Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2011)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2011.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2011

Potential concern about drugs in clinical trial
Drugs that enhance levels of small molecules derived naturally in the body from a major component of animal fats are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes. Researchers have now generated data in mice that raise new concerns about the use of these drugs in humans.

New research identifies changes to the brain in patients with spinal cord compression
Spinal degeneration is an unavoidable part of aging. For some, it leads to compression of the spinal cord which can cause problems with dexterity, numbness in the hands, and the ability to walk. New research from The University of Western Ontario looks beyond the spinal cord injury in these patients, and found they also experience changes in the motor cortex of the brain.

Every cloud has a silver lining: Weather forecasting models could predict brain tumor growth
Ever wondered how meteorologists can accurately predict the weather? They use complex spatiotemporal weather models that track the motions of the atmosphere through time and space, and combine them with incoming data streams from weather stations and satellites. Now, an innovative new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Biology Direct has determined that the mathematical methodology used to assimilate data for weather forecasting could be used to predict the spread of brain tumors.

Optical Materials Express Focus Issue: Liquid Crystal Materials
Liquid crystals are fast becoming a household name thanks to their widespread use in television, smartphone and computer displays. As such, research and development in the area of liquid crystal materials (LCMs) has also been rapidly progressing in recent years. To highlight breakthroughs in this area, the Optical Society today published a special Focus Issue on LCMs for Photonic Applications in its open-access journal Optical Materials Express.

Microbial communities on skin affect humans' attractiveness to mosquitoes
The microbes on your skin determine how attractive you are to mosquitoes, which may have important implications for malaria transmission and prevention, according to a study published Dec. 28 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

In hot water: Ice Age findings forecast problems
The first comprehensive study of changes in the oxygenation of oceans at the end of the last Ice Age has implications for the future of our oceans under global warming.

Childhood maltreatment associated with cerebral gray matter reductions in adolescents
Childhood maltreatment is associated with reductions in cerebral gray matter volume, and even if adolescents reporting exposure to maltreatment do not have symptoms that meet full criteria for psychiatric disorders, they may have cerebral gray matter changes that place them at risk for behavioral difficulties, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Pharmacogenomics study finds rare gene variants critical for personalized drug treatment
The use of genetic tests to predict a patient's response to drugs is increasingly important in the development of personalized medicine. But genetic tests often only look for the most common gene variants. In a study published online in Genome Research, researchers have characterized rare genetic variants in a specific gene that can have a significant influence in disposition of a drug used to treat cancer and autoimmune disease.

The disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man
Dr. Ran Barkai and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University connected evidence about diet with other cultural and anatomical clues to conclude that the disappearance of the elephants led to the emergence of Homo sapiens in the Middle East much earlier than first suspected. The findings set the stage for a new, revolutionary understanding of human history.

SABCS: Loss of RB in triple negative breast cancer associated with favorable clinical outcome
Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have shown that loss of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor gene in triple negative breast cancer patients is associated with better clinical outcomes. This is a new marker to identify the subset of these patients who may respond positively to chemotherapy.

Slow road to stability for emulsions
By studying the behavior of tiny particles at an interface between oil and water, researchers at Harvard have discovered that stabilized emulsions may take much longer to reach equilibrium than previously thought. The findings have important implications for the manufacturing processes used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and foods, among other chemical industries.

Depressive symptoms and impaired physical function are frequent and long-lasting after ALI
Depressive symptoms and impaired physical function were common and long-lasting during the first two years following acute lung injury, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Depressive symptoms were an independent risk factor for impaired physical function.

KS-herpesvirus induces reprogramming of lymphatic endothelial cells to invasive mesenchymal cells
Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) is an etiological agent for Kaposi's sarcoma and two other rare lymphoproliferative malignancies, and it is the most common cancer in HIV-infected untreated individuals. Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, have discovered a novel viral oncogenesis mechanism in which KSHV oncogenes co-opt cellular signaling pathways and modify the cellular microenvironment more permissive for viral replication. The study will be published Dec. 15, 2011, in Cell Host & Microbe.

New imaging agent has an appetite for dangerous prostate tumors
According to Lawson Health Research Institute's Drs. John Lewis and Len Luyt, a new molecular imaging probe could distinguish between malignant and benign prostate cancer. Using ghrelin, a growth hormone that stimulates hunger, they have the potential to identify which tumors are threatening and which are not without an invasive biopsy.

Researchers use new finding to clear bloodstream malaria infection in mice
University of Iowa researchers and colleagues have discovered how malaria manipulates the immune system to allow the parasite to persist in the bloodstream. By rescuing this immune system pathway, the research team was able to cure mice of bloodstream malaria infections.

UNC HIV prevention research named scientific breakthrough of the year
The HIV Prevention Trials Network 052 study, led by Myron S. Cohen, M.D. of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named the 2011 Breakthrough of the Year by the journal Science.

Potential breast cancer prevention agent found to lower levels of 'good' cholesterol over time
Exemestane steadily lowered levels of

Protecting confidential data with math
With the computerization of databases in healthcare, forensics, telecommunications, and other fields, ensuring security for such databases has become increasingly important. In a paper published Thursday in the SIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics, authors Rudolf Ahlswede and Harout Aydinian analyze a security-control model for statistical databases.

Breast cancer patients face increasing number of imaging visits before surgery
Breast cancer patients frequently undergo imaging like mammograms or ultrasounds between their first breast cancer-related doctor visit and surgery to remove the tumor. Evaluations of these scans help physicians understand a person's disease and determine the best course of action. In recent years, however, imaging has increased in dramatic and significant ways, say researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center. More patients have repeat visits for imaging than they did 20 years ago.

Green tea flavonoid may prevent reinfection with hepatitis C virus following liver transplantation
German researchers have determined that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) -- a flavonoid found in green tea -- inhibits the hepatitis C virus from entering liver cells. Study findings available in the December issue of Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, suggest that EGCG may offer an antiviral strategy to prevent HCV reinfection following liver transplantation.

Commentary calls for awareness of Internet pharmacies' role in prescription drug abuse
Efforts to halt the growing abuse of prescription drugs must include addressing the availability of these drugs on the Internet and increasing physician awareness of the dangers posed by Internet pharmacies, according to a commentary from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Orphan experiences lead to changes in children's genome functioning
Children who experience the stress of separation at birth from biological parents and are brought up in orphanages undergo biological consequences such as changes in their genome functioning, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new study.

Study reveals turn 'signals' for neuron growth
Researchers at UC Irvine and The University of Texas at Arlington have discovered how spinning microparticles can direct the growth of nerve fiber, a discovery that could allow for directed growth of neuronal networks on a chip and improve methods for treating spinal or brain injuries.

$1.38 million to pick 'large' pieces of supernova grit out of meteorite
Ernst K. Zinner of Washington University in St. Louis, has received a three-year, $1,380,000 grant from NASA to study presolar grains in a sample of the Murchison meteorite. Presolar grains are literally tiny bits of stars -- stardust -- that were born and died before the formation of the solar system. Some carry within them clues to the process of nucleosynthesis by which new elements are forged in the bellies of supernovae.

UCSF biochemist wins prestigious prize
Peter Walter, Ph.D., a professor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department within the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco has been awarded the 2012 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for his

Study: Tiger Woods' superstar status hobbled the competition
Tiger Woods's phenomenal talent won him a ton of golf tournaments. But an article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Political Economy shows he has something else going for him: His superstar status hobbles the competition.

Overall hospital admission rates in US linked with high rates of readmission
High hospital readmission rates in different regions of the US may have more to do with the overall high use of hospital services in those regions than with the severity of patients' particular conditions or problems in the quality of care during and after hospital discharges, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health.

New horned dinosaur announced nearly 100 years after discovery
A new species of horned dinosaur was announced today by an international team of scientists, nearly 100 years after the initial discovery of the fossil. The animal, named Spinops sternbergorum, lived approximately 76 million years ago in southern Alberta, Canada. Spinops was a plant-eater that weighed around two tons when alive, a smaller cousin of Triceratops.

Study finds headaches after traumatic brain injury highest in adolescents and girls
In a new study,

US Patent Office affirms 'Zamore Design Rule' patents
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has reaffirmed the validity of four important patents in the field of RNA therapeutics. The affirmation validates the inventions known as the

Analysis does not support genetic test before use of anti-clotting drug
Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that a certain type of genetic testing (for the genotype CYP2C19) be considered before prescribing the drug clopidogrel to identify individuals who may be less responsive to the medication, a review and analysis of previous studies did not find an overall significant association between the CYP2C19 genotype and cardiovascular events, according to a study in the Dec. 28 issue of JAMA.

A new study suggests that a neurotransmitter might improve the treatment of cancer
A new study found that injections of the neurotransmitter dopamine can improve blood flow to tumors and delivery of an anticancer drug, doubling the amount of drug reaching tumors and increasing its effectiveness. Dopamine also raised tumor oxygen levels, which typically improves the effectiveness of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The study suggests a use for dopamine in treating cancer and perhaps other disorders in which normalizing abnormal blood vessels might improve therapeutic responses.

Biophysical Society announces speakers for Future of Biophysics Burroughs Wellcome Fund Symposium
The Biophysical Society is pleased to announce the speakers for the Future of Biophysics Burroughs Wellcome Fund Symposium. Now in its third year and supported by supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Symposium highlights exciting research by young investigators at the interface of the physical and life sciences. The Symposium will take place on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 in San Diego, California as part of the Biophysical Society's 56th Annual Meeting.

Astronomers discover deep-fried planets
Two Earth-sized planets have been discovered around a dying star that has passed the red giant stage. The discovery, published in Nature, marks the first known case of planets surviving being engulfed by their parent star and may shed new light on the destiny of stellar and planetary systems, including our solar system.

Removal of lymph nodes during surgery for thyroid cancer may be beneficial
Papillary thyroid cancer accounts for the majority of all thyroid malignancies, which primarily impact women. A new study indicates that routinely removing lymph nodes in the neck in these cancer patients may help prevent the disease from coming back. UCLA researchers and colleagues demonstrate that routine removal of neck lymph nodes during initial thyroid surgery for papillary cancer may lead to lower disease recurrence rates and lower levels of thyroglobulin, a thyroid tumor marker that can be an indicator of disease when elevated.

University of Kentucky researchers awarded CDC grant to study cancer survival in Appalachia
University of Kentucky researchers recently received a $225,000 grant to study the differences in cancer survival in Appalachia.

NSF awards University of Arizona researchers $530,000 for development of new spectral imager
University of Arizona engineering researchers have received funding for the development of a spectral imager that will emit electromagnetic radiation, or spectra, in the terahertz range of frequencies. The instrument would expand the frontiers of research in areas such as medical imaging of tumors and pathogens, detection of specific chemicals such as explosives, and the study of metamaterials, which are engineered materials that do not occur in nature.

Nanometer-scale growth of cone cells tracked in living human eye
Vision scientists at Indiana University in Bloomington have come up with a novel way to make the measurements in a living human retina by using information hidden within a commonly used technique called optical coherence tomography. They discuss their results in the Optical Society's open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.

Evolution reveals missing link between DNA and protein shape
Using evolutionary genetic information, an international team of researchers has taken major steps toward solving a classic problem of molecular biology: Predicting how a protein will fold in three dimensions.

Baby lab reveals surprisingly early gift of gab
New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that during the first year of life, when babies spend so much time listening to language, they're actually tracking word patterns that will support their process of word- learning that occurs between the ages of about 18 months and two years.

NASA's TRMM satellite measured Washi's deadly rainfall
NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite was providing forecasters with the rate in which rainfall was occurring in Tropical Storm Washi over the last week, and now TRMM data has been compiled to show rainfall totals over the devastated Philippines.

World's first super predator had remarkable vision
South Australian Museum and University of Adelaide scientists working on fossils from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, have found eyes belonging to a giant 500 million-year-old marine predator that sat at the top of the earth's first food chain.

American Cancer Society revises cancer screening guideline process
The American Cancer Society has revised its guideline formation process to achieve greater transparency, consistency, and rigor in creating guidance about cancer screening.

Child abuse changes the brain
When children have been exposed to family violence, their brains become increasingly

Perception of inappropriate care frequent among ICU workers
A survey of nurses and physicians in intensive care units (ICUs) in Europe and Israel indicated that the perception of inappropriate care, such as excess intensity of care for a patient, was common, and that these perceptions were associated with inadequate decision sharing, communication and job autonomy, according to a study in the Dec. 28 issue of JAMA.

Norms and organizational culture important for safer aviation
Sometimes pilots violate established procedures and rules. This may lead to an increased risk of accidents. One effective way for airline companies to reduce violations is to focus more on norms, safety culture and risk awareness within the organization rather than on individual employees' attitudes towards rules and procedures. This is the main conclusion of a new doctoral thesis in psychology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Neuralstem's NSI-189 trial in major depressive disorder receives FDA approval to advance to Phase Ib
Neuralstem's NSI-189 Neuroregenerative drug advances to Phase Ib in a major depressive disorder trial.

American first at the Montreal Heart Institute: A patient treated with a disappearing heart device
The interventional cardiology team at the Montreal Heart Institute used the world's first drug eluting bioresorbable vascular scaffold to successfully treat a woman suffering from coronary artery disease. This bioresorbable scaffold is designed to be slowly metabolized until the device dissolves after approximately two years, leaving patients with a treated vessel free of a permanent metallic implant.

Why aren't we smarter already? Evolutionary limits on cognition
We put a lot of energy into improving our memory, intelligence, and attention. There are even drugs that make us sharper, such as Ritalin and caffeine. But maybe smarter isn't really all that better. A new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, warns that there are limits on how smart humans can get, and any increases in thinking ability are likely to come with problems.

Researchers find confidence is key to women's spatial skills
Boosting a woman's confidence makes her better at spatial tasks, University of Warwick scientists have found, suggesting skills such as parking and map-reading could come more easily if a woman is feeling good about herself. 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