science + technology news

Exposure at Germ Lab Reignites a Public Health Debate

January 24, 2005

The recent tularemia episode at Boston University has outraged opponents of the proposed $178 million laboratory and reignited a national debate over whether the rapid expansion in work with dangerous pathogens is adequately regulated and scientifically justified.

New tests identify cancer “ringleaders”

January 21, 2005

Cancer treatments could improve by targeting cancer “stem cells,” which give birth to all other cells in tumors, say researchers.

Killing these stem cells is vital because they avoid destruction and trigger regrowth of cancer even when all other cancer cells have been obliterated through standard drug or radiation therapy.

Mouse brain cells rapidly recover after Alzheimer’s plaques are cleared

January 21, 2005

Washington University School of Medicine researchers found that brain cells in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease can recuperate after the disorder’s characteristic brain plaques are removed.

Researchers injected mice with an antibody for a key component of brain plaques, the amyloid beta (Abeta) peptide. In areas of the brain where antibodies cleared plaques, many of the swellings previously observed on nerve cell branches rapidly disappeared. The new results… read more

Nervous system may regulate aging

January 21, 2005

A class of anti-seizure medications slows the rate of aging in roundworms, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

When exposed to drugs used to treat epilepsy in humans, worms lived longer and retained youthful functions longer than normal. Because the drugs affect nerve signals, the researchers’ observations suggest that the nervous system influences aging processes.

Washington University School of Medicineread more

Small science to be big in 2005: analysts

January 21, 2005

“Nanotechnology” will be a much more familiar word to everyone in 2005, not just scientists, say analysts.

In 2005, people will start noticing its mundane uses, like making car paint shinier, windows that clean themselves, and smaller and better mobile batteries.

Booze boosts brainpower

January 21, 2005

Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologists have found that moderate alcohol consumption protects women from cognitive decline, with a study showing that older women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol score better on cognitive tests.

Although researchers know that moderate drinking benefits the heart, there haven’t been any significant studies of whether moderate alcohol intake has any effect on the brain. The epidemiologists say that previous findings about the… read more

Spleen may be source of versatile stem cells

January 20, 2005

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found further evidence that the spleen might be a source of adult stem cells.

Previously the researchers found evidence that splenic stem cells existed and could regenerate the insulin-producing islets of the pancreas. In a follow-up study, they now report that these potential adult stem cells produce a protein previously believed to be present only during the embryonic development of mammals. The finding both… read more

Nanoparticle antiviral technology inhibits RSV infection

January 20, 2005

University of South Florida College of Medicine researchers found that an antiviral treatment combining nanoparticle and gene silencing technologies thwarts attacks of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — a virus associated with severe bronchitis and asthma.

The researchers developed nose drops containing vectors capable of producing small fragments of RNA (siRNA). These fragments were encapsulated within chitosan nanoparticles — biodegradable particles that stick to mucous-producing cells lining the lungs. The… read more

Best-Kept Secrets: Quantum cryptography has marched from theory to laboratory to real products

January 20, 2005

Quantum-cryptographic systems are available from two small companies, and more products are on the way, representing the first major commercial implementation for quantum information science.

The products on the market can send keys over individual optical-fiber links for multiple tens of kilometers, with a product cost of $70,000 to $100,000.

Mystery compound in beer fights cancer

January 20, 2005

Okayama University researchers have found that DNA damage to mice given heterocyclic amines — cancer causing agents — was reduced by up to 85% if the mice drank non-alcoholic beer instead of water.

The lead researcher Arimoto-Kobayashi thinks as-yet unidentified compounds in lager and stout prevent the amines binding to and damaging DNA. If these compounds can be identified, brewers might be able to produce beers particularly rich in… read more

National Intelligence Council Releases 2020 Project Report

January 19, 2005

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has released “Mapping the Global Future,” a report that provides a view of how world developments could evolve by 2020.

The latest report follows “Global Trends 2010″ and “Global Trends 2015.” The NIC 2020 process lasted about a year and involved more than a thousand people.

National Intelligence Council website

Skin and bones ‘made to measure’

January 19, 2005

University of Manchester scientists are developing an inkjet printer that can create “made to measure” skin and bones to treat people with severe burns or disfigurements.

Human cells are suspended in a nutrient-rich liquid before being printed out in several thin layers. The printers create 3-D structures, known as tissue scaffolds.

“Bumpy” surfaces could lead to self-cleaning windows

January 19, 2005

Ohio State University engineers are designing surfaces with nanometer high bumps that could result in super-slick, water-repellent surfaces that mimic the texture of lotus leaves.

They could allow manufacturers to make self-cleaning windows or reduce friction between moving parts in micro or nano-machines that can’t be lubricated by normal means.

Ohio State University news release

One-third of human genome regulated by RNA: study

January 19, 2005

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and MIT researchers have discovered that small RNA molecules called microRNAs regulate thousands of human genes– more than one third of the genome’s protein-coding regions.

These findings contribute to the recent interest in potential therapeutic uses of RNA. For example, using a technique known as RNA interference, or RNAi, researchers are shutting off genes by delivering artificial microRNA-like molecules (siRNAs) into cells. RNAi has… read more

Do You Want to Live Forever?

January 19, 2005

“Aubrey de Grey thinks he knows how to defeat aging. He’s brilliant, but is he nuts?” asks’s lead to Sherwin Nuland’s article on Aubrey de Grey. This article “has created quite a buzz, particularly in the Technology Review forums,” and Aubrey de Grey’s letter in response to the article is available on the website.

Aubrey de Grey Responds

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