Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (August 2000)

Science news and science current events archive August, 2000.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from August 2000

Scientists map first structure in important family of proteins
An international team has mapped the first crystal structure of a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), rhodopsin, one of a family of proteins crucial to everything from vision to embryonic development. Understanding the structure should help in the development of treatments for disorders ranging from vision problems to drug addiction and depression.

More than 300 regularly prescribed medicines can damage the lungs
The First World Congress on Lung Health and Respiratory Diseases (Florence, Italy, Aug 30 - Sept 3) issues a warning: more than 300 regularly prescribed medicines can damage the lungs. The lung experts meeting in Florence believe other doctors are not sufficiently aware of the danger.

St John's wort as effective as standard antidepressant therapy
St John's wort is as effective as imipramine - one of the most commonly used antidepressants - and should be considered as a first line treatment in patients with mild to moderate depression, according to the largest ever study of St John's wort published this week in the BMJ.

Binge drinking: a dangerous rite of passage
  • Adolescence is a time when many begin experimenting with alcohol.
  • Some adolescents binge drink, that is, drink heavily during a short period of time.
  • Adolescent brains may be particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.
  • Binge drinking during adolescence may have long-term disruptive consequences for memory.


Researchers produce the first direct 3-D image of a volcanic system
Until now, textbook depictions of the fiery magma chambers that reside beneath volcanoes and below the earth's crust were based on projected measurements, some guess work, and the artist's creative imagination. Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, have for the first time produced a direct three- dimensional image of a volcanic system based on sound waves reflected from a subterranean magma chamber.

Study evaluates Zyban in smokeless tobacco users
Data presented today at the 11th World Congress on Tobacco Or Health evaluated the use of ZYBAN® (bupropion HCl) Sustained Release 150 mg Tablets as a cessation aid for users of smokeless tobacco. Zyban is indicated as an aid to smoking cessation treatment in smokers 18 years and older; it is not indicated for treating smokeless tobacco addiction.

Brown physicist proposes that electron may be split
Brown professor of physics and engineering Humphrey Maris proposes that it is possible to split the electron.

Elderly smokers also benefit from quitting
Some healthcare givers assume elderly smokers won't benefit from quitting. This view is misguided, and elderly smokers who want to quit need more support, suggest the results of a research review.

Baltimore researchers receive $40 million from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded grants of $20 million each to the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health to develop a new type of measles vaccine that, for the first time, would protect infants younger than 9 months old. Such a vaccine would dramatically reduce the suffering and death rate from measles in developing countries

Blood pressure-lowering DASH diet also reduces homocysteine
The blood pressure-lowering DASH diet also reduces levels of the amino acid homocysteine, according to a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded study. A high level of homocysteine appears to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

2nd European Breast Cancer Conference unites scientists and patients
EBCC is a unique conference which positively encourages interaction between clinicians and patient groups. More than 3000 doctors, scientists, and patient advocates will attend. Distinguished international speakers will address important issues about the future of research, treatment and care in breast cancer in the next decade.

Stress makes St. John's wort more effective
Here's a botanical twist: The more stress that is placed on wild populations of St. John's wort, the more effective the plant might be in warding off human depression, say Cornell and USDA plant pathologists at a meeting in New Orleans.

Human origins
Eve is dead, say Michigan palaeontologists. Their analysis of an Australian hominid fossil overturns the hypothesis that all modern humans are descended from a hypothetical African 'Eve', who completely replaced Homo erectus. The researchers believe that modern humans are the product of worldwide gene flow between ancient hominids.

University Of Pittsburgh researchers find some over-the- counter medicine may affect scuba divers' performance
University of Pittsburgh researchers find some over-the- counter medicine may affect scuba divers'performance. While most divers know it is ill-advised to take any kind of medication before a dive, many will take Dramamine® to combat the effects of seasickness or take Sudafed® to ease pressure in the ears.

Neck artery surgery has lasting benefits for stroke prevention
A follow-up analysis confirms that surgery to unclog severely blocked neck arteries has long-term benefits for preventing strokes, researchers report in this month's Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Running out of reptiles
National attention has been riveted on the issue of amphibian declines for years and has intensified with each new report of vanishing populations or deformities. However, according to an article in the August 11th issue of the journal BioScience, reptiles are in even greater distress worldwide than their better known cousins.

Terra spacecraft and ER-2 aircraft begin study of Southern Africa's environment
NASA's Terra spacecraft and ER-2 aircraft made their first synchronized scientific observations over Southern Africa on Aug. 17 as part of the six-week SAFARI 2000 field experiment to study the region's ecosystems, air quality and land use.

Many minority patients pick doctors of their own race
A study examining how minority patients pick their physicians shows that race is an important factor in the process. The study, conducted by Oregon Health Sciences University, found that nearly a quarter of blacks and Hispanics with racially concordant (same race) physicians said they explicitly considered race or ethnicity when selecting their providers.

Rotavirus vaccines may trigger diabetes
Infection with rotavirus, the commonest cause of gastro- enteritis, might trigger type-I diabetes in children, say Australian immunologists. The discovery could spell trouble for rotavirus vaccines in development which themselves could trigger diabetes.

Study finds acupuncture shows promise for treating cocaine addiction
A research team at Yale University School of Medicine fund that cocaine dependent patients who received a course of auricular acupuncture (acupuncture needles inserted into four specific points in the outer ear) were more likely to be free of cocaine during treatment than those not receiving acupuncture.

Mars launch in 2014 would offer safety option for astronauts
The best opportunity in the near future to launch the first human mission to Mars will come in 2014 because an alignment of planetary bodies that year provides an ideal escape route back to Earth, in case of an Apollo 13 type of accident.

Non-pathogenic bacteria block inflammatory response pathway in intestinal tract
Non-pathogenic bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract may be responsible for blocking an immune pathway that otherwise could cause an unhealthy inflammatory response to the millions of bacteria normally present in the intestine. A breakdown in this tolerance mechanism could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and other infectious intestinal diseases.

New class of supramolecular complexes bind to DNA
For three decades, continuing problems with resistance and toxic side effects from chemotherapy has stimulated extensive research to create alternative drugs and drug delivery systems to treat cancer. Virginia Tech researchers have had initial success with a new class of supramolecular complexes that could join the arsenal of cancer treatments in the future.

UCSF study finds increased risk of incontinence in women who have hysterectomies
Women who have undergone a hysterectomy have a substantially higher risk of developing urinary incontinence later in life compared to women who have not had a hysterectomy, according to a University of California, San Francisco study. The study will be published in the August 12 issue of the journal Lancet.

Research shows that brain receptor may control obesity
Scientists at Oregon Health Sciences University's Vollum Institute have found a new receptor site in the brain of mice that causes them to become obese by storing fat and expending less energy than normal mice. The study will be reported in the September 2000 issue of Endocrinology.

UI-led study shows experimental anti-cancer drug also has anti-HIV properties
The results of a study led by a University of Iowa researcher suggest that a drug already undergoing stage I and II clinical trials as a cancer treatment may also have potential as an anti-HIV therapy.

Using water and technology to map alcohol's effects on the brain
  • Much of the human body, including the brain, is composed of water.
  • Sophisticated technology called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is sensitive to water in the body.
  • Using DTI in a new way, researchers can track water molecules in the brain to examine alcohol's damaging effects on brain white matter.


ORNL helping EPA put instruments to the test
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Aug. 17, 2000 - Manufacturers of portable instruments or test kits to detect explosives or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil and transformer oil will have a better idea of how well their gear works after participating in a program at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

How parents can keep teen siblings from fighting
Parents of teen siblings exert a greater influence than previously believed on the relationship between two youths and the amount of fighting between them, says a new study.

First-ever Technology Transfer Fair featured at ACS National Meeting
Representatives from more than 20 organizations will discuss their latest technology innovations at the Technology Transfer Fair, to be held August 21-22, as part of the 220th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The meeting will be held in Washington, D.C., August 20-24, and is expected to draw up to 10,000 scientists.

TSRI scientists clone gene that regulates circadian rhythms in plants
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have cloned a gene that regulates circadian rhythms in plants, providing an increased understanding of the processes that enable organisms to anticipate and adapt to daily variations in the environment.

NASA, Alabama officials sign agreement creating National Space Science and Technology Center
The National Space Science and Technology Center -- a venture that will bring together scientists, engineers and educators -- became reality today in Montgomery, Ala., as Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Art Stephenson, the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., formally endorsed a partnership agreement to operate the new center.

UNC-Duke Scientists develop interactive learning tool simulating nerve function
A husband-wife scientist team from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a computerized interactive learning tool on CD-ROM that simulates laboratory experiments on nerve cells. The neurobiology simulator allows students to duplicate experiments and extend them beyond what can be done in the laboratory.

Team of scientists sequence the largest bacterial genome yet
Scientists have mapped the Pseudomonas aeruginosa genome, the most common pathogen in cystic fibrosis lung infections, and a danger for burn and cancer patients. The August 31 Nature study represents collaboration by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the University of Washington and PathoGenesis Corporation. Genomics will offer targets for novel drugs.

Emergency contraception is used when needed but doesn't increase high-risk sex, according to UCSF study
Young women who have an advance provision of emergency contraception are more likely to use it when they need it, but its availability does not appear to increase risky sexual behavior, according to a new study by University of California, San Francisco researchers

USGS diagnoses causes of many US amphibian die-offs
US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists are making headway in unraveling clues to the causes of massive die-offs of frogs and other amphibians. The agency announced today that a little-understood, emerging iridovirus disease associated with large die-offs of frogs and salamanders in the Midwest and the East has caused another recent die-off, in North Dakota.

Texts on computer screens harder to understand, less persuasive
Students who read essays on a computer screen found the text harder to understand, less interesting and less persuasive than students reading the same essay on paper, a new study found. It may be that students need to learn different processing abilities when they are attempting to read computerized text.

Chidren's reactions to violence change as they grow up
Young children view violent events in emotional and dramatic terms, while older children see violence in a more intellectual and detached way, researchers found. Researchers surveyed fifth, seventh, ninth and 12th graders three weeks after the Columbine school shootings in 1999 while NATO was in the midst of bombing Serbia.

Molly Cooke, MD, appointed director of the UCSF School of Medicine Academy of Medical Educators
Molly Cooke, MD, UCSF professor of medicine, has been appointed director of the Academy of Medical Educators at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. She replaces Daniel Lowenstein, MD, UCSF professor of neurology, who conceptualized the academy and has served as its director since January, 1999.

Zirconate material will improve plutonium storage safety
An international research team, led by University of Michigan scientists, has found that gadolinium zirconate is much more resistant to radiation than the ceramic currently being considered for disposal of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons in the United States.

This year's presidential race could forever change campaigning
While the outcomes of this summer's political conventions are predictable, the same cannot be said for the campaigns each candidate will wage this fall. The just-completed Republican convention sets the stage for a presidential campaign that will leave the public exhausted, tired of negative advertisements and vowing to find new ways -- such as the Internet -- to learn about the candidates and talk with fellow voters.

Naked vaccination may conquer arthritis and MS
A modification of a new technology born of genetic engineering -- known as naked DNA vaccination -- holds the potential of overcoming autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It consists of introducing engineered genes based on the culprit peptides into the body. When the patient's immune system sees these genes as outside invaders, it produces its own neutralizing antibodies capable of restraining the disease.

Vitamin D shows promise as cancer prevention drug
Within a decade, a chemically modified version of vitamin D could be used to prevent cancer, researchers reported at the 220th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Tests with mice showed the incidence of tumors were reduced by 28 percent and the number of tumors by 63 percent.

New material could 'revolutionize' treatment of broken bones
A new material that could speed the healing of severely fractured bones and reduce the need for invasive surgery was described here today at the 220th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The material could replace the cements and metal devices now used internally to hold broken bones together.

Supramolecular assembly process provides flexibility; new DNA binding properties, solar conversion potential discovered
Virginia Tech researchers are using the building block approach to synthesis to create supramolecular complexes with multiple capabilities, such as converting energy to light and metal-DNA binding.

Changes in diet related to prevalence of asthma and allergies
Childhood diet may be critical to the development of asthma and allergies, reports a study in Thorax.

You don't have to feel sleepy to have sleep apnea, U-M study finds
Being low on energy during the day might be caused by trouble breathing while you sleep, even if you don't actually feel sleepy, a new study suggests. In fact, doctors and patients may be missing the real cause of some cases of daytime fatigue: a potentially serious condition called sleep apnea.

Study shows test in the first trimester of pregnancy is effective in identifying birth defects
Researchers report 1st Trimester tests detects over 90% of Down Syndrome Cases. A study in the August 2000, issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that a new screening test which combines a blood test and an ultrasound exam can identify over 90% of cases of Down syndrome in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Genetic 'switch' key to biotech patent royalties
The first royalties for a genetic sequencing patent that acts like a molecular switch to expose encrypted characteristics of genes has netted University of Alaska Fairbanks biochemist John Keller $10,000. He received royalties from Research Corporation Technologies, a biotech company in Tucson, Ariz. examining how Keller's patented sequence can be used to improve medical research and treatment.

Atlanta researcher receives national award
Chemist Albert Padwa of Atlanta, Ga., will be honored on August 22 by the world's largest scientific society for developing fundamental techniques to streamline the synthesis of potential drugs derived from nature. He will receive the 2000 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its 220th national meeting in Washington, DC.

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