Sunday, January 07, 2007

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

Getting to the bottom of memory:
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's (EMBL) Mouse Biology Unit in Monterotondo, Italy, and the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, now for the first time investigate the molecular basis of memory in living mice. The study, which appears in the current issue of Learning and Memory, identified a molecule that is crucially involved in learning and singled out the signaling pathway through which it affects memory.

Radiation therapy combo cures prostate cancer long-term:
Seventy-four percent of men treated with a combination of radiation seed implants and external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer are cured of their disease 15 years following their treatment, according to a study released today in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of ASTRO.

Cancer-killing invention also harvests stem cells:
Professor Michael King of the University of Rochester has invented a device that filters the blood for cancer and stem cells. When he captures cancer cells, he kills them. When he captures stem cells, he harvests them for later use in tissue engineering, bone marrow transplants and other health applications. This is a noncontroversial way of obtaining stem cells that can be differentiated into other, useful cells.

Renegade RNA -- Clues to cancer and normal growth:
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a tiny piece of genetic code apparently goes where no bit of it has gone before, and it gets there under its own internal code.

Metamaterials found to work for visible light:
For the first time ever, researchers at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have developed a material with a negative refractive index for visible light. Ames Laboratory senior physicist Costas Soukoulis, working with colleagues in Karlsruhe, Germany, designed a silver-based, mesh-like material that exhibits a refractive index of -0.6 at the red end of the visible spectrum.

The discovery, detailed in the Jan. 5 issue of Science and the Jan. 1 issue of Optic Letters, and noted in the journal Nature, marks a significant step forward from existing metamaterials that operate in the microwave or far infrared – but still invisible –regions of the spectrum. Those materials, announced this past summer, were heralded as the first step in creating an invisibility cloak.

Cold sore virus might play role in Alzheimer's disease:
A gene known to be a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease puts out the welcome mat for the virus that causes cold sores, allowing the virus to be more active in the brain compared to other forms of the gene. The findings add some scientific heft to the idea, long suspected by some scientists, that herpes somehow plays a role in bringing about Alzheimer's disease.

Men with no sons more at risk for prostate cancer, according to Mailman School of PH Study:
In a new study to determine if genes on the Y chromosome are involved in prostate cancer, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health in conjunction with Hebrew University found that men who had only daughters had a higher risk of prostate cancer than men who had at least one son. The results further indicate that the relative risk of prostate cancer decreases as the number of sons increases.

Imaging techniques permit scientists to follow a day -- or four -- in the life of a cell:
Understanding how live cells function is invaluable for molecular and cellular biologists, and advanced techniques to visualize cells in action are of great importance. The current issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols addresses this issue with two freely accessible protocols: one for inserting "reporter" proteins into cells to monitor what's going on inside, and another for maintaining the cells under a microscope for long-term observation.

Researchers use brain scans to predict when people will buy products:
For the first time, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine what parts of the brain are active when people consider whether to purchase a product and to predict whether or not they ultimately choose to buy the product. The study appears in the journal Neuron and was co-authored by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Hybrid molecule causes cancer cells to self-destruct:
By joining a sugar to a short-chain fatty acid compound, Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a two-pronged molecular weapon that kills cancer cells in lab tests.

The bumper book of DNA no-no's:
Most genome sequencers are looking for genes inside living species to understand their function. But one genome project is deliberately searching for DNA sequences that are absent from species -- perhaps because they are too dangerous to life to exist. The US team have developed software that calculates all the possible sequences of nucleotides and then scans sequence databases to identify sequences that aren't present. They believe their results will have far-reaching applications.

UD scientists discover new class of polymers:
For years, polymer chemistry textbooks have stated that a whole class of little molecules called 1,2-disubstituted ethylenes could not be transformed into polymers -- the stuff of which plastics and other materials are made.However, UD scientists Chris Snively and Jochen Lauterbach were determined to prove the textbooks wrong. As a result of their persistence, the researchers have discovered a new class of ultra-thin polymer films with potential applications ranging from coating tiny microelectronic devices to plastic solar cells.

Dentists could detect osteoporosis, automatically:
Researchers in the School of Dentistry at the University of Manchester have created a unique way of identifying osteoporosis sufferers from ordinary dental x-rays.



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