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To wake or not to wake?

By | May 21, 2009

New evidence provides clues about the role of a key sleep-related brain activity pattern in the brain: this waveform may help keep the mind asleep through nonthreatening disturbances, rather than wake it up as previous studies have suggested, a paper in this week's Science reports. Image: Wikipedia The brain pattern in question, called the K-complex (KC), is the largest characterized neurological event in the healthy human brain. Common throughout certain sleep stages, the KC is defined by a br

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Magneto-ants pump iron

By | May 20, 2009

Researchers have discovered the basis for the magnetic personalities of migratory ants. These social insects integrate magnetic soil nanoparticles into their antennae to help them navigate the forests of South America, according to a study published online today (May 20) in the __Journal of the Royal Society Interface__. A Pachycondyla marginata antattacking a termiteImage: Alex WildThe study is a "great integration of physics and biology," linkurl:Robert Srygley,;http://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/

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Tumors spur depression

By | May 18, 2009

Tumors can cause classic symptoms of depression in rats, according to linkurl:a new study published online in PNAS;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/05/15/0811949106.abstract this week. Image: linkurl:Understanding Animal Research;http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/ "What's really cool about this paper is that it shows without a doubt that there are depressive-like behaviors induced in these rats before these rats become [sick]," said linkurl:Keith Kelley,;http://www.iib.uiuc.e

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Obama names new CDC chief

By | May 15, 2009

President Barack Obama today (May 15) named New York City health chief Thomas Frieden to the top spot at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obama praised Frieden, who spearheaded anti-smoking and cancer screening campaigns in his seven years as commissioner New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, calling him "an expert in preparedness and response to health emergencies" in a linkurl:statement.;http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Appoints-Dr-T

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Q&A: Frog saver

By | May 15, 2009

A fungal epidemic blamed for the extinction of dozens of amphibian species has drawn the attention of researchers and conservationist alike. Microbial ecologist linkurl:Reid Harris;http://www.jmu.edu/biology/faculty/harris/harris.shtml and his colleagues at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, say they have an idea for how to stop the spread of the chytrid fungus. The team recently identified several species of bacteria that occur naturally on the skin of many amphibians, and that inhib

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Nonslip role for petal cells

By | May 14, 2009

Conical cells on the petals of most flowering plants appear to play a much more grounding role for pollinating bees than scientists have previously assumed. Bee landing on snapdragonImage: Don Manning and Beverley GloverUniversity of CambridgeAccording to a study to be published in the June 9 issue of Current Biology, these cone-shaped cells on the surface of petals appear to provide insect pollinators with secure footing while perched on the plant. "Most people assumed that [conical cells] p

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Will new ESC rules hurt research?

By | May 14, 2009

The retroactive nature of the NIH's proposed guidelines on human stem cell research will exclude funding for many existing stem cell lines that were ethically created yet don't meet the stringent criteria of the proposal's technical requirements, according to a new linkurl:report;http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(09)00210-0 published online today (May 14) in __Cell Stem Cell__. The proposed regulations outline nine distinct elements to be documented in written informed cons

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Big ocean, small RNAs

By | May 13, 2009

The open ocean is teeming with microbial small RNAs that regulate a multitude of environmental processes ranging from carbon metabolism to nutrient acquisition, according to a linkurl:paper;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7244/abs/nature08055.html published in tomorrow's (May 14) issue of __Nature__. Particle traps like these were usedto collect water column samplesImage: SOEST/University of Hawaii"What makes this study quite exciting is the access to novel and previously unidentifie

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Blood grows when it flows

By | May 13, 2009

The physical forces exerted by a heart beat and the blood flow it produces trigger the formation of new blood cells, according to two studies published today (May 13) in Nature and Cell. Cluster of blood cells developing afterexposure to shear stressImage: Luigi Adamo, Ph.D. student inthe García-Cardeña lab at Harvard"It's very exciting work," said embryologist linkurl:Mary Dickinson;http://www.bcm.edu/db/db_fac-dickinson.html at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who was not in

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Animal suppliers stay afloat

By | May 12, 2009

Strong sales to academic researchers are helping companies that provide mice, rats, and other model organisms for research weather the global economic crisis, despite a downturn in demand from pharma and biotech. Image: Understanding Animal Research/Wellcome ImagesAt the linkurl:Jackson Laboratory,;http://www.jax.org/ a non-profit mouse supplier in Bar Harbor, Maine, overall demand is down by "single digits," Auro Nair, associate general manager of linkurl:JAX Mice & Services,;http://jaxmice.ja

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