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Detecting esophageal cancer with light

DURHAM, N.C. -- A tiny light source and sensors at the end of an endoscope may provide a more accurate way to identify pre-cancerous cells in the lining of the esophagus. Developed by biomedical engineers at Duke University and successfully t...

Heat helped hasten life’s beginnings

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There has been controversy about whether life originated in a hot or cold environment, and about whether enough time has elapsed for life to have evolved to its present complexity. But new research at the University of North C...

Preschool promises: Starting early on a new educational agenda for the...

Two children, both age 3, enroll in publicly funded preschool. But they may have vastly different experiences: One child may attend preschool for 8 hours a day and be taught by a teacher with a bachelor's degree while the other child may be in presc...

Government urges universal flu vaccinations

CHAPEL HILL -- Flu vaccine will soon be available at local pharmacies and doctor's offices, and government officials are urging everyone over 6 months of age to receive it. This year's vaccine protects against H1N1 and two other strains of season...

Long-term stress appears to damage caregivers’ immune systems

Taking care of chronically ill loved ones over long periods stresses caregivers, as everyone knows, but a new study provides strong new evidence that such continuing stress boosts the risk of age-related diseases by prematurely aging caregivers' immune systems. Levels of a damaging compound known as a proinflammatory cytokine not only increased considerably faster among those taking care of ailing spouses but also continued to increase faster for years after the spouses died.

Combined hormone replacement therapy boosts stroke, dementia

Last March, a multi-center national study made headlines by concluding that taking a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin did not improve the quality of life for women who are free of menopause-related symptoms but did expose them to a slightly higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. For that reason, many medical scientists began recommending against the combined therapy in the absence of such symptoms, saying the risks of estrogen plus progestin outweighed the benefits.

Scientists find two forms of genetic material chromatin

Biologists have discovered what appear to be fundamental differences in the physical properties of the genetic material known as chromatin. Chromatin packages DNA into cells, and the scientists found the differences between chromatin that packages genes and the chromatin that packages DNA with regulatory or unknown functions. The variation represents a previously unrecognized level of genomic organization and complexity, the scientists report, one that may exist in all cells with nuclei.

Without catalyst, slowest known biological reaction takes 1 trillion years

All biological reactions within human cells depend on enzymes. Their power as catalysts enables biological reactions to occur usually in milliseconds. But how slowly would these reactions proceed spontaneously, in the absence of enzymes - minutes, hours, days? And why even pose the question? One scientist who studies these issues is Dr. Richard Wolfenden, Alumni distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics and chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1998, he reported a biological transformation deemed "absolutely essential" in creating the building blocks of DNA and RNA would take 78 million years in water. "Now we've found one that's 10,000 times slower than that," Wolfenden said.

Enzyme structure holds key to cocaine, heroin metabolism

A new study offers the first molecular explanation of how the body metabolizes and detoxifies cocaine and heroin. "We show for the first time how humans initiate the breakdown and clearance of these dangerous narcotics," said one of the lead scientists. "This work also has two potential applications. First, our results can be used to generate an efficient treatment for cocaine overdose. Second, the same system we describe can be engineered to detoxify chemical weapons, including sarin, soman, tabun and VX gases."

Cell phone users twice as likely to cause fender benders

Drivers talking on cell phones are nearly twice as likely as other drivers involved in crashes to have rear-end collisions, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. Crashes involving cell phone use, however, are less likely to result in fatalities or serious injuries than crashes not involving the devices. Almost 60 percent of licensed N.C. drivers have used a cell phone while behind the wheel, investigators from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) found.

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