Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (January 1998)

Science news and science current events archive January, 1998.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from January 1998

Vigdis Finnbogadottir Named As Chair Of Future World Commission On The Ethics Of Scientific Knowledge And Technology
UNESCO Director-General Federico has named Vigdís Finnbógadottir, the former President of Iceland, chairperson of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.

Shrews May Predict Environmental Degradation
Shrews may be an important indicator of environmental health or sickness in certain African countries, says a professor in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto. The results of her research will be published in the Journal of Zoology (London) in early 1998.

"Save Your Face - Drink Sensibly" - Assault And Alcohol Major Causes Of Facial Injury
Assault and alcohol consumption are the two major factors responsible for serious facial injuries in young adults. One half of the facial injuries in the 15 - 25 year age group were sustained in assaults, usually in bars or streets, and were associated with alcohol consumption. From 1977 to 1987 the proportion of patients with facial injuries sustained in road accidents fell by 34 per cent, but violent crime has more than compensated for this decrease.

Study Shows Active, Passive Smoking Harden Arteries, Increase Stroke Risk
Both active and passive smoking speed up the process by which arteries become clogged and increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, according to a major new study. The damage -- sometimes likened to rust building up in iron pipes and restricting water flow -- may be irreversible.

Tiger Beetles Go Blind At High Speeds
Entomologists have long noticed that tiger beetles stop-and- go in their pursuit of prey. But up to now, scientists have had no idea why this species of beetle attacks its food in fits and starts. Why do they stop and go? During hot pursuit of prey, the tiger beetles go blind.

Duke Chemists Narrow The Search For Key Produce-Ripening Step
Duke University chemists have identified a likely chemical pathway among the possible thousands that fruits and vegetables could use to initiate the ripening process.

Sensory Guidance Of Movement
Following the Novartis Foundation Symposium

UNESCO Director-General Reaffirms That Human Cloning Is Contrary To Human Dignity
Human cloning cannot be accepted under any circumstances, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor reiterated today, stressing that the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, adopted on November 11, 1997, by UNESCO's 186 Member States, bans the practice as an offense against human dignity.

Avoiding Pessimism May Be More Important Than Being Optimistic
People have been told about the power of positive thinking to improve health and well-being but new research suggests it may be more important to avoid negative thinking. A study found that avoiding pessimism may be more important than embracing optimism in reducing anxiety and stress and improving reported health.

Extraterrestrial Cuisine Cooking In Cornell Lab
To develop

Hurdle In Ulcer Vaccine Development Cleared
The bacterium that causes most peptic ulcers clings to the stomach wall by locking onto receptors on the gastric lining. Researchers now have identified and isolated a bacterial protein that allows the microbe to cling. With this protein in hand, it eventually should be possible to develop a vaccine against peptic ulcers and gastric cancer.

Physician Profiles Could Improve Health Care Quality
A technique called Physician Profiling could substantially improve the quality of health care and reduce costs in the managed care sector, according to an article in this month's edition of a magazine published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

Genes May Affect The Response To Drugs That Treat Mental Illness
Researchers in London, UK, report an association between genetic variants in the promoter and coding regions of the 5- HT2A receptor and response to clozapine, an antipsychotic that treats schizophrenia and has high affinity for these receptors. These results support previous findings of association between clinical response to clozapine and a silent mutation also at the 5-HT2A receptor gene.

Wobbly Planet Means Climatologists Need To Rethink Long-Term Study Of Sea-Level Variations
A graduate student at the University of Toronto uses numerical simulations to show how long-term changes in the orientation of the Earth's rotation axis, or

National Survey: Majority Of Women Experience Leg Health Concerns
A majority of women experience leg health concerns with consequences ranging from inhibiting daily activities to quitting jobs. Most women age 35 and older experience swelling or other leg health concerns on a weekly basis, and one in six affected says leg health has forced her to take time off work or quit her job altogether.

Wake Forest University Study Takes Students In Flight With The Albatross
Wake Forest University biologist David Anderson normally studies seabirds in the wild without much company. But thousands of elementary schoolers will soon join his satellite tracking of two albatross species on Hawaii's Tern Island to determine how to reduce losses to longline fishing and answer evolutionary questions about their flights.

UF Chemistry Study Could Mean Major Reduction In Polyester Costs
A University of Florida study could reveal a method for manufacturing polyester from two inexpensive gases: carbon monoxide and ethylene oxide. These two gases could translate to savings of more than 50 percent in the cost of raw materials used to make the popular polymer.

Stress Of Breast Cancer Surgery, Diagnosis Weakens Immune System
In the largest study to date, Ohio State University researchers show that the stress women experience after breast cancer diagnosis and surgery can weaken their immune response, based on at least three different biochemical indicators. The findings are the latest documenting the link high stress and low immunity.

1998 Declared Year Of The Ocean
1998 has been declared Year of the Ocean by the United Nations in recognition of the many challenges and opportunities offered by the ocean as we enter the 21st century. The ocean affects our weather and climate, provides a home to fisheries, which are a major food source for the world, and is largely unexplored in its depths. As the world population and standard of living grows, nations need to understand the impact of the ocean and the importance of sustainable use of ocean resources.

Moss Appeal: Most Recent Monograph Title From The New York Botanical Garden
The pleurocarpous mosses of Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the West Indies are keyed, illustrated, and described in detail here. Three orders are treated: Hookeriales, Leucodontales, and Hypnales.

Gene Found That Protects Against Heart Disease
A gene that appears to provide protection against coronary artery disease (CAD), the cause of heart attacks, has been identified by Japanese researchers, according to a report in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"D"istressed Personality Linked To Heart Attack Risk
People who are negative, insecure and distressed -- a

Columbia Researchers Identify Gene For Inherited Baldness
Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons have discovered the first human gene associated with hair loss. The new gene, called hairless, is linked to a severe form of inherited baldness and may be the trigger that turns on the entire human hair cycle. The discovery could lead to a better understanding of the hair cycle and, eventually, more effective treatments for various forms of hair loss.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Enhances Short-Term Brain Plasticity
For the first time, scientists studying how the brain reorganizes itself have shown that they can modify this process using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The finding suggests new ways to help people recover normal function after stroke, amputation, and other injuries.

Natural Killer Cells Need A Good Night's Sleep
Disrupted sleep may be weakening the immune systems of elderly widows and widowers. After 29 patients with bereavement-related depression spent three nights in a sleep lab, analysis of blood samples showed those whose sleep had been disrupted had fewer natural killer cells (NKCs), which help destroy illness-causing cells.

National Jewish Researchers Study Value Of Frequent Nurse Visits To Homes Of Low-Income Children At High Risk Of Asthma
Children 9 months-2 years old with a high risk of developing asthma will be part of a $1.85 million National Institutes of Health-funded study at National Jewish Medical and Research Center to assess if regular home visits by nurses help stem the development of asthma.

Colorado Crop Provides Environmentally-Friendly Alternative To Motor Oil
Canola oil isn't just for stir fry anymore. Duane Johnson, a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension specialist, uses a canola oil to run his VW Beetle and it will soon be used in state cars in Wisconsin, Michigan and possibly New Zealand. Canola oil is an ideal lubricant as it cuts automobile pollution by 40 percent and doesn't produce hazardous waste.

UMass Researchers Announce Birth Of Genetically Modified Cloned Calves
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have announced the birth of two healthy calves created by combining cloning techniques with genetic engineering. The animals, named Charlie and George, were born last week at a ranch in Texas following four years of research by James Robl, professor of veterinary and animal sciences at UMass, and Steven Stice, of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) Inc., who is also an adjunct faculty member at the University. Transfer Society in Boston.

December 1997 Is Coldest Month On Record In The Stratosphere
Space-based measurements of the temperature of the Earth's lower stratosphere - a layer of the atmosphere from about 17 km to 22 km - indicate that December 1997 was the coldest month on record since measurements of this type were begun in 1979.

Newly Declassified Submarine Data Will Help Study Of Arctic Ice
A treasure-trove of formerly classified data on the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, gathered by U.S. Navy submarines over several decades, is now being opened. Data from the first of approximately 20 cruise tracks -- an April, 1992 trans-Arctic Ocean track -- has just been released, and information from the rest of these tracks, or maps of a submarine's route, will be analyzed and released over the next year-and-a-half.

Enzyme Protects Virus From Environmental Hazards
An unusual enzyme never before seen in viruses appears to shield an AIDS-related skin disease virus from the ravages of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the immune system, according to a study by researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Age Of Drinking Onset Predicts Future Alcohol Abuse And Dependence
WASHINGTON, D.C.-The younger the age of drinking onset, the greater the chance that an individual at some point in life will develop a clinically defined alcohol disorder, according to a new report released today by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Researcher Says Schools Need To Expand Focus To Deal With Violence
Schools in violence-torn inner cities may need to expand their roles beyond the

Mystery Of Vital Cell Protein Solved After 30 Years
A 30-year quest to solve the structure of one of the most important types of proteins in a living cell has been achieved. Scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created the first 3-dimensional atomic model of tubulin, a protein that makes possible such vital life processes as cell division and the movement of materials within cells.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Investigators
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) researchers delving into the fundamental mechanisms underlying one form of leukemia have learned how to interfere with the genetic changes that lead to this potentially fatal type of cancer.

Mammography Messages Need To Be Tailored For Older Women
About half of U.S. deaths from breast cancer each year occur in women who are 65 years of age or older. Yet older women, especially minorities, get the fewest mammograms. A new study suggests that doctors may help turn this trend around by addressing women's fears and other barriers to being tested.

Divorce, Insect Style: Termites Swap Mates
Before settling down to spend the next five years raising a family, some mate-for-life termites use their brief honeymoon to find a better mate, a Cornell University biologist has discovered. Janet S. Shellman-Reeve's study of the wood- dwelling, biparental termite Zootermopsis nevadensis marks the first scientific documentation of behavior called

Gene For Inherited Syndrome Is Possible New Tumor Suppressor
New research has found the gene responsible for a rare inherited disorder that can lead to cancer in many different organs. Unexpectedly, the work might also have uncovered a new category of tumor suppressor genes. The disorder is Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)

Careful Honeybee Breeding Combats Tracheal Mite Pests
A study at Ohio State University has shown that selective breeding helps honeybees develop resistance to tracheal mites, pests that beekeepers normally control with insecticide. The research indicates that with a combination of selective breeding and other natural controls, beekeepers may maintain healthy hives without relying on chemical controls.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Researchers Report Three-Dimensional Structure Of Hepatitis C Helicase Enzyme; Report In Structure
There are 4 million people in the US, some as prominent as Naomi Judd, with HCV. Vertex will report the 3-D map of HCV helicase in the January 15 issue of Structure. The information may be a valuable tool for designing new, effective drugs to treat HCV infection.

Launch Of A New Kind Of Scientific Journal On The World Wide Web: Living Reviews In Relativity
On 26 January 1998, the Albert Einstein Institute, a scientific research institute of Germany's Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, launches a scientific journal of a new kind. The journal is called Living Reviews in Relativity. Living Reviews in Relativity takes advantage of the flexibility of the Internet, World-Wide-Web, and modern computer technology to provide what is hoped to become an important research tool for scientists working around the world.

Selenium Soil Contamination: Possible New Approach Identified
A promising alternative means to immobilize selenium contamination in soil and sediment has been identified by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Green rust, a harmless natural iron oxide, was shown to chemically react with toxic selenium, converting it to a safer elemental form.

Cellular 'Short Circuit' Causes Insulin Resistance
Weizmann Institute researchers have gained a new insight into the molecular basis of insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to diabetes. The story, reported in the Journal of Biochemistry, may lead to future treatments for diabetes that will correct the underlying causes of this prevalent metabolic disorder rather than just treat its symptoms.

Bright Milky Way Object Discovered To Be Most Massive Binary Star System Known
New research indicates that one of the brightest and most spectacular stellar objects in the Milky Way known as eta Carinae is really two stars, making it the most massive orbiting binary star system ever discovered.

New Company To Turn UNC-CH, Army Inventions Into Improved Vaccines
Inventions by microbiologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have led to creation of AlphaVax, a new company in Durham.

Transgenic Mice Created By Researchers May Shed Light On Human Heart Disease
A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has created several strains of transgenic mice that carry gene mutations for a heart disease that has been shown to be the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.

Highly Polar Ultrathin Film: Growth And Characterization Of Directionally Aligned Polypeptides
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz in collaboration with the group of Prof. Schouten at the University of Groningen have, for the first time, investigated the electromechanical properties of polypeptides grown directly from a flat surface. The results were recently published in Science (Vol. 279, 2. Jan.).

How Important Are Medical Students' Final Examinations?
Students with the most clinical experience are not those who perform best in their finals, say McManus et al. If it is important in medical training for students to obtain as much clinical experience as possible, then final examinations require restructuring to assess and reward experience. Medical school recruitment should stress the need for deep learning abilities in addition to assessing potential candidates on their A level grades.

Peutz-Jeghers Disease Gene Identified: Enzyme Loss Causes Polyps And Cancer
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and the University of Würzburg have unravelled the molecular cause of the autosomal-dominantly inherited Peutz-Jeghers syndrome which is characterized by gastrointestinal polyps, brown melanin spots around the lips, and a high risk for various tumors (Nature Genetics January 1, 1998).

New Gene For Mental Illness
In the January 1998 issue of Molecular Psychiatry investigators from New York and Bethesda report that carriers of a single mutation in the Wolfram syndrome gene are 26 times more likely to require hospitalization for depression and/or suicide attempts than people who do not have a mutation in this gene. The authors estimate that 1 percent of the population, and 25 percent of the patients hospitalized for such psychiatric difficulties, may be carrying the gene.

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