UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

U.S, Japan begin sharing satellite data

WASHINGTON, April 12 (UPI) — The U.S. and Japanese space agencies say they have started combining elements of their satellite resources to improve a type of Earth observation data.

NASA said the partnership, which started Monday, will more than double the quantity of data used to explore earthquake hazards, forest declines and changing water resources in the Americas.

“This new partnership between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, uses NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System to download observations over North and South America taken by instruments on JAXA’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite,” NASA said in a statement. Officials said the partnership will more than double the coverage of North and South America, with observations made about twice as often.

“This is a great example of the value to be gained through international collaboration between the world’s Earth-observing nations,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “By working together and sharing satellite resources like this, we can produce more data more rapidly and cost-effectively than if each of us went it alone.”

Spanking may create more aggressive kids

NEW ORLEANS, April 12 (UPI) — Children who are spanked as toddlers may display bullying behavior once the children reach school age, U.S. researchers found.

Catherine A. Taylor of the Tulane University in New Orleans and colleagues tracked 2,561 study subjects from 1998 to 2005 in 20 large U.S. cities.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found a mother’s use of spanking more than twice in the previous month when the child was age 3 was linked with increased risk of higher levels of aggression when the child was age 5 after controlling for the child’s level of aggression at age 3 and confounding factors.

The confounding factors included: maternal physical maltreatment, maternal psychological maltreatment and maternal neglect, intimate partner aggression, stress, depression, substance use and abortion consideration.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children not be disciplined by spanking, but research has shown that the vast majority of U.S. parents approved of corporal punishment and have used it on their children, the study said.

Self-pollinating almond trees developed

PARLIER, Calif., April 12 (UPI) — U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say they’ve developed self-pollinating almond trees that can produce a bountiful harvest without insect pollination.

Scientists led by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service said the development is good news for almond growers who face rising costs for insect pollination because of nationwide shortages of honeybees.

The research into the self-pollinating almond trees is not new, said geneticist Craig Ledbetter, who is leading the study. He said the Tuono variety, originally from Spain, has been around for centuries. But its traits are not attractive when compared to California’s most popular almond, Nonpareil.

Ledbetter and his colleagues used Tuono as the male (pollen) parent in conventional hybridizations with California-adapted almond cultivars and selections. The scientists made crosses at bloom time and came back at harvest time to collect the nuts. They then grew those nuts into seedlings and surrounded the branches with insect-proof nylon bags to exclude insects that could serve as pollinators. The seedlings bloomed and some produced fruits inside the bags, making those seedlings self-pollinating.

The Almond Board of California evaluated the almonds and said it was pleased with the skin color, oil content and, most importantly, the flavor.

The research is reported in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Effectiveness of melanoma vaccine tested

CHICAGO, April 12 (UPI) — A U.S. nationwide study is under way to determine whether a vaccine can be used to effectively treat melanoma, a deadly cancer of the skin.

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is leading the Phase III clinical trial following an earlier Phase II trial that had “stunning” results, scientists said. Eight people completely recovered in the Phase II trial and four partially responded to the vaccine.

“Very few treatment options exist for patients with advanced melanoma, none of them satisfactory, which is why oncologists are so excited about the results we found in our Phase II study,” said Dr. Howard Kaufman, associate dean of Rush Medical College and the leader of the Phase III study.

The vaccine — OncoVex — was developed to combat the herpes virus. Researchers accidentally discovered it attacked cancerous tissue when it was inadvertently placed into a Petri dish of tumor cells.

The vaccine is injected directly into lesions.

“What really surprised and encouraged us was that the vaccine worked not just on the cells we injected, but on lesions in other parts of the body that we couldn’t reach,” Kaufman said. “In other words, the vaccine prompted an immune response that was circulated through the bloodstream to distant sites. These are the best results to date for any vaccine developed for melanoma, but they need to be confirmed in a larger population.”

OncoVex is manufactured by BioVex biotechnology of Woburn, Mass.

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