Sunday, December 03, 2006

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

Infants wheeze less in homes with multiple dogs:

Living in a home with multiple dogs may help reduce an infant's risk for developing wheezing in the first year of life, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC).

Scientists want to solve puzzle of excess water vapor near cirrus clouds:

Researchers in recent years have found water vapor at concentrations as much as twice what they should be in and around cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere, a finding that could alter some conclusions about climate change. A group of European and US scientists is advocating a broad research effort to solve the puzzle.

New finding points way to foiling anthrax's tricks:

Anthrax, when inhaled, is nearly always fatal, in part because the bacteria have a very effective way of stealing iron from human cells to reproduce. This involves two molecules, siderophores, that compete with the body's own iron-transport molecules. UC Berkeley researchers have now found that humans produce a protein that sidelines one of these siderophores, but not the other. A drug that blocks the second siderophore should be able to stop anthrax in its tracks.

Living view in animals shows how cells decide to make proteins:

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have visualized in a living animal how cells use a critical biological process to dice and splice genetic material to create unique and varied proteins.

New wide-angle lens produces pictures without distortion:

South Korean researchers have designed and built an inexpensive optical lens that collects light from a large area and produces a virtually distortion-free wide-angle image. Standing in contrast to commonly known "fisheye" lenses, which produce significant amounts of visual distortion, low-distortion wide-angle lenses can potentially improve image-based applications such as security-camera systems and robot navigation. The research appears in the December 1 issue of Applied Optics, a publication of the Optical Society of America.

Study of gene transfer for erectile dysfunction shows promise:

The first human study using gene transfer to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) shows promising results and suggests the potential for using the technology to treat overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome and asthma, according to the researchers.

Would be rookies face video guantlet:

Concerned that their soldiers are not being assessed on real-life situations, the US army is developing a virtual-reality aptitude test for recruits. Rather than using pen and paper in an exam, the recruits are placed in a virtual world where they are tested on their ability to solve tasks whilst navigating through different environments.

One-off treatment to stop back pain -- Using patients' own stem cells:

A University of Manchester researcher has developed a treatment for lower back pain using the patient's own stem cells, which could replace the use of strong painkillers or surgery that can cause debilitation, neither of which addresses the underlying cause.

Mystery solved:

Answering a question that has lingered for centuries, a team of scientists has proved that chemicals used to treat the wood used in Stradivarius and Guarneri violins are the reasons for the distinct sound produced by the world-famous instruments.

University of Alberta researchers discover hummingbird secret:

University of Alberta researchers have pinpointed a section in the tiny hummingbird's brain that may be responsible for its unique ability to stay stationary mid-air and hover.

Got inexpensive contrast agent? Milk plays new role in imaging:

In a new twist on the slogan "milk does a body good," radiologists are testing use of the dairy staple as a contrast agent in gastrointestinal imaging exams -- with excellent results. The researchers reported their findings today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Magnetic needles turn somersaults:

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Metals Research in Stuttgart have discovered a new mechanism with which it is possible to use weak magnetic fields to reverse tiny magnetic structures, called vortex cores, quickly and with no losses. Up until now, very strong magnetic fields have been necessary to accomplish this, requiring highly complex technology. The new method might open up new possibilities for magnetic data storage.

Never-before-made material similar to diamonds and ice, says UH professor:

Thanks to a University of Houston scientist and his team's research, the chemical element germanium is enjoying a rebound in popularity. Led by Arnold Guloy, a UH chemistry professor, and a team of researchers from UH and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Germany, the findings are described in a paper titled "A Guest-free Germanium Clathrate" published in Nature magazine.

Bio-inspired assembly of nanoparticle building blocks:

Rice University chemists have discovered how to assemble gold and silver nanoparticle building blocks into larger structures based on a novel method that harkens back to one of nature's oldest known chemical innovations -- the self-assembly of lipid membranes that surround all living cells. The research appears in the Nov. 29 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. It could help scientists design everything from better catalysts to potent new anti-cancer drugs.

New simulator is next step on the road to developing quantum computers:

Scientists have proven theoretically a novel way to build a simulator that can recreate the way atoms and particles behave in a quantum system, says research published today. The proposed simulator is unique because it could let researchers control how individual particles move and interact with each other. This ability to control individual parts of a quantum system is key to the development of powerful quantum computers in the future.

Math model predicts cancer behavior:

A team of Vanderbilt and University of Dundee scientists envisions a future when computer simulations will be used to predict a tumor's clinical progression and formulate individualized treatment plans. The group has developed a mathematical model for cancer invasion powerful enough for this purpose. The result was published as an entirely theoretical paper in the journal Cell and represents a "sea change" in how biology is done.



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