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Monday, November 16, 2009

Today in the News (16 Nov 09)

Evolution:
Caught In The Act: Butterfly Mate Preference Shows How One Species Can Become Two. Breaking up may actually not be hard to do, say scientists who've found a population of tropical butterflies that may be on its way to a split into two distinct species. The cause of this particular break-up? A shift in wing color and mate preference. In a paper published this week in the journal Science, the researchers describe the relationship between diverging color patterns in Heliconius butterflies and the long-term divergence of populations into new and distinct species.

Ancient Penguin DNA Raises Doubts About Accuracy of Genetic Dating Techniques. Penguins that died 44,000 years ago in Antarctica have provided extraordinary frozen DNA samples that challenge the accuracy of traditional genetic aging measurements, and suggest those approaches have been routinely underestimating the age of many specimens by 200 to 600 percent. In other words, a biological specimen determined by traditional DNA testing to be 100,000 years old may actually be 200,000 to 600,000 years old, researchers suggest in a new report in Trends in Genetics, a professional journal. The findings raise doubts about the accuracy of many evolutionary rates based on conventional types of genetic analysis. BLOG NOTE: I am almost reluctant to post this article, only because of how badly it will be misrepresented by creationists and their ilk, and you know it will... The fact that this shows that many evolutionary steps indicate an older age will escape them. Also, this is for Penguins, not all animals. Furthermore, the temperatures and climate may have some bearing on the results. That science is always learning doesn't seem to be a strenth to them.

Vaccines:
People With Less Education Could Be More Susceptible To The Flu. People who did not earn a high school diploma could be more likely to get H1N1 and the vaccine might be less effective in them compared to those who earned a diploma, new research shows. University of Michigan study looked at a latent virus called CMV in young people, and the body's ability to control the virus. Previous studies have shown that elderly people with less education are less successful at fighting off CMV, but this is the first known study to make that connection in younger adults as well, said study co-author Jennifer Dowd, who began the work while in the Health and Society Scholars program at the U-M School of Public Health. BLOG NOTE: Or is it that people who are less educated are more likely to listen to bimbos like Jenny McCarthy? Stupid is as stupid does?

Whooping Cough Immunity Lasts Longer Than Previously Thought. Immunity to whooping cough lasts at least 30 years on average, much longer than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers based at the University of Michigan and the University of New Mexico. Details are published October 30 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens. Once thought to be under control following widespread childhood vaccination, whooping cough (pertussis) has been on the rise since the 1980s in the United States and several other countries. Several explanations have been proposed for the surprising increase in cases, and one leading idea is that the immunity enjoyed by vaccinated or previously exposed people is waning. It has been documented that, in some individuals, immunity has waned over time, but details of how long protection typically lasts and how its waning affects disease transmission have not been clear.

Autism:
Children With Autism Show Slower Pupil Responses, Study Finds. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 150 children today, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. Despite its widespread effect, autism is not well understood and there are no objective medical tests to diagnose it. Recently, University of Missouri researchers have developed a pupil response test that is 92.5 percent accurate in separating children with autism from those with typical development. In the study, MU scientists found that children with autism have slower pupil responses to light change. "No comprehensive study has been conducted previously to evaluate the pupils' responses to light change, or PLR, in children with autism," said Gang Yao, associate professor of biological engineering in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering. "In this study, we used a short light stimulus to induce pupil light reflexes in children under both dark and bright conditions. We found that children with autism showed significant differences in several PLR parameters compared to those with typical development."

Language Support In Schools Vital For Children With Autism. Teachers and parents must be vigilant in observing difficulties with language comprehension, reading and spelling in children and young people with autism, Asperger's syndrome and ADHD. "It is important that pupils are offered the support to which they are entitled," says Jakob ├ůsberg in a new thesis at the University of Gothenburg. "Pupils with these neuropsychiatric disorders are often reported as having problems with spoken and written activities. However, relatively little research has been carried out within the field. Considering how important such skills are for coping independently in school and in working life and society in general, it is of great importance that we become better informed about these issues," considers Jakob ├ůsberg, who is publicly defending his thesis in psychology.

Why Can't Chimps Speak? Key Differences In How Human And Chimp Versions Of FOXP2 Gene Work. If humans are genetically related to chimps, why did our brains develop the innate ability for language and speech while theirs did not? Scientists suspect that part of the answer to the mystery lies in a gene called FOXP2. When mutated, FOXP2 can disrupt speech and language in humans. Now, a UCLA/Emory study reveals major differences between how the human and chimp versions of FOXP2 work, perhaps explaining why language is unique to humans. Published Nov. 11 in the online edition of the journal Nature, the findings provide insight into the evolution of the human brain and may point to possible drug targets for human disorders characterized by speech disruption, such as autism and schizophrenia. BLOG NOTE: This article has a lot to do with genetics and evolution, but there is a tie in to autism and mental dissorders, so I put it here.

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