Monday, June 30, 2008

Research news: Studies find link between Alzheimer's, Calcium

The News:
Studies Find Link Between Alzheimer's, Calcium
by Jonathan Hamilton
All Things Considered, June 25, 2008 · Sticky clumps of protein called amyloid usually get the blame for causing Alzheimer's disease. But the real culprit may be calcium, according to a pair of studies published in the research journals Cell and Neuron.
"These two papers together will force everyone in the Alzheimer's field to put the calcium hypothesis much more on the map than it has been," says Kevin Foskett of the University of Pennsylvania, who is an author on both studies.
"This begins to suggest that calcium may be something we can't afford to ignore," says Sam Gandy, chairman of the national Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer's Association and an Alzheimer's researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
The new studies look at the connection between Alzheimer's and the way brain cells regulate the amount of calcium they contain.
In order to stay healthy, brain cells need to maintain just the right amount of calcium at any given moment. That depends on the cells responding to signals from elsewhere in the brain. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Cell.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Research news: Huge Genome-scale Phylogenetic Study Of Birds Rewrites Evolutionary Tree-of-life

The News:
Huge Genome-scale Phylogenetic Study Of Birds Rewrites Evolutionary Tree-of-life
ScienceDaily (June 27, 2008) — The largest ever study of bird genetics has not only shaken up but completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree. The study challenges current classifications, alters our understanding of avian evolution, and provides a valuable resource for phylogenetic and comparative studies in birds.
Birds are among the most studied and loved animals, and much of what we know about animal biology -- from natural history to ecology, speciation, reproduction, etc. -- is based on birds. Nevertheless, the avian tree-of-life has remained controversial and elusive -- until now.
For more than five years, the Early Bird Assembling the Tree-of-Life Research Project, centered at The Field Museum, has been examining DNA from all major living groups of birds. Thus far, scientists have built and analyzed a dataset of more than 32 kilobases of nuclear DNA sequences from 19 different locations on the DNA of each of 169 bird species. The results of this massive research, which is equivalent to a small genome project, will be published in Science on June 27, 2008.
"Our study and the remarkable new understanding of the evolutionary relationships of birds that it affords was possible only because of the technological advances of the last few years that have enabled us to sample larger portions of genomes," said Shannon Hackett, one of three lead authors and associate curator of birds at The Field Museum. "Our study yielded robust results and illustrates the power of collecting genome-scale data to reconstruct difficult evolutionary trees."
The results of the study are so broad that the scientific names of dozens of birds will have to be changed, and biology textbooks and birdwatchers' field guides will have to be revised. For example, we now know that: Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Science (click on full text under Article Views).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Research news: On the boil: New Nano Technique Significantly Boosts Boiling Efficiency

The News:
On The Boil: New Nano Technique Significantly Boosts Boiling Efficiency
ScienceDaily (June 27, 2008) — Whoever penned the old adage “a watched pot never boils” surely never tried to heat up water in a pot lined with copper nanorods.
A new study from researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that by adding an invisible layer of the nanomaterials to the bottom of a metal vessel, an order of magnitude less energy is required to bring water to boil. This increase in efficiency could have a big impact on cooling computer chips, improving heat transfer systems, and reducing costs for industrial boiling applications.
“Like so many other nanotechnology and nanomaterials breakthroughs, our discovery was completely unexpected,” said Nikhil A. Koratkar, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer, who led the project. “The increased boiling efficiency seems to be the result of an interesting interplay between the nanoscale and microscale surfaces of the treated metal. The potential applications for this discovery are vast and exciting, and we’re eager to continue our investigations into this phenomenon.” Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Small. (click on Full Text HTML or PDF)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Research news: Mars' face split by huge impact?

The News:
Mars' face split by huge impact?
By Alicia Chang The Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 06/26/2008 12:37:03 AM MDT
LOS ANGELES — Why is Mars two-faced? Scientists say fresh evidence supports the theory that a monster impact punched the red planet, leaving behind perhaps the largest gash on any heavenly body in the solar system.
Today, the martian surface has a split personality. The southern hemisphere of Mars is pockmarked and filled with ancient rugged highlands. By contrast, the northern hemisphere is smoother and covered by low-lying plains.
Three papers in today's journal Nature provide the most convincing evidence yet that an outside force was responsible.
According to the researchers, an asteroid or comet whacked a young Mars about 4 billion years ago, blasting away much of its northern crust and creating a giant hole over 40 percent of the surface. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Nature.

Planetary science: forming the martian great divide.

The Borealis basin and the origin of the martian crustal dichotomy

Mega-impact formation of the Mars hemispheric dichotomy

Implications of an impact origin for the martian hemispheric dichotomy

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Research news: Ailments of poverty plaguing some regions of United States

The News:
Ailments of poverty plaguing some regions of United States
By Donald G. McNeil Jr. The New York Times
Article Last Updated: 06/25/2008 01:17:09 AM MDT
Ailments of poverty, including some tropical diseases much more common in poor countries, are a burden in several regions of the United States, a new analysis finds.
The diseases affect thousands of the poor concentrated in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, the borderlands with Mexico, poor urban neighborhoods and tribal reservations, says the report, which appears this week in Neglected Tropical Diseases, a journal of the Public Library of Science.
Many are insidious and disabling; some may be transmitted at birth.
That they are not higher on the public health agenda "is a national disgrace," said the author, Dr. Peter J. Hotez, chairman of the tropical disease department at George Washington University.
The prevalent diseases include Chagas' disease, spread by blood-sucking insects; cysticercosis, spread by tapeworm eggs in dirty drinking water; and worm diseases often spread through soil near houses where pets have not been dewormed, or in urban playgrounds.
Other potentially dangerous infections include dengue fever, spread by mosquitoes; syphilis, which is spread by sexual contact and which may be transmitted to infants; and cytomegalovirus, which is dangerous to an infant if a mother acquires it in pregnancy.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Research news: Scholars set date for Odysseus' bloody homecoming

The News:
Scholars set date for Odysseus' bloody homecoming
Article Last Updated: 06/23/2008 06:10:19 PM MDT
WASHINGTON—Using clues from star and sun positions mentioned by the ancient Greek poet Homer, scholars think they have determined the date when King Odysseus returned from the Trojan War and slaughtered a group of suitors who had been pressing his wife to marry one of them.
It was on April 16, 1178 B.C. that the great warrior struck with arrows, swords and spears, killing those who sought to replace him, a pair of researchers say in Monday's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Experts have long debated whether the books of Homer reflect the actual history of the Trojan War and its aftermath.
Marcelo O. Magnasco of Rockefeller University in New York and Constantino Baikouzis of the Astronomical Observatory in La Plata, Argentina, acknowledge they had to make some assumptions to determine the date Odysseus returned to his kingdom of Ithaca.
But interpreting clues in Homer's "Odyssey" as references to the positions of stars and a total eclipse of the sun allowed them to determine when a particular set of conditions would have occurred.
"What we'd like to achieve is to get the reader to pick up the 'Odyssey' and read it again, and ponder," said Magnasco. "And to realize that our understanding of these texts is quite imperfect, and even when entire libraries have been written about Homeric studies, there is still room for further investigation." read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (click on Full Text pdf in right column)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Research News: Skin-cancer breakthrough?

The News:
Skin-cancer breakthrough?
An experimental treatment revved up one patient's immune system, but doctors are cautious about the result.
By Mike Stobbe
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — An Oregon man given less than a year to live had a complete remission of advanced deadly skin cancer after an experimental treatment that revved up his immune system to fight the tumors. The 52-year-old patient's dramatic turnaround was the only success in a small study, leading doctors to be cautious in their enthusiasm. However, the treatment reported in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine is being counted as the latest in a small series of successes involving immune-priming treatments against deadly skin cancers.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Research News: Web Tools Help to Reshape '08 Campaign Trail

The News:
Web Tools Help to Reshape '08 Campaign Trail
Online NewsHour
A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that a record-breaking 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet, e-mail or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaigns. Analysts examine how new Web-based tools are expanding the campaign trail.

More turning to Net to get fuller picture on politics
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 06/15/2008 11:22:22 PM MDT
NEW YORK — Americans dissatisfied with political sound bites are turning to the Internet for a more complete picture, a study finds.

The Research:
Read the research behind these stories from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Research News: The Science of Sleep

The News:
The Science of Sleep
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes explores the latest findings in sleep research

Human beings spend on average one third of our lives asleep. We know we need to sleep, but most of us have never really given a whole lot of thought to why. Why do we spend seven or eight hours a night immobile and unconscious? What really happens inside our brains and bodies while we're sleeping?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Research News: U.S. Mortality Drops Sharply in 2006

The News:
U.S. Mortality Drops Sharply in 2006
By David BrownThe Washington Post
Article Last Updated: 06/12/2008 01:19:52 AM MDT
WASHINGTON — Americans' life expectancy reached a record high of 78.1 years in 2006, with disparities among ethnic groups and between the sexes generally narrowing, according to government data released Wednesday. The death rates from most diseases went down, with influenza mortality falling steeply and AIDS mortality marking its 10th straight year of decline. Infant mortality in 2006 also fell from the previous year, continuing a trend stretching back nearly 50 years.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story at the National Center for Health Statistics.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Research News: Herb no help for ADHD

The News:
Herb no help for ADHD
Government-funded study tested St. John's Wort against placebo
By Carla K. Johnson The Associated Press
CHICAGO — Children and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder fared no better on St. John's wort than they did on dummy pills in a government study, another blow for herbal supplements. St. John's wort, pine bark extract and blue-green algae are among commonly used herbal treatments for children with ADHD. They appeal to parents who want to avoid stimulants such as Ritalin and other drugs used to help children control their behavior.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Research News: Patterns: A Video Game, an M.R.I. and What Men’s Brains Do

The News:
Patterns: A Video Game, an M.R.I. and What Men’s Brains Do
Published: February 19, 2008
Why does it often seem that men enjoy playing video games more than women? Perhaps because they do. A new study finds that when men play the games, a part of the brain involved in feelings of reward and addiction becomes much more activated than it does in women.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Research news: Children grows up healthier in enriched foster care

The News:
Children Grow Up Healthier in Enriched Foster Care
by Michelle Trudeau.
All Things Considered, June 6, 2008 · There are big, long-term health payoffs in mental and physical well-being when foster-care services to children are enhanced, a new study suggests.
Kids generally go into foster care as a last resort: when maltreatment or neglect at home is extreme and unremitting. Such abuse can have long-term consequences on the mental and physical health of children as they grow up.
A new study, published in the latest edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, looked at whether more enriched and supportive foster care can help mitigate some of the long-term problems foster kids face. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Research news: Mountains could have growth spurts

The News:
Mountains could have growth spurts
Posted 6:06 pm EDT
WASHINGTON, Jun. 5, 2008 (Reuters) — The Andes Mountains may have growth spurts, doubling their height in as little as 2 million to 4 million years, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.
Their findings suggest that current theories about plate tectonics -- the process that creates and moves continents, giving rise to mountain ranges -- may need updating.
Geologists had estimated that the mountain system, which extends the length of western South America, rose gradually over the past 40 million years.
Mountains that grow this fast might affect climate and evolution, said Carmala Garzione, an associate professor of geology at the University of Rochester in New York.
The 4,400-mile-(7,000-km)long range is tall and jagged in many parts, with its highest peak reaching 22,800 feet (6,900 meters) and an average height of 13,000 feet.
It was formed through plate tectonics, specifically the subduction of a large sheet of crust called the Nazca plate beneath the South American plate. This process, still ongoing, causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Writing in the journal Science, Garzione and colleagues said they had studied sediments to determine that the Andes rose slowly for tens of millions of years, then suddenly lifted much more quickly between 10 million and 6 million years ago. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Science.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Research news: Tiny ring around the callers: Study shows few venture far from home

The News:
Tiny ring around the callers: Study shows few venture far from home
By The Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 06/04/2008 09:15:48 PM MDT
WASHINGTON — Researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000 people outside the U.S. through their cellphone use and concluded that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.
The first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the United States.
It also yielded somewhat surprising results that reveal how little people move around in their daily lives. Nearly three- quarters of those studied mainly stayed within a 20-mile-diameter circle for half a year.
The scientists would not say where the study was done, describing the location only as an industrialized nation.
Researchers used cellphone towers to track individuals' locations whenever they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months. In a second set of records, researchers took 206 cellphones that had tracking devices and got their locations every two hours for a week.
The study was based on cellphone records from a private company, whose name also was not disclosed. Study co-author Cesar Hidalgo, a physics researcher at Northeastern, said he and his colleagues didn't know the individual phone numbers.
That type of nonconsensual tracking would be illegal in the United States, according to Rob Kenny, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission. Consensual tracking, however, is legal and even marketed as a special feature by some U.S. cellphone providers.
The study, published today in Nature, opens up the field of human-tracking for science and calls attention to what experts said is an emerging issue of locational privacy. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Nature.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Research news: For barn swallows, feathers make the man, says CU-Boulder study

The News:
For barn swallows, feathers make the man, says CU-Boulder study
New study has implications for the ecology and evolution of wildlife signaling
University of Colorado at Boulder Assistant Professor Rebecca Safran of the ecology and evolutionary biology department retrieves a North American barn swallow from a mist net for marking and release.
A new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder has shown the testosterone of male North American barn swallows skyrocketed early in the breeding season when their breast colors were artificially enhanced by researchers, indicating the clothes -- or in this case, the feathers -- make the man.
The swallows, whose breast feathers were darkened to a deep red known to be most attractive to females, likely had more testosterone racing through their bodies because of amorous interactions with the opposite sex and more run-ins with jealous males, said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Rebecca Safran, lead study author. The jump in testosterone was unexpected because it was observed at the time in the breeding cycle when levels of sex steroids like testosterone are typically declining, she said.
"A simple change in appearance had striking physiological consequences for these barn swallow males, which was a big surprise," said Safran. "The experimental manipulation didn't just improve their looks in the eyes of the females, it actually changed their body chemistry. The relationship between a male's physiology and the traits that win him mates is a lot more flexible than we had imagined."
A paper on the subject is being published in the June 3 issue of Current Biology. Co-authors on the study include James Adelman and Michaela Hau of Princeton University and Kevin McGraw of Arizona State University. The two-year study was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation.
The new study is the first to show significant feedback between physical appearance and physiology in birds, and has implications for better understanding the ecology and evolution of physical signals such as feather color, she said. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Current Biology.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Research news: Good news in our DNA--Defects you can fix with vitamins and minerals

The News:
Good News In Our DNA: Defects You Can Fix With Vitamins And Minerals
ScienceDaily (Jun. 3, 2008) — As the cost of sequencing a single human genome drops rapidly, with one company predicting a price of $100 per person in five years, soon the only reason not to look at your "personal genome" will be fear of what bad news lies in your genes.
University of California, Berkeley, scientists, however, have found a welcome reason to delve into your genetic heritage: to find the slight genetic flaws that can be fixed with remedies as simple as vitamin or mineral supplements.
"I'm looking for the good news in the human genome," said Jasper Rine, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology.
"Headlines for the last 20 years have really been about the triumph of biomedical research in finding disease genes, which is biologically interesting, genetically important and frightening to people who get this information," Rine said. "I became obsessed with trying to decide if there is some other class of information that will make people want to look at their genome sequence."
What Rine and colleagues found and report in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is that there are many genetic differences that make people's enzymes less efficient than normal, and that simple supplementation with vitamins can often restore some of these deficient enzymes to full working order. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (click on Full Text PDF at top of right hand column)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Research news: Golf prolongs life, Swedish study finds

The News:
Golf Prolongs Life, Swedish Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Jun. 2, 2008) — Golf can be a good investment for the health, according to a new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. The death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status, which correspond to a 5 year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap are the safest.
It is a well-known fact that exercise is good for the health, but the expected health gains of particular activities are still largely unknown. A team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet has now presented a study of the health effects of golf -- a low-intensity form of exercise in which over 600,000 Swedes engage.
The study, which is published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, is based on data from 300,000 Swedish golfers and shows that golf has beneficial health effects. The death rate amongst golfers is 40 per cent lower than the rest of the population, which equates to an increased life expectancy of five years. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports