Thursday, July 31, 2008

Research news: Scientists may have been fossil fooled

The News:
Scientists may have been fossil fooled
Experts say a substance found in T. rex bones was naturally occurring slime, not dino tissue.
By Wendy Hansen Los Angeles Times
Article Last Updated: 07/30/2008 08:28:50 PM MDT
Soft, organic material discovered inside a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that scientists believed was 70 million-year-old dinosaur tissue may have been nothing more than ordinary slime, scientists said in a study published Wednesday.
Researchers reported in the online journal PLoS ONE that bacterial colonies infiltrating tiny cavities in the bones long after the dinosaurs died may have naturally molded into shapes resembling the tissues they replaced.
Carbon dating performed on one sample showed that the tissuelike material was modern, circa 1960.
After further examination with light and electron microscopy, researchers concluded that the substances were most likely remnants of biofilms, or layers of bacterial cells and the sticky molecules they secrete.
The finding sparked a strong response from the researchers who originally claimed to have found ancient dinosaur tissue.
Mary Schweitzer, the biologist from North Carolina State University who found the original T. rex "tissue," said in a prepared statement that errors in the current study "seem to underlie a fundamental misunderstanding of our work, our data and our interpretations." Read on...

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Research news: Women end up less happy than men

The News:
Women End Up Less Happy Than Men
ScienceDaily (July 30, 2008) — Less able to achieve their life goals, women end up unhappier than men later in life – even though they start out happier, reveals new research by Anke Plagnol of the University of Cambridge, and University of Southern California economist Richard Easterlin.
Plagnol and Easterlin's study, forthcoming in the Journal of Happiness Studies, is the first to use nationally representative data spanning several decades to examine the role of unfulfilled desires in a person's sense of well-being.
As the researchers explain, expectations of success may vary among those raised in different generations (i.e., an economic depression). Data sets from a range of time periods may also have different demographic compositions.
In their analysis, the researchers control for birth cohort and demographic characteristics such as race and education. They find that women are, on average, happier than men in early adulthood – but the glow wears off with time. Specifically, after the age of 48, men's overall happiness exceeds women's happiness. Read on...

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Research news: Beer-drinking tree shrews--sober as judges

The News:
Beer-Drinking Tree Shrews: Sober As Judges
by Michelle Trudeau
All Things Considered, July 28, 2008 · In the rain forest of Malaysia, scientists have found a small mammal, closely related to primates, whose major source of food is a type of beer.
It's believed to be the only animal other than humans that chronically consumes alcohol. But this animal never appears drunk, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Click on Full Text (PDF)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Research news: Genes, criminal tendencies show link

The News:
Genes, criminal tendencies show link
By McClatchy Newspapers
Article Last Updated: 07/28/2008 12:24:33 AM MDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Maybe some boys really were born to be wild.
Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill announced this week that they had found three genes that appear to affect the probability of a life of crime.
The study looked at roughly 1,100 boys in middle school and high school, ages 12-18.
In 1996 and again in 2002, the participants were asked to take a 12-question survey to gauge their delinquent tendencies. The participants' delinquency scores were matched against their genetics to look for a correlation.
The results clearly showed a genetic basis for aggressive behavior.
The idea that personality and behavior can be predicted by genetics is not a new one, and has a dark past.
"Bad genes" was the basis for Henry Goddard's theory of eugenics in the early 20th century, and was used as a justification for racial supremacy.
In the current research, scientists emphasized that having the gene doesn't necessarily mean a child is destined to become a hardened criminal. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the American Sociological Review.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Research news: Equal sign of the times

The News:
Equal sign of the times:Research on math tests subtracts boys' advantage
By Wendy Hansen Los Angeles Times
Article Launched: 07/25/2008 12:30:00 AM MDT
The notion that boys are better at math simply doesn't add up, according to a study to be published today in the journal Science.
An analysis of standardized test scores from more than 7.2 million U.S. students in grades 2 through 11 found no difference in math scores for girls and boys, contradicting a pervasive belief that most women aren't hard-wired for careers in science and technology.
The study also undermined the assumption — espoused by former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers in 2005 — that boys are more likely to be math geniuses.
Girls scored in the top 5 percent almost as often as boys, the data showed.
"Both parents and teachers continue to hold the stereotype that boys are better than girls," said psychologist Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who led the study. "That's just not accurate."
Hyde and her colleagues examined data from math tests administered from 2005 to 2007 as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative. Read on...

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Research news: Women feeling blue find benefits in little blue pill

The News:
Women feeling blue find benefits in little blue pill
A study shows Viagra helps premenopausal females who take antidepressants reach orgasm, but other aspects of sex such as desire are not enhanced.
By Carla K. JohnsonThe Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 07/22/2008 08:15:59 PM MDT
CHICAGO — Viagra's effect in women has been disappointing, but a new small study finds those on antidepressants may benefit from taking the little blue pills.
The research involving 98 premenopausal women found Viagra helped with orgasm. But the benefits did not extend to other aspects of sex such as desire, researchers report in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
"For women on antidepressants with orgasm problems, this may provide some wonderful relief," said psychologist Stanley Althof, director of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida in West Palm Beach, who was not involved in the study. "But it will not improve their desire or arousal."
Antidepressants can interfere with sex drive and performance even as the drugs help lift crippling depression. Switching drugs or reducing the dose can help. But many people, men and women, stop taking them because of their sexual side effects.
The complaints are common. More than half the people who take antidepressants develop sexual problems, prior studies have found, especially for people taking Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and other drugs that work by increasing the chemical serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is thought to slow down orgasm, perhaps by diminishing the release of another brain chemical, dopamine. Viagra increases blood flow to sex organs. Read on...

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

Monday, July 21, 2008

Research news: Sorry, Charlie, You and Nemo Aren't the Only Fish That Talk

The News:
Sorry, Charlie, You and Nemo Aren't the Only Fish That Talk
New research shows that vocal communication evolved from ancient fish species
July 17, 2008
View a video interview with biologist Andrew Bass of Cornell University and a guided tour of fish communicating.
Talking fish are no strangers to Americans. From the comedic portrayal of "Mr. Limpet" by Don Knotts, to the children's Disney favorite, "Nemo," fish can talk, laugh and tell jokes--at least on television and the silver screen. But can real fish verbally communicate? Researchers say, "Yes," in a paper published in the July 18 issue of the journal Science. Further, the findings put human speech--and social communications of all vertebrates--in evolutionary context. Read on...

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

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Research News: Low-carb diet wins at losing

The News:
Low-carb diet wins at losing
The low-fat strategy was third and women did best on a Mediterranean diet in a two-year project.
By Mike Stobbe - The Associated Press
ATLANTA — The Atkins diet may have proved itself after all: A low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style regimen helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet in one of the longest and largest studies to compare the competing weight-loss techniques. A bigger surprise: The low-carb diet improved cholesterol more than the two others. Some critics had predicted the opposite because that diet doesn't restrict fats.

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

Friday, July 18, 2008

Research News: Kids' activity levels slide in 'tween years

The News:
Kids' activity levels slide in 'tween years
By Tara Parker-Pope
The New York Times
Article Last Updated: 07/16/2008 03:06:15 AM MDT
Young children spend an extraordinary amount of time moving about — an average of three hours a day at age 9, new research shows. But in just a few years, all that childhood energy disappears. By age 15, daily physical activity is down to just 49 minutes on weekdays and about a half-hour on weekends.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Research News: American Medical Assoc. Apologizes to Black Doctors for Racism

The News:
AMA to apologize to black doctors for racism
Article Last Updated: 07/09/2008 11:17:58 PM MDT
CHICAGO—The American Medical Association is issuing a formal apology for more than a century of discriminatory policies that excluded blacks from participating in a group long considered the voice of U.S. doctors. The apology stems from initiatives at the nation's largest doctors' group to reduce racial disparities in medicine—from the paltry number of black physicians to the disproportionate burden of disease among blacks and other minorities. It comes more than 40 years after AMA delegates denounced policies at state and local medical societies dating to the 1800s that barred blacks. For decades, AMA delegates resisted efforts to get them to speak out forcefully against discrimination or to condemn the smaller medical groups that historically have had a big role in shaping AMA policy.

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

Monday, July 14, 2008

Research News: Pioneering heart doctor Michael DeBakey dead at 99

The News:
Pioneering heart doctor Michael DeBakey dead at 99
By JOHN PORRETTO Associated Press Writer
Article Last Updated: 07/12/2008 05:28:21 PM MDT
HOUSTON—When Dr. Michael E. DeBakey pushed forward with his groundbreaking research and maverick approach to medicine a half century ago, heart surgery was a medical marvel. Today, in part because of his contributions, it routinely saves thousands of lives each day. DeBakey, a world-famous cardiovascular surgeon who pioneered such now-common procedures as bypass surgery and invented a host of devices to help heart patients, died Friday night in Houston. He was 99.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Research News: Cholesterol drugs urged for 8-year-olds

The News:
Cholesterol drugs urged for 8-year-olds
Some families with risk factors should act early to prevent problems, pediatricians suggest.
By Lindsey Tanner The Associated Press
CHICAGO — For the first time, an influential doctors group is recommending that some children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-fighting drugs to ward off future heart problems. It is the strongest guidance ever given on the issue by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which releases its guidelines today. The academy urges low-fat milk for 1-year-olds and wider cholesterol testing.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Research News: Rocks hint that moon had wet past

The News:
Rocks hint that moon had wet past
A new method finds water traces in pebbles collected by astronauts in the 1970s.
By Wendy HansenLos Angeles Times
A new analysis of volcanic glass recovered from the moon decades ago found the rocks contain traces of the constituents of water, challenging a long-held notion that the moon is perfectly dry. Using a technique not available when Apollo astronauts collected the rocks in the early 1970s, scientists were able to detect tell-tale signs of water trapped inside the pebble-like glass. Their discovery suggests water was present deep within the moon between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion years ago, when the pebbles were formed during violent lunar eruptions.

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Research News: Prostate treatment questioned

The News:
Prostate treatment questioned
Drugs blocking hormones eyed
By Lindsey Tanner The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A prostate-cancer study that could change how doctors treat some patients found that widely used hormone-blocking drugs did not improve survival chances for older men whose disease hadn't spread. In fact, men given the drugs alone were slightly more likely to die of prostate cancer during the next six years than men who'd gotten medical monitoring but no or delayed treatment, another common treatment approach.

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

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Research news: Einstein Was Right, Astrophysicists Say

The News:
Einstein Was Right, Astrophysicists Say
ScienceDaily (July 4, 2008) — Researchers at McGill University's Department of Physics -- along with colleagues from several countries -- have confirmed a long-held prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, via observations of a binary-pulsar star system. Their results will be published July 3 in the journal Science.
Pulsars are small, ultradense stellar objects left behind after massive stars die and explode as supernovae. They typically have a mass greater than that of our Sun, but compressed to the size of a city like Montreal. They spin at staggering speeds, generate huge gravity fields and emit powerful beams of radio waves along their magnetic poles.
These illuminate Earth-based radio-telescopes like rotating lighthouse beacons as the pulsar spins. More than 1,700 pulsars have been discovered in our galaxy, but PSR J0737-3039A/B, discovered in 2003, is the only known double-pulsar system; that is, two pulsars locked into close orbit around one another. The two pulsars are so close to each other, in fact, that the entire binary could fit within our Sun. Read on...

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

Friday, July 4, 2008

Research news: Haywire brain chemical linked to sudden baby death

The News:
Haywire brain chemical linked to sudden baby death
Article Last Updated: 07/03/2008 03:11:28 PM MDT
WASHINGTON—Scientists have new evidence that the brain chemical best known for regulating mood also plays a role in the mystifying killer of seemingly healthy babies—sudden infant death syndrome.
Autopsied brain tissue from SIDS babies first raised suspicion that an imbalance in serotonin might be behind what once was called crib death.
But specialists couldn't figure out how that defect could kill. Now researchers in Italy have engineered mice born with serotonin that goes haywire—and found the brain abnormality is enough to spur sudden death, in ways that mesh with other clues from human babies.
Moreover, the work suggests it might one day be possible to test newborns for their risk of SIDS.
For now, even an animal experiment can offer a message for devastated families:
"It should provide them with some sense of comfort that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it," said Dr. Marian Willinger, a SIDS specialist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who wasn't part of the study. "It is a real disease."
The work was published in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Read on...

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

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Research news: Study--Species math wrong

The News:
Study: Species math wrong
By Steve Graff The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 07/03/2008 02:02:44 AM MDT
Species already listed as endangered may be racing toward extinction 100 times faster than originally thought, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Author Brett Melbourne says today's extinction-risk models have drastically underestimated the speed at which endangered species will perish.
"It's a mathematical misdiagnosis," said Melbourne, an assistant professor in the ecology and evolutionary biology department at CU-Boulder.
According to the study, current extinction models factor in only random, unavoidable acts — for instance, an animal being run over by a car — and external, random events, such as climate change or weather impacts that can affect birth and death rates.
Melbourne says those calculations leave out important factors: the number of males versus females, and size and behavioral variations.
The study, published today in the journal Nature, immediately drew the interest of conservationists nationwide.
"I think what they have done is provide a technical, important fix to help us build a better mathematical model for small populations," said Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist. Read on...

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Research news: Weight Watchers versus fitness centers

The News:
Weight Watchers Versus Fitness Centers, MU Study Finds Both Work Best in Combination
July 1, 2008
Story Contact: Jennifer Faddis, (573)882-6217,
COLUMBIA, Mo. –In the first study of its kind, using sophisticated methods to measure body composition, the nationally known commercial weight loss program, Weight Watchers, was compared to gym membership programs to find out which method wins in the game of good health. A University of Missouri researcher examined the real-life experiences of participants to determine which program helps people lose pounds, reduce body fat and gain health benefits. The answer is that both have pros and cons and that a combination of the two produces the best results.
Participants who attended Weight Watchers for 12 weeks lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight, or about nine pounds. However, Steve Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, found that a large percentage of the lost weight was lean tissue and not fat.
“Participants’ body fat percentage did not improve at all because they lost a much higher percentage than expected of lean tissue,” said Ball, MU Extension state fitness specialist. “It is advantageous to keep lean tissue because it is correlated with higher metabolism. Losing lean tissue often slows metabolism. What your body is made of is more important than what you weigh.” Read on...

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Research news: Report--Psychedelic 'shrooms not all bad

The News:
Report: Psychedelic 'shrooms not all bad
By Malcolm Ritter The Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 07/01/2008 12:59:31 AM MDT
NEW YORK — In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project.
She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open.
But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day.
"I feel more centered in who I am and what I'm doing," said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. "I don't seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected."
Scientists are reporting today that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience.
Two-thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they'd ever had.
The drug, psilocybin, is found in so-called "magic mushrooms." It's illegal, but it has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries.
The study involved 36 men and women during an eight-hour lab visit. It's one of the few such studies of a hallucinogen in the past 40 years, since research was largely shut down after widespread recreational abuse of such drugs in the 1960s.
The project made headlines in 2006 when researchers published their report on how the volunteers felt just two months after taking the drug. The new study followed them up a year after that. Read on...

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