Science News: Week of August 23, 2009

Our weekly compilation of science news for the week of August 23, 2009.

Autonomous underwater robot reduces ship fuel consumption: The Office of Naval Research is a front runner in supporting and bringing forth innovative solutions to fuel consumption challenges.

Eyeless creature discovered in undersea tunnel: A previously unknown species of an eyeless crustacean was discovered lurking inside a lava tube beneath the seafloor.

Fly eyes help researchers ‘see’ new proteins involved in memory: Research report in the journal Genetics identifies new proteins involved in memory, and provides new insight into fragile X mental retardation.

To read the study:

Cziko, A., McCann, C., Howlett, I., Barbee, S., Duncan, R., Luedemann, R., Zarnescu, D., Zinsmaier, K., Parker, R., & Ramaswami, M. (2009). Genetic Modifiers of dFMR1 Encode RNA Granule Components in Drosophila Genetics, 182 (4), 1051-1060 DOI: 10.1534/genetics.109.103234

Mitochondrial DNA replacement successful in Rhesus monkeys: New procedure may halt some serious inherited diseases, a study suggests.

To read the study:

Tachibana, M., Sparman, M., Sritanaudomchai, H., Ma, H., Clepper, L., Woodward, J., Li, Y., Ramsey, C., Kolotushkina, O., & Mitalipov, S. (2009). Mitochondrial gene replacement in primate offspring and embryonic stem cells Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08368

Obese people have ‘severe brain degeneration’: A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said on Tuesday.

Small peptide found to stop lung cancer tumor growth in mice: Scientists have discovered a treatment effective in mice at blocking the growth and shrinking the size of lung cancer tumors, one of the leading causes of cancer death in the world.

Study finds radiation risk for patients: At least four million Americans are exposed to high doses each year, and about 400,000 patients receive more than the maximum annual exposure allowed for nuclear power plant employees.

Upward lightning caught on camera: Duke University researchers have captured images of lightning bolts shooting upwards.

USC study finds changes in DNA patterns are linked to prenatal smoke exposure: A new study by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California has found that the life-long effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy may occur through specific changes in DNA patterns.

Vitamin D may be heart protective: A deficiency of the sunshine vitamin may worsen plaque accumulation in vessels of diabetes patients.

To read the study:

Oh, J., Weng, S., Felton, S., Bhandare, S., Riek, A., Butler, B., Proctor, B., Petty, M., Chen, Z., Schechtman, K., Bernal-Mizrachi, L., & Bernal-Mizrachi, C. (2009). 1,25(OH)2 Vitamin D Inhibits Foam Cell Formation and Suppresses Macrophage Cholesterol Uptake in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Circulation, 120 (8), 687-698 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.856070

What Britney Spears can reveal about Alzheimer’s: Researchers may have found a way to identify those most at risk of developing the neurological disorder simply by asking them whether they recognize celebrities such as Britney Spears and Johnny Carson.

World’s last great forest under threat: The world’s last remaining “pristine” forest – the boreal forest across large stretches of Russia, Canada and other northern countries – is under increasing threat, a team of international researchers has found.