Knee 'Scaffold' Study Offers New Hope for Injury Victims

Scientists in Britain are taking advanced surgical research further with the potential to offer new hope for knee-injury victims. They are following up international research that aims to improve knee cartilage repair techniques, termed ‘chrondrocyte implantation’. The procedure, developed in Sweden ten years ago, involves growing a patient’s knee cartilage cells in a laboratory, which are then implanted through open knee surgery. Recent exciting developments revolve around the materials or ‘scaffolds’ that the cells are grown on. The scaffold is inserted into the knee with the seeded cells growing on it, and disintegrates slowly once the knee’s cartilage cells have become established.

Ancient 'Saranwrap' Preserves Fossils

Why are some fossils preserved so beautifully? Dr Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester Department of Geology believes it is because they were wrapped in a sort of clingfilm, hundreds of millions of years ago. He, together with Helen Jones, a Leicester undergraduate and Professor Barrie Rickards of Cambridge University, have been puzzling over why some graptolites (pictured below) – extinct, ocean-going animals ? are so curiously preserved.

Ancient Hopi Villages Built with Driftwood

Many cultures have relied on driftwood as a resource, for building homes and fires, especially where other wood resources are scarce. But archaeologists have not investigated the possible extent of driftwood use by ancient cultures of the southwestern United States, until now. In a recent article in the journal Kiva, researchers report on the use of driftwood at Homol’ovi, a cluster of 14th-century Hopi villages along the Little Colorado River, near present-day Winslow, Arizona. Their findings not only document the first known reliance on driftwood by peoples of the Southwest, but point to many other implications for the archaeological record of the villages.

Agriculture's origin may be hidden in 'invisible' clues

As scientists attempt to learn about the origins of agriculture in the New World, they’re focusing on what, for the most part, is invisible ? microscopic plant crystals, tiny starch grains and fossilized pollen.
These microscopic plant traces reliably record the earliest use of domesticated plants, says Texas A&M University anthropologist Vaughn Bryant, who is also the director the university’s palynology laboratory.

Scientists Discover How Hydrogen-Making Bacteria Thrive with Cyanide

An Arizona chemist and colleagues from Munich, Germany, have discovered how microbes avoid being poisoned by the cyanide and carbon monoxide compounds they make and incorporate into enzymes. The bacteria use the enzymes to turn water into hydrogen for energy. Bacteria with this remarkable ability have long been widely dismissed as one of Mother Nature’s interesting, if largely useless and unimportant, oddities.

Artificial worlds used to unlock secrets of real human interaction

What do flocks of birds, traffic jams, fads, drinking games, forest fires and residential segregation have in common? The answer could come from a new computational research method called agent-based modeling. Michael Macy, a sociologist at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is using this powerful new tool to look for elementary principles of self-organization that might shed new light on long-standing puzzles about how humans interact. A professor and chair of Cornell’s Department of Sociology, Macy will speak Feb. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver in a symposium, “Artificial Agent Societies: A Computational Future for the Social Sciences.”

Plant pathologists unpeel rumors of banana extinction

Will bananas really become extinct within the next decade? Not likely says a plant pathologist with the American Phytopathological Society (APS). The plant pathologist is speaking out in response to an article that recently appeared in New Scientist depicting possible extinction due to the impact of two diseases, Black Sigatoka and Panama disease, on the global production of bananas. “Diseases are, and will remain, major constraints to both export and subsistence production of banana, and there is no doubt that Black Sigatoka and Panama disease constitute the most important threats,” said Randy C. Ploetz, Professor at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center. “However, it is unlikely that these problems will cause production to decrease greatly in the next decade, let alone that the crop will become extinct,” said Ploetz.

Pheromones Create a 'Chemical Image' in the Brain

For the first time, researchers have eavesdropped on the brains of mice as they go about the normal behaviors of detecting the subtle chemical signals called pheromones from other animals. The researchers have discovered that the animals’ pheromone-processing machinery in the brain forms, in essence, a specific “pheromonal image” of another animal. Such an “image” of another animal’s sex, identity, social standing and female reproductive status governs a range of mating, fighting, maternal-infant bonding and other behaviors. The scientists said that the specificity they discovered in the neurons that process pheromonal signals is akin to the “face neurons” in the visual areas of primate brains that are specifically triggered by facial features of other animals.

Florida researchers try to put scent back into flowers

If you are among the millions who receive flowers on Valentine’s Day, you likely will put your nose to a rose, only to find you can’t catch a whiff of your favorite floral aroma. And it isn’t because your sense of smell has diminished. Plant breeding has led to bigger, longer-lasting blooms, but in the process many flowers have lost their scents – a trend University of Florida researchers hope to reverse. The researchers are investigating ways to put scent back in, either through genetic engineering or by developing chemical formulations that might be used through a spray application.

Gene silencing technique gets patent

An important discovery in modern molecular biology is that double-stranded RNA can quash the activity of specific genes in plants, animals, and fungi. In 1997, Dr. Andrew Fire of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Dr. Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and their team found that by specially designing RNA with two strands they could silence targeted genes. Their discovery, called RNA interference (RNAi) was recently patented (US Patent 6,506,559 B1), and it has been widely licensed in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

Fasting forestalls Huntington's disease in mice

Decreasing meal frequency and caloric intake protects nerve cells from genetically induced damage, delays the onset of Huntington’s disease-like symptoms in mice, and prolongs the lives of affected rodents, according to investigators at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Intramural Research Program. This animal study* is the first to suggest that a change in diet can influence the course of Huntington’s disease.

First genetic response in animal species to global warming

For the first time ever, researchers have discovered that an animal species has changed its genetic make-up to cope with global warming. In the past, organisms have shown the flexibility–or plasticity–to adapt to their surroundings, but this is the first time it has been proven a species has responded genetically to cope with environmental forces.