Science News: Week of July 26, 2009

Our weekly compilation of science news for the week of July 26, 2009.

Allergy meds slim down obese mice: Animal study shows over-the-counter medications lower weight and treat type 2 diabetes.

To read the study:

Feuerer, M., Herrero, L., Cipolletta, D., Naaz, A., Wong, J., Nayer, A., Lee, J., Goldfine, A., Benoist, C., Shoelson, S., & Mathis, D. (2009). Lean, but not obese, fat is enriched for a unique population of regulatory T cells that affect metabolic parameters Nature Medicine DOI: 10.1038/nm.2002

Botanists agree on plant DNA ‘Barcode’ for identification: After four years of debate, an international team of scientists from 25 institutions has finally agreed on a standard “DNA barcode” for plants for quick and easy identification of species.

Discovery may help treat obesity: In a new study, researchers raise the possibility that if certain brown fat cells could be made more active, a person might burn more fat.

To read the study:

PRDM16–C/EBP-? transcriptional complex Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08262

Discovery to aid in future treatments of third-world parasites: Schistosomiasis, one of the most important of the neglected tropical diseases, is caused by infection with parasitic helminths of the genus Schistosoma. No vaccine is currently available to prevent schistosomiasis. However, new findings from an international study can lead to incremental advances that may eventually lead to new treatments and therapies that will improve the day-to-day lives of the 200 million people around the globe currently afflicted by schistosomiasis

Little-known protein found to be key player: Italian and US scientists have found that a little-understood protein previously implicated in a rare genetic disorder also plays critical role in building and maintaining healthy cells. Even more surprising, the research shows that the protein builds structures by fusing intracellular membranes in a fundamentally new way.

To read the study:

Orso, G., Pendin, D., Liu, S., Tosetto, J., Moss, T., Faust, J., Micaroni, M., Egorova, A., Martinuzzi, A., McNew, J., & Daga, A. (2009). Homotypic fusion of ER membranes requires the dynamin-like GTPase Atlastin Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08280

Organic food not nutritionally better than conventionally-produced food: Systematic review of literature over 50 years finds no evidence for superior nutritional content of organic produce.

Placenta-derived stem cells may help sufferers of lung diseases: Researchers have found that stem cells derived from human placenta may ultimately play a role in the treatment of lung diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and fibrotic diseases caused by tuberculosis, chemical exposure, radiation or pathogens.

Reprogramming human cells without inserting genes: Research team at WPI and CellThera discovers a way to turn on stem cell genes in human skin cells without using viruses or inserting new genes.

To read the study:

Page, R., Ambady, S., Holmes, W., Vilner, L., Kole, D., Kashpur, O., Huntress, V., Vojtic, I., Whitton, H., & Dominko, T. (2009). Induction of Stem Cell Gene Expression in Adult Human Fibroblasts without Transgenes Cloning and Stem Cells DOI: 10.1089/clo.2009.0015

Saturn’s day shorter than previously thought: Scientists have reported new calculations that place Saturn’s day at five minutes shorter than previously considered.

Scientists closer to making implantable bone material: Scientists are closer to understanding how to grow replacement bones with stem cell technology.

To read the study:

Gentleman, E., Swain, R., Evans, N., Boonrungsiman, S., Jell, G., Ball, M., Shean, T., Oyen, M., Porter, A., & Stevens, M. (2009). Comparative materials differences revealed in engineered bone as a function of cell-specific differentiation Nature Materials DOI: 10.1038/nmat2505

Scientists find a microbe haven at Ocean’s surface: Scientists are now discovering that the top layer of the ocean is home to an unusual menagerie of microbes.

White roofs catch on as energy cost cutters : Some homeowners are embracing so-called “cool roofs” that reflect heat as an affordable tool against climate change.