Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (February 2009)

Science news and science current events archive February, 2009.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from February 2009

Anti-HIV gel shows promise in large-scale study in women
An investigational vaginal gel intended to prevent HIV infection in women has demonstrated encouraging signs of success in a clinical trial conducted in Africa and the United States. Findings of the recently concluded study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, were presented today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Montreal.

First genome-wide expression analysis yields better understanding of how leukemia develops
In a collaborative study published Feb. 9, 2009, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists performed a genome-wide expression analysis comparing highly enriched normal blood stem cells and leukemic stem cells, and identified several new pathways that have a key role in cancer development.

World Health chair to deliver inaugural address at Penn's Positive Health Lecture Series
Sir Michael Marmot, chair of the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health will present the University of Pennsylvania's inaugural Positive Health Lecture Series talk,

LLNL signs agreement with Siemens to improve wind energy efficiency
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has signed an agreement with Siemens Energy Inc. to provide high-resolution atmospheric modeling capabilities to improve the efficiency of wind farm sites, turbine design and wind farm operations.

LSUHSC research may benefit diabetes by increasing understanding of how to control islet cell growth
Michael Lan, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, is the senior author of a paper revealing the molecular mechanism of how a protein determines the fate of the cells that make and release insulin.

Health experts urge supermarket pharmacies to 'get smart' about free antibiotics
As influenza season shifts into high gear, with 24 states now reporting widespread activity, the nation's infectious diseases experts are urging supermarket pharmacies with free-antibiotics promotions to educate their customers on when antibiotics are the right prescription -- and when they can do more harm than good.

Second-hand smoke could cause dementia
Exposure to second-hand smoke could increase the risk of developing dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment, according to research published today on

Study finds that using wakefulness tests to detect daytime sleepiness in drivers may be unreliable
A study in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that a 40 minute protocol for the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test is superior to a 20-minute protocol at detecting excessive daytime sleepiness in adults who may be unable to maintain wakefulness while driving. Yet results also suggest that the test may not be completely reliable when the strong motivation to keep a driver's license enables individuals to overcome sleepiness during the test.

New screening test can determine whether children have a swallowing disorder
A simple test to swallow three ounces of water can help determine whether a child has the swallowing disorder oropharyngeal dysphagia, establishing for the first time a way to screen for the ailment in children, according to new research published in the February 2009 issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.

Physicians may face challenging workplace conditions in clinics serving minority patients
Primary care clinics with a higher proportion of minority patients appear to have more adverse physician workplace conditions and challenging organizational characteristics, according to a report in the Feb. 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

News tips from the Journal of Neuroscience
The following articles are featured in the Feb. 25 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience:

UNC study: Mental illness by itself does not predict future violent behavior
People with mental illness alone are no more likely than anyone else to commit acts of violence, a new study by UNC researchers concludes. But mental illness combined with substance abuse or dependence elevates the risk for future violence.

In-flight medical events more frequent as more people with pre-existing conditions fly
In-flight medical events are increasingly frequent because a growing number of individuals with pre-existing medical conditions travel by air. The issues are discussed in a review on the medical issues associated with commercial flights, written by Dr. Mark Gendreau, Lahey Clinic Medical Center, Burlington, Mass., and colleagues.

Can monkeys choose optimally when faced with noisy stimuli and unequal rewards?
Even when faced with distractions, monkeys are able to consistently choose the path of greatest reward, according to a study conducted by researchers from Princeton and Stanford Universities. The study, published Feb. 13 in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology, adds to the growing evidence that animal foraging behavior can approach optimality, and could provide a basis for understanding the computations involved in this and related tasks.

Caltech researchers help unlock the secrets of gene regulatory networks
A quartet of studies by researchers at the California Institute of Technology highlight a special feature on gene regulatory networks recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Burn rehabilitation experts at UT Southwestern outline best treatments for post-burn itching
Jim Mashburn felt his legs cook. Mr. Mashburn, a worker at a paper-recycling plant, fell through a loose grate and into a sump pit in September 2008 as he was preparing to inspect a steam valve. Super hot condensate, at a temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, enveloped his legs instantly, searing skin up to his thighs.

When fish farms are built along the coast, where does the waste go?
Commercial fish pens are placed in the open waters of oceans and bays with no reliable method of predicting where the waste plume will be carried by winds, currents and tides. This can lead to damage to fragile coastline environments. As state and federal regulators begin to draw up rules for fish pens, Stanford's fluid dynamics modeling system can provide answers.

Higher blood sugar levels linked to lower brain function in diabetics, study shows
Results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues show that cognitive functioning abilities drop as average blood sugar levels rise in people with type 2 diabetes.

Virginia Tech, Wright State, Air Force team to design future aerospace vehicles
Virginia Tech's Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Center for Advanced Vehicles and Wright State University researchers involved in this new collaboration, along with the Air Force's Multidisciplinary Technology Center will form the Collaborative Center on Multidisciplinary Sciences. The new center will investigate multidisciplinary analysis and design of such futuristic aircraft as the joined-wing SensorCraft, flapping micro-air vehicles, and supersonic long-range strike aircraft. Initial funding from the Air Force will be about $2.25 million for five years.

Mating that causes injuries
Researchers at Uppsala University can now show that what is good for one sex is not always good for the other sex. In fact, evolutionary conflicts between the two sexes cause characteristics and behaviors that are downright injurious to the opposite sex. The findings are being published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation awards $300,000 in bridge funding for innovative research projects
The Parkinson's Disease Foundation has awarded $300,000 in emergency bridge funding to four leading Parkinson's disease scientists. The grants will sustain promising investigations that were recently put into jeopardy by the sudden collapse of their primary private funder, The Picower Foundation. The Picower Foundation, whose endowment was managed by Bernard Madoff, was forced to cease all grantmaking activities as of the end of 2008.

Capillary mats labor-saving, economical alternative to hand watering
Capillary mats are popular in the retail nursery industry and with many home gardeners. The uniquely designed mats provide automated irrigation to a variety of plants, conserve water, and reduce the need for labor-intensive hand-watering. Researchers from the University of Arizona used capillary mats and overhead sprinkler irrigation in a simulated retail environment to maintain annual and perennial plants in containers for various time periods during both summer and winter.

Study identifies new gene associated with ALS
A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers has identified a novel genetic cause of inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the fourth gene associated with familial forms of the devastating neurological disorder.

Youths are most influenced by negative family members and by positive adults outside the family
While children look up to and aspire to be like a positive family member or peer, they are more likely to imitate traits of other role models -- including negative role models, which can lead to behavioral problems, according to a Kansas State University researcher.

Milestone achieved toward production of malaria treatment using synthetic biology and fermentation
Amyris Biotechnologies has published an article in PLoS ONE which reveals the achievement of a significant milestone toward the production of amorphadiene, a precursor of the antimalarial agent artemisinin.

Commercial ships spew half as much particulate pollution as world's cars
Globally, commercial ships emit almost half as much particulate pollution into the air as the total amount released by cars, according to a new study published on Feb. 25, 2009 in the Journal of Geophysical Research -- Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Ship pollutants affect both the Earth's climate and the health of people living along coastlines.

Chewing gum helps treat hyperphosphatemia in kidney disease patients
Chewing gum made with a phosphate-binding ingredient can help treat high phosphate levels in dialysis patients with chronic kidney disease, according to a study appearing in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology. The results suggest that this simple measure could maintain proper phosphate levels and help prevent cardiovascular disease in these patients.

Studies evaluate the anatomy and stability of ACL reconstruction with different techniques
An improved understanding of the anatomy of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in recent years has generated a renewed interest in the evaluation of surgical techniques to repair the knee ligament. In a study being presented at the 2009 American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine Specialty Day in Las Vegas, researchers analyzed various aspects of two of the most common ACL reconstruction techniques.

Daytime sleepiness provides red flag for cardiovascular disease
Clinicians should be alert to patients reporting

Solar energy capture & conversion: Materials, challenges, and breakthroughs
The University of Pennsylvania will host a distinguished panel of international energy experts in academia and private industry for a free, day-long symposium on the state of solar energy capture and conversion.

New technology discovery at Mount Sinai Hospital holds promise for improved breast cancer treatment
In a study published by Nature Biotechnology online on Feb. 1, 2009, Mount Sinai Hospital researchers have unveiled a new technology tool that analyzes breast cancer tumors to determine a patient's best treatment options. The tool can predict with more than 80 percent accuracy a patient's chance of recovering from breast cancer.

NCAR forecasts will help Xcel Energy harness wind
NCAR has reached an agreement with Xcel Energy to provide highly detailed, localized weather forecasts to enable the utility to use more wind energy. The forecasts will help utility operators make critical decisions about powering down traditional coal- and natural gas-fired plants when sufficient winds are predicted.

Possible drug target for obesity treatment a no-brainer: UNC study
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have discovered a gene that when mutated causes obesity by dampening the body's ability to burn energy while leaving appetite unaffected.

Panel ponders healthy donuts, education during AAAS nano-biotechnology session
European food companies already use nanotechnology in consumer products, but few voluntarily inform consumers, said Dutch food scientist Frans Kampers of Wageningen University and Research Center Feb. 14 at the AAAS symposium

University of Alberta organic chemist receives top young Canadian scientist prize
A University of Alberta organic chemist has been named the 2008 winner of the prestigious Steacie Prize for outstanding scientific research carried out in Canada. The prize is one of Canada's most prestigious science awards encompassing a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics and biology.

What if Oregonians decline to address climate change?
If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Oregon will face some $3.3 billion in annual costs, which translates to about 4 percent of annual household income by 2020, according to a report produced for the University of Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative's Program on Climate Economics by ECONorthwest.

Diabetes a risk factor for postpartum depression
Pregnant women and new mothers who have diabetes have nearly double the chances of experiencing postpartum depression compared to those without diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from over 11,000 low income mothers in New Jersey. Approximately 1 in 10 of these women who had diabetes developed depression in the year following delivery.

Study finds behavioral link between insomnia and tension-type headaches
Using sleep or napping to cope with chronic pain caused by tension-type headaches could lead to chronic insomnia according to a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center. The study, published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that napping to relieve headache pain could serve as a behavioral link between headache and sleep disturbance.

Amid rising childhood obesity, preschoolers found to be inactive
A study of children enrolled at 24 community-based preschool programs finds that preschoolers are inactive for much of their preschool day, with 89 percent of physical activity characterized as sedentary. The study also finds that teachers very rarely encourage children to be more physically active. Based on these findings, there may be more of a need for preschool teachers to organize, model and encourage physical activity.

Scientists identify human monoclonal antibodies effective against bird and seasonal flu viruses
Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified human monoclonal antibodies that neutralize an unprecedented range of influenza A viruses, including avian influenza A virus, previous pandemic influenza viruses, and some seasonal influenza viruses. These antibodies have the potential for use in combination with other treatments to prevent or treat certain types of avian and seasonal flu.

Ongoing statin therapy associated with lower risk of death
Patients with high cholesterol levels who continually take statins appear to have a lower risk of death over four to five years, regardless of whether they already have diagnosed heart disease, according to a report in the Feb. 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

One of the most important problems in materials science solved
Together with three colleagues Professor Peter Oppeneer of Uppsala University has explained the hitherto unsolved mystery in materials science known as

Artificial disc replacement as good or better than spinal fusion surgery
Spine surgeons at the Washington University School of Medicine and other US centers are reporting that artificial disc replacement works as well and often better than spinal fusion surgery. The two procedures are performed on patients with damaged discs in the neck.

Unhealthy lifestyle more than doubles stroke risk
People who lead unhealthy lifestyles are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke than those who eat and drink sensibly, don't smoke, and take regular exercise, finds a study published on today.

Radiofrequency treatment better than ethanol injection for small liver tumors
A new review of four randomized controlled trials that directly compared two different treatments for small inoperable liver tumors has found that radiofrequency ablation significantly improves patient survival compared to the standard therapy of percutaneous ethanol injection.

Forgotten and lost -- when proteins 'shut down' our brain
Which modules of the tau protein, in neurons of Alzheimer disease patients, may act in a destructive manner were investigated by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the Max Planck Unit for Structural Molecular Biology with the help of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.

Roles of DNA packaging protein revealed by Einstein scientists
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found that a class of chromatin proteins is crucial for maintaining the structure and function of chromosomes and the normal development of eukaryotic organisms.

MSU study finds high level of medical mistrust among minority women impacts quality of health care
Nearly 70 percent of minority women agree that health-care organizations sometimes deceive or mislead patients, one of the key findings of a Michigan State University study that researchers say can prevent women from getting breast cancer screenings.

NJIT professor named associate Fellow in technical communication society
Nancy W. Coppola, Ph.D., a professor in the department of humanities at NJIT, will be named one of 25 associate Fellows for the Society for Technical Communication.

Gestures lend a hand in learning mathematics
Gesturing helps students develop new ways of understanding mathematics. Scholars have known for a long time that movements help retrieve information about an event or physical activity associated with action. A report published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science, however, is the first to show that gestures not only help recover old ideas, they also help create new ones. The information could be helpful to teachers. 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