Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (November 2003)

Science news and science current events archive November, 2003.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from November 2003

Welcome alternative to warfarin for people at high risk of stroke
Results of an international study in this week's issue of THE LANCET provide strong evidence that the oral direct thrombin-inhibitor ximelagatran could be a safe and effective alternative to warfarin in reducing stroke among people with atrial fibrillation.

OHSU researchers study physical and mental impacts of exercise on the brain
OHSU researchers and other collaborators have found that exercise results in brain development (specifically blood vessel development in the brain.) The researchers have also found that exercise causes a subject to be more mentally engaged. The study was conducted using non-human primates.

Snowy days on the decline during Christmas season
It's looking and feeling a lot less like Christmas in many parts of the country as higher temperatures and fewer snowfalls are becoming the norm from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

Weizmann Institute Prof. Moshe Oren named winner of NIH MERIT Award
Prof. Moshe Oren, a cancer researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, was named a 2003 winner of the highly selective MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award. The award is granted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for

NREL and company researchers team up on thin film solar cells
An Austin, Texas-based company is moving toward commercial production of advanced solar cells by using unique facilities and capabilities of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

First view of giant crabs - at home on the slope
Australian scientists have had their first view of the habitats and ecosystem that support Australia's largest commercial crab - the

Carnegie Mellon inducts four famous robots into newly established Robot Hall of Fame
This evening, Carnegie Mellon University will induct four famous robots into its newly established Robo Hall of Fame (tm). The robots to be honored in this first annual event include the Mars Sojourner, Unimate, the first industrial robot; R2-D2 from the Star Wars Trilogy, and the evil HAL-9000 computer, featured in the movie

Caregivers for patients with dementia need more support before patient dies, less after
Findings from the first major study to follow family members who provide care to an elderly loved one with dementia show the vast majority of caregivers need more support before the death of their loved one than after, a realization that could lead to new interventions that consider the well-being of the caregiver as well as the comfort of the patient. The results appear today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sex a necessary evolutionary commodity, new study shows
Writing in the current issue (Nov. 7) of the journal Science, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Alberta, reports that sexual reproduction in the worm C. elegans enhances the developmental flexibility of progeny, allowing them to change their sex and genetic makeup after birth to confer a critical advantage for survival when times are hard.

Elements of green tea prevent HIV from binding to human T cells
The major component of green tea prevents the binding of HIV to human T cells, the first step in HIV infection, according to a study and an accompanying editorial published in the November 2003 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Potential low-cost options for monitoring HIV-1-infected children in less-developed countries
Authors of a research letter in this week's issue of The Lancet highlight how assessment of total blood lymphocyte count and albumen concentrations could have potential as low-cost alternatives in assessing the disease status of HIV-1-infected children in less-developed countries.

DOE, Battelle agree to new contract
Scientific stretch goals are among the hallmarks of the new operating contract at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Women & men differ in heart disease traits and treatment
A new study shows just how different men and women really are -- when it comes to their hearts, that is. It also helps solve several mysteries about women and heart problems, and highlights the need for better treatment of the No. 1 killer of women.

Investigational drug brings new hope to kidney cancer patients
Preliminary phase-II trial results demonstrate significant short-term benefit for patients with advanced kidney cancer from an investigational drug. Only 15% of patients with metastatic kidney cancer respond to standard therapy. In this study, 42% of patients had their tumors shrink at least 25 percent within the first 12 weeks. Six had a reduction of 50 percent or more. Another 26% had stable disease. A novel trial design may have rescued this promising drug from obscurity.

High saturated fat, starch avoidance weight loss diet offers good preliminary results
In the quest for an effective weight loss diet that also is nutritionally complete, researchers in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings report preliminary weight loss results of a regimen that is similar to the Atkins diet that are encouraging, but merit further, broader study.

Bird 'breathalyzer' helps assess migratory diet
While breathalyzers help police crack down on drunk driving, a similar new device is helping a URI student analyze the dietary changes of migrating songbirds. Just as human breathalyzers measure an individual's blood-alcohol level, the bird breathalyzer measures the

Vaccines against fatal African cattle fever
Research carried out in the Netherlands has led to the development of two new vaccines against East Coast Fever. This fatal cattle disease is prevalent in various parts of Africa and is caused by parasite transmitted by ticks. The new vaccines are easier to use and involve less risks than the current prevention measures.

Water on the Gaza Strip: Time bomb or ray of hope?
Beneath the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip is a groundwater crisis that's rapidly depriving Palestinians of drinkable water. Israeli, Palestinian, and French geoscientists have worked out a way to save Gaza drinking water while offering Israelis and Palestinians a rare opportunity to work together and solve a problem for their mutual benefit.

1700 Japan tsunami linked to massive North American quake
An international team of scientists reports new evidence that an earthquake of magnitude 9 struck the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada three centuries ago. They conclude that a well reported 1700 tsunami must have been generated by that earthquake, which would, in a few minutes, release about as much energy as the United States now consumes in a month.

Estrogen receptor-a disruption and vasodilation in coronary arteries
In women, the risk of coronary heart disease increases significantly after menopause. Estrogen therapy, however, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy postmenopausal women. Estrogen enhances endothelial function of the coronary arteries, and this may contribute to the cardioprotective effects of the female hormone.

New studies of smell uncover effects of aging on working memory
In new studies of smell, scientists find that normal aging impairs brain processes involved in olfactory working memory; that olfaction can detect more than one odor at a time; and that 'attraction chemicals' known as pheromones can activate neurons in the main olfactory system, which may explain how humans respond to these substances.

Herpes research uncovers possible clue to Alzheimer's disease
Investigating the transport mechanisms of the herpes simplex virus, researchers at Brown University and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., discovered, for the first time, a physical connection between the herpes virus and amyloid precursor protein (APP). A byproduct of APP - beta-amyloid - is a major component of the amyloid plaques that are found consistently in the brains of persons with Alzheimer's disease.

Variants of BMP2 gene as genetic risk factors for osteoporosis
In addition to powerful genotyping resources, researchers at deCODE in Iceland can take advantage of a nationwide genealogical database of Icelanders stretching back to the population's origin 1,100 years ago. By screening hundreds of affected individuals and their families, Unnur Styrkársdóttir and colleagues searched for candidate genes underlying osteoporosis and its harbinger, low bone mineral density. Their results make a strong case for genetic variations of the BMP2 gene as risk factors for osteoporosis.

Members receive distinction as fellows of soil society
The Soil Science Society of America has been selecting outstanding members to the position of Fellow since 1985. The Society has chosen 14 individuals, based on their professional achievements and meritorious service, to receive this honor in 2003.

Media coverage crucial in election campaigns: University of Toronto study
The tone and amount of media coverage party leaders receive during an election campaign has great impact on undecided voters, says a University of Toronto political scientist.

Max Planck Research awards 2003 presented
Promoting international cooperation in science, the Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation presented the Max Planck Research Award for 2003 on November 26, 2003 to 12 scientists and researchers in an award ceremony in Berlin, Germany. Each award is endowed with EUR 125,000,giving highly qualified German and foreign scientists and researchers the opportunity to initiate, deepen, or expand mutual projects with the goal of achieving maximum scientific performance on the international scene.

Computer model offers new tool to probe Woburn toxic waste site
A computer model developed at Ohio State University is giving researchers a new understanding of how municipal wells at a famous toxic waste site in Woburn, Massachusetts, came to be contaminated, and how much contamination was delivered to residents.

First international conference on women and blindness
A call for public health action, increased funding for research, and creative educational programs in both the developing and developed worlds may be an outcome of the first international conference on women and blindness. Vision experts from around the country and the world will gather to explore why women are nearly twice as likely to lose their vision as men and how to stem the tide of blinding diseases in women.

US crackdown on bioterror backfiring
After the anthrax attacks of 2001, the US passed stringent laws, complete with criminal penalties, to control the research, and researchers, that deal with dangerous pathogens. They are coming into force now. But some measures are having unintended consequences. Instead of strengthening our defences, they could leave us more vulnerable to bioterrorism and natural disease outbreaks. New Scientist spoke to some of the top scientists involved in the bioterror-related fields in the US, who say the new regulations are driving them to despair.

Hansen to present the Gerontological Society of America's 2003 Maxwell A. Pollack Award lecture
Jennie Chin Hansen, executive director of San Francisco's On Lok organization, will present the 2003 Maxwell A. Pollack Award for Productive Living lecture at the 56th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America in San Diego, California.

Sun avoidance will not reduce cancer
Avoiding the sun is not the best strategy for reducing overall rates of cancer, claims a senior doctor in a letter to this week's BMJ. Recommending moderate exposure to the sun would be more prudent.

Volcanic eruptions may affect El Niño onset
A new study by scientists at the University of Virginia (UVa) in Charlottesville and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, suggests that explosive volcanic eruptions in the tropics may increase the probability of an El Niño event occurring during the winter following the eruption.

Heart attacks rose at Brooklyn hospital after terrorist attack
The number of heart attack cases surged at a Brooklyn, New York, hospital in the two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, suggesting that psychological stress can trigger serious heart problems, researchers reported today at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2003.

Breaking into the third dimension of computer chip design
EUREKA project E! 2259 VSI (Vertical Stack Integration) has developed a technique to produce 3D computer chips, breaking through the 2D barrier and the restrictions it imposes.

Research on spleen cells could yield potential cure for Type 1 diabetes
Spleen cells may develop into insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells in adult animals, a breakthrough finding that could yield a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. Published in the Nov. 14 issue of Science, the finding stems from a study conducted by Denise Faustman, M.D., Ph.D., director of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Immunobiology Laboratory and chair of the Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR) board of directors.

Opportunity at the Bottom: Nanotechnology Symposium
Since the seminal lecture by Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman in 1959 entitled,

New TB vaccine shows promise in HIV infection
An innovative vaccine against tuberculosis has shown promise in persons with HIV, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School and the National Public Health Institute of Finland report in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal AIDS. An international team led by DMS infectious disease expert Dr. C. Fordham von Reyn, professor of medicine, found that the new booster, a killed vaccine, enhanced the TB immunity of HIV patients.

Caregivers of family members with dementia experience more health problems than noncaregivers
More than five million caregivers of persons with dementia exist in the United States (AARP, 1988) and no quantitative review has been conducted on the physical health correlates of caring for a family member with dementia until now. In a meta-analysis of 23 studies examining self-reported health and physiological functioning in caregivers of persons with dementia, researchers found that caregivers had higher stress hormones, lower resistance to some viruses and reported poorer health than noncaregivers who were similar in age and sex.

McGill Research University of the Year
McGill University has been declared Canadian Research University of the Year (Medical/Doctoral category) by Research Infosource Inc.. As Research University of the Year, McGill heads the list of 15 Medical/Doctoral Universities ranked by Research Infosource, which produces the annual Canada's Top 50 Research Universities ranking and analysis.

Clinical trial patients don't care about study sponsors or physician conflicts of interest
Many patients will volunteer for a clinical trial if asked, even if the physician who inquires is a stockholder in the sponsoring company or has other potential conflicts of interest, a Johns Hopkins study demonstrates.

Researchers call for trials of menstrual cycle monitors used for natural family planning
Research is urgently needed to test the accuracy of the monitors used by couples practising natural family planning methods because a pilot study shows some are wrong over half the time, according to German researchers writing in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction.

Molecule by molecule, scientists design a new transistor
An NC State scientist and his multidisciplinary team are working to build, molecule by molecule, a nanoscale transistor.

Breast cancer can be reversed in laboratory mice, scientists report
Breast cancer researchers have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to block genetic switches in mice that turn cancer on and off -- thus preventing and even reversing breast cancer in the animals. The findings, reported Sunday morning at the 24th Congress of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, suggest potential new molecular targets for drugs to prevent and potentially eradicate breast cancer in humans.

Uncovering mysteries beneath the Earth's surface
Back in the old days, when doctors looked for tumors, exploratory surgery was the only option. Today they use CAT scans, x-rays, ultrasound, and other non-intrusive methods for checking out what lies beneath the skin's surface. But how do we determine what is beneath the Earth's surface? Invasive surgery on the Earth is just as dated as doctors' old methods of finding tumors, if you ask Eric Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University.

College students may be drinking more alcohol than even they realize
Most of what is known about alcohol consumption by college students comes from self-reports. New research shows that college students overestimate what is meant by

Tip sheet for the November 25, 2003 Neurology journal
Highlights include RNA (

Many diagnostic tests are not based on good evidence
Many diagnostic tests and tests used to monitor disease are not supported by high quality evidence, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University to run Forest Nutrition Research Cooperative
Virginia Tech's department of forestry in the College of Natural Resources and the department of forestry at North Carolina State University have formed a partnership to jointly run the Forest Nutrition Research Cooperative, which conducts applied research on behalf of the forestry industry worldwide.

Oldest human custom
Early humans knew a thing or two about dental hygiene. An American palaeontologist says that our ancestors could have used grass stalks as tooth picks - which would explain curved grooves seen on many ancient hominid teeth.

$2.25 million institute for fuel cell development
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Cornell University $2.25 million over three years to establish the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute (CFCI). The institute will research new materials to kickstart the development of fuel cells that would be both efficient and cheap to produce. 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