Newswise SciWire for 17-Feb-2011reporter edition  
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17-Feb-2011

Seaweed Compound May be Promising Antimalarial Drug
A group of chemical compounds used by a species of tropical seaweed to ward off fungus attacks may have promising antimalarial properties for humans. The compounds are part of a unique chemical signaling system that seaweeds use to battle enemies – and that may provide a wealth of potential new pharmaceutical compounds. Media embedded: Video / Image(s) (Embargoed until 21-Feb-2011, 08:00 ET)
2011 AAAS Annual Meeting
—Georgia Institute of Technology, Research Communications

Electricity Use, Coal Consumption, and Public Health
Electricity use has health benefits in diverse populations worldwide, but the relationship is not linear, and increasing use past a certain threshold may not add benefits. Additionally, those benefits may be offset by negative health impacts of the fuel used to generate electricity. A multitiered analysis published February 21 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) investigates the relationship between coal consumption, electricity use, and health impacts, as well as the related implications for climate and energy policy. (Embargoed until 21-Feb-2011, 00:00 ET)
Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP)
—Environmental Health Perspectives (NIEHS)

16-Feb-2011

A Genetic Mutation Allows Hudson River Fish to Adapt to PCBs
Scientists discover a genetic variant that allows a fish in the Hudson River to live in waters heavily polluted by PCBs. Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargoed until 17-Feb-2011, 14:00 ET)
Science
—New York University Langone Medical Center

A New High-Resolution Method for Imaging Below the Skin Using a Liquid Lens
University of Rochester optics professor Jannick Rolland has developed an optical technology that provides unprecedented images under the skin’s surface. The aim of the technology is to detect and examine skin lesions to determine whether they are benign or cancerous without having to cut the suspected tumor out of the skin and analyze it in the lab. (Embargoed until 19-Feb-2011, 12:00 ET)
2011 Annual AAAS Meeting
—University of Rochester

Plankton Key to Origin of Earth's First Breathable Atmosphere
Researchers studying the origin of Earth’s first breathable atmosphere have zeroed in on the major role played by some very unassuming creatures: plankton. (Embargoed until 21-Feb-2011, 15:00 ET)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
—Ohio State University

Asthma Through the Eyes of a Medical Anthropologist
Asthma diagnosis and management vary dramatically around the world, said David Van Sickle, an honorary associate fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, during a presentation today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (Embargoed until 18-Feb-2011, 14:00 ET)
2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
—University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sentries in the Garden Shed
Plants can detect environmental contaminants, perhaps even explosives, by rewiring their natural signaling process so that detection of the bad stuff results in the loss of green color.  Media embedded: Image(s)
—Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate

U.S. Secret Service Moves "Tiny Town" to "Virtual Tiny Town"
With help from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), the Secret Service is giving training scenarios a high-tech edge: moving from static tabletop models to virtual kiosks with gaming technology and 3D modeling.  Media embedded: Image(s)
—Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate

Humans Living in East Africa 200,000 Years Ago Were as Complex in their Behavior as Humans Living Today
In a paper recently published in Current Anthropology, SBU Professor John Shea disproves the myth that the earliest humans were significantly different from us. Media embedded: Image(s)
Current Anthropology
—Stony Brook University

Global Warming May Reroute Evolution
Rising carbon dioxide levels associated with global warming may affect interactions between plants and the insects that eat them, altering the course of plant evolution, research at the University of Michigan suggests. Media embedded: Image(s)
Global Change Biology., March
—University of Michigan

Carbon Dioxide Pollution Helps Weeds Thrive, Lowers Impact of Herbicides
With global warming comes increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which benefits at least one species—weeds. Carbon dioxide acts as a fertilizer to invasive exotic grasses, resulting in higher growth rates and larger leaves. Media embedded: Image(s)
Weed Science
—Allen Press Publishing Services

Ten Years After Nisqually Quake, Northwest’s Seismic Dangers Still Lurk
A decade after the Nisqually earthquake shook Western Washington, scientific ideas about the region's seismic danger have evolved and the ability to study and prepare for it has improved immensely.
—University of Washington

What We Learned from Watson’s “Toronto” Answer on Jeopardy
Trevor Pinch, a professor of Science and Technology Studies and a professor of Sociology at Cornell University, comments on the performance of IBM’s Watson computer on Jeopardy.
Expert(s) available
—Cornell University

K-State Expert Can Explain the Workings Behind IBM's 'Jeopardy!' Challenger
A Kansas State University expert on machine learning and artificial intelligence says the IBM-designed Watson will be a strong candidate against "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
Expert(s) available
—Kansas State University

Service Providers Slow to Adopt Solutions as Internet Exhausts IP Addresses
Robbert van Renesse, a professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, comments on why a solution hasn’t been implemented as the Internet runs out of IP addresses.
Expert(s) available
—Cornell University

15-Feb-2011

Researchers Stumble Onto Hair Regrowth
Researchers who were investigating how stress affects gastrointestinal function may have found a chemical compound that induces hair growth by blocking a stress-related hormone associated with hair loss — entirely by accident Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargo expired on 16-Feb-2011 at 17:00 ET)
PLoS ONE
—University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences

Engineering Atomic Interfaces for New Electronics
Most people cross borders such as doorways or state lines without thinking much about it. Yet not all borders are places of limbo intended only for crossing. Some borders, like those between two materials that are brought together, are dynamic places where special things can happen. (Embargoed until 17-Feb-2011, 14:00 ET)
Science
—University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hubble Shows New Image of Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a majestic disk of stars and dust lanes in this view of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841, which lies 46 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This image was taken in 2010 through four different filters on Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Wavelengths range from ultraviolet light through visible light to near-infrared light. Media embedded: Video / Image(s) (Embargo expired on 17-Feb-2011 at 09:00 ET)
—Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Biological Anthropologists Question Claims for Human Ancestry
Anthropologists from GW and NYU question claims that several prominent fossil discoveries made in the last decade are our human ancestors. With a more nuanced explanation of the fossils' place on the Tree of Life, the authors conclude that instead of being our ancestors, the fossils are more likely belong to extinct distant cousins. (Embargo expired on 16-Feb-2011 at 13:00 ET)
Nature
—George Washington University

If Greenhouse Gas Emissions Stopped Now, Earth Still Would Likely Get Warmer
As debate continues about potential policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, new research shows the world is already committed to a warmer climate because of emissions that have occurred up to now.
Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 38, L01707, Jan. 15, 2011
—University of Washington

Using GPS to Map Bat Teeth, Explore Diet Adaptations
In a clever use of GPS technology, UMass Amherst biologists mapped the topography of bat teeth as if they were mountain ranges, in order to better understand how toothy ridges and valleys have evolved in relation to diet in species that eat everything from hard-shelled insects to blood and nectar. Media embedded: Image(s)
Functional Ecology
—University of Massachusetts Amherst

New Malaria Vaccine Depends On … Mosquito Bites?
New Tulane vaccine aims to wipe out malaria using the same menace that spreads it – the mosquito bite. Media embedded: Image(s)
—Tulane University

14-Feb-2011

Corals Stressed, but Location, Location, Location Matters
A new study has identified a troubling change in long-term coral growth patterns on the world’s second largest barrier reef. The findings suggest that corals closest to the open ocean — and furthest from traditional land-based threats — are having the most trouble coping with environmental stress, from sources such as climate change and pollutants. (Embargo expired on 16-Feb-2011 at 17:00 ET)
PLoS One, Feb. 16, 2011
—University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Secrets of Plague Revealed
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8, 2011) -- In work that is pushing the "diffraction barrier" associated with microscopic imaging of living cells, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM demonstrated the power of a new super-resolution microscopy technique called Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM), which can simultaneously image multiple molecules in living immune cells. (Embargoed until 08-Mar-2011, 11:45 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Making Viruses Pass for 'Safe'
Viruses can penetrate every part of the body, making them potentially good tools for gene therapy or drug delivery. But with our immune system primed to seek and destroy these foreign invaders, delivering therapies with viruses is currently inefficient and can pose a significant danger to patients. (Embargoed until 08-Mar-2011, 16:45 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

New Instrument for Analyzing Viruses
Scientists in Israel and California have developed an instrument for rapidly analyzing molecular interactions that take place viruses and the cells they infect. By helping to identify interactions between proteins made by viruses like HIV and hepatitis and proteins made by the human cells these viruses infect, the device may help scientists develop new ways of disrupting these interactions and find new drugs for treating those infections. (Embargoed until 08-Mar-2011, 17:00 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Scientists Probe the Role of Motor Protein in Hearing Loss
From grinding heavy metal to soothing ocean waves, the sounds we hear are all perceptible thanks to the vibrations felt by tiny molecular motors in the hair cells of the inner ear. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have now identified the mechanism by which a single amino acid change can disrupt the normal functioning of one of the critical components of that physiology -- a molecular motor protein called myo1c, which resides in the cochlea of the inner ear. (Embargoed until 06-Mar-2011, 13:45 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

The Connection Between a Cell's Cytoskeleton and Its Surface Receptors
New findings from researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto may shed light on the mechanisms that regulate the organization of receptors on the cell surface, a critical aspect of cell signaling not well understood at this time.  Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargoed until 06-Mar-2011, 11:30 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Flipping a Switch on Neuron Activity
All our daily activities, from driving to work to solving a crossword puzzle, depend on signals carried along the body's vast network of neurons. Propagation of these signals is, in turn, dependent on myriad small molecules within nerve cells -- receptors, ion channels, and transmitters -- turning on and off in complex cascades. Until recently, the study of these molecules in real time has not been possible, but researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Munich have attached light-sensing modules to neuronal molecules, resulting in molecules that can be turned on and off with simple flashes of light. (Embargoed until 07-Mar-2011, 08:30 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Team Uncovers Dengue Fever Virus' Molecular Secrets
Researchers at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are making major strides toward understanding the life cycle of flaviviruses, which include some of the most virulent human pathogens: yellow fever virus, Dengue virus, and the West Nile Virus, among others. Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargoed until 08-Mar-2011, 13:45 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

New Genetic Deafness Syndrome Identified
Ten years ago, scientists seeking to understand how a certain type of feature on a cell called an L-type calcium channel worked created a knockout mouse missing both copies of the CACNA1D gene. (Embargoed until 09-Mar-2011, 10:30 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Researchers in France and Austria Find Novel Role for Calcium Channels in Pacemaker Cell Function
Pacemaker cells in the sinoatrial node control heart rate, but what controls the ticking of these pacemaker cells? New research by Angelo Torrente and his colleagues of the M.E. Mangoni group’s, reveals, for the first time, a critical functional interaction between Cav1.3 calcium ion (Ca2+) channels and ryanodine-receptor (RyR) mediated Ca2+ signaling. Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargoed until 09-Mar-2011, 10:30 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

New Mouse Models Generated for MYH9 Genetic Disorders
Researchers have created the first mouse models of human MYH9 genetic disorders, which cause several problems -- including enlarged platelets and sometimes fatal kidney disease. (Embargoed until 09-Mar-2011, 10:30 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

3D Tracking of Single Molecules Inside Cells
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Texas at Dallas are reporting today at the 55th Annual Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD how they are using a novel 3D cell imaging method for studying the complex spatial-temporal dynamics of protein transport, providing a solution to this fundamental problem in cell biology. Media embedded: Image(s) (Embargoed until 08-Mar-2011, 11:00 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Newly Identified Spider Toxin May Help Uncover Novel Ways of Treating Pain and Human Diseases
Spider venom toxins are useful tools for exploring how ion channels operate in the body. These channels control the flow of ions across cell membranes, and are key components in a wide variety of biological processes and human diseases (Embargoed until 09-Mar-2011, 13:00 ET)
55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting
—American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Subtle Shifts, Not Major Sweeps, Drove Human Evolution
The most popular model used by geneticists for the last 35 years to detect the footprints of human evolution may overlook more common subtle changes, a new international study finds. (Embargoed until 17-Feb-2011, 14:00 ET)
Science, Feb 18, 2011
—University of Chicago Medical Center

Macho Muscle Cells Force Their Way to Fusion
In a report published Nov. 29 in the Journal of Cell Biology, the researchers described experiments using fruit fly embryos to identify an invasive projection propelled by the rapid elongation of actin filaments as the main player in the cellular power struggle. Media embedded: Image(s)
Journal of Cell Biology
—Johns Hopkins Medicine

New Evolutionary Research Disproves Living Missing Link Theories
Evolution is not a steady march towards ever more sophisticated beings and therefore the search for the living "missing links" is pointless, according to findings published by a team of researchers led by Dr. Hervé Philippe of the Université de Montréal's Department of Biochemistry.
Nature
—Université de Montreal

Quest for Designer Bacteria Uncovers a Spy
Scientists have discovered a molecular assistant called Spy that helps bacteria excel at producing proteins for medical and industrial purposes. Media embedded: Image(s)
Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Feb. 13, 2011
—University of Michigan

Monitoring Killer Mice from Space
The risk of deadly hantavirus outbreaks can be predicted using satellite images to monitor surges in vegetation that boost mouse populations, a University of Utah study says. The method also might forecast outbreaks of other rodent-borne illnesses. Media embedded: Image(s)
Global Ecology and Biogeography, Feb. 16, 2011 online
—University of Utah

Worldwide Sulfur Emissions Rose Between 2000-2005, After Decade of Decline
A new analysis of sulfur emissions shows that after declining for a decade, worldwide emissions rose again in 2000 due largely to international shipping and a growing Chinese economy. An accurate read on sulfur emissions will help researchers predict future changes in climate and determine present day effects on the atmosphere, health and the environment. Media embedded: Image(s)
Atmos Chem Phys, 2011
—Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

New Lignin ‘Lite’ Switchgrass Boosts Biofuel Yield by More than One-Third
Bioethanol from new lines of native perennial prairie grass could become less costly because of plant engineering by The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and fermentation research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
—Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Researchers Find Active Harpy Eagle Nest in Maya Mountains of Belize
Jamie Rotenberg, UNC Wilmington assistant professor of environmental studies, along with researchers at the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), is studying what is thought to be the first active Harpy Eagle nest ever recorded in Belize, where the predatory birds were previously thought to be extinct.  Media embedded: Image(s)
—University of North Carolina Wilmington

Ancient Mesoamerican Sculpture Uncovered in Southern Mexico
With one arm raised and a determined scowl, the figure looks ready to march right off his carved tablet and into the history books. If only we knew who he was - corn god? Tribal chief? Sacred priest?  Media embedded: Image(s)
Mexicon
—University of Wisconsin-Madison

World Phosphorous Use Crosses Critical Threshold
Recalculating the global use of phosphorous, a fertilizer linchpin of modern agriculture, a team of researchers warns that the world’s stocks may soon be in short supply and that overuse in the industrialized world has become a leading cause of the pollution of lakes, rivers and streams.
Environmental Research Letters, Feb. 14, 2011
—University of Wisconsin-Madison

Engineer Developing Technology to Enhance Battery Life in Portable Devices
Iowa State University's Ayman Fayed is working with Rockwell Collins engineers to test a technology that could extend the battery life of portable devices by reducing power consumption. Media embedded: Image(s)
—Iowa State University

SciWire Policy and Public Affairs

Importance of Ag Research Highlighted with Funding
The President's budget increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) from $262 to $325 million.
—American Society of Agronomy (ASA)

SciWire Announcements

Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch Honored for Groundbreaking Stem Cell Research
Israel’s Wolf Foundation, whose stated mission is “to promote science and art for the benefit of mankind,” has named Whitehead Institute Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch a recipient of the prestigious 2011 Wolf Prize in Medicine.
—Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor James Lu Named IEEE Fellow
Lu is known as a pioneer and technical leader in 3-D computer chip integration, and has been working to design the processes and architecture that could one day be the platform for 3-D chips.
—Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Salk Announces $2 Million Gift from Mr. Conrad T. Prebys for an Endowed Chair in Vision Research
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies today announced a generous gift from Mr. Conrad Prebys, a Salk Trustee, to establish the Conrad T. Prebys Endowed Chair in Vision Research for Dr. Tom Albright. As part of their senior scientist endowed chair challenge, Joan and Irwin Jacobs will match the donor's gift with an additional $1,000,000 to establish the donor's named chair at $3,000,000. Media embedded: Image(s)
—Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Rensselaer Professor Daniel Lewis Receives NSF CAREER Award
Daniel Lewis, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Lewis will use the projected five-year, $630,000 award to understand how materials behave at high temperatures.
—Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Groundbreaker: Chemical Engineer Earns National Science Foundation Career Award for Work with Graphene Quantum Dots
Vikas Berry, assistant professor of chemical engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award for his work involving graphene, which could lead to improved electronics and optoelectronics. Media embedded: Image(s)
—Kansas State University

Rensselaer Professors Linhardt and Kinchy to Present at AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professors Robert Linhardt and Abby Kinchy will speak at the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
—Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

$6 Million Grant to Fund Climate/Energy Policy Center
The Computation Institute at the University of Chicago is leading a new multi-institutional, interdisciplinary center to build tools to help governments, the private sector and individuals make better-informed decisions relating to both climate and energy policies and climate change.  Media embedded: Image(s)
—University of Chicago

 
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