Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2002)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2002.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2002

Study may direct solutions for air pollution disease affecting agricultural, industrial workers
Infiltration of airway mucus with inflammatory cells is thought to be a key factor in the cause of airway disorders, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. Neutrophils [

Hemispherectomy ends seizures in many older children with rare seizure disorder
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center report that hemispherectomy - a procedure in which half the brain is removed -- may reduce or eliminate severe seizures even in older children with a rare congenital disorder associated with epilepsy. The findings are published in the December issue of Neurology.

Simpler therapies may help improve outcomes for HIV patients
HIV-infected patients with cognitive impairment are more likely to fail to take their medications than those without cognitive impairment, according to a study published in the December 24 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Failure to take prescribed medications can cause the disease to progress and can even lead to the development of drug-resistant HIV strains.

Vast, wild Northern Forest gains new allies: 18 projects named in $1.8 million study
Working models that balance the wishes of foresters, recreation enthusiasts and environmentalists; GIS and satellite maps that measure and predict movement of invasive species through the forest ecosystem; A record of changes that land use has on land-forms and water quality in the streams -- these are just three of 18 projects totaling nearly $1.8 million in research grants for studies of the Northern Forest and its communities, the Northeastern States Research Cooperative announced this week.

Brain preserves ability to 'feel' and 'move' after spinal cord injury in one quadriplegic
Brain regions involved in movement and feeling appear to remain relatively healthy and active even years after the body has been paralyzed, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A team of investigators found that five years after complete paralysis from a severe spinal cord injury, areas of the brain normally responsible for some movements and feelings have maintained those capabilities in one quadriplegic.

Risk and Safety in Medical Innovation
Risks associated with new drugs and medical devices challenge expectations for progress in medicine and can undermine public trust in industry, physicians, and the government. The talks, at this conference, will help explain the historical development of modern notions of risk and safety while emphasizing their contingent and context-dependent character. They will also provide a comparative background for evaluating contemporary problems in medical innovation.

Identification of genes causing defects in vitamin B12 metabolism
Investigators at the University of Calgary, McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre have identified genes that underlie two severe diseases of vitamin B12 metabolism. The two diseases, known as the cblA and cblB forms of methylmalonic aciduria, may produce brain damage, mental retardation and death. Identifying the genes that cause cblA and cblB represents a landmark breakthrough for patients suffering from the disease. The discovery will make possible DNA testing for carriers.

New findings in unrelated donor transplants, Parkinson's disease
University of Minnesota researchers will present findings that demonstrate promise for unrelated donor transplant patients and sufferers of Parkinson's disease Monday, Dec. 9, during the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in Philadelphia.

Less-expensive diuretics found superior in treatment of hypertension
A major clinical trial of blood pressure medications has concluded that an inexpensive diuretic (water pill) is more effective in treating high blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease than newer more expensive medications.

UCLA/Caltech scientists develop new gene therapy approach
UCLA and California Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new gene therapy approach that prevents the AIDS virus from entering human cells. The technique offers a potential way to treat HIV patients and could apply to any disease caused by a gene malfunction, including cancer.

ESA presents Integral's first images
Integral, the European Space Agency's gamma-ray satellite, has taken its first images and collected its first scientific data. These 'first-light' images confirm that Integral is working superbly. Everyone involved with the project is delighted with its performance so far.

Kyoto will have little effect on global warming
Life expectancy and prosperity will continue to rise and food production should keep up with population growth, but the Kyoto agreement will have little effect on global warming according to this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

Digital divide encompasses more than technology
Access to information technology and training in IT skills are supposed to level the economic playing field for women and low-income minorities, but two Penn State researchers say acquiring that expertise alone doesn't automatically lead to upward mobility.

An unlikely new weapon against a deadly bacteria in oysters: A virus
People looking forward to eating raw oysters over the holidays will welcome news that scientists are making progress in the fight against a rare but deadly disease associated with the tasty bivalves.

Disappearing neutrinos at KamLAND support the case for neutrino mass
Results from the first six months of experiments at KamLAND, an underground neutrino detector in central Japan, show that anti-neutrinos emanating from nearby nuclear reactors are

Psychiatry receives grant establishing Conte Center to study molecular and cellular mood mechanisms
UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has received a $9 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a Silvio O. Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Illness.

Shifts in rice farming practices in China reduce greenhouse gas methane
Changes to farming practices in rice paddies in China may have led to a decrease in methane emissions, and an observed decline in the rate that methane has entered the Earth's atmosphere over the last 20 years, a NASA-funded study finds.

January GEOLOGY and GSA TODAY media highlights
The Geological Society of America's January issue of Geology contains several potentially newsworthy items. Topics of interest include: mineralization of embryonic material and early animal evolution; discovery of Ediacaran fossils suggesting that complex animals appeared soon after

NCCAM announces opportunities for new research Centers on Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will establish new Centers for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This new initiative will include three companion programs: Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM; CAM Developmental Centers; and Planning Grants for International CAM Research Centers.

Space Station crew, scientists fine-tune Zeolite experiment
An experiment that could help improve energy production and the use of cleaner fuels on Earth got off to a successful start this week aboard the International Space Station. The goal of the Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment is to grow larger, higher-quality crystals used in petroleum production that could lead to advances in using cheaper, cleaner-burning hydrogen as fuel. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.

Annals of Internal Medicine, tip sheet, December 17, 2002
Issue highlights include: Survival in 1901 Boston smallpox epidemic was predicted by age, severity of disease, and vaccination status; Study finds echinacea had no effect on cold symptoms; and Liver failure in united states most often caused by drug reactions.

Other highlights of the January 1 JNCI
Other highlights include a study suggesting that a negative Pap test combined with a negative HPV DNA test is a good indication of low cervical cancer risk, recommendations on ways to improve DNA microarray analysis and interpretation, and findings on the mechanism of oltipraz chemoprevention.

Black pudding may interfere with cancer screening test
Eating black pudding may interfere with a screening test for colorectal cancer, claim researchers in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

Cal-(IT)2 and UCSD get Ixia $400,000 donation
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) will use hardware and software provided by Ixia to analyze the performance of a next-generation optical network. Ixia will donate approximately $400,000 worth of traffic generation and performance testing equipment as part of its partnership with the campus-based California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal-(IT)2].

Significant improvements in disease free survival reported in women with breast cancer
New data from a large phase III study of 2005 women with node-positive breast cancer show that when Taxol® (paclitaxel) (T) is given with standard chemotherapy, doxorubicin (A) and cyclophosphamide (C), in a 2-weekly dose-dense regimen the rate of recurrence is significantly reduced by 26% (p=0.010) and the rate of death is reduced by 31% (p=0.013), compared to standard 3-weekly administration, with an acceptable toxicity profile.

Rush begins use of magnetic guided navigation system
Neurosurgeons at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center have become the first in the Chicago area to use a radically new, magnetically controlled system to enter the brain and its vascular system to treat a variety of diseases without surgically opening up the skull and brain. The system uses a magnetic field, controlled by the physician using point and click devices, to deflect the tip of a specially designed guidewire or catheter that is mechanically pushed or pulled through the body.

Attention-deficit children benefit from 'brain wave' training
A year's worth of counseling and medication relieved some symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder among a group children, but only children receiving additional biofeedback therapy managed to hold on to these healthy gains after going off the medication, according to a new study.

Global analysis finds nearly half the Earth is still wilderness
According to the most comprehensive global analysis ever conducted, wilderness areas still cover close to half the Earth's land, but contain only a tiny percentage of the world's population. The 37 wilderness areas identified represent 46 percent of the Earth's land surface, but are occupied by just 2.4 percent of the world's population, excluding urban centers.

CHF and BIO to present Biotechnology Heritage Award to William J. Rutter
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) will present the 2003 Biotechnology Heritage Award to William J. Rutter. A biotechnology pioneer, Rutter cofounded Chiron Corporation and directed the Hormone Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for nearly a decade.

U.Va. researchers uncover role of platelets in hardening of the arteries
Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered a new contributor to atherosclerosis, the most common form of hardening of the arteries. Doctors at U.Va. say research on mice has determined for the first time that activated platelets circulating in the blood, long understood as markers for atherosclerosis, really serve as participants in the process that eventually leads to atherosclerosis.

2,000+ brown recluse spiders in a Kansas home inflict no bites in the occupants, UCR study notes
A UC Riverside study shows that where brown recluse spiders are common, people can co-habitate with them and bites are infrequent. The study focused on 2,055 brown recluse spiders collected in a Kansas home of a family of four. Despite the abundance of spiders, no one in the family received bites from the potentially dangerous arachnids. Throughout the United States, however, physicians routinely make brown recluse bite diagnoses when no brown recluses are known to exist in their states.

World's largest scientific society announces subjects, dates for 2003 ACS ProSpectives Conferences
The American Chemical Society's 2003 ACS ProSpectives Conference series will concentrate on six areas of rapidly changing interdisciplinary research. The sessions will cover process chemistry in the pharmaceutical industry, polymorphism in crystals, catalysis in modern organic synthesis, ADMET in the 21st Century, combinatorial chemistry, and integrating proteomics into system biology.

Religious 12th graders hold more positive attitudes about life, new UNC study shows
High school seniors who consider themselves religious have significantly higher self-esteem and hold more positive attitudes about life than do their less religious peers, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows.

UC Riverside study suggests placentas can evolve in 750,000 years or less
UC Riverside biologists, David Reznick and Mark Springer, present in the journal SCIENCE a model system for studying the evolution of complex organs. On studying guppy-like fish in the genus Poeciliopsis, they report that placentas have evolved independently three times in closely related Poeciliopsis species. They find that the shortest time interval between a poeciliid species with a placenta and its last common ancestor without one was 750,000 years.

World's first head-to-head data on latest antihistamines has implications for hay fever management
First head-to-head data on the two latest antihistamines presented for the first time at the Annual Meeting of the British Society for Immunology (BSI) and the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI) today, indicates that Xyzal® (levocetirizine) is more effective than NeoClaritynTM(desloratadine) in treating subjects with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Results also showed that Xyzal has a more rapid (1 hour versus 3 hours, respectively) and longer duration of action than desloratadine.

Is there a common genetic link for depression and cardiovascular disease?
Depression is associated with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms of interaction are not elucidated. As the origin of both disorders is genetically influenced, researchers in Munich, Germany have investigated variants of two genes, which are known to influence the development of cardiovascular and depressive disease. The analysis showed that the same allelic combination of genes, which was proposed as predisposing factor for myocardial infarction, was also more frequent in depressive patients.

Fluorine chemists take their expertise to the sunshine state
The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, will convene its 16th biennial winter fluorine conference, Jan. 12-17, 2003, in St. Pete Beach, Fla., hosted by the ACS' Division of Fluorine Chemistry. Over 100 scientific presentations will be made at the winter conference and approximately 250 scientists and students will attend the meeting at the Tradewinds Island Grand Hotel.

Novel gene therapy approach shows promise
Scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have used a novel gene therapy strategy to repair a defective gene in cells. The work is the first to demonstrate that ribozyme-mediated repair results in a protein with completely normal function. The genetic defect targeted for repair was a chloride channel mutation that causes myotonia congenita, an inherited muscle disease.

Biodegradable gelatin particles show promise for delivering therapeutic genes
Researchers have successfully tested micro-sized gelatin particles that may deliver therapeutic genes to treat a type of kidney disease. The biodegradable gelatin particles are so small that at least 10 would fit on the period at the end of this sentence. Such particles could carry therapeutic genes to the glomerulus, a tiny cluster of capillaries within the kidney that filters toxins from the blood. This filtration system becomes blocked when patients develop glomerular disease.

Sick Kids researchers identify gene for Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and the University of Toronto (U of T) have identified the gene that is altered in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. The researchers studied 250 Shwachman-Diamond syndrome families from around the world and identified two major disease-causing mutations in a gene on chromosome 7. This research is reported in the January issue of the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

NHLBI study finds traditional diuretics work better than newer medicines for treating hypertension
Less costly, traditional diuretics work better than newer medicines to treat high blood pressure and prevent some forms of heart disease, according to results from the largest hypertension clinical trial ever conducted. The long-term, multi-center trial, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, compared the drugs for use in starting treatment for hypertension. The trial also included a cholesterol-lowering study that compared the effects of a statin drug with

Female bypass patients experience fewer complications when spouses know what to expect
Female coronary bypass surgery patients whose husbands viewed an optimistic informational videotape prior to their surgery experienced fewer complications than did women whose husbands received only the standard hospital reparation.

Food supplementation with folic acid could substantially reduce neural-tube defects
A public-health initiative to enrich cereal grain foods in Canada with folic acid has halved the prevalence of neural-tube defects among both unborn and newborn children, report authors of a research letter in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Researchers developing new arsenal in war against cancer
Virginia Tech researchers have obtained results in three different areas that, used together, may provide more efficient, less invasive, and more specific treatments for cancer and other diseases such as age-related macular-degeneration. The researchers have developed supra-molecules that can be positioned in exact parts of cancer cells and excited by a therapeutic wavelength. The delivery vehicle is a B-fragment of shiga toxins. Only when the light hits the supra-molecules do they become toxic to the cancer cells.

Supervised exercise program is an effective remedy for cramping leg pain
A review of scores of studies testing the benefits of exercise in people with cramping leg pain, the most common symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), suggests that regular walking - while painful - is worth it. The Johns Hopkins-led team of scientists published their report in the Dec. 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Tamoxifen-resistant breast cancers alter their traits, become receptive to new therapies
Breast cancer tumors that stop responding to the drug tamoxifen actually change their cellular characteristics and become responsive to other types of drugs, including Herceptin®, according to oncologists at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Wheezy? Brush up and bring your inhaler
Asthmatic adults and children have trouble with their air exchange and have a tendency to be mouth breathers, which when combined with asthma medications, such as corticosteriods, causes a low saliva flow. Without saliva's cleansing effects, asthma patients have a higher risk for increased cavities and bad breath. In those that aren't vigilant about oral care, gingivitis can occur, oftentimes leading to gum disease, reports a study in the November/December 2002 issue of General Dentistry.

It may take a mouse to understand the behavior of 'jumping genes'
Up to a third of the human genome is due to the random maneuverings of retrotransposons. To study this phenomenon, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have created a mouse model for the human L1 retrotransposon, which may help explain how retrotransposons work and their implication in disease. The model will also provide a useful tool for discovering gene function.

Too much grape juice could cause iron deficiency
The same antioxidant compounds in dark grape juice that are noted for their health benefits in fighting heart disease may have a downside, according to new research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In cell studies, scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University found that polyphenols in purple (also called red) grape juice can inhibit the uptake of iron, which could increase the risk of iron-deficiency anemia.

University of Maryland research reveals true target of calcium channel blockers
A basic science discovery by University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists about calcium channel blockers, published in the December issue of the American Journal of Physiology, suggests that CCBs work differently than previously thought. The new findings may open the door to better treatments for heart problems and hypertension.

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