• Leeches...and Limpets...and Worms...Oh My!

    Genome sequencing not only helps scientists decode genes, but also helps us understand how genes work together to direct the growth, development, and maintenance of an entire organism. Understanding the genes of other organisms allow scientists to compare these creatures not only to one another but to the human genome which may give vital insight into our own genetic secrets. Furthering this genome progress is a team of scientists who have completed the genome sequence of an organism with the "yuck factor": the leech. >> Read the Full Article
  • Is Human Aggressiveness Part of Our Biology

    Human hands evolved so that men could make fists and fight, and not just for manual dexterity, new research finds. The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, adds to a growing body of evidence that humans are among the most aggressive and violent animals on the planet. "With the notable exception of bonobos, great apes are a relatively aggressive group of mammals," lead author David Carrier told Discovery News. "Although some primatologists may argue that chimpanzees are the most aggressive apes, I think the evidence suggests that humans are substantially more violent." >> Read the Full Article
  • A "Win-Win" Situation for Acid Mine Drainage

    Acid Mine Drainage is one of the greatest environmental hazards that is associated with mining processes and degrades more than 4,500 stream miles in the mid-Atlantic region of the US alone. When water flows through abandoned and active coal mines, a reaction occurs between the water and the rocks containing sulfur bearing minerals. This reaction has the ability to contaminate drinking water, disrupt aquatic plants and animal reproduction, and corrode parts of infrastructure due to the net acidity of the drainage. However, according to a new study by the US Geological Survey at Leetown Science Center, a byproduct resulting from the treatment of acid mine drainage may actually have a second life in helping clean waters coming from agricultural and wastewater discharges. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fruit Flies and Alcoholism

    Drosophila is a genus of small flies whose members are often called fruit flies a reference to the characteristic of many species to linger around overripe or rotting fruit. One species of Drosophila in particular, D. melanogaster, has been heavily used in research in genetics and is a common model organism in developmental biology. Scientists have shown how the common fruit fly Drosophila, which possess similar electrophysiological and pharmacological properties as humans, could now be used to screen and develop new therapies for alcohol-related behavioural disorders and some genetic diseases. Researchers from the University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology have been using the fruit fly to study the effects of alcohol on a particular gene found within potassium channels in the brain. The results, published in PLOS ONE, have validated the fruit fly’s compatibility with this type of analysis to pave the way for further study in this area. >> Read the Full Article
  • 9-11 Response Workers and Cancer Risk

    Among rescue and recovery workers exposed to the dust, debris, and fumes following the World Trade Center terrorist attack, there was an increased incidence of prostate and thyroid cancers and multiple myeloma, although it is not clear how big a factor medical screening and non-WTC risk factors contributed to these increases, according to a study in the December 19 issue of JAMA. The authors did not find a statistically significant increased incidence for all cancer sites combined, and note that the findings on the three cancers that did increase should be viewed with caution for several reasons, including that they were based on a small number of cancers, multiple comparisons, and a relatively short follow-up time. "The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11, 2001, claimed more than 2,700 lives and exposed hundreds of thousands of people to dust, debris, pulverized building materials, and potentially toxic emissions, resulting in short- and medium-term health effects," according to background information in the article. The dust, smoke, and aerosols were complex mixtures of volatile chemicals and respirable particulate matter and contained known and suspected carcinogens. "The presence of carcinogenic agents raises the possibility that exposure to the WTC environment could eventually lead to cancers." >> Read the Full Article
  • Olympic Oldsters

    Olympic medalists live longer than the general population, regardless of country of origin, medal won, or type of sport played, finds a study in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com today. A second study comparing athletes who trained at different physical intensities, found that those from high or moderate intensity sports have no added survival benefit over athletes from low intensity sports. But those who engage in disciplines with high levels of physical contact, such as boxing, rugby and ice hockey, are at an increased risk of death in later life, the data show. So exercise is good as in sports but not all exercise is good. >> Read the Full Article
  • Vegetables in Israel Carry Heavy Pesticide Residue

    Are Israelis eating a mouthful of pesticides for breakfast? If there's one food group that Israelis love, it's vegetables. In fact, all over the Middle East, vegetables are treated with love and presented at table in infinite artful ways. And people are picky about their produce, carefully inspecting each tomato and cucumber before consenting to buy. But health hazards lurk on the well-loved produce. According to Haaretz, 11% of produce tested by the Israel Health Ministry showed unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues. Of over 5000 samples taken from 108 kinds of foods, 56% had traces of different pesticides. >> Read the Full Article
  • EPA Reviews PM2.5 Standards, Expects Counties to Comply by 2020

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an update to its national air quality standards for PM2.5 today, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. PM2.5 is the term used for particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (which is approximately 1/30th of the width of a human hair). It is a harmful fine particle pollutant that comes from wood burning, soot, power plants, and motor vehicles. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Incredible Elephants of the Sahara

    African elephants are known for hanging around rivers and mashes in the savanna and the edge of jungles. However, their range actually extends well into the north, all the way up to the Sahara desert. In Mali’s Gourma region, around the city of Timbuktu, there exists a species of desert-adapted African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). Every year, they undertake an amazing migration across an area of 32,000 square kilometers (over 12,000 square miles) in search of food and water. This annual journey was recently recorded by researchers from the group Save the Elephants, University of British Columbia, and Oxford University, who attached GPS collars to nine of the elephants and tracking them by satellite. Their report documents the elephants’ record-breaking trek to survive in the largest and harshest elephant range in the world. >> Read the Full Article
  • Study links pesticides used by sheep farmers to long-term brain damage

    A long-running campaign to highlight the health impacts of a dangerous chemical used by farmers in the UK has been vindicated by the conclusions of a major new study. Several hundred farmers in the UK are believed to have suffered debilitating health problems from exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs). A large number of them were sheep farmers, following government orders in the 1980s and 90s to treat their animals with the chemical to protect against the spread of a disease called sheep scab. >> Read the Full Article