Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2010)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2010.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2010

Intensive chemotherapy can dramatically boost survival of older teenage leukemia patients
More effective risk-adjusted chemotherapy and sophisticated patient monitoring helped push cure rates to nearly 88 percent for older adolescents enrolled in a St. Jude Children's Research Hospital acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment protocol and closed the survival gap between older and younger patients battling the most common childhood cancer.

Placebos work -- even without deception
For most of us, the

Scientists take plasmon lasers out of deep freeze
UC Berkeley researchers have developed a new technique that allows plasmon lasers to operate at room temperature, overcoming a major barrier to practical utilization of the technology. Previous plasmon lasers required temperatures as low as minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit to function properly.

New discovery about how flowering time of plants can be controlled
Researchers at UmeƄ Plant Science Center in Sweden discovered, in collaboration with the Syngenta company, a previously unknown gene in sugar beets that blocks flowering. Only with the cold of winter is the gene shut off, allowing the sugar beet to blossom in its second year. The discovery of this new gene function makes it possible to control when sugar beets bloom.

Risk for alcoholism linked to risk for obesity
Addiction researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a risk for alcoholism also may put individuals at risk for obesity, and the association between a family history of alcoholism and obesity risk has become more pronounced in recent years.

A protein called cFLIP makes tumor cells in breast cancer resistant to treatments
This finding might very useful for scientists, that could design cancer therapies aimed at interfering the action of this protein. Such was the conclusion drawn by the researchers at the Andalusian Institute for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Granada.

UCSF 'fountain of youth' pill could restore aging immune system
UCSF researchers have identified an existing medication that restores key elements of the immune system that, when out of balance, lead to a steady decline in immunity and health as people age.

Cells 'feel' the difference between stiff or soft and thick or thin matrix
Cultured mesenchymal stem cells can

New microscopy tracks molecules in live tissue at video rate
A novel type of biomedical imaging, made possible by new advances in microscopy from scientists at Harvard University, is so fast and sensitive it can capture

Older survivors of mechanical ventilation can expect significant disability
Patients aged 65 and older who survive an episode of mechanical ventilation during a hospitalization are more likely to suffer from long-term disabilities after leaving the hospital than those who survive hospitalization without mechanical ventilation, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. These results were borne out even though the levels of functional disability prior to hospitalization were similar in both groups.

CSHL scientists show in unprecedented detail how cortical nerve cells form synapses with neighbors
Newly published research led by Professor Z. Josh Huang, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) sheds important new light on how neurons in the developing brain make connections with one another. This activity, called synapse validation, is at the heart of the process by which neural circuits self-assemble.

'Cadillac Desert' withstands the test of time and technology
In 1986, Marc Reisner published

Nasal congestion can mean severe asthma
Nasal congestion can be a sign of severe asthma, which means that healthcare professionals should be extra vigilant when it comes to nasal complaints. Furthermore, more severe asthma appears to be more common than previously thought, reveals a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy's Krefting Research Centre.

Study improves understanding of method for creating multi-metal nanoparticles
A new study from researchers at North Carolina State University sheds light on how a technique that is commonly used for making single-metal nanoparticles can be extended to create nanoparticles consisting of two metals -- and that have tunable properties. The study also provides insight into the optical properties of some of these nanoparticles.

Scripps Research scientist uncovers switch controlling protein production
A scientist from the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute has discovered a molecular switch that controls the synthesis of ribosomes. Ribosomes are the large machineries inside all living cells that produce proteins, the basic working units of any cell. These new findings offer a novel target for potential treatments for a range of diseases, including cancer.

Poor breast cancer prognosis associated with presence of circulating tumor, cancer stem cells
Metastatic breast cancer patients whose blood contains circulating tumor cells before or after treatment with high-dose chemotherapy and blood stem cell transplant have shorter survival periods, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Muscle filaments make mechanical strain visible
Plastics manufacturers face a serious hurdle in their quest for new developments: Substantial influences of the microscopic material structure on mechanical material properties cannot be observed directly. Synthetic polymer molecules are too small for microscopic observation in mechanical experiments. A team of physicists led by professor Andreas Bausch of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen has now developed a method that allows just these kinds of measurements. They present their results in Nature Communications.

Fighter pilots' brains are 'more sensitive'
Cognitive tests and MRI scans have shown significant differences in the brains of fighter pilots when compared to a control group, according to a new study led by scientists from UCL.

New blood test could detect heart disease in people with no symptoms
A more sensitive version of a blood test typically used to confirm that someone is having a heart attack could indicate whether a seemingly healthy, middle-aged person has unrecognized heart disease and an increased risk of dying, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

Brain's visual circuits do error correction on the fly
The brain's visual neurons continually develop predictions of what they will perceive and then correct erroneous assumptions as they take in additional external information, according to new research done at Duke University. This new mechanism for visual cognition challenges the currently held model of sight and could change the way neuroscientists study the brain.

Most patients can speak and swallow after combination treatment for head and neck cancer
Most patients do not have ongoing speaking or swallowing difficulties following combined chemotherapy and radiation treatment for advanced head or neck cancer, but several factors may be associated with worse outcomes in these functions, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Carbon-rich planet: A girl's best friend?
A peculiar gas-giant planet 1200 light-years away is the first carbon-rich world ever observed. The implications are big for planetary chemistry, because without much oxygen, common rocks throughout the planet would be made of pure carbon, in forms such as diamonds or graphite. The planet's daytime temperatures of about 4700 degrees Fahrenheit make it the second-hottest planet ever measured.

When the brain knows no fear
The finding offers a powerful take on the connection between the brain and behavior, specifically in the context of situations that would normally evoke fear, the researchers say.

ONR-funded scientists among those recognized by US President
When the White House recently honored 85 up-and-coming scientists and engineers with five years of funding, it validated the efforts of federal agencies such as the Office of Naval Research, which has a history of investing in the next innovator.

Emotional intelligence peaks as we enter our 60s, research suggests
Older people have a hard time keeping a lid on their feelings, especially when viewing heartbreaking or disgusting scenes in movies and reality shows, psychologists have found. But they're better than their younger counterparts at seeing the positive side of a stressful situation and empathizing with the less fortunate, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Widely used arthritis pill protects against skin cancer
A widely used arthritis drug reduces the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers -- the most common cancers in humans -- according to a new study. The COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex), which is approved for the treatment of arthritis and acute pain, led to a 62 percent reduction in non-melanoma skin cancers. In the future, a combination of medications that include sunscreens and COX inhibitors or other protective therapies may be used to decrease the incidence of skin cancer.

Mechanisms of juvenile hormone action in insects could help fine tune pesticides
Virginia Tech researchers have discovered an important step in the activation of juvenile hormone target genes.

Single quantum dot nanowire photodetectors
Moving a step closer toward quantum computing, a research team in the Netherlands recently fabricated a photodetector based on a single nanowire, in which the active element is a single quantum dot with a volume of a mere 7,000 cubic nanometers. The device is described in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Factors linked to speech/swallowing problems after treatment for head and neck cancers
Most patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers who successfully complete treatment with chemotherapy and radiation manage to do so without losing the ability to speak clearly and swallow comfortably, according to researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute.

Coalition changes towards the 'big society' given lukewarm response by SME's, survey shows
Plans by the coalition government for new social enterprises and Local Enterprise Partnerships to help build the

Mount Sinai researchers develop mouse model to help find how a gene mutation leads to autism
Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that when one copy of the SHANK3 gene in mice is missing, nerve cells do not effectively communicate and do not show cellular properties associated with normal learning. This discovery may explain how mutations affecting SHANK3 may lead to autism spectrum disorders.

It's time for a new approach to Alzheimer's disease
Karl Herrup thinks that the national research effort to understand Alzheimer's disease has gone about as far as it can go with its current theories. And that's not far enough.

AADR testifies to the FDA advisory panel on dental amalgam
On Dec. 14-15, 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) convened an Advisory Panel to discuss several scientific issues that may affect the regulation of dental amalgam. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Panel voted to recommend that the FDA conduct further review of the material's safety. AADR member Dr. Mary Tavares, DMD, MPH, testified on behalf of the American Association for Dental Research during the first day of the Advisory Panel meeting.

New report: Employer health insurance premiums increased 41 percent from 2003 to 2009
Premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance increased an average of 41 percent across states from 2003 to 2009, more than three times faster than median incomes, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. Yet, insurance is buying less. The report found that deductibles per person rose 77 percent, on average. Higher premiums plus higher out-of-pocket costs are putting working families' budgets under stress across the country.

NSF's Nathaniel B. Palmer sails with Sweden's Oden to study Antarctic Peninsula ecosystem
In a unique and complex example of

New combo lung cancer therapy improves survival over single-line treatment
A phase 2 trial combining Syndax Pharmaceuticals' SNDX-275 (entinostat) with erlotinib in non-small cell lung cancer patients with elevated levels of E-cadherin was more effective than using erlotinib alone.

New research finds delaying surgical procedures increases infection risk and health care costs
Delaying elective surgical procedures after a patient has been admitted to the hospital significantly increases the risk of infectious complications and raises hospital costs, according to the results of a new study in the December issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

High red blood cell folate levels linked to silenced tumor-suppressors
A study of 781 people enrolled in a colorectal cancer prevention clinical trial finds that elevated levels of red blood cell folate is associated with the deactivation of two anti-cancer genes known to be silenced in colorectal cancer.

How does your green roof garden grow?
Growing plants on rooftops is an old concept that has evolved from simple sod roofing to lightweight

Novel drug offers hope for early intervention in cystic fibrosis patients
Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with normal to mildly impaired lung function may benefit from a new investigational drug designed to help prevent formation of the sticky mucus that is a hallmark of the disease, according to researchers involved in a phase 3 clinical trial of the drug. Called denufosol, the investigational medication can be given early in the CF disease process, and may help delay the progression of lung disease in these patients, the researchers found.

Genome of barley disease reveals surprises
Scientists have sequenced the genome of a major fungal disease that affects barley and other cereal crops, a breakthrough that could lead to significant advances in our understanding of how plant diseases evolve. The research, published today in the journal Science, suggests that parasites within the genome of the fungus help the disease to adapt and overcome the plant's defenses.

UK ill prepared for 'epidemic' of degenerative valvular heart disease
The UK is poorly prepared for the forthcoming epidemic of degenerative valvular heart disease, prompted by a rapidly aging population, say leading experts in the journal Heart.

Measuring fatigue through the voice
Researchers in Australia have developed a new method to analyze the effect of fatigue on the central nervous system. In this month's issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, they describe how sustained wakefulness slows speech and diminishes variations in pitch and tone -- findings relevant to public safety officials, military leaders, and employers concerned with fatigue among their workers.

NIH study identifies ideal body mass index
A study looking at deaths from any cause found that a body mass index between 20.0 and 24.9 is associated with the lowest risk of death in healthy non-smoking adults. Investigators also provided precise estimates of the increased risk of death among people who are overweight and obese. Previous studies that examined the risks from being overweight were inconclusive, with some reporting only modestly increased risks of death and others showing a reduced risk.

'Food of the gods' genome sequence could make finest chocolate better
The production of high quality chocolate, and the farmers who grow it, will benefit from the recent sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome, according to an international team led by Claire Lanaud of CIRAD, France, with Mark Guiltinan of Penn State, and including scientists from 18 other institutions.

Biodiversity loss: Detrimental to your health
Plant and animal extinctions are detrimental to your health. That's the conclusion of a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Nature by scientists who studied the link between biodiversity and infectious diseases.

Subsidies have no effect on Spanish cinema productivity
Awards have an impact on Spanish movie productivity, since they increase internal and external distribution demand, but subsidies have no effect whatsoever on the productivity of the Spanish film industry. This is the conclusion of researchers at the University of Granada, who have studied the production of films in Spain.

UTHealth professor to receive service award from American Society for Microbiology
Known nationally for her research into single-cell organisms that affect oral health, Millicent

Many cancer cells found to have an 'eat me' signal in Stanford study
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that many cancer cells carry the seeds of their own destruction -- a protein on the cell surface that signals circulating immune cells to engulf and digest them. On cancer cells, this

ASU astronomer opens new window into early universe
Thirteen billion years ago our universe was dark. Eventually that mysterious time came to an end as the first stars ignited and their radiation transformed the nearby gas atoms into ions. Astronomers have developed a small-scale radio astronomy experiment designed to detect a never-before-seen signal from the early universe during this period of time, called the Epoch of Reionization, which is intimately linked to many fundamental questions in cosmology.

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