Why are diesel cars so popular in Europe?
October 27, 2015 08:04 AM - EurActiv

An estimated annual 'tax gap' subsidy of some €16 billion for diesel over petrol has made Europe the world's largest market for diesel cars - but the Volkswagen scandal has put the national tax schemes supporting this industry at risk.

“There is no reason to keep subsidising this sector," Carlos Calvo, policy analyst at Transport & Environment, told EurActiv on Monday (26 October). The efficiency of petrol-fuelled cars has improved significantly in recent years, while the diesel industry has reduced its nitrogen-oxide emissions only very slowly.

Disease-carrying ticks hitchhike into US on migratory birds
October 25, 2015 09:01 PM - Smithsonian Science News

Researchers who examined thousands of migratory birds arriving in the United States from Central and South America have determined that three percent carry ticks species not normally present in the United States. Some of the birds, they say, carry disease-causing Ricksettia ticks.

Want to know how healthy the air quality is today in your area? There's an app for that!
October 24, 2015 07:47 AM - Alison Hewitt, UCLA

Yareli Sanchez lives in Los Angeles and jogs regularly, but she never used to know if the day’s air quality was bad until after she had already set out for a run — her chest would tighten and it would become hard to breathe. She knew poor air quality triggered her asthma, but she didn’t have a convenient way to check the day’s pollution levels.

For the past few months, instead of using trial-and-error, she’s checked UCLA’s new AirForU app, which uses GPS data to give her local air quality ratings. The app is useful for anyone in the U.S. who sees a hazy skyline and wonders how safe it is to breathe outside air.

“I depend on the AirForU app now, and I use it every time I plan on running,” said Sanchez, who helped test it before its launch. “The app is really convenient for helping me manage my asthma and minimize my exposure to pollution.”

Artificial lung to help study air pollution effects
October 23, 2015 09:11 AM - NoCamels Team, NoCamels

Air pollution is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and respiratory diseases, responsible for one in eight global deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.

However, researchers will soon be able to develop new treatments for such diseases with a life-sized, artificial human lung created at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. It is the first diagnostic tool for understanding in real time how tiny particles move and behave in the deepest part of the human lungs, the alveolar tissue. 

Mice stutter too
October 20, 2015 08:44 AM - Hanae Ermitage , Science/AAAS

About 70 million people worldwide stutter when they speak, and it turns out humans aren’t the only ones susceptible to verbal hiccups. Scientists at this year’s Society for Neuroscience Conference in Chicago, Illinois, show that mice, too, can stumble in their vocalizations. In humans, stuttering has long been linked to a mutation in the “housekeeping” gene Gnptab, which maintains basic levels of cellular function. To cement this curious genetic link, researchers decided to induce the Gnptab “stutter mutation” in mice. They suspected the change would trigger a mouse version of stammering. But deciphering stuttered squeaks is no easy task, so researchers set up a computerized model to register stutters through a statistical analysis of vocalizations.

"Good" cholesterol may not be so good after all for older women
October 19, 2015 03:53 PM - Manon Flash, Eurctiv France

Researchers in the United States have found that hormonal changes in women during the menopause can cause so-called ‘good cholesterol’ to become dangerous to their health. EurActiv France reports

'Good cholesterol' usually protects the arteries by helping to transport 'bad cholesterol' to the liver to be processed. But recent research in the United States suggests that the risk of heart disease in women increases dramatically after the menopause, because even good cholesterol becomes harmful.

According to the ten-year study carried out on 1,054 American women by Karen Matthews, of the University of Pittsburgh, women's cholesterol levels tend spike after the menopause, placing them at greater risk of cardiovascular events.

Study points to new opportunities to fight cancer
October 17, 2015 08:36 AM - DANA-FARBER CANCER INSTITUTE via EurekAlert

New research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists raises the prospect of cancer therapy that works by converting a tumor's best friends in the immune system into its gravest enemies.

In a study published in the journal Science, an international collaboration of investigators from Dana-Farber, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, and the University of Strasbourg uncovered a mechanism that allows key immune system cells to keep a steady rein on their more belligerent brother cells, thereby protecting normal, healthy tissue from assault. The discovery has powerful implications for cancer immunotherapy researchers say: by blocking the mechanism with a drug, it may be possible to turn the attack-suppressing cells into tumor-attacking cells.

Is tattoo ink safe?
October 16, 2015 11:35 AM - Smithsonian News

Tattoos really are more than skin deep—and that raises questions about their safety.

Many people enjoy the aesthetic beauty of tattoos. But the brightly colored inks that make tattoos so vibrant and striking also carry health concerns, report authors of a new paper related to tattoo safety.

According to the Pew Research Center, 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo; roughly $1.65 billion is spent on tattoos each year in the U.S.

EPA and the regulation of greenhouse gasses
October 16, 2015 08:43 AM - Editor, ENN

This week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined private and public sector leaders for a second annual White House roundtable discussion about the progress made and new steps taken to curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning. Administrator McCarthy announced several new actions the agency will take to help support a smooth transition to climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs.

"EPA is working closely with industry leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to climate-friendly refrigerants, and deploy advanced refrigeration technologies,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The powerful combination of EPA’s regulatory actions and innovations emerging from the private sector have put our country on track to significantly cut HFC use and deliver on the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan.”

Ebola may be transmitted by sexual contact
October 14, 2015 09:19 PM - Kai Kupferschmidt, Science

Although researchers have known since 1999 that traces of the Ebola virus could remain in semen for months, two papers published in The New England Journal of Medicine today offer more detail about the frightening possibility that survivors of an infection could rekindle outbreaks. One study focuses on nearly 100 men in Sierra Leone who survived the dreaded viral illness, whereas the second one documents a clear case of sexual transmission of Ebola virus.

In the Sierra Leone study, researchers found Ebola viral RNA in semen samples from almost half the 93 men they tested.  The likelihood of finding viral RNA declined as time from disease onset increased: All nine men who were tested 2 to 3 months after they fell ill had evidence of Ebola RNA in their semen, but the researchers  found it in only 26 of 40 men whose infections had started 4 to 6 months earlier and in 11 of 43 men whose infections had started 7 to 9 months earlier. The result from one Ebola patient tested 10 months after disease onset was indeterminate.

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