Sunday, January 20, 2008

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

Scientists discover new method of observing interactions in nanoscale systemsScientists have used new optical technologies to observe interactions in nanoscale systems that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle usually would prohibit, according to a study published Jan. 17 in the journal Nature. (Related: A laser that sees through solid objects)

U of M researchers create beating heart in laboratory
University of Minnesota researchers have created a beating heart in the laboratory. By using a process called whole organ decellularization, scientists from the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair grew functioning heart tissue by taking dead rat and pig hearts and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The research will be published online in the Jan. 13 issue of Nature Medicine.

Evolution of human genome's 'guardian' gives people unique protections from DNA damage
Evolution has given humans unique protections through the p53 regulatory network -- so-called guardian of the genome -- against DNA damage that could cause cancer or genetic diseases, according to a study led by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the Jan. 22 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rodents do not have these same protections, creating the need for additional considerations when interpreting studies in rodent models.

ESF's workshop restores good name of sugar
Sugars were once credited with magical healing powers but are now seen like salt as an evil necessary in small doses but the cause of numerous diseases such as diabetes if taken in excess. Yet latest research suggests this view ignores the vital role played by more complex sugars in many biological structures, and the great therapeutic potential they have.

Paired microbes eliminate methane using sulfur pathway
Anaerobic microbes in the Earth's oceans consume 90 percent of the methane produced by methane hydrates -- methane trapped in ice -- preventing large amounts of methane from reaching the atmosphere. Researchers now have evidence that the two microbes that accomplish this feat do not simply reverse the way methane-producing microbes work, but use a sulfur compound instead.

Materials' crystal properties illuminated by mathematical 'lighthouse'
A deeper fundamental understanding of complex materials may now be possible, thanks to a pair of Princeton scientists who have uncovered a new insight into how crystals form. The researchers' findings reveal a previously unknown mathematical relationship between the different arrangements that interacting particles can take while freezing. The discovery could give scientists insight into the essential behaviors of materials such as polymers, which are the basis of plastics.

New gene test for prostate cancer at hand
Men with susceptibility for prostate cancer will soon be identifiable through a simple DNA test. So hope scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet, who have shown that men carrying a combination of known risk genes run a four to five times higher risk of developing prostate cancer. At present, men with suspected prostate cancer are identified mainly using what are known as PSA tests. However, the test has a relatively low sensitivity and better methods are needed.

Weill Cornell team discovers how brain's own tPA helps regulate blood flow to neurons
The human brain contains its own store of a powerful enzyme (and stroke drug) called tissue plasminogen activator, which appears to be a key regulator of blood flow to brain cells, a team at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City reports.

Discovery cuts cost of next generation optical fibers
Scientists have discovered a way of speeding up the production of hollow-core optical fibers -- a new generation of optical fibers that could lead to faster and more powerful computing and telecommunications technologies.

A tricky tumor virus
Viruses use many tricks to gain control over their host cells and to reprogram them to their own advantage. Dr. Arnd Kieser and his colleagues of the Department of Gene Vectors of the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Germany, were able to show in a recent publication in PLoS Biology by which mechanism Epstein-Barr virus exploits a signal protein of its host cell, which normally mediates programmed cell death, in order to convert the cell into a cancer cell.

Newly discovered virus linked to deadly skin cancer
Painstaking screening of DNA sequencing data has revealed a previously unknown virus that appears to be strongly associated with a rare but deadly skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute report in this week's issue of the journal Science. In the paper, the researchers, who found the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma, also describe a nearly decade-long effort to harness the sequencing technology to identify Merkel cell polyomavirus.

Computer learns dogspeak
Computer programs may be the most accurate tool for studying acoustic communications amongst animals, according to Csaba Molnar from Eoetvoes Lorand University in Hungary and his research team. Their paper, published in Springer's journal Animal Cognition this week, shows that a new piece of software is able to classify dog barks according to different situations and even identify barks from individual dogs, a task humans find challenging.

Texas A&M carrot may help prevent osteoporsis
A specially developed carrot has been produced to help people absorbmore calcium.

Lend me your ears -- and the world will sound very different
BBSRC scientists have found that the part of the brain that deals with sound, the auditory cortex, is adapted in each individual and tuned to the world around us. We learn throughout our lives how to localize and identify different sounds. It means that if you could hear the world through someone else's ears it would sound very different to what you are used to.

UCLA researchers find cell protein that literally nips HIV in the bud
UCLA researchers have found that a key protein in the body's dendritic cells can stop the virus that causes AIDS from "budding" -- part of the virus' life cycle that is crucial to its ability to replicate and infect other cells.


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