Sunday, November 12, 2006

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

Selecting life: Scientists find new way to search for origin of life:

Over the last half century, researchers have found that mineral surfaces may have played critical roles activating molecules that would become essential ingredients to life. Identifying which biomolecule/ mineral surface pairs, however, has stumped scientists for years because of countless possible combinations. Now a team of researchers, led by Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, has developed new protocols and procedures for adapting DNA microarray technology to rapidly identify promising molecule/mineral pairs.

Early Earth haze may have spurred life, says University of Colorado study:

Hazy skies on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of organic material useful for emerging life on the planet, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Nature's process for nitrogen fixation caught in action:

A research team from Utah State University, Virginia Tech and Northwestern University asked whether the biological process for nitrogen fixation, carried out by microbes that contain the enzyme nitrogenase, follows the same pathway as recently reported chemical methods. Their research method resulted in the ability to witness steps in the biological process that enables some microorganisms to convert atmospheric nitrogen to nutrients.

Quantized heat conduction by photons observed:

In a recent experiment, to be published in Nature on Nov. 9, Dr. Matthias Meschke and professor Jukka Pekola, together with Dr. Wiebke Guichard, a coworker from French CNRS, investigated heat exchange between two small pieces of normal metal, connected to each other only via superconducting leads. The results demonstrate that at very low temperatures heat is transferred by electromagnetic radiation.

'Air shower' set to cut water use by 30 percent:

As Australians become increasingly alert to the importance of using water wisely in the home, CSIRO researchers have found a way to use a third less water when you shower -- by adding air.

How the brain weaves a memory:

Memories of events comprise many components -- including sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Somehow the many features of an episodic memory are woven together into a coherent whole, and researchers have had little understanding of how this binding takes place as the memories are processed by the brain's memory center, the hippocampus. A central question has been whether the hippocampus receives an "episodic packet," or a collection of perceptual strands that it must integrate into a memory.

Evidence that subliminal is not so 'sub':

The popular notion of subliminal information is that it streams into an unguarded mind, unchecked and unprocessed. However, neurobiologists' experiments are now revealing that the brain does consciously process subliminal information and that such processing influences how that subliminal information is perceived.

Breaking the nanometer barrier in X-ray microscopy:

Argonne National Laboratory scientists in collaboration with Xradia have created a new X-ray microscope technique capable of observing molecular-scale features, measuring less than a nanometer in height. Combining x-ray reflection together with high resolution x-ray microscopy, scientists can now study interactions at the nanometer-scale which often can exhibit different properties. Improving our understanding of interactions at the nanoscale holds promise to help us cure the sick, protect our environment and make us more secure.

With BYU partner, FSU's Magnet Lab researchers deciphering flu virus:

As the Northern Hemisphere braces for another flu season, researchers at Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida are making strides toward better understanding the mechanics of the virus that causes it -- a virus that kills between one-quarter and one-half million people each year.

Scientists discover way to block growth of prostate cancer cells:

Scientists have discovered for the first time a specific biochemical pathway by which the sex hormone, androgen, increases levels of harmful chemicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the prostate gland that play a role in the development of prostate cancer, the 18th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Prague heard on Wednesday

Drug that interrupts a key stage of cell division shows promise for advanced solid tumors:

One of the first studies to investigate the effects of a new anti-cancer drug in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumours has shown that it is capable of halting progression of the disease, and the study has provided the first proof of the drug's mechanism of action, the 18th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Prague was told on Wednesday.

An AIDS-related virus tricks cells to become tumors, new Penn study finds:

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered how the Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) subverts a normal cell process in order to promote tumor growth. The finding, published in the most recent issue of PLoS Pathogens, offers new potential strategies for treating Kaposi's sarcoma and other cancers associated with viruses.

Life in the extreme:

Extensive fields of hydrocarbon-rich gas seepage, mud volcanoes and pockmarks have all been mapped by the Eurocores program Euromargins. On October 4-6, 2006, scientists from 50 different research groups in 12 different countries came together in Bologna, Italy, to discuss future cross-discipline, pan-European and pan-World research following in the footsteps of this four-year program as Euromargins is coming to an end.

Gene therapy inhibits epilepsy in animals:

For the first time, researchers have inhibited the development of epilepsy after a brain insult in animals. By using gene therapy to modify signaling pathways in the brain, neurology researchers found that they could significantly reduce the development of epileptic seizures in rats. "We have shown that there is a window to intervene after a brain insult to reduce the risk that epilepsy will develop," said one of the lead researchers.

Bones at the nanoscale:

Scientists from Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the ESRF have just discovered the way deformation at the nanoscale takes place in a bone by studying it with the synchrotron X-rays. This study explains the enormous stability and deformability of bones. The hierarchical structure of bones makes them able to sustain large strains without breaking, despite being made of essentially rigid units at the molecular level.

Bacteria in small sea life yield new way to make potential cancer drugs:

Researchers led by a University of Utah medicinal chemist have developed a novel method to make drugs for cancer and other diseases from bacteria found in sponges and other small ocean creatures. The new method uses genetic pathways in the bacteria to produce small chemicals and to manipulate them to invent new potential drugs.

Learning how nature splits water:

An international team led by scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) pieced together high-resolution (approximately 0.15 Ã…ngstrom) structures of a Mn4Ca cluster found in a photosynthetic protein complex. Their work could help researchers synthesize molecules that mimic this catalyst, which is a central focus in the push to develop clean energy technologies that rely on sunlight to split water and form hydrogen to feed fuel cells or other non-polluting power sources.



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