Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2007)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2007.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2007

MIT sorts cells with beams of light
Separating out particular kinds of cells from a sample could become faster, cheaper and easier thanks to a new system developed by MIT researchers that involves levitating the cells with light.

Chemotherapy and tamoxifen reduce risk of second breast cancer
Among breast cancer patients, both chemotherapy and tamoxifen independently reduced the risk of developing a second cancer in the other breast, according to a study published online Dec. 25 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The risk reduction persisted for at least 10 and 5 years, respectively.

Complex carbon picture clearer
A new study looks at a poorly understood process with potentially critical consequences for climate change. Emma Sayer, postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Jennifer Powers, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, and Edmund Tanner, researcher at Cambridge University, published the findings of their long-term study on the effects of increased plant litter on soil carbon and nutrient cycling in the Dec. 12 edition of PLoS ONE.

Tiny dust particles from Asian deserts common over western United States
Dust from the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts in China and Mongolia is routinely present in the air over the western United States during spring months, a University of Washington researcher has found.

Scientists overcome obstacles to stem cell heart repair
Scientists have overcome two significant obstacles on the road to harnessing stem cells to build patches for damaged hearts. Presenting the research at a UK Stem Cell Initiative conference the researchers will explain how they have made significant progress in maturing beating heart cells derived from embryonic stem cells and in developing the physical scaffolding that would be needed to hold the patch in place in the heart in any future clinical application.

Compact, wavelength-on-demand Quantum Cascade Laser chip offers ultra-sensitive chemical sensing
Engineers from Harvard University have demonstrated a highly versatile, compact and portable Quantum Cascade Laser sensor for the fast detection of a large number of chemicals, ranging from infinitesimal traces of gases to liquids, by broad tuning of the emission wavelength. The potential range of applications is huge, including homeland security, medical diagnostics such as breadth analysis, pollution monitoring, and environmental sensing of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

Benefits of hospitalist care confirmed in new study
In the largest study to date evaluating the outcome of in-hospital care by various physician types, findings show that care by hospitalists resulted in shorter stays and lower costs to patients. Study results are reported in the Dec. 20, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

NSF awards Williams funding for high-speed imaging faciltity
The National Science Foundation has awarded Joan Edwards, the Washington Gladden 1859 Professor of Biology, and Dwight Whitaker, assistant professor of physics at Pomona College, a grant in the amount of $105,110. The grant is in support of a high-speed imaging facility at Williams College for the study of ultra fast biological movements and other applications in the sciences.

Chemoprevention, naturally: Findings on plant-derived cancer medicines
The next cancer-fighting therapeutic could be growing in your garden, according to research presented today, at the American Association for Cancer Research's Sixth Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, being held from Dec. 5 to 8 in Philadelphia, Pa.

'Retrospective rubber' remembers its old identities
Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a shape-memory rubber that may enable applications as diverse as biomedical implants, conformal face-masks, self-sealing sutures, and

Myth of a cultural elite -- education, social status determine what we attend, listen to and watch
There have been a number of theories put forward to explain how our tastes in cinema, theatre, music and the fine arts relate to our position in society. New research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, has concluded that there is little evidence of a

UT Southwestern urologist uses Botox to treat debilitating condition
Eight years ago, Lynette Kunz suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic and sufferer of involuntary bladder contractions. The condition constantly interfered with her daily life.

Beetle dung helps forests recover from fire
Beetle droppings -- known in the scientific world as frass -- are crucial to forests recovering from fire.

NCI/ASCO host science writers' seminar
NCI and ASCO will host an international event for journalists via the World Wide Web that will explore key issues surrounding cancer in the developing world. A panel of leading cancer experts from the United States, Africa, Asia and India will present.

MU study looks at social structure of prison communities
In community settings, there's always at least one person or perhaps a group of individuals who are most highly respected. Prison systems are no different; one's social status results from interpersonal dynamics. To better understand social structure in California prison communities, Brian Colwell, a researcher at the University of Missouri, recently examined peer relationships among inmates.

Why exertion leads to exhaustion
Researchers have discovered the dramatic changes that occur in our muscles when we push ourselves during exercise. We all have a sustainable level of exercise intensity, known as the

New mechanical insights into wound healing and scar tissue formation
New research published today in the Journal of Cell Biology illuminates the mechanical factors that play a critical role in the differentiation and function of fibroblasts, connective tissue cells that play a role in wound healing and scar tissue formation.

Can interacting pathogens explain disease patterns?
Interaction of parasites may help predict outbreak of infectious diseases.

New ramelteon data presented at AARC
A study presented at the 53rd International Respiratory Congress of the American Association for Respiratory Care showed that ramelteon did not exacerbate respiratory depressant effects in patients (40 years and older) with moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as measured by oxygenation or abnormal breathing events relative to placebo. Ramelteon 8mg is currently marketed as Rozerem.

Brain-injured war veterans show a faster decline in cognitive functioning as they age
A study of Vietnam war veterans who suffered brain injuries during the conflict has found that the men show a faster decline in their cognitive functioning as they grow older than veterans without such injuries.

Cognitive 'fog' of normal aging linked to brain system disruption
Comparisons of the brains of young and old people have revealed that normal aging may cause cognitive decline due to deterioration of the connections among large-scale brain systems. The researchers linked the deterioration to a decrease in the integrity of the brain's

New studies suggest brain overgrowth in 1-year-olds linked to development of autism
Brain overgrowth in the latter part of an infant's first year may contribute to the onset of autistic characteristics, according to research presented today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting. These findings support concurrent research which has found brain overgrowth in autistic children as young as 2 years old.

Newer, simpler fixes restore corroded pipelines
Researchers are taking the guesswork out of repairing corroded oil and gas pipelines.

Restless legs syndrome doubles risk of stroke and heart disease
People with restless legs syndrome are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart disease compared to people without RLS, and the risk is greatest in those with the most frequent and severe symptoms, according to research published in the Jan. 1, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Karen Beemon wins the 2007 Retrovirology Prize
It was announced today that Dr. Karen Beemon has been awarded the third annual Retrovirology Prize. Dr. Beemon will receive a $3000 check and a crystal trophy and is interviewed in an article published today in the open access journal Retrovirology. She is professor and chair of the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University.

Study explores distinction between 'different' and 'uncool'
Just as some products reveal our aspirations, there are other products that consumers avoid, lest we be associated with a particular group. An environmentalist would never buy an SUV. Baby boomers avoid products associated with being elderly. What's the difference between products we actively avoid and those that are simply

AGU Fall Meeting -- Media advisory 2
All 1,186 sessions and 13,641 abstracts for the AGU 2007 Fall Meeting have been posted on the AGU web site and are fully searchable. Keep your calendar open for the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 12, for the NCSWA Holiday Dinner.

Where and why humans made skates out of animal bones
Archaeological evidence shows that bone skates (skates made of animal bones) are the oldest human powered means of transport, dating back to 3000 B.C.

Study: Re-engineered Gleevec reduces heart risks
Using a new bottom-up approach for rational drug design, researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have reengineered the powerful anticancer drug imatinib -- best known by its brand name Gleevec -- to more specifically target one type of cancer while potentially curbing a rare life-threatening cardiotoxic side effect. The re-design strategy employed in the study is broadly applicable to reducing side effects in other drugs.

Members named to Blue Ribbon Task Force on a Sustainable Digital Future
With literally every

UCSF Medical Center using newest high-tech tool for brain disorders
The most advanced noninvasive, radiosurgery tool for treating a variety of brain disorders -- including tumors -- is now being used by specialists at UCSF Medical Center. The new machine expands UCSF's ability to provide state-of-the-art, specialized care to patients.

FDLI, PEN co-sponsor major conference on nanotechnology
At FDLI's 1st Annual Conference on Nanotechnology Law, Regulation and Policy, Feb. 28-29, 2008, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, in Washington, DC, food and drug industry representatives also will find out what's happening internationally on nanotech regulation, how venture capitalists look at the future of nanotechnology and what the leading corporations, scientific laboratories and academic centers are focusing on in this dynamic field.

Labeling keeps our knowledge organized, study shows
A popular urban legend suggests that Eskimos have dozens of words for snow. As a culture that faces frigid temperatures year-round, it is important to differentiate between things like snow on the ground (

MIT study: Workplace, community engagement key to interracial friendship
People who are involved in community organizations and activities and who socialize with their co-workers are much more likely to have friends of another race than those who do not, according to a landmark study of interracial friendship in America.

Experts from Stevens, Merck, publish joint paper, 'Biosynthetic Studies of Platensimycin'
Stevens Institute of Technology's Professor Athule B. Attygalle and his doctoral student Kithsiri B. Herath have collaborated with Merck Pharmaceutical's Dr. Sheo B. Singh on a study whose findings have been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, in a paper titled

Nano-Science Center to coordinate EU-project
The Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen has been chosen to coordinate a research appropriation of 2.5 million euros from the European Union's Seventh Framework Program.

Antibiotic treatment targets difficult asthma
Hunter researchers have shown that a commonly available antibiotic can improve the quality of life of patients with difficult asthma, and may also generate significant health care savings.

Developing a global academic network on public procurement
The University of Nottingham has received an award of €450 000 (£322,371) to develop a global academic research and teaching network on public procurement regulation.

Stevens and Nanyang Technological University sign MOI
Stevens Institute of Technology and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, signed a Memorandum of Intent on Nov. 30.

Brief intervention helps emergency patients reduce drinking
Asking emergency department patients about their alcohol use and talking with them about how to reduce harmful drinking patterns is an effective way to lower rates of risky drinking in these patients, according to a nationwide collaborative study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Emergency department patients who underwent a regimen of alcohol screening and brief intervention reported lower rates

Sulfur dioxide may have helped maintain a warm early Mars
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) may have played a key role in the climate and geochemistry of early Mars, geoscientists at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest in the Dec. 21 issue of the journal Science. Their hypothesis may resolve longstanding questions about evidence that the climate of the Red Planet was once much warmer than it is today.

Experimental Biology 2008 meets in San Diego April 5-9
More than 12,000 biological and biomedical scientists will gather for Experimental Biology 2008. This annual meeting, now in its 17th year, brings together scientists from dozens of different disciplines, from laboratory to translational to clinical research, from throughout the United States and the world. The theme of Experimental Biology 2008 is

Revolutionary work in mathematics is awarded
Drs. Stefano Bianchini and Alberto Bressan will be honored with the SIAM Activity Group on Analysis of Partial Differential Equations Prize for their breakthrough work in the analysis of partial differential equations, supplying new and powerful analytic ideas and establishing fundamental properties of the solutions.

Researchers solve first structure of a key to intact DNA inheritance
Researchers have solved the structure of a DNA-protein complex that is crucial in the spread of antibiotic resistance among bacteria. Knowing this structure also provides fundamental insight into how cells successfully divide into two new cells with intact DNA

Collaboration yields 'the right glasses' for observing mystery behavior in electrons
An international team of researchers has, for the first time, viewed on a nanoscale the formation of mysterious metallic puddles that facilitate the transition of an electrically insulating material into an electrically conducting one.

More 'functional' DNA in genome than previously thought
Surrounding the small islands of genes within the human genome is a vast sea of mysterious DNA. While most of this non-coding DNA is junk, some of it is used to help genes turn on and off. As reported online this week in Genome Research, Hopkins researchers have now found that this latter portion, which is known as regulatory DNA and contributes to inherited diseases like Parkinson's or mental disorders, may be more abundant than we realize.

'Hellish' hot springs yield greenhouse gas-eating bug
New species of hardy methane-eating bacteria discovered in hot springs in New Zealand is described by a team led by University of Calgary biologist Peter Dunfield. Paper published in Dec. 6 edition of Nature.

Did life begin between the sheets -- the mica sheets?
A presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology's 47th annual meeting will propose that the narrow, confined spaces between nonliving mica layers could have provided exactly the right conditions for the rise of the first biomolecules.

Test-drive: Using a product before buying it changes what you want
Consumers often decide to buy an item before having a chance to try it out. In this scenario, they tend to prefer products with more features. However, a study expands our understanding of the differences between direct experience and indirect experience. Rebecca W. Hamilton and Debora Viana Thompson reveal that once consumers actually try products, their preferences shift from the item with the most bells and whistles to the one that is easiest to use.

Unsupervised children are more sociable and more active
Youngsters who are allowed to leave the house without an adult are more active and enjoy a richer social life than those who are constantly supervised, according to a study conducted at UCL and reported in a special edition of the journal Built Environment (Dec. 19). 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