Sunday, July 22, 2007

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

The future of biofuels is not in corn:
"The Rush to Ethanol" -- a new and comprehensive analysis by Food & Water Watch, the Network for New Energy Choices and the Vermont Law School Environmental Law Center -- concludes that biofuels, and corn-ethanol especially, are being dangerously oversold. By distinguishing snake-oil solutions from scientifically sound claims, the report hopes to better inform the national debate on bio-fuels.

UD scientists invent novel hydrogels for repairing, regenerating human tissue:
University of Delaware scientists have invented a novel biomaterial with surprising antibacterial properties, that can be injected as a low-viscosity gel into a wound where it rigidifies nearly on contact--opening the door to the possibility of delivering a targeted payload of cells and antibiotics to repair the damaged tissue.

'Preconditioning' helps protect brain's blood vessels from stroke:
Challenging brain tissue with a small noxious stimulus beforehand gives it a resilience that can lessen damage to blood vessels during a stroke, report researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Protein pulling -- Learning how proteins fold by pulling them apart:
Rice University physicists have unveiled an innovative way to learn how proteins get their shape based on how they unfold when pulled apart. The experimental method could be of widespread use in the field of protein folding science. The research is slated to appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters. It includes a new method scientists can use to map out exactly how much free energy is required throughout the folding process.

Scientists a step closer to understanding how anaesthetics work in the brain:
An important clue to how anaesthetics work on the human body has been provided by the discovery of a molecular feature common to both the human brain and the great pond snail nervous system, scientists say today. Researchers hope that the discovery of what makes a particular protein in the brain sensitive to anaesthetics could lead to the development of new anaesthetics with fewer side effects.

Measuring the unseeable: Penn researchers probe proteins' dark energy:
Penn investigators are the first to observe and measure the internal motion inside proteins, revealing how this affects their function. This overturns the standard view of protein structure-function relationships and suggests why rational drug design has been so difficult.

Exercise, exercise, rest, repeat -- How a break can help your workout:
Taking a break in the middle of your workout may metabolize more fat than exercising without stopping, according to a recent study in Japan. Researchers conducted the first known study to compare these two exercise methods -- exercising continually in one long bout versus breaking up the same workout with a rest period.

Species detectives track unseen evolution:
New species are evading detection using a foolproof disguise -- their own unchanged appearance. Research published in the online open access journal, BMC Evolutionary Biology, suggests that the phenomenon of different animal species not being visually distinct despite other significant genetic differences is widespread in the animal kingdom. DNA profiles and distinct mating groups are the only way to spot an evolutionary splinter group from their look-alike cousins, introducing uncertainty to biodiversity estimates globally.

New mechanism found for memory storage in brain:
Our experiences -- the things we see, hear, or do -- can trigger long-term changes in the strength of the connections between nerve cells in our brain, and these persistent changes are how the brain encodes information as memory. As reported in Neuron this week, Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a new biochemical mechanism for memory storage, one that may have a connection with addictive behavior.

Ability to listen to 2 things at once is largely inherited, says twin study:
Your ability to listen to two things at once is an important communication skill that's heavily influenced by your genes. The finding may help researchers better understand a broad and complex group of disorders called auditory processing disorders.

Universal flu vaccine being tested on humans:
A universal influenza vaccine that has been pioneered by researchers from VIB and Ghent University is being tested for the first time on humans by the British-American biotech company Acambis. This vaccine is intended to provide protection against all "A" strains of the virus that causes human influenza, including pandemic strains.

Disease-free mosquito bred to disease-carrier can have all disease-free progeny:
Researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of California Irvine have demonstrated the ability to express a foreign gene exclusively in the female mosquito germline, a necessary prerequisite to future genetic control strategies in mosquitoes where all progeny of lab and wild mosquitoes will have the gene that blocks virus replication -- or whatever trait has been introduced into the lab mosquitoes.

University of Pennsylvania engineers discover natural 'workbench' for nanoscale construction:
Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania have taken a step toward simplifying the creation of nanostructures by identifying the first inorganic material to phase separate with near-perfect order at the nanometer scale. The finding provides an atomically tuneable nanocomposite "workbench" that is cheap and easy to produce and provides a super-lattice foundation potentially suitable for building nanostructures.

UCLA researchers show that culture influences brain cells:
The brain's mirror neuron network responds differently depending on whether we are looking at someone who shares our culture, or someone who doesn't.

Penn researchers identify new combination therapy that promotes cancer cell death:
To test the ability of combined therapy, researchers administered TRAIL, a tumor necrosis factor, and sorafenib, an inhibitor currently used to treat renal cancer, to mice with colon carcinomas. It reduced the size of tumors in mice with few side effects

Bird sized airplane to fly like a swift:
Nine Dutch Aerospace Engineering students at the Delft University of Technology, together with the Department of Experimental Zoology of Wageningen University, designed the RoboSwift. RoboSwift is a micro airplane fitted with shape shifting wings, inspired by the common swift, one of nature's most efficient flyers. The micro airplane will have unprecedented wing characteristics; the wing geometry as well as the wing surface area can be adjusted continuously. This makes RoboSwift more maneuverable and efficient.



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