New submitter _prime writes "Until recently the mechanism by which cells make proteins in low-oxygen environments has been unknown. As published in Nature (paywall) this week, the discovery of the mechanism by an Ottawa-based team of researchers potentially means it could be 'very easy to kill cancer cells' without harming normal cells because cancer cells leverage the same low-oxygen protein synthesis mechanism even in the presence of normal oxygen levels."
astroengine writes "As we recently discussed, on June 5 or 6 this year — the exact time and date depends on where you are in the world — Venus will be visible as a small black circle crossing the disk of the sun. Usually, the Hubble Space Telescope would have no business observing this event — the sun is too close for its optics. But plans are afoot for Hubble to observe the reflected sunlight bouncing off the lunar surface during the transit. As the sunlight will pass through the Venusian atmosphere, the transit will provide invaluable spectroscopic data about Venus' atmospheric composition. This, in turn, will help astronomers in characterizing the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Using the monster 8.2-meter Subaru telescope, astronomers have identified the most distant cluster of galaxies ever found: a collection of galaxies at a staggering distance of 12.7 billion light years. This is the most distant cluster ever seen that has been confirmed spectroscopically (PDF). Technically, it's a protocluster, since it's so young — seen only a billion years after the Big Bang itself — the cluster must still be in the process of formation."
New submitter crazyjj writes "As reported in Wired, a recent National Research Council report indicates a growing concern for NASA, the NOAA, and USGS. While there are currently 22 Earth-observing satellites in orbit, this number is expected to drop to as low as six by the year 2020. The U.S. relies on this network of satellites for weather forecasting, climate change data, and important geologic and oceanographic information. As with most things space and NASA these days, the root cause is funding cuts. The program to maintain this network was funded at $2 billion as recently as 2002, but has since been scaled back to a current funding level of $1.3 billion, with only two replacement satellites having definite launch dates."
fishmike sends this excerpt from a Reuters report: "Scientists have figured out how to stop brain cell death in mice with brain disease and say their discovery deepens understanding of the mechanisms of human neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. British researchers writing in the journal Nature (abstract) said they had found a major pathway leading to brain cell death in mice with prion disease, the mouse equivalent of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD). ... Mallucci's team found that the buildup of mis-folded proteins in the brains of mice with prion disease activated a natural defense mechanism in cells, which switches off the production of new proteins. This would normally switch back on again, the researchers explained, but in these ill mice the continued build-up of misshapen proteins keeps the switch turned off. This is the trigger point leading to brain cell death, because key proteins essential for cell survival are not made. By injecting a protein that blocks the "off" switch, the scientists were able to restore the production of the survival proteins and halt the neurodegeneration."
A new study suggests that the sophistication of the human brain may be due to a mistake in cell division long ago. From the article: "A copyediting error appears to be responsible for critical features of the human brain that distinguish us from our closest primate kin, new research finds. When tested out in mice, researchers found this 'error' caused the rodents' brain cells to move into place faster and enabled more connections between brain cells."
An anonymous reader writes "Biochemist Pierre Calleja has a solution to reducing carbon emissions that doesn't require us to cut back on our use of carbon-producing devices. Calleja has developed a lighting system that requires no electricity for power. Instead it draws CO2 from the atmosphere and uses it to produce light as well as oxygen as a byproduct. The key ingredient to this eco-friendly light? Algae. Certain types of algae can feed off of organic carbon as well as sunlight, and in the process produce carbohydrate energy for themselves as well as oxygen as a waste product. Cajella's lamps consist of algae-filled water along with a light and battery system. During the day the algae produce energy from sunlight that is then stored in the batteries. Then at night the energy is used to power the light. However, as the algae can also produce energy from carbon, sunlight isn't required for the process to work. That means such lights can be placed where there is no natural light and the air will effectively be cleaned on a daily basis."
antdude writes "BBC News answers how accurate were Leonardo da Vinci's anatomy drawings — 'During his lifetime, Leonardo made thousands of pages of notes and drawings on the human body. He wanted to understand how the body was composed and how it worked. But at his death in 1519, his great treatise on the body was incomplete and his scientific papers were unpublished. Based on what survives, clinical anatomists believe that Leonardo's anatomical work was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and in some respects it can still help us understand the body today. So how do these drawings, sketched more than 500 years ago, compare to what digital imaging technology can tell us today?'"
jjp9999 writes "A new study at Emory University is trying to figure out what dogs think. The study uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the dogs' brains while they're shown different stimuli. Results from the first study will be published by the Public Library of Science, where the dogs were shown hand signals from their owners. 'We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog's perspective,' said Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project."
ygslash writes "In an opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review, Jack Hitt states that comments posted to on-line articles, and elsewhere on line, have de facto become an important factor in what is accepted as scientific truth. From the article: 'Any article, journalistic or scientific, that sparks a debate typically winds up looking more like a good manuscript 700 years ago than a magazine piece only 10 years ago. The truth is that every decent article now aspires to become the wiki of its own headline.'"
ananyo writes "Researchers have used radio waves to remotely activate engineered insulin-producing genes in mice. In the long term, the work could lead to medical procedures in which patients' genes are triggered on demand. The researchers coated iron oxide nanoparticles with antibodies that bind to a modified version of a temperature-sensitive ion channel. They injected these particles into tumors grown under the skins of mice, then heated the nanoparticles with low-frequency radio waves. The nanoparticles heated the ion channel, activating it and allowing calcium to flow into cells. The influx of calcium switched on an engineered calcium-sensitive gene that produces insulin (abstract)."
Lucas123 writes "Researchers at UCLA have created an online crowdsourcing game designed to let players help doctors in key areas of the world speed the lengthy process of distinguishing malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy ones. So far, those playing the game have collectively been able to accurately diagnose malaria-infected blood cells within 1.25% of the accuracy of a pathologist performing the same task (PDF). The researchers hope that users of the game can help eliminate the high cost and sometimes poor accuracy of diagnosis in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria accounts for some 20% of all childhood deaths."
New submitter horselight writes "Recent data obtained from Mars indicates the environment is not as hostile to life as once thought. 'An examination of data gathered by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reveals deposits that, on Earth, are only created by water moving through the rock.' The study's lead author, Steve Squyres, said, 'From landing until just before reaching the Endeavour rim, Opportunity was driving over sandstone made of sulfate grains that had been deposited by water and later blown around by the wind. These gypsum veins tell us about water that flowed through the rocks at this exact spot. It's the strongest evidence for water that we've ever seen with Opportunity.' Gypsum veins and other features indicating water movement on the surface of Mars have been observed to be much more common than previously thought."
ideonexus writes "NFL Linebacker Junior Seau's suicide this week bears a striking similarity to NFL Safety Dave Duerson's suicide last year, who shot himself in the chest so that doctors could study his brain, where they found the same chronic traumatic encephalopathy that has been found in the brains of 20 other dead football players. Malcom Gladwell stirred up controversy in 2009 by comparing professional football to dog fighting for the trauma the game inflicts on players' brains. With mounting evidence that the repeated concussions football players receive during their careers causing a lifetime of brain problems, it raises serious concerns about America's most popular sport and ethical questions for its fanbase."
ananyo writes "The head of NASA Ames Research Center may have fallen victim to restrictive arms regulations — just as a US government report recommends changing them to help the space industry. Simon 'Pete' Worden, who recently announced that Mars exploration would be done by private companies, has been accused of giving foreign citizens access to information that falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR has hampered U.S. firms seeking to export satellite technology. The allegations against Worden come just as the new report recommends moving oversight of many commercial satellites and related activities from the State department to the Commerce department, and some fear they could provide lawmakers with reasons to not ease export controls."