MCGILL (CAN) — Scientists have discovered a bacterium in the Canadian High Arctic that thrives at -15º Celsius—temperatures nearly as cold as the surface of Mars.
The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island is the coldest ever reported for bacterial growth. The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on both the Saturn moon Enceladus and Mars, where similar briny subzero conditions are thought to exist.
The team of researchers, led by Professor Lyle Whyte and postdoctoral fellow Nadia Mykytczuk, both from the department of natural resource sciences at McGill University, discovered Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 after screening about 200 separate High Arctic microbes looking for the microorganism best adapted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic permafrost.
PENN STATE (US) — The feeding behavior seen in mosquitoes carrying malaria may be an immune response, not the parasite’s manipulation of the insect’s activity for its own survival.
“Normally, after a female mosquito ingests a blood meal, she matures her eggs and does not take another one until the meal is digested,” says Lauren J. Cator, postdoctoral fellow in entomology at Penn State.
UC SANTA BARBARA (US) — Two compounds found in cinnamon may delay the onset of—or even ward off—the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
New research shows the compounds—cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin—are showing some promise in preventing the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize the disease.
Responsible for the assembly of microtubules in a cell, a protein called tau plays a large role in the structure of the neurons, as well as their function.
U. VIRGINIA (US) — A new target shows promise for treating deadly glioblastomas while avoiding many of the obstacles of previous efforts.
Glioblastomas are the most common form of brain tumor in adults—and the most aggressive. Because of the way the tumors infiltrate the brain, spreading like ivy, they cannot be removed fully by surgery. There is no cure, and few patients survive more than two to three years even with aggressive treatment.
STANFORD (US) — Scientists have demonstrated a revolutionary electrically driven polariton laser that could significantly improve the efficiency of lasers.
The physics powering lasers has remained relatively unchanged through 50 years of use. The new system, however, makes use of the unique physical properties of bosons, subatomic particles that scientists have attempted to incorporate into lasers for decades.
“We’ve solidified our physical understanding, and now it’s time we think about how to put these lasers into practice,” says physicist Na Young Kim, a member of the Stanford University team, which was led by Yoshihisa Yamamoto, professor of electrical engineering and of applied physics. “This is an exciting era to imagine how this new physics can lead to novel engineering.”
U. ROCHESTER (US) — A brief test of a person’s ability to filter out visual movement—in this case, black and white bars moving across a screen—can predict IQ.
The test is the first purely sensory assessment to be strongly correlated with IQ and may provide a non-verbal and culturally unbiased tool for scientists seeking to understand neural processes associated with general intelligence.
UC BERKELEY (US) — The public can help scientists by deciphering and recording the hand-written field notes that accompany a million insect specimens, many dating back more than 100 years.
Along the way, participants in the project, called Calbug, are getting a peek into history and the treasures held in museum collections. Among the many scientifically valuable objects in University of California, Berkeley’s Essig Museum collection is at least one—a ground beetle from Tierra del Fuego, Chile—that was collected in 1833 by none other than Charles Darwin.
RICE (US) — Children living in households where the parents are married are less likely to be obese, according to new research.
“Childhood obesity is a significant public health issue in our country, with nearly one-third of all US children ages 2-17 overweight or obese,” says Rachel Kimbro, study co-author, associate professor of sociology at Rice University and director of the Kinder Institute Urban Health Program. “Despite this, very little research has been conducted to explore the impact of family structure on this epidemic.”
U. LEEDS (UK) / U. CHICAGO (US) — Researchers have discovered what drives the generation of astrophysical magnetic fields like the Sun’s.
Scientists have known since the 18th century that the Sun regularly oscillates between periods of high and low solar activity in an 11-year cycle, but have been unable to fully explain how this cycle is generated.
U. FLORIDA (US) — While residents in Florida have negative feelings about undocumented immigrants, an overwhelming majority also favor a policy that would allow them a path to US citizenship, a new survey suggests.
The survey of 507 Floridians shows that although many see undocumented immigrants as threats to their economic well-being and personal safety, they still have “pockets” of sympathetic views toward those trying to establish themselves as US residents.
UC SANTA BARBARA (US) — Methane emissions across large parts of the US are higher than scientists had estimated, according to new research from a cross-continent drive in a rented camper.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, stronger than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timescale, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, though on a century timescale, carbon dioxide is far stronger.
U. ARIZONA (US) — Mars is pummeled by space rocks less frequently than previously thought, experts report.
Using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have estimated that the planet is bombarded by more than 200 small asteroids or bits of comets per year forming craters at least 12.8 feet (3.9 meters) across.
MCGILL (CAN) — Women who consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day—regardless if consumed in food or supplements—may live longer, new research suggests.
Calcium, an essential nutrient for bone health, is commonly found in dairy products as well as vitamins. Despite calcium’s health benefits, past studies have linked calcium supplements to heart disease risk.
JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Neuroscientists trying to explain cocaine’s effects on the brain have stumbled onto a chemical compound that blocks cravings for the drug in addicted mice.
The compound is already known to be safe for people to take, though it was ineffective as a medicine years ago in tests against Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
UC SANTA BARBARA (US) — When we look for something, we rely on environmental cues and scene context. New research shows where in the brain this process occurs.
Our brains developed this pattern of search over the millennia of human evolution, It’s an ability that has not only helped us find food and avoid danger in humankind’s earliest days, but also continues to aid us today, in tasks like driving to work, going shopping, and reading X-rays.
U. SHEFFIELD (UK) — Magnetic analysis lets archaeologists match obsidian artifacts from Syria to the specific quarry—not just the volcano—of origin.
While at the University of Sheffield from 1965 until 1972, Professor Lord Colin Renfrew developed a technique that matched stone tools made of obsidian, naturally occurring glass, to their volcanic origins based on their chemical fingerprints.
U. LEEDS (UK) — Declines in the biodiversity of pollinating insects and wild plants in Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands have slowed in recent years.
Researchers found evidence of dramatic reductions in the diversity of species ibetween the 1950s and 1980s, but researchers say the picture brightened markedly after 1990, with a slowdown in local and national biodiversity losses among bees, hoverflies, and wild plants.
U. MELBOURNE (AUS) — Even though radiation from CT scans is quite low, researchers find an increase risk of cancer with childhood exposure depending on age and exposure events.
A study of more than 600,000 Australians has found people are at slightly greater risk of cancer after having a CT scan. For every 1,800 people who underwent computed tomography (CT) scans before the age of 20, there was one extra case of cancer over the following 10 years.
Study leader John Mathews, a professor at the University of Melbourne, says this small increase in cancer risk must be weighed against the undoubted benefits from CT scans in diagnosing and monitoring disease.
U. ARIZONA (US) — The atmosphere on the planets Uranus and Neptune goes from screaming winds of infernal violence to dead-quiet at a much shallower depth than previously thought.
Similar to the giant gas planets Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, have long been known to harbor swirling clouds and violent winds churning up their atmospheres. Massive bands of jet streams encircling the entire planet have been observed in both cases.
But given that Uranus’ atmosphere is believed to be thick enough to swallow the entire Earth, it was previously unknown just how far the violent weather reached into the planet’s interior.
Now a team of planetary scientists with the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, including William Hubbard and Adam Showman, has published the results of new analyses that put an upper limit to the weather zone on Uranus and Neptune.
DUKE (US) — A modified polio virus appears to be effective in attacking glioblastoma brain tumor cells, researchers report in an early study to establish proper dosing levels.
Tested in an ongoing phase 1 study, the treatment capitalizes on the discovery that cancer cells have an abundance of receptors that work like magnets drawing the polio virus, which then infects and kills the cells.