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Obama outlines his vision for NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 15 (UPI) — President Barack Obama outlined his vision for the U.S. space program Thursday during a speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

“I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it’s not an afterthought in America’s quest for a brighter future — it is an essential part of that quest,” the president told a select audience of about 200 elected officials, space workers and invited guests.

“But while the measure of our achievements has changed a great deal over the past 50 years, what we do — or fail to do — in seeking new frontiers is no less consequential for our future in space and here on Earth.”

Declaring himself “100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future,” Obama said his strategy includes increasing NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next five years.

“We will increase Earth-based observation to improve our understanding of our climate and our world — science that will garner tangible benefits, helping us to protect our environment for future generations. And we will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years, while actually using it for its intended purpose — conducting advanced research that can help improve the daily lives of people here on Earth, as well as testing and improving upon our capabilities in space.”

He said the United States will also invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket” needed for deep space exploration.

“The bottom line is nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am. But we’ve got to do it in a smart way, and we can’t just keep on doing the same old things that we’ve been doing and thinking that, somehow, is going to get us to where we want to go.”

He noted it has been little more than 40 years ago that NASA astronauts set foot on the moon.

“This was the culmination of a daring and perilous gambit — of an endeavor that pushed the boundaries of our knowledge, of our technological prowess, of our very capacity as human beings to solve problems. It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history — it was one of the greatest achievements in human history.

“And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.”

Robotic prostate removal, better outcomes

NEW YORK, April 15 (UPI) — Prostate cancer patients who have their prostates removed by robots appear to have better outcomes, U.S. researchers found.

Dr. David B. Samadi, chief of the division of robotics and minimally invasive surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, compared 575 patients who had robotic prostatectomy with 106 patients who had prostatectomy done by surgeons.

The study, published online ahead of print in the Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, found the robotically assisted procedures were associated with 45 percent shorter median anesthesia time, 51 percent shorter surgical time and 96 percent less estimated blood loss.

In addition, those who had the robotic prostatectomy — via the da Vinci system — had 67 percent shorter hospital stays, the study said.

The robotic prostatectomy reduces trauma and reduces the risk of surgical side-effects of incontinence and sexual dysfunction, Samadi said.

“Our goal, is not just survival, but to improve the patient’s quality of life,” Samadi said.

Software might help predict disease spread

WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) — A U.S. geographer says he has created a user-friendly software program that allows the discovery of geographic patterns and trends.

Pennsylvania State University scientist Frank Hardisty said disease statistics contained in patient records or detailed in newspaper clippings can be sorted and organized by his computer program to depict geographic patterns.

“The use of interactive maps and graphs, combined with word search interfaces, can lead to greater insight into complex events like the spread of swine flu,” he said.

Hardisty describes his GeoViz Toolkit as a user-friendly application that combines text mining with geographical mapping, allowing a user to search publicly available data to identify and visualize specific patterns.

“Potential applications range from research in public health — infectious disease dynamics, cancer etiology, surveillance and control — through analysis of socioeconomic and demographic data, to exploration of patterns of incidents related to terrorism or crime,” Hardisty said.

The research, supported by the Department of Homeland Security and the Gates Foundation, was presented Thursday in Washington during the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers.

New insulin molecule reduces cancer risk

CLEVELAND, April 15 (UPI) — Case Western Reserve University scientists in Cleveland say they’ve developed an insulin molecule that significantly reduces insulin-related cancer risks.

Previous studies have shown obesity and excess insulin — whether naturally produced by the body or injected in synthetic form — are associated with an increased incidence of some common cancers, the researchers said.

But they said their invention of a “smart” insulin protein molecule that binds considerably less to cancer receptors solves that problem.

Led by Dr. Michael Weiss, a professor of cancer research, the scientists said the analog self-assembles under the skin by a means of “stapling” itself by bridging zinc ions, thereby providing a slow-release form of insulin.

“It’s quite a novel mechanism,” said Weiss. “Our team has applied the perspective of biomedical engineering to the biochemistry of a therapeutic protein. We regard the injected insulin solution as forming a new biomaterial that can be engineered to optimize its nano-scale properties. The notion of engineered zinc staples may find application to improve diverse injectable protein drugs to address a variety of conditions from cancer to immune deficiency.”

The research that included Professor Faramarz Ismail-Beigi, Associate Professor Nelson Phillips, Associate Professor Jonathan Whittaker and X-ray crystallographer Zhu-li Wan appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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Categorized | Engineering, History, Maps, Other
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