Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (March 2003)

Science news and science current events archive March, 2003.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from March 2003

Making a safer anthrax vaccine using spinach
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have developed a strategy for making a safer anthrax vaccine; enlisting the help of spinach plants to manufacture a key component. They report their findings today at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense Research Meeting.

A closer look yields new clues to why bacteria stick to things
A bacterium's ability to change its hairstyle may help in the effort to clean contaminated groundwater for drinking, according to Penn State researchers.

Encrustation provides clues about ancient seas
The encrustation of seashells provides a great deal of ecological data or, for fossils, paleoecological data, which researchers are just beginning to look at.

Methanol could fuel computers, cell phones
Virginia Tech researchers are determining the optimum materials for use as a proton exchange membrane in a methanol-based fuel cell.

Biodegradable plastic that imitates bacteria
Finding an economical way to make a polyester commonly found in nature is a long-held scientific goal. Geoffrey Coates, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, has a highly efficient chemical route for the synthesis of the polymer poly(beta-hydroxybutyrate), or PHB.

Scientists pinpoint stellar production of helium, yielding new insights into the young universe
Astrophysicists report in this week's issue of the journal Science that they have calculated the rate of helium production by stars in our universe with greater precision than ever before. This better understanding of stellar helium production brings new insights into the composition of the early universe and could help determine the exact nature of dark energy.

Improved molecular beacons show promise for cancer detection, rapid viral diagnosis
Diagnosing cancer may one day involve introducing

Cedars-Sinai March medical tipsheet
The March medical tipsheet from Cedars-Sinai includes story ideas on Radiation and Immunotherapy in Treating Brain Tumors, HIPAA, Medical Errors, Stress During Pregnancy, and more.

Accident in animal lab raises questions about a chemical used in some plastics
A sudden increase in chromosome abnormalities in a mouse colony has raised questions about the safe level of exposure for bisphenol A, a chemical used to make some common plastics and resins.

$1.4 million NSF grant to study turbulent flows
A $1.4 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation will enable Cornell researchers to develop an instrument that will allow them to track hundreds of particles simultaneously. They are seeking to advance understanding of turbulence and to predict how turbulent fluid flows behave.

Emory University to lead $10 million prostate cancer project
The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University announced today that it has been awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Prostate Cancer Research Program. The grant will fund development of a new prostate cancer research consortium consisting of 13 universities from eight states over three years.

Humongous fungus a new kind of individual
The world's biggest fungus, discovered in Oregon's Blue Mountains in 2001, is challenging traditional notions of what constitutes an individual. The underground fungus--estimated to be between 2000 and 8500 years old--is also deepening our understanding of the ecosystem, with possible implications for the management of Canadian forests, according to a paper by the discoverers (B.A. Ferguson, T.A. Dreisbach, C.G. Parks, G.M. Filip, and C.L. Schmitt) published March 17 on the Web site of
Body hormone ghrelin, a food intake and weight gain influence, is found to promote sleep
A new study may have implications for millions in search of the elusive

Doomed matter near black hole gets second lease on life
Supermassive black holes, notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, might also help seed interstellar space with the elements necessary for life, regulate black-hole growth, and spur the creation of new stars. Scientists have measured high-speed winds from the cores of each of two quasar galaxies--evidence that as much as a billion suns' worth of material blows away over the course of a quasar's lifetime.

New Jersey chemist wins national award for drug discoveries
A.K. Ganguly of Upper Montclair, N.J., will be honored March 25 by the American Chemical Society for designing compounds to treat disease, including cancer and high cholesterol. He will receive the 2003 E.B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries in Medicinally Active Substances at the Society's national meeting in New Orleans.

Study questions short follow-up intervals for 'probably benign' mammographic findings
Among women whose mammograms yield a

New study clarifies connection of brain and heart failure
New findings suggest the development of new therapeutic approaches that will allow the central nervous system to respond quickly after a heart attack.

Scientific expedition takes URI Oceanographers to the waters off the coast of Africa
Later this month, several researchers at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), led by physical oceanographers Dave Hebert (Chief Scientist) and Tom Rossby (co-Chief Scientist), will undertake a major scientific expedition off of northwest Africa south of the Cape Verde Islands. The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is to understand how mixing along constant density surfaces (e.g., horizontally) occurs in the open ocean.

Most golf 'yippers' perceive symptoms as physical, not psychological
Over one-half of golfers affected by the

Mutants from a lowly weed may solve maladies
Mutants from a lowly weed. That's where many solutions to maladies - from salt stress in plants to HIV in humans - may lie in wait for scientists to discover. It's the Arabidopsis plant, a common weed, that attracts Koiwa and other researchers because of its simple genetic makeup. Scientists have looked at every nook and cranny of the weed's DNA code.

For markets of the future, success depends on advanced materials
Advanced materials look set to revolutionize numerous applications in the 21st century. Scientists and engineers are undertaking extensive research activities in their quest to develop sophisticated new materials that are more durable, environmentally friendly, and energy efficient.

Bonds strengthened on mechanically linked molecules
A Virginia Tech graduate student has improved upon the bonds that control various shapes of mechanically- linked molecules and has created a less bulky structure that might provide a means for drug delivery within the body -- a molecular capsule.

Georgia chemist wins national award for computer-based research
Henry F. Schaefer III of Athens, Ga., will be honored March 25 by the American Chemical Society for his achievements in applying the power of computing to solve unwieldy questions in chemistry, such as how DNA reacts to radiation. He will receive the 2003 Award in Theoretical Chemistry at the Society's national meeting in New Orleans.

Effecting change in prescribing patterns
Researchers reporting in this issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal say an intervention program designed to help eliminate inappropriate prescribing of benzodiazepines had no effect on prescribing patterns.

Study: Prenatal screening in Haiti region cut syphilis by 75 percent
Using a simple intervention, clinicians and health scientists working in Haiti successfully cut the incidence of congenital syphilis in a rural region of that impoverished nation by 75 percent -- meaning that far fewer babies will inherit the dangerous illness from infected mothers.

New GIS tool helps foresters curb damage from wildfires and target conservation cost-effectively
A robust, new geographic information systems (GIS) software tool developed by a University at Buffalo geographer is helping the U.S. Forest Service to more quickly and accurately assess and contain the devastation wrought by forest fires, such as last summer's Hayman Fire, Colorado's worst wildfire ever.

COX-1, not COX-2 expressed in ovarian cancer
A surprising new scientific finding may hold answers to better treatment or prevention of ovarian cancer and will certainly alter the course of cancer research. Research being published Saturday in the journal Cancer Research shows that the enzyme COX-1, and not the COX-2 enzyme, which is a current target of therapy, is expressed in epithelial ovarian cancer tissue samples isolated from women.

Racial differences in pain treatment found
African Americans may be disproportionately missing out on effective treatment for their chronic pain -- from arthritis to backaches -- and as a result suffering outsize effects on their ability to work, play and enjoy life, a new study finds. For example, black women are much more likely than white women to have severe pain and related mental health effects when they finally seek treatment from pain specialists.

Dietary fat intake affects hidden stomach flab
You literally are what you eat, at least when it comes to the amount of abdominal visceral fat, Johns Hopkins researchers say.

Indiscriminate nursing in communal breeders: A role for genomic imprinting
Many female mammal species indiscriminately nurse each others' offspring. Previous hypotheses have suggested that the inability to recognize one's own young is the result of costs incurred from recognition errors. An alternative hypothesis based on sexual conflict theory and genomic imprinting is discussed in Ecology Letters, March. Males benefit from indiscriminate nursing of all their offspring and the reduced risk of female infanticide. Paternally expressed genes suppressing kin recognition during lactation is a possible cause.

Mathematical models reveal 'molten' and 'glassy' states of RNA
Mathematical models have given physicists a new look at DNA's chemical counterpart, RNA. The models -- showing that RNA behaves differently depending on the temperature of its environment -- may help biologists better understand how life evolved on Earth. The models suggest that high temperatures give twisted strands of RNA the flexibility to fold into many different shapes, while low temperatures cause it to collapse into a single shape.

Columbia Univ. researchers identify possible new culprit in Alzheimer's disease plaque formation
A new study from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and Stanford University suggests that the malfunctioning of brain cells called astrocytes may be behind the accumulation of amyloid protein in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Smell, emotion processor in brain may be altered in depressed patients
A portion of the brain that helps us respond to odors and process emotions may be malfunctioning in severely depressed individuals, say researchers who measured the brain activity of individuals presented with smells like roses and rotten butter.

Factor identified that makes treating aging hearts with gene therapy difficult
Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and their colleagues have found why older cardiac cells are more difficult to treat with gene therapy than younger cells. The findings, published in the May 4, 2003, issue of Circulation, have implications for therapeutic strategies aimed at the aging population.

Rare blood disease shown to be a form of treatable cancer
In the process of figuring out why an anti-cancer drug is effective in treating patients with a rare blood disorder known as hypereosinophilic syndrome, or HES, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have shown that the condition may in fact be a form of cancer.

Chemical in soy alters reproductive organs in male rats
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that male rats whose mothers were fed diets containing genistein, a chemical found in soybeans, developed abnormal reproductive organs and experienced sexual dysfunction as adults.

Europe's population has developed new tendency to shrink, Science study reports
Europe's population has aged to such a degree that it will likely continue to shrink, even if birthrates rebound to a one-for-one replacement level, a new study suggests. A major part of this trend is due to the fact that women have been postponing childbirth for increasing lengths of time, the authors have found. This news release is also available in French.

Minimally invasive procedure shrinks blood clots in the brain
Combining a minimally invasive surgery with clot-busting drugs may be a safe way to remove clots from deep inside the brain, according to research reported in today's rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

California chemist wins national award for drug discoveries
Paul J. Reider of Thousand Oaks, Calif., will be honored March 25 by the American Chemical Society for his pivotal role in the development of new therapies for AIDS, asthma and arthritis. He will receive the 2003 Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management at the Society's national meeting in New Orleans.

Physics tip sheet #33 - March 28, 2003
Highlights of this issue include ghosts of sounds helping to understand tinnitus, DNA zippers breathing bubbles, the origins of solar flares and watching bricks age.

Treatment by an allergy specialist reduces emergency room visits for asthma
Asthma sufferers who regularly use inhaled corticosteroids and are under the care of an allergy specialist are less likely to seek emergency room treatment for their disease, according to a study in the March 2003 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).

White House announces intent to build world's first zero-emissions power plant
Dr. Klaus Lackner, long-time advocate and designer of zero-emissions power plants, calls for an even larger and more sustainable path to providing affordable energy with zero-emissions.

Wilmington chemist wins national award for environmentally friendly processes
Leo E. Manzer of Wilmington, Del., will be honored March 25 by the American Chemical Society for his wide-ranging contributions to the development of more benign industrial processes, such as replacements for ozone-damaging chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs. He will receive the 2003 E.V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry at the Society's national meeting in New Orleans.

Study shows lightning adds to ozone level
Lightning may be Mother Nature's greatest show on Earth, but scientists now know it can produce significant amounts of ozone and other gases that affect air chemistry.It can be responsible for as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen oxides in the summer and at the same time increase ozone levels as much as 30 percent in the free troposphere, the area that extends 3-8 miles above the Earth's surface.

New website features live webcast with Dr. Gregory Stock and Bill McKibben
The Alliance for Aging Research today announces the launch of
New water treatment process could help cities cut sludge disposal costs
An innovative technique has been proposed for treating and purifying wastewater, which could spare budget-strapped municipalities some of the expense of handling the sludge that remains after treatment. Researchers say it could reduce the amount of leftover sludge by up to five tons a day for a plant that serves 100,000 people. The new technique, called the activated magnetic sludge process, will be described at the March national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Fire frequency determines forest carbon storage
Scientists studying trees ranging from saplings to 130 years old in Canada's northern forests have discovered that the period since a fire last swept through an area determines how much carbon the forest can store. Twenty to forty year old stands absorb more carbon than those 70 years old and older, despite being smaller and having less biomass or plant material.

Two successful violence prevention programs highlight need of early intervention
Research shows that teenagers who commit violent acts such as homicide or assaults often showed signs of aggressive behaviors while in elementary school, such as hitting, kicking and using verbal insults and threats. Two school-based violence prevention programs that recognize this are finding success at the elementary school level, according to two new studies.

Women who abuse drugs are at high risk for serious injury or trauma
Women who are chronic drug users are almost 70 perecent more likely to have experienced serious injury or trauma during the past year and almost 20 percent more likely to have experienced injury or trauma during their lifetime than women who do not use drugs.

Pacific Northwest chemist wins national award for studies of biological systems
Richard D. Smith of Richland Wash., will be honored March 25 by the American Chemical Society for his achievements in developing ever finer tools with which to study and understand biological processes. He will receive the 2003 Award in Analytical Chemistry at the Society's national meeting in New Orleans. 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