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Serious Burns May Deplete Vitamin E

CORVALLIS, Ore., Oct. 22 (UPI) — U.S. researchers report serious burn injuries may rapidly deplete children’s vitamin E.

Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis, the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, say there were surprised by the levels of vitamin E depletion in the fat tissue of eight young third-degree burn victims.

The clinical study, reported in the American Society for Nutrition, found almost half of the children’s stored vitamin E was lost within three weeks — despite being given 150 percent of the recommended daily allowance of the vitamin and a high-calorie diet.

“The depletion of vitamin E may be a very significant problem in patients with burn injury,” the study authors said in a statement.

The researchers expressed concern about the possibility of nerve damage — already associated both with burn injuries and vitamin E deficiency.

“This is one of the first studies we’ve done that measures vitamin E in the body tissues of children,” principal investigator Maret Traber of Linus Pauling Institute said in a statement. “To find this level of vitamin E loss in such a short time was dramatic, unexpected and somewhat alarming.”

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Hormone Replacement Linked to Cancer

AURORA, Colo., Oct. 22 (UPI) — Estrogen replacement therapy may spur ovarian cancer growth, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Aurora found estrogen caused ovarian cancer to not only grow five times faster in mice modeling estrogen receptor positive or ER+ ovarian cancer, but significantly increased the likelihood of the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes.

The study, published in Cancer Research, also found the estrogen-regulated genes in ovarian cancer reacted differently than ER+ genes found in breast cancer.

“Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are often linked when talking about hormone replacement therapy, but we found that only 10 percent of the ER+ genes overlapped,” Dr. MoniqueSpillman, the study leader, said in a statement.

“We were able to identify estrogen-regulated genes specific to ER+ ovarian cancer that are not shared with ER+ breast cancers. We believe these genes can be specifically targeted with new anti-estrogen therapies that could more effectively treat ER+ ovarian cancers.”

Spillman and her team measured ovarian cancer growth in the abdomen of mice using a novel techniques for visualizing the cancer. The cancer cells in mice with ER+ ovarian cancer could be tracked because they were tagged with a firefly-like fluorescent protein.

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Malaria Deaths in India 'underestimated'

NEW DELHI, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Deaths from malaria in India may be as much as 10 times higher than official World Health Organization estimates, researchers say.

A new survey suggests malaria kills between 125,000 and 277,000 people per year in India alone, far higher than the 16,000 toll WHO counts, NewScientist.com reports.

Estimates of malaria deaths in India are based on death rates recorded in clinics, corrected in an attempt to account for people missed by the health system, but a study by international researchers has found that these numbers have been vastly underestimated.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and other universities have been collaborating with the Indian government on a survey of 1.1 million households across India to improve the country’s health statistics.

They have been recoding “verbal autopsies,” in which householders describe how family members died, to count deaths that were never officially diagnosed.

“When we’ve done studies of malaria control in Indian villages, we’ve seen so many really nasty cases of the disease that I always wondered why the official estimate was so low,” Richard Peto of the University of Oxford says. “Malaria deaths happen out in the countryside. They’re invisible to the healthcare system.”

Another researchers says he is not surprised the study found more malaria deaths then the official estimate, but calls it “startling” that as many as 86 percent never saw a doctor.

“India has a space program but cannot provide prompt access to malaria treatment in Orissa state [where deaths are highest],” Bob Snow of Oxford University said.

“This study will surely be a wake-up call.”

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Strep Throat Antibody, OCD Linked

FLORENCE, Italy, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Israeli researchers have linked obsessive-compulsive disorder and strep throat in an animal model.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel have developed a model using rats exposed to the strep bacteria — versus a strep-free control group — and found a distinct difference in behavior in the strep-exposed animals.

The strep-exposed rats developed a strep antibody that deposited in their brain. The rats also developed balance and coordination difficulties — as well as compulsive behaviors such as increased and repetitive grooming.

The researchers also found the strep antibody binds itself to brain chemical receptors — specifically dopamine D1 and D2 receptors.

“We were able to show that these antibodies are binding to receptors in the brain and changing the way certain neurotransmitters operate, leading to brain dysfunction and motor and behavioral symptoms,” researcher Daphna Joel said in a statement.

Joel stressed the importance of children getting timely treatment for strep throat and explained the study’s scientific demonstration of how strep could lead to brain dysfunction could point the way to new OCD treatment drugs.

The study was presented at the 13th Congress of the European Federation of Neurological Societies in Florence, Italy.

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Study: Shy Students Choose Science

GRONINGEN, Netherlands, Oct. 22 (UPI) — A Dutch study found shy, introverted students are more likely to choose science subjects at school while more sociable children tend to avoid them.

Researchers at the University of Groningen analyzing data on nearly 4000 students found that their subject choices at age 15 were affected by personality, NewScientist.com reported Friday.

Students choosing science subjects tended to be less extroverted than those who chose non-science subjects and scored more highly on conscientiousness and emotional stability, education researcher Hanke Korpershoek says.

“There’s a feeling that science students have nerdy characteristics,” she says, “but we were surprised to see it in our results, and to see it as early as age 15.”

While she says she’s not recommending guiding students based on personality tests, she argues that teachers should focus not just on a subject’s content but on the type of job it might lead to.

For example, she says, if a student is tidy, orderly and precise, then they might enjoy working in a lab.

Michael Reiss, professor of science education at the Institute of Education in London, disagrees.

“It would be a disaster if the advice ‘you should only do physics if you are introverted’ was given in schools,” he says. “We want all students, whatever their personality, to find things within science that intrigue and excite them.”

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'Vog,' or Volcanic Air, is Health Concern

HILO, Hawaii, Oct. 22 (UPI) — “Vog,” or volcanic air pollution, from the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s big island contains sulfur dioxide that is a health concern, researchers say.

Bernadette Longo, assistant professor at the University of Nevada’s Orvis School of Nursing, compared local health clinic records for the 14 weeks prior to the March 2008 Kilauea Volcano eruption with those from March through June 2008, when the volcano’s sulfur dioxide emissions tripled.

The study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found three times as many headaches and twice as many severe sore throats after the increase in volcanic emissions.

The study also found a 56 percent increase in people reporting coughs, and a six-fold increase in the odds of having acute airway problems that may require breathing treatments or hospital emergency care.

“The results suggest that children and adolescents are likely to be the most sensitive to SO2 exposure, which is especially concerning,” Longo said in a statement.

“Children tend to be mouth-breathers. When we breathe through our noses, our noses act as filters, removing about 85 percent of the harmful substances before they can reach our respiratory system and lungs, but when children breathe mostly through their mouths, they don’t get the benefit of the nose’s filtering system.”

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Climate Change Could Bring 'travel Chaos'

SOUTHAMPTON, England, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Rail networks in the United Kingdom face serious threats from climate change and its effects, researchers say.

Scientists from the University of Southampton and Network Rail say extreme weather events, projected to become more common over the next 50 years as a result of global warming, could lead to more landslides and floods, the BBC reported Friday.

Damage from such events could cause “widespread disruption” to travel, the researchers say.

Scientists studying the number of landslides and floods that resulted in delays of more than eight hours found the frequency of these major incidents was far higher during the wet winter of 2000-2001 when rail passengers experienced widespread travel disruption.

With predictions that such wet winters will become more common in the future, fears are growing that climate change could result in “travel chaos.”

“This is a really serious issue which needs to be addressed,” lead author Fleur Loveridge, a Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton, said.

“Climate change in the near future is ‘locked in’ — it’s too late to change that,” she said.

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U.S. Wants 'custom DNA' Guidelines

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) — The United States says it will introduce guidelines for companies supplying “custom DNA” to prevent bioterrorists from building dangerous viruses from scratch.

The United States and other countries tightly control who can work with certain germs, but it might be possible to build some viruses from their genes.

An investigation in 2005 found only five out of 12 companies in North America and Europe producing “custom DNA” always screened orders for sequences that might be used in bioweapons, NewScientist.com reported.

The United States now says it wants companies to verify a customer’s identity and make sure they are not on a list of banned buyers.

It also wants them to screen orders for sequences that are unique to Select Agents, a list of microbes the United States considers dangerous.

Some scientists say they fear sequences from microbes other than Select Agents could be dangerous.

They also point out that the guidelines will be voluntary and will not apply to custom DNA made outside the United States.

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World's Plants Are Atmospheric 'cleansers'

BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 22 (UPI) — The world’s plants play a bigger role in cleansing the Earth’s atmosphere of common air-polluting chemicals than previously thought, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., used observations, gene studies and computer modeling to show that deciduous plants absorb about a third more of a class of air-polluting chemicals known as oxygenated volatile organic compounds than previously believed, ScienceDaily.com reported Friday.

These compounds form in the atmosphere from hydrocarbons and other chemicals emitted from both natural sources and human activities, and can have long-term impacts on the environment and human health, researchers say.

“Plants clean our air to a greater extent than we had realized,” research center scientist Thomas Karl, the lead author, says. “They actively consume certain types of air pollution.”

By measuring levels of the atmospheric compounds in a number of ecosystems in the United States and other countries, the researchers found that deciduous plants appear to be absorbing them at an unexpectedly fast rate — as much as four times more rapidly than previously estimated.

“This really transforms our understanding of some fundamental processes taking place in our atmosphere,” Karl says.

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Study: Space Tourism Could Pollute Skies

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 22 (UPI) — A decade of space tourism flights would cause climate change by putting as much soot into the atmosphere as current global aviation does, U.S. researchers say.

A study suggests emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would remain high in the stratosphere, possibly altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone, Nature.com reported Friday.

“There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact,” says Martin Ross, an atmospheric scientist at the Aerospace Corp. in Los Angeles and an author of the study.

In the next three years, space tourism companies say they expect to make up to two launches per day.

Several private space-flight companies, such as Virgin Galactic, are contemplating using hybrid rocket engines that ignite synthetic hydrocarbon with nitrous oxide, Ross says.

These hybrid engines emit more black carbon — soot –than a normal kerosene and oxygen engine, he says.

“Rain and weather wash out these particles from the atmosphere near Earth’s surface, but in the stratosphere there isn’t any rain and they can remain for three to 10 years,” says Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., another author of the paper.

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