Science News

Gene Clustering facilitates Plant Defense

Anne Osbourn and her colleagues at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom have discovered a plant strategy to regulate genes that code for some defense chemicals. In a study to be published online by Science in late April, the researchers describe how these plants "cluster" the genes necessary for producing potentially toxic compounds. Many of the compounds synthesized by clustered genes, which by nature serve to defend the plants against predation and disease, have important applications in medicine and industry.

Contributor to Global Warming - Black Carbon

Researchers have found that black carbon pollution is now thought to surpass all greenhouse gases except carbon dioxide in its warming effect in the atmosphere. Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego atmospheric scientist V. Ramanathan and University of Iowa chemical engineer Greg Carmichael have recently found that black carbon, or soot, which originates largely from biomass burning and diesel exhaust, contributes to global warming three to four times more than previously estimated.

Planets Reported to Shape Planetary Nebulae

For more than a century, the term "planetary nebula" has been a confusing one for students of astronomy. Widely regarded as among the most beautiful objects of the night sky, planetary nebulae,illuminated clouds of gas and dust cast off from a dying star,were previously thought to have nothing to do with planets. Now, however, Rich Blackman and his team of astronomers at the University of Rochester contend that the name "planetary" nebula, once deemed a misnomer, may take on new meaning.

Drug Companies Keeping Secrets: Negative Clinical Trial Data

The formidable thought of drug companies withholding scientific information for self-interest has been in the minds of several experts and members of Congress lately. Major drug companies Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough are under tough scrutiny after the delayed release of ENHANCE clinical trial results. The trial studied the effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs Vytorin and Zetia.