Sunday, February 11, 2007

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

MIT 'optics on a chip' may revolutionize telecom, computing:
In work that could lead to completely new devices, systems and applications in computing and telecommunications, MIT researchers are bringing the long-sought goal of "optics on a chip" one step closer to market.

The multi-tasking reovirus:
There is accumulating data that suggests in addition to directly killing tumor cells, reoviruses may prime the immune system to mount a separate, powerful and long lasting defense against cancer.

Decision-making -- Demonstration of a link between cognition and execution:
CNRS researchers at the University Victor S├ęgalen, Bordeaux have revealed the existence of an interaction at the cellular level between cognitive information and motor information.

Newborn brains grow vision and movement regions first:
The regions of the brain that control vision and other sensory information grow dramatically in the first few months following birth, while the area that controls abstract thought experiences very little growth during the same period, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found.

Malaria -- More than 4.3 million medicines tested thanks to calculation grids:
CNRS laboratory IN2P3 in an international effort analyzed close to 80,000 medicines for Malaria allowing the calculation of the probability of a particular molecule affecting the proliferation of the parasite.

Nanotechnology meets biology and DNA finds its groove:
The object of fascination for most is the DNA molecule. But in solution, DNA, the genetic material that hold the detailed instructions for virtually all life, is a twisted knot, looking more like a battered ball of yarn than the famous double helix. To study it, scientists generally are forced to work with collections of molecules floating in solution, and there is no easy way to precisely single out individual molecules for study.

MIT: Flowing bubbles mimic computer:
In work that could dramatically boost the capabilities of "lab on a chip" devices, MIT researchers have created a way to use tiny bubbles to mimic the capabilities of a computer.

Which genome variants matter?:
Findings published in Science will accelerate the search for genes involved in human disease. This first genome-wide view shows that activity of more than 1000 genes is affected by sequence variation. This is an important step to understanding links between genes and disease for individuals, and across populations. By defining those genetic variants with a biological effect, the results will help prioritise regions of the genome that are investigated for association with disease.

Microsurgery and Super Glue show how antennae aid moth navigation:
Scientists have wondered how four-winged insects most active at low-light times of the day accomplish complex navigational maneuvers, since they lack the structures that help two-winged insects to navigate. New research has demonstrated that, in hawk moths, an organ near the base of the antennae assists in flight control.

Columbia scientists determine 3-dimensional structure of cell's 'fuel gauge':
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have uncovered the complex structure of a protein that serves as a central energy gauge for cells, providing crucial details about the molecule necessary for developing useful new therapies for diabetes and possibly obesity. A paper published online today in the journal Science details this structure, helping to explain one of the cell's most basic and critical processes.

Scientists learn the origin of rogue B cells:
Doctors have long wondered why, in some people, the immune system turns against parts of the body it is designed to protect, leading to autoimmune disease. Now, researchers at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, have provided some new clues into one likely factor: the early development of immune system cells called B cells.

Prehistoric origins of stomach ulcers uncovered:
Scientists have discovered that the ubiquitous bacteria that causes most painful stomach ulcers has been present in the human digestive system since modern man migrated from Africa over 60,000 years ago. They compared DNA sequence patterns of humans and the Helicobacter pylori bacteria now known to cause most stomach ulcers and found that the genetic differences between human populations that arose as they dispersed from Eastern Africa over thousands of years are mirrored in H.pylori.

In tiny supercooled clouds, physicists exchange light and matter:
Physicists have for the first time stopped and extinguished a light pulse in one part of space and then revived it in a completely separate location. They accomplished this feat by completely converting the light pulse into matter that travels between the two locations and is subsequently changed back to light.Matter, unlike light, can easily be manipulated, and the experiments provide a powerful means to control optical information.

Good for the goose, not so great for the gander:
A provocative new model proposed by USC molecular biologist John Tower may help answer an enduring scientific question: Why do women tend to live longer than men? The model suggests how, on a genetic level, the evolution of aging and sex may be inextricably linked. It concludes that sexual differentiation processes may exact a high biological cost -- reduced function of the cell's mitochondria and shorter life span in males.

Volcanoes and nanotechnology:
Since their discovery, carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers have been used in a wide variety of applications. However, because their production on an industrial scale remains expensive, their commercial use in such areas as catalysis has remained unthinkable. This could now be changing: Dang Sheng Su and his co-workers have used igneous rock from Mount Etna to produce carbon nanotubes and fibers.

Physicists achieve all-optical buffering of images:
Researchers at the University of Rochester have demonstrated that optical pulses in an imaging system can be buffered in a slow-light medium, while preserving the information of the image. The ability to delay an entire image and retrieve it intact opens a new avenue in optical buffering -- short-term storage of information as optical images. Though the image consists of only a few pixels, a tremendous amount of information can be buffered with the new technique.

Mind-set matters -- Why thinking you got a work out may actually make you healthier:
A new study shows that many of the beneficial results of exercise may be due to the placebo effect.

Man-made proteins could be more useful than real ones:
Researchers have constructed a protein out of amino acids not found in natural proteins, forming a complex, stable structure closely resembling a natural protein. Their findings could help scientists design drugs that look and act like real proteins but won't be degraded by enzymes or targeted by the immune system, as natural proteins are.

Sea creature's toxin could lead to promising cancer treatment:
A toxin derived from a reclusive sea creature resembling a translucent doughnut has inspired UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers to develop a related compound that shows promise as a cancer treatment.

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