Sunday, April 20, 2008

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

Unconscious decisions in the brain
A team of scientists has unraveled how the brain unconsciously prepares our decisions.

Researchers mimic bacteria to produce magnetic nanoparticles
Ames Lab researchers are mimicking bacteria to produce high quality magnetic nanoparticles at room temperature. The technique uses proteins derived from the bacteria to affix iron and other metals which form into nanoparticles in the presence of self-assembling polymers.

Gene therapy reduces cocaine use in rats
Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown that increasing the brain level of receptors for dopamine, a pleasure-related chemical, can reduce use of cocaine by 75 percent in rats trained to self-administer it. Earlier research by this team had similar findings for alcohol intake. Treatments that increase levels of these chemicals -- dopamine D2 receptors -- may prove useful in treating addiction.

World's oldest living tree discovered in Sweden
The world's oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. The spruce tree has shown to be a tenacious survivor that has endured by growing between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate changes over time.

Intelligence and rhythmic accuracy go hand in hand
People who score high on intelligence tests are also good at keeping time, new Swedish research shows. The team that carried out the study also suspect that accuracy in timing is important to the brain processes responsible for problem solving and reasoning.

Saliva can help diagnose heart attack, study shows
Early diagnosis of a heart attack may now be possible using only a few drops of saliva and a new nanobio-chip, a multi-institutional team led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin reported at a recent meeting of the American Association for Dental Research.

Are sacrificial bacteria altruistic or just unlucky?
An investigation of processes accompanying spore formation in the bacteria B. subtilis shows that chance plays a significant role in determining which of the microbes sacrifice themselves for the colony and which go on to form spores. The results, which appear this week in Molecular Systems Biology, highlight the degree to which individual bacteria can deviate from population-wide norms.

Self seeding: An innovative management system
Winter cover crops provide important ecological functions, but their use in agronomic farming systems remains low. Scientists investigated the potential for winter cereal cover crops to perpetuate themselves through self-seeding, thereby eliminating the cost of planting a cover crop each fall and time constraints between cash crop harvest and the onset of winter. The study found plant establishment through self-seeding was generally accomplished within one week after soybean harvest.

Researchers create the first thermal nanomotor in the world
Researchers from the UAB Research Park have created the first nanomotor that is propelled by changes in temperature. A carbon nanotube is capable of transporting cargo and rotating like a conventional motor, but is a million times smaller than the head of a needle. This research opens the door to the creation of new nanometric devices designed to carry out mechanical tasks and which could be applied to the fields of biomedicine or new materials.

Health risks, benefits come with delayed umbilical cord clamping
Waiting just a few minutes to clamp the umbilical cord after a baby is born could boost iron stores in the newborn's blood, but delayed cord clamping comes with an increased risk of jaundice, according to a new review of studies.

A potential sugar fix for tumors
Researchers at the Duke School of Medicine apparently have solved the riddle of why cancer cells like sugar so much, and it may be a mechanism that could lead to better cancer treatments.

Insects evolved radically different strategy to smell
Researchers at Rockefeller University and the University of Tokyo have joined forces to reveal that insects have adopted a strategy to detect odors that is radically different from those of other organisms -- an unexpected and controversial finding that may dissolve a dominant ideology in the field.

Tiny magnets offer breakthrough in gene therapy for cancer
A revolutionary cancer treatment using microscopic magnets to enable 'armed' human cells to target tumours has been developed by researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Research published online today in the journal, Gene Therapy, shows that inserting these nanomagnets into cells carrying genes to fight tumors, results in many more cells successfully reaching and invading malignant tumors.


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