Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (February 2010)

Science news and science current events archive February, 2010.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from February 2010

Where will the next food crisis strike and how to face it?
Satellite observation is the key instrument that will allow to double in 2010 the number of countries monitored in real time for detecting first indications of adverse agricultural outcomes. The new Integrated Phase Classification system facilitates and accelerates the reaction time to food security crises by allowing a common and internationally recognized classification of their severity.

Muscle loss finding may one day save physiques
Mice that lack a particular antioxidant enzyme show impairment of cell energy centers called mitochondria. This leads to smaller and weaker muscles, and may help scientists better understand age-related muscle atrophy and other neuromuscular diseases.

Natural-disaster mathematical aid systems are presented to NGOs
A team of mathematicians from the Complutense University of Madrid has developed a computer application that estimates the magnitude of natural disasters and helps NGOs in the decision making process. The researchers have also presented an on-site humanitarian aid distribution model. Both could have been applied in the case of the recent Haiti earthquake.

Semifinalists named for Global Venture Challenge 2010
Student teams from 22 universities have been selected to advance to the semifinal round of the 2010 Global Venture Challenge hosted March 25-26 by the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Many veterans not getting enough treatment for PTSD
Study shows there are still significant barriers to veterans getting a full course of PTSD treatment.

Why BPA leached from 'safe' plastics may damage health of female offspring
Here's more evidence that

The Marmot Review: Can health equity become a reality?
An editorial published online first and in this week's Lancet discusses the launch of the report by Sir Michael Marmot on health inequalities:

Virus hybridization could create pandemic bird flu
Genetic interactions between avian H5N1 influenza and human seasonal influenza viruses have the potential to create hybrid strains combining the virulence of bird flu with the pandemic ability of H1N1, according to a new study.

Where did insects come from?
Since the dawn of the biological sciences, mankind has struggled to comprehend the relationships among the major groups of

Less is more in cancer imaging
In a paper published last month in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, a team led by fifth-year Rice graduate student Guoping Chang described an amplitude gating technique that gives physicians a clearer picture of how tumors are responding to treatment.

Safeway gives another $317,000 for TGen breast cancer research
Even with unemployment high and sales down, Safeway Inc. has donated more than $317,000 to fund breast cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

'Peter Pan' apes never seem to learn selfishness
Sharing is a behavior on which day care workers and kindergarten teachers tend to offer young humans a lot of coaching. But for our ape cousins the bonobos, sharing just comes naturally.

Pay-for-performance programs show positive impact on low-performing physicians
Pay-for-performance (P4P) programs are payment models that reward workers for meeting certain performance measures for quality and efficiency. In the health care setting, P4P programs use a variety of methods to reward physicians financially for achieving targets, including fee differentials and bonuses.

Research challenges models of sea level change during ice-age cycles
Theories about the rates of ice accumulation and melting during the Quaternary Period -- the time interval ranging from 2.6 million years ago to the present -- may need to be revised, thanks to research findings published by a University of Iowa researcher and his colleagues in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.

Pentagon and Congress should act quickly to end gay military ban, APA says
The American Psychological Association urged both the Pentagon and Congress today to move swiftly to end the restrictions on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, noting that there are decades of scientific research demonstrating no threat to military readiness or morale.

Childhood obesity may contribute to later onset of puberty for boys
Increasing rates of obese and overweight children in the United States may be contributing to a later onset of puberty in boys, say researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

New clue why autistic people don't want hugs
Why do people with fragile X syndrome, a genetic defect that is the best-known cause of autism and inherited mental retardation, recoil from hugs and physical touch? New research has found in fragile X syndrome there is delayed development of the sensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to touch, according to a study from Northwestern University. This delay may trigger a domino effect and cause further problems with wiring of the brain.

University of Minnesota scientist finds that big plant seeds don't always beat out small seeds
University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences researcher Helene Muller-Landau has developed a new theory explaining why some plant species produce a small number of large seeds while others produce a large number of small seeds.

Conference seeks sweeping changes to global agriculture
Up to 1,000 World Food Prize Laureates, ministers, farmers, community development organizations, leading scientists and innovators will gather in Montpellier, France, from March 28-31, 2010 for the first ever Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

Belief in a caring god improves response to medical treatment for depression
In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, belief in a concerned god can improve response to medical treatment, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

MIT researchers build first germanium laser
MIT researchers have demonstrated the first laser built from germanium that can emit wavelengths of light useful for optical communications. It's also the first germanium laser to operate at room temperature. Unlike the materials typically used in lasers, germanium is easy to incorporate into existing processes for manufacturing silicon chips. So the result could prove an important step toward computers that move data -- and maybe even perform calculations -- using light instead of electricity.

Aphid's genome generates exciting questions
The genome of the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum), sequenced by the International Aphid Genomics Consortium, is published this week in the online open-access journal PLoS Biology. Scientists from more than 10 nations took part in the sequencing and analysis of the genome, whose publication in PLoS Biology is accompanied by related papers appearing in PLoS Genetics, Genome Biology, and a special issue of Insect Molecular Biology.

Autism Speaks presents the top ten autism research findings of 2009
Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization has released its annual list of the 10 most significant research achievements to have impacted autism during the previous year, documenting progress towards the discovery of the causes and treatment for autism spectrum disorders. In 2009 clinical and epidemiological research together with advances in gene discovery and effective treatments combine to shape the future of autism research for 2010 and beyond.

Children of Spanish-speaking moms watch less TV
Young children of Hispanic mothers whose dominant language is Spanish spend less time in front of the TV than children whose mothers speak mostly English.

Electronic health records need better monitoring, UT prof reports
The push is on for health-care providers to make the switch to electronic health records but it is hard to tell how well these complex health information technology systems are being implemented and used, writes a health informatics researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in a Feb. 3 commentary in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Artificial foot recycles energy for easier walking
An artificial foot that recycles energy otherwise wasted in between steps could make it easier for amputees to walk, its developers say.

Promising results shown for kidney cancer drug
The drug pazopanib (Votrient) slowed the progression of advanced renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer, in patients by 54 percent, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

When molecules leave tire tracks
Certain types of molecules form patterns when deposited onto substrates. Photovoltaic and sensor devices from organic compounds depend on this phenomenon of self-organization. Physicists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich have now developed a model that predicts these patterns and thus allows optimization of the molecular synthesis in the future.

Hares more numerous in Irish Coursing Club Preserves than wider countryside
Irish hares are eighteen times more abundant in areas managed by the Irish Coursing Club than at similar sites in the wider countryside a recent study by Queen's University Belfast has shown.

Headache may linger years later in people exposed to World Trade Center dust, fumes
Workers and residents exposed to dust and fumes caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, frequently reported headache years later, according to research released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10-17, 2010.

Engineers explore environmental concerns of nanotechnology
As researchers around the world hasten to employ nanotechnology to improve production methods for applications that range from manufacturing materials to creating new pharmaceutical drugs, the national Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology looks at potential environmental exposure, biological effects and ecological consequences.

Bleeding risk associated with image-guided biopsies is low
Even among patients who have taken aspirin in proximity to an image-guided percutaneous biopsy, risk of major bleeding associated with the procedure is low, according to a study in the March issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology. Image-guided percutaneous biopsies are an important means of diagnosing disease in organs and other soft tissues. They involve the removal of cells or tissues for examination.

Penn joins international collaboration in government and academics to research 'soft matter'
The University of Pennsylvania's Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter has entered into a multiyear agreement with specialty chemical producer Rhodia and the French National Center for Scientific Research to launch an international, public-private research collaboration in soft condensed matter.

Health stories by experts more credible than blogs
Health information written by a doctor is rated as more credible when it appears on a Web site than in a blog or a homepage, according to a study of college students.

Physicists play Lego with photons
A team of physicists at the University of Calgary is able to mount up to two photons on top of one another to construct a variety of quantum states of light.

Atom interferometer provides most precise test yet of Einstein's gravitational redshift
Using an atom interferometer, UC Berkeley scientists have tested one of the foundations of Einstein's general theory of relativity: that time slows down in a gravitational field. Their experiment proves that Einstein was correct with 10,000 times more precision than previous experiments. They achieve this precision by comparing the interference between matter waves separated by 4/1000 inch.

Scientists transplant nose of mosquito, advance fight against malaria
Scientists at Vanderbilt and Yale universities have successfully transplanted most of the

Rockefeller scientist to speak at AAAS on infections as genetic disorders
Rockefeller University's Jean-Laurent Casanova is to present evidence that infectious diseases in the general population are frequently genetic disorders.

Mint oil production moves south
A two-year field study in Mississippi evaluated the effect of nitrogen, growth stage (bud formation and flowering), and harvest time (first in mid-July, second beginning of October) on peppermint yields, oil content and composition.

Blocking blood vessel formation prevents brain tumor recurrence in mice
Patients with GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), an extremely aggressive brain tumor, have a very poor prognosis. Despite high dose radiotherapy, 75 percent of patients die within two years, usually as a result of tumor recurrence within the irradiation field. New research in a mouse model of xenografted GBM has now provided insight into the mechanism of such recurrence by and highlighted potential new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of GBM.

Tropical Storm 17P forms in South Pacific
On Feb. 21, the 17th tropical depression formed in the South Pacific Ocean. Today, Feb. 22, the storm has strengthened into Tropical Storm 17P with maximum sustained winds near 39 mph, and it was about 740 miles east-northeast of Pago Pago.

Effects of iodine supplements on maternal thyroid function studied
Iodine is an essential element for synthesizing thyroid hormones. A team of researchers from the Childhood and Environment Project has studied the consequences of pregnant women consuming it in their diet and in supplements. The results suggest the need to evaluate their iodine nutritional status before systematically recommending taking it during pregnancy.

Breast cancer screening: No added value through mammography
Do we need a revision of current recommendations for breast cancer screening? According to a recent prospective multicenter cohort study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, this appears advisable at least for young women carrying an increased risk of breast cancer. The results of the EVA trial confirm once more that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is substantially more accurate for early diagnosis of breast cancer than digital mammography or breast ultrasound: MRI is three times more sensitive for breast cancer than digital mammography.

Botulinum toxin injection may help prevent some types of migraine pain
A preliminary study suggests the same type of botulinum injection used for cosmetic purposes may be associated with reduced frequency of migraine headaches that are described as crushing, vicelike or eye-popping (ocular), but not pain that is experienced as a buildup of pressure inside the head, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

New study examines the impact on children of food product placements in the movies
New research from the Hood Center for Children and Families at Dartmouth Medical School for the first time sheds light on the significant potential negative impact that food product placements in the movies could be having on children.

Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary Cataract Surgery Trainer teaches residents cataract surgery
The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Cataract Surgery Trainer, a virtual training tool which helps to train physicians to perform cataract surgery, has been shown to enhance teaching in cataract surgery when compared to traditional teaching methods. The results of a multicenter study evaluating the program's effectiveness as a supplement to traditional teaching tools was published in the February issue of Ophthalmology.

Gastrointestinal absorption of Tamiflu in critically ill patients with H1N1
An increased dosage of Tamiflu for patients with critical illness is unlikely to be required in the treatment of pandemic (H1N1) influenza, contrary to current international guidelines, found a new study in CMAJ.

New screening system for hepatitis C
A newly designed system of identifying molecules for treating hepatitis C should enable scientists to discover novel and effective therapies for the dangerous and difficult-to-cure disease of the liver, says Zhilei Chen, a Texas A&M University assistant professor of chemical engineering who helped develop the screening system. The system, Chen explains, enables researchers to study the effects of molecules that obstruct all aspects of the hepatitis C virus life cycle.

GEN Feb. 1 issue features special focus on epigenetics
Increasing numbers of research studies clearly demonstrate that genetics alone cannot explain the diversity of living organisms, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Also driving the development of such complexity is epigenetics, and the Feb. 1 issue of GEN contains three articles that illustrate the growing recognition of the importance of this emerging field of study.

Tackling the challenges of survival in a changing world
It is almost impossible to ignore the effects of global climate change on the planet and the current challenge is to document these changes and predict which populations are most at risk. In a specially commissioned collection of reviews published in the Journal of Experimental Biology on Feb. 26, 2010, leading biogeographers and environmental physiologists discuss the ecological challenges we currently face. 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