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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Last modified: Thursday, December 7, 2006

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Vol. 4, no. 3
December 8, 2006

Indiana Science Monthly is a selection of recent news stories about Indiana University scientists and their research. Comments or questions about this newsletter may be directed to David Bricker, Office of Media Relations (812-856-9035 or

November science news:
* Testosterone excites feather color
* IU chemist coauthors anti-evolution legislation (just kidding)
* CT scans may not be the best imaging option for finding tumors

November science news

"P[acman] Unlocks Virtually All Areas of the Fruit Fly Genome" (BIOLOGY)
Scientific American
Nov. 30, 2006

EXCERPT: The genome of the Drosophila fruit fly is no longer a string of bases that mysteriously result in certain eye color, wingspan or musculature. A new method for reinserting DNA called P[acman] (P/ΦC31 artificial chromosome for manipulation) can open up about 99.9 percent of the Drosophila genetic code to inspection by geneticists..

* IU Bloomington biologist Thom Kaufman praises the Baylor College of Medicine, saying, "It opens up another compartment of the genome to analysis," and "It's a step up in the transgenic technology that's available in this model system that opens up new pathways of analysis."


"Kansas Outlaws Practice of Evolution" (?)
The Onion
Vol. 42, iss. 48
Nov. 28, 2006

EXCERPT: In response to a Nov. 7 referendum, Kansas lawmakers passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of species and the continued survival of all life.

* Fictitious IU chemist Robert Hellenbaum, who is said to have co-written the fictitious Kansas legislation, is quoted: "Barn swallows that develop lighter, more streamlined builds to enable faster migration, for example, could live out the rest of their brief lives in prison ... And butterflies who mimic the wing patterns and colors of other butterflies for an adaptive advantage, well, their days of flouting God's will are over." Don't worry, I won't make a habit of including Onion parodies...


"Video Game Violence Goes Straight to Kids' Heads" (NEUROSCIENCE)
HealthDay News
Nov. 28, 2006

EXCERPT: A study of adolescents finds that violent video games stir up the brain's emotional-response center while reducing activity in regions linked to self-control.

* IU School of Medicine radiologist Vincent Mathews led the study, which found commonalities in brain activity among teenagers asked to play violent video games. "After playing a violent video game, these adolescents had an increased activity in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional arousal," Mathews tells HealthDay's Steven Reinberg. Mathews presented the findings at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting on Nov. 28.

IUSM press release:


"Flame-retardant chemicals show up in humans' blood" (ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Nov. 28, 2006

EXCERPT: Charlotte Landon is meticulous about avoiding toxic chemicals... But Landon has in her blood numerous chemicals she hadn't even thought about: flame retardants.

* In this review of recent news related to flame retardants, reporter Scott Streater summarizes IU SPEA (Bloomington) environmental chemist Ron Hites' research on polybrominated diphenyl ethers. On the subject of PBDEs, Hites tells McClatchy reporter Streater, "They're in everything... They're in people, fish, sediment, polar bears, herring gull eggs. And they're also relatively stable in the environment. They don't degrade very fast."


"Testosterone Gives Male Birds Their Color, Scientists Say" (BIOLOGY)
National Geographic News
Nov. 22, 2006

EXCERPT: New research suggests that as testosterone in male birds increases, so does the level of carotenoids, the chemicals that create the bright coloring on birds' feathers, beaks, and legs.

* Commenting on the relationship between a sex hormone, pigmentation, and fitness, IUB Biology post-doctoral fellow Lynn Siefferman tells NGN reporter Adrianne Appel, "It may be that only the really high-quality individuals can withstand the immunosuppressive effect of testosterone." Siefferman is studying bluebird feather color and testosterone.


"Cholesterol's newest frontier" (MEDICINE)
Los Angeles Times
Nov. 21, 2006

EXCERPT: For the last two decades, a fear of bad cholesterol has gripped Americans. We've measured it, compared it, worried about it and doused it with statins, now among the best-selling drugs of all time.

* Never mind the link; this article appeared in the LA Times on Nov. 21. Author Shari Roan explores recent research on "HDL" cholesterol, often referred to these days "the good cholesterol." IU School of Medicine Chancellor's Professor of Medicine William Tierney found earlier this year that a 10 mg/dl increase in relative HDL resulted in a 11 percent decrease in acute coronary events like heart attacks.

IUSM press release:


"Unstoppable Bot" (NEUROSCIENCE)
Science News
Vol. 170, no. 21
Nov. 18, 2006

EXCERPT: Severe maulings hardly slowed down the robotic assassins in the Terminator science fiction movies. Now, roboticists have made a real machine that carries on despite serious damage.

* IU Bloomington neuroscientist and robot guru Olaf Sporns comments on the difficulty of building robots that can overcome damage to their sensory and/or integration systems. "Designing robots that can adapt to changing environments and can compensate for damage has been a difficult problem," he tells Science News reporter Peter Weiss.
(Access requires a subscription)


"Cancer Clues from Pet Dogs" (MEDICINE)
Scientific American
Nov. 12, 2006

EXCERPT: Imagine a 60-year-old man recuperating at home after prostate cancer surgery, drawing comfort from the aged golden retriever beside him. This man might know that a few years ago the director of the National Cancer Institute issued a challenge to cancer researchers, urging them to find ways to "eliminate the suffering and death caused by cancer by 2015." What he probably does not realize, though, is that the pet at his side could be an important player in that effort.

* IU School of Medicine researchers joined Purdue University oncologist David Waters in a study of the accuracy with which doctors counted the number of tumors using "state of the art" CT imaging technology. The scientists found the number of tumor deposits were significantly under-counted.


"John Beggs Science Diary: Brain Frontier" (NEUROSCIENCE)
Pulse of the Planet
Nov. 6, 2006

EXCERPT: "There is no general theory of how the brain works. It's sort of like the Wild West, it's lawless."

* In this self-profile, Beggs explains he'd "... like to get to the root of the whole universe, which is the brain. What we want to do is take little sections of brain, like groups of brain cells, and understand how they store information and how they process information." Pulse of the Planet is a syndicated segment that airs weekdays on more than 300 radio stations in the U.S.


"Arabidopsis in space" (BIOLOGY)
The Scientist
Vol. 20, iss. 11
November 2006

EXCERPT: When the space shuttles Discovery and Atlantis blasted off in the direction of the International Space Station (ISS) this year, passengers of a more botanical variety vastly outnumbered the seven astronauts on board. Secured in small seed cassettes, some 1600 seeds of the cress species, Arabidopsis thaliana, took the flight for a research project designed to help tease out the tropic influences of gravity and light on plant growth, while perhaps helping to find a way to grow crops for long missions to the Moon and Mars.

* Among the reasons for studying Arabidopsis in space is NASA's need to know how astronauts should grow their own food during long missions. One assumes interplanetary ships will be a bit cramped, pantry space limited. IUB plant biologist Roger Hangarter is quoted from a statement: "If we are going to send human flights to Mars, we can only do that if they grow their own food."
(Access may require a subscription)


* * * * Do you have an important and/or interesting paper in press? A major event or presentation coming up? Please contact IU Office of Media Relations science writers David Bricker at 812-856-9035,, or Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074,

Indiana Science Monthly is produced for internal use only. If you have received this eMail in error, or do not wish not to receive this monthly eMail, or if you have a news item for the next edition of ISM, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035,

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