Sunday, January 14, 2007

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

Hofmeyr skull supports the 'Out of Africa' theory:
Dating of skull delivers the first fossil indicator that modern humans evolved in Africa.

Earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe discovered by international team:
Modern humans who first arose in Africa had moved into Europe as far back as about 45,000 years ago, according to a new study by an international research team led by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Spread of modern humans occurred later than previously thought, profs say:
The spread of modern humans out of Africa occurred 40,000 to 50,000 years later than previously thought, according to researchers including one Texas A&M University anthropologist.

Exploring the molecular origin of blood clot flexibility:
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences have shown that a well-known protein structure acts as a molecular spring, explaining one way that clots may stretch and bend under such physical stresses as blood flow. This knowledge will inform researchers about clot physiology in such conditions as wound healing, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Brookhaven lab scientists stabilize platinum electrocatalysts for use in fuel cells:
Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for accelerating chemical reactions in fuel cells for electric vehicles. In reactions during the stop-and-go driving of an electric car, however, the platinum dissolves, which reduces its efficiency as a catalyst. This is a major impediment for vehicle-application of fuel cells.Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have overcome this problem.

White blood cells in lung produce histamine seen in allergies:
In a surprise finding, scientists have discovered that histamine, the inflammatory compound released during allergic reactions that causes runny nose, watery eyes and wheezing, can be produced in large amounts in the lung by neutrophils, the white blood cells that are the major component of pus.

Gene that makes people 'early to bed and early to rise' demystified:
The recent discovery that a mutant "clock" gene made some people "early to bed and early to rise," a condition known as familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS), offered one of the first glimpses into the genetic basis of sleep in humans. Now, researchers report in the Jan. 12, 2007, issue of the journal Cell, published by Cell Press, new evidence that helps to explain just how their bodies' natural alarm clocks get set to such an early wake-up time.

Scientists discover new life forms in the Arctic Ocean:
An international team of scientists, including Université Laval biologist Connie Lovejoy, has discovered new life forms in the Arctic Ocean. The team's findings are reported in the Jan. 12 edition of the journal Science.

You still can't drink the water, but now you can touch it:
Engineers have developed a system that uses a simple water purification technique that can eliminate 100 percent of the microbes in New Orleans water samples left from Hurricane Katrina. The technique makes use of specialized resins, copper and hydrogen peroxide to purify tainted water.

Wheat can fatally starve insect predators:
A newly identified wheat gene produces proteins that appear to attack the stomach lining of a crop-destroying fly larvae so that the bugs starve to death. The gene's role in creating resistance to Hessian flies was a surprise to US Department of Agriculture and Purdue University researchers, discoverers of the gene and its function.

Why doesn't the immune system attack the small intestine?:
Answering one of the oldest questions in human physiology, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered why the body's immune system -- perpetually on guard against foreign microbes like bacteria -- doesn't attack tissues in the small intestine that harbor millions of bacteria cells.

Tumor-suppressor gene is critical for placenta development:
An important cancer-related gene may play a critical role in the development of the placenta, the organ that controls nutrient and oxygen exchange between a mother and her fetus during pregnancy, and perhaps in miscarriages. Those conclusions come from a new study of the retinoblastoma (Rb) gene in mice. In humans, this gene, when mutated, raises the risk of a rare cancer of the eye called retinoblastoma.

Scientists discover new, readily available source of stem cells:
Scientists have discovered a new source of stems cells and have used them to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory. The first report showing the isolation of broad potential stem cells from the amniotic fluid that surrounds developing embryos was published today in Nature Biotechnology.

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