A Roundup of Science and Medical News

ScienceDaily offers a menu of interesting news releases.

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An artist’s concept of the star 55 Cancri shows the newly
discovered planet, a gas giant, in the foreground.
( NASA / JPL-Caltech)Some interesting science stories got posted on ScienceDaily in the past few days. I've cribbed the headlines and descriptions below from the site, although I've edited them in some places.

First, a bit of otherworldly news:

Astronomers Find Record Fifth Planet Around Nearby Star


Researchers have discovered a record-breaking fifth planet around the star 55 Cancri, making it the only star aside from the sun known to have so many planets. Three New Exo-planets Discovered


Three planets have been found orbiting around sunlike stars that are located 850 light-years away from Earth. Mars Express Probes the Red Planets Most Unusual Deposits


The radar system on the European satellite Mars Express has uncovered new details about some of the most mysterious deposits on Mars: the Medusae Fossae Formation. . . . and some new ways of looking at the world around us:

Online Vacation Photos Create 3-D Models of World Landmarks


Online photo collections such as Flickr and Google were used to create precise 3-D models of buildings and landmarks. The method could speed the development of 3-D digital maps by tapping the energies of millions of amateur photographers around the world. Researchers created a virtual reconstruction of the Statue of Liberty (at right) from tourists' photos. (Michael Goesele, TU Darmstadt)

Wildfire Drives Carbon Levels in Northern Forests


Far removed from streams of gas-thirsty cars and pollution-belching factories lies another key player in global climate change. Circling the Northern Hemisphere, the conifer-dominated boreal forests—one of the largest ecosystems on Earth—act as a vast natural regulator of atmospheric carbon levels. Rising Seas Will Intrude into Coastal Aquifers, Threaten Drinking Water


As climate change causes sea levels to rise, coastal communities could lose up to 50 percent more of their freshwater supplies than previously thought. Lastly, these advances in health and medicine caught my eye:

Store-bought Freshwater Fish Contain Elevated Levels of Mercury, Arsenic, and Selenium


White bass wild-caught and sold commercially contained significantly higher levels of mercury, arsenic and selenium than fish caught near former industrial areas. Curry-derived Molecules Might Be Too Spicy for Colorectal Cancers


Curcumin, the yellowish component of turmeric that gives curry its flavor, has long been noted for its potential anti-cancer properties. Researchers now report an apparent improvement upon nature: two molecular analogues of curcumin that demonstrate even greater tumor suppressive properties. New Molecule Could Lead to Treatments for Obesity and Unwanted Appetite Loss


Researchers have developed a novel way to control the extreme, dangerous weight loss that commonly accompanies late-stage cancer. Light Shed on Black Box of Gestational Diabetes


A protein in the pancreas is giving researchers a chance at cracking the code that determines how diabetes develops during pregnancy, a finding that could lead to new treatments for all forms of diabetes. Promising Vaccine Against Deadly Staph Infections Blocks Communication System of Bacteria


In hopes of combating the growing scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in particular drug-resistant staph bacteria, scientists have designed a new type of vaccine that could one day be used in humans to block the onset of infection. (Blogger's note: That vaccine story caught my eye in part because I recently edited a U.S. News story on MRSA, the drug-resistant form of staph. You can read that story, 'A Nasty Bug Breaks Out,' by Lindsay Lyon, here.)

Cause of Recent Sustained Outbreak of Human Leptospirosis in Thailand Discovered


A single disease-causing clone of the bacterium Leptospira interrogans—spread by the bandicoot rat—was behind the recent outbreak of leptospirosis in Thailand that lasted from 1999 to 2003. Vessel-thwarting Antibody Might Help Starve Cancerous Tumors


An antibody might offer a safe and effective complement to anticancer therapies designed to starve malignant tumors by pruning the blood vessels that feed them, researchers report. New Brain Marker Shows Promise for Predicting Future Alzheimer's Disease


Researchers have used imaging technology to identify a new marker that may help identify those at greatest risk for cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's disease.