Sunday, March 04, 2007

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

Enabling nerve regeneration means evicting the cleanup crew:
Macrophages are the immune cells that engulf and destroy the debris of damaged tissue to enable the healing process to begin. Their presence at the scene of damage is critical, but once their task is complete, it is just as critical that macrophages exit rapidly, ending the inflammatory process and making way for regrowth. In fact, the continued presence of macrophages could damage tissue, compromising repair.

Creating new life forms that may help eradicate cancer affecting women:
Dr. Vafa Shahabi and her research team at Advaxis have designed several new strains of the Listeria bacteria that are programmed to kill off specific cancers.

Researchers wake up viruses inside tumors to image and then destroy cancers:
Researchers have found a way to activate Epstein-Barr viruses inside tumors as a way to identify patients whose infection can then be manipulated to destroy their tumors. They say this strategy could offer a novel way of treating many cancers associated with Epstein-Barr, including at least four different types of lymphoma and nasopharyngeal and gastric cancers.

Scientists expand microbe 'gene language':
An international group of scientists has expanded the universal language for the genes of both disease-causing and beneficial microbes and their hosts. This expanded "lingua franca," called the Gene Ontology (GO), gives researchers a common set of terms to describe the interactions between a microbe and its host.

Sweat may pass on hepatitis B in contact sports:
Sweat may be another way to pass on hepatitis B infection during contact sports, suggests research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver and can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death.

Mysteries of the Atlantic:
Cardiff University scientists will shortly set sail (March 5) to investigate a startling discovery in the depths of the Atlantic.Scientists have discovered a large area thousands of square kilometers in extent in the middle of the Atlantic where the Earth's crust appears to be missing. Instead, the mantle -- the deep interior of the Earth, normally covered by crust many kilometers thick -- is exposed on the seafloor, 3000m below the surface.

Software patch makes car more fuel-efficient:
A car wastes energy almost continuously. Accelerating a little less or a little bit more than the optimal performance can cause considerable loss of energy. John Kessels has designed a way to save energy by enabling the car to achieve optimal engine performance more frequently. With a relatively small modification it is possible to reduce fuel consumption by 2.6 percent. Kessels obtained his doctorate from the Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e) on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2007.

New insight into brain disorders:
The function of an enzyme in the brain -- strongly linked to a number of major brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder -- has been identified for the first time by researchers at the University of Bristol, UK.

Revealing the machinery underlying the 'plastic' juvenile brain:
Among the central mysteries of neurobiology is what properties of the young brain enable it to so adeptly wire itself to adapt to experience -- a quality known as plasticity. The extraordinary plasticity of the young brain occurs only during a narrow window of time known as the critical period. For example, children deprived of normal visual stimulation during an early critical period of the first few years of life suffer the permanent visual impairment of amblyopia.

Deconstructing brain wiring, one neuron at a time:
Researchers have long said they won't be able to understand the brain until they can put together a "wiring diagram" -- a map of how billions of neurons are interconnected. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have jumped what many believe to be a major hurdle to preparing that chart: Identifying all of the connections to a single neuron.

Fast and slow -- How the spinal cord controls the speed of movement:
Using a state-of-the-art technique to map neurons in the spinal cord of a larval zebrafish, Cornell University scientists have found a surprising pattern of activity that regulates the speed of the fish's movement. The research may have long-term implications for treating injured human spinal cords and Parkinson's disease, where movements slow down and become erratic.

Manchester physicists pioneer new super-thin technology:
Researchers have used the world's thinnest material to create a new type of technology, which could be used to make super-fast electronic components and speed up the development of drugs.

A hidden twist in the black hole information paradox:
Professor Sam Braunstein, of the University of York's Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Arun Pati, of the Institute of Physics, Sainik School, Bhubaneswar, India, have established that quantum information cannot be "hidden" in conventional ways, or in Braunstein's words, "quantum information can run but it can't hide."

UC Davis researchers discover key to body's ability to detect subtle temperature changes:
Scientists have long known the molecular mechanisms behind most of the body's sensing capabilities. Vision, for example, is made possible in part by rhodopsin, a pigment molecule that is extremely sensitive to light. It is involved in turning photons into electrical signals that can be decoded by the brain into visual information. But how the human body is able to sense a one-degree change in temperature has remained a mystery.

How do marine turtles return to the same beach to lay their eggs?:
French scientists from CNRS and other groups shows that the marine turtles use a relatively simple navigation system involving the earth's magnetic field, and this allows them to return to the same egg-laying site without having the ability to correct for the deflection of ocean currents. Published in the Current Biology and Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Early Europeans unable to stomach milk:
The first direct evidence that early Europeans were unable to digest milk has been found by scientists at UCL (University College London) and Mainz University.

New insights into high-temperature superconductors:
Scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory in collaboration with a physicist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have discovered that two different physical parameters -- pressure and the substitution of different isotopes of oxygen -- have a similar effect on electronic properties of mysterious materials called high-temperature superconductors. The results also suggest that vibrations (called phonons), within the lattice structure of these materials, are essential to their superconductivity by binding electrons in pairs.

Opening windows may be the best way of preventing transmission of airborne infection:
Opening windows may be the best way of preventing transmission of airborne infection. A study of eight hospitals in Peru has shown that opening windows and doors provided ventilation more than double that of mechanically ventilated negative-pressure rooms and 18 times that of rooms with windows and doors closed.

Genes and genius: Researchers confirm association between gene and intelligence:
A team of scientists, led by psychiatric geneticists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has gathered the most extensive evidence to date that a gene that activates signaling pathways in the brain influences one kind of intelligence. They have confirmed a link between the gene, CHRM2, and performance IQ.

New UD technology removes viruses from drinking water:
University of Delaware researchers have developed an inexpensive, nonchlorine-based technology that can remove harmful microorganisms, including viruses, from drinking water.UD's patented technology, developed jointly by researchers in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, incorporates highly reactive iron in the filtering process to deliver a chemical "knock-out punch" to a host of notorious pathogens, from E. coli to rotavirus.

Physicists reveal water's secrets in journal 'Science':
Equipped with high-speed computers and the laws of physics, scientists from the University of Delaware and Radboud University in the Netherlands have developed a new method to "flush out" the hidden properties of water. The research is reported in Science. Their first-principle simulation of water molecules -- based exclusively on quantum physics laws -- has numerous applications, from biological investigations of protein folding and other life processes, to the design of the next generation of power plants.

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March 13, 2007 at 9:17 AM  

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