Study examines development of hierarchies in society | How microbiome research is evolving | Study: Strange frondlike creature thrived in Ediacaran Period oceans
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August 12, 2014
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Study examines development of hierarchies in society
Agriculture and ease of movement are major factors behind the development of hierarchies, according to research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Researchers at the University of Lausanne created a computer model of individuals with preferences for egalitarianism or hierarchy that revealed that if benefits were good enough, people would follow a leader, but leadership turned to despotism when land and opportunities became scarce. (8/11)
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Science in the News
How microbiome research is evolving
The bacteria that lives within and on us is just coming into its own as a research subject and changing the ecological rules, writes Robert Dorit of Smith College, who studies the evolution of molecules and bacteria. "These complex and dynamic ecosystems, so inextricably linked to our lives, have forced microbiologists and physicians to revisit principles of community ecology established over the last century," he writes. American Scientist magazine (9/2014)
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Study: Strange frondlike creature thrived in Ediacaran Period oceans
A study is shedding light on a stationary, frondlike creature that thrived in oceans during the Ediacaran Period about 600 million years ago. Rangeomorphs died out when the chemistry of the nutrient rich waters that sustained them changed and faster swimmers evolved during the Cambrian Period. "These creatures were remarkably well-adapted to their environment, as the oceans at the time were high in nutrients and low in competition," said University of Cambridge earth scientist Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, lead author of the study. (8/11)
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Grasp planning a complicated process, researchers say
Grasping something may seem to be a simple act, but the brain's processes in planning that grasp are anything but, according to researchers. "Understanding how people perform in the everyday environment is of such obvious importance in robotics, medicine, and everyday life, and is also so fascinating to us that we plan to keep our eyes wide open for new phenomena," write scientists David Rosenbaum, Oliver Herbort, Robrecht van der Wel and Daniel Weiss. American Scientist magazine (9/2014)
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Neural switch turns appetite on, off in mouse's brain, study finds
A small network of cells in a mouse's brain can turn appetite on and off, researchers at the California Institute of Technology were surprised to find. The scientists were revisiting a previous study they'd done on fear involving a group of neurons in the amygdala, using a new technique called optogenetics -- to genetically manipulate certain cells to make them sensitive to light in a particular wavelength. Researchers expected the signal to cause fear, but instead it caused indifference to food, according to their findings, published in Nature Neuroscience. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/11)
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Lasers detect chemicals in explosives at a distance, study suggests
Lasers can detect chemicals in explosives from significant distances using Raman spectroscopy, according to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. There are several possible military and security applications for the technique, but it can only detect materials in powdered form. Other possible applications include measuring fertilizing nitrates in soil and identifying human remains. Nature (free content) (8/11)
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Myheart molecule may help treat, prevent heart failure
A molecule that can block a protein that leads to heart failure has been found by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The molecule, dubbed Myheart, myosin heavy-chain associated RNA transcript, helps the heart block BRG1, which causes genetic disruption when the heart is under stress. "I think of Myheart as a molecular crowbar that pries BRG1 off the genomic DNA and prevents it from manipulating genetic activity," said Ching-Pin Chang, whose study was published online in Nature. (India)/Indo-Asian News Service (8/11), Medical News Today (8/11)
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Bioengineers develop 3D brain tissue model
Scientists at Tufts University have created a three-dimensional brain tissue model that imitates brain function, a revolutionary tool that could be used to study the effects of illness, trauma and treatments on the brain. The model is a spongy, round scaffold made of silk proteins, a collagen-based gel and rat neurons. "They've been able to repeat the highest level of function of neurons. It's the best model I've seen," said nanoscience technology expert James Hickman. Details of the study appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/11)
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Funding Watch
Ala. researcher awarded $792,000 grant to study brain cancer
The American Cancer Society has awarded a $792,000 grant to Dr. Christopher Willey of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Radiation Oncology to study the effects of the protein MARCKS on glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly form of brain cancer. "We believe that MARCKS is interacting with molecules at the inner surface of the cell to suppress some of the bad signals that drive the aggressiveness of GBM cells," he said. American City Business Journals/Birmingham, Ala. (8/12)
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