchers describes one of the missing triggers that controls calcium inside cells, a process important for muscle contraction, nerve-cell transmission, insulin release and other essential functions. The researchers believe the findings will enhance the understanding of how calcium signals are regulated in cells and shed light on new ways to treat many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, immune diseases, metabolic diseases, cancer and brain disorders.

Montana State University professor wins Shingo prize for problem-solving and manufacturing research
Montana State University industrial engineering professor Durward Sobek has won a 2009 Shingo research prize for his book about problem-solving within organizations.

ONR lecturer offers 5 tips for interagency collaboration
The Office of Naval Research facilitated interagency coordination by inviting a senior adviser from the National Science Foundation's Office of Information and Resource Management to speak April 27 about the value of partnerships across federal agencies.

Case Western Reserve University receives $1.66M grant from NIH for otoprotection research
Qing Yin Zheng, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and genetics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been awarded a five-year $1.66 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant Program to explore the impact of several molecular pathways on inner ear dysfunction in Ushers syndrome.

Inadequate sleep leads to behavioral problems
A recent Finnish study suggests that children's short sleep duration even without sleeping difficulties increases the risk for behavioral symptoms of ADHD.

Low glycemic breakfast may increase benefits of working out
Individuals trying to shed fat may consider choosing Low Glycemic Index foods eaten prior to when they exercise.

Telescope upgrade turns data stream into a torrent
A major upgrade of CSIRO's radio telescope near Narrabri in NSW, which will turn the instrument's data stream into a torrent, is almost completed.

Study: Price gap threatens Chicago Board of Trade's wheat futures market
A commodity market that has long helped wheat growers and processors manage price risks could lose its relevance unless the Chicago Board of Trade bridges a wide gap between futures and cash prices, a new University of Illinois study warns.

Climate change and atmospheric circulation will make for uneven ozone recovery
Earth's ozone layer should eventually recover from the unintended destruction brought on by the use of chlorofluorocarbons and similar ozone-depleting chemicals in the 20th century. But new research by NASA scientists suggests the ozone layer of the future is unlikely to look much like the past because greenhouse gases are changing the dynamics of the atmosphere.

A bright future with solar lanterns for India's poor
Solar energy has the potential to improve the living conditions of poor rural households in India as well as contribute to the country's future energy security, according to Professor Agoramoorthy from Tajen University and Dr. Hsu from the National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan. Their study, looking at the benefits of solar lanterns on livelihoods of village communities, as well as sustainable use of the environment, has just been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

Going bananas for sustainable research -- scientists create fuel from African crop waste
Bananas are a staple crop of Rwanda. The fruit is eaten raw, fried and baked -- it even produces banana beer and wine. Around 2 million tons are grown each year but the fruit is only a small percentage of what the plant produces. The rest -- skins, leaves and stems -- is left to rot as waste.

Telemonitoring changes the working practice of cardiac nurses
The 9th Annual Spring Meeting of the European Society of Cardiology Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions, organized in cooperation with the Irish Nurses Cardiovascular Association, is being held at the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland, on April 24-25.

Case Western Reserve University engineers hit pay dirt with clay mixture
A watery, mud-like substance has hit pay dirt for Case Western Reserve University engineering professor David Schiraldi and his research group. The researchers have created a line of patented foam-like and environmentally friendly polymers, called clay aerogel composites that can take on the shape and size of any container that can hold water -- from ice cube trays to rubber ducky molds to clam-shell packaging molds that hold and ship electronics.

U study shows MRI-based method holds promise for predicting treatment outcomes in patients with AF
University of Utah researchers have found that delayed-enhancement magnetic resonance imaging holds promise for predicting treatment outcomes and measuring disease progression for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), a little known heart rhythm disorder that affects more than 3.5 million Americans and causes more than 66,000 deaths a year. Their latest study on a novel application of this technology for AF appears in the April 7 issue of the journal Circulation.

Tips from the American Journal of Pathology
These are tips from the American Journal of Pathology for May 2009.

Worms control lifespan at high temperatures, UCSF study finds
The common research worm, C. elegans, is able to use heat-sensing nerve cells to not only regulate its response to hotter environments, but also to control the pace of its aging as a result of that heat, according to new research at the University of California, San Francisco.

Time record of marine species formation in the Baltic Sea
Four years ago researchers at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm University discovered a new species of seaweed in the Baltic Sea. New studies reveal that this species may have formed only 400 years ago, making this seaweed species unique.

Mental health problems in childhood may predict later suicide attempts in males
Most males who commit suicide or need hospital care for suicide attempts during their teen or early adult years appear to have high levels of psychiatric problems at age eight, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, later suicide attempts in females are not predicted by mental health issues at this age.

Annual dose of zoledronic acid better than daily bisphosphonates at improving bone density
Patients who take glucocorticoid drugs (such as prednisolone or prednisone) to treat a variety of inflammatory/immune-mediated diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma) can suffer side effects such as bone loss, leading to excess risk of fractures. The HORIZON study, published in an article in this week's edition of the Lancet, shows that a single annual infusion of zoledronic acid improves bone mineral density more than the current standard treatment of daily oral bisphosponates.

New strategy improves stem cell recruitment, heart function and survival after heart injury
A new study in mice shows that a dual therapy can lead to generation of new blood vessels and improved cardiac function following a heart attack. The research, published by Cell Press in the April 3 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, provides an explanation for the ineffectiveness of current stem-cell-mobilizing therapies and may drive design of future regenerative therapies for the heart.

Partner behavior better predicts STD risks
Risky behaviors such as not using condoms or having sex with multiple people put young adults at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but perhaps not as much as the characteristics of their sexual partners, University of Florida researchers say.

Energy drinks work -- in mysterious ways!
Writing in the latest issue oft he Journal of Physiology, Ed Chambers and colleagues not only show that sugary drinks can significantly boost performance in an endurance event without being ingested, but so can a tasteless carbohydrate -- and they do so in unexpected ways.

While majority of Americans express interest in organ and tissue donation, few register
While the number of Americans registered as organ and tissue donors is rising, the registry still only includes 38 percent of licensed drivers, according to a report card issued by Donate Life America this year. Yet, according to a new survey of Americans, 72 percent of people want their decision to donate honored, even if their family disagrees.

Largest attempt in history to understand tornadoes slated to begin
An ambitious project to explore the origin, structure and evolution of tornadoes will take place from May 10-June 13, 2009, across the central United States.

Oral contraceptives impair muscle gains in young women
Many active young women use oral contraceptives yet the effect on body composition and exercise performance has not been thoroughly studied. A new study finds that oral contraceptive use impairs muscle gains in young women, and is associated with lower hormone levels.

NRL's SoloHI selected for European-led solar orbiter mission
The NRL's Heliospheric Imager has been chosen as part of the scientific payload for the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter mission. SoloHI will provide revolutionary measurements to pinpoint solar storms known as coronal mass ejections. CMEs are violent eruptions with masses greater than a few billion tons, and have been compared to hurricanes due to widespread disruption of communications and power systems they can cause when directed at Earth.

Low-income patients with obstructive sleep apnea are less likely to start CPAP therapy
A study in the April 1 issue of the journal Sleep demonstrates that low socioeconomic status independently predicts the poor acceptance of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, and patients with higher incomes are more likely to begin treatment. The authors suggest that CPAP support programs should be better tailored to the needs of low-income patients to improve CPAP acceptance and adherence.

Scripps Research scientists determine workings of potentially useful virus
We typically view viruses as scourges. But Marianne Manchester, an associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute, and her colleagues are hoping to enlist the help of one particular virus to treat disease. Their discovery that the tiny plant virus, cowpea mosaic virus, attaches itself to a specific protein on mammalian cells brings them closer to achieving this mission.

Is intervention beneficial for brain vessel malformations?
Individuals diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation -- an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins -- are at increased risk of vessel rupture and bleeding that can cause permanent brain damage. Traditionally, doctors have prescribed preventive interventions like surgery, but there is suggestive evidence that this invasive approach may actually increase risk of a rupture, at least in some patients.

Biosphere 2 experiment shows how fast heat could kill drought-stressed trees
Widespread die-off of pinyon pine across the southwestern United States during future droughts will occur at least five times faster if climate warms by 4 degrees Celsius, even if future droughts are no worse than droughts of the past century, scientists have discovered in experiments conducted at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2.

Excessive increase in heart rate before exercise doubles risk of sudden cardiac death in later life
A study of 7746 French male civil servants, published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday, April 29, has found that men whose heart rate increased the most during mild mental stress just before an exercise test had twice the risk of dying of a sudden heart attack in later life than men whose heart rate did not increase as much.

When cancer cells can't let go
Like a climber scaling a rock face, a migrating cancer cell has to keep a tight grip on the surface but also let go at the right moment to move ahead. Chan et al. reveal that the focal adhesion kinase coordinates these processes to permit forward movement.

A 'personal assistant' satnav on your mobile phone could be available now
Some of the UK's leading experts in satellite navigation confirmed today that the technology to create a personal navigation device replacing your phone, satnav, traffic news, road signs and public transport information is available now. But they warn that fears over the privacy of personal data and the existence of

Computer based model helps radiologists diagnose breast cancer
Radiologists have developed a computer based model that aids them in discriminating between benign and malignant breast lesions, according to a study performed at the University Of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison, Wis. The model was developed by a multidisciplinary group, including radiologists and industrial engineers, led by Elizabeth S. Burnside, M.D., Oguzhan Alagoz, Ph.D., and Jagpreet Chhatwal, Ph.D.

GSU astronomy graduate student receives Hubble Fellowship to explore stellar sizes
Thanks to a prestigious fellowship awarded by NASA, Georgia State University's Tabetha Boyajian will help expand astronomers' knowledge about origins of our galaxy, and learn more about the stars which harbor planets outside of our solar system.

Grapefruit juice boosts drug's anti-cancer effects
Results from a small, early clinical trial show that combining grapefruit juice with the drug rapamycin can be effective in treating various types of cancer. The grapefruit juice increases drug levels, allowing lower doses of the drug to be given. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to