Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (August 2003)

Science news and science current events archive August, 2003.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from August 2003

The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation commits $1.3 million for 2003 research awards
The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (RSRF) has awarded $1.3 million to fund 13 cutting edge projects seeking improved understanding of this debilitating neurological disorder diagnosed almost exclusively in little girls.

Pigeonholing quantum phase transitions
A team of physicists led by researchers at Rice University has developed the first thermodynamic method for systematically classifying quantum phase transitions, mysterious electromagnetic transformations that are widely believed to play a critical role in high-temperature superconductivity. In two papers in the Aug. 8 issue of Physical Review Letters, the researchers propose and test a new theory about a mathematical irregularity that occurs at the

Duke ecologist finds devastation, hope in Iraqi marshes
An expedition by Duke University wetlands expert Curtis Richardson to evaluate damage to Iraq's storied Mesopotamian Marshlands revealed an environmental disaster of vast proportions. However, he also found the potential for restoring a significant portion of the marshes and with them the Marsh Arab culture.

Infrared halo frames a newborn star
Observations with the VLT of a star-forming cloud have revealed, for the first time, a ring of infrared light around a nascent star. The images also show the presence of jets that emanate from the young object and collide with the surrounding cloud.

Purdue chemist wins national award for new ways to fight cancer, AIDS
Jean A. Chmielewski of West Lafayette, Ind., will be honored Sept. 9 by the American Chemical Society for exploring new approaches to block diseases such as cancer and AIDS in the body. She will receive the 2003 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award at the ACS national meeting in New York.

First company founded on UCF biotechnology formed
A company founded on innovations in biotechnology at the University of Central Florida has secured venture funding to research the possibility of growing therapeutic drugs in common plants like tobacco.

Study seeks genetic keys to exercise success
Why does embarking on an exercise program result in a swift payoff in weight loss, lower blood pressure and general well-being for some while others see little gain from all of that pain? The key could lie in the genetic makeup of the exercisers. A joint research project of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Houston will explore that issue under a $3.2 million NIH grant.

Rush studying the role of intra abdominal fat in coronary artery disease risk in women
Researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center are following middle-aged women from the Southside of Chicago to determine if the location of the fat in their bodies affects their risk for coronary artery disease.

Atmospheric bromine, which attacks ozone layer, is decreasing
Researchers have discovered that total bromine in the lower atmosphere has been decreasing since 1998 and is now more than five percent below the peak reached that year. Bromine is one of the most active destroyers of the stratospheric ozone layer, which forms an invisible shield around the Earth, protecting it from the biologically damaging ultraviolet rays of the Sun. The decrease is driven by a large and rapid decline in methyl bromide, a brominated gas that is regulated internationally by the Montreal Protocol.

The key in the catalyst
A USC team may have found a better way to create acetic acid, used in aspirin, cosmetics and other essential products. The process could lead to cheaper ways to convert natural gas - one of the planet's most abundant resources.

Researcher invents new graphing method
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have developed a new Diamond Graph method to replace the inaccurate and misleading three-dimensional bar graph, which is used in computer programs, scientific journals and newspapers to display financial, medical and other information. The new Diamond Graph could replace the traditional 3-D bar graph in software commonly used in business and science. A study is published in the August 2003 of The American Statistician.

Promising West Nile virus vaccine protects monkeys
Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have created a promising vaccine against West Nile virus by replacing parts of a distantly related virus with proteins from the West Nile virus. The NIAID research team replaced proteins in a virus known as dengue type 4 with the corresponding West Nile virus proteins, creating a hybrid virus vaccine that protects monkeys from West Nile infection.

Other highlights in the August 20 issue of JNCI
Other highlights of the August 20 issue of JNCI include three articles on body mass index and risk of cancer, a study of Finnish immigrants suggesting that risk of testicular cancer may be determined early in life, a study reexamining the role of a carcinogen-activating enzyme in bladder cancer, and an analysis that doubles previous percentage estimates of hereditary adrenal gland tumors.

Short gaps between pregnancies linked to complications
Women with a very short interval between pregnancies are at an increased risk of complications such as premature birth, neonatal death, and low birth weight, say researchers in this week's BMJ.

'Spintronics' could enable a new generation of electronic devices, physicists say
Physicists have discovered the equivalent of a new 'Ohm's Law' for spintronics - the emerging science of manipulating the spin of electrons for useful purposes. Unlike the Ohm's Law for electronics, the new 'Ohm's Law' says that the spin of the electron can be transported without any loss of energy, or dissipation. This effect occurs at room temperature in materials widely used in the semiconductor industry and could enable a new generation of computing devices.

Deer help disperse seeds--including noxious weeds
Ecologists at Cornell University have discovered a significant role in seed dispersal by deer that browse on vegetation wherever they wish and deposit seeds, in their pellet-like feces, to germinate and produce new plants up to two miles away.

Communications training leads to better medical student performance, according to new study
Comprehensive training in doctor-patient communications significantly improved the ability of medical students to understand and address patients' needs, according to a study in the 3 September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Home visits from community health workers spur blood pressure reduction
As little as one home visit by a community health worker, as part of a community/academic health center program, may be enough to encourage someone with high blood pressure to take measures to lower it, a Johns Hopkins study demonstrates.

Trawlers threaten ocean's biodiversity
Fishing trawlers searching for new catches around undersea volcanic mountains, called seamounts, are pushing hundreds of new deep-sea species towards extinction. Seamounts are home to an astonishing diversity of species and trawler nets are doing immense damage before some have even been identified or studied.

Europe's first Moon probe prepares for launch
Europe's first probe to the Moon, SMART-1, is about to begin a unique journey that will take it into orbit around our closest neighbour, powered only by an ion engine which Europe will be testing for the first time as main spacecraft propulsion.

NYU opens city's only motion capture studio
New York City's only laboratory dedicated to research in motion capture - a cutting edge technique used to facilitate the study of animation and human movement - was recently opened at NYU through its Center for Advanced Technology (CAT). Located at 719 Broadway, the lab uses optical cameras and other devices to track the movement of reflective markers placed on live subjects, which are then used to help create more realistic computer images of humans and animals.

Protein profile predicts prognosis for lung cancer
Researchers at Vanderbilt have identified a distinct pattern of expression of 15 proteins in lung cancers that can predict a poor prognosis or a good prognosis. All patients in the poor prognosis group had died one year after diagnosis, while all patients in the good prognosis group were still alive. The findings suggest a potential

Disease-causing genetic mutations in sperm increase with men's age
There's a lot said about a woman's ticking biological clock, but male biology doesn't age as gracefully as men might like to think. By analyzing sperm from men of various ages, scientists from the McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins have discovered that older men's sperm is more likely to contain disease-causing genetic mutations that also seem to increase a sperm's chances of fertilizing an egg.

Gene that is crucial for antibody-producing cell development is key to blood cell cancer
A gene that is crucial to the development and function of an entire family of immune cells is also key to understanding why one member of that family can become cancerous. Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Blood Research Institute at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee, reported this finding in the September 2003 issue of Nature Immunology.

Ann Arbor chemist wins national award for making molecules found in nature
William H. Pearson of Ann Arbor, Mich., will be honored Sept. 9 by the American Chemical Society for making molecules found in nature, particularly those with promise in the drug industry. He will receive the 2003 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award at the ACS national meeting in New York.

Appreciation of humor doesn't change with age
A Canadian study of humor in older adults has found that appreciation and emotional reactiveness to humor doesn't change with age. Older adults still enjoy a good laugh. However, the ability to comprehend more complex forms of humor diminishes in later years.

Mayo Clinic study finds people over 40 need frequent exercise to prevent or treat Type 2 diabetes
People over 40 who use aerobic exercise to prevent or control diabetes need not only regular, but frequent, exercise if they are to realize its potential benefits, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the August 2003 issue of Diabetes, the Journal of the American Diabetes Association. Aerobic exercise is often prescribed to help prevent or control Type 2 diabetes.

Dartmouth bioengineers develop humanized yeast
Bioengineers at Dartmouth have genetically engineered yeast to produce humanized therapeutic proteins to address the manufacturing crunch currently confronting the biopharmaceutical industry. Reported in this week's issue of Science, the researchers have re-engineered the yeast P. pastoris to secrete a complex human glycoprotein--a process offering significant advantages over current production methods using mammalian cell lines, according to the researchers.

Recipe for a 'shake gel'
Chemists and computer scientists are using a special

UCSD study on newly sighted blind people provides clues to development of visual system
A new study completed at the University of California, San Diego describes the effects of long-term blindness on the human visual system.

Clinical study of Penn State Hershey technology begins in South Africa
The first clinical study of the neonatal chest wall stabilizer developed at Penn State Hershey Medical Center recently began at three hospitals in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Purdue researchers expose 'Docking Bay' for viral attack
Imagine a virus and its cellular target as two spacecraft - the virus sporting a tiny docking bay that allows it to invade its victim. Purdue University researchers have taken a close-up picture of one virus' docking bay, work that could have implications for both medicine and nanotechnology.

JAMA study: Medicare coverage boosts cancer, cholesterol screening for previously uninsured adults
Gaining access to Medicare coverage substantially improved uninsured older adults' use of clinical preventive measures such as cholesterol testing, mammography, and prostate exams, compared with a similar group of insured adults, according to a new study in the August 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Airbag to keep windsurfer safe on 8000 km voyage
Extreme sports adventurer Raphaƫla Le Gouvello is about to windsurf 8000 km across the Pacific Ocean - from Peru to Tahiti in 80 days. Her board incorporates a new 'anti-capsize' airbag system, the first result of an ESA technology transfer initiative to improve safety for small boats at sea.

SHRS researcher receives NIH grant to study communication deficits in stroke patients
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has awarded University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences' (SHRS) researcher Connie A. Tompkins, Ph.D., a $1.2 million grant to study language comprehension deficits in adults who have experienced right hemisphere brain damage (RHD) as the result of stroke.

As parts of the American West continue to suffer from drought and the East and South pull out of recent droughts, scientists will explore the impact of droughts on communities and ecosystems at a symposium during the Ecological Society of America's Annual Meeting this August.

Funding opportunities for junior faculty offered by the American Association for Cancer Research
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the nation's largest and oldest professional society of basic, translational, and clinical cancer research scientists, is now accepting applications for the AACR-Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award and AACR Career Development Awards in 2004.

Sandia researchers create nanocrystals nature's way
Sandia researchers are developing complex nanomaterials that look strikingly similar to the microstructures of diatoms and seashells.

Sexually active young women often underestimate STD risk
Most sexually active single women believe they are at low risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but a new study says their risk profiles are in fact similar to those women in higher risk populations.

UCSD chemists develop self-assembling silicon particles
Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have developed minute grains of silicon that spontaneously assemble, orient and sense their local environment, a first step toward the development of robots the size of sand grains that could be used in medicine, bioterrorism surveillance and pollution monitoring.

Infections linked to mental decline in elderly
Infection by several common viruses can significantly increase the risk of dementia in the elderly with cardiovascular disease, according to a report in today's rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Rat study shows exposure to Ecstasy early in pregnancy induces brain, behavior changes
Researchers at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago have shown that 21-day-old rat pups exposed in the womb to the drug MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, often called Ecstasy) during a period corresponding to the first trimester in human pregnancy exhibit changes in brain chemistry and behavior.

Adult mouse bone marrow stem cells can become cells of the nervous system
University of Minnesota researchers show that adult bone marrow stem cells can be induced to differentiate into cells of the midbrain. The findings, published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that adult bone-marrow-derived stem cells may one day be useful for treating diseases of the central nervous system, including Parkinson's disease.

Small subset of cells has big role in controlling immunity, study finds
A small subset of cells that tells the immune system whether to attack may be a future target for therapies to help patients fight tumors and keep transplanted organs, a Medical College of Georgia researcher says.

Genetic risks for disease often missing from patient charts
Standard history-taking in internal medicine practices may not fully capture patients' risks for developing certain diseases and internists may lose opportunities to provide preventive medical recommendations, according to a study from Northwestern University.

American Thoracic Society Journal news tips for August 2003 (second issue)
News highlights from journal articles include studies on the association of habitual snoring in third-grade children with poor academic performance in mathematics, science, and spelling; and the connection of regular vigorous physical activity with a slower rate of decline in pulmonary function with aging.

Weedkiller may encourage blight
Toxic fungi grows faster when glyphosate-based weedkillers are used on wheat fields, say Canadian researchers. The fungal disease - fusarium head blight - can destroy wheat fields as well as being a danger to humans and animals. If confirmed, the study would be a major blow for backers of a GM wheat, due for approval in Canada, which would be modified to be resistant to glyphosate herbicides.

Canada, US launch collaborative research programs for circulatory and respiratory health
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have formed a partnership to advance research of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Three research programs are being launched collaboratively. The programs will address novel strategies to resuscitate heart attack and trauma patients; cellular and molecular imaging of heart, lung, and blood systems; and management of thrombotic disorders such as heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.

New tool helps researchers bone up on osteoporosis
Purdue University scientists investigating osteoporosis in laying hens have shown that a noninvasive tool can monitor birds' bone strength and aid in discovering genetic information about bone disease in chickens.

Nominations sought for professorship by the American Association for Cancer Research
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) announces that nominations are now being accepting for the 2004 AACR-National Foundation for Cancer Research Professorship in Basic Cancer Research. 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