Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (January 2004)

Science news and science current events archive January, 2004.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from January 2004

RNA lariat may tie up loose ends to decades-old mystery of retrovirus life cycle
Studies on common baker's yeast have led to the discovery of what may be a long-sought mechanism in the life cycle of retroviruses, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Knowing the details of this step in the infection process could help pinpoint targets for new classes of drugs to fight HIV.

Getting closer to the Lord of the Rings
This time next year, ESA's Huygens spaceprobe will be descending through the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, becoming the first spacecraft to land on a body in the outer Solar System.

PET scans superior in revealing response to treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumors
In fighting cancer, the sooner doctors can determine how a patient will respond to a particular therapy, the more effective overall treatment will be. Researchers have now shown that 18F-FDG PET scans are better than CT scans at predicting response to imatinib mesylate, a drug that has recently been found effective in treating gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs).

Faintest spectra ever raise glaring question
Until now, astronomers have been nearly blind when looking back in time to survey an era when most stars in the Universe were expected to have formed.

Depression, other psychiatric illnesses common following traumatic brain injury
Many patients who experience a traumatic injury to the brain experience major depression or other psychiatric illnesses within a year after their head injuries, according to two articles in the January issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Mayo researchers observe genetic fusion of human, animal cells -may help explain origin of AIDS
Mayo Clinic genomics researchers are the first to demonstrate that mixing of genetic material can occur naturally, in a living body. The researchers have discovered conditions in which pig cells and human cells can fuse together in the body to yield hybrid cells that contain genetic material from both species and carry a swine virus similar to HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) that can infect normal human cells.

Lock to food-borne pathogen pathway may be key to vaccine
A previously unidentified protein on the surface of intestinal cells is giving Purdue University researchers clues on how to prevent disease. The scientists believe their results eventually could lead to a way to prevent food-borne Listeria monocytogenes infection, which has a 20 percent fatality rate, as well as other diseases.

Ultrasound-guided liposomes boost imaging, target drug/gene therapy
One of the newest tools in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke combines a 40-year-old imaging technique and liposomes, little globules of soluble fats and water that circulate naturally throughout the bloodstream. The technique, developed by Northwestern researchers, uses ultrasound energy to create microbubbles inside specially treated liposomes and then direct the liposomes to specific targets, such as atherosclerotic plaques or blood clots.

Europe's eye on Mars: First spectacular results from Mars Express
ESA's Mars Express which successfully inserted into orbit around Mars on 25 December 2003 is about to reach its final operating orbit above the poles of the Red Planet. From the preliminary investigation, results look very promising.

A blood test may reveal systemic factors that relate to periodontal disease, especially in men
A blood test is often given during a medical checkup to reveal indicators of general health conditions. In a study reported in the most recent issue of the Journal of Periodontology (JOP), Japanese researchers found that a blood test may also reveal indicators of periodontal diseases.

Small defects have large impact
Max Planck materials scientists have discovered why ferroelectric materials sometimes lose their useful properties in the nanometer range.

Can satellites help bridge the digital divide?
The French Senate and ESA are to hold a colloquium this month on

Finding may help eczema sufferers tolerate smallpox vaccine
The lack of a certain peptide in the skin of people with atopic dermatitis--the most common form of eczema--may explain why they are at high risk of adverse reactions to the smallpox vaccine, report scientists in the February Journal of Immunology. The finding may lead to new treatments to allow those with the skin condition to be vaccinated against smallpox without breaking out in a potentially deadly rash.

International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases
Journalists are invited to attend and cover the 2004 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ICEID), to be held February 29 to March 3, 2004 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. The meeting is being organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Society for Microbiology, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the Association of Public Health Laboratories and the World Health Organization.

Spruce bark beetle outbreaks examined at Alaska Symposium
The symposium,

Morning headaches associated with depression, anxiety disorders
Morning headaches affect about one person in 13 in the general population and are associated with depression and anxiety disorders, according to an article in the January 12 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Estrogen makes the brain more vulnerable to stress
High levels of estrogen may enhance the brain's response to stress, making women more vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a Yale study.

Scientists restore crucial myelin in brains of mice
Scientists for the first time have restored a crucial substance known as myelin in a widespread area of an animal's brain, opening the door toward new ways to improve treatment of an assortment of

Discovery changes ideas about damage from strokes
Scientists hunting for culprits that lead to brain damage after strokes have discovered that one likely

Using a companion crop to control weeds organically
Research published in the January-February 2004 issue of Agronomy Journal has some news for organic soybean producers: use a companion crop to control weeds instead of cultivation.

New advance to combat antibiotic-resistant pneumonia and malaria
New biochemical studies may hold clues to more powerful malaria and pneumonia treatments that could save more than 2 million lives worldwide. Using baker's yeast as a surrogate disease model, researchers are exploring why enzymes in organisms that cause pneumonia and malaria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. This work could provide the answer to testing a new generation of drugs to combat these prevalent diseases.

Researchers identify key risk factor for cataracts
Ophthalmology researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a key risk factor for the development of cataracts. For the first time, they have demonstrated an association between loss of gel in the eye's vitreous body -- the gel that lies between the back of the lens and the retina -- and the formation of nuclear cataracts, the most common type of age-related cataracts.

Chemical Science
Drawing together the research highlights and news from all Royal Society of Chemistry publications, 'Chemical Science' provides a 'snapshot' of the latest developments across the chemical sciences, showcasing newsworthy articles as well as the most significant scientific advances.

Normal aging versus Alzheimer's disease and the potential for prevention
Our improved understanding of how to maintain normal brain health is providing tantalizing clues about what may prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University who spoke today at the AMA Alzheimer's media briefing in New York City.

LSU professors receive National Science Foundation grants
Wireless networks of tiny sensors may someday help health-care professionals monitor patients or provide emergency response teams with valuable information on disaster areas. Two LSU professors are working to hasten the arrival of this technology, and they've received substantial support from the National Science Foundation to aid them in their efforts.

Peregrine falcons may face new environmental threat
ess than five years after being removed from the endangered species list, peregrine falcons could be facing a new threat. A Swedish study found that eggs of peregrine falcons in that country contain high levels of a popular flame retardant, deca-BDE, which scientists have long thought could not get into wildlife. Falcons in North America are likely to face the same threat, the researchers say.

African Americans, especially women, build up their numbers in architecture
The informal sorority of black, female architects may be the nation's smallest profession. But hope is building. In about the last 10 years, African American women have more than tripled their numbers as licensed architects. The percentage of African American men becoming licensed architects has seen slower - but steady - growth.

Online calculator improves analysis of chemical data
A new online calculator on NIST's Web site is designed to make chemical analysis by mass spectrometry faster and more reliable. The tool also may make some chemical evidence introduced in criminal cases more trustworthy. The NIST tool, called MassSpectator, automates the mathematical calculations needed to convert plots of mass spectrometry data into final results -- a listing of the chemical components and concentrations of substances in a mixture of unknown composition.

First ever guide to the care of women with disabilities now available
While the health care community has grown more sensitive to the health needs of the disabled, very little information is available to guide their competent care. Filling that void is a new resource book for physicians, nurses and other care providers that addresses the unique challenges faced by disabled women who seek routine medical care.

What stops Mars Express getting lost in space?
Determining the three-dimensional position of Mars Express in space with as much precision as possible, at a distance of 155 million kilometres away from Earth, is no simple business.

Novel technique may help detect certain head and neck cancers
Researchers may be able to detect head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) earlier by testing for newly discovered signature protein patterns found in patients with this cancer, according to an article in the January issue of The Archives of Otolaryngology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

New drug improves outcomes when added to existing therapy for Alzheimer's disease
The drug memantine lessens the decline in cognition and activities of daily living for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer disease (AD) who are also receiving donepezil (another drug used to treat AD), according to a new study in the January 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Primates trade smell for sight
Yoav Gilad and his colleagues have found a correlation between the loss of olfactory receptor (OR) genes, which are the molecular basis for the sense of smell, and the acquisition of full trichromatic color vision in primates. The evolution of color vision, the authors propose, coincided with a growing complement of OR nonfunctional

Parasite's enzyme structure helps address a public health issue
By revealing the architecture of an essential enzyme in a parasite, Dartmouth researchers are helping address a public health issue.

New study finds evolutionary diversification in Hawaiian spiders
A new study published in Science shows how a spiny-legged spider that landed on the Hawaiian Islands 5 million years ago led to subsequent generations of spiders that diversified to fill in available niches. The paper, authored by UC Berkeley biologist Rosemary Gillespie, challenges the assumption that the formation of communities in the extraordinarily remote Hawaiian archipelago is different from the way communities are assembled on a large continent.

Translational repression in germline development
In many species, the reproductive cells of the germline can only form properly if certain mRNAs are prevented from translating into proteins until they have been transported to precise target locations in the egg and the appropriate developmental stage has been reached. Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) report that, in the fruit fly Drosophila, this translational repression is achieved by a newly identified complex formed by three associating proteins.

February 2004 Ophthalmology Journal
Studies from the February 2004 issue of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, are now available.

Dance of the molecules
Until now, scientists studying the workings of ultra-microscopic forms have had to rely on the scientific equivalents of still photos, something like trying to fathom driving by looking at a photograph of a car. Now, Prof. Irit Sagi and her team of the Structural Biology Department are using new and innovative methods developed at the Weizmann Institute to see real-time

UI examines issues related to research involving prisoners
Over the years, valid concerns have been raised whether research should be allowed in prison settings, based on ethical problems in the past and the fact that prisoners inherently have less free will while incarcerated. However, a University of Iowa study indicates that even prisoners with mental illness, compared to non-prisoners without mental illness, generally are competent to decide to be in a study and do not feel coerced.

Rice centromere, supposedly quiet genetic domain, surprises
Probing the last genomic frontier of higher organisms, an international team of scientists has succeeded in sequencing a little understood - but critical - genetic domain in rice.

Smallpox in 50-year-old tissues detected by integrated diagnostics approach
Although smallpox has been eradicated, the potential for use of Variola virus as a biological threat agent remains--making improved methods of detection and identification a high priority. A preserved, archived specimen of human tissue infected with Variola virus has allowed scientists the rare opportunity to test modern, integrated diagnostic techniques for smallpox. A combination of histology, electron microscopy, and amplification of viral-specific DNA using the TaqMan® assay resulted in definitive confirmation of smallpox infection.

Adolescent rodents experience milder hangover effects than do adult rodents
Prior research shows that adolescent animals are more sensitive to chronic alcohol exposure, with more pronounced alcohol-related memory problems and brain damage than adult animals. A recent study has found that adolescent rodents are less sensitive to the unpleasant consequences of an alcohol-related hangover, as measured by anxiety. Such a lack of aversive effects could help establish a persisting cycle of drinking in adolescents, leading to a future of alcohol-related problems.

Bacteriophage genomics approach to antimicrobial drug discovery published in Nature Biotechnology
Identifying the targets that bacterial viruses, or phages, use to halt bacterial growth and then screening against those targets for small molecule inhibitors that attack the same targets provides a unique platform for the discovery of novel antibiotics. Researchers from Montreal-based PhageTech, Inc. describe their approach in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology.

Monkeypox in the USA
A review in the February issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases describes the outbreak of monkeypox that occurred in the USA in May 2003.

Twitching whiskers tell all
Our fingers run over surfaces; our eyes are in constant motion. This is all a part of

Most people with diabetes do not meet treatment goals
Less than 12 percent of people with diagnosed diabetes meet the recommended goals for blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol despite a great deal of research showing that controlling these conditions dramatically delays or prevents diabetes complications. Moreover, the percentage of people who achieve these targets has changed little in the last decade, according to a study published in the January 21, 2004, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other highlights in the January 21 issue of JNCI
Other highlights include a review of studies of the effect of genetic counseling on risk perception and psychological outcomes, and a study of a gene polymorphism that affects drug sensitivity of cancer cells. A listing of additional articles in the January 21 issue is also included.

Chemists crack secrets of nature's super glue
Researchers have discovered that iron in seawater is the key binding agent in the super-strong glues of the common blue mussel, Mytilus edulis. This is the first time researchers have determined that a metal such as iron is critical to forming an amorphous, biological material.

New g-2 measurement deviates further from standard model
The latest result from an international collaboration of scientists investigating how the spin of a muon is affected as this type of subatomic particle moves through a magnetic field deviates further than previous measurements from theoretical predictions.

Tiny heaters may pave way for easier tissue engineering, medical sensors
Tiny microheaters, less than one millimeter across and coated with a special polymer, may hold the key to new techniques for engineering tissue and creating medical sensing devices. 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