Sunday, June 24, 2007

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

Nanotube adhesive sticks better than a gecko's foot:
Mimicking the agile gecko, with its uncanny ability to run up walls and across ceilings, has long been a goal of materials scientists. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Akron have taken one sticky step in the right direction, creating synthetic "gecko tape" with four times the sticking power of the real thing.

The smallest piece of ice reveals its true nature:
Collaborative research between scientists in the UK and Germany (published in this week's Nature Materials) has led to a breakthrough in the understanding of the formation of ice. Dr. Angelos Michaelides of the London Center for Nanotechnology (formerly of the Fritz-Haber Institut der Max-Planck Gesellschaft in Berlin) and Professor Karina Morgenstern of the Leibniz University Hannover have combined experimental observations with theoretical modelling to reveal with unprecedented resolution the structures of the smallest pieces of ice that form on hydrophobic metal surfaces.

Weill Cornell team identifies potential new cancer drug target:
Research led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College has uncovered two new potential points of vulnerability on a key cancer-promoting protein, called XIAP. Drugs that target either of these activities could help push cancer cells back into a more regular programmed cell death and thereby reduce or eliminate tumors.

Mathematics reveals genetic pattern of tumor growth:
Using mathematical theory, UC Irvine scientists have shed light on one of cancer's most troubling puzzles -- how cancer cells can alter their own genetic makeup to accelerate tumor growth. The discovery shows for the first time why this change occurs, providing insight into how cancerous tumors thrive and a potential foundation for future cancer treatments.

Catching waves: Measuring self-assembly in action:
By making careful observations of the growth of a layer of molecules as they gradually cover the surface of a small silicon rectangle, researchers from NIST and North Carolina State University have produced the first experimental verification of recently improved theoretical models of self-assembled systems.

Helping chlorine-eating bacteria clean up toxic waste:
By combining lab experiments with computer modeling, Cornell researchers hope to learn how bacteria that break down pollutants do their job and then make them more effective in cleaning up toxic waste.

Surprising origin of cell's internal highways:
Scientists have long thought that microtubules, part of the microscopic scaffolding that the cell uses to move things around in order to hold its shape and divide, originated from a tiny structure near the nucleus, called the centrosome. Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers now report a surprising new origin for these cellular "highways" -- the Golgi apparatus.

Another step toward a liquid telescope on the moon:
An international team including researcher Ermanno Borra, from Université Laval's Center for Optics, Photonics, and Laser, has taken another step toward building a liquid telescope on the moon. The researchers have found a combination of materials that allows the creation of a highly reflective liquid mirror capable of functioning even under harsh lunar conditions. The details of the discovery made by Borra and his colleagues will be published in the June 21 edition of Nature.

Researchers discover 'acquired' DNA key to certain bacterial infection:
Researchers announced this week the discovery of a mechanism by which Mycobacterium avium -- a bacterium which can result in serious lung infections and is prevalent in emphysema and AIDS patients among others -- infects tissue cells or "macrophages" and thus compromises the body's immunity.

Mutating the entire genome:
Genes account for only 2.5 percent of DNA in the human genetic blueprint, yet diseases can result not only from mutant genes, but from mutations of other DNA that controls genes. University of Utah researchers report in the journal Nature Genetics that they have developed a faster, less expensive technique for mutating those large, nongene stretches of DNA.



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