04/02/2011

New malarial mosquito
Most studies into mosquitoes that carry malaria search for the adult flies when they are at rest inside houses and human dwellings. But a new study in Burkina Faso in West Africa has broadened the search to looking outside. They have found a new sub-group, or sub-species of Anopheles gambiae, which is particularly susceptible to the malaria parasite and very common. It has huge implications for malaria eradication and prevention schemes, which previously have concentrated their efforts inside the home.

Glitches in the reprogramming of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
Stem cell researchers are trying to work out why Induced Pluripotent Stem cells do not reprogramme properly and retain a 'shadow' of their former state. IPS cells are created from adult cells – such as skin cells, rather than the more controversial Embryonic Stem cells. They are then deprogrammed back to an embryonic like state and reprogrammed into any other type of cell in the body. There is no change in the genes, but scientists have been looking at the code which switches the genes on and off – the epigenome. And it is here where they are finding anomalies.

Detection dogs could be too clever
Detection dogs are used all over the world to sniff out a number of substances – from drugs and explosives, to bodies and even counterfeit goods. We all know that they have an exceptional sense of smell, but dogs can also be extremely willing to please their owners or handlers. And this could be a problem. Training exercises have found that sniffer dogs learn to pick up on subtle cues and clues from their handlers as to whether and where there may be a hidden substance. So are the dogs really scenting the target or trying to please their humans?

Amazonian forest drought
The Amazon rainforest is one of the World’s greatest natural resources. It plays a key role in global atmospheric regulation. Its trees and vegetation continuously recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen. But scientists are worried about how vulnerable it is. A new study of the forest has shown that the severe drought last year, in 2010, caused many more trees to die than the severe drought in 2005, which was meant to be a 'once in a lifetime event'. Scientists have been calculating the effect of these severe dry spells on the carbon string capacity of the region and the likelihood of more droughts in the future.

Cosmic rays and radioactive music
Experimenting with science to create music is the focus of the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival next week. One composer decided to try and create a duet with radioactive particles and a violin.

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Sun 6 Feb 2011 15:32 GMT
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