Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (August 2006)

Science news and science current events archive August, 2006.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from August 2006

Prenatal health strongly influences future economic success
While much attention has been paid to how inherited traits such as skin tone or height influence economic success, a groundbreaking new study from the Journal of Political Economy argues that it is a malleable characteristic -- in utero health -- that most strongly indicates how well a child will fare in adulthood. This study has important implications for public policy, suggesting that programs targeting early-life health have higher returns for reducing racial disparities in socioeconomic outcomes than more traditional investments, including schooling.

News tips from the Journal of Neuroscience
This week's Journal of Neuroscience includes the following highlights: A Sparse View of Cortical Activity; The Transactivator Trap Screen Strikes Again; An Approach to the Complexity of Neural Circuits; and An Odd Couple: mGluR4 and Medulloblastoma.

Standard developed for collection of suspicious powders
Federal, state and local agencies have reached consensus on the first validated national standard for collecting, packaging and transporting samples of visible powders that are suspected of being biological threat agents, such as anthrax. The new standard meets the needs of the first responders to test the powders on site, and the needs of the federal agencies to conduct tests on the same, uncontaminated powder samples for forensic and confirmatory analysis.

Light guides flight of migratory birds
Virginia Tech researchers have demonstrated that migratory birds calibrate their magnetic compass based on polarized light patterns at sunset and sunrise -- solving a 30-year puzzle.

Levels of serious mental illness in Katrina survivors doubled compared to earlier survey
According to the most comprehensive survey yet completed of mental health among Hurricane Katrina survivors from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, the proportion of people with a serious mental illness doubled in the months after the hurricane compared to a survey carried out several years before the hurricane. The study also found that thoughts of suicide did not increase despite the dramatic increase in mental illness.

New methods for screening nanoparticles
Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a screening method to examine how newly made nanoparticles -- particles with dimensions on the order of billionths of a meter -- interact with human cells following exposure for various times and doses. This has led to the visualization of how human cells interact with some specific types of carbon nanoparticles.

Study links lead exposure to brain cancer in adults
People who are routinely exposed to lead on the job are 50 percent more likely to die from brain cancer than people who are not exposed, according to a University of Rochester Medical Center study.

Everything in its place: Researchers identify brain cells used to categorize images
Socks in the sock drawer, shirts in the shirt drawer, the time-honored lessons of helping organize one's clothes learned in youth. But what parts of the brain are used to encode such categories as socks, shirts or any other item, and how does such learning take place? New research from Harvard Medical School (HMS) investigators has identified an area of the brain where such memories are found.

New findings offer more complete view of breast cancer gene mutations in US population
A large study funded by the National Institutes of Health today provided the clearest picture yet of the prevalence in the US population of mutations in two genes associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Meth promotes spread of virus in HIV-infected users
Researchers at the University at Buffalo have presented the first evidence that the addictive drug methamphetamine, or meth, also commonly known as

LIAI scientists identify immune system trigger for fighting Lyme disease
Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI) today announced an important finding on Lyme disease that could eventually lead to the development of a new vaccine to prevent this tick-borne disorder. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes skin rashes. If left untreated, it can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system and can lead to serious health problems.

Brain stimulation that may boost vision from the corner of your eye
By using simultaneous brain stimulation and activity recording to track the influence of one brain region on another, researchers have developed a new method for boosting brain function that may have implications for treatments of brain disorders and for improving vision. The findings are reported by Christian Ruff, Jon Driver, and their colleagues at University College London and appear in the August 8 issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

Study documents marathon migrations of sooty shearwaters
Scientists have long known that sooty shearwaters breed in New Zealand and Chile and migrate to feeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere. But the details of this remarkable transequatorial migration are only now emerging from a study using electronic tracking tags to follow individual birds. The flights of sooty shearwaters documented in this new study represent the longest animal migration routes ever recorded.

Genetic research at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh reinforces theory of evolution
Scientists led by a Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh geneticist have found new evidence that a category of genes known as pseudogenes serve no function, an important finding that bolsters the theory of evolution.

An irregular heartbeat makes exercise deadly
Humans lacking the protein cardiac calsequestin (CASQ2) have a normal heartbeat when not exercising, but their heartbeat becomes irregular when they exercise, putting them at risk for sudden death. A new study in mice, by researchers from Vanderbilt University, has now shed light on why the lack of CASQ2 only triggers an irregular, and potentially fatal, heartbeat during exercise.

Technique used commonly in physics finds application in neuroscience
To understand how brain cells release compounds (or transmitters) used when the cells communicate with each other, Vladimir Parpura, associate professor of neuroscience, and Umar Mohideen, professor of physics, devised a new technique -- used commonly in physics -- that can now be applied to the study of various biological processes and interactions. The technique, commonly referred to as

Researchers sequence the basal eukaryote Tetrahymena thermophila
The macronuclear genome of Tetrahymena thermophila is sequenced and analyzed. Conservation in this single-celled ciliate of some features normally observed in only multicellular organisms sheds light on early eukaryotic evolution, according to a study published in PLoS Biology.

Ossur takes another giant step in prosthetic technology
Ossur -- the Iceland-based developer and supplier of orthopedic devices -- has launched more scientifically advanced prosthetic innovations than any other company in the field. Now it has seized upon one of the 21st century's hottest areas of technology -- bionics -- to improve the quality of life for amputees. Prosthetists, the press, and users alike have been dazzled by its knees, which employ motorized power and artificial intelligence, making them the first truly ground-breaking innovations in prosthetics since the late '90s.

Researchers seek to solve mystery of natural HIV control
An international, multi-institutional research consortium is seeking to discover how a few HIV-infected individuals are naturally able to suppress replication of the virus. The Elite Controller Collaborative Study, the first large-scale haplotype-mapping study in people infected with HIV, is searching for genetic factors that may explain these individuals' unique ability to control the virus without treatment, sometimes as long as 25 years after infection.

US satellite protection scheme could affect global communications
A proposed US system to protect satellites from solar storms or high-altitude nuclear detonations could cause side-effects that lead to radio communication blackouts, according to new research. If activated, the

SNAP wins NASA support for Joint Dark Energy Mission
NASA has announced that it will support an advanced mission concept study for the SNAP experiment, a proposal for NASA and the Department of Energy's Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM). SNAP, the SuperNova/Acceleration Probe, is sponsored by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Space Sciences Laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley, and numerous governmental and academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. It will probe dark energy with distant supernovae and weak gravitational lensing.

Fitness level affects bariatric surgery outcomes
Morbidly obese patients with poor cardiopulmonary fitness may experience increased complications after bariatric surgery. New research published in the August issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), shows that bariatric surgery patients with low cardiopulmonary fitness levels experienced longer operative times and suffered more postsurgery complications than patients with higher fitness levels.

Mapping the neural landscape of hunger
The compelling urge to satisfy one's hunger enlists structures throughout the brain, as might be expected in a process so necessary for survival. But until now, studies of those structures and of the feeding cycle have been only fragmentary -- measuring brain regions only at specific times in the feeding cycle.

First large-scale study addressing augmentation treatment for resistant major depressive disorder
In the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers at Cedars-Sinai found that people suffering from resistant major depressive disorder who don't respond to standard antidepressants can benefit when the drug therapy is augmented by a broad spectrum psychotropic agent, even when treated for a brief period of time.

Routine use of Hib vaccine could lead to virtual elimination of killer disease in Africa
Study provides firm evidence that Hib disease is a major problem in developing countries such as Kenya, and investment in immunization to control Hib meningitis & pneumonia, a significant killer of children under five, works. Increased awareness, funding and expanded use could virtually eliminate disease in Africa and other developing countries, but action is needed from countries, donors and other stakeholders to evaluate the growing body of evidence and support Hib vaccine programs today.

Emeritus Director leading the way at Prince Henry's
Emeritus Director at Melbourne's Prince Henry's Institute, Professor Henry Burger, has been selected as the recipient of the 2006 NAMS/Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals Morrie M.Gelfand Leadership Award in Androgen Research.

Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference
On August 28 and 29, 2006, the Honorable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, and the Honorable Archie Lang, Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, will co-chair the 2006 Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference.

Gabriela Cezar's stem cell research targets birth defects and cancer
After conducting research at Scotland's Roslin Institute (birthplace of Dolly, the cloned sheep) and creating in-vitro models of obesity and Parkinson's disease for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Gabriela Cezar has returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Crafting messages with meaning for HIV testing and research
Indiana University researchers from Schools of Medicine, Business and Nursing are evaluating messages designed to increase HIV testing rates and the acceptability of participation in HIV vaccine clinical trials. The study is funded by a $2.25 million, five-year National Institute of Nursing Research grant.

NASA finds direct proof of dark matter
Dark matter and normal matter have been wrenched apart by the tremendous collision of two large clusters of galaxies. The discovery, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, gives direct evidence for the existence of dark matter.

Rensselaer researchers aim to close 'green gap' in LED technology
A team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received $1.8 million in federal funding to improve the energy efficiency of green light-emitting diodes (LEDs). As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Program, the team aims to close the

Mayo Clinic links allergies to Parkinson's disease
Researchers from Mayo Clinic have discovered that allergic rhinitis is associated with the development of Parkinson's disease later in life.

Washington, DC getting a summertime air quality exam
Since early July Washington, D.C. area skies have been put under a unique microscope as scientists from NASA and around the country assembled a powerful array of scientific instruments -- in space and on the ground -- to dissect the region's atmosphere. The result will be not only a better understanding of intense urban air pollution episodes but also a better toolkit to track and probe air pollution worldwide from space.

Pigment formulated 225 years ago could be key in emerging technologies
A mixture of zinc oxide and cobalt, first formulated in 1780 as a pigment called cobalt green, appears capable of allowing electrons to be manipulated magnetically at room temperature without losing its magnetism.

SMART-1 on the trail of the Moon's beginnings
The D-CIXS instrument on ESA's Moon mission SMART-1 has produced the first detection from orbit of calcium on the lunar surface. By doing this, the instrument has taken a step towards answering the old question: Did the Moon form from part of the Earth?

Wheezy, allergic children are more prone to asthma
Children who become sensitive to allergens, such as cat hair, and suffer from wheezing in their first three years of life are prone to developing asthma, according to an article in this week's issue of the Lancet.

Two-thirds of pregnant women with depression aren't getting treatment for it
The majority of pregnant women who have full-blown major depression aren't getting any treatment for the condition, and neither are most pregnant women who have signs of milder depression or depression risk, a new study finds.

Kids with OCD bullied more than others, study shows
More than one-quarter of the children with OCD who researchers studied reported chronic bullying as a problem, according to University of Florida researchers. The name-slinging could cause symptoms of OCD to worsen.

Study provides evidence that autism affects functioning of entire brain
A recent study provides evidence that autism affects the functioning of virtually the entire brain, and is not limited to the brain areas involved with social interactions, communication behaviors, and reasoning abilities, as had been previously thought.

Landscapes and human behavior
Social scientists and biophysical ecologists are finding that environmental surroundings may play a significant role in human social interaction, serving either as a social lubricant as in the first case, or as a barrier.

UBC-led team uncovers faintest stars ever seen in ancient star cluster
An international team of astronomers led by UBC professor Harvey Richer has uncovered the faintest stars ever seen in any globular star cluster, bringing scientists closer to revealing the formation time of one of the earliest generations of stars in the Universe.

Survivors of childhood polio do well decades later as they age
Mayo Clinic researchers have found that years after experiencing childhood polio, most survivors do not experience declines greater than expected in their elderly counterparts, but rather experience only modest increased weakness which may be commensurate with normal aging.

Robert D. Hatcher, Jr., to receive GSA 2006 Penrose Medal
Dr. Robert D. Hatcher, Jr., University of Tennessee Department of Earth and Planetary Science, is recipient of the 2006 Geological Society of America Penrose Medal. The award will be given at the GSA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, at the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 21 October 2006.

Extreme heat: Who is most likely to die?
Public health professionals should pay particular attention to the elderly, diabetics and African Americans on days with extreme heat, such as during the current heat wave sweeping across much of the U.S.

Insect predation sheds light on food web recovery after the dinosaur extinction
The recovery of biodiversity after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was much more chaotic than previously thought, according to paleontologists. New fossil evidence shows that at certain times and places, plant and insect diversity were severely out of balance, not linked as they are today.

Elsevier sponsors a year of ScienceDirect and Scopus for Qinghai University and Tibet University
Elsevier (, a leading scientific, technical and medical publisher, today announced the sponsorship of Qinghai University and Tibet University in China with 12-month complimentary use of ScienceDirect (, Elsevier's online platform including over 2,000 STM full-text journals. The two universities will also enjoy access to Scopus (, Elsevier's award-winning abstract and citation database.

New discovery about Parkinson's at the Montreal Neurological Institute
In a recent study published in the prestigious journal Nature Cell Biology, Dr. Edward Fon, a neurologist and researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, and his colleagues made a new discovery about parkin, a gene that is responsible for a common inherited form of PD.

Long-lasting but dim brethren of cosmic flashes
Astronomers, using ESO's Very Large Telescope, have for the first time made the link between an X-ray flash and a supernova. Such flashes are the little siblings of gamma-ray bursts and this discovery suggests the existence of a population of events less luminous than

Purdue engineers lay groundwork for 'vertically oriented nanoelectronics'
Engineers at Purdue University have developed a technique to grow individual carbon nanotubes vertically on top of a silicon wafer, a step toward making advanced electronics, wireless devices and sensors using nanotubes by stacking circuits and components in layers.

Long-term safety results released for breast cancer drugs
Anastrozole is tolerated better than tamoxifen for the treatment of postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer after surgery, according to research published in the August issue of Lancet Oncology. 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