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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today in the News (23 Jul 09)

Sorry about not having any updates for the past couple of days. I was stuck in airports and without access to the internet at those locations. Hopefully that won't happen too often, but over the next month or two, I will be involved in a lot of travel and such, so please don't think I have dropped off the face of the earth.

Evolution:
New Discovery Suggests Trees Evolved Camouflage Defense Against Long Extinct Predator. Many animal species such as snakes, insects and fish have evolved camouflage defences to deter attack from their predators. However research published in New Phytologist has discovered that trees in New Zealand have evolved a similar defence to protect themselves from extinct giant birds, providing the first evidence of this strategy in plant life. "Plants are attacked by a bewildering array of herbivores and in response they have evolved a variety of defences to deter predators such as thorns and noxious chemicals," said lead researcher Dr Kevin Burns from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. "In contrast animals often use colours to hide from predators or advertise defences, but until now there has been little evidence of colour based defences in plants."


Australian Aborigines Initially Arrived Via South Asia. Genetic research indicates that Australian Aborigines initially arrived via south Asia. Researchers have found telltale mutations in modern-day Indian populations that are exclusively shared by Aborigines. Dr Raghavendra Rao worked with a team of researchers from the Anthropological Survey of India to sequence 966 complete mitochondrial DNA genomes from Indian 'relic populations'. He said, "Mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother and so allows us to accurately trace ancestry. We found certain mutations in the DNA sequences of the Indian tribes we sampled that are specific to Australian Aborigines. This shared ancestry suggests that the Aborigine population migrated to Australia via the so-called 'Southern Route'".

New 'Molecular Clock' Aids Dating Of Human Migration History. Researchers at the University of Leeds have devised a more accurate method of dating ancient human migration – even when no corroborating archaeological evidence exists. Estimating the chronology of population migrations throughout mankind's early history has always been problematic. The most widely used genetic method works back to find the last common ancestor of any particular set of lineages using samples of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), but this method has recently been shown to be unreliable, throwing 20 years of research into doubt.

Vaccines:
'Single-Shot' Vaccines May Protect Against H5N1 Influenza Virus. Two newly developed "single-shot" H5N1 influenza vaccines protected ferrets against lethal infection with the H5N1 influenza virus and may allow for mass vaccination in humans in the event of a pandemic outbreak. As the highly infectious H5N1 influenza A virus continues to persist in bird populations and infect humans through poultry, concerns of a pandemic outbreak remain high. Although human-to-human transmission has remained limited, the fatality rate among those reported human cases is greater than 60%. The threat that the virus will mutate and achieve efficient human-to-human spread emphasizes the need for effective preventative therapies.


Vaccine Blocks Malaria Transmission In Lab Experiments. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have for the first time produced a malarial protein (Pfs48/45) in the proper conformation and quantity to generate a significant immune response in mice and non-human primates for use in a potential transmission-blocking vaccine. Antibodies induced by Pfs48/45 protein vaccine effectively blocked the sexual development of the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium, as it grows within the mosquito. Sexual development is a critical step in the parasite’s life cycle and necessary for continued transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to humans. “Development of a successful transmission-blocking vaccine is an essential step in efforts to control the global spread of malaria. In our study, we demonstrate the relative ease of expression and induction of potent transmission-blocking antibodies in mice and non-human primates. This approach provides a compelling rationale and basis for testing a transmission-blocking vaccine in humans,” said Nirbhay Kumar, PhD, senior author of the study and professor in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

Autism:
Genetic Marker Linked To Problem Behaviors In Adults With Developmental Disabilities. A common variation of the gene involved in regulating serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain may be linked to problem behaviors in adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, new research indicates. The findings were published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

"Problem behaviors in these populations account for billions of dollars in intervention costs each year, but nearly all of these interventions occur after the fact," Craig Kennedy, a co-author of the study and professor of special education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of education and human development, said. "This research suggests one way we might predict which individuals are at risk of being aggressive and destructive and provide treatment before problems occur."


The Sounds Of Learning: Studying The Impact Of Music On Children With Autism. In June 2009, researchers reported that archaeologists in Germany had discovered a 35,000-year-old flute made of bird bone. It represented, one newspaper said, "the earliest known flowering of music-making in Stone Age culture." And we have been tapping our toes, humming along, singing and dancing ever since. The power of music affects all of us and has long appealed to our emotions. It is for this reason that UCLA researchers are using music to help children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), for whom understanding emotions is a very difficult task. This inability robs them of the chance to communicate effectively and make friends and can often lead to social isolation and loneliness.

2 comments:

  1. If you had not already done so, Larian, I was going to re-post that article on "New Discovery Suggests Trees Evolved Camouflage Defense Against Long Extinct Predator" -- interesting how even plants are involved in the struggle for life!

    Anyway, just give me a shout, via e-mail, if you need me to fill-in on your 'off' days.

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  2. This site is almost the no-man's land that mine is LOL!

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