Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Phys.Org Newsletter Wednesday, May 9

Dear Reader ,

Here is your customized Newsletter for May 9, 2012:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

- Melanoma: Whole-genome sequencing of 25 tumors confirms role of sun damage, reveals new genetic alterations
- Scientists measure Martian sand movement: Dune migration rates appear to be similar to those on Earth
- Repeat act: Parallel selection tweaks many of the same genes to make big and heavy mice
- Climate scientists discover new weak point of the Antarctic ice sheet
- Bird color variations speed up evolution: research
- Scientists uncover important clues to peripartum cardiomyopathy
- Virtual reality allows researchers to measure brain activity during behavior at unprecedented resolution
- Advanced genetic screening method may speed vaccine development
- Researchers use genomics to identify a molecular-based treatment for a viral skin cancer
- Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA
- Study unravels origin of devastating kiwifruit bacterium
- Protein analysis investigates marine worm community
- Scientists identify neurotranmitters that lead to forgetting
- Massive black holes halt star birth in distant galaxies
- Top regulator urges online 'do not track' law

Space & Earth news

Mexico launches national tsunami warning system
The Mexican government on Tuesday launched a national tsunami system to monitor quakes around the world that could impact the country's coastline, the Interior Ministry said.

Next Soyuz Space Station crew prepares for launch
The next residents of the International Space Station are making final preparations for a May 14 launch.

Image: Boeing tests parachute system for CST-100 spacecraft
The main parachutes deploy for Boeing's crew capsule during a parachute drop test on May 2, 2012. This is the second successful parachute drop test for its Crew Space Transportation (CST) spacecraft, part of Boeing's effort to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities that could ferry U.S. astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

Exxon Valdez oil spill tanker banned from India
The Exxon Valdez tanker that was involved in a huge oil spill off Alaska in 1989 has been banned from entering India where it was due to be dismantled, state officials said Wednesday.

Beijing to get rid of 1,200 polluting enterprises
Authorities in Beijing said Wednesday they plan to get rid of 1,200 high-polluting enterprises by 2015 to improve air quality in the Chinese capital, one of the world's most polluted cities.

GMES in Eastern Europe
As Europe's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme nears its full operational phase, its benefits and economic potential for Eastern Europe came into focus last week at a conference in Bucharest, Romania.

Agricultural bacteria: Blowing in the wind
The 1930s Dust Bowl proved what a disastrous effect wind can have on dry, unprotected topsoil. Now a new study has uncovered a less obvious, but equally troubling impact of wind: Not only can it carry away soil particles, but also agriculturally important bacteria that build soil and recycle nutrients.

Searching for exoplanet oceans more challenging than first thought
As astronomers continue to discover more exoplanets, the focus has slowly shifted from what sizes such planets are, to what they’re made of. First attempts have been made at determining atmospheric composition but one of the most desirable finds wouldn’t be the gasses in the atmosphere, but the detection of liquid water which is a key ingredient for the formation of life as we know it. While this is a monumental challenge, various methods have been proposed, but a new study suggests that these methods may be overly optimistic.

The desert Southwest: Oasis or mirage?
( -- The American West has a drinking problem. On farms and in cities, we are guzzling water at an alarming rate.

Keeping immune cells alive and kicking
New results from research on the International Space Station are offering clues on why astronauts’ immune systems don’t work as well in space. The findings may benefit the elderly on Earth.

In log coffins, first glimpses of a mysterious Asian people
( -- Dendrochronologist Brendan Buckley’s usual occupation is drilling straw-like cores from old trees and extracting information about past climates by studying their rings. To extend the record beyond the time of living trees, he sometimes takes samples from long-dead trees, or even from timbers in ancient buildings. In 2010, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientist was part of a team that traveled into the remote Cardamom Mountains of southern Cambodia to investigate human burials contained in coffins carved from entire logs.

DC3: Chemistry of thunderstorms
( -- NASA researchers are about to fly off on a campaign that will take them into the heart of thunderstorm country.

Model forecasts long-term impacts of forest land-use decisions
The drive to develop crops for use as biofuel, continues to raise questions about additional uses of forest land. A cutting edge computer model developed at North Carolina State University offers detailed insight to predict the environmental impact – along with understanding forest ecosystem response to global climate change.

ESA declares end of mission for Envisat satellite
Just weeks after celebrating its tenth year in orbit, communication with the Envisat satellite was suddenly lost on 8 April. Following rigorous attempts to re-establish contact and the investigation of failure scenarios, the end of the mission is being declared.

Plastic trash altering ocean habitats, study shows
A 100-fold upsurge in human-produced plastic garbage in the ocean is altering habitats in the marine environment, according to a new study led by a graduate student researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

VISTA views a vast ball of stars
( -- A new image of Messier 55 from ESO's VISTA infrared survey telescope shows tens of thousands of stars crowded together like a swarm of bees. Besides being packed into a relatively small space, these stars are also among the oldest in the Universe. Astronomers study Messier 55 and other ancient objects like it, called globular clusters, to learn how galaxies evolve and stars age.

Climate scientists discover new weak point of the Antarctic ice sheet
The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These predictions are made by climate researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in the coming issue of the journal Nature. They refute the widespread assumption that ice shelves in the Weddell Sea would not be affected by the direct influences of global warming due to the peripheral location of the Sea.

First instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope completed
After more than ten years of work by more than 200 engineers, the Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), a camera so sensitive it could see a candle on one of Jupiter's moons, has been declared ready for delivery by the European Space Agency and NASA. The MIRI Optical System, an instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that will eventually take up a position four times further away from the Earth than the Moon. It will now be shipped to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center where it will be integrated with the other three instruments and the telescope.

Massive black holes halt star birth in distant galaxies
Astronomers, using the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory, have shown that the number of stars that form during the early lives of galaxies may be influenced by the massive black holes at their hearts. This helps explain the link between the size of the central bulges of galaxies and the mass of their central black holes.

Scientists measure Martian sand movement: Dune migration rates appear to be similar to those on Earth
Last year, images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars—observations that challenged previously held beliefs that there was not a lot of movement on the red planet's surface. Now, technology developed by a team at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has allowed scientists to measure these activities for the very first time.

Technology news

News aggregator Ongo to shut down
Online news service Ongo, which launched last year as a paid "aggregator" for various newspapers, said Tuesday it would close down by the end of the month.

Fuel economy slipped as gas prices dipped throughout April
( -- After recently topping 24 miles per gallon for the first time ever, fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States slipped back below that mark last month, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Amadeus posts jump in net profit as global travel rises
Spain's Amadeus, the world's biggest processor of travel bookings, posted Wednesday a double-digit jump in its first quarter net profit on the back of a rise in global travel.

ABC tries social network experiment with 'Revenge'
(AP) -- ABC and Yahoo will experiment on the season's last two episodes of "Revenge" with a smartphone and tablet application designed to encourage more people to watch television live.

Take-Two delays 'BioShock Infinite' to February
(AP) -- Take-Two has delayed the release of "BioShock Infinite," an eagerly awaited shooter game set in 1912.

Twitter passwords bared online
Twitter said that it was trying to figure out how user names and passwords from thousands of accounts apparently wound up posted at an online file sharing website.

Mowing down the competition: Supermileage Team aims to break fuel barriers
( -- Can a car really get 3,300 miles to the gallon? The University of Michigan's Supermileage Team is on its way to proving it can—with a lawnmower engine.

Rapid testing of food quality
Whether fruit, meat or cheese - the quality of food is not always as consumers would like it to be. But, in future, a spectrometer will allow them to gage the quality of food before they buy it. No bigger than a sugar cube, the device is inexpensive to manufacture and could one day even be installed in smartphones.

ICANN targets May 22 to resume name expansion
(AP) -- The organization behind a major expansion of Internet address suffixes hopes to resume taking proposals on May 22 following a technical glitch that shut down its computer system for weeks.

Cisco's 3Q earnings rise 20 pct to top Street view
(AP) -- Cisco Systems Inc.'s quarterly earnings surged 20 percent in the latest sign that a recently completed overhaul is paying off for the world's largest maker of computer-networking equipment.

Review: No real point to Foursquare, yet addictive
(AP) -- It took a return to the South to get me back on Foursquare. Months later, I'm still not sure why I need it, yet I can't seem to stay away.

Social Security's IT system could benefit by joining the cloud, scientist says
The Social Security Administration (SSA) should restructure its already massive information technology (IT) systems so they can be readily scaled up, much like the systems used by Google and Amazon, William L. Scherlis, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, testified today before the House Ways and Means Committee's Social Security subcommittee.

Facebook gives more details on mobile usage
(AP) -- Facebook says the number of people logging into Facebook is continuing to grow more quickly than the number of ads delivered.

US online spending climbs
US online spending in the first three months of this year surged with a little help from shoppers using tablet computers to buy clothing and other items, comScore reported on Wednesday.

Brazil shelves plans to build new nuclear plants
Brazil said Wednesday it has shelved plans to build new nuclear power stations in the coming years in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan.

US military to pack more BlackBerry smartphones
Research In Motion (RIM) on Wednesday announced that the US Department of Defense staff and partners have been given the go-ahead to use more of the Canadian firm's BlackBerry OS 7 smartphones.

Wi-Fi Alliance announces Passpoint program to start in June
( -- The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group bent on making Wi-Fi access more available more easily, has announced that it will begin certifying devices and hot-spot providers (using the Hotspot 2 definition) starting next month as part of its Passpoint program, whose purpose is to allow Smartphones and other mobile devices to automatically connect to Wi-Fi hotspots without having to go through a login process.

Japan's Softbank ties up with eBay in online billing
Internet auction giant eBay and mobile phone operator Softbank said Wednesday they were teaming up to bring the US firm's PayPal online billing system to Japan for the first time.

Top regulator urges online 'do not track' law
A top US regulator urged Congress Wednesday to enact an online privacy law that includes "do not track" mechanisms for consumers on the Internet, amid indications of a split among lawmakers.

Google wants Oracle copyright trial rematch
Google on Wednesday confirmed that it wants a new trial on the copyright portion of a legal battle being fought with Oracle in San Francisco federal court.

Medicine & Health news

Could Vitamin B12 hold key to reducing diabetes in pregnant women?
Warwick Medical School is about to begin a new phase of research into the effects of Vitamin B12 on pregnant women following an award of £800,000 from the Medical Research Council (MRC).

GSK launches hostile $2.6 bn bid for Human Genome Sciences
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday said it had gone hostile over its $2.6 billion (2.0 billion-euro) takeover bid for US research partner Human Genome Sciences Inc.

Study: Children tend to perceive obese physicians as less likeable, credible
(Medical Xpress) -- When comparing photos of overweight physicians with ideal size counterparts, children rate obese physicians as less likeable with less expertise, but youngsters found extra girth had no impact on trustworthiness, says a new report from Ball State University.

Insulin may influence body weight gain in former smokers
It is probably safe to say that smokers refuse to give up their vice because they believe their waistlines will only get bigger. And while most researchers have long speculated that a metabolic link exists between butting out cigarettes and gaining weight, no study has been able to substantiate this... until now. A research team in Austria has found a link between insulin secretion and weight gain after smoking cessation.

A high-heeled hazard at work?
As a lounge server, Brittany Gora spends a lot of time on her feet, and has, in her four years on the job, had some slips and spills as she carries trays to her customers. So when a class assignment about workplace hazards arose, the University of Alberta student knew just what she’d research -- high-heeled shoes.

Automated insulin dosage titration system demonstrates positive clinical study results
Newly published results from a clinical study of the Diabetes Insulin Guidance System (DIGS™), under development by Hygieia, Inc., demonstrate DIGS' potential to improve blood glucose control for insulin-using patients with type 2 or type 1 diabetes. DIGS automatically adjusted insulin dosage based on each individual's reported blood glucose results. Over the 12-week intervention period of the study, investigators observed:

Editorial calls for comprehensive approach to cancer screening
May 9, 2012– An editorial by Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls for a more organized and comprehensive approach to increase cancer screening participation among those who are insured or are likely to become insured through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The editorial, which appears in the American Cancer Society journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, says public health has a responsibility to lead a national approach to cancer control that is comprehensive, strategic, and organized, and that a system to improve cancer screening could act as a model for other clinical preventive services.

Can new diagnostic approaches help assess brain function in unconscious, brain-injured patients?
Disorders of consciousness such as coma or a vegetative state caused by severe brain injury are poorly understood and their diagnosis has relied mainly on patient responses and measures of brain activity. However, new functional and imaging-based diagnostic tests that measure communication and signaling between different brain regions may provide valuable information about the potential for consciousness in patients unable to communicate. These innovative approaches are described and compared in a Review article in the groundbreaking neuroscience journal Brain Connectivity.

In brief: Larger font packs more emotional punch
Bigger words – literally those printed in larger font size – elicit stronger emotional brain responses, reports a study published May 9 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Study: No difference in results by race with standard heart failure treatment
A traditional treatment for heart failure appears to be equally protective in preventing death or hospitalization among African-American patients, as compared to white patients, according to a study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Tattoo-like devices for wireless pregnancy monitoring
The University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bioengineering Professor Todd Coleman, in collaboration with Materials Science and Engineering Professor John A. Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled "Epidermal Electronics for Continuous Pregnancy Monitoring."

One in six cancers worldwide caused by infections that are largely preventable or treatable
Infectious agents cause around 2 million new cancer cases a year worldwide, of which 80% occur in less developed regions, according to new estimates published Online First in The Lancet Oncology. Of the 7.5 million deaths from cancer worldwide in 2008, an estimated 1.5 million were due to potentially preventable or treatable infections.

Mystery of the missing breast cancer genes
Researchers from the University of Adelaide are hoping to better understand why the mutated genes for breast and ovarian cancer are not passed on more frequently from one generation of women to the next.

Investigators trace of role reusable grocery bag in norovirus outbreak
Oregon investigators recently mapped the trail of an outbreak of a nasty stomach bug among participants in a girls' soccer tournament to a reusable open top grocery bag stored in a hotel bathroom. Their findings, which illustrate the role that inanimate objects can play in spreading norovirus infection, appear in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Scientists find new pieces of hearing puzzle
Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have gained important new insights into how our sense of hearing works. Their findings promise new avenues for scientists to understand what goes wrong when people experience deafness. Their findings are published in Royal Society Open Biology, a new open access journal.

Intrauterine devices provide the most effective emergency contraception
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) should be used routinely to provide emergency contraception, according to the authors of the first systematic review of all available data from the past 35 years. They found that IUDs had a failure rate of less than one per thousand and were a more effective form of emergency contraception than the "morning after pill". In addition, IUDs continued to protect women from unwanted pregnancy for many more years if they were left in place.

Researchers say genes and vascular risk modify effects of aging on brain and cognition
Efforts to understand how the aging process affects the brain and cognition have expanded beyond simply comparing younger and older adults.

Sexual orientation has 'in between' groups, study shows
Sexual orientation is best represented as a continuum that has two new categories -- "mostly heterosexual" and "mostly gay/lesbian" -- in addition to heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian, according to a new Cornell study.

The Medical Minute: Food allergies -- testing and diagnosis
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Milk and cookies. Comfort food, or food to fear?

Researchers identify potential target for anthrax drug
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the University of Michigan have identified new targets for drugs that could potentially treat anthrax, the deadly infection caused by Bacillus anthracis.

Study: Kids in positive sports climate better adjusted, show less depression
(Medical Xpress) -- It’s only natural that when kids are part of a positive, caring sports environment, they can have more fun. But a new study by a University of Kansas professor shows that a positive sporting environment can predict their psychological well-being and help them deal with a range of good and bad emotions in life.

Device helps with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome detection
University of Texas at Arlington researchers have obtained a patent for a device aimed at saving babies’ lives through improved and rapid detection of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

FDA: Kids' medical tests need child-size radiation
The government is taking steps to help ensure that children who need CT scans and other X-ray-based tests don't get an adult-sized dose of radiation.

Scientists discover new inflammatory target
(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have found a new therapeutic target to combat inflammation.

Scientists make breakthrough in study on bile duct cancer with discovery of new gene mutations
(Medical Xpress) -- A combined team of scientists from Singapore and Thailand has made a significant breakthrough in understanding the cause of bile duct cancer, a deadly type of liver cancer. Using the latest genomic technologies, the researchers identified several new genes frequently mutated in bile duct cancers, paving the way for better understanding on how bile duct cancers develop.

A new clue to predicting pre-eclampsia
(Medical Xpress) -- An indication of whether a mother will develop pre-eclampsia, the most common and severe pregnancy-related disease, has been identified by a University of Sydney study.

Doctors' advice key in heart attack victims' return to healthy sex life
Patients who were sexually active before suffering a heart attack were one and a half times more likely to recapture their sex lives if they received guidance on the topic before leaving the hospital, a new study finds.

Study: kids who sleep in parents' bed less likely to be overweight
(HealthDay) -- Children who wake up at night and are allowed to fall back asleep in their parents' bed are less likely to be overweight than kids put back into their own bed, a new study says.

Reduction of excess brain activity improves memory in amnestic mild cognitive impairment
Research published in the May 10 issue of the journal Neuron, describes a potential new therapeutic approach for improving memory and modifying disease progression in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. The study finds that excess brain activity may be doing more harm than good in some conditions that cause mild cognitive decline and memory impairment.

Discovery of a new family of key mitochondrial proteins for the function and viability of the brain
A team headed by Eduardo Soriano at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has published a study in Nature Communications describing a new family of six genes whose function regulates the movement and position of mitochondria in neurons. Many neurological conditions, including Parkinson's and various types of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, are caused by alterations of genes that control mitochondrial transport, a process that provides the energy required for cell function.

Exhaustion renders immune cells less effective in cancer treatment
Rather than stimulating immune cells to more effectively battle cancerous tumors, treatment with the protein interleukin-12 (IL-12) has the opposite effect, driving these intracellular fighters to exhaustion, a Mayo Clinic study has found. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.The study helps explain the negative results of clinical trials testing the treatment's ability to ramp up the body's natural immune response to destroy cancer cells. The study also demonstrates that the same "T cell exhaustion" that plagues specialized immune cells during chronic viral infections also affects cells fighting long bouts of cancer.

Rice students work on weighty problem for doctors (w/ Video)
The best doctors strive to relieve their patients' burdens. A physician in Houston asked Rice University students to help him do so in the most literal way.

Hot sauce ingredient reduces 'beer belly' fat as a weight-loss surgery alternative
According to research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), the ingredient that gives hot sauce its heat could play a role in the future of weight loss.

Retired couples may need $240,000 for health care
(AP) -- Couples retiring this year can expect their medical bills throughout retirement to cost 4 percent more than those who retired a year ago, according to an annual projection released Wednesday by Fidelity Investments.

Can testosterone therapy help obese men lose weight?
(HealthDay) -- Older obese men with low levels of testosterone can lose weight when levels of the male hormone are restored to normal, a new study suggests.

New criteria provide guidance about when to use cardiac catheterization to look for heart problems
Cardiac catheterization – an invasive diagnostic procedure that allows doctors to see the vessels and arteries leading to the heart and its chambers – is performed thousands of times in the United States each year and, in some cases, can be the best method to diagnose heart problems. Still, the procedure is costly and may pose risks to certain patients, so determining when the benefits of performing the procedure outweigh the risks is essential. A new report issued today by the American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF) and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) in collaboration with a dozen other professional societies provides detailed criteria to help clinicians determine when cardiac catheterization is a reasonable option for the evaluation of patients for heart disease.

Gene-modified stem cell transplant protects patients from toxic side effects of chemotherapy
For the first time, scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have transplanted brain cancer patients' own gene-modified blood stem cells in order to protect their bone marrow against the toxic side effects of chemotherapy. Initial results of the ongoing, small clinical trial of three patients with glioblastoma showed that two patients survived longer than predicted if they had not been given the transplants, and a third patient remains alive with no disease progression almost three years after treatment.

Response to first drug treatment may signal likelihood of future seizures in people with epilepsy
How well people with newly diagnosed epilepsy respond to their first drug treatment may signal the likelihood that they will continue to have more seizures, according to a study published in the May 9, 2012, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Study identifies 5 factors that promote a positive body image in women
Women with high family support and limited pressure to achieve the 'thin and beautiful' ideal have a more positive body image. That's according to a new study looking at five factors that may help young women to be more positive about their bodies, in the context of a society where discontent with appearance is common among women. The work by Dr. Shannon Snapp, from the University of Arizona in the US, and colleagues is published online in Springer's journal, Sex Roles.

Molecule found that inhibits estrogen, key risk factor for endometrial and breast cancers
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a molecule that inhibits the action of estrogen. This female hormone plays a key role in the growth, maintenance and repair of reproductive tissues and fuels the development of endometrial and breast cancers. The molecule, discovered in animal studies, could lead to new therapies for preventing and treating estrogen-related diseases in humans. The findings were published online April 26 in the PNAS Plus.

First study investigating possible link between sunscreen ingredient and endometriosis
Scientists are reporting a possible link between the use of sunscreen containing a certain ingredient that mimics the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen and an increased risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. They describe the report, published in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology, as the first to examine whether such a connection may exist.

Chromosomal screening improves IVF pregnancy rates
(HealthDay) -- Screening embryos produced by in vitro fertilization using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) plus morphology improves pregnancy rates over screening by morphology alone in single embryo transfers, according to a study published online May 2 in Molecular Cytogenetics.

Amino acid levels linked to type 2 diabetes risk
(HealthDay) -- Levels of some amino acids are associated with glycemia and insulin resistance and predict the development of type 2 diabetes in men, according to a study published online May 2 in Diabetes.

Metformin may have dual effect in breast cancer
(HealthDay) -- For women without diabetes and with operable breast cancer, administration of metformin prior to surgery does not significantly affect the proliferative marker Ki-67 overall, but drug effects are observed according to homeostasis model assessment (HOMA), particularly in luminal B tumors, according to a study published online May 7 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Health-related QoL evaluated for children with brain tumors
(HealthDay) -- In children and adolescents with brain tumors treated with proton radiation, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) scores are affected by both disease type and treatment, with assessments made by the patients correlating well with those of their parents, according to a study published online May 7 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Rate of hospitalizations for stroke has declined in U.S.
(HealthDay) -- The rate at which Americans are hospitalized for stroke has fallen, according to new government statistics released Wednesday.

The music of the (hemi)spheres sheds new light on schizophrenia
In 1619, the pioneering astronomer Johannes Kepler published Harmonices Mundi in which he analyzed data on the movement of planets and asserted that the laws of nature governing the movements of planets show features of harmonic relationships in music. In so doing, Kepler provided important support for the, then controversial, model of the universe proposed by Copernicus.

Costs of screening children for sudden cardiac death outweigh its benefits
An article, published in Circulation by Laurel K. Leslie, MD, MPH from the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and colleagues from Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, has evaluated the lifesaving benefits and costs of screening programs for the prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in children and adolescents. The authors found that screening can save lives, but that because it targets rare conditions and available tests have limited accuracy, screening for SCD is costly, compared to other life-saving measures.

Culturally sensitive research in United Arab Emirates pinpoints indoor air quality risks
The rapid shift from nomadic life to modern-day culture in the United Arab Emirates has exposed residents to significant indoor air quality risks that can lead to respiratory illness, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chronic cocaine use triggers changes in brain's neuron structure
Chronic exposure to cocaine reduces the expression of a protein known to regulate brain plasticity, according to new, in vivo research on the molecular basis of cocaine addiction. That reduction drives structural changes in the brain, which produce greater sensitivity to the rewarding effects of cocaine.

Misdiagnosis of MS is costing health system millions per year
It is relatively common for doctors to diagnose someone with multiple sclerosis when the patient doesn't have the disease — a misdiagnosis that not only causes patients potential harm but costs the U.S. health care system untold millions of dollars a year, according to a study published online today in the journal Neurology.

FDA panel urges approval for Pfizer arthritis drug
An advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday urged US regulators to approve a new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis made by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Fighting cancer
(Medical Xpress) -- ‘Hijacking’ cells that normally attack common infections to target cancer instead could offer the body a ready-made army against the killer disease University researchers and Oxford-based biotech company, Immunocore Limited have uncovered.

Scientists uncover important clues to peripartum cardiomyopathy
Peripartum cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure that by definition develops late in pregnancy or shortly after delivery, results in a frightening turn of events that can leave new mothers suffering from a lifelong chronic heart condition.

Virtual reality allows researchers to measure brain activity during behavior at unprecedented resolution
Researchers have developed a new technique which allows them to measure brain activity in large populations of nerve cells at the resolution of individual cells. The technique, reported today in the journal Nature, has been developed in zebrafish to represent a simplified model of how brain regions work together to flexibly control behaviour.

Researchers use genomics to identify a molecular-based treatment for a viral skin cancer
Four years after they discovered the viral roots of a rare skin cancer, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the School of Medicine have now identified a molecule activated by this virus that, in animal studies, could be targeted to selectively kill the tumor cells. The treatment will soon be tested in patients.

Babies' brains benefit from music lessons, researchers find
After completing the first study of its kind, researchers at McMaster University have discovered that very early musical training benefits children even before they can walk or talk.

Advanced genetic screening method may speed vaccine development
Infectious diseases -- both old and new -- continue to exact a devastating toll, causing some 13 million fatalities per year around the world.

Scientists identify neurotranmitters that lead to forgetting
While we often think of memory as a way of preserving the essential idea of who we are, little thought is given to the importance of forgetting to our wellbeing, whether what we forget belongs in the "horrible memories department" or just reflects the minutia of day-to-day living.

Why do people choke when the stakes are high?
In sports, on a game show, or just on the job, what causes people to choke when the stakes are high? A new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) suggests that when there are high financial incentives to succeed, people can become so afraid of losing their potentially lucrative reward that their performance suffers.

Melanoma: Whole-genome sequencing of 25 tumors confirms role of sun damage, reveals new genetic alterations
Melanoma – the deadliest and most aggressive form of skin cancer – has long been linked to time spent in the sun. Now a team led by scientists from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has sequenced the whole genomes of 25 metastatic melanoma tumors, confirming the role of chronic sun exposure and revealing new genetic changes important in tumor formation.

Biology news

India halts plan to ship cheetahs from Africa
India's Supreme Court has halted a plan to re-introduce cheetahs to the country by shipping animals over from Africa after experts said the idea was "totally misconceived".

Crop root study to boost Australian grain production
Researchers at The University of Western Australia say that "next frontier" of agricultural science is understanding the root system and function of crop plants to significantly increase Australian grain production, keep farms viable and help continue to feed the world despite the onset of increasing drought and climate change.

New tool for tracking a voracious pest
Since it first appeared in Texas in 1986, the Russian wheat aphid has cost U.S. wheat growers an estimated $200 million each year. But U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a new tool to keep track of this nasty worldwide threat to wheat and barley and to provide guidance to researchers and plant breeders on control strategies.

Healthcare for the US Navy's animal warriors could help people stay healthier
Military patrol dogs with your keen sense of smell, step aside. The U.S. Navy has enlisted the biological sonar and other abilities of bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to protect harbors from enemy swimmers, detect explosives on the seafloor and perform other tasks. An article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) focuses on the Navy's health program for marine mammals and how it may also help keep people healthy.

Orangutans at Miami zoo use iPads to communicate
(AP) -- The 8-year-old twins love their iPad. They draw, play games and expand their vocabulary. Their family's teenagers also like the hand-held computer tablets, too, but the clan's elders show no interest.

Carnivorous plants rely on the services and wastes of a symbiotic ant for nutrition
In a mutualistic relationship between an ant species and a carnivorous plant, the ants contribute to both prey capture and prey digestion of their host-plant and provide significant amounts of nutrients derived from their wastes. This offers the plant distinct growth advantages, according to research published May 9 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Feeding without the frenzy: Researchers engineer devices for Houston Zoo to feed giraffes, orangutans
Like their human cousins, orangutans enjoy food and don't mind working a little to get it. If the menu's right, giraffes are even less picky.

One-quarter of grouper species being fished to extinction
Groupers, a family of fishes often found in coral reefs and prized for their quality of flesh, are facing critical threats to their survival. As part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, a team of scientists has spent the past ten years assessing the status of 163 grouper species worldwide. They report that 20 species (12%) are at risk of extinction if current overfishing trends continue, and an additional 22 species (13%) are Near Threatened. These findings were published online on April 28 in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

Peru says 5,000 birds, nearly 900 dolphins dead
The Peruvian government said Wednesday that 5,000 birds, mostly pelicans, and nearly 900 dolphins have died off the country's northern coast, possibly due to rising temperatures in Pacific waters.

Why women wiggling in high heels could help improve prosthetic limbs and robots
People walking normally, women tottering in high heels and ostriches strutting all exert the same forces on the ground despite very differently-shaped feet, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The finding suggests that prosthetic lower limbs and robots' legs could be made more efficient by making them less human-like and more like the prosthetics used by 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius.

Repeat act: Parallel selection tweaks many of the same genes to make big and heavy mice
Organisms are adapted to their environment through their individual characteristics, like body size and body weight. Such complex traits are usually controlled by many genes. As a result, individuals show tremendous variations and can also show subtle gradations. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön have now investigated how evolution alters such traits through selection. To do this, they examined the genomes of mouse lines that were selected independently of each other for extreme body size. They discovered that a number of genomic regions, or loci, have undergone changes in genes that underlie this genetically complex characteristic. They also discovered many new genes that play a role in the regulation of body weight, which can lead to obesity.

Female bugs overcome cost of traumatic sex
( -- The study of “sexual conflict” between males and females helps us to understand why sexual reproduction persists given that it can be costly, especially to females. One aspect of this conflict concerns how females respond to increased mating events that are of more benefit to males than to themselves. This work on traumatic insemination was conducted by Umea University researcher Tom Cameron together with colleagues at the University of Leeds. The results have been published in Biology Letters.

Warming affects ecosystems not just biodiversity
The four-degree rise in temperature predicted by the end of this century could change the way ecosystems work even if it doesn't affect biodiversity.

Bird color variations speed up evolution: research
Researchers have found that bird species with multiple plumage colour forms within in the same population, evolve into new species faster than those with only one colour form, confirming a 60 year-old evolution theory.

Study unravels origin of devastating kiwifruit bacterium
An international research team led by Virginia Tech Associate Professor Boris Vinatzer and Giorgio Balestra of the University of Tuscia in Italy has used the latest DNA sequencing technology to trace a devastating pathogen back to its likely origin.

Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA
Estimates of whale population size based on genetics versus historical records diverge greatly, making it difficult to fully understand the ecological implications of the large-scale commercial whaling of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but a comparison of DNA samples from modern and prehistoric gray whales supports the idea that the population was substantially larger pre-whaling and saw a sharp, recent decrease that is consistent with whaling as the cause. The full results are reported May 9 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Protein analysis investigates marine worm community
Techniques used by researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to analyze a simple marine worm and its resident bacteria could accelerate efforts to understand more complex microbial communities such as those found in humans.

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