2008 News & Careers
Current research from scientists at Louisiana State University published in the February 2008 print issue of Archives of Neurology (one of the JAMA/Archives journals) has shown that combining a traditionally used medication against multiple sclerosis with an antibiotic may prove to slow the progress of the disease.
Defying current beliefs about the spinal cord, a UCLA study has shown that the central nervous system is capable of reorganizing signaling pathways in response to spinal cord damage. The discovery, published in the January 2008 issue of Nature Medicine, could lead to new approaches in the way researchers and clinicians seek to restore mobility following spinal cord injury.
Japanese whaling will resume with double the number of whales killed for self-proclaimed scientific research, reports Reuters in a December 19 press report. The Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science has responded with a campaign to count the number of Antarctic minke whales by flying over 58,000 square miles of pack ice off eastern Antarctica. The Australian researchers say the count will be the first accurate one since the 1980s.
The typical home user today connects to the Internet through copper cable phone or cable lines. Through these lines, the user has gained access to an unprecedented amount of information. However, as more high-quality material become available online, these lines now pose a speed limit, at up to ten megabits per second (Mbps), for the typical user. Fiber optics, on the other hand, can potentially bring this limit into the gigabits per second (Gbps).
A cocaine vaccine developed by the U.K. pharmaceutical company Xenova eliminates the "high" addicts feel by activating the immune system to attack cocaine molecules. A press report released by the Associated Press on January 1, 2008 explains the study, which is lead by psychiatric professor Dr. Tom Kosten and his wife Therese, a psychologist and neuroscientist, both researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Can hearts, or any other organ, be grown in a lab? Apparently researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair think so.
In research published in the January issue of Cell Metabolism, researchers found evidence that exercise could induce stem cells known as satellite cells to buff up muscles. These scientists from the Program on Differentiation and Cancer, Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED), Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain suggest that exercise could have a more profound effect on your muscles than you think.
A recent study conducted by Imperial College London details for the first time a host of biochemical effects facilitated by probiotics, or dietary supplements made with live bacteria. The findings, published in a January issue of Molecular Systems Biology, suggest that yogurt drinks such as Dannon's Activia may alter metabolic trends and help with digestion.
The evolution of C4 plants which include maize, sugar cane, and other biofuels - has been of great ecological and agricultural importance. However, the origin of C4 plants from C3 plants, has only been a speculation until now.
It's an audiophile's worst nightmare: scoring impossible-to-get tickets to the best concert of the year, and having to sit directly behind a giant pillar of rock! If this though has ever frightened you, then worry no more!
In approximately 20 to 40 million years, Smith's cloud, a giant cloud composed of hydrogen gas will slam into the Milky Way galaxy, resulting in the formation of as many as a million new stars, a study from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has found. The explosion from the collision will cause a spectacular firework-like display within the local group, a group comprised of 30 galaxies, including our own galaxy the Milky Way.
The coldest form of matter ever created just got a little more interesting. In the February 2007 issue of Nature, researchers at Harvard University reported storing a light pulse in an ultra-cold cloud of atoms (known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, or BEC) and then retrieving it from another BEC some distance away. This showed that light can essentially "jump" from one place to another. According to lead author Lene Hau, professor of physics at Harvard University, "by manipulating the matter copy [of the original light pulse], we can process optical information." This finding may have potential applications in developing the next generation of computers known as quantum' computers.
A bump on the head never makes you happy, and a paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry just discovered why. The article, led by Alain Ptito of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, has identified neurological changes in the brain following head trauma which can result in depression. This study goes some way toward explaining why 40% of head trauma patients suffer from depression, compared with 5% in the general population.
Two studies suggest that what appear to be unified animal species can in fact include genetically separate subpopulations that may more accurately be classified as multiple "cryptic" species, potentially greatly increasing the number of species yet to be identified. A study published in December in the online journal BMC Evolutionary Biology found three distinct species in Ecuador that had previously been grouped as the terrestrial leaflitter frog. Another study that was published simultaneously in BMC Biology determined that African giraffes have at least six genetic strains showing such few traces of interbreeding that they may also be individual species.
Anyone who has tried to cross a desert will tell you that the lack of water is the biggest challenge you will face. But for some deserts, the problem isn't a lack of water: it's an abundance of water. According to images taken from the SeaStar spacecraft, the world's underwater deserts are expanding alarmingly fast.
Have you noticed that the storm season seems to be growing more severe? Or perhaps you've noticed that the winter has been particularly cold and wet in California this winter? These weather patterns are attributed to the phenomenon called El Niño (Spanish for "The Christ Child" since the phenomenon occurs around Christmas time). El Niño is a weather pattern that brings wet winter weather and strong storms to the West Coast, Gulf States and the South East. Recently, a NASA research team has released a study that sheds new light on this phenomenon.
A fluke observation revealed that blind cave fish might not be so blind after all, but can respond to light as do surface fish.Masato Yoshizawa of University of Maryland was freshening up the tank water when he noticed some curious behavior; the fish seemed to be following the shadow cast by the pipette.
The knot that puzzled researchers for more than half a century has finally been untied. Stony Brook University researchers Gerald Brown and Jeremy Holt have finally come up with new calculations to verify the theory which explains the slow decaying characteristic of the radioactive isotope Carbon-14.
In recent studies led by Sheryl Szienbach professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administration at Ohio State University, pharmacists have begun to notice a decline in the level of service offered to consumers, who pick-up their prescriptions at the pharmacy's drive-through windows. Such a decline has been indicated to be responsible for delays in processing, reduction in efficiency of pharmacists, and errors in medication dispensing.
Patrick Chinnery at Newcastle University and a team of international scientists have opened a new door into predicting a child's risk of inheriting a mitochondrial disease that can result in stroke, diabetes, heart failure, cognitive impairment and dementia. They've discovered how diseases caused by mutant mitochondrial DNA (mutant mtDNA) pass down from mother to child, and why the severity of mtDNA diseases differs widely between siblings and amongst individuals.
Researchers at the University of Michigan recently discovered a more reliable and expedient method to detect prostate cancer. This biomarker test challenges the standard PSA test in terms of accuracy, and may be the most accurate detector of prostate cancer available today. The increasing emphasis on preventive medicine among healthcare progressives has prompted investigations into more efficient and non-invasive prognosis tools for detecting cancer.
When speaking of environmentally green cities, a city in the Persian Gulf might not be the first pick. But Masdar City is not any ordinary city.Groundbreaking for this new city in Abu Dhabi begins this February, and the city's designers are hoping that Masdar City will act as the next model for sustainable architecture.
New technology by Erink Vidholm of Uppsala University could lead to more effective cancer treatment by allowing radiologists to virtually feel organs. This technology, which comes in the form of a special pen, will allow for an easier diagnosis and treatment plan development for diseases such as cancer. The magic behind this technology, called "haptics," lies in a special pen, called "haptic pen" that acts as a sort of three-dimensional mouse that allows the user to feel virtual organs. Computerized image analysis is used to determine the size of and even construct three-dimensional models of the organs prior to radiation or surgery.
Ever wondered about hidden Renaissance frescoes? Optical engineering researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, describe a novel imaging technique. This innovation could allow art historians to see murals previously hidden under coats of plaster in century-old churches. The finding is published in the February issue of Optic Communications.
Professor Aaron Packman of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, teamed up with ecologists and microbiologists to study a segment in the global carbon cycle; river carbon cycle. Their work has been published in the online journal Nature Geoscience recently.
The carbon cycle, the biochemical cycle which explains how carbon is exchanged between the elements in the earth, now attracts many researchers due to the significant contribution of carbon dioxide in global warming and climate change. However, studying the global carbon cycle is a huge challenge. Professor Packman and his team has contributed to it by studying the carbon cycle in rivers.
Chemists at UCLA have recently discovered a novel approach to contain carbon dioxide emissions and curb the detriments of global warming.
UCLA professor and investigator of this discovery Omar M Yaghi is confident that his method of sequestering carbon dioxide will be a reliable option for abating the effects of global climate change.
A lizard adaptation to the jungle may soon appear in an altered form in operating rooms. Gecko feet are covered with a complex landscape of ridges that allow them to cling to various materials at the microscopic level. Inspired by this observation in nature, MIT researchers have devised a waterproof adhesive bandage for patching up internal injuries and surgical wounds. MIT Professors Robert Langer and Jeff Karp described their work in the Feb 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists in South Australia devised a more effiecient and less expensive method to purify water using technology at the nano level. Researchers at the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia hope to provide an answer to our currently foreboding drinking water crisis.
"Fire on the roof, dial 911!" someone yells at the top of their lungs. This urgent cry,while usually causing panic and confusion, also generates awareness of present danger. Humans have become adept at warning each other through recognizable calls of alarm. Klaus Zuberbühler and colleague Kate Arnold of the University of St. Andrews have found that monkeys combine calls to make them meaningful in the same way that humans do.
Researchers from the University of Florida have found that a protein known as Bc12 (found in high levels in lung cancer patients who smoke) actually helps cancer cells in the lungs to resist chemotherapy and to live much longer than they normally would, following subjection to chemotherapy. The study, published in the February 29 edition of the journal Molecular Cell explains how the protein does this by blocking the ability of healthy cells to repair themselves following damage by radiation or chemicals (such as nicotine).
Aspirin-like drugs may have a role in treating breast cancer, according to a review of multiple studies published in the March issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice. This finding offers hope in an age when it is expected that one in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease. Ian Fentiman of London's Guy's Hospital found that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may reduce the incidence of breast cancer by up to 20 percent.
A study published in the March 14 edition of the journal Science documents the latest discovery about sand dollars. Scientists have previously known that sand dollar larvae can clone themselves and split into two new sand dollars, but no one had connected such an act to a survival technique. Biologists at the University of Washington now have evidence that four day-old sand dollar larvae create clones of themselves within 24 hours of being exposed to fish mucus, a signal that predators are present.
Plant biologist Arthur Grossman and colleagues of the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, CA released surprising findings that put a new spin on one of the oldest and most important molecular pathways on earth. Two billion years ago, bacteria evolved that were capable of consuming atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce energy while releasing oxygen gas as a byproduct in a process known as photosynthesis.
It may not be a living breathing circuit, but it may be the next best thing. Researchers from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) have found a way to bridge the gap between organic and conventional circuits.
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.
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.
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.
Recent data from the Cassini-Huygens mission has revealed a drift in various geological features on Titan's surface, indicating that the moon may harbor an ocean under its thick layer of ice. This would make Titan the fourth satellite in our solar system, after Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus, to be a potential reservoir for water.
Recent results from studies by the Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit organization that tries to lower health care cost while maintaining the quality of care, have shown that people with abdominal belly fat have three times more likely of getting dementia later in life. This is even higher than the risk due to family history.
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.
Mumps, a viral disease, made an alarming reappearance in the U.S. in 2006, and experts agree that it will take some time before the disease can be completely eradicated.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken the first-ever image of an active avalanche on Mars. An image of the phenomenon was unintentionally captured by NASA's HiRISE camera on February 19, 2008. The image shows clouds of smoke (some 590 feet, or half the length of a cruise ship, across) billowing near the near the bottom of the ice-capped mountain.
A new study published in Nature shows that insects' ability to smell evolved differently from that of other organisms. It has been believed that the ability to smell in all organisms, including insects, is dependent on a general pathway, or sequence of biochemical reactions within cells. Now Leslie Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University, and Kazushige Touhara, researcher at the University of Tokyo, say that insects' olfactory senses bypass these pathways altogether.
A recent look into the some of the farthest reaches of the universe has revealed that certain Quasi-Stellar Objects , which are more commonly known as "quasars" , emit more X-rays than researchers previously thought possible, showing that current theories about these mysterious objects still need some work. This discovery, described in a paper published March 20th by JunXian Wang and his team of researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China , Hefei, may help get us one step closer in understanding the inner workings of some of the strangest objects in the universe.
The comb jelly cannot sting its prey, but it has certainly shocked its researchers. Traditional evolutionary theory implies that more complicated creatures derive from simpler ones, yet recent research suggests that the organism at the first branching point in the animal evolutionary tree was the comb jelly: a more complex organism than the previously acknowledged animal ancestor, the sponge.
No biological process is perfect. Cells, much like people, make mistakes. Lynne Maquat and researchers at the University of Rochester Medical center have uncovered a critical step during nonsense mediated decay (NMD), the process by which cells monitor and prevent genetic mistakes.
Heavy drinking and smoking may hasten the onset of Alzheimer's disease, reports a research that was presented at the American Academy of Neurology 60th anniversary annual meeting in Chicago this April.
With the rising costs of medical care, healthcare recipients as well as medical specialists are putting an increasing emphasis on treatment options that curtail the amount of necessary post-operational care. The invention of the DaVinci robot is rapidly becoming to be the surgeon's first hand companion in the operating room, from cardiac bypasses to hysterectomies to prostatectomies. With its ability to facilitate surgical procedures with minimal incisions, the DaVinci robot is pioneering a new era of medical practice. Patients now recover faster and stay in the hospital for shorter periods, effectively reducing the long term medical care expenditures.
Sometimes what is assumed to be good may prove to have unforeseen consequences. A well-known solution for countering global warming is found to be an enemy to the ozone layer, which blocks the dangerous Ultra Violet Rays (UV rays) from reaching to the earth. Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and her team has recently alarmed the world that the stratosphere injection, a very popular idea to offset the global warming, could have a severe impact on the ozone layer.
Recently, two teams from the University of Pennsylvania and University College London applied gene therapy to treat a degenerative eye disease. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the research article investigates a form of LCA2 (Leber's congenital amaurosis). Currently untreatable, LCA is a group of inherited blindness disorders that affects about 3000 Americans, and its onset occurs at birth. Affected individuals gradually begin to lose light-sensing photoreceptors in the retina until they become completely blind at age 40.
Now all those years of playing Tetris in one's free time may not be totally wasted. University of Washington researchers have released a game named Foldit that aims to harness the puzzle-solving skills of computer users worldwide in making medical discoveries
A recent study at the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology suggests that mass life extinctions on Earth correspond to the solar system's movement in the galaxy. Center director Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and the Cardiff team developed a computer simulation that mapped the movement of the solar system in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and found that times of greater comet bombardment , and therefore mass extinctions , are linked to our movement through the galaxy.
Devouring junk food in times of anxiety may not be exclusive to college students. In the recent online edition of Physiology and Behavior, Emory University researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center discovered that socially subordinate female rhesus monkeys consume more calorie-rich foods than do their dominant counterparts.
A study conducted by a research team at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University suggests low levels of Vitamin D may increase an individual's risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Their findings, presented at American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Annual Conference 2008, were derived from an analysis of blood samples collected from 4,839 adults.
Pharmaceutical companies may be able to make better drugs with fewer side effects using a new synthesis method recently developed by a Duke University chemist. Don Coltart, assistant professor of chemistry at Duke, has published a paper in the European journal Angewandte Chemie that describes a new way of synthesizing a class of molecules, called ketones, in a way that is faster, cheaper, and more efficient than current methods.
Government agencies often catch a lot of flak over their management of finances. NASA, in particular, has been subject to ridicule over the fictional, but oft-cited, story of how, in the middle of a heated Space Race between East and West, the American agency spent millions of dollars developing a pen that could write properly in space.
Locust plagues are indeed spectacular, with millions of insects spontaneously lifting into the air and devouring everything around them. Why so many locusts spontaneously choose to migrate has always been a mystery. The Bible tells how God once caused an enormous plague of locusts to descend upon Egypt, destroying everything in their path. More recently, a team of scientists has found another, somewhat less divine, reason for the movement of these insects.
UCLA researchers will soon publish a study in the journal Sleep that contains support for the practice of tai chi chih among the elderly to improve sleep quality. The study involved the sleep habits of two elderly groups one which attended health education courses and another which participated in tai chi chih. Members of the latter group reported a decrease in sleep-related problems, a hardship that plagues many seniors.
Persistent organic pollutants (POP) have now entered into the Artic ecosystem as well. Birds and mammals in the Arctic are now showing high levels of contamination of POPs that has alarmed the researchers and scientists to look at POPs seriously. Though the Stockholm convention urged to identify POPs, only few among thousands of chemicals are assessed.
A recent study at Harvard University has suggested that a probable mechanism to slow the aging process might be packed into a tiny protein called sirtuin, which can be activated by a natural chemical known as resveratrol.
The study of the origin of planets is appealing for many reasons; after all, understanding the origins of Earth makes it easier to find other systems likely to form Earth-like planets. But since it is unlikely to catch a planet in the process of forming, researchers in this field require a certain amount of creativity, always needing to find new ways to "observe" planet formation billions of years after the fact.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, causes AIDS by attacking the immune system and by impairing the body's ability to fight infection. There is no cure for AIDS, which afflicts approximately 33 million people worldwide presently.
If you know what blood group you belong to, you might have noticed a plus or a minus sign next to your group; A, B, AB, or O. This plus or minus sign refers to the presence or absence, accordingly, of a protein in the surface of your red blood cells called a Rhesus factor (abbreviated as Rh). A different Rh group between a mother and the baby she is expecting may lead to the production of antibodies by the mother, while the unborn baby may suffer organ enlargement and anemia.