Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Feb 7

Dear Reader ,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 7, 2017:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Never-before-seen topological solitons experimentally realized in liquid crystals

Physicists address loophole in tests of Bell's inequality using 600-year-old starlight

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity—all at once

How life survives: Researchers confirm basic mechanism of DNA repair

Researchers use tiny 3-D spheres to combat tuberculosis

Bacterial survival strategy: Splitting into virulent and non-virulent subtypes

A new immunologic and endocrine syndrome

Smart jacket's slit-like vents keep the wearer in a comfort zone

Study rehabilitates climate models

New technology could help neuroscientists understand how dopamine influences brain activity

Forest 'islands' offer refuge to wintering birds

Studies point way to precision therapies for common class of genetic disorders

Evidence of uncharacteristic shoaling found to play a role in great die-off 250 million years ago

Maternal social skills found to play a factor in infanticide in capuchin monkeys

Human DNA softer than DNA single-celled life

Astronomy & Space news

Mysterious white dwarf pulsar discovered

An exotic binary star system 380 light-years away has been identified as an elusive white dwarf pulsar – the first of its kind ever to be discovered in the universe – thanks to research by the University of Warwick.

NASA advances first-ever silicon-based X-ray optic

NASA scientist William Zhang has created and proven a technique for manufacturing lightweight, high-resolution X-ray mirrors using silicon—a material commonly associated with computer chips.

Image: Potentially hospitable Enceladus

Seen from outside, Enceladus appears to be like most of its sibling moons: cold, icy and inhospitable. But under that forbidding exterior may exist the very conditions needed for life.

Analysis of tree rings reveals highly abnormal solar activity in the mid-holocene

By analyzing the level of a carbon isotope in tree rings from a specimen of an ancient bristlecone pine, a team led by Nagoya University researchers has revealed that the sun exhibited a unique pattern of activity in 5480 BC. By comparing this event with other similar but more recent phenomena, they reported that this event may have involved a change in the sun's magnetic activity, or a number of successive solar burst emissions.

First Euclid flight hardware delivered

An important milestone has been passed in the development of Euclid, a pioneering ESA mission to observe billions of faint galaxies and investigate the nature of dark matter and dark energy. The first flight hardware, in the form of four detectors known as Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs), has been delivered to Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) by UK company e2v. The remaining flight CCDs (36 in total) for the visible imager (VIS) will be delivered to MSSL by June.

Technology news

Smart jacket's slit-like vents keep the wearer in a comfort zone

(Tech Xplore)—Smart clothing is a next step in wearables; creative minds are thinking about what clothes can do in gaining functions enabled by technology.

Researchers add human intuition to planning algorithms

Every other year, the International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling hosts a competition in which computer systems designed by conference participants try to find the best solution to a planning problem, such as scheduling flights or coordinating tasks for teams of autonomous satellites.

Start-up fever grips young tech-savvy Indians

In the basement of a Bangalore building, hundreds of young Indians sit in neat rows of desks typing furiously, all dreaming of becoming the new Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

Honda, Hitachi Automotive to develop, make electric vehicles

Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. has signed a deal with Hitachi Automotive Systems to jointly develop, make and sell motors for electric vehicles, as the industry adapts to concerns over global warming and the environment.

Concert halls call on this Japanese engineer to shape sound

Behind some of the world's most reputed concert halls is a Japanese engineer whose finesse in shaping sound is so perfectly unobtrusive that all listeners hear is the music—in all its subtlety, texture and fullness.

Findings suggest most people use their cell phones to pass waiting times

When queued up for an event, to buy a latte or waiting for a bus, most people whip out their phones to pass the time—most often within seconds of arriving.

Research shows that anyone can become an internet troll

Internet trolls, by definition, are disruptive, combative and often unpleasant with their offensive or provocative online posts designed to disturb and upset.

Smart-meter data could improve the performance and efficiency of national power grids

Power generators face the constant challenge of matching the amount of power produced at any given time with the demand from consumers. Excess generation is wasteful and expensive, while undergeneration can cause brownouts. For this reason, accurately predicting power demand hours or even days in advance is critical for the reliable and sustainable operation of the electricity grid.

Robot rights: at what point should an intelligent machine be considered a 'person'?

Science fiction likes to depict robots as autonomous machines, capable of making their own decisions and often expressing their own personalities. Yet we also tend to think of robots as property, and as lacking the kind of rights that we reserve for people.

Novel LED street lights reduce costs

Researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a novel type of LED street light of increased efficiency. Compared to conventional LEDs, power consumption may be reduced by up to 20%. This will also decrease costs and CO2 emission. Conventional high-power diodes are replaced by a special array of LEDs. This enhances efficiency, increases service life and safety, and produces a better light.

Keeping the lights on in Ghana

When Ghanaian Abu Yaya wondered why his country imports all of its electroporcelain – a small but crucial component for electrical power transmission – it led to a collaboration with Cambridge materials scientist Kevin Knowles that might one day result in Ghana being able to reduce its frequent blackouts.

Landmark EU-US data privacy court case opens in Dublin

A campaign by Austrian privacy lawyer Max Schrems against Facebook's transfer of personal data from Europe to the US is being heard in an Irish court from Tuesday, the latest twist in a long legal battle.

Building a better model of human-automation interaction

People generally make decisions using two ways of thinking: They think consciously, deliberate for a while, and try to use logic to figure out what action to take—referred to as analytical cognition. Or people unconsciously recognize patterns in certain situations, get a "gut feeling," and take action based on that feeling; in other words, they use intuitive cognition. In his February Human Factors paper, "Intuitive Cognition and Models of Human-Automation Interaction," Robert Earl Patterson found that current taxonomies used to classify systems or teams of humans and computers include only conscious, deliberation-type thinking and neglect the role of intuitive cognition. Patterson suggests that automated systems of the future—such as smart cars, homes, and devices—may be improved if they incorporated both intuitive and analytical cognition. In the paper, he presents a new dual-processing taxonomy based on the work of Raja Parasuraman and colleagues in 2000.

Powerful change: Team profiles of today's solar consumer

People with higher incomes and better education no longer dominate demand for the domestic solar market in Queensland with a new QUT study revealing the highest uptake in solar PV systems comes from families on medium to lower incomes.

Efficient approach to leaching lithium and cobalt from recycled batteries

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power our phones and tablets they drive us from A to B in electric vehicles, and have many applications besides. Unfortunately, the devices that they power can fail and the batteries themselves are commonly only usable for two to three years. As such, there are millions batteries that must be recycled. Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy describes a new way to extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of these batteries.

Computational methods applied to big datasets are compelling tools for historical linguistics

Digital approaches applied to big data play an increasingly important role in the humanities. However, there is skepticism about the accuracy and potential of computational methods for historical linguistics. A key task is the identification of etymologically related words (cognates) with a common ancestor, such as stone in English and Stein in German. Up to now, cognate detection is exclusively carried out by trained historical linguists who manually examine big datasets. This could change rather sooner than later, as a recent study by Johann-Mattis List, Simon Greenhill and Russell Gray from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has now revealed: The team has tested the capacity of different computational approaches to detect cognates – with striking success rates: The best-performing method could detect word relationships with an accuracy level of nearly 90%. This result not only confirms the potential of computational methodologies in the humanities, but also opens up exciting new pathways for future research in historical linguistics and human prehistory.

Twitter broadens its campaign against hate and abuse (Update)

Twitter announced Tuesday that it is expanding efforts to protect its users from abuse and harassment, the latest milestone in a broader, growing corporate campaign to crack down on online hate.

Exhibition charts 500 years of evolution of robots

Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell set about charting the evolution of automatons for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives.

Airbnb imposes limits on rentals in Barcelona

Homeowners in central Barcelona will only be able to rent out one place on Airbnb as part of new rules announced Tuesday by the home rentals website, at loggerheads with local authorities.

Electricity costs: A new way they'll surge in a warming world

Climate change is likely to increase U.S. electricity costs over the next century by billions of dollars more than economists previously forecast, according to a new study involving a University of Michigan researcher.

YouTube adds mobile video streaming for top talent

YouTube on Tuesday began letting popular online video personalities broadcast on the go using mobile devices, ramping up a challenge to Facebook and Twitter in the live-streaming arena.

Facebook takes search warrant challenge to NY's top court

Facebook has told New York's highest court that it must be allowed to object when law enforcement seeks search warrants for its users' information.

Fitting hot and cold climates into the 'envelope'

The "energy eater" European building stock is aiming for a greener future. Researchers are testing an "envelope" system combining active and passive technologies, fitted over the existing façade, to make buildings more efficient. But will it work efficiently under different temperatures, both in northern and southern Europe?

Researchers apply textile fabrication principles to the production of microactuators

The EU funded POLYACT project applied textile fabrication principles to the production of microactuators, offering a range of biomedical applications both inside and outside the body.

Austrian officials say parliament target of Turkish hackers

Austrian officials say the country's Parliament was the target of a hacker attack on the weekend, and a Turkish group has claimed responsibility.

Longtime Autodesk CEO stepping down

The longtime CEO of the design software company Autodesk is stepping down after reaching an agreement with activist investors.

Medicine & Health news

A new immunologic and endocrine syndrome

The name of the gene is Armc5, for Armadillo repeat containing 5. Until now, its function was unknown. After 10 years of research, a team at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) has succeeded in deleting this gene in experimental mice and discovered that its loss gives rise to a heretofore unidentified syndrome. This syndrome is provisionally called Armadillo Syndrome.

Studies point way to precision therapies for common class of genetic disorders

Two Princeton University studies are opening important new windows into understanding an untreatable group of common genetic disorders known as RASopathies that are characterized by distinct facial features, developmental delays, cognitive impairment and heart problems. The findings could help point the way toward personalized precision therapies for these conditions.

Regulating sodium channels in epilepsy

A new Northwestern Medicine study may help explain why patients with the same epilepsy gene mutation experience different levels of disease severity. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also reveal new insights into sodium channel regulation and a potential therapeutic target for epilepsy treatment.

Handedness arises from genes in the spinal cords of embryos

The left side of the spinal cord matures slightly faster than the right side in human embryos of four to eight weeks age. This is the earliest left-right difference of development in the human nervous system yet discovered. An international team led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University's Donders Institute revealed this by studying the activity levels of many genes. Their results are now published as an advance online publication in Biological Psychiatry.

New brain target for potential treatment of social pathology in autism spectrum disorder

Researchers at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science have induced empathy-like behavior by identifying then manipulating a brain circuit in an experimental model, an indication that new strategies may help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gain social abilities.

Genetic defects in tooth enamel conducive to development of caries

Bacteria are not the sole cause of caries; tooth resistance also plays an instrumental role. Researchers from the University of Zurich demonstrate that mutated genes lead to defects in the tooth enamel and can therefore encourage the development of caries.

Induced pluripotent stem cells don't increase genetic mutations

It's been more than 10 years since Japanese researchers Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., and his graduate student Kazutoshi Takahashi, Ph.D., developed the breakthrough technique to return any adult cell to its earliest stage of development (a pluripotent stem cell) and change it into different types of cells in the body. Called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), this technique opens the doors to medical advances, including generating cartilage cell tissue to repair knees, retinal cells to improve the vision of those with age-related macular degeneration and other eye diseases, and cardiac cells to restore damaged heart tissues.

Research reveals vital links between brain tumors and epileptic seizures

Detecting brain tumors at the earliest possible stage and eliminating them before seizures begin might be possible one day, according to research by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital.

Why male immune cells are from Mars and female cells are from Venus

Michigan State University researchers are the first to uncover reasons why a specific type of immune cell acts very differently in females compared to males while under stress, resulting in women being more susceptible to certain diseases.

Male contraceptive gel in monkeys shows potential as an alternative to vasectomy

A contraceptive gel has provided long-term and reliable contraception in male rhesus monkeys, according to research published in the open access journal Basic and Clinical Andrology. The product, called Vasalgel, which was trialled in rabbits in 2016, has the potential to be a reversible alternative to vasectomy.

New assay shows promise to advance personalized therapy for cancer patients

One of the most promising areas of cancer research is personalized therapy using precision medicine. The National Cancer Institute's NCI-MATCH (Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice) is a large, ongoing clinical trial that matches tumors to therapies based on the tumor's genetic characteristics. This effort addresses therapeutic efficacy across multiple tissues, but also adds data as to the clinical value of broad-based screening panels versus disease-specific assays. A report in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics confirms that the assay tailored for this trial is highly sensitive for detecting genetic mutations from a variety of tumor tissue and, for the first time, has been reproduced with accuracy by multiple clinical laboratories, laying the groundwork for future clinical utility.

Ground-breaking research on the side effects of therapy

While many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are helped by seeing a psychologist, others don't get better or actually get worse. Psychological treatment can have negative side effects, like any medicine. This unexplored territory is the focus of a new dissertation out of Stockholm University.

Endurance training may have a protective effect on the heart

Findings published in Experimental Physiology suggest that exercise could be just as important for your heart heath as cholesterol and a healthy diet.

Online weight-loss groups offer valuable support, comfort

Online weight loss forums protect participants from public fat shaming, and offer them a place to speak out without being confronted by normal-weight individuals, medical science or the authorities.

Brexit, Trump make Britons 'anxious'

The Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump have made many Britons anxious, according to a poll released on Tuesday and mental health charities dealing with the fallout.

Researchers find chemical switch that may decrease symptoms of schizophrenia

A new study by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers has found that in mice, adjusting levels of a compound called kynurenic acid can have significant effects on schizophrenia-like behavior. The study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Study explores whether it's safe to drive after concussion symptoms resolve

The effects a concussion has on driving a vehicle may continue to linger even after the symptoms disappear, according to a new study by University of Georgia researchers.

Removal of ovaries during hysterectomy linked to increase in heart disease, cancer and premature death

A study led by the University of Warwick has found a link between the removal of ovaries during hysterectomy and an increase in heart disease, cancer and premature death.

Scientists discover why some cancers may not respond to immunotherapy

UCLA scientists have discovered that people with cancers containing genetic mutations JAK1 or JAK2, which are known to prevent tumors from recognizing or receiving signals from T cells to stop growing, will have little or no benefit from the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. This early-stage research has allowed them to determine for the first time why some people with advanced melanoma or advanced colon cancer will not respond to pembrolizumab, an anti-PD-1 treatment.

The most important thing you're not discussing with your doctor

Politicians and policymakers are discussing what parts of the Affordable Care Act to change and what to keep. While most of us have little control over those discussions, there is one health care topic that we can control: what we talk about with our doctor.

Novel shoe insoles step in right direction for multiple sclerosis

An international team of researchers is trialling specially designed shoe insoles aimed at improving the mobility of people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Stereotypes shackle recovering drug users

Negative stereotypes about injecting drug-users may be hampering their recovery.

Poor and less educated suffer the most from chronic pain

Poorer and less-educated older Americans are more like to suffer from chronic pain than those with greater wealth and more education, but the disparity between the two groups is much greater than previously thought, climbing as high as 370 percent in some categories, according to new research by a University at Buffalo medical sociologist.

Sumo protein explored as likely source for some congenital heart defects

Small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) proteins are small peptides that get added on to other proteins to regulate their activity. While SUMO has many regulatory roles in cells, it is especially important for controlling gene expression during early development. Just a few years ago this connection between SUMO and gene regulation was relatively unknown, but now, Notre Dame researchers are exploring how a disruption to the SUMO protein's ability to regulate embryo development may be linked to congenital heart defects.

Why skin-to-skin contact with infants is better for everyone

Carmela Torres was 18 when she became pregnant for the first time. It was 1987 and she and her now-husband, Pablo Hernandez, were two idealistic young Colombians born in the coastal region of Montería who moved to the capital, Bogotá, in search of freedom and a better life. When Torres told her father she was expecting, so angered was he by the thought of his daughter having a child out of wedlock that they didn't speak to each other for years.

Effort to reduce 'covert' brain injury after cardiac procedures

Patients who undergo lifesaving cardiac procedures are often exposed to a related harm: brain injury. In response to a growing body of evidence of this problem, Yale professor of medicine Dr. Alexandra Lansky joined colleagues in the United States and Europe to call for measures to better ensure the safety of cardiac procedures.

Melanoma research breakthrough gives hope for treatment

A QUT-driven project has identified the way in which melanoma cells spread, opening up new pathways to treatment via drugs to 'turn off' the invasive gene.

Researchers seek answers to help overcome life's challenges

A new research project is to investigate the ways in which different people cope with crises, why some sail through life, yet others struggle.

Is it possible to be too 'nice' for your own good?

Niceness is a topic that tends to fundamentally divide people. Should you put yourself first, stand up for yourself and get back at people who've wronged you or should you put others first and turn the other cheek when attacked? Is being nice more likely to make us happy in the long run – leading to fewer regrets and closer relationships?

Researchers find a new human androgen receptor structure, key target for the treatment of prostate cancer

A research team has studied for the first time the 3-D structure of the homodimeric androgen receptor ligand-binding domain, a structure that eluded researchers for years. This new structure of the nuclear receptor explains more than forty mutations related to prostate cancer, as well as disorders such as androgen insensitivity syndromes.

Study finds 12-14 percent rate for mammogram patient callbacks increases cancer detection

Breast cancer detection increases significantly when radiologists recall mammogram patients for additional imaging more often than recommended by the current guidelines, according to a study by a radiologist at Rush. The study determined that the "sweet spot" for finding breast cancer is in the recall range of 12 to 14 percent, compared to the current guidelines of 5 to 12 percent.

Researchers developing mobile app for opioid detoxification

In the midst of the opioid epidemic, an estimated 1.5 million Americans seek treatment annually in an effort to avoid the life-threatening effects of opioid use disorder and improve their quality of life.

Study finds lymphocyte trafficking is controlled by the circadian clock

LMU researchers have shown that lymphocyte trafficking is controlled by the circadian clock. Consequently, the efficacy of immune responses to pathogens varies during the day. This has implications for the optimization of immunization.

Malaria control efforts can benefit from forecasting using satellites

Umeå University researcher Maquins Sewe has established links between patterns of malaria in Kenya and environmental factors (temperature, rainfall and land cover) measurable by satellite imagery. In his doctoral dissertation, the researcher shows that conducive environmental conditions occur before increases in hospital admissions and mortality due to malaria, indicating that the satellite information is useful for the development of disease forecasting models and early warning systems.

Earlier and more severe depression symptoms associated with high genetic risk for major psychiatric disorders

Clinical features of major depressive disorder (MDD) may help identify specific subgroups of depressed patients based on associations with genetic risk for major psychiatric disorders, reports a study in Biological Psychiatry. Led by Brenda Penninx, PhD, of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the study found that patients with an early age at onset and higher symptom severity have an increased genetic risk for MDD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Children with a communication disorder have poorer sleep, says study

Children with a communication disorder such as autism have poorer sleep, compounding the existing language issues that result from such conditions, according to a new study from City, University of London.

Concerns over wasting doctor's time may affect decision to see GP

Worries over wasting their doctor's time, particularly at a time when NHS resources are stretched, may influence when and whether patients choose to see their GP, according to a study carried out by the University of Cambridge.

Surgery on Bangladesh 'tree girl' successful

Bangladeshi doctors on Tuesday conducted surgery to remove bark-like growths from the skin of a young girl believed to be the first female to suffer from a condition known as "tree man syndrome".

Possible link between early menstruation and stroke risk

Women who started menstruating early in life could later face a higher risk of stroke.

American Cancer Society endorses two-dose regimen for HPV vaccination

The American Cancer Society has endorsed updated recommendations on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) supporting a two-dose schedule for boys and girls who initiate the vaccine at ages 9 to 14. The update comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the slimmed-down schedule in October 2016.

Medicare could overpay medicare advantage plans by $200 billion over ten years

Research conducted at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that current trends in diagnostic coding for patient risk scores will lead to Medicare overpaying Medicare Advantage (MA) plans substantially through 2026-likely to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The study is published in the February issue of Health Affairs.

Rewards treat alcohol abuse in those with mental illness

Researchers at Washington State University have shown that offering prizes - from simple shampoo to DVD players - can be an effective, low-cost treatment for alcohol abuse, the nation's third leading preventable cause of death.

Researchers find brief, intense stair climbing is a practical way to boost fitness

There are no more excuses for being out of shape. Researchers at McMaster University have found that short, intense bursts of stair climbing, which can be done virtually anywhere, have major benefits for heart health.

More screen time for kids isn't all that bad, researcher says

Chances are that your children will turn out OK even though they spend hours playing video games or watching TV. This is according to Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University in the US, who led a study in Springer's journal Psychiatric Quarterly which found that there is only a negligibly small association between excessive screen time and higher levels of depression and delinquency among teenagers. Ferguson therefore believes the strict attention to limited screen time by policy makers and advocacy groups is uncalled for.

Study: Toxic metals found in e-cigarette liquids

A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found high levels of toxic metals in the liquid that creates the aerosol that e-cigarette users inhale when they vape.

16 aplastic anemia patients free of disease after bone marrow transplant and chemo

Physicians at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have successfully treated 16 patients with a rare and lethal form of bone marrow failure called severe aplastic anemia using partially matched bone marrow transplants followed by two high doses of a common chemotherapy drug. In a report on the new transplant-chemo regimen, published online Dec. 22, 2016, in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the Johns Hopkins team says that more than a year after their transplants, all of the patients have stopped taking immunosuppressive drugs commonly used to treat the disorder and have no evidence of the disease.

Mixing opioids and alcohol may increase likelihood of dangerous respiratory complication

Taking one oxycodone tablet together with even a modest amount of alcohol increases the risk of a potentially life-threatening side effect known as respiratory depression, which causes breathing to become extremely shallow or stop altogether, reports a study published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the peer-reviewed medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). Elderly people were especially likely to experience this complication, the study found.

Brazil yellow fever toll worst on record: government

Sixty-five people are confirmed so far to have died in Brazil over the last two months in the country's worst yellow fever outbreak on record, the government said.

Approach removes thyroid gland with no neck scar or need for special equipment

A surgical approach developed by ENT surgeons at LSU Health New Orleans to perform thryroidectomies without scarring the neck appears to be just as successful using standard surgery. When originally used, the approach, which involves making an incision behind the ear instead of in the neck, took advantage of modern robotics and endoscopic technology. It was available to patients only at centers with this specialized equipment. A new study led by Rohan Walvekar, MD, Associate Professor of Otorhinolaryngology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, shows that the same approach can be employed using standard surgical equipment and techniques, making it much more widely available. The study was published online in the Indian Journal of Otolaryngology Head and Head & Neck Surgery January 16, 2017.

Critically ill children can still undergo liver transplantation and survive

Advancements in critical care make it possible for even the sickest children to successfully undergo liver transplantation. According to a new study published online as an "article in press" in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), children who are sick enough to require mechanical ventilation or dialysis before transplantation achieve the same survival benefit as children who are stable prior to the surgical procedure. The study will appear in a print edition of the Journal this spring.

Findings suggest a gap between need, availability of genetic counseling

Physicians often fail to recommend genetic testing for breast cancer patients at high risk for mutations associated with ovarian and other cancers, according to a large study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and five other U.S. medical centers.

Sickle cell trait may confound blood sugar readings among African-Americans

A new study in JAMA provides evidence that hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a common blood biomarker used to measure blood sugar over time, may not perform as accurately among African-Americans with sickle cell trait and could be leading to a systemic underestimation of blood sugar control among that population.

Novel tool informs women about elective egg freezing

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted the experimental status for egg freezing in October 2012, and since then the popularity of elective egg freezing has been on the rise. Although primarily intended for women whose fertility may be in jeopardy due to treatment for cancer or other illnesses, egg freezing has become an attractive option for women who are electively delaying childbearing for a variety of reasons. But, because this option is relatively new, and the majority of women who have frozen their eggs have not yet returned to use them, the likelihood of a frozen egg resulting in a healthy baby is largely unknown.

Why we underestimate time when we're having fun on Facebook

Updating your Facebook status can be a fun way to while away the hours - but now it seems it really is making us lose track of time as we do it.

Less inclusive criteria for lung cancer screening would be cost-effective

Limiting lung cancer screening to high-risk former smokers may improve cost-effectiveness at a population level, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. Regular computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening of current and former smokers is currently recommended in the US and is being considered in other countries, but the specific criteria (e.g.: smoking history, age) and frequency of screening to achieve optimal cost-effectiveness is debated.

Prenatal bisphenol A exposure weakens body's fullness cues

An expectant mother's exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can raise her offspring's risk of obesity by reducing sensitivity to a hormone responsible for controlling appetite, according to a mouse study published in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

For millions of Americans, everyday life takes toll on their hearing

(HealthDay)—The noise of modern life causes permanent hearing damage to many U.S. adults who don't even suspect they've experienced a loss, federal researchers reported Tuesday.

Know your heart's numbers

(HealthDay)—More than two-thirds of Americans fret about heart disease, but few know the specific information that can help them boost their heart health, a new survey finds.

When counting calories, consider the cream and sugar

(HealthDay)—Before you pour anything into your coffee cup besides coffee, heed the findings of a new study that shows a lot of extra calories come with that cream and sugar.

Advanced EEG analysis reveals the complex beauty of the sleeping brain

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have developed a novel approach to analyze brainwaves during sleep, which promises to give a more detailed and accurate depiction of neurophysiological changes than provided by a traditional sleep study. In a report published in the January issue of Physiology, the research team describes how applying a technique called multitaper spectral analysis to electroencephalogram (EEG) data provides objective, high-resolution depictions of brainwave activity during sleep that are more informative and easier to characterize than previous approaches. The researchers also present a visual atlas of brain activity during sleep in healthy individuals, highlighting new features of the sleep EEG - including a predictor of REM sleep - that could be of important use to clinicians and researchers.

Air pollution linked to heightened risk of type 2 diabetes in obese Latino children

Latino children who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new USC-led study.

Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue more likely to develop contralateral disease

Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue have almost a two-fold increased risk of developing disease in the contralateral breast, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer.

HbA1c tied to progression of aortic stiffness without diabetes

(HealthDay)—For individuals without diabetes, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is associated with accelerated progression of aortic stiffness, according to a study published online Jan. 25 in Diabetes Care.

Urologic CA predictors ID'd in women with microhematuria

(HealthDay)—Older age, history of smoking, and gross hematuria predict urologic cancer in women with microscopic hematuria, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Bundle of items can reduce SSI rate in colon surgery

(HealthDay)—Implementation of a bundle of five items can reduce the surgical site infection (SSI) rate in colon surgery, according to a study published online Feb. 1 in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Risk of certain adverse outcomes up with endoscopy in pregnancy

(HealthDay)—Endoscopy during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of preterm birth or small for gestational age, according to a study published in the February issue of Gastroenterology.

Significant differences for methods of measuring albumin

(HealthDay)—Significant differences are seen for immunochemical, bromcresol green (BCG), and bromcresol purple (BCP) methods of albumin measurement, according to a study published online Jan. 20 in Clinical Chemistry.

Risk of endometrial cancer down with intentional weight loss

(HealthDay)—Losing weight is associated with a significantly lower risk of endometrial cancer, and that benefit appears to be greatest in obese women, according to a study published online Feb. 6 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Too many Americans have high blood pressure, doctors warn

(HealthDay)—A group of family physicians warns that too many Americans struggle with high blood pressure.

Nurse practitioners could help meet need for elderly home care

(HealthDay)—Nurse practitioners could meet the growing need for house calls to frail, elderly Americans, but restrictions in some states may get in the way, according to research published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Teens who vape at increased risk for future cigarette smoking

Among high school seniors who have never smoked a cigarette, those who vape are more than four times more likely to smoke a cigarette in the following year than their peers who do not vape.

Study shows exercise, sleep are key to keeping employees from bringing home work frustrations

A brisk walk or a long swim may be the key to preventing a bad day at the office from spilling over into the home.

Heart palpitations should not be ignored

Does the sight of your loved one make your heart skip a beat … literally? Well, that may not be a good thing. Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say while heart palpitations are common, they should not be ignored.

New study shows GFAP and UCH-L1 are not useful biomarkers for diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury

In patients who suffered acute orthopedic injuries, two proposed biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) were not able to distinguish between patients who did or did not have mTBI. Relying on elevated levels of the proteins GFAP and UCH-L1 to identify patients with mTBI could lead to false-positive diagnoses and unnecessary brain imaging, as reported in an article in Journal of Neurotrauma.

Final artificial pancreas clinical trials now open

Clinical trials are now enrolling to provide the final tests for a University of Virginia-developed artificial pancreas to automatically monitor and regulate blood-sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.

Cyber attacks increase stress hormone levels and perceptions of vulnerability

A new study shows that individuals exposed to a simulated cyber-terror attack had significantly increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva compared to a control group. Following the cyber attack, study participants were more likely to fear an imminent cyber threat and to express feelings of personal insecurity, according to results published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Heart attack treatment might be in your face

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have received $2.4 million in federal funding to pursue research on a novel cell therapy that would repair heart damage using modified cells taken from the patient's own facial muscle.

Stomach bug, the flu? Several Tennessee school systems shut

Several school systems around Tennessee have temporarily closed because a number of students and teachers have come down with the flu or a stomach bug.

Biology news

How life survives: Researchers confirm basic mechanism of DNA repair

Day in and day out, in our bodies, the DNA in cells is damaged for a variety of reasons, and thus intercellular DNA-repair systems are fundamental to the maintenance of life. Now scientists from the UNC School of Medicine have confirmed and clarified key molecular details of one of these repair systems, known as nucleotide excision repair.

Researchers use tiny 3-D spheres to combat tuberculosis

Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new 3D system to study human infection in the laboratory.

Bacterial survival strategy: Splitting into virulent and non-virulent subtypes

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered a survival strategy that harmful bacteria can use to outsmart the human immune response, resulting in more severe and persistent infections and more effective spreading from person to person.

Maternal social skills found to play a factor in infanticide in capuchin monkeys

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with members from Canada, Japan and the U.S. has found that social skills in capuchin monkey mothers plays a role in the survivability of her offspring. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe their study of the monkeys in their native Costa Rica and behavioral traits they observed that might be translatable to humans.

Human DNA softer than DNA single-celled life

Single-celled organisms have stiffer DNA than multicellular lifeforms like humans and rice. Theoretical physicists managed to simulate the folding in full genomes for the first time to reach this conclusion. Publication in Biophysical Journal on February 7.

New research on why plant tissues have a sense of direction

Scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich have published new evidence that plant tissues can have a preferred direction of growth and that this characteristic is essential for producing complex plant shapes.

Biologists identify drug combinations that may be highly effective at reducing growth of deadly bacteria

A landmark report by the World Health Organization in 2014 observed that antibiotic resistance—long thought to be a health threat of the future—had finally become a serious threat to public health around the world. A top WHO official called for an immediate and aggressive response to prevent what he called a "post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill."

Study offers new insights into receptor that regulates Staphylococcal virulence

A recent study published in Cell Chemical Biology has revealed new insights into a molecular pathway that leads to Staphylococcus aureus virulence. Using a tool that mimics the cellular environment, Princeton University researchers reconstituted a key receptor protein responsible for regulating S. aureus virulence. These bacterial infections can cause a range of human illnesses from skin infections to pneumonia.

Making a scavenger—the meat-thieving traits that have stood the test of time

Take a look at the teeth of any animal. The chances are you'll then have a good idea if it's a meat eater or a vegetarian. Sharp canines? Easy. All the better to eat you with. But how would you find out whether your chosen species got by on dead meat, or if it survived and thrived by catching live prey? To answer that kind of question you have to go beyond teeth and look at many other aspects of its biology—from the way the creature moves to how far it can see.

How hydras know where to regrow lost body parts

Few animals can match the humble hydra's resilience. The small, tentacled freshwater animals can be literally shredded into pieces and regrow into healthy animals. A study published February 7 in Cell Reports suggests that pieces of hydras have structural memory that helps them shape their new body plan according to the pattern inherited by the animal's "skeleton." Previously, scientists thought that only chemical signals told a hydra where its heads and/or feet should form.

WWF calls for fishing ban to save last of vaquita porpoises

The World Wildlife Fund on Monday called for a complete ban on fishing in the habitat of the vaquita porpoise, noting an international committee of experts has determined that fewer than 30 of the critically endangered mammals probably remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place they live.

The cave squeaker returns: Rare frog seen after decades

The cave squeaker is back. Researchers in Zimbabwe say they have found a rare frog that hasn't been seen in decades.

Deer change the landscape indirectly

It is widely known that the white-tailed deer is a nonstop eater. Unless it is sleeping or fleeing from a predator, the keystone North American herbivore is nearly always nibbling.

Microbiology expert highlights importance of developing rapid diagnostic tests to combat drug resistance

Developing new ways to quickly diagnose illnesses in farm animals – allowing vets to administer effective, targeted treatment – could play a key role in helping to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, according to a Kingston University microbiology expert.

A new species of gecko with massive scales and tear-away skin

Many lizards can drop their tails when grabbed, but one group of geckos has gone to particularly extreme lengths to escape predation. Fish-scale geckos in the genus Geckolepis have large scales that tear away with ease, leaving them free to escape whilst the predator is left with a mouth full of scales. Scientists have now described a new species (Geckolepis megalepis) that is the master of this art, possessing the largest scales of any gecko.

Departure of migratory birds from stopover sites is hormone-controlled

Migratory birds often stop along their long journeys to replenish their fat stores. The purpose of these stopovers – rest and refuelling – is clear. To date, however, it had been unclear which physiological signals triggered the birds' decision to continue their flight. A team led by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna has now identified, for the first time, the hormone ghrelin as a signal for the birds' brains. Ghrelin, which is known to be an appetite-regulating hormone in humans, was measured at high levels in satiated garden warblers. Moreover, birds injected with additional ghrelin exhibited decreased appetite and increased the highly active state of migratory restlessness. The results, which were published in the journal PNAS, confirm the hormonal influence on avian migratory behaviour and could even lead to an improved understanding of eating disorders among humans.

Enzyme key to learning in fruit flies

An animal's reaction to an odor or food or other stimuli depends largely on past experiences and how they have been entered into memory.

Vienna's famed late panda gets stuffed for final journey

Long Hui, a giant panda feted for having fathered five cubs in captivity and who succumbed to a stomach tumour in December, will be stuffed and returned to China for posterity, the Vienna Zoo said Tuesday.

Biotech industry blasts 'misguided' Trump travel ban

Bosses of more than 150 US biotech companies Tuesday criticised US President Donald Trump's travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, saying the sector stood to lose talented workers and its global dominance.

Synbio and biosecurity

The world in 1918 was emerging from under the pall of a World War that had claimed 38 million lives, and yet in the span of only one year, just as many lives would be lost to the Spanish Flu—an influenza pandemic that is still regarded the single deadliest epidemic in recorded history. The disease reached all corners of the world, from the Antipodes to Europe and Asia, eventually claiming 20–50 million lives. The 1918 virus caused unusually strong symptoms, described by one physician at the time as "a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from (the) nose and mouth". The disease also had an incredibly high mortality rate of 10–20%, which combined with a high rate of infection meant that up to 6% of the world's population died due to the virus.

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