A fashion spin on same-sex rivalry

When the mating game begins, a peacock unfolds its tail, a lion touts its mane, and a deer struts its antlers - but women reach for that little black dress. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, humans are no exception to these nonconscious primal techniques, and ovulating women in particular buy more provocative clothing, especially upon encountering attractive, nearby female rivals.

Combining Two Cancer Drugs May Help Fight HIV

In August, University of Michigan researchers released information regarding the effects of combining two drugs to combat the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The two drugs, decitabine and gemcitabine, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cancer treatment. Together they cause the virus to evolve so much that it dies.

Genetic Material Found Acting the Role of Protein - Is it a View into Early Life?

Author:  Darcy Ross
Institution:  University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign
Date:  November 2010

A recent discovery by Yale scientists has shed new light on the RNA world theory, which proposes that RNA molecules once performed the roles of both protein and DNA as the basis of life. In the August 13 issue of Science, an RNA complex was found regulating gene expression within Clostridium difficile, a normal flora bacterium in the body. This was once thought to be a task only performed by proteins.

There has long been a "chicken-and-the-egg" controversy regarding DNA and proteins, the current basis of life. The RNA world theory could potentially solve this dilemma since RNA molecules can store information (they are the templates for protein production) like DNA and also have some enzymatic activity like proteins.

Ron Breaker, the lead scientist of this project, and his associates have in fact discovered a whole class of these so-called "riboswitches". These are RNA molecules that can act as sensors and subsequently regulate gene expression.

Breaker explained in an interview with Science News: "A lot of sophisticated RNA gadgetry has gone extinct but this study shows that RNA has more of the power needed to carry out complex biochemistry. It makes the spontaneous emergence of life on earth much more palatable."

This discovery lends much credibility to the RNA world theory and may entirely overturn the common teaching (Figure 1) that RNA molecules are relatively one-dimensional molecules suitable only as an intermediate between DNA and proteins.

Author: Darcy Ross

Reviewed by: Mai Truong and Yangguang Ou

Published by: Maria Huang

Drug May Combat the Effects of Neurodegenerative Condition of Diabetes

Researchers from the University of Kansas recently developed a drug that may bring relief to millions of diabetics who suffer from diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a painful neurodegenerative complication. DPN results in pain from even light touches and ends in nerve death, complete loss of sensation, and sometimes amputation. In their April 11th paper (published online in ASN Neuro), the researchers explained that increasing the production of a protein called Hsp-70 (heat-shock protein 70) reverses this neural degeneration.

Scientists Discover a Planet with a Tail

A super-hot planet in the constellation Pegasus has blurred the lines between planets and comets: it is the first planet observed to have a tail. A recent study, led by Jeffrey Linsky of the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that the super-hot HD 209458b (colloquially known as "Osiris") has an evaporating atmosphere that has formed a tail behind the planet. Astronomers used the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard the Hubble Space Telescope to determine the chemical composition and atmosphere of the planet, located about 153 light years from Earth. The findings are detailed in the July 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Geneticists Fight Fungi on Cacao Plants

Chocolate is one of the top ten agricultural commodities in the world and provides income for 6.5 million farmers in Africa, South America, and Asia. However, pests and fungi have plagued chocolate production in the past, but scientists are beginning to get the upper hand. In September, researchers released a preliminary sequence of the cacao genome in hopes of developing disease-resistant strains.

New Study Offers Insights into Genetic Susceptibility to Tuberculosis

Since Robert Koch's discovery of the tuberculosis (TB) bacterium in 1882, scientists have developed several effective diagnostic technologies, treatments, and vaccinations for the disease. Yet, more than a century later, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately one-third of the world's population is still infected with M. tuberculosis and nearly two million people die annually as a result. Given the rising prevalence of the disease and the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains, several research groups across the globe have been working towards developing more effective strategies to combat this epidemic.

A Cellular "Armor" Offers Hope for Combating HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is arguably one of the worst health crises in recent history, accounting for the premature deaths and disabilities of millions of individuals across the globe. Since 1981, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has killed over 25 million people and remains among the top five leading causes of mortality worldwide.A recent finding reported in the Cell Press Journal of Chemistry & Biology offers hope for a novel strategy in preventing entry of the HIV virus into host cells, thereby halting disease progression.

The Science and Psychology Behind Music and Emotion

Music has been used for thousands of years as a means of emotional expression. The goals of this paper are to (a) review current literature on how music induces emotion (b) explore the mechanisms of how this happens both physiologically and psychologically and (c) to look at the role of desired effect and musical preference to move towards a general conclusion of what drives listeners' musical choices.

Effects of Lithium on Sediment Microbial Activity

Anthropogenic activities may influence rates of microbial activity through the increased concentrations of pollutants. One relatively understudied pollutant is lithium. In addition to natural sources of lithium, lithium is also derived from a variety of manufactured goods such as pharmaceuticals and electronic devices. Thus, environmental concentrations of lithium are increasing. We studied the effect of lithium on microbial activity measured as respiration, nutrient uptake, and nitrification rates.