Brightsurf Science News & Current Events

December 22, 2008
Protea plants help unlock secrets of species 'hotspots'
New species of flowering plants called proteas are exploding onto the scene three times faster in parts of Australia and South Africa than anywhere else in the world, creating exceptional

Dream of quantum computing closer to reality as mathematicians chase key breakthrough
The ability to exploit the extraordinary properties of quantum mechanics in novel applications, such as a new generation of super-fast computers, has come closer following recent progress with some of the remaining underlying mathematical problems.

Life on Earth got bigger in 2-million-fold leaps, says Stanford researcher
Earth's creatures come in all sizes, yet they (and we) all sprang from the same single-celled organisms that first populated the planet.

Immune cells contribute to the development of Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that impairs movement, balance, speech, and other functions.

Peering inside the skull of a mouse to solve meningitis mystery
NYU Langone Medical Center scientists and their collaborators at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., have discovered an unexpected cause for the fatal seizures seen in mice with viral meningitis, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

Researchers create smaller, brighter probe tailored for molecular imaging and tumor targeting
Researchers have developed a new generation of microscopic particles for molecular imaging, constituting one of the first promising nanoparticle platforms that may be readily adapted for tumor targeting and treatment in the clinic.

Using math to understand hep. C: Patterns paint picture of who will respond to treatment
New research findings show doctors how to predict whether or not a patient with hepatitis C will respond to traditional therapy.

To improve forecasting earthquakes, NJIT mathematician studies grains
A new and better way to predict earthquakes and avalanches may soon be available to forecasters thanks to mathematical research underway at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Yeast mimics severity of mutations leading to fatal childhood illness
Scientists report that human gene mutations expressed in yeast cells can predict the severity of Batten Disease, a fatal nervous system disorder that begins during childhood.

New evidence that people make aspirin's active principle -- salicylic acid
Scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting evidence that humans can make their own salicylic acid -- the material formed when aspirin breaks down in the body.

MSU research: Genes may influence popularity
A groundbreaking study of popularity by a Michigan State University scientist has found that genes elicit not only specific behaviors but also the social consequences of those behaviors.

Modified plants may yield more biofuel
Plants, genetically modified to ease the breaking down of their woody material, could be the key to a cheaper and greener way of making ethanol, according to researchers who add that the approach could also help turn agricultural waste into food for livestock.

Princeton researchers discover new type of laser
A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams.

Researchers make breakthrough in the production of double-walled carbon nanotubes
In recent years, the possible applications for double-walled carbon nanotubes have excited scientists and engineers, particularly those working on developing renewable energy technologies.

MU professor recommends changing drivers' perceptions of law enforcement to deter drunk driving
In 2007, approximately 1,500 people nationwide were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.

Women's Heart Health Initiative announces creation of new women's cardiology research fellowship
The Women's Heart Health Initiative at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation will announce the creation of a new fellowship dedicated to gender-specific research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women.

Activating the lung's antioxidant defense by targeting Nrf2 inhibits the development of emphysema
Using a molecule similar to one found in an experimental cancer drug, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrated that activation of a key component of the lung's antioxidant defense system, Nrf2, can prevent emphysema in mice.

New center launched today to spearhead UK research in synthetic biology
Programming biological cells so that they behave like engineering parts is the focus of research at a new UK center launched today, thanks to an £8 million ($11.9 million) grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

African thicket rat malaria linked to virulent human form
New research from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History reveals that malarial parasites found in tree-dwelling African thicket rats share a close evolutionary relationship with Plasmodium falciparum and P. reichenowi.

Mutations common to cancer and developmental disorder examined in a novel disease model
A new zebrafish model of Costello syndrome is used to investigate this developmental illness and the control of a cancer-causing gene.

Simple model predicts those at risk for chronic kidney disease
Traditionally, doctors have had no clear way to predict which of their patients might be headed down the road to chronic kidney disease.

Premature babies have altered sensory responses in later life
Premature infants who need intensive care or surgery are less sensitive to thermal (hot and cold) sensations later in life, according to research conducted at University College, London.

New data regarding safety of artemisinin combination therapy for pregnant women with malaria
A trial conducted in northwest Thailand has found that it is safe to use artemisinin combination therapy to treat pregnant women with malaria, but that efficacy is inferior to single-drug artesunate treatment.

Hormones increase frequency of inherited form of migraine in women
Familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) is an inherited form of severe migraine that is accompanied by visual disturbances known as aura.

Tobacco company scientist gained access to WHO collaborating center
A new study of previously confidential tobacco industry documents shows that a Philip Morris scientist established close connections with a WHO Collaborating Center in Thailand called the Chulabhorn Research Institute.

Cell phones using lens-free imaging promise to improve health monitoring
Cell phones have already revolutionized the way people all over the world communicate and do business.

Presidential Early Career Award
Maura Borrego, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering's Department of Engineering Education received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for the development of methods that will better prepare faculty and graduate students for interdisciplinary research.

Research team reports how, when life on Earth became so big
In 3.5 billion years, life on earth went from single microscopic cells to giant sequoias and blue whales.

Biomedical researchers create artificial human bone marrow in a test tube
Artificial bone marrow that can continuously make red and white blood cells has been created in a University of Michigan lab.

FAS releases survey results on the attitudes of scientists toward law enforcement
A survey conducted by the Federation of American Scientists and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that while scientists are disposed to assist in criminal investigations, they often fear working with law enforcement agencies.

The effect of parental education on the heritability of children's reading disability
The results of a new study show that there is a significant interaction between parents' years of education and the heritability of reading disability.

Honeybees as plant 'bodyguards'
Honeybees are important to plants for reasons that go beyond pollination, according to a new study published in the Dec.

Augsburg: Weight issues in children starting school
Immigrant children have a greater risk of obesity and being overweight.

Homelessness is not just a housing problem
The editorial in this month's PLoS Medicine examines how the health needs of the homeless are underrepresented in the medical literature, leading to the failure of health and social systems to address them.

Another reason to drink a nice cup of shade-grown joe
A new study published in the Dec. 23 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveals another

New research lights up chronic bacterial infection inside bone
A new study describes how live animal imaging allows researchers to visualize chronic bacterial infection in the bone marrow of mice.

Scientists reveal structure of new botulism nerve toxin subtype
Scientists have determined the structure of a third subtype of botulinum neurotoxin -- a deadly toxin that causes the disease botulism, and is also used in cosmetic and therapeutic applications.

Genetic variation in young heart attack patients makes anti-clotting drug clopidogrel less effective
If a young heart attack patient (under 45 years of age) has a certain genetic variation, the anti-clotting drug clopidogrel is less effective in that person and they are much more likely to die, have another heart attack, require urgent repeat coronary intervention or have stent thrombosis.

Potential autoimmunity-inducing cells found in healthy adults
It's not just patients with autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis that have self-attacking immune cells; healthy people have them too, according to a new report in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

University of Oklahoma researcher named 2008 AAAS Fellow
University of Oklahoma Professor Jizhong Zhou has been awarded the distinction of Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science for contributions to the field of microbial genomics and ecology, particularly for pioneering advances in developing genomic technologies for environmental technologies.

Italy's geologic history becomes a personal tale in Walter Alvarez's new book
UC Berkeley's Walter Alvarez, who with his father, Nobelist Luis Alvarez, first proposed that the dinosaurs were killed off by a comet or asteroid impact, chronicled that story 10 years ago in the book

Shape changes in aroma-producing molecules determine the fragrances we detect
Shakespeare wrote

Bioreactors might solve blood-platelet supply problems
It might be possible to grow human blood platelets in the laboratory for transfusion, according to a new study at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Blind man walking: With no visual awareness, man navigates obstacle course flawlessly
Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that people can successfully navigate an obstacle course even after brain damage has left them with no awareness of the ability to see and no activity in the visual cortex, a region of the brain's cortex that is primarily responsible for processing visual inputs.

Next NASA moon mission completes major milestone
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has successfully completed thermal vacuum testing, which simulates the extreme hot, cold and airless conditions of space LRO will experience after launch.

Poor maternal health care widespread in eastern Burma
Access to maternal health care is extremely limited and poor nutrition, anemia and malaria are widespread in eastern Burma, which increases the risk of pregnancy complications, says new research published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

Who are you kidding?
Women who misperceive their body weight are more likely to gain too much weight during pregnancy.

JCI table of contents: Dec. 22, 2008
This release contains summaries, links to PDFs and contact information for the following newsworthy papers to be published Dec.

American Chemical Society's Weekly PressPac -- Dec. 17, 2008
The American Chemical Society News Service Weekly Press Package with reports from 36 major peer-reviewed journals on chemistry, health, medicine, energy, environment, food, nanotechnology and other hot topics.

Study finds we are better able to detect racial tension in members of our racial group
Is it more difficult for members of different races to understand each others' emotions and intentions?

Nutritious fast-food kids' meals are scarce, researchers find
Only three percent of kids' meals served at fast-food restaurants met federal dietary guidelines in the first study to examine the nutrient quality of such meals in a major US metropolitan market.

College students find comfort in their pets during hard times
A new study suggests that college students may handle stressful situations better if they have a pet.

When it's not just baby weight
Researchers led by Temple University's Jennifer Fisher have found that women with a poor perception of their weight were up to seven times more likely to gain excess weight over their pregnancies.

Eligibility criteria contribute to racial disparities in hospice use
A new study finds that hospice services -- care that is provided by physicians, visiting nurses, chaplains, home health aides, social workers and counselors -- have restrictions that reduce usage by many patients who are most in-need, particularly African-Americans.

Tobacco firm used extensive strategy to undermine secondhand smoke policy in China
British American Tobacco, one of the world's largest transnational tobacco companies, carried out an extensive, multi-pronged strategy to undermine the health policy agenda on secondhand smoke in China, finds a new study published in PLoS Medicine.

Small molecule triggers bacterial community
Researchers identify mechanisms behind biofilm formations, with implications for developing new antibiotics.

Gene expression and splicing vary widely from 1 tissue to the next
Genes talk to themselves and to each other to control how a given cell manufactures proteins.

Study on cytotoxicity of carbon nanotubes
Owing to the novel properties of carbon nanotubes, a series of problems associated with in vitro toxicity assessments of carbon nanotubes have appeared in a lot of literature.

New 'seawater' -- the way ahead for ocean science
A proposed new definition of

Chemistry professor 1 of only 3 at UH to achieve prestigious AAAS status
The University of Houston's Monte Pettitt has been awarded the distinction of Fellow from the AAAS.

SNPs of ABC transporter genes linked to lung cancer risk
Individuals with particular variants of certain genes involved in metabolizing the most potent carcinogen found in cigarette smoke have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Leptin's long-distance call to the pancreas
As Hinoi, et al. show, the fat-derived hormone leptin enlists the sympathetic nervous system to prevent bone-making cells from releasing a molecule that prods the pancreas to discharge insulin.

Study shows optimal dose management of warfarin improves anticoagulation control
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine have determined the optimal dose-management strategy to derive maximal benefit from warfarin therapy and improve patient outcomes.

Shade coffee benefits more than birds
Here's one more reason to say

MIT: Solving the mysteries of metallic glass
Researchers at MIT and the National University of Singapore have made significant progress in understanding a class of materials that has resisted analysis for decades.

Concordia Professor awarded American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Book Award
Concordia University is pleased to announce that Dr. M. Ayaz Naseem, assistant professor with the Department of Education, is one of the winners of the prestigious American Educational Studies Association 2008 Critics Choice Book Awards for his book

Cousin marriage laws outdated
Marriage between first cousins is highly stigmatized in the West and, indeed, is illegal in 31 US states.

E. coli engineered to produce important class of antibiotic, anti-cancer drugs
UCLA researchers engineer Escherichia coli bacteria to synthesize an important group of antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs.

Meteorite bounty on track for Canadian record
More than 100 meteorites have been recovered by the University of Calgary-led team studying the Nov.

A simple questionnaire to replace a doctor's exam
Tel Aviv University research swaps costly employer medical exams for an efficient, noninvasive quiz.

Slip rate along the Lijiang-Ninglang fault zone estimated from repeating microearthquakes
The slip rate along the Lijiang-Ninglang fault zone in 1999-2006 was investigated with the data recorded by the Yunnan Digital Seismic Network.

Redesigned protein accelerates blood clotting
Researchers have made several, subtle changes in the structure of a key protein, dramatically increasing its ability to drive blood clotting, according to a study published in a December edition of the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

Scientists spend a white Christmas in Antarctica
The idea of a white Christmas may seem magical for many of us, but spare a thought for a team of scientists forgoing the festive season to take part in a novel campaign being carried out in one of the most inhospitable regions on Earth to support ESA's CryoSat mission.

How to tell if a hepatitis-C-virus-infected patient will respond to therapy
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes hepatitis and liver cancer. Current treatments are expensive, have severe side effects, and fail in about half the patient.

Researchers find chink in the armor of viral 'tummy bug'
Researchers at Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Melbourne have moved a step closer to identifying a broad spectrum treatment for the dreaded 'viral tummy bug' or rotavirus. 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