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The Lead

Global warming more moderate than worst-case models

April 21, 2015 11:15 am | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

A new study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not progressing as fast as it would under the most severe emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Duke-led study shows that natural variability in surface temperatures can account for observed changes in the recent rates of warming from decade to decade.

What happens underground when a missile or meteor hits

April 13, 2015 7:37 am | by Robin A. Smith, Duke Univ. | Videos | Comments

When a missile or meteor strikes the earth, the havoc above ground is obvious, but the details...

Shifts in electricity generation spur net job growth, but coal jobs decline

April 7, 2015 12:09 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

In the four years following the 2008 recession, the coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs,...

Models yield clearer picture of emissions’ true costs

March 5, 2015 7:06 am | by Duke Univ. | News | Comments

When its environmental and human health toll is factored in, a gallon of gasoline costs us about...

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Evolving a bigger brain with human DNA

February 20, 2015 10:54 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The size of the human brain expanded dramatically during the course of evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities to use abstract language and do complex math. But how did the human brain get larger than that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, if almost all of our genes are the same?

Serotonin-deficient brains more vulnerable to social stress

February 10, 2015 8:48 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Mice genetically deficient in serotonin, a crucial brain chemical implicated in clinical depression, are more vulnerable than their normal littermates to social stressors, according to a Duke Univ. study. Following exposure to stress, the serotonin-deficient mice also did not respond to a standard antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac), which works by boosting serotonin transmission between neighboring neurons.

Controlling genes with light

February 9, 2015 11:57 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have devised a method to activate genes in any specific location or pattern in a lab dish with the flip of a light switch by crossing a bacterium’s viral defense system with a flower’s response to sunlight. With the ability to use light to activate genes in specific locations, researchers can better study genes’ functions.

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Climate models disagree on why temperature “wiggles” occur

January 26, 2015 11:06 am | by Duke Univ. | News | Comments

A new study finds that most climate models likely underestimate the degree of decade-to-decade variability occurring in mean surface temperatures as Earth's atmosphere warms. The models also provide inconsistent explanations of why this variability occurs in the first place. These discrepancies may undermine the models' reliability for projecting the short-term pace as well as the extent of future warming, the study's authors warn.

First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

January 14, 2015 8:28 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | Videos | Comments

In a laboratory first, Duke Univ. researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The laboratory-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.

Mercury from gold mines accumulates far downstream

January 9, 2015 8:00 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have determined that the health risks taken on by artisanal, small-scale gold miners extend far beyond the miners themselves. Based on a study of gold-mining operations in Peru, the miners' practices not only contaminate local soil, sediment and water resources with mercury, they create hazardous levels of the neurotoxin in the food chain at least 350 miles downstream.

Study pinpoints autism-linked protein for sculpting brain connections

January 7, 2015 8:00 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Shortly after birth, human brains expand rapidly with the experience of an entirely new world. During this period, neurons in the newborn brain compete with one another to form lasting connections, called synapses. A new study by Duke Univ. researchers provides a close-up of synapse refinement and identifies a protein that is crucial in this process.

Predicting superbugs’ countermoves to new drugs

January 5, 2015 7:29 am | by Robin Ann Smith, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise, even common infections that were easily controlled for decades are proving trickier to treat with standard antibiotics. New drugs are desperately needed, but so are ways to maximize the effective lifespan of these drugs. To accomplish that, Duke Univ. researchers used software they developed to predict a constantly evolving infectious bacterium's countermoves to one of these new drugs ahead of time.

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New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

Laser sniffs out toxic gases from afar

December 3, 2014 4:45 pm | by Robin Anne Smith, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have developed a way to sniff out tiny amounts of toxic gases from up to one kilometer away. The new technology can discriminate one type of gas from another with greater specificity than most remote sensors and under normal atmospheric pressure, something that wasn’t thought possible before.

Angiogenesis drug could provide treatment for TB

November 25, 2014 9:27 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The body responds to tuberculosis infection by locking the bacterial offenders into tiny clusters of immune cells called granulomas, which are a hallmark of the disease. This containment strategy succeeds at first, but eventually the bacteria manage to break out of these intercellular jails and spread throughout the body.

Is copper prostate cancer’s Kryptonite?

October 15, 2014 7:41 am | by Duke Medicine News and Communications | News | Comments

Like discriminating thieves, prostate cancer tumors scavenge and hoard copper that is an essential element in the body. But such avarice may be a fatal weakness. Researchers at Duke Medicine have found a way to kill prostate cancer cells by delivering a trove of copper along with a drug that selectively destroys the diseased cells brimming with the mineral, leaving non-cancer cells healthy.

How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

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Surprising new role for calcium in sensing pain

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

Exporting coal to Asia could slash emissions

August 20, 2014 9:26 am | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Under the right scenario, exporting U.S. coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21% drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning the fossil fuel at plants in the U.S., according to a new Duke Univ.-led study. For the reduction to occur, U.S. plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas. And in South Korea, the imported coal must replace other coal as the power source.

New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility

July 29, 2014 1:05 pm | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Some people can handle stressful situations better than others, and it’s not all in their genes: Even identical twins show differences in how they respond. Researchers have identified a specific electrical pattern in the brains of genetically identical mice that predicts how well individual animals will fare in stressful situations. The findings may eventually help researchers prevent potential consequences of chronic stress.

New technologies fuel patient participation, data collection in research

July 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Duke Medicine News and Communications | News | Comments

The changing dynamic of health studies driven by “big data” research projects will empower patients to become active participants who provide real-time information such as symptoms, side effects and clinical outcomes, according to researchers at Duke Medicine. The analysislays out a new paradigm for health research, particularly comparative effectiveness studies that are designed to assess which therapies work best in clinical practice.

Protein could put antibiotic-resistant bugs in handcuffs

June 10, 2014 7:38 am | News | Comments

Staph infections that become resistant to multiple antibiotics don't happen because the bacteria themselves adapt to the drugs, but because of a kind of genetic parasite they carry called a plasmid that helps its host survive the antibiotics. Plasmids are rings of bare DNA containing a handful of genes that are essentially freeloaders, borrowing most of what they need to live from their bacterial host.

One and done: Antibiotic could provide single-dose option

June 5, 2014 8:20 am | by Duke Medicine News and Communications | News | Comments

In the battle against stubborn skin infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a new single-dose antibiotic is as effective as a twice-daily infusion given for up to 10 days, according to a large study led by Duke Medicine researchers. Researchers said the advantage of the new drug, oritavancin, is its potential to curtail what has been a key driver of antibiotic resistance.

Small mutation changes brain freeze to hot foot

May 8, 2014 3:50 pm | News | Comments

Ice cream lovers and hot tea drinkers with sensitive teeth could one day have a reason to celebrate a new finding from Duke Univ. researchers. The scientists have found a very small change in a single protein that turns a cold-sensitive receptor into one that senses heat.

Lab-grown muscle heals itself after animal implantation

April 2, 2014 12:07 pm | News | Comments

Biomedical engineers have grown living skeletal muscle that looks a lot like the real thing. It contracts powerfully and rapidly, integrates into mice quickly, and for the first time, demonstrates the ability to heal itself both inside the laboratory and inside an animal.

Lessons offered by emerging carbon trading markets

March 21, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in U.S. federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work.

Past HIV vaccine trials reveal new path to success

March 20, 2014 8:05 am | News | Comments

A multinational research team led by Duke Medicine scientists has identified a subclass of antibodies associated with an effective immune response to an HIV vaccine. The finding helps explain why a combination of two vaccines was able to show some effect, when one vaccine alone did not. The study also provides key insights that could aid development of new vaccines.

New lens design improves kidney stone treatment

March 18, 2014 10:53 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. engineers have devised a way to improve the efficiency of lithotripsy—the demolition of kidney stones using focused shock waves. After decades of research, all it took was cutting a groove near the perimeter of the shock wave-focusing lens and changing its curvature.

Acoustic cloaking device hides objects from sound

March 12, 2014 7:35 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Using little more than a few perforated sheets of plastic and a staggering amount of number crunching, Duke Univ. engineers have demonstrated the world’s first 3-D acoustic cloak. The new device reroutes sound waves to create the impression that both the cloak and anything beneath it are not there.

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