The Week in Life Science #2

AIDS vaccines, crowd-sourced cloud-computed astronomy, sea monsters, and butthurt men are just some of the stars of this weeks Week in Science.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials of AIDS Vaccine Completed With no Adverse Effects on Volunteers.

Korean Biotech company Sumagen, and Western University, Ontario have completed Phase 1 clinical trials of a preventative HIV vaccine with no adverse effects on volunteers.  The vaccine (SAV001-H) holds tremendous promise for success in the final phases of clinical testing now that Phase 1 has been accomplished. The vaccine is only one of a few in the world and the only one based out of Canada. It is also the only vaccine based on a genetically-modified killed whole virus vaccine in human clinical trial to evaluate its safety, tolerability and immune responses. The vaccine has been demonstrated to increase antibody production up to 64 times in volunteers which is highly encouraging, since it forecasts a success of the Phase 2 human clinical trial, which will measure the immune responses. Is this the beginning of the end for HIV?

Full article at Western University Canada

Astronomers Take Inventory of Milky Way Using 200,00 private PCs.

Scientists have taken unprecedented stock of the Milky Way using the enormous computing power of over 200,000 home and office PCs. This colossal cloud of private PCs was hooked to a global supercomputer and the resultant computing power was used to open up new search possibilities. The network discovered 24 new pulsars – highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emits a beams of electromagnetic radiation. This beam is only visible when it points at earth, giving pulsars their ‘pulsating’ appearance. Their importance is due to their extreme physical properties which can be used to test Einsteins general theory of relativity.

Full article at

Almost 20% of US Scientists Consider Moving Overseas Due To 20-30% Funding  Redutions since 2002

A survey sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has shown that almost a fifth of US scientists are considering moving overseas so as to avoid the regime of sequestration that is engulfing the public sector.

According to the survey, 68 percent of respondents said they do not have the funds to expand their research operations; 55 percent said they have a colleague who has lost a job or expects to soon; and 18 percent of respondents said they were considering continuing their careers in another country.

Full article at Huffington Post

Newly Discovered Plastic Actually becomes Stronger When Stressed

Duke University has developed a new type of polymer that actually increases its strength when placed under stress. The unusual properties of this material, known as a mechanophore, are down to its unique molecular structure. This structure actually tears uniformly on a nano level when stressed. These stress sites quickly fill with another molecule which increases the overall stiffness of the material. Scientists claim that the next phase is to develope a similar material which stiffens when stressed, but returns to its flexible state quickly after.

The implications for the bio-medical world are massive, with the possibility of medical devices which are resistant to failure just around the corner. Anyone who has ever dropped a mobile telephone could breathe a sigh of relief too.

Full article at

Water is Discovered on Moon’s Surface

NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has remotely detected water-bearing rocks which originated deep below the lunar surface. It is believed the rocks were excavated during a meteor impact and could confirm scientists’ suspicions that the moon is wetter than previously assumed.

Full article at

Poverty Has Been Demonstrated to Impair Cognitive Function

Scientists at Canada’s UBC claim the poverty consumes so much of a person’s mental faculties that they have little remaining brainpower to concentrate on other aspects of their life. You may have heard of poverty being referred to as a ‘cycle’ and it may be this lack of remaining ‘mental bandwidth’ which prevents this cycle from being broken.

As the studies lead author Jiaying Zhao states, “We’re arguing that being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders individuals’ ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty.”

Full article at

Study Shows Young Men’s Self Esteem Hurt By Female Companion’s Success

Men’s self-esteem suffers in the face of a successful female partner, it seems! And no such results have been reported in women, to add insult to male injury! The results, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, on heterosexual couples in the U.S. and the Netherlands suggested the reason for a dip in a man’s mood when their partner was successful was tied to a feeling of their own failure. Sounds like a classic case of butthurtedness to me!

Full article at University Herald

Girls Aren’t Afraid of Math, They Just Think They’re Supposed to be

So the stereotype that girls ‘fear’ maths is down to anxiety over cultural expectations rather than over the maths itself states a study titled “Do Girls Really Experience More Anxiety in Mathematics?” published in the latest issue of Psychological Science. The team of education researchers from the University of Konstanz and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education go as far as to say that this culturally-induced anxiety with no basis in actual matheematical ability could be the reason why the mathematics field is dominated by males/

Full article in

Lowering the Expression of a Single Gene Has Been Shown to Extend The Lifespan of Mice

Some lucky mice have had their lifespan increased by as much as 20 percent, according to studies the National Institute of Health. This is the equivalent of increasing human life by 16 years. While the treatment did improve bodily functions such as gait, muscle strength and memory, other functions such as cataracts, infections and bone degeneration did present an increased risk, however. The name of the gene whose expression was lowered is mTOR. The mice who received this treatment were shown to outperform normal mice of equivalent age in maze and balance tests, indicating better retention of memory and coordination. Older mTOR mice also retained more muscle strength and posture. However, mTOR mice had a greater loss in bone volume as they aged, and they were more susceptible to infections at old age, suggesting a loss of immune function.

Full article at National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Mystery of a Deep Sea Squid Unveiled

The deep-sea squid species Grimalditeuthis bonplandi has been seen using one of its arms in what researchers have described as a luring technique. The long arms – uniquely devoid of suckers, hooks or photophores (which emit light) – are thought to be used to agressively mimic shrimp, works, or small fish in an effort to attract prey.

The team figured that this was key for G. bonplandi’s unique hunting method: “We hypothesise that G. bonplandi exploits this resemblance, using the tentacle clubs to attract potential prey towards the squid. How prey is subsequently engulfed by the arms and handled by the suckers remains subject to speculation,” they report.

Check out the video below:

Full article at Scientific American

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About the author: Conor Hughes works as a Marketing Executive at Life Science Recruitment

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