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Study shows where on the planet new roads should and should not go

September 2, 2014 8:39 am | Comments

An ambitious study has created a “global roadmap” for prioritizing road building across the planet, to try to balance the competing demands of development and environmental protection. The map has two components: an “environmental-values” layer that estimates that natural importance of ecosystems and a “road-benefits” layer that estimates the potential for increased agriculture production via new or improved roads. 

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Single laser stops molecular tumbling motion instantly

September 2, 2014 8:26 am | Comments

In the quantum world, making the simple atom behave is one thing, but making the more complex molecule behave is another story. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have figured out an elegant way to stop a molecule from tumbling so that its potential for new applications can be harnessed: shine a single laser on a trapped molecule and it instantly cools to the temperature of outer space, stopping the rotation of the molecule.

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Going to extremes for enzymes

September 2, 2014 8:08 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

In the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Douglas Clark, a faculty scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Berkeley, is not taking sides. In the search for enzymes that can break lignocellulose down into biofuel sugars under the extreme conditions of a refinery, he has prospected for extremophilic microbes and engineered his own cellulases.

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Surprising new role for calcium in sensing pain

September 2, 2014 7:53 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | Comments

When you accidentally touch a hot oven, you rapidly pull your hand away. Although scientists know the basic neural circuits involved in sensing and responding to such painful stimuli, they are still sorting out the molecular players. Duke Univ. researchers have made a surprising discovery about the role of a key molecule involved in pain in worms, and have built a structural model of the molecule.

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A new way to diagnose malaria

September 2, 2014 7:38 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye and looks under a microscope for the Plasmodium parasite, which causes the disease. This approach gives an accurate count of how many parasites are in the blood, but is not ideal because there is potential for human error.

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Experimental Ebola drug heals all monkeys in study

August 29, 2014 1:28 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

An experimental Ebola drug healed all 18 monkeys infected with the deadly virus in a study, boosting hopes that the treatment might help fight the outbreak raging through West Africa. Scientists gave the drug, called ZMapp, three to five days after infecting the monkeys in the laboratory. Most were showing symptoms by then, and all completely recovered.

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We travel with our own germs

August 29, 2014 5:24 am | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

Sorry, clean freaks. No matter how well you scrub your home, it's covered in bacteria from your own body. And if you pack up and move, new research shows, you'll rapidly transfer your unique microbial fingerprint to the doorknobs, countertops and floors in your new house, too.

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Evolution used similar molecular toolkits to shape flies, worms, humans

August 28, 2014 1:35 pm | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | Comments

Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression, according to a massive Yale Univ.-led analysis of genomic data. Two related studies led by scientists at Harvard and Stanford,tell a similar story: Even though humans, worms and flies bear little obvious similarity to each other, evolution used remarkably similar molecular toolkits to shape them.

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Sensory-tested drug delivery vehicle could limit spread of HIV, AIDS

August 28, 2014 12:33 pm | by Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State Univ. | Comments

A unique method for delivering compounds that could positively impact the global battle against HIV and AIDS may be possible, thanks to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. A semi-soft vaginal suppository made from the seaweed-derived food ingredient carrageenan and loaded with the antiviral drug Tenofovir provides a woman-initiated, drug delivery vehicle that can protect against the spread of STIs.

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From nose to knee: Engineered cartilage regenerates joints

August 28, 2014 11:59 am | Comments

Cartilage lesions in joints often appear in older people as a result of degenerative processes, and appear in younger people after injuries and accidents. Such defects are difficult to repair and often require complicated surgery and long rehabilitation times. Researchers in Switzerland have reported that cells taken from the nasal septum are able to adapt to the environment of the knee joint and can thus repair articular cartilage defects.

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Duality principle is “safe and sound”

August 28, 2014 10:23 am | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Rochester have cleared up an apparent violation of quantum mechanics’ wave-particle duality that was announced in 2012 by a team of scientists in Germany. They replicated the experiment, which simultaneously determined a photon’s path and observed high contrast interference fringes created by the interaction of waves. But they also found an undiscovered source of bias sampling that explained the strange results.

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Synthesis produces new antibiotic

August 28, 2014 10:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

A fortuitous collaboration at Rice Univ. has led to the total synthesis of a recently discovered natural antibiotic. The laboratory recreation of a fungus-derived antibiotic, viridicatumtoxin B, may someday help bolster the fight against bacteria that evolve resistance to treatments in hospitals and clinics around the world.

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U.S. to begin safety testing Ebola vaccine next week

August 28, 2014 9:25 am | by Seth Borenstein - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | Comments

Federal researchers next week will start testing humans with an experimental vaccine to prevent the deadly Ebola virus. The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is launching the safety trial on a vaccine developed by the agency's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Astronomers see the birth of a massive galaxy, hidden by dust

August 28, 2014 9:17 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

Yale Univ. astronomers have discovered a window into the early, violent formation of the cores of the universe’s monster galaxies, obscured behind walls of dust. After years of searching, scientists have observed one such turbulent, starbursting galactic core in the young universe using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and a telescope from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

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New DARPA program aimed at developing customized therapies

August 28, 2014 9:11 am | Comments

DARPA’s new Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program was among the initiatives the White House highlighted this week as President Barack Obama addressed the need for new and more effective strategies for improving the health of service members, veterans and others. ElectRx goes beyond medication, aiming to explore neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself.

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