April 30, 2007, 8:24 PM CT
Google technology to track avian flu spread
Credit: CU-Boulder, Ohio State University
An interactive "supermap" that portrays the mutations and spread of the avian flu around the globe over time should help scientists and policy makers better understand the virus and anticipate further outbreaks, as per a new study involving University of Colorado at Boulder and Ohio State University researchers.
The research team used data from the known evolution and spread of the avian flu, known as H5N1, to create a roadmap of viral spread in time and space, said CU-Boulder ecology and evolutionary biology Assistant Professor Robert Guralnick, a co-author of study. The team projected genetic and geographic information onto an interactive globe using Google Earth technology, allowing users to fly virtually around the planet and analyze movements and changes in the genomes, or genetic blueprints, of known avian flu sub-strains that have been sequenced since the virus was first detected in Guangdong, China, in 1996.
The scientists used the novel technology to chart the spread of H5N1 through Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East and Europe by various hosts, including its transport by specific orders of birds and mammals, said CU-Boulder graduate student Andrew Hill, a co-author of study. They also used the supermap to track key genetic traits prevalent in some avian flu genomes that appear to confer the ability of H5N1 to more readily infect mammals, including humans, he said.........
Posted by: Mark Read more Source
April 30, 2007, 7:07 PM CT
In Case of a Smallpox Outbreak
In the event of a smallpox outbreak in the United States, how long would it take for a vaccine to start protecting Americans by stimulating an immune response? A new national study led by Saint Louis University School of Medicine will attempt to answer this question.
General routine vaccinations for smallpox were stopped in the United States in 1971, and the world was declared free of smallpox in 1980. But because of the recent concern about biowarfare and bioterrorism throughout the world, the U.S. government is making efforts to improve its ability to protect its citizens in the event of a bioterrorist attack involving the smallpox virus (Variola major virus).
This study at Saint Louis University will look at the ability of an investigational vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic to stimulate the immune system against smallpox.
"Vaccines prevent disease by giving the body a jump-start at recognizing the infecting virus or bacteria," said Sharon Frey, M.D., the principal investigator for the study at Saint Louis University. "After successful vaccination, the body experiences a quicker fighting response to the infection, which lessens or completely avoids the symptoms of illness."
Unlike some other diseases, getting vaccinated following exposure to smallpox could provide protective effects. For example, for the flu vaccine to work, people need to get vaccinated before being exposed to influenza. The currently licensed smallpox vaccine, however, provides benefits post-exposure, and may be useful in further preventing the spread of the disease.........
Posted by: Mark Read more Source
April 30, 2007, 6:59 PM CT
Study shows children less prone to false memories
In the 1980's, a spate of high profile child abuse convictions gave way to heightened concern about false memory reports given by children. Take, for example, the case of Kelly Michaels, a preschool teacher who was convicted on 115 counts of sexual abuse based on the testimony of 20 of her pupils. After serving seven years of her 47 year sentence, Michaels' conviction was overturned after the techniques used to interview the children were shown to be coercive and highly suggestive.
Since then, a sizeable literature on children's false memories has accumulated and until recently, the picture that had emerged was quite consistent: false memories of events were found to decrease with age throughout childhood and adolescence. In other words, as we grow into adulthood, our memory accuracy improves.
However, psychology experts Charles Brainerd and Valerie Reyna of Cornell University think that the relationship between age and memory accuracy may not be so simple. Drawing upon fuzzy-trace theory the popular psychological theory that humans encode information on a continuum from verbatim to "fuzzy" traces that convey a general meaning Brainerd and Reyna predicted that false memories may actually increase with age under certain circumstances. In other words, adults would have less accurate memories than children.........
Posted by: JoAnn Read more Source
April 30, 2007, 6:53 PM CT
The Tungsten Nevada Leukemia Link
Credit: Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, the University of Arizona.
Tungsten began increasing in trees in Fallon, Nev. several years before the town's rise in childhood leukemia cases, as per a new research report.
The amount of tungsten in tree rings from Fallon quadrupled between 1990 and 2002, whereas the amount in tree rings from nearby towns remained the same, as per a research team led by Paul R. Sheppard of The University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.
This is the first study that has examined changes in levels of heavy metals in Fallon over time.
"Trees take up metals from the environment and those metals show up in the tree rings. By analyzing chemicals in tree rings, we can look back in time years, and even decades," said Sheppard, a UA assistant professor of dendrochronology.
"Tree ring values for the early part of 1990s for tungsten are roughly equivalent to nearby towns, but go up in Fallon in the mid-1990s while staying the same in other towns," he said.
Tungsten levels in Fallon trees began increasing in 1994, while levels in neighboring towns remained the same. Since 1997, 17 cases of childhood leukemia have been diagnosed in children who lived in the Fallon area for some time previous to diagnosis. Fallon's high occurence rate of leukemia has been acknowledged as a leukemia cluster by the Nevada State Health Division. ........
Posted by: Janet Read more Source
April 30, 2007, 6:42 PM CT
Pharmaceutical Compounds Found in Fresh Water
As per a research studyin the May/June 2007 issue of the journal Ground Water, pharmaceuticals are being found in septic tanks and, consequentially, ground water due to incomplete human metabolism and excretion into the waste stream or by disposal of unused medications in the toilet or down the sink.
This screening-level study investigated the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in areas receiving waste water from septic tanks located in sand and gravel deposits in Missoula, Montana.
A number of pharmaceutical and pharmaceutically-active compounds (e.g. caffeine) persist through the human body and are resistant to conventional waste water therapy practices. They are often detected in aquatic environments such as lakes, rivers and ground water, which can receive direct inputs of treated waste water.
"We don't know what toxicological effects these detectable concentrations of pharmaceuticals pose, eventhough typical concentrations in one liter of ground water are commonly much lower than a typical human therapeutic dose," says lead author Emily Godfrey.
While such low concentrations do not appear to pose a threat to human health, this research may help frame policy on the disposal of expired or unused compounds.........
Posted by: Janet Read more Source
April 29, 2007, 7:30 PM CT
Female ticks have market on gluttony
Unfed and engorged tick
Credit: Professor Frans Jongejan, University of Utrecht, Netherlands, and University of Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.
Sex makes you fat. If you're a female tick, that is.
The "truly gluttonous" female ixodid tick increases her weight an astounding 100 times her original size after she mates, so a University of Alberta researcher investigated what it is about copulation that triggers such a massive weight gain.
In a new research paper reported in the Journal of Insect Physiology, Dr. Reuben Kaufman, from the Department of Biological Sciences, suggests several differences between the ixodid tick and her blood-sucking counterparts that help explain the weight gain. Using mosquitoes, tsetse flies, bed bugs and kissing bugs as comparison, Kaufman observed that no one in comparison to this female African tick when it came to weight gain following mating.
Kaufman suggests that the ixodid tick displays a significant difference in lifestyle from the other insects and that it is adaptive for the virgin to remain small before mating.
First, this species of tick remain on the host for many days, rather than minutes. "In this family of ticks, mating takes place on the host," says Kaufman. "Most other insects mate before or after their brief blood meal -the two acts are totally separate, but not with these ticks."
Female ticks require six to 10 days to engorge fully. First, she attaches herself to the skin. Then she feeds to 10 times her unfed weight and finally, after copulation she increases her weight a further tenfold.........
Posted by: Mark Read more Source
April 29, 2007, 7:22 PM CT
Creating a Molecular Nose
Image: Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung
The senses of living organisms function using various mechanisms, among other things utilizing membrane proteins as receptors. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have now succeeded in creating biosensors by incorporating such proteins into artificial structures. The membrane proteins are synthesized in-vitro directly from the genetic information introduced to the cell extract.
Prior attempts to create biosensors from membrane proteins failed due to an idiosyncrasy of these proteins: they are not water soluble. In the past, scientists tried to remove the proteins from their biological membranes by solubilising the latter using detergents. However, this destroys the natural folding structure of the protein membranes, which is precisely what makes the proteins so special. "We quickly realized how difficult it is to isolate such membrane proteins. Neither we, nor other research groups, were able to work with them using conventional methods," explains Dr. Eva-Kathrin Sinner of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz.
Yet the Max Planck scientists found a way around this: they succeeded in incorporating the proteins in an artificial matrix, just as they would be integrated in a natural cell membrane. They achieved this by introducing the developing membrane proteins to artificial lipid membrane systems that mimic natural cell membranes from a statu nascendi, and the membrane proteins actually did simply insert themselves into the artificial membranes. The odorant receptors selected by the scientists were a type of G-protein coupled receptor taken from brown rats. The researchers were also able to prove that the odorant receptors maintained their biological functions by demonstrating the binding of odorants to the receptors. "We now have something akin to an instruction manual on how membrane proteins that were previously difficult to access can be produced and analyzed in their active structure," says Sinner.........
Posted by: Scott Read more Source
April 29, 2007, 7:15 PM CT
Concealed Intentions In Human Brain
Image: Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin
Our secret intentions remain concealed until we put them into action -so we believe. Now scientists have been able to decode these secret intentions from patterns of their brain activity. They let subjects freely and covertly choose between two possible tasks - to either add or subtract two numbers. They were then asked to hold in mind their intention for a while until the relevant numbers were presented on a screen. The scientists were able to recognize the subjects intentions with 70% accuracy based alone on their brain activity - even before the participants had seen the numbers and had started to perform the calculation.
Participants made their choice covertly and initially did not know the two numbers they were supposed to add or subtract. Only a few seconds later the numbers appeared on a screen and the participants could perform the calculation. This ensured that the intention itself was being read out, rather than brain activity correlation to performing the calculation or pressing the buttons to indicate the response. "It has been previously assumed that freely selected plans might be stored in the middle regions of the prefrontal cortex, whereas plans following external instructions could be stored on the surface of the brain. We were able to confirm this theory in our experiments", Haynes explained.........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source
April 29, 2007, 4:55 PM CT
Study to Assess Bariatric Surgery in Adolescents
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today launched an observational study to evaluate the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery in adolescents. Bariatric surgery restricts stomach size and can decrease the amount of calories and nutrients the body absorbs. The Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) study will help to determine if it is an appropriate therapy option for extremely overweight teens.
"The reasons for weight gain are complex and multifactorial, influenced by genetics, environment, eating and physical activity habits, and society. The information gathered from Teen-LABS will help determine if adolescence is the best time to intervene with this surgical treatment," says Thomas Inge, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Teen-LABS and principal investigator for the center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Overweight youth are more likely to develop serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Ideally, the goal for overweight adolescents and teens is to slow the rate of weight gain by eating fewer calories and being more physically active. However, these changes are tough to achieve and other approaches, such as drug treatment, are only approved for use in children 16 years and older.
"We know that bariatric surgery is not an easy way out for teens to control weight. They will still need to eat less food and exercise more," says Mary Horlick, M.D., project scientist for Teen-LABS and director of the Pediatric Clinical Obesity Program of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the sponsor of Teen-LABS at NIH. "We hope to learn whether or not bariatric surgery is suitable for teens and if it will help them remain at a healthy weight over the long-term".........
Posted by: Sue Read more Source
April 29, 2007, 4:52 PM CT
Reducing Salt To Reduced Cardiovascular Disease
Reducing sodium intake not only prevents high blood pressure, but also prevents heart disease, as per new clinical trial data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Men and women with pre-high blood pressure who reduced their sodium intake by 25 to 35 percent had a 25 percent lower risk of total cardiovascular disease over the 10 to 15 years after they reduced their sodium intake.
"The Long-term Effects of Dietary Sodium Reduction on Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes: Observational Follow-up of the Trials of High blood pressure Prevention," is published online on April 20, 2007 by the British Medical Journal.
Two Trials of High blood pressure Prevention were conducted in 10 clinical sites in 1987-1990 and 1990-1995, with follow up for10 to 15 years after that. Through dietary and behavioral intervention, participants in the trials achieved average dietary sodium reductions of 25 to35 percent lower than their average intake before the trial. Both trials observed that the reductions in sodium intake prevented high blood pressure. This new follow-up data shows that the groups who reduced their sodium intake also had lower mortality from cardiovascular disease. Mail questionnaires during the follow-up period suggested that some of the dietary changes are long-lasting, despite the difficulty in avoiding high-sodium foods in the United States.........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source