Sunday, September 07, 2008

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

Invisibility undone
Harry Potter beware! A team of Chinese scientists has developed a way to unmask your invisibility cloak. According to a new paper in the latest issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society's open-access journal, certain materials underneath an invisibility cloak would allow invisible objects be seen again.

Height linked to risk of prostate cancer development and progression
A man's height is a modest marker for risk of prostate cancer development, but is more strongly linked to progression of the cancer, say British researchers who conducted their own study on the connection and also reviewed 58 published studies.

Too much calcium in blood may increase risk of fatal prostate cancer
Men who have too much calcium in their bloodstreams may have an increased risk of fatal prostate cancer, according to a new analysis from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the University of Wisconsin.

Next stop: The fourth dimension
How did the universe come to be? What is it made of? What is mass? Can science prove that there are other dimensions?

We may have answers soon. On September 10, 2008, Tel Aviv University's Prof. Erez Etzion from the School of Physics and Astronomy will be in the control room of the new CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the border of France and Switzerland when the LHC is first turned on. Scientists are calling it the largest experiment in the world. It's taken about 6,000 researchers, $8 billion and ten years to build.

Cardiac cell transplant studies show promise in cardiac tissue repair
Two studies involving cardiac cell transplantation have shown an evolving role for bone marrow cells in cardiac cell therapy. The implantation of heart muscle cells and subsequent restoration of cardiac function was enhanced when bone marrow cells were implanted along with the cardiomyocytes. Researchers also found that mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow provided an advantage over fetal amniotic fluid derived cells when differentiating into appropriate cells for cardiac cell transplantation and repair.

Hearing restoration may be possible with cochlear repair after transplant of human cord blood cells
Hearing loss due to cochlear damage may be repaired by transplanting human umbilical cord hematopoietic stem cells. This study, using animal models of chemical and auditory cochlear damage, found that when transplanted stem cells migrated to the damaged area, "surprisingly few" transplanted cells were necessary to help repair sensory hair cells and neurons. Researchers say transplanting umbilical cord stem cells provides hope for the repair of human hearing impairments rising from cochlear damage.

MIT probe could aid quantum computing
MIT researchers may have found a way to overcome a key barrier to the advent of super-fast quantum computers, which could be powerful tools for applications such as code breaking.

Structure of key epigenetics component identified
Scientists from the Structural Genomics Consortium have determined the 3-D structure of a key protein component involved in enabling "epigenetic code" to be copied accurately from cell to cell. The research not only represents an advance for the epigenetics field, but also an advance for how the science was done.

New nano device detects immune system cell signaling
Scientists have detected previously unnoticed chemical signals that individual cells in the immune system use to communicate with each other over short distances. The signals the researchers detected originated in dendritic cells -- the sentinels of the immune system that do the initial detection of microscopic invaders -- and was received by nearby T-cells, which play a number of crucial roles in the immune system, including coordination of attacks on agents that cause disease or infection.

Scientists develop new method to investigate origin of life
Scientists have developed a new computational method that they say will help them to understand how life began on Earth. The method has the potential to trace the evolutionary histories of proteins all the way back to either cells or viruses, thus settling the debate once and for all over which of these life forms came first.

Virus weaves itself into the DNA transferred from parents to babies
New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that some parents pass on the human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) to their children because it is integrated into their chromosomes. This is the first time a virus has been shown to become part of the human DNA and then get passed to subsequent generations.

Neuroscientist scans brain for clues on best time to multitask
In today's fast-paced world, multitasking has become an increasingly necessary part of our daily routine. Unfortunately, multitasking also is notoriously inefficient. However, a new brain imaging study led by a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of New Hampshire finds that there are optimal times when we are better suited to multitask.

Stanford's 'autonomous' helicopters teach themselves to fly
Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters. The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own. The airshow is an important demonstration of "apprenticeship learning," in which robots learn by observing an expert, rather than by having software engineers write instructions from scratch.

Energy-saving bacteria resist antibiotics
Bacteria save energy by producing proteins that moonlight, having different roles at different times, which may also protect the microbes from being killed. The moonlighting activity of one enzyme from the tuberculosis bacterium makes it partially resistant to a family of broad-spectrum antibiotics, according to a paper published in the September issue of the journal Microbiology.

Zen training speeds the mind's return after distraction, brain scans reveal
After being interrupted by a word-recognition task, experienced meditators' brains returned faster to their pre-interruption condition. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine changes in blood flow in the brain when people meditating were interrupted by stimuli designed to mimic the appearance of spontaneous thoughts.

Scientists grow 'nanonets' able to snare added energy transfer
(Boston College) Adding to the growing list of novel nanoscale structures, Boston College researchers report engineering nanonets, flexible webs of tiny wires that improve the performance of their materials, which are used in microelectronics and clean energy research.

Graphene pioneers follow in Nobel footsteps
(University of Manchester) Two physicists from the University of Manchester who discovered the world's thinnest material have scooped a major award for their work.



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