Body

Rains are back, and we hardly remember how dry it was a couple of weeks ago. Usually, we do not associate moist tropical forests with drought, but during the ‘verano' it gets astonishingly dry in most Panamanian lowland forests, just as in many tropical forests worldwide: Plants suffer from drought, they grow slower, wilt and even die.credit: STRI

Why are there no Unicorns?

Perhaps horses develop in a way that cannot be easily modified to produce a Unicorn, so such creatures have never arisen. Or maybe Unicorn-like animals have been born in the past but because there is no advantage for a horse to have a horn, such creatures did not thrive and were weeded out by natural selection.

In a fundamental discovery that someday may help cure type 1 diabetes by allowing people to grow their own insulin-producing cells for a damaged or defective pancreas, medical researchers here have reported that they have engineered adult stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood to produce insulin.

Their paper cites six years of research and calls it "the first demonstration that human umbilical cord blood-derived stem cells can be engineered" to synthesize insulin.

During the first 24 hours of invasion by the malaria-inducing parasite Plasmodium falciparum, red blood cells start to lose their ability to deform and squeeze through tiny blood vessels-one of the hallmarks of the deadly disease that infects nearly 400 million people each year. Now, an international team of researchers led by an MIT professor has demonstrated just why that happens.

For years contractors, real estate agents and event planners have said that whether building, buying or planning an event, a higher or vaulted ceiling is always better. Are they right? Until now there has been no real evidence that ceiling height has any influence or advantage with consumers. But recent research by Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, suggests that the way people think and act is affected by ceiling height.

A team led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists has developed a more human-like mouse model of cancer they say will aid the search for cancer-causing genes and improve the predictive value of laboratory drug testing.

High uric acid levels in the blood are a precursor of gout, the most common inflammatory arthritis in adult men. It is believed that coffee and tea consumption may affect uric acid levels but only one study has been conducted to date.

Coffee is a habit for more than 50 percent of Americans, who drink, on average, 2 cups per day. This widely consumed beverage is regularly investigated and debated for its impact on health conditions from breast cancer to heart disease. Among its complex effects on the body, coffee or its components have been linked to lower insulin and uric acid levels on a short-term basis or cross-sectionally. These and other mechanisms suggest that coffee consumption may affect the risk of gout, the most prevalent inflammatory arthritis in adult males.

MIT researchers have undertaken a first-of-its-kind analysis of bone's mechanical properties and discovered new things about how a bone absorbs energy. The insights gained from this work could lead to the creation of new, tougher materials.MIT researchers created this nanoscale map of the stiffness of bone. Image courtesy / Ortiz Lab, MIT

Researchers at the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute of the University of Pennsylvania and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute describe in this week’s issue of Science a new candidate breast-cancer susceptibility gene. The Rap80 gene is required for the normal DNA-repair function of the well-known breast cancer gene BRCA1.Upper panels: BRCA1 and Rap80 are recruited to the same structures at DNA damage sites in human cells treated with ionizing radiation. The merge panel is a digital overlay of the BRCA1 and Rap80 panels.

Cells have the remarkable ability to keep track of their genetic contents and -- when things go wrong – to step in and repair the damage before cancer or another life-threatening condition develops.

The discovery of a flexible genetic coding in leaf-cutting ants sheds new light on how one of nature's ultimate self-organising species breeds optimum numbers of each worker type to ensure the smooth running of the colony.

Research at the University of Leeds shows that despite an inherited genetic pre-disposition to grow into a particular worker caste, ant larvae can be triggered by environmental stimuli to switch development depending on colony's workforce needs.

Next time there is a global pandemic, contaminated water caused by flooding, or questionable-looking meat in a supermarket, we may be reaching for a piece of paper.

It won’t be just any type of paper but a Canadian-invented bioactive paper that contains the ingredients to detect and ward off life-threatening bacteria and viruses like E-coli, salmonella and SARS, to name just a few.

The genome of the organism that produces the world's most lethal toxin is revealed today. This toxin is the one real weapon in the genome of Clostridium botulinum and less than 2 kg - the weight of two bags of sugar - is enough to kill every person on the planet. Very small amounts of the same toxin are used in medical treatments, one of which is known as Botox®.

Women who regularly enjoy an alcoholic drink or two have a significantly lower risk of having a non-fatal heart attack than women who are life-time abstainers, epidemiologists at the University at Buffalo have shown.

Moderation is the key, however. Women in the study who reported being intoxicated at least once a month were nearly three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than abstainers, results showed.