Sunday, August 13, 2006

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Cincinnati surgeon's pediatric laparoscopic liver surgery a world first:

A University of Cincinnati surgeon recently performed what is believed to be the world's first pediatric laparoscopic liver surgery, a specialized procedure for removing cancerous liver tumors without the need for a major incision.

A humble aquarium fish may be the key to new therapies for birth defects:

A humble aquarium fish may be the key to finding therapies capable of preventing the structural birth defects that account for one out of three infant deaths in the United States today.That is one of the implications of a new study published online August 8 in the journal, Cell Metabolism.

Scientists reverse evolution:

University of Utah scientists have shown how evolution works by reversing the process, reconstructing a 530-million-year-old gene by combining key portions of two modern mouse genes that descended from the archaic gene.

Agriculture and tropical conservation: rethinking old ideas:

It's a long-held view in conservation circles that rural peasant activities are at odds with efforts to preserve biodiversity in the tropics. In fact, the opposite is often true, argue University of Michigan researchers John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto.

Study breaks ice on ancient Arctic thaw:

A new analysis of ocean-floor sediments collected near the North Pole finds that the Arctic was extremely warm, unusually wet and ice-free the last time massive amounts of greenhouse gases were released into the Earth's atmosphere. The findings appear this week in Nature. With the Arctic rapidly warming, scientists are keen to unlock the mysteries of this ancient greenhouse event, which saw Earth's surface temperatures rise by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall Antarctic snowfall hasn't changed in 50 years:

For an animated graphic of snowfall variability across Antarctica and over time and b-roll of the U.S. ITASE traverse on Betacam SP, contact Dena Headlee.The most precise record of Antarctic snowfall ever generated shows there has been no real increase in precipitation over the southernmost continent in the past half-century, even though most computer models assessing global climate change call for an increase in Antarctic precipitation as atmospheric temperatures rise.

New flood-tolerant rice offers relief for world's poorest farmers:

A gene that enables rice to survive complete submergence has been identified by a team of researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and at the University of California's Davis and Riverside campuses. The discovery allows for development of new rice varieties that can withstand flooding, thus overcoming one of agriculture's oldest challenges and offering relief to millions of poor rice farmers around the world.

Contagious cancer in dogs confirmed; origins traced to wolves centuries ago:

A new study in the August 11, 2006, issue of the journal Cell provides evidence that a form of cancer afflicting dogs has spread from one individual to another by the transmission of the tumor cells themselves. The disease demonstrates how a cancer cell can become a successful parasite with a worldwide distribution, according to the researchers.

Experimental RNA-based drug kills prostate cancer cells effectively and safely:

Acting as a genetic Trojan horse, an experimental RNA-based drug -- the first of its kind -- tricks its way into prostate cancer cells and then springs into action to destroy them, while leaving normal cells unarmed.

Cardiff researchers discover online banking security problem (Update: The EurekAlert link is not working...this link has the same story):

Two researchers working within Cardiff University's School of Computer Science, Professor Antonia J Jones and Joseph R Rabaiotti, together with a third independent researcher Stuart P Goring, have today released details of a problem with HSBC's online banking system. The bank was informed of the issue prior to publication.

New light microscope sharpens scientists' focus:

Scientists have developed a light microscope so powerful that it allows researchers to discern the precise intracellular location of nearly each individual protein they are studying. The new technique, called photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), far surpasses the resolution of conventional optical microscopes, discriminating molecules that are only two to 25 nanometers apart.

Emory scientists develop new map of genetic variation in human genome:

Scientists have identified and created a map of more than 400,000 insertions and deletions (INDELs) in the human genome that signal a little-explored type of genetic difference among individuals. INDELS are an alternative form of natural genetic variation that differs from the much-studied single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Both types of variation are likely to have a major impact on human health and susceptibility to disease.

Carnegie Mellon develops new mobile robot that balances, moves on ball instead of wheels or legs:

Carnegie Mellon researchers have developed a new mobile robot that balances on a ball instead of Legs or wheels. "Ballbot" is self-contained, battery-operated and omnidirectional. It weighs 95 pounds and is approximately as tall and wide as a person. It's long, thin shape and ability to maneuver in tight spaces give it potential to function better than current robots in environments with people.

Multiple Sclerosis in genetically susceptible twins is augmented by the northern environment:

A new study of twins suggests that living farther north of the equator significantly increases risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis (MS) among those with genetic susceptibility due to some environmental factor.

Chandra independently determines Hubble constant:

A critically important number that specifies the expansion rate of the Universe, the so-called Hubble constant, has been independently determined using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This new value matches recent measurements using other methods and extends their validity to greater distances, thus allowing astronomers to probe earlier epochs in the evolution of the Universe.

Brain imaging identifies best memorization strategies:

Exploring exactly why some individuals' memory skills are better than others has led researchers at Washington University in St. Louis to study the brain basis of learning strategies that healthy young adults select to help them memorize a series of objects. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers uncovered brain regions specifically correlated with the diverse strategies that subjects adopt.

Engineer designs system to put wastewater to work:

In the midst of the worldwide energy crisis, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been continuing their work on a microbial fuel cell that generates electricity from wastewater. Advances in the design of this fuel cell in the last year have increased the power output by a factor of 10 and future designs, already in the minds of the researchers, hope to multiple that power output by 10 times again.

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August 13, 2006 at 12:18 PM  

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