Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (March 2001)

Science news and science current events archive March, 2001.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from March 2001

UNC to test virus treatment for recurrent head and neck cancer
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of nine centers nationally trying to determine if injections of a genetically modified common cold virus may be an effective treatment for recurrent head and neck cancer. Under investigation is a form of adenovirus that's modified to selectively infect and destroy tumor cells only.

Math draws international scholars to UIC
University of Illinois at Chicago begins scholar exchange visits with Kazakhstan Institute for Informatics and Control Problems.

Have DNA lab, will travel: mobile unit first of its kind
In a facility believed to be the first of its kind, a mobile laboratory used to collect DNA material from endangered species is now in operation at Texas A&M University. The 28- foot long moving facility is being used to gather genetic materials from animals that could ultimately face extinction.

Seventy-year quest for galactic dark matter ends with discovery of population of cool white dwarfs in the halo of our galaxy
Astronomers from UC Berkeley, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Vanderbilt report the first direct detection of dark matter in the halo of our galaxy, in the form of ancient cool white dwarfs. The discovery opens a window onto the early history of our galaxy, said UC Berkeley post-doc Ben Oppenheimer.

Researchers build on discovery of potent potential antibiotic
Building on recent discovery of a potent potential antibiotic, University of Michigan College of Pharmacy researchers have found a previously unknown family of metal- requiring enzymes in bacteria. They have also demonstrated that the antibiotic compound they are studying effectively inhibits enzymes in this family.

Calcium signals found to guide nerve cell development
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered that growing nerve cells in the developing embryo are guided to their proper targets by bursts of intracellular calcium that probe what's ahead and send back information to the cells in a kind of biological Morse code.

Study confirms gender differences in progression from HIV to AIDS
From the ALIVE cohort, a study of HIV infection and sex differences confirms that women, despite having significantly lower initial plasma viral levels, progress to AIDS just as swiftly as men (NEJM).

Elephants pick up good vibrations - through their feet
Few sights are as awesome as a 6-ton elephant guarding her baby from a hungry predator. The threatened mother is likely to launch a mock charge - a terrifying display of ground stomping, ear flapping and frantic screaming. It turns out that low-frequncy sounds produced during mock charges also generate seismic waves in the ground that elephants may be able to detect throught their feet nearly 20 miles away.

More information needed to improve women's understanding of smear results
Only about half of women understand that the term

Deleting gene changes sex of mice
Scientists have identified the first growth factor linked to sex determination. Deleting the gene for fibroblast growth factor 9 (Fgf9), a protein important in development, produced mice that had a female reproductive system even though they had a Y chromosome, which normally creates males.

Los Angeles chemist wins national award for liquid crystal research
William Gelbart of Los Angeles will be honored April 3 for contributions in linking fundamental physics of liquid crystals and other fluids with their behavior. He receives the Joel Henry Hildebrand Award in Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry of Liquids from the American Chemical Society at its meeting in San Diego.

NASA image reveals giant crack in Antarctic ice
There appears to be a new crack in the Antarctic's icy armor. The massive iceberg-to-be was captured by a NASA satellite that's also tracing hidden continental features that shape the future of the world's largest ice sheets.

Zebrafish could become genetics 'lab rat' of choice
In the post-genomic world, the lowly zebrafish may be king. The two-inch, black-striped zebrafish -- known primarily as the last fish living in your kid's aquarium -- is quickly becoming famous in the scientific world as the best animal to use when studying genetics -- even better than the mouse.

When listening is much more than hearing the words
  • Affective prosodic comprehension (APC) is the ability to detect emotion/attitude in someone's voice.
  • Individuals with poor APC have difficulties managing personal and work-related relationships.
  • Detoxified alcoholics and those with a history of fetal alcohol exposure have significant deficits in APC.
  • The earlier the alcohol exposure, especially when it happens prenatally, the worse the deficits.

Study: Ripped aortas kill often, but new knowledge may aid survival
A ripped aorta can kill you swiftly and painfully if you don't get skilled help - or even if you do. That bleak reality is the central conclusion from new results in a major study of the phenomenon. But the data also give clues that could help cut the death toll.

Computer model predicts outcome of DNA shuffling
Industries using DNA shuffling to improve enzymes, therapeutic proteins, vaccines and viral vectors may soon have a computational method for predicting the number and likely locations of crossovers, according to a Penn State research team.

While noting improvements, two Duke studies find doctors still not using drugs shown to be beneficial in clinical trials
Two different analyses by Duke University Medical Center cardiologists have shown that while multi-center clinical trials involving thousands of patients have clearly demonstrated that certain drugs can improve the outcomes for heart patients and save lives, the message is not being uniformly heard by physicians.

How to keep invasive plants out of forest fragments
Fragmented habitat is vulnerable partly because it has more edges, which are susceptible to invasion by non-native species. There may be an effective approach: intact edges can help keep seeds out of the forest interior, according to new research in the February issue of Conservation Biology.Please mention Conservation Biology as the source of these items. For faxes of papers, contact Robin Meadows (
Providing better playgrounds could improve children's physical activity
Physical improvements to school grounds, such as basketball hoops and tennis courts, along with adult supervision, were associated with four times as many boys and five times as many girls being physically active during free time.

U-M patients take their medicine
For patients with heart conditions, medication can mean the difference between running a mile and racing to the emergency room. Few data exist to show whether these patients take their meds. U-M completed the first-of-its-kind study to see how their patients did.

Scientists repair damage from heart attack
Surprising new research shows it is possible to rebuild heart-attack-damaged hearts with adult stem cells from bone marrow. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, demonstrated for the first time that adult stem cells isolated from mouse bone marrow could become functioning heart muscle cells when injected into a damaged mouse heart.

Standard scuba diving mouthpieces potentially hazardous
Standard design mouthpieces used by scuba divers are potentially hazardous. The design has changed little since the 1940s, when scuba equipment was first introduced. The use of these mouthpieces may result in vertigo and disorientation, both of which have been implicated in accidents and death under water.

Laws against juveniles are sweeping the country, says Temple University professor
Laws relating to juvenile crime, including treating young people as adults, have risen since the mid 1990s because of public outcry, fear, and concern over juvenile violence, according to Temple University criminal justice professor Joan McCord, Ph.D.

Fourth dimension
Using mathematical equations, a Cornell University scientist and his colleagues have found evidence of a fourth spatial dimension in plants. In short, size matters even in the plant world, suggesting that

Study offers new hope for infants awaiting heart transplantation
Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children have discovered that infant heart transplants can be performed safely and successfully despite major blood type incompatibility between the donor and recipient. The study, published in the March 15 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, challenges current clinical thinking about the human immune system and offers new hope for infants waiting for heart transplantation.

Early detection does not improve quality of life in patients treated for prostate cancer
Treatment for prostate cancer has a considerable impact on a patient's quality of life, regardless of the therapy used, or how early their cancer was initially detected, a Dutch study has concluded.

Polar telescope sights first high-energy neutrinos
A novel telescope, buried deep in the Antarctic ice at the South Pole, has become the first instrument to detect and track high-energy neutrinos from space, setting the stage for a new field of astronomy that promises a view of some of the most distant, enigmatic and violent phenomena in the universe.

New view of evolving genes, proteins to aid bioinformatics
Today's evolutionary theory is not enough to tell us how even simple mutation biases may skew the evolutionary process. Researchers make a case that simple biases in mutation will change the evolutionary process.

April GEOLOGY and GSA TODAY media highlights
Articles address: K/T boundary acid rain; new high-pressure mineral produced during impact event; geomorphology and persistent mining impacts in Yellowstone; greenhouse world and mass extinction at Permian-Triassic boundary; new explanation for warm subpolar surface oceans in both hemispheres; radical new interpretation of original fracture pattern of mid-Proterozoic dismemberment of North America; global warming; tsunami hazards.

Soy may enhance cancer-fighting effects of tamoxifen
A diet of soy may enhance the effects of tamoxifen, which is used to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women. In a study conducted in rats, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that tamoxifen alone reduced the number of carcinogen-induced tumors by 29 percent, from an average of 7.9 per rat to 5.6. Similarly, soy alone reduced the number of tumors by 37 percent. But when the two were combined, the overall reduction in number of tumors was 62 percent.

Georgetown University researchers discover new paradigm in cellular communication
New discoveries about the way in which cellular receptors communicate with each other have helped scientists gain deeper insights into how new blood vessels develop--which could, down the road, lead to new ways of treating cancer and heart disease, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center said.

Symposium discusses risks, benefits of plant biotechnology
A daylong symposium on plant biotechnology will be held at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, to discuss questions like: Why have farmers adopted biotech crops so readily? Could transferred genes escape into wild plants? What are the implications for developing countries?

Mice nibbling at the secrets of NF1
In Genes and Development, an international team of scientists present an experimental mouse model of a prevalent human neurologic disease. This NF1 deficiency model will undoubtedly improve our understanding of the physiological role of NF1 and the progression of this common genetic disease.

Microbes flying across the Galaxy aboard meteorites
According to an American astronomer, there is a slim chance that microbes could be carried from one solar system to another on rocks blasted from terrestrial planets by asteroid impacts, spreading life across the Galaxy.

Hepatitis C virus clamps onto protein synthesis machinery
HHMI researchers have discovered that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) employs an unusual strategy to induce a host cell's protein-making machinery to synthesize viral proteins. The research could provide a promising target for the development of new drugs to block HCV infection without harming body tissues.

Speaking of sperm whales
Concerned that the increasing levels of manmade noise can hurt this endangered species as well as others, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) cooperates with a team of agencies interested in knowing exactly how the sperm whale is being affected behaviorally by the noise of off-shore drilling and seismic surveys. Lead by the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service, the ecology of the entire Gulf is being studied to assess the noise problem.

Raloxifene Use for The Heart (RUTH) trial update by Emory researcher at ACC meeting
Emory researcher Nanette Wenger, M.D., presented an update from the Raloxifene Use for The Heart (RUTH) trial in Orlando at the 2001 American College of Cardiology meeting. As of August 2000, 10,101 women were enrolled. They will be evaluated during six monthly visits, with the study projected to last a minimum of five years, until at least 1,670 primary endpoints have occurred.

Researchers identify barriers to cancer clinical trials enrollment
Most patients do not participate in cancer clinical trials because they did not want to use investigational treatments, even though entry into such trials is frequently associated with a higher survival rate, according to researchers at the University of California Davis Cancer Center.

Historian to advise Nuremberg on what to do with Nazi terrain
Dr. Gerhard L. Weinberg, William Rand Kenan Jr. professor of history emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will help a famous German city deal with a problem that dates back to the Nazi era. As the sole U.S. representative on an international committee formed by the city of Nuremberg. Weinberg will offer advice on what to do with more than 200 acres of land the Nazis used to stage massive party rallies in the 1930s.

World's leading experts meet to talk oxygen
Mix scientific findings and world experts with chocolate and wine and what do you get? This year's gathering of the Oxygen Club of California. The annual meeting is held in Santa Barbara from March 7 to 10 and brings together the world's leading experts in oxidants and antioxidants in a single location to discuss the latest research benefiting biology and medicine.

Research looks at how caregivers and patients make tough decisions
New research looks at how family members and patients with Alzheimer's disease make a tough decision: whether to enroll in a clinical trial to test a potential medicine for the disease. The study is published in the March 27 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Scientists discover a genetic cause for severe complication of the autoimmune disease lupus
Seeking to understand why only some people with the autoimmune disease lupus develop severe kidney complications, scientists have discovered that genetics and ethnicity can interact to dramatically increase patients' risk. The discovery, led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is expected to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Plastics role in auto industry discussed; plastic car displayed at ACS meeting
The current and future role of plastics in the automotive industry is the topic of a speech by Bruce Cundiff, Director of Automotive for the American Plastics Council, scheduled for delivery Monday, April 2, at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, in San Diego. Plastic industry experts believe the ever-increasing use of plastics in automobiles has improved performance, safety and fuel efficiency.

First chapter of Earth's "biological record" documented from space
NASA has collected the first continuous global observations of the biological engine that drives life on Earth. Researchers expect this detailed record of plant life covering land and oceans to reveal as much about how our living planet functions today as fossil and geologic records revealed about Earth's past.

Physicists hope to strike scientific gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota
A committee of leading physicists, appointed by the Institute of Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington, is advocating the renovation of the 125-year-old Homestake Gold Mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota as a unique underground science laboratory.

LSU veterinarians deliver cloned calves by caesarian section
A team of LSU veterinarians recently delivered two cloned calves by caesarean section at the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. The calves were cloned by Cyagra Inc. of Manhattan, Kan., under a trial procedure Cyagra is filing as a new patent.

UCLA heart care program improves treatment, cuts repeat heart attacks and lowers mortality
A new UCLA heart program reduces the risk of coronary artery disease and dramatically improved treatment rates. This innovative program cut repeat heart attacks and lowered mortality by more than half. It's the first hospital-based program of its kind and was implemented at no extra cost to the hospital. The program could save over 40,000 lives annually if implemented nationwide.

Purdue researchers develop new delivery system for gene therapy
For scientists working to develop gene transfer and gene therapies, finding an ideal carrier system is half the battle. Purdue University researchers have combined the traits of two types of viruses to create a new delivery system that can carry genes into a wider range of cell types and provide a more stable transfer of genetic material.

Soy may reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease in postmenopausal women
Soy may help postmenopausal women protect themselves against Alzheimer's Disease, according to research presented at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society. In studies with monkeys, plant-based estrogens found in soy appear to reduce the number of protein changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

A paradox helps explain how aspirin works
Even though aspirin's pain-killing capacity was well known to Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C., exactly what it does remains somewhat of a mystery. Now, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that aspirin inhibits interleukin-4, a protein involved in allergic reactions and inflammation. 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