Sunday, November 11, 2007

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

Micro microwave does pinpoint cooking for miniaturized labs
Researchers at NIST and George Mason University have demonstrated what is probably the world's smallest microwave oven, a tiny mechanism that can heat a pinhead-sized drop of liquid inside a container slightly shorter than an ant and half as wide as a single hair.

MU research team makes progress toward 'printing' organs
For the past four years, Gabor Forgacs, the George H. Vineyard Professor of Physics in the MU College of Arts and Science, has been working to refine the process of "printing" tissue structures of complex shape with the aim of eventually building human organs. In the latest study, a research team led by Forgacs determined that the process of building such structures by printing does not harm the properties of the composing cells.

Hemoglobin uncovered
Researchers at the BSC and the IRB Barcelona unveil crucial information about the protein transporter of oxygen, which opens up the possibility to optimize its function by introducing modifications. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New research to help fight widespread potato disease
Scientists have made a key discovery into the genetics of the bacteria that causes blackleg, an economically-damaging disease of potatoes, that could lead to new ways to fight the disease. The researchers at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, found that if a particular gene is inactivated in the bacterium Erwinia carotovora, its ability to damage the plant and cause disease is severely impeded.

Energy from hot rocks
Two UC-Davis geologists are taking part in the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, an international effort to learn more about the potential of geothermal energy, or extracting heat from rocks.

Scientists complete DNA sequencing and analysis of multiple fruit fly genomes
In one of the first large-scale comparisons of multiple animal genomes, scientists have analyzed the genomes of 12 species of the fruit fly Drosophila, 10 of which were sequenced for the first time, to reveal insights on the evolution of genes and genomes and to discern the functional elements encoded in animal DNA.

University of Iowa team discovers first moisture-sensing genes
Researchers in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine have discovered the first two genes involved in moisture sensing (hygrosensation). The discovery also reveals a 'two-sensor' hygrosensing system in fruit flies that may allow the flies to detect subtle changes in humidity -- an ability that is critical for the flies' survival.

Scientists complete genome sequence of fungus responsible for dandruff, skin disorders
Scientists from P&G Beauty announced that they successfully sequenced the complete genome for Malassezia globosa, a naturally-occurring fungus responsible for the onset of dandruff and other skin conditions in humans. Results of the genome sequencing are published in today's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unlocking the function of enzymes
Fitting a key into a lock may seem like a simple task, but researchers at Texas A&M University are using a method that involves testing thousands of keys to unlock the functions of enzymes, and their findings could open the door for new targets for drug designs.

Rutgers scientist's research reveals critical knowledge about the nervous system
Uncover the neural communication links involved in myelination, the process of protecting a nerve's axon, and it may become possible to reverse the breakdown of the nervous system's electrical transmissions in such disorders as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and diabetes. With $697,065 in grants from the NJ Commissions on Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Injury Research, Haesun Kim, biology professor at Rutgers, is working on gaining a better understanding of those links.

Physicists see similarities in stream of sand grains, exotic plasma at birth of universe
Streams of granular particles bouncing off a target in a simple tabletop experiment produce liquid-like behavior also witnessed in a massive research apparatus that simulates the birth of the universe. A team led by the University of Chicago's Sidney Nagel and Heinrich Jaeger report this surprising finding in the Oct. 27-Nov. 2 issue of Physical Review Letters.

Key to false memories uncovered
Duke University Medical Center neuroscientists say the places a memory is processed in the brain may determine how someone can be absolutely certain of a past event that never occurred.

Epilepsy genes may cancel each other
Inheriting two genetic mutations that can individually cause epilepsy might actually be 'seizure-protective,' said Baylor College of Medicine researchers in a report that appears online today in the journal Nature Neuroscience. "In the genetics of the brain, two wrongs can make a right," said Dr. Jeffrey L. Noebels, professor of neurology, neuroscience and molecular and human genetics at BCM. "We believe these findings have great significance to clinicians as we move toward relying upon genes to predict neurological disease."

Gesturing helps grade-schoolers solve math problems
Are math problems bugging your kids? Tell them to talk back -- using their hands. Psychologists at the University of Chicago report that gesturing can help kids add new and correct problem-solving strategies to their mathematical repertoires. What's more, when given later instruction, kids who are told to gesture are more likely to succeed on math problems. A report on these findings appears in the November issue of JEP: General, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Curry-derived molecules might be too spicy for colorectal cancers
Curcumin, the yellowish component of turmeric that gives curry its flavor, has long been noted for its potential anti-cancer properties. Researchers from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, report on an apparent improvement upon nature: two molecular analogues of curcumin that demonstrate even greater tumor suppressive properties. The team presented their findings from the first test of these molecules in a mouse model of colorectal cancer today at the American Association for Cancer Research Centennial Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine.



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