New Procedure Lets Scientists Probe Short-Lived Molecules

Some of the most important compounds are the shortest lived — transient molecules that exist for only thousandths of a second or less during chemical reactions. Characterization of such “reaction intermediates” can play a key role in understanding the mechanisms by which molecules change, shedding light on processes ranging from basic chemical reactions to complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Yet by their very nature, reaction intermediates exist for brief periods too short to be seen by most sensors.

Radiation, injections turn on immune system to attack brain tumor cells

Researchers are working to develop a non-surgical approach to brain cancer that uses radiation and the injection of specially cultured bone marrow cells into the tumor. The combination sets in motion a local and systemic immune response to kill surviving tumor cells. The novel approach has provided promising results in a study on rats, described in the March 3 issue of the Journal of Immunotherapy. Human trials are expected to begin within the year.

Alcohol researchers relate a genetic factor to anxiety in women

Researchers have identified a genetic factor that appears to influence anxiety in women. Combining DNA analysis, recordings of brain activity, and psychological tests, investigators at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that Caucasian and American Indian women with the same gene variant had similarly high scores on tests that measure anxiety. These women also had similar electroencephelograms (EEG) — recordings of brain electrical activity as unique as an individual’s fingerprints — that showed characteristics of anxious temperament, further strengthening the association of this shared genetic factor with anxiety. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Psychiatric Genetics.

Screening test can help identify cancer survivors at risk for emotional distress

A relatively brief screening test can give caregivers a good indication of which cancer survivors are emotionally distressed and may benefit from further psychological evaluation, according to new research by a team of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators. In a study in the March 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the researchers found that childhood cancer survivors whose screening scores indicated they were dissatisfied with their physical appearance, were in poor physical health, or had been treated with head radiation had an increased risk of experiencing psychological distress.

New Insights Revealed about Stresses Between Sliding Grains

Densely packed granular particles that inch past each other under tension interact in ways more complex and surprising than previously believed, two Duke University physicists have discovered. Their observations, described in the Thursday, February 27, 2003, issue of the research journal Nature, could provide new insight into such geophysical processes as the behavior of a slowly moving glacier or an active earthquake fault, said Robert Behringer, a Duke physics professor who is one of the Nature article’s authors. The physicists’ findings could also have implications for industrial problems, such as how the contents of a hopper holding granular materials such as grain or coal flow, he added.

Obese people experience delay in feeling full, study finds

Most people feel full about 10 minutes after they begin eating, but for those who are obese, it may take almost twice as long for their brains to get the message, according to researchers at the University of Florida’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute. Through innovative use of neuroimaging, UF scientists successfully pinpointed when the brain responds to changing hormone levels in the body that signal satiety. The finding raises the possibility that a delayed feeling of fullness or the inability to feel satisfied while eating could perpetuate obesity, making treatment difficult, they report in the February issue of Psychiatry Annals.

Xenon Shows Promise in Protecting Brain During Bypass Surgery

In studies using rats, researchers from Duke University Medical Center and the Imperial College, London, have found evidence that the chemically inert gas xenon can protect the brain from the neurological damage often associated with the use of the heart-lung machine during coronary artery bypass surgery. The researchers say that xenon appears to block receptors on nerve cells in the brain that can be “overstimulated” in response to the surgery. This overstimulation can lead to nerve cell damage or death.

Santillan Dies at Duke Hospital

Following a series of tests, doctors at Duke University Hospital determined that Jesica Santillan, 17, meets the criteria for the declaration of brain death. She was pronounced dead at 1:25 pm today (Feb. 22). “All of us at Duke University Hospital are deeply saddened by this,” said William Fulkerson, M.D., CEO of the hospital. “We want Jesica’s family and supporters to know that we share their loss and their grief. We very much regret these tragic circumstances.”

Pavlov?s Flies: Researchers Identify Fruit Fly Memory Mutants

By teaching fruit flies to avoid an odor and isolating mutant flies that can?t remember their lessons, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York have identified dozens of genes required for long-term memory. In the same study, using DNA chip technology, the scientists identified another large group of candidate memory genes that are either switched on or off in the fly brain during memory formation.