Science News: Week of July 19, 2009

Our weekly compilation of science news for the week of July 19, 2009.

A drug-dispensing contact lens: Researchers have developed special contact lenses that can gradually dispense a constant amount of medication to the eye, at adjustable rates.

To read the study:

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 50 (7), 3346-3352 DOI: 10.1167/iovs.08-2826

Amateur astronomer spots Earth-size scar on Jupiter: Australian man alerts NASA to hole in planet’s atmosphere caused by comet or asteroid crash.

Chimpanzees die from primate version of HIVs: Study shows AIDS-like health effects in a wild population.

DNA may differ between tissues: Researchers demonstrate a role for the brain’s connective tissue in learning a new task.

To read the study:

Gottlieb, B., Chalifour, L., Mitmaker, B., Sheiner, N., Obrand, D., Abraham, C., Meilleur, M., Sugahara, T., Bkaily, G., & Schweitzer, M. (2009). BAK1 gene variation and abdominal aortic aneurysms Human Mutation, 30 (7), 1043-1047 DOI: 10.1002/humu.21046

Early testing for Alzheimer’s: Spinal fluid compounds can predict in many cases whether people with mild cognitive impairments will develop the disease.

For horned lizard, horns alone do not make the species: Counting the horns of California’s horned lizard, or coast horned lizard, is one way to try to distinguish separate species, but a new study shows that to be unreliable. UC Berkeley and USGS biologists considered genetic, morphological and ecological data to separate the species into three, ranging from Baja to Northern California.

International research team seeks to unravel flatworm regeneration: Planarian flatworms are only a few millimeters up to a few centimeters in length, live in freshwater and are the object of intense research, because they possess the ability to regenerate lost tissue with the help of their stem cells and even grow an entirely new worm out of minute amputated body parts. Researchers in Germany, the US and Canada have identified small RNAs which may play a role in regeneration and stem cell function.

Is the Sun missing its spots?: Sunspots, a bane of power grids, have been largely missing from the Sun, and no one knows why.

Prenatal link to kids’ lower IQ scores: Researchers for the first time have linked air pollution exposure before birth with lower IQ scores in childhood, bolstering evidence that smog may harm the developing brain.

Raindrops go it alone: Single drips shatter to produce a wide variety of sizes.

Students embed stem cells in sutures to enhance healing: Biomedical engineering students have demonstrated a practical way to embed a patient’s adult stem cells in the surgical thread used to repair serious orthopedic injuries such as ruptured tendons. The goal is to enhance healing and reduce the likelihood of reinjury.

Tires made from trees – better, cheaper, more fuel efficient: Automobile owners around the world may some day soon be driving on tires that are partly made out of trees—which could cost less, perform better and save on fuel and energy.