Argonne photon source lab to be upgraded
ARGONNE, Ill., May 3 (UPI) — Argonne National Laboratory officials estimate the U.S. Department of Energy will spend more than $300 million to upgrade the lab’s photon source facility.
“This is a major step in securing America’s scientific future by taking an already premier facility and preparing it to meet the next generation of scientific needs and discoveries,” said Argonne Director Eric Isaacs.
Officials said the upgrade will be more cost-effective than building a new facility and will make revolutionary improvements in performance needed to address the sustainable energy and health research needs of the future.
“The upgrade will also add new X-ray facilities, make existing X-ray facilities 10 to 100 times more powerful and almost double the number of experiments that can be carried out in a year,” Argonne officials said. “At present, the Argonne Photon Source serves the experimental needs of more than 3,500 researchers each year, more than any other scientific user facility in the Western Hemisphere.”
Scientists said the Advanced Photon Source uses high-energy X-ray beams to explore the atomic and molecular structures of materials and living organisms as small as a few nanometers, enabling breakthroughs such as improved battery technologies, an unprecedented understanding of how engine fuel injectors function, treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus and other diseases, the creation of nanomaterials, and advances in nanobiology, among other developments.
Two new genes linked to autism
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 3 (UPI) — U.S. researchers said they have identified two additional genes that may be linked with autism.
Study co-author Ning Lei of Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Studies says there is no known cause of autism, but mutations of several genes have been linked to autism.
Lei and colleagues analyzed data from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange on 943 families who had more than one child diagnosed with autism and had undergone genetic testing.
Investigators compared the prevalence of 25 gene mutations that appeared in the study participants’ families with a control group of 6,317 individuals.
The study identified mutations in four genes within the study group families — two of the genes have been previously linked to autism.
One of the new genes identified was neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2) — linked to the hippocampus in the brain — a region of the brain that has been associated with autism.
“While mutations in the NCAM2 gene were found in a small percentage of the children that we studied, it is fascinating that this finding continues a consistent story — that many of the genes associated with autism are involved with formation or function of the neural synapse,” Lei said in a statement.
“Studies such as this provide evidence that autism is a genetically based disease that affects neural connectivity.”
The findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver.
E-waste increasing in developing world
TUCSON, May 3 (UPI) — U.S. scientists said they’ve determined developing nations will produce at least twice as much electronic waste as developed countries by 2016.
A study by Assistant Professor Eric Williams and colleagues at Arizona State University also foresees that by 2030 developing countries will be discarding up to 700 million obsolete personal computers per year compared to 300 million by developed countries.
Williams said not only is there a continuing increase in ownership of PCs and other electronic devices worldwide, but at the same time technological advances are shrinking the lifetime of consumer electronics so people discard the products sooner than ever before.
“Our central assertion is that the new structure of global e-waste generation … combined with economic and social considerations, call for a serious reconsideration of e-waste policy,” the researchers said.
The findings are detailed in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Prostate cancer drugs under safety review
WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday it is reviewing the safety of several commonly used prostate cancer drugs.
The FDA said a preliminary review suggests an increase in the risk of diabetes and certain cardiovascular diseases in men treated with gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists.
“GnRH agonists are drugs that suppress the production of testosterone, a hormone that is involved in the growth of prostate cancer,” the FDA said. “This type of treatment is called androgen deprivation therapy. Suppressing testosterone has been shown to shrink or slow the growth of prostate cancer.”
The drugs under review are Lupron, Trelstar, Eligard, Synarel, Vantas, Viadur and Zoladex.
Officials said the medications have been associated with a small increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and sudden death in men.
Based on those initial findings, the FDA said it believes healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential risks and carefully weigh the benefits and risks of GnRH agonists when determining a treatment for patients with prostate cancer.
However, the FDA said patients should not stop treatment unless instructed to do so by a healthcare professional.
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