Boyfriend pressure makes black teen girls more likely to want pregnancy

Poor, black teen girls who think their boyfriends want a baby are 12 times more likely to wish they were pregnant compared with similar teens who expressed no desire to become pregnant, according to new research. Girls in the study who wanted to become pregnant were almost four times as likely to have a partner who was at least five years older than themselves. They were also twice as likely to report feelings of low self-esteem and low family support, and twice as likely to feel that their partner would disapprove of using condoms.

Discovery of nearest known brown dwarf

A team of European astronomers has discovered a Brown Dwarf object (a ‘failed’ star) less than 12 light-years from the Sun. It is the nearest yet known. Now designated Epsilon Indi B, it is a companion to a well-known bright star in the southern sky, Epsilon Indi, previously thought to be single. The binary system is one of the twenty nearest stellar systems to the Sun. The brown dwarf was discovered from the comparatively rapid motion across the sky which it shares with its brighter companion : the pair move a full lunar diameter in less than 400 years. It was first identified using digitised archival photographic plates from the SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys and confirmed using data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey. Follow-up observations with the near-infrared sensitive SOFI instrument on the ESO 3.5-m New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory confirmed its nature and has allowed measurements of its physical properties.

It’s ALIVE! Scientists create first truly unnatural organism

From time immemorial, every living thing has shared the same basic set of building blocks — 20 amino acids from which all proteins are made. That is, until now: A group of scientists say they have, for the first time, created an organism that can produce a 21st amino acid and incorporate it into proteins completely on its own. The research should help probe some of the central questions of evolutionary theory. The project could eventually give concrete answers to questions that have generally been regarded as purely speculative: Is 20 the ideal number of basic building blocks? Would additional amino acids lead to organisms with enhanced function? Why has the genetic code not evolved further?

Both sides of brain process the language of feelings

Both sides of the brain play a role in processing emotional communication, with the right side stepping in when we focus not on the “what” of an emotional message but rather on how it feels. By studying blood flow velocity to each side of the brain, Belgian psychologists have opened a window onto the richness and complexity of human emotional communication. Their research appears in the January 2003 issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

Insight into the genetic pathways that drive segmentation like clockwork

Researchers are gaining new insight into the molecular players involved in the process of vertebral column formation in the embryo.
A research team has found evidence for an oscillator called the segmentation clock, a timing mechanism responsible for the periodic production of the somites (the precursors of the vertebrae) in the embryo. This group now reports that the Notch signaling pathway provides the backbone of the segmentation clock in the chick embryo. These findings are reported in the Jan. 12 Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature in a paper titled “Periodic Notch inhibition by lunatic fringe underlies the chick segmentation clock.”

Designer molecules correct RNA splicing defects

With a high-tech fix for faulty cellular editing, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have moved a step closer to developing treatments for a host of diseases as diverse as breast cancer, muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis. Many human diseases have been linked to defects in a cellular editing process called pre-messenger RNA splicing. Adrian Krainer, a molecular biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, has spent years investigating this complex editing process, which takes the information coded in genes and makes it available for building proteins. In a new study published in the journal Nature Structural Biology, Krainer’s team has devised a clever way to correct RNA splicing defects implicated in breast cancer and spinal muscular atrophy (a neurodegenerative disease). In principle, the technique could provide the ability to correct RNA splicing defects associated with any gene or disease.

Plasma probe scientists ready for Rosetta blast-off

Scientists who built and will control the instruments to investigate plasma changes around a comet describe their contribution to the ten year long mission at a pre-launch press briefing in London today. While the actual launch date for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has yet to be confirmed, the scientists, engineers and technicians behind the plasma-detecting instruments on board the spacecraft are all ready to begin the journey to comet Wirtanen they hope will return a rich scientific bounty.

Person’s medical costs rise with increasing obesity

Overweight and obese individuals incur up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals, according to a two-year study of nearly 200,000 employees of General Motors. Average annual medical costs for normal weight individuals in the study were $2,225, while costs for overweight and obese individuals rose steadily, from $2,388 for overweight individuals to $3,753 for the most severely obese persons. The study, by Dee W. Edington, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan and colleagues, is the first to examine the relationship between medical costs and the six weight groups defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s weight guidelines. The guidelines separate individuals into categories of underweight, healthy-weight, overweight and three different obesity designations, based on average body mass index.

Interleukin-6 May Lead to Drugs That Prevent Brain Injury From Diseases, Aging

A Mayo Clinic investigation of Interleukin-6, a hormone inside cells often considered a “bad actor” of the immune system because of its association with inflammation injuries and malignant diseases, shows that it also plays a therapeutic role in mice: it protects brain cells. Interleukin-6 — called IL-6 for short by researchers — may, in fact, be a “white knight” for mouse brain cells, or neurons, as brain cells also are called. These results, while early, may be promising for humans as well. The Mayo Clinic investigation is described in the Jan. 15 Journal of Neuroscience.

U.S. gov’t targets autoimmune diseases in new research push

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has announced the release of a comprehensive research plan from HHS’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fight autoimmune diseases, a collection of disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis that affect an estimated 14 to 22 million Americans. The plan will foster research to identify genetic, environmental and infectious causes of autoimmune diseases and to develop new treatments and prevention strategies.