Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (July 2015)

Science news and science current events archive July, 2015.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from July 2015

Tiny mechanical wrist gives new dexterity to needlescopic surgery
A Vanderbilt research team has successfully created a mechanical wrist less than 1/16th of an inch thick -- small enough to use in needlescopic surgery, the least invasive form of minimally invasive surgery.

Sochi Winter Olympics 'cost billions more than estimated'
As the International Olympic Committee prepares to choose between Beijing and Almaty as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics, a new report shows that the cost of last year's Games in Sochi, Russia, has been underestimated by billions of dollars.

Ebola vaccine trial begins in Senegal
A trial evaluating an Ebola vaccine has begun in Dakar, after initial work at Oxford's Jenner Institute. The announcement comes as a conference in Oxford discusses the global response to Ebola and implications for future drug and vaccine development. The first volunteers at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire le Dantec, Dakar, received an initial vaccination with a booster one week later. This short timescale could provide an option for a rapid vaccination programme in an outbreak.

NASA's RapidScat measures winds of Atlantic Tropical Storm Claudette
The RapidScat instrument that flies aboard the International Space Station measured the winds of the third Atlantic Tropical Storm of the season.

Researchers identify plant cultivation in a 23,000-year-old site in the Galilee
The Middle East is called the 'Cradle of Civilization' because it is where our hunter-gatherer ancestors first established sedentary farming communities. Recently, the traditional dating of humans' first agricultural attempt was shaken up by the discovery of the earliest-known example of plant cultivation in the Levant, 11,000 years earlier than previously accepted.

Discovery of young family gives hope to world's rarest ape
A team led by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London has found a new family group of the Critically Endangered Hainan gibbon, increasing the known population by almost 12 percent.

From sticks to balls: The shape of bacteria is evolving to better adapt to the throat
It's no coincidence that the earthworm's slender shape makes it perfect for weaving through narrow tunnels. Evolution moulds the shapes of living creatures according to the benefits they offer. At the microscopic level, do the various shapes of bacteria also contribute to their survival? Does a spherical bacterium (coccus) have a better chance of infecting its host than its stick-shaped neighbour (bacillus)?

Journalism fellowships will increase media spotlight on aging issues
The Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, run jointly by the Gerontological Society of America and New America Media since its launch in 2010, will continue thanks to renewed funding support from the Silver Century Foundation.

Young adults with autism show improved social function following UCLA skills program
Researchers at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA have found that a social skills program for high-functioning young adults with autism spectrum disorder significantly improved the participants' ability to engage with their peers.

Women and fragrances: Scents and sensitivity
Researchers have sniffed out an unspoken rule among women when it comes to fragrances: women don't buy perfume for other women, and they certainly don't share them.

Biggest explosions in the universe powered by strongest magnets
Observations from ESO's La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around an exotic object called a magnetar. The results will appear in the journal Nature on July 9, 2015.

Penn bioethicists call for end to 'pay-to-play' clinical research
Charging people to participate in research studies is likely to undermine the fundamental ethical basis of clinical research, according to a new paper written by bioethicists, including lead author Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and published in Science Translational Medicine.

Childhood psychiatric problems associated with problems in adulthood
Children with psychiatric problems were more likely to have health, legal, financial and social problems as adults even if their psychiatric disorders did not persist into adulthood and even if they did not meet the full diagnostic criteria for a disorder, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

New understanding of genetic susceptibility to infections by Candida and Mycobacterium
By an international collaboration study with the Rockefeller University, researchers at Hiroshima University identified bi-allelic mutations in RORC, which encoded RORγ and RORγT, in seven patients from three kindreds with an unusual combination of candidiasis and mycobacteriosis. They discovered that human RORC is essential not only for the development of IL-17-producing T cells against Candida but also for the activation of IFN-γ-producing T cells and for systemic protection against Mycobacterium.

Examination of use of diabetes drug pioglitazone and risk of bladder cancer
Although some previous studies have suggested an increased risk of bladder cancer with use of the diabetes drug pioglitazone, analyses that included nearly 200,000 patients found no statistically significant increased risk, however a small increased risk could not be excluded, according to a study in the July 21 issue of JAMA.

Pre-college science programs lead to more science majors
High school students who take part in pre-college programs that focus on science are much more likely to pursue higher education and, eventually, careers in science, technology, engineering and medicine -- the STEM disciplines.

Could a sugar tax help combat obesity?
Following the BMA's call for a 20 percent sugar tax to subsidize the cost of fruit and vegetables, experts in The BMJ this week debate whether a sugar tax could help combat obesity.

Researchers identify new cancer marker and possible therapeutic target for breast cancer
A new way to detect -- and perhaps treat -- one of the deadliest types of breast cancer has been found. Led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, the study appears online in Breast Cancer Research.

Generalized anxiety disorders twice as likely in those with inflammatory bowel disease
People who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, have twice the odds of having a generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives when compared to peers without IBD, according to a new study published by University of Toronto researchers.

Creating a stopwatch for volcanic eruptions
According to new research at Arizona State University, there may be a way to predict when Yellowstone volcano will erupt again.

Men with 'low testosterone' have higher rates of depression
Researchers at the George Washington University, led by Michael S. Irwig, M.D., found that men referred for tertiary care for borderline testosterone levels had much higher rates of depression and depressive symptoms than those of the general population.

Gut worms protect babies' brains from inflammation
A Duke University study in rats finds that gut worms can protect babies' brains from inflammation and long-term learning and memory problems caused by newborn infections. Expectant mother rats with tapeworms even passed the protective benefits on to their worm-free pups, the researchers found. The findings could point to new ways to prevent or treat the chronic brain inflammation linked to cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease, autism and depression.

New antibody specificity portal bolsters biomedical research reliability
Histone Antibody Specificity Database is a newly launched online portal that lets scientists find the right antibodies for their research with a much higher degree of confidence than ever before. Rather than relying on the claims of antibody manufacturers, the database is populated with validated test results, allowing researchers to access and compare real-world data and pick the most reliable antibody for each experiment. A paper published today in the journal Molecular Cell describes the database and the science behind it.

ECOG-ACRIN opens trial of treatment sequencing in advanced melanoma
In its latest treatment trial, EA6134, the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group studies whether to start treatment with drugs that trigger patients' immune systems to kill melanoma skin cancer, or with other drugs that identify and attack molecules within tumor cells

Hospitals often overestimate their ability to deliver fast stroke care
When asked about administering the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator to stroke patients, hospital staff perceptions did not always line up with actual performance. Only 29 percent of hospital staff accurately identified their 'door-to-needle' performance.

Can pregnancy complications predict future cardiovascular disease risk?
According to a new study, women can accurately recall key pregnancy-related information at least four years later that could have important implications for their future risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A simple and brief questionnaire developed and validated by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women's Hospital is a valuable new screening tool described in an article in Journal of Women's Health.

Human-wrought environmental changes impacting crops, pollinators could harm millions
Changing global environmental conditions caused by humans could negatively impact the health of millions by altering key crops, say two Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studies. One study found declining food pollinators such as bees could lead to decreased nutrient-rich crops linked with staving off disease. A second study found increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 could lead to lower zinc levels in food and expanded zinc deficiency.

Air travel and climate: A potential new feedback?
What impact does a warming planet have on air travel and how might that, in turn, affect the rate of warming itself? A new study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and University of Wisconsin Madison found a connection between climate and airline flight times, suggesting a feedback loop could exist between the carbon emissions of airplanes and our changing climate. The study was published in this week's Nature Climate Change.

New fuel-cell materials pave the way for practical hydrogen-powered cars
Hydrogen fuel cells promise clean cars that emit only water. Several major car manufacturers have recently announced their investment to increase the availability of fueling stations, while others are rolling out new models and prototypes. However, challenges remain, including the chemistry to produce and use hydrogen and oxygen gas efficiently. Today, in ACS Central Science, two research teams report advances on chemical reactions essential to fuel-cell technology in separate papers.

How ticks that carry Lyme disease are spreading to new regions in the US
Lyme disease is currently estimated to affect 300,000 people in the US every year, and blacklegged ticks, the disease's main vector, have recently flourished in areas previously thought to be devoid of this arachnid.

'Failed stars' host powerful auroral displays
By observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away using both radio and optical telescopes, a team led by Gregg Hallinan, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech, has found that such so-called failed stars host powerful auroras near their magnetic poles -- additional evidence that brown dwarfs are more like giant planets than small stars.

Genome analysis pins down arrival and spread of first Americans
An international team of researchers compared the genomes of 31 living Native Americans, Siberians and people from Oceania with 23 ancient Native American genomes to establish a timeline for the arrival and spread of Amerindian populations. They concluded that the first Americans arrived after about 23,000 years ago and diverged around 13,000 years ago into two populations. They found no admixture of Polynesian or European genes, but did find some East Asian gene flow.

Novel model developed to predict the amount of nicotine emitted from e-cigarettes
Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researchers at the VCU Center for the Study of Tobacco Products have developed the first ever, evidence-based model that can predict with up to 90 percent accuracy the amount of nicotine emitted by an electronic cigarettes.

Why not build houses the environmentally friendly way?
Green buildings are indeed healthy buildings. So says Dr. Joseph Allen and fellow researchers of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US. They conducted the first comprehensive review of studies that focused on green buildings and summarized the health benefits for the people who work and live in them. The review is published in Springer's journal Current Environmental Health Reports.

How neurons remember
Scientists at Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin have identified a mechanism at the level of the individual neurons that may play a role in the formation of memory. They have determined that back-propagating electrical impulses serve to activate a receptor inside the cell, thereby resulting in long-term changes in the calcium response in specific neuronal compartments. The results of their study have now been published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology.

It's official: Workplace rudeness is contagious
Rudeness in the workplace isn't just unpleasant: it's also contagious.

New 3-D human skin models could replace animal testing to assess dermal sensitivity to medical device
New research shows that exposing a 3-D human skin tissue model to extracts of medical device materials can detect the presence of sensitizers known to cause an allergic response on contact in some individuals. Conventional skin sensitization testing of medical devices relies on animal testing, whereas human skin models could replace animal methods, according to an article in the new journal Applied In Vitro Toxicology.

Resveratrol, quercetin could provide new options for cancer therapy
Resveratrol and quercetin, two polyphenols that have been widely studied for their health properties, may soon become the basis of an important new advance in cancer treatment, primarily by improving the efficacy and potential use of an existing chemotherapeutic cancer drug. For the first time a system has been developed that could dramatically increase the levels of these compounds in the body.

Prostate 'organoid' hints at how early BPA exposure may increase cancer risk
A first-of-its kind prostate 'organoid' grown from human embryonic stem cells has enabled researchers to show that exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical in many plastics, can cause overproduction of prostate stem cells in the developing organ -- and thus may increase men's risk of prostate cancer.

Study identifies characteristic EEG pattern of high-dose nitrous oxide anesthesia
Investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital find that the EEG patterns of patients receiving high doses of nitrous oxide differ significantly from those of the same patients when they had received ether-based inhaled anesthetics earlier in the procedures.

Sweet revenge against superbugs
A special type of synthetic sugar could be the latest weapon in the fight against superbugs. A team of scientists from The University of Queensland and Queensland biotechnology company Alchemia have discovered a potential new class of antibiotics inspired by sugar molecules produced by bacteria. New antibiotics to which bacteria are unlikely to develop resistance are urgently needed to combat the rise of superbugs -- drug resistant bacteria.

Compounds show potential in fighting brain and breast cancers
The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers' discovery has potential to help brain and breast cancer patients.

Uncovering the secrets of immune system invaders
Some bacteria and viruses take advantage of the way our immune system works to infect us. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology describe some of the trickery used by mycobacteria in an article in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dagger-like canines of saber-toothed cats took years to grow
The fearsome teeth of the saber-toothed cat Smilodon fatalis fully emerged at a later age than those of modern big cats, but grew at a rate about double that of their living relatives. The findings, for the first time, provide specific ages for developmental dental events in Smilodon. The eruption rate of the cat's permanent upper canines was a speedy six millimeters per month, but the teeth weren't fully developed until three years of age.

Baby's first stool can alert doctors to future cognitive issues, new CWRU study finds
A newborn's first stool can signal the child may struggle with persistent cognitive problems, according to Case Western Reserve University Project Newborn researchers. In particular, high levels of fatty acid ethyl esters found in the meconium (a newborn's first stool) from a mother's alcohol use during pregnancy can alert doctors that a child is at risk for problems with intelligence and reasoning.

Smarter window materials can control light and energy
Chemical engineering professor Delia Milliron and her team have engineered two new advancements in electrochromic materials -- a highly selective cool mode and a warm mode -- not thought possible several years ago. The researchers are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency.

A black hole under the gravitational lens
An unusual observation method uncovers processes near the event horizon of a distant, massive monster.

Resolving the cancer/diet paradox: New special issue on cancer in metabolism
How much does diet affect the cancer patient? Do 'antioxidants' really play an important role in health -- or are they causing more cancers than they cure? And what exactly is the relationship between obesity and cancer? The latest Special Issue in ecancermedicalscience collects four original articles from experts in cancer and metabolism, addressing the hottest areas of research in this rapidly developing field.

UTHealth's Barbara Murray honored by Rice University
Barbara Murray, M.D., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, was recognized by the Association of Rice Alumni at its Laureates Dinner May 16.

A way to predict whether children with DiGeorge syndrome will develop autism or psychosis
New findings by researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh are the first to suggest a potential way to predict whether children with DiGeorge syndrome will develop one of two mental impairments. In a study published in PLOS ONE, the researchers report having isolated specific genetic differences between people with the syndrome who have autism and those who have psychosis. 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