Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (February 2005)

Science news and science current events archive February, 2005.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from February 2005

Chinese used diamonds to polish sapphire-rich stone in 2500 BC
Researchers have uncovered strong evidence that the ancient Chinese used diamonds to grind and polish ceremonial stone burial axes as long as 6,000 years ago -- and incredibly, did so with a level of skill difficult to achieve even with modern polishing techniques. The finding, reported in the February issue of the journal Archaeometry, places this earliest known use of diamond worldwide thousands of years earlier than the gem is known to have been used elsewhere.

Rehabilitation can restore some vision after stroke
Patients who lose vision after stroke can regain some of it through therapy that strengthens nerve cell activity, researchers reported at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2005.

Mayo Clinic researchers create 'obedient virus'; First step to use measles virus against cancer
An international team of Mayo Clinic-led researchers is first to devise a system that consistently converts the measles virus into a therapeutic killer that hunts down and destroys cancer cells -- and cancer cells only. Their research findings appear in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology
Open microfluidic and nanofluidic systems
Max Planck scientists develop fundamentals for new microfluidic and nanofluidic devices.

Science from Mars Express after one year in orbit
After reaching its observational orbit around Mars a year ago, ESA's Mars Express has already delivered an avalanche of scientific data of unprecedented quality that have completely changed the way in which we think about the Red Planet.

Former UNC students report mindfulness meditation helps relationships
And in news that's just in time for Valentine's Day, the Carsons have -- for what they believe is the first time -- extended to couples a form of meditation that has stood the test of time by lasting more than 2,500 years. A study they conducted together at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with feedback from participants, shows they appear to be on to something good.

Hydro's dirty secret revealed
Contrary to popular belief, hydroelectric power can seriously damage the environment. Hydroelectric dams produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. Proposals to change the way countries' calculate their climate budgets aim to take into account greenhouse emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs. But some experts fear that full emissions will still not be counted.

Multi-purpose protein regulates new protein synthesis and immune cell development
A signaling protein called IRE1, which helps stressed-out cells make new proteins, may be more versatile and important than scientists believed. A new study reveals the surprising finding that this same signaling protein is required for the formation of immune cells called B lymphocytes.

Influenza vaccination programmes for children in USA and Canada based on little evidence
Children in the USA and Canada are being vaccinated against influenza without adequate proof that it will work, concludes a study published in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Teaching a less obvious medical skill -- Ethical decision-making
One of the things medical students paradoxically learn about ethical decision-making in patient care is that an

Electronic medical records reduce hours, cut cost
A new clinical study published today in this month's American Journal of Managed Care demonstrated that a technology-driven clinical decision support system applying evidence-based clinical guidelines to patient's electronic medical data helps flag potentially serious clinical errors or deviations from accepted best practices, while making a significant improvement on the cost and quality of medical care.

Morbidly obese pay nearly twice as much for health care
University of Cincinnati researchers have found that the morbidly obese have a substantially higher economic burden when it comes to health care costs.

Scientists discover why the North Pole is frozen
Ice has been building up in the Arctic for 2.7 million years. Until now, no-one has been able to prove what mechanism brought about this accumulation of ice. However, a team of international scientists led by Antoni Rosell, a researcher for the Universitat Aut├▓noma de Barcelona, and Gerald H. Haug of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany) has discovered the mechanism that set off the accumulation of ice.

Full-body MRI shows promise for screening, but should stay in research area for now, study says
The use of full-body cardiovascular and tumor MRI to screen for disease in patients who do not have any suspicious symptoms is technically feasible, but for the present, full-body MRI screening should not be performed outside of a research setting due to the uncertainty of whether the benefits outweigh the risks, according to a new study by researchers from the University Hospital of Essen in Germany.

History of broken bones overlooked when treating osteoporosis
Women who need treatment for osteoporosis -- thinning of the bones -- may not be receiving it because their history of fractures is not being considered by physicians, according to a study done in part at the University of Alberta.

Female sex hormones play a vital role in defense against sexually transmitted diseases
Charu Kaushic, assistant professor and supervisor of the studies, says the implication of this work is quite significant.

Migraine linked to risky heart health
People who live with migraine headaches show a

Molecular biology fills gaps in knowledge of bat evolution
One in five mammals living on Earth is a bat, yet their evolutionary history is largely unknown because of a limited fossil record and conflicting or incomplete theories about their origins and divergence.

El Nino forecasting could aid fisheries management, disease control, marine species protection
Although predicting el Nino events months before they begin has become a major success story in climate prediction, a Duke University oceanographer who did early research in the field believes more could be done with the computer and satellite technology underlying these advances.

Carrot component reduces cancer risk
Scientists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have given us another reason to eat carrots - they have found the component in the popular root vegetable that can prevent cancer developing.

New study affirms reliability of fossil record
The fossil record may not be perfect, but it passed a critical test with flying colors, according to a study by University of Chicago paleontologist Susan M. Kidwell that will be published in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Science.

Brain center shows there is accounting for taste
While the brain center called the nucleus accumbens (NAc) has been called a key component of the brain's

HIV patients may be at risk of heart problems when taking protease inhibitor drugs
A widely-used class of drugs that keep the HIV-virus infection from progressing to AIDS may cause serious and potentially lethal heart rhythm disturbances in some patients. The finding of a Mayo Clinic-led investigation appears in the current edition of The Lancet (
Common virus becomes a new target for cancer treatment
A typically innocuous virus found in 90 percent of people worldwide is the key to a new treatment for a cancer particularly common in North Africa and Southeast Asia. A new study showing that antigens produced by the Epstein Barr virus may provide an ideal target for therapy will be published in the March 1, 2005, issue of Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology.

PGA on a tour under the skin
Staphylococcus epidermidis is harmless on skin, but is the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. How the microorganism becomes pathogenic once the barrier of the skin is removed remains unclear. Findings in the JCI by Michael Otto and colleagues demonstrate that S. epidermidis secretes a polymer called PGA to facilitate growth and ensure survival inside the human host. This paper presents PGA as a promising target for drug development aimed at combating these infections.

Tiny flies could lead to understanding potential for non-embryonic stem cells
It has long been thought that cells that regenerate tissue do so by regressing to a developmentally younger state. Now two University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that cells can regenerate without becoming

Defensins ward off HIV in two ways
Defensins are proteins with anti-HIV activity, but the mechanism was unknown. In the JCI, researchers analyze how alpha-defensin-1 inhibits HIV infection. They show that alpha-defensin-1 fights HIV two ways. When viral burden is low, alpha-defensin-1 directly inactivates HIV virus. When serum is present, alpha-defensin-1 acts on cells to block HIV uptake by the cell and viral replication and integration. Developing defensin-like drugs for prevention of HIV and therapeutic use may be beneficial.

New component of the 'brakes' on nerve regeneration found
Among the principal obstacles to regenerating spinal cord and brain cells after injury is the

ORNL Director Wadsworth named to National Academy of Engineering
Jeffrey Wadsworth, director of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Key mechanism in genetic inheritance during cell division identified
A key mechanism in the passing of genetic material from a parent cell to daughter cells appears to have been identified by a team of Berkeley researchers. Their study may explain how a complex of proteins, called kinetochores, can recognize and stay attached to microtubules, hollow fibers in the walls of biological cells that are responsible for the faithful segregation of chromosomes during cell division.

New binding target for oncogenic viral protein
The DNA tumor virus simian virus 40 produces the Large T antigen which inactivates two of the cell's most important cancer-preventing proteins, p53 and pRb. In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report the discovery of an additional target for T antigen--a protein called Fbw7.

Rice's CNST awards Smalley/Curl funds for innovation
Rice University's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology today awarded the first two grants from its Smalley/Curl Fund for Innovation. One went to a chemist developing self-assembly methods for targeted drug delivery and encapsulation applications, and the second went to a bioengineer and physicist who are studying the optical properties of gold nanorods. The one-year, $15,000 grants are designed to provide seed funds for the development of novel ideas that have broad potential in nanotechnology.

Lychnis moth (Hadena bicruris) lays more eggs in isolated areas
The Lychnis moth (Hadena bicruris) is laying more eggs on white campion (Silene latifolia), due to the increasing fragmentation of the countryside. Dutch researcher Jelmer Elzinga studied how many white campion seeds were eaten by Lychnis moth caterpillars at various locations along the River Waal.

Yale opens Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) in India
On a recent trip to India, Yale President Richard C. Levin and a delegation of Yale officials formally opened a new office for Yale's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) housed at YRG Care, a non-profit organization based in Chennai.

Increasing nitrogen pollution in nation's coastal waters
Much of the nitrogen spewing from vehicle exhausts appears to be contaminating coastal systems such as Chesapeake Bay to a much greater extent than previously thought, according to a study by researchers at Cornell University, reported at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Stanford selected as first regional center for DHS's national visual analytics work
Stanford University has been named the first Regional Visualization and Analytics Center to perform basic science and technology research to assist the Department of Homeland Security in identifying and thwarting terrorist threats to the nation. The announcement was made today by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which operates DHS's National Visualization and Analytics Center,TM or NVAC, in Richland.

Widespread Arctic warming crosses critical ecological thresholds, scientists warn
Unprecedented and maybe irreversible effects of Arctic warming, linked to human intervention, have been discovered by a team of international researchers led by Queen's University biologist John Smol and University of Alberta earth scientist Alexander Wolfe.

Cosmetic surgery epidemic among young adults a myth
Many parents worry about the potential influence media may have on their children's self-esteem and body image. Stories about young women having excessive plastic surgery are enough to keep any parent up at night. However, according to a study published in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® (PRS), the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), only five percent of college-age women have had cosmetic surgery.

Parents have complex opinions about notification laws for minors' access to contraception
Most parents surveyed felt laws requiring parental notification of minors requesting prescribed contraceptives were a good idea, while almost half viewed a minor's right to obtain contraceptives without parental consent as a good idea, according to an article in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

New dinosaur raptor found; First in Southern Hemisphere
Scientists at Ohio State University and the Argentine Museum of Natural History have identified a new species of raptor dinosaur from fossils found in Patagonia -- the very southern tip of South America. It is the first raptor ever found in the Southern Hemisphere, but compared to other raptors, Neuquenraptor argentinus wasn't much of a standout.

Biotech science thriving but the business needs intensive care
Global healthcare spending exceeds $3 trillion of which pharmaceuticals account for approximately $250 billion. The European Commission sees life sciences and biotechnology as the next wave of the knowledge-based economy. By 2020 Europe will be the world's top knowledge economy says the architect of the Lisbon Agenda, Jose Mariana Gago, speaker at a major conference on the Evolution of the Life Science Industries later this month.

RHESSI satellite captures giant gamma-ray flare
The Earth and solar system were blitzed last Dec. 27 with a giant gamma-ray flare brighter than any previously observed. It was so bright that it affected the Earth's atmosphere more than most solar flares, and was even detected by one satellite after bouncing off the moon. The NASA/UC Berkeley satellite RHESSI was perfectly situated to record its brightness and position, and to solve the long-standing mystery of soft gamma repeaters.

Oregon may lead future of wave energy
Significant advances in university research and other studies in the past two years are pointing toward Oregon as the possible epicenter of wave energy development in the United States. This may lead to a major initiative to expand a technology that is now in its engineering infancy, and tap the constant heave of the oceans for a new era of clean, affordable and renewable electrical power.

Titan's atmosphere may have come from ammonia, Huygens data say
Cassini-Huygens supplied new evidence about why Titan has an atmosphere, making it unique among all solar system moons, a University of Arizona planetary scientist says.

Intermetallic mystery solved with atomic resolution microscope
Intermetallics could be the key to faster jets and more efficient car engines. But why do so many break so easily? A team from Brown University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and UES Inc. used the world's most powerful electron microscope to see, for the first time, atomic details that may provide the answer for the most common class of intermetallics. Their results - which could open the door for new materials for commercial use - are published in the new Science.

'I had them a moment ago, now where are my glasses?'
Short-term or

NSF grant supports women researchers at South Dakota Tech
A South Dakota Tech researcher has received funding from the National Science Foundation to add women undergraduate students to his research team. The supplemental grant to hire women research assistants fits with another National Science Foundation grant that South Dakota Tech received. Tech will use the $200,000 award to establish a women's mentoring program designed to increase retention of women students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Polar expedition contributes to ESA's ice mission CryoSat
In a few days, a three-man scientific expedition called Pole Track is to embark upon a gruelling 1000 km trek across the frozen Arctic to collect valuable data for climate-change research. Throughout the demanding two-month expedition, the team will also take thousands of snow depth measurements in support of ESA's CryoSat mission.

Cardiac imaging is underused in women to diagnose disease
Cardiac imaging methods such as stress single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and stress echocardiography work as well in women as in men to accurately diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). Women at risk for CAD, however, are less often referred for the right tests, according to a consensus statement from the American Heart Association.

UCLA scientists transform HIV into cancer-seeking missile
Camouflaging an impotent AIDS virus in new clothes enables it to hunt down metastasized cancer cells in living mice, reports a UCLA AIDS Institute study in the Feb. 13 online edition of Nature Medicine. The scientists added the protein that makes fireflies glow to the virus in order to track its journey from the bloodstream to new tumors in the animals' lungs.

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