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January 8, 2009, 8:00 PM CT

What drives one of nature's powerful, nanoscale motors

What drives one of nature's powerful, nanoscale motors
Image of DNA entering the gp17 motor complex on the T4 capsid.

Credit: T4:2 - Motor Packing, © 2008 Seyet LLC
Peering at structures only atoms across, scientists have identified the clockwork that drives a powerful virus nanomotor.

Because of the motor's strength--to scale, twice that of an automobile--the new findings could inspire engineers designing sophisticated nanomachines. In addition, because many virus types may possess a similar motor, including the virus that causes herpes, the results may also assist pharmaceutical companies developing methods to sabotage virus machinery.

Scientists from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., collaborated on the study that appears in the Dec. 26, 2008, issue of the journal Cell.

"The discovery of how this virus motor functions represents a significant milestone in the investigation of viral processes," says David Rockcliffe, the program director who oversees a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that partly funded the research. "This research is a breakthrough that not only may lead to the development of a means of arresting harmful infections, but it also points to possible ways in which nano-devices could be fashioned,".

The virus in the study, called T4, is not a common scourge of people, but its host is: the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli). Purdue scientists studied the virus structures, such as the motor, while the Catholic University scientists isolated the virus components and performed biochemical analyses.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 8, 2009, 0:02 AM CT

Winter babies face socioeconomic disadvantages

Winter babies face socioeconomic disadvantages
A number of of us may often feel that we've been born under an unlucky sign. Now, new research by a pair of University of Notre Dame economists suggests that some of us are, in fact, born in an unlucky season.

In their paper, Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman point out that a large body of prior research consistently has observed that people born in December, January and February are, on average, less educated, less intelligent, less healthy and lower paid than people born in other seasons.

A variety of explanations have been suggested for this phenomenon, including such social and natural factors as compulsory schooling laws, changes in climate and exposure to illness. However, the exact cause of the association between season of birth and later outcomes has never been precisely clear.

In the newly released study, Buckles and Hungerman analyzed U.S census data and birth certificates to determine if the typical woman giving birth in winter is any different from the typical woman giving birth at other times of the year.

They discovered that babies born in the winter are more likely to have mothers who are unmarried, who are teenagers or who lack a high school diploma. One explanation for the seasonal patterns in births is that summer's high temperatures inhibit sperm production. This seems to affect lower socioeconomic status women more adversely, which could explain why there are relatively fewer births to these women in the spring and early summer.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:58 PM CT

Restoring Trust is Harder

Restoring Trust is Harder
In relationships built on trust, a bad first impression can be harder to overcome than a betrayal that occurs after ties are established, a newly released study suggests.

While betraying trust is never good for a relationship, the results show that early violations can be especially devastating, and plant seeds of doubt that may never go away, said Robert Lount, co-author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

"First impressions matter when you want to build a lasting trust," Lount said.

"If you get off on the wrong foot, the relationship may never be completely right again. It's easier to rebuild trust after a breach if you already have a strong relationship".

While the importance of first impressions may seem obvious, Lount said there is still a common theme in popular culture that suggests a number of great relationships start off badly.

"Our results fly in the face of this Hollywood notion of hating someone at first sight but then developing a wonderful, passionate relationship," he said. "The likelihood of that happening in real life is pretty low".

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:54 PM CT

Genetic Determinants of ADHD

Genetic Determinants of ADHD
A special issue of American Journal of Medical Genetics (AJMG): Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics presents a comprehensive overview of the latest progress in genetic research of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The issue covers major trends in the field of complex psychiatric genetics, underscoring how genetic studies of ADHD have evolved, and what approaches are needed to uncover its genetic origins.

ADHD is a complex condition with environmental and genetic causes. Typically it is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that has an onset in childhood. It is one of the most common psychiatric diseases, affecting between 8-12 percent of children worldwide. The drugs used to treat ADHD are highly effective, making ADHD one of the most treatable psychiatric disorders. However, despite the high efficacy of ADHD medications, these therapys are not curative and leave patients with residual disability. Because ADHD is also has one of the most heritable of psychiatric disorders, scientists have been searching for genes that underlie the disorder in the hopes that gene discovery will lead to better therapys for the disorder.

Among the a number of studies in the issue are two from the first genomewide association study of individual ADHD patients. The study examined more than 600,000 genetic markers in over 900 families from the largest genetic study of ADHD, the International ADHD Multicenter Genetics (IMAGE) project led by Stephen V. Faraone of SUNY Upstate Medical Center. The authors have made these data publicly available to scientists who are interested in pursuing further studies.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:40 PM CT

Structure of key breast cancer target enzyme

Structure of key breast cancer target enzyme
The molecular details of Aromatase, the key enzyme required for the body to make estrogen, are no longer a mystery thanks to the structural biology work done by the Ghosh lab at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, NY. Dr. Debashis Ghosh's solution of the three-dimensional structure of aromatase is the first time that scientists have been able to visualize the mechanism of synthesizing estrogen.

Credit: Dr. Debashis Ghosh

The molecular details of Aromatase, the key enzyme mandatory for the body to make estrogen, are no longer a mystery thanks to the structural biology work done by the Ghosh lab at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Debashis Ghosh's solution of the three-dimensional structure of aromatase is the first time that researchers have been able to visualize the mechanism of synthesizing estrogen.

In fact, the Ghosh lab has determined the structures of all three of the enzymes involved in controlling estrogen levels that can serve as drug targets for estrogen-dependent tumors in breast cancer. This work is so significant, the world-renowned journal Nature will be publishing the structure of aromatase at 2.90 angstrom resolution in an upcoming issue. The other two enzyme structures determined by the Ghosh lab as part of this project were estrone sulfatase (2003) and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (1996). All three enzymes control the levels of estradiol in different tissues.

"This is a dream come true," Dr. Debashis Ghosh, an HWI senior research scientist and a principal investigator who also holds a joint faculty appointment at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), said. "Researchers worldwide have been trying for 35 years to crystallize this membrane-bound enzyme and we are the first to succeed. Now that we know the structures of all three key enzymes implicated in estrogen-dependant breast cancers, our goal is to have a personalized cocktail of inhibitors customized to the specific therapy needs of each patient. Our knowledge about these three enzymes will enable us to develop three mutually exclusive inhibitors customized to each patient's needs which will work in harmony together with minimal side effects".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:37 PM CT

Catching sports cheats

Catching sports cheats
Avoiding detection just got harder for drug cheats who try to use a particular range of untested, but potentially enhancing, compounds. In the past, tests have been developed once a drug is known to be in circulation. Now a German research team has developed tests for a class of drugs that they believe could be used in the near future.

On the face of it, the Beijing Olympics were remarkably drug free with only six athletes being caught during the games and three further suspect cases identified after the games closed. Rumours suggest that a number of athletes were in fact using performance-enhancing drugs that could not be detected using standard tests. One possibility is that some athletes were using compounds that have still not been tested in humans, but have shown performance enhancing properties in animal trials. Because these compounds are in the early stage of development no test has been developed, so their use will go undetected.

A new test, announced in the launch issue of the new journal, Drug Testing and Analysis, will help sports officials stay one step ahead of the game by allowing them to screen for some of these emerging drugs, as well as others in the same class that have still not reached the market.

The test detects a core chemical structure belonging to a class of compounds called benzothiazepines. These compounds stabilise protein channels that would otherwise "leak" calcium from muscle cells during strenuous exercise. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and this "leaking" effect weakens the contractions and is a causal factor in muscle fatigue.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:35 PM CT

'Controlling the blood vessels to combat obesity

'Controlling the blood vessels to combat obesity
Mice exposed to low temperatures develop more blood vessels in their adipose tissue and metabolise body fat more quickly, as per a newly released study from Karolinska Institutet. Researchers now hope to learn how to control blood vessel development in humans in order to combat obesity and diabetes.

The growth of fat cells and their metabolism depend on oxygen and blood-borne nutrients. A possible way to regulate the amount of body fat in order, for instance, to combat obesity can therefore be to affect the development of blood vessels in the adipose tissue.

A team of scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now demonstrated the rapid development of blood vessels in the adipose tissue of mice exposed to low temperatures. This is followed in its turn by a transformation of the adipose tissue from 'white' fat to 'brown' fat, which has higher metabolic activity and which breaks down more quickly.

"This is the first time it's been shown that blood vessel growth affects the metabolic activity of adipose tissue rather than vice versa," says Professor Yihai Cao, who led the study. "If we can learn how to regulate the development of blood vessels in humans, we'd open up new therapeutic avenues for obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes".

Brown fat releases heat when it breaks down, and is mainly found in hibernating animals. In humans, it is found in newborn babies, but researchers believe by controlling blood vessel development that it might be possible to transform white fat to brown fat in adults as well.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:27 PM CT

More Resistant Avian Flu Virus

More Resistant Avian Flu Virus
Researchers using Google Earth technology are able to visually chart individual outbreaks of the avian flu as it has spread outward from China over the past decade, including gene mutations that are causing a resistance to a major class of antiviral drugs.

Credit: Google Earth, University of Colorado

A new University of Colorado at Boulder study shows the resistance of the avian flu virus to a major class of antiviral drugs is increasing through positive evolutionary selection, with scientists documenting the trend in more than 30 percent of the samples tested.

The avian flu, an Influenza A subtype dubbed H5N1, is evolving a resistance to a group of antiviral drugs known as adamantanes, one of two classes of antiviral drugs used to prevent and treat flu symptoms, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Andrew Hill, lead study author. The rise of resistance to adamantanes -- which include the nonprescription drugs amantadine and rimantadane -- may be associated with Chinese farmers adding the drugs to chicken feed as a flu preventative, as per a 2008 paper by scientists from China Agricultural University, said Hill.

In contrast, resistance of the avian flu virus to the second, newer class of antiviral drugs that includes oseltamivir -- a prescription drug marketed under the brand name Tamiflu -- is present, but is still not prevalent or under positive genetic selection, said Hill of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department. The CU findings should help health administrators around the world plan for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic.

The CU-Boulder study is the first to show H5N1 drug resistance to adamantanes arose through novel genetic mutations rather than an exchange of RNA segments within cells, a process known as re-assortment, said Hill. The research on the mutations, combined with molecular evolution tests and a geographic visualization technique using Google Earth, "provides a framework for analysis of globally distributed data to monitor the evolution of drug resistance," said Hill.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:24 PM CT

Risks of choosing repeat cesarean

Risks of choosing repeat cesarean
Women choosing repeat cesarean deliveries and having them at term but before completing 39 weeks gestation are up to two times more likely to have a baby with serious complications including respiratory distress resulting in mechanical ventilation and NICU admission.

UAB researchers, led by Alan T.N. Tita, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and his colleagues reported as per a research findings published January 8 in the New England Journal (NEJM) that women who choose to have their babies delivered via repeat cesarean at 37 or 38 weeks without a medical or obstetric indication, risk serious complications for their child.

"The cesarean rate in the United States has risen dramatically, from 20.7 percent in 1996 to 31.1 percent in 2006. A major reason is the decline in attempted vaginal births after cesarean. Because elective cesareans can be scheduled to accommodate patient and doctor convenience, there is a risk that they appears to be performed earlier than is appropriate." Tita said. "We knew from prior small studies that infants born before 39 weeks' gestation are at increased risk for respiratory distress. Because nearly 40 percent of the cesareans performed in the United States each year are repeat procedures, we undertook this large study to describe the timing of elective repeat cesareans and assess its relationship with the risk of various adverse neonatal outcomes".........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:22 PM CT

How skeletal muscle stabilizes the spine?

How skeletal muscle stabilizes the spine?
The novel design of a deep muscle along the spinal column called the multifidus muscle may in fact be key to spinal support and a healthy back, as per scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Their findings about the potentially important "scaffolding" role of this poorly understood muscle has been published on line in advance of the recent issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery

"The multifidus muscle was formerly believed to be relatively unimportant based on its fairly small size," said Richard L. Lieber, Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair of UC San Diego's Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the National Center for Skeletal Muscle Rehabilitation Research, based at UC San Diego. Lieber is also Senior Research Career Scientist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System. "Our research shows that it's actually the strongest muscle in the back because of its unique design. It's like a long, skinny pencil packed with millions of tiny fibers".

The scientists discovered that the multifidus has a unique packing design consisting of short fibers arranged within rods, and that these fibers are stiffer than any other in the body. Using laser diffraction methods that they developed to measure muscle internal properties during back surgery, they demonstrated that the multifidus' unique design serves a critical function as a stabilizer of the lumbar spine. These findings could have implications for surgery, as per Steven R. Garfin, M.D., Professor and Chair of UCSD's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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