Sunday, July 08, 2007

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

What happened before the Big Bang?:
New discoveries about another universe whose collapse appears to have given birth to the one we have today are in a research paper to be published on July 1, 2007. The paper introduces a new mathematical model that gives new details about the beginning of our universe, which now appears to have been a Big Bounce, according to a new theory of quantum gravity, and not a Big Bang, as described by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

Oldest DNA ever recovered suggests earth was warmer than previously believed:
A team of international researchers has collected the oldest ever recovered DNA samples and used them to show that Greenland was much warmer at some point during the last Ice Age than most people have believed.

A simple magnet can control the color of a liquid, making new technologies possible:
University of California, Riverside, nanotechnologists have succeeded in controlling the color of very small particles of iron oxide suspended in water simply by applying an external magnetic field to the solution. The discovery has potential to greatly improve the quality and size of electronic display screens, and to enable the manufacture of products such as erasable and rewritable electronic paper and ink that can change color electromagnetically.

Chickens also orient themselves by the Earth's magnetic field:
Until recently, people believed that the ability to orient themselves by the Earth's magnetic field was restricted to migratory birds. Now ornithologists at Frankfurt University have discovered that domestic chickens also have a built-in compass. It is clear that a magnetic sense of direction developed at an early stage of evolution. The Earth's magnetic field was presumably used by the ancestors of today's birds as an aid to finding their way about their environment.

Biomedical engineers use electric pulses to destroy cancer cells:
A team of biomedical engineers at Virginia Tech and the University of California at Berkeley has developed a new minimally invasive method of treating cancer, and they anticipate clinical trials on individuals with prostate cancer will begin soon.

Engineered blood vessels function like native tissue:
Blood vessels that have been tissue-engineered from bone marrow adult stem cells may in the future serve as a patient's own source of new blood vessels following a coronary bypass or other procedures that require vessel replacement, according to new research from the University at Buffalo Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Fat kills cancer:
Researchers in Slovakia have been able to derive mesenchymal stem cells from human adipose, or fat, tissue and engineer them into "suicide genes" that seek out and destroy tumors like tiny homing missiles. This gene therapy approach is a novel way to attack small tumor metastases that evade current detection techniques and treatments, the researchers conclude in the July 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Tough tubes -- Carbon nanotubes endure heavy wear and tear:
The ability of carbon nanotubes to withstand repeated stress yet retain their structural and mechanical integrity is similar to the behavior of soft tissue, according to a new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.When paired with the strong electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes, this ability to endure wear and tear, or fatigue, suggests the materials could be used to create structures that mimic artificial muscles or interesting electro-mechanical systems, researchers said.

Translating form into function:
In the last 40 years, scientists have perfected ways to determine the knot-like structure of enzymes, but they've been stumped trying to translate the structure into an understanding of function -- what the enzyme actually does in the body. This puzzle has hurt drug discovery, since many of the most successful drugs work by blocking enzyme action. Now, in an expedited article in Nature, researchers show that a solution to the puzzle is finally in sight.



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