Ecuadorean dwarves may unlock cancer clues

From abcnews.go.com: Ecuadorean Dwarfs May Unlock Cancer Clues.

Twenty years ago, when Guevara began treating and studying the dwarfs of southern Ecuador, it was because he wanted to help them. But an interesting and quirky pattern started to emerge. He realized that there has never been a single incidence of cancer or diabetes among them.

"I start noticing that somehow in this area that we all know in Ecuador is an area with high rates of cancer, not one of these patients has ever died of cancer," he says. "And I’m talking about a total of 135 names that I can think of. None of them has ever died of cancer. To me the possibility that that is a coincidence is almost none, because every single family in this case has at least one or two or three relatives that have died of cancer." [continue]

Odorprints like fingerprints?

From Science Daily: Odorprints Like Fingerprints? Personal Odors Remain Distinguishable Regardless Of Diet.

Scientists from the Monell Center present behavioral and chemical findings to reveal that an individual’s underlying odor signature remains detectable even in the face of major dietary changes.

"The findings using this animal model support the proposition that body odors provide a consistent ‘odorprint’ analogous to a fingerprint or DNA sample," said Gary Beauchamp, PhD, a behavioral biologist at Monell and one of the paper’s senior authors. "This distinctive odor can be detected using either an animal’s nose or chemical instruments." [continue]

Why Darwin would have loved Botox

From Discover Magazine: Why Darwin Would Have Loved Botox.

During unconscious facial mimicry, Schilbach discovered, several regions of the brain become active. One of those, the left precentral gyrus, becomes active when people get the urge to move their facial muscles (such as when a song makes them sad). Other regions (the right hippocampus and the posterior cingulate cortex) become active when we have emotional experiences, helping to retrieve emotional memories. Another part of the brain that becomes active during facial mimicry (the dorsal midbrain) relays emotional signals to the rest of the body, bringing on the physical feelings that go along with emotions, like a racing heartbeat.

When humans mimic others’ faces, in other words, we don’t just go through the motions. We also go through the emotions.

Recently Bernhard Haslinger at the Technical University of Munich realized that he could test the facial feedback theory in a new way. He could temporarily paralyze facial muscles and then scan people’s brains as they tried to make faces. [continue]

Dry-ice martini and electric cake

From the New York Times: Dry-Ice Martini and Electric Cake.

When does a recipe become a science project?

Is it when the compulsion to create an edible electrical circuit keeps a cook up all night, wrapping Twizzler string licorice in pure silver?

Is it when a baker decides to bake 20 equilateral-triangle-shaped pecan pies for Thanksgiving, then attach them together with magnets to form an 80-serving icosahedron? (The recipe begins with 30 cups of flour and 2 large sheets of 24-gauge steel.)

Certainly, when the urge to build a better chocolate fountain — and then fill it with 10 gallons of hot gravy — becomes irresistible, some line between cooking and science has been crossed. [continue].

Iceland’s new island is an exclusive club – for scientists only

From csmonitor.com: Iceland’s new island is an exclusive club – for scientists only.

Buckled in? Check. Life jacket secure? Check. Noise-reduction headphones on? Check. No seeds in any of your belongings? Check. You sure? Yes. And up lifts the Icelandic Coast Guard’s Super Puma helicopter ferrying me to Iceland’s jealously guarded natural gem, Surtsey Island.

Though it was named this summer to the UNESCO World Heritage List – joining other natural heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapágos and Yellowstone National Park – no tourist will ever get to visit.

Located 20 miles off Iceland’s southern coast, Surtsey – named after Surtur, the fire giant of Norse mythology – was created in a volcanic eruption that began not millions of years ago, but on Nov. 14, 1963. It was a fresh specimen of geological and biological evolution. And even as the eruption was still in progress in 1965, the Icelandic government designated the island a nature reserve – for scientists only; a place they could document the evolution rock by rock, blade by blade, bird by bird.

Geneticist Sturla Fridriksson has been here from the beginning, and my feet had barely hit the island before its white-maned icon was chuckling to me that he’s "twice as old as these hills… Here in Iceland we talk about the trolls getting very old. And the trolls are as old as the mountains." [continue]

Scientists target mouse memories to erase

From the Globe and Mail: Scientists target mouse memories to erase.

It seems like a movie plot, but scientists have developed a way to erase specific memories in mice while leaving others intact and not damaging the brain.

By manipulating levels of an important protein in the brain, certain memories can be selectively deleted, researchers led by neurobiologist Joe Tsien of the Medical College of Georgia reported in the journal Neuron.

While some experts have suggested there could be value in erasing certain memories in people such as [continue]

New life found in ancient tombs

From Science Daily: New Life Found In Ancient Tombs.

Life has been discovered in the barren depths of Rome’s ancient tombs, proving catacombs are not just a resting place for the dead. The two new species of bacteria found growing on the walls of the Roman tombs may help protect our cultural heritage monuments, according to research published in the September issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The Catacombs of Saint Callistus are part of a massive graveyard that covers 15 hectares, equivalent to more than 20 football pitches. The underground tombs were built at the end of the 2nd Century AD and were named after Pope Saint Callistus I. More than 30 popes and martyrs are buried in the catacombs.

"Bacteria can grow on the walls of these underground tombs and [continue]

Body exhumed in fight against flu

From the BBC: Body exhumed in fight against flu.

The body of an aristocrat who died nearly 90 years ago has been exhumed in the hope that it will help scientists combat a future flu pandemic.

Yorkshire landowner Sir Mark Sykes died in France in 1919 from Spanish flu.

Sir Mark was buried in a lead coffin which scientists hope may have helped preserve the virus.

They believe his remains will help piece together the DNA of Spanish flu, which could have a similar genetic structure to modern bird flu.

This knowledge, added to major breakthroughs by American scientists last year, could help prevent a modern pandemic through the development of new drugs. [continue]

Study may boost forecasts for Vesuvius blasts

From iol.co.za: Study may boost forecasts for Vesuvius blasts.

The magma pool feeding the Italian volcano that destroyed Pompeii in AD 79 has shifted in the past 2 000 years, a discovery that could help in predicting future eruptions, researchers said in the journal Nature.

Vesuvius is in southern Italy near Naples, one of the most densely populated volcanic regions in the world. Its crater is 1 280m above and 20km away from Naples, Italy’s third largest city.

Scientists had thought the pool remained constant over the past 4 000 years but new investigations detailed on Wednesday showed the chamber had actually shifted higher between the Pompeii eruption in AD 79 and the Pollena one in AD 472.

Knowing the location of the lava pool is important because [continue]