Feasts at a funeral

Whether the occasion is a wedding reception or another milestone in life, the feast is a time-honored ritual in which a large meal marks a significant occasion. We know that the Romans, Greeks and Vikings did it, and today it’s still an active…

Mmm…biosolids: EPA to study sludge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a strategy for expanding and strengthening sewage sludge (biosolids) research and programs. Under the strategy, which responds to recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, EPA will undertake the following activities:
– Update the science underlying the rule by conducting research in priority areas;
– Strengthen the sewage sludge program by incorporating results of research, both within and outside EPA; and
-Continue ongoing efforts to increase partnerships and communication with the public and other stakeholders.

Redheaded women respond better to painkilling drug

A gene associated with red hair and fair skin may also be responsible for how females respond to painkillers, according to a study conducted by lead researcher Jeffrey Mogil, a McGill University psychology professor, and collaborators in the United States. Results of their study are to be released today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (article #03-0053). “While we believe pain is the same in all women of all hair colours,” explained Mogil, “our study shows women with red hair respond better to the pain-killing drug we tested than anyone else — including men.”

Optical trap provides new insights into motor molecules

When it comes to nanotechnology, many researchers turn to nature for inspiration. Of particular interest to nanoengineers is the naturally occurring protein kinesin – one of several ”motor molecules” that facilitate movement in living cells. A mere ten-millionth of an inch long, kinesin is the workhorse of the cell, hauling chromosomes, neurotransmitters and other vital cargo along tiny tracks called ”microtubules.” While one end of a kinesin molecule holds onto its cargo, the other end uses a strange two-headed structure to grab the microtubule and pull the cargo forward.

Training helps dyslexic brains behave 'normally'

For the first time, researchers have shown that the brains of dyslexic children can be rewired — after undergoing intensive remediation training — to function more like those found in normal readers. The training program, which is designed to help dyslexics understand rapidly changing sounds that are the building blocks of language, helped the participants become better readers after just eight weeks.

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.

Study shows how eye cells die when exposed to lead

A new study designed to find out why cells in the eye die when exposed to lead may provide novel therapies for retinal damage caused by injury or diseases such as diabetes and retinitis pigmentosa.
The study, published in the Feb. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on identifying how low-level lead exposure during development in mice injures and eventually kills rod-shaped photoreceptor cells, or rods, in the eye. Rods are cells in the eye that help humans see in dim light. The other type of photoreceptors, or light-gathering cells, called cones are responsible for color and spatial vision. Cones are used primarily in daylight and for activities such as reading.

Growing Human Antibodies in Algae is Inexpensive, Fast

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have used algae to express an antibody that targets herpes virus, describing the work in an upcoming issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This antibody could potentially be an ingredient in an anti-herpes topical cream or other anti- herpes treatments, but more importantly the algae expression technology that the TSRI team used could facilitate production of any number of human antibodies and other proteins on a massive scale.

MIT sugars research affecting bypass patients, drug industry

A young MIT professor’s basic research on complex sugars has led to a cascade of potential medical applications that could, for example, significantly improve outcomes for patients undergoing major operations such as heart bypass surgery and impact a multi-billion dollar drug industry. In the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of January 13, a team led by the professor, Ram Sasisekharan, reports the creation of designer drugs for preventing the blood clots that can cause strokes and heart disease during surgery. The resulting drugs have major advantages over the conventional form they are based on, which has an annual market of $2-3 billion. Further, an additional drug based on Sasisekharan’s work is presently in Phase III clinical trials for heart bypass patients.

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