Sunday, July 29, 2007

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

New algorithm matches any tumor cells to best possible anti-cancer treatments:
An algorithm that could help rapidly sort molecular information about a cancer patient's particular tumor and could help match this information to the right drug treatment would be a breakthrough of enormous value. Two University of Virginia researchers have pioneered just such a system. Using a panel of 60 diverse, human cancer cell lines from the National Cancer Institute (NCI-60), the researchers devised and tested an algorithm designed to match the best potential treatment(s) for a particular tumor in a particular patient.

MIT researchers work toward spark-free, fuel-efficient engines:
In an advance that could help curb global demand for oil, MIT researchers have demonstrated how ordinary spark-ignition automobile engines can, under certain driving conditions, move into a spark-free operating mode that is more fuel-efficient and just as clean.

A new brake on cellular energy production discovered:
A condition that has to be met for the body to be able to keep warm, move and even survive is that the mitochondria - the cells' power stations - release the right amounts of energy. Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now identified the first known factor that acts as a brake on cellular energy production.

Two bacteria better than one in cellulose-fed fuel cell:
No currently known bacteria that allow termites and cows to digest cellulose, can power a microbial fuel cell and those bacteria that can produce electrical current cannot eat cellulose. But careful pairing of bacteria can create a fuel cell that consumes cellulose and produces electricity, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

New protein synthesis not essential to memory formation:
New research from the University of Illinois challenges the premise that the brain must build new proteins in response to an experience for that experience to be recorded in long-term memory.The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could alter basic assumptions about the role of protein synthesis in memory formation.

Brain implant being studied at Jefferson could predict and stop epilepsy seizures:
An implanted stimulator being studied at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, may be able to predict and prevent seizures before they start in people with uncontrolled epilepsy. Researchers at the Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, are enrolling patients in a study of the Responsive Neurostimulator System made by Neuropace, to determine if it is effective in stemming seizures. The system contains a computer chip that detects seizures and then delivers electric current to the brain to stop them.

Hand gestures dramatically improve learning:
Kids asked to physically gesture at math problems are nearly three times more likely than nongesturers to remember what they've learned. In today's issue of the journal Cognition, a University of Rochester scientist suggests it's possible to help children learn difficult concepts by providing gestures as an additional and potent avenue for taking in information.

Scratch no more: Gene for itch sensation discovered:
Itching for a better anti-itch remedy? Your wish may soon be granted now that scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified the first gene for the itch sensation in the central nervous system. The discovery could rapidly lead to new treatments directly targeting itchiness and providing relief for chronic and severe itching.

Scientists discover new way to study nanostructures:
Physicists at Georgia Tech have discovered a phenomenon which allows measurement of the mechanical motion of nanostructures by using the AC Josephson effect. The findings may be used to identify and characterize structural and mechanical properties of nanoparticles, including materials of biological interest.

Researchers produce firsts with bursts of light:
Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have generated extremely short pulses of light that are the strongest of their type ever produced and could prove invaluable in probing the ultra-fast motion of atoms and electrons. The scientists also made the first observations of a phenomenon called cross-phase modulation with this high-intensity light -- a characteristic that could be used in numerous new light source technologies.

Renewable energy wrecks environment:
Renewable does not mean green. That is the claim of Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller University in New York. Writing in Inderscience's International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, Ausubel explains that building enough wind farms, damming enough rivers, and growing enough biomass to meet global energy demands will wreck the environment.

Study sheds light on why humans walk on two legs:
Studying chimpanzees trained to use treadmills, a team of anthropologists have gathered new evidence suggesting that our earliest apelike ancestors started walking on two legs because it required less energy than getting around on all fours.

Fruit fly gene from 'out of nowhere' is discovered:
Scientists thought that most new genes were formed from existing genes, but Cornell researchers have discovered a gene in some fruit flies that appears to be unrelated to other genes in any known genome.

Staying out of jams:
What do sand, cereal, ice cubes, gravel, sugar, pills and powders have in common? They are members of an unruly family of substances that refuse to completely conform to the laws of behavior for either solids or liquids -- much to the consternation of theoretical physicists and manufacturers alike. Whether it's a huge grain silo, a coal hopper or a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, being able to predict the behavior of dense granular packings is key to keeping things from jamming up or collapsing.



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