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theory may not hold
Scientists study grains of
dust that predate the solar system to obtain insight into the early
evolution of the Sun. Nanodiamonds (also known as stardust) recovered
from meteorites have been thought to be the most abundant type of
presolar dust. If that is true, then nanodiamonds should be at least
equally abundant in comets, which are also made of presolar material.
Understandably, the experts
were puzzled when, in examining interplanetary dust particles that
entered our atmosphere at speeds equivalent to those of cometary
meteors, they found a dearth of nanodiamonds. Says John Bradley,
director of the Livermore branch of the Institute of Geophysics
and Planetary Physics (IGPP), We presumed that if we studied
[micro]meteorites (also known as interplanetary dust particles)
from comets further out in our solar system, we would find more
nanodiamonds. But were just not seeing them. One theory is
that some, perhaps most, nanodiamonds are formed within the inner
solar system and are not presolar after all. An alternative
explanation offered by the study is that all meteoritic nanodiamonds
are presolar, but their abundance decreases the farther they are
from the Sun.
The study and its conclusions
were published in July 2002 in Nature. Bradley was one of the studys
authors, which was conducted by IGPP in conjunction with scientists
from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Washington,
the Goddard Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, and the Natural History Museum in London.
Contact: John P. Bradley (925) 423-0666 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
DNA helps identify more human genes
An international research
consortium led by the Department of Energys Joint Genome Institute
(JGI) reported that it has completed the draft sequence, assembly,
and analysis of the genome of the Japanese pufferfish, Fugu rubripes.
Fugu is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine that can be poisonous if
improperly prepared. Its scientific value, however, comes from its
compact genome. Fugu has roughly the same number of genes as the
human genome, without the junk DNA that fills much of
the human sequence. Furthermore, nearly three-fourths of the genes
in the human genome have identifiable counterparts in fugu, highlighting
the anatomy and physiology common to all vertebrates.
By comparing the human and
pufferfish genomes, researchers have been able to predict the existence
of nearly 1,000 previously unidentified human genes. Although their
functions are largely unknown, the more complete determination of
the existence and location of these genes will help scientists to
characterize how the genes are regulated and function in the human
body. Comparative genomics research like the fugu project
are a key to understanding the biology of the human genome,
says JGI Director Eddy Rubin. The fugu is kind of a Cliffs
Notes for a really complicated book, and its telling us a
lot of what we would not understand without it, he adds.
Contact: Charles Osolin (925) 296-5643 (email@example.com).
Laboratory researchers are
developing a daughter method to PEREGRINE, the cancer
therapy system that calculates radiation dosage accurately so that
the maximum radiation dose can be directed at a tumor while damage
to nearby healthy tissue is minimized. Christine Hartmann-Siantar,
a principal developer of PEREGRINE, says that Minerva, the new method,
is for planning treatment for molecular targeted radiotherapy, which
is a type of treatment for metastasized cancer. Metastastic
cancer kills 35,000 Americans every month, notes Hartmann-Siantar,
adding that 70 percent of all cancers are metastatic.
With the Minerva targeting
method, scientists can inject molecules of radiation specifically
diagnosed for individual patients into the body where the molecules
attach onto spreading cancer cells. In addition to accurate targeting
of the cancer cells, the therapy causes fewer side effects than
Researchers are in the early
prototype stages of developing the Minerva method and expect it
to be available in a few years. PEREGRINE received FDA approval
in 2000 and currently is installed and being tested at centers in
the U.S., Canada, Japan, and various European countries.
Contact:Christine Hartmann-Siantar (925) 422-4619 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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November 15, 2002