Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Arizona Real Estate Partners of OZ Realty Go Flat-fee for Charity Through November 1

PHOENIX/EWORLDWIRE/Oct. 2, 2007 --- When real estate partners of OZ Realty set their sights on impacting the community they live in, in a big, big way, they did it with gusto - and at tremendous personal, financial sacrifice.

"Our biggest concern is that no one will take us seriously, but this is a legitimate business venture for us," stated Partner Sanjog Gopal. "With so much talk about trouble in the real estate market, we aim to stir things up in the Phoenix area by saving sellers a lot of money, by donating a lot of money to a good cause, and by boosting our local real estate market."

OZ Realty has instituted the "Spread Goodwill" program that includes a full service listing of any home for a $1500 flat fee until November 1, 2007. Color flyers and open houses are included. "We stand to build this area. Discount brokers charge twice as much - around $3000 - and do not provide open houses," said Gopal. "Other full service listings come with a cost equal to three percent of the purchase price of the home which can run $7500 on a $250,000 home."

OZ Realty will donate 100 percent of commissions to charity, either of the sellers' choosing or that of OZ Realty, if clients prefer. The research into local organizations Gopal has performed indicates those that would immediately benefit from the progam are the 100 Club, Boys and Girls Club of Arizona and Habitat for Humanity of Arizona.

"As wallets become thin, the funds flowing into community organizations has waned," added Gopal. "We project that if we help sell just 10 homes a month, we can save sellers $60,000 and donate $15,000 a month. The more homes that sell, the more money that is saved and the more money that is donated. It's more than just homes on the line - it's our reputation, our local economy and community charities."

The local real estate economy benefits from lower commissions from OZ Realty, because sellers can lower their asking price and entice buyers to get back in the market. "Creating awareness of our program builds recognition of our services and will help us build marketshare," concluded Gopal.

Golden Griffin Productions Wins Twice In 2007 Accolade Competition

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif./EWORLDWIRE/Oct. 2, 2007 --- Producers Anna Terra and Nancy Lamfers of Golden Griffin Productions have won two prestigious awards in the 2007 Accolade Competition. Their comedy pilot, "In The Soup," was awarded an Honorable Mention for outstanding Creativity/Originality and Television Comedy Program. This unique and wacky show has a hilarious cast of characters who continually stir up trouble in a Los Angeles soup kitchen.

"We are incredibly honored to have received awards in these specific categories because they weren't just about an individual achievement," says Lamfers. "They recognize the combined effort of our entire cast and crew who sacrificed day and night to make this show a reality." Lamfers co-authored the script with her husband, casting director, Terry Lamfers. Says Terra, "Everybody had to multitask to make this show a success. I got the opportunity to work with Nancy, producing the show and I also played Anna Maria Giovanetti, one, crazy, overbearing mother - a really fun role."

The Accolade recognizes film, television and video professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry.

Proteins in Space

Malaysia will be sending its first astronauts to the International Space Station on 10 October, 2007 where they will be conducting 10 different experiments. One of the experiments is designed by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) to understand the structure of protein under microgravity.

Proteins are essentially life’s building blocks. Understanding proteins helps us understand how living things function. The shape or structure of protein can influence its function, much like a key to fit a lock. For example, new drugs can be designed so that it is recognised by its target within our body. The UPM experiment will shed light on how proteins fold and form under microgravity, thus telling us more about the shape of proteins. This experiment was designed by Prof. Raja Noor Zaliha Raja Abdul Rahman and her team. Prof. Raja is a Microbiologist/Molecular biologist from Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Observing ultrahigh-energy cosmic particles

Ultrahigh-energy cosmic particles are an intriguing puzzle in high-energy physics. They are extremely rare—only 11 have been observed in 13 years of searching. No one knows where they come from, or how they could have that much energy left over after the long journey through intergalactic and interstellar space.

RIKEN, one of Japan’s largest research organisations is planning to observe them on board the International Space Station. To observe these rare phenomena, a telescope with an extremely wide field of view is needed. Instead of looking out into space like a conventional telescope, the telescope will look down at the Earth from space, searching for streaks of ultraviolet fluorescence and Cerenkov radiation, which cosmic particles produce when they interact with the Earth's atmosphere.

PolyU-made space tool sets for Mars again

Following the signing of space collaboration agreement between China and Russia earlier this year, scientists at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) got a new chance to design their state-of-the-art space tools for a mission to Mars onboard a Russian spacecraft. The aerospace authorities of the two nations have agreed to jointly probe Mars and its innermost moon Phobos.

It is planned that Russia will launch an explorer carrying a lander with Chinese-made device to collect samples of Phobos soil. The system, which weighs merely 230 grams and measures slightly larger than a cigarette pack, will be capable of grinding and sifting Phobos rock to the size of less than 1mm in diameter for in situ analysis by the Lander. This procedure is considered a crucial step in understanding the evolution of the universe and in searching for possible signs of life on the extraterrestrial planet.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Getting out of a jam with jellies

One jellyfish can throw a swimmer into a panic, but relentless swarms can disrupt entire economies. Recent, dramatic increases in jellyfish populations—for reasons ranging from overfishing to the impact of global warming on coastal ecosystems—have had equally dramatic effects on human communities.

Several coastal power plants in Japan have been damaged or shut down entirely by the accumulation of tons of jellyfish bodies within their cooling systems, and fishermen in the Sea of Japan now find themselves confronted by nets full of jellyfish—including one particularly massive species (Fig. 1). Removing and disposing of these jellyfish bodies in an economically feasible way represents a major challenge, but a recent discovery by Kiminori Ushida and colleagues at the RIKEN Discovery Research Institute, Wako, and Shinwa Chemical Industries, Kyoto, may offer new hope.

“I know a lot about the economic situation with waste that requires compensation for the cost of collection, transportation and disposal,” Ushida explains. “I felt that figuring out how to make money from jellyfish waste is essential for cleaning up and protecting the environment.” Ushida’s group set about performing a series of extractions on different jellyfish species, and identified a novel protein that consistently appeared in every sample (1). It turned out to be a glycoprotein—a class of proteins naturally linked to sugar molecules—from a family known as mucins.

Mucins are found in many plant and animal species, and are currently used as additives for a number of commercial applications, ranging from cosmetics to medicines. Ushida’s team named their protein ‘qniumucin’, a play on the word ‘kuniumi’; this term from Japanese history refers to the early government that arose to provide stability to a once-disorganized country. “I am worried about the terrible situation of people living in the districts where the ancient Japanese government originated, who are suffering because of these giant jellyfish,” says Ushida, “and I hope that this material will generate new industry in the district, like the ‘rebirth of the countryside’.”

Indeed, qniumucin shows a great deal of promise—its structure is simple and well-understood, making it a candidate for further engineering to enhance particular characteristics. For example, some mucins have proven to be effective as antibiotics. Accordingly, Ushida’s top priority is to make qniumucin extraction as profitable as possible. “We are developing designer mucins to enhance certain functions of our protein,” he says, “and many companies are interested in finding effective commercial uses for qniumucin.”

Fires of creation probed by quarks

Scientists have confirmed that a powerful particle accelerator has recreated the intense conditions that existed just microseconds after the beginning of the universe. The experiments have also revealed a surprise about quarks, the fundamental building blocks of every atomic nucleus.

Quarks are normally held together by gluons, but immediately after the big bang these ingredients existed as a hot quark–gluon plasma (QGP). Understanding how this soup condenses into the discrete particles that make up ordinary matter can help to reveal how the subatomic world works.

To generate quarks of various flavors—known by names such as ‘charm’ or ‘strange’—the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, US, smashes particles together at close to the speed of light.

Scientists working there conducted a series of experiments there in 2004/5 to create and study an unusual particle called J/ψ, made up of a charm quark paired with its opposite number, the anti-charm quark.

The scientists first smashed protons together, and used the PHENIX (Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment) detector to spot thousands of J/ψ particle decays1 (Fig. 1).

When they switched protons for gold atoms, the heavier missiles created more intense explosions expected to generate a quark–gluon plasma2. They saw that, as expected, some of the J/ψ particles from the initial explosion were melting in this hot bath, lowering their overall numbers.

“This supports the theoretical prediction that J/ψ will melt in a QGP, and thus provides strong evidence for QGP formation at RHIC,” says Yasuyuki Akiba of RIKEN’s Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, Wako, who is part of the PHENIX team.

Surprisingly, they also found that the central, hotter region of the collision actually hosted more J/ψ particles than the cooler outskirts. This suggests that charm and anti-charm quarks produced at the heart of the collision can recombine into J/ψ. “This is a very intriguing explanation but, at present, the data cannot rule out other possibilities,” adds Akiba.

The team have now just finished collecting a new set of data on gold–gold collisions which will allow them to measure J/ψ much more precisely. They hope they will be able to track the characteristic motion of J/ψ particles produced by recombination of quarks, dubbed ‘elliptic flow’, which would distinguish them from existing J/ψ that failed to melt in the QGP. This would allow them to calculate the balance between melting and recombination effects, revealing more about the primordial QGP.

Towards a treatment for epilepsy

Japanese neuroscientists have clarified the molecular basis of the intractable epileptic disorder known as severe myoclonic epilepsy in infancy (SMEI). In the process they have redefined the position and role of an important protein involved in controlling the firing of nerve impulses in the brain. The work also has generated a mouse model of severe myoclonic epilepsy that the researchers hope to use to study the condition and how to treat it.

More than 200 different mutations of the human SCN1A gene are known to be associated with human epileptic disorders including SMEI. The gene itself encodes an ion-channel protein, Nav1.1, which forms a pore in the plasma membrane that controls the in-flow of electrically-charged sodium ions into nerve cells. This is a significant step in the generation of nerve impulses. There is a homologous gene, Scn1a, in mice.

In a recent paper in The Journal of Neuroscience (1), researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, and their colleagues, describe how they produced a ‘knock-in’ mouse, by introducing a disease-causing, nonsense mutation found in SMEI patients into the middle of the Scn1a gene. Mouse pups which inherited copies of the mutant gene from both mother and father were markedly smaller (Fig. 1), developed epilepsy and an unstable gait by the second week after birth, and died within three weeks. Pups with only one copy of the mutant gene began epileptic seizures in the third week, and about 40% had died within three months.

Previous studies suggested that the Nav1.1 protein was distributed rather evenly throughout the brain and could be found in the projections of nerve cells known as dendrites. Using three different antibodies as probes, the RIKEN-based research team corrected this picture. The Nav1.1 proteins are more likely to be found on axons and cell bodies. In particular, they are found on inhibitory nerve cells that express the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin, often in the area known as the axon initial segment where nerve impulses are generated.

By measuring and comparing the output of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in normal and mutant mice, the research team found that the Nav1.1 channel proteins were needed not to initiate firing of the excitatory nerve, but to maintain the inhibitory pulse, thus preventing epileptic seizures.

“We hope to develop effective therapies for this intractable epilepsy from further work,” says project leader Kazuhiro Yamakawa.

Approval granted for Keio University to merge with Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy

Keio University receives approval from MEXT for its merger with Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy and establishment of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Keio University has been preparing to merge with Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy and to establish the Faculty of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences within Keio University. On 28 September 2007, Keio University received approval from the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for its merger with Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy and establishment of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Following the approval, on 1 April 2008, the two universities will merge, and Keio University will open the Faculty of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

New type of Bismuth oxide nanoparticles

UPM researchers have developed BiOX, a new type of bismuth oxide nanoparticle, which is cheap and ecologically friendly to produce. Bismuth oxide is important in everyday life its non-toxic properties. It can be used as a substitute for lead, eradicating peptic ulcer bacteria, in cosmetics and in solid oxide fuel cell

Bismuth oxide is becoming so important in everyday life for its non-toxic and non-carcinogenic status. Demand is rising to use the material as a substitute for lead particularly in copper alloys for plumbing fittings for water drinking system. Suggestions have also been made for including the material in tableware glazing, glasses and crystal ware.

In pharmaceutical industries, the material is proven to be the most effective ingredient eradicating bacteria responsible for inflicting peptic ulcers. The material combined with chloride gives a special pearlescent, inimitable deep luster to lipstick, nail polish, eye shadows and facial powders in addition to its lubricating qualities for smoother, silkier skin comfort.

Other technological applications of bismuth oxide are in the field of advanced ceramics, rare earth chemicals, thermal spray powders, solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) materials, catalysts, nano-magnetics, electroplating and biotechnology.

BiOX is a new type of bismuth oxide nanoparticle with distinctive bright orange colour. Its chemical symbol is Bi2O3 and its molecular weight is 466. The material particle size is 37nm with its corresponding specific surface area of 8.9m2g-1.

The oxides are of tetragonal-Bi2O3 which through controlled synthesis procedure produce materials resemble into rosette morphology (see attachment for images). The preparation method opted was rather simple and distinguished by the monophase composition of the product, ecological safety and simple operation, therefore promising low operating cost.

Mitochondrial downfall in Parkinson’s disease

The mutation of two genes associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease cooperate to regulate mitochondrial function when cells are stressed, reports a paper online in Nature Cell Biology this week. This link will help researchers understand the mechanisms underlying the neuronal degeneration seen in pathologies such as Parkinson‘s disease.

Julian Downward and colleagues investigated the mitochondrial protease Omi – the loss of which leads to a neurodegenerative disorder resembling Parkinson’s. They found that Omi is regulated by PINK1, which has been identified as an early-onset Parkinson’s disease susceptibility factor. The researchers show that, in response to various cellular stresses, PINK1 is essential for mitochondrial protection by Omi and keeps cells healthy. Strikingly, they also find that this cooperation is impaired in brain samples from Parkinson's disease patients carrying mutations in PINK1.

Finding this new interaction suggests that in the normal brain, PINK1 and Omi prevent the death of neuronal cells by protecting their mitochondria. The development of Parkinson’s disease would thus be linked to a higher susceptibility to neuronal death following stress.

HIV stuns immune cells

A known suppression factor in the immune system increases in HIV-infected individuals on critical immune cells, reports a study in the November issue of Nature Immunology. Key targets of HIV infection, CD4+ T cells show elevated levels of the suppression factor and are associated with rapid HIV disease progression.

Bruce Walker and colleagues evaluated HIV-positive people who progressed relatively fast to disease and found significant increases in CTLA-4 expression on CD4+ T lymphocytes compared to those who did not––so-called ‘long-term non-progressors’. The team also compared CTLA-4 expression on CD4+ T cells in people before and after receiving highly active anti-retroviral therapy and found higher T cell-associated CTLA-4 in those who were off therapy. Importantly, the team found that blocking the activity of CTLA-4 improved immune function.

These results suggest that decreasing CTLA-4 expression on CD4+ T cells may provide a potential therapy to improve lymphocyte function in HIV-infected individuals.

Learning in stressful times

The hippocampus is crucial for mediating the effects of stress on learning, even when this brain region is not directly involved in learning the task in question, reports a paper in the November issue of Nature Neuroscience.

The hippocampus is important for some types of learning but not others. Eyeblink conditioning, for example, does not require the hippocampus. Animals respond to a shock to the eye by blinking, and when the shock is repeatedly paired with a noise learn to respond to the noise itself with an eyeblink – irrespective of whether it is accompanied by a shock.

Tracey Shors and colleagues previously reported that after rats have been stressed, eyeblink conditioning is enhanced in males and reduced in females – stress therefore modifies learning of the association between the noise and shock. The authors now find that selective damage to the hippocampus in rats makes these stress-induced modifications disappear. Lesioned male rats do not learn eyeblink conditioning any faster when they are stressed, and lesioned female rats are no worse. Without stress, both perform just like normal animals. These results indicate that neuronal activity in the hippocampus modifies learning after stress, even when the hippocampus is not directly involved in the learning process itself.

The gene-mapper’s best friend

Genetic variants associated with dominant or recessive disease-related traits in dogs can be mapped efficiently and with high confidence, report two studies to be published online this week in Nature Genetics. As dogs and humans have a similar complement of genes, the mapping of disease-associated variants in dogs may make an important contribution to the study of human genetic disease.

There are more than 400 genetically distinct dog breeds. As each breed originated in a small number of founder dogs, there is a limited amount of genetic diversity within each breed. This sort of genome structure is ideal for the rough mapping of genes because it allows one to analyze most of the genome with a limited number of genetic markers. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh and colleagues found small regions of the genome to be associated with two traits by assessing a relatively small number of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (27,000) in only 20 dogs.

The authors identified a genomic region containing only one gene—MITF—as responsible for the absence of skin and coat pigmentation in white boxers, which also predisposes them to deafness. They also identified a region associated with the dorsal hair ridge in Ridgeback dogs, which are prone to dermoid sinus, a neural tube defect. In the accompanying paper, Leif Andersson and colleagues carried out fine mapping of the region associated with the Ridgeback hair ridge, and showed that the causative mutation is a duplication containing four different genes—FGF3, FGF4, FGF19 and ORAOV1.

The long and the short of fatty liver

Too much fat in the liver predisposes to diabetes, but a study in the October issue of Nature Medicine reports that not all types of fat are equally harmful. Changing the fat composition in the liver may therefore help obese patients who are insulin resistant and cannot lose weight.

Excessive fat intake leads to obesity and overwhelms the storage capacity of fat cells, with surplus fat being stored in the liver. Development of fatty liver can result in insulin resistance and increased glucose levels—two hallmarks of diabetes.

Hitoshi Shimano and his colleagues created a strain of mice lacking Elovl6, an enzyme that increases the length of the carbon chains of fatty acids, thereby changing the fat composition in the liver of these mutant mice, with shorter fatty acids predominating over those with longer chains. On a high-fat diet, these mice became obese and developed fatty liver, just like wild-type mice, but their insulin sensitivity and their sugar levels were not affected.

The absolute levels of fat in the liver do not therefore seem to be detrimental to maintaining normal glucose levels. Instead, the types of fat that are present seem to be a more important factor, with shorter fat molecules being healthier than longer ones. If this is also true in humans, it may be possible to help obese patients who are insulin resistant and cannot lose weight by targeting Elovl6.

Micro-managing HIV replication

Cellular microRNAs could help HIV persist by shutting off viral replication and contributing to latency, suggests a paper online in Nature Medicine this week.

HIV can hide out in cells in a dormant state called latency. Antiviral drugs target replicating virus, so latency is a large barrier to virus eradication.

Hui Zhang and colleagues identified a cluster of microRNAs that interact with a region of the HIV genome, shutting off viral gene expression. These microRNAs are enriched in so-called resting CD4 T cells—the main cell type that harbours latent HIV. The authors treated resting CD4 T cells from HIV infected patients with a combination of specific inhibitors of the microRNAs and showed that after such treatment the cells were able to generate 10 times more HIV. Interfering with the function of these suppressive microRNAs might therefore provide a new way to flush HIV out of hiding.

No end to protein modification

A new biological signalling molecule is described online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. Nitric oxide, or NO, is a common messenger in biological systems and produces a variety of physiological responses, but the precise signalling pathways involved have so far remained unclear.

Takaaki Akaike and colleagues now show that cellular NO production produces a ‘nitrated’ second messenger called 8-nitro-cGMP, which bears a chemical resemblance to a known signalling molecule, cyclic GMP (cGMP). Because of this similarity, 8-nitro-cGMP is a good mimic and can activate several of cGMP’s standard signalling pathways. However 8-nitro-cGMP has a number of additional functions including the ability to tag proteins with a cGMP tag. The discovery of these new pathways and modifications provides new insights into NO physiology and pathological responses.

Human evolution: The eastern extent of Neanderthals

Neanderthals could have spread as far east as central Asia and Siberia — more than 2,000 kilometres further than previously thought — according to new DNA evidence published online this week in Nature.

Neanderthal fossils have previously been found over a large area, stretching from the Mediterranean to as far east as Uzbekistan. Most remains are fragmentary, however, so it can be difficult to determine whether a fossil is of Neanderthal or of modern human origin.

Svante Pääbo and colleagues looked at mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from two sets of hominid remains — one child skeleton from Uzbekistan and adult fossils from Okladnikov in southern Siberia — to find out whether they fell within the European Neanderthal mtDNA variation. The partial skeleton from Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan is of an 8–10-year-old boy discovered in the 1930s. This fossil is thought to represent the easternmost extent of the Neanderthal range, but scientists have never been able to confirm it. The authors extracted mtDNA samples from four bones: the left femur of the Teshik-Tash child and three fragmentary pieces from the Siberian fossils.

The results show that the mtDNA fossil sequences fall within the European Neanderthal mtDNA variation, suggesting that the geographical range of Neanderthals extended farther east into southern Siberia than has generally been assumed. The authors conclude that further DNA sequences from across the Neanderthal range are needed to build up a better picture of how Neanderthals colonized different regions, and whether they ever reached as far east as Mongolia or China.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cell biology: Taking dendritic cells into medicine

The medical importance of a key component of the immune system is reviewed in this week’s Nature. Dendritic cells (DCs) — named for their tree-like or dendritic shapes — have a pivotal role in antigen recognition and the generation of an immune response, and have the capacity to either prevent or encourage disease.

In the review, Ralph Steinman and Jacques Banchereau present some of the medical implications of DC biology that account for illness and suggest opportunities for prevention and therapy. They outline recent advances in DC biology, which concern the location, maturation and specialization of these cells, and discuss the relevance of DCs to a number of medical situations. In the settings of infection and cancer, microbes and tumours can exploit DCs to evade an immune response, but DC’s can also induce resistance to infection, which can be readily enhanced with DC-targeted vaccines. During allergy, autoimmunity and transplant rejection, DCs instigate unwanted responses that cause disease, but again can be harnessed to silence these conditions with novel therapies.

The authors suggest that further research should be aimed at these key players in disease development, which represent an unavoidable target in the design of future treatments.

Quantum information: Processing with superconducting circuits

Two research groups have successfully used a superconducting communication line to store and transfer information between distant quantum bits, or qubits, on a chip. The development reported in Nature this week is an important step towards developing quantum computers.

Previously scientists had only transferred information directly qubit to qubit in a superconducting system. Now groups led by Raymond Simmonds and Johannes Majer demonstrate that quantum coherence of the signal can be maintained over longer distances using photons. Information about the quantum state of one qubit is passed into an optical resonant cavity several millimetres long. A second qubit at the other end of the cavity retrieves the information at a later time. The technique could be scaled up, allowing a large number of qubits to communicate across an electronic chip.

Molecular biology: Effective gene silencing

Despite recent concerns, new research shows that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can be effective and safe tools for silencing genes in vivo. The work, published online this week in Nature, demonstrates the use of siRNAs in mouse and hamster, without any demonstrable effect on microRNAs.

The in vivo application of RNA interference for basic research as well as development of therapeutics is rapidly expanding. However, recent work has identified potential for toxic effects in the mouse liver caused by saturation of the microRNA biosynthetic pathway.

David Bumcrot and colleagues show near-complete silencing of two mouse and hamster liver genes by intravenous administration of siRNAs. This silencing is specific to the targeted gene and is not associated with any overt toxicity. They argue that their findings support continued siRNA research and their further development as a new class of therapeutics.

Farming: Making a paddy field out of a swamp

Early farmers in eastern China used fire and flood control to manage coastal swamps and turn them into the first known rice paddy fields. In a report in this week's Nature, researchers provide a detailed insight into this Neolithic rice cultivation system.

The adoption of cereal cultivation was one of the most important cultural processes in history, marking the transition from hunting and gathering by Mesolithic foragers to the food-producing economy of Neolithic farmers Yongqiang Zong and colleagues present evidence from the earliest known Neolithic site in eastern China, around 7,700 years ago, demonstrating that communities selected lowland swamps for their rice cultivation. The authors suggest that, even at this early stage, rice cultivation involved high-intensity clearance and management of coastal marsh vegetation by fire. It is also likely that floodwater input to cultivated areas was controlled by humans, with artificial ‘bunding’ used to maintain crop yields and prevent major flood damage. The site was eventually overwhelmed by the sea around 7,550 years ago, demonstrating the vulnerability of early rice production in this fertile but unstable ecosystem.

These results establish that rice cultivation began in the coastal wetlands of eastern China. The authors' conclusion that incipient Neolithic groups used fire management to modify these regions may also apply to other areas, and requires further investigation.

Cancer: MicroRNAs and metastasis

A particular microRNA, microRNA-10b (miR-10b), has been found in abundance in breast cancer cells that have the ability to spread to other organs, according to research published online in Nature this week. The authors demonstrate that it is miR-10b that causes the invasion and metastasis of primary tumour cells.

Robert Weinberg and colleagues demonstrate that miR-10b is induced by the transcriptional regulator Twist, which is of increasing interest in cancer research. miR-10b exerts its effects by regulating the target gene HOXD10, thereby removing RHOC repression.

Understanding why miR-10b is highly expressed in aggressive human breast tumours, and how it functions, gives a better understanding of these high-grade cancers.

Carl Sagan maps the galaxy in plants and flowers in Hawaii

Captain Cook, Hawaii/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 27, 2007 --- The Galaxy Garden, the world's first walk-through model of the Milky Way Galaxy, will open to the public on Oct. 21, 2007. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, this 100-foot diameter garden accurately maps the galaxy using almost 1000 carefully selected plants to represent actual stars and nebulae. The centerpiece of the model is a unique fountain that represents the giant black hole at our galaxy's center.

The Galaxy Garden was conceived and designed by famed astronomical artist Jon Lomberg, long-time collaborator of Carl Sagan. Lomberg worked with astronomer Leo Blitz of UC Berkeley, an expert in the structure of the spiral galaxy in which our solar system resides. Blitz's maps of the galaxy were traced out on a quarter acre of lawn in rows of plants that show the galaxy's structure. This unique art/ science/ landscaping project is the first of its kind anywhere on Earth.

The garden is located on the grounds of the Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary, a non- profit, 9-acre botanical garden in the Kona district, ''. The Paleaku Astronomy Center is now open for guided daytime tours of the galaxy, as well as evening stargazing events and visits by students. Major funding for the creation of the garden came from the Change Happens Foundation. Seed money was provided by the New Moon Foundation.

Our Sun is located by a single small jewel on a leaf of the gold-dust croton plant, whose speckled leaves symbolize starfields. Nearby stars - other jewels - are positioned at the correct distance on our leaf. More distant objects, like the famous Orion Nebula, are shown to scale, just a few feet from our Sun, using colorful hibiscus flowers to represent these gorgeous cosmic clouds. Other esoteric features like the warp of the galactic disk, and the recently discovered "bar" at the galactic center will satisfy the expert viewer and allow the average visitor to grasp the geography and scale of our Milky Way as never before. According to artist Lomberg, "The Galaxy Garden presents cosmic vastness in a way that you actually experience it."

Scale models of our solar system are a common teaching device showing how planets orbit the Sun. This unique garden extends this concept to the entire galaxy. The Paleaku Astronomy Center is now open for guided and self-guided tours of the Galaxy Garden, as listed on the website

Emmy Award winner Lomberg has been depicting our galaxy for 35 years: in Carl Sagan's COSMOS TV series, in the opening animation of the film CONTACT, and in a famous mural for the National Air and Space Museum called "Portrait of the Milky Way." "Who wouldn't like to explore the galaxy without leaving Hawaii?" he says.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Real-Time Game Play Recording Available With Honestech's VHS TO DVD 3.0 Deluxe

AUSTIN, Texas/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 27, 2007 --- Real-time game play recording is now available with Honestech’s VHS to DVD Deluxe 3.0. Honestech, Inc., a leading developer and marketer of digital video and Internet Protocol (IP) software technology for multimedia content on PCs, handheld devices and phones has announced one button recording for most leading console game systems including Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and other gaming systems which use Televisions as display monitors.

Perfect for both novices and professionals, VHS to DVD 3.0 offers tools to edit and produce quality video files easily and to save and keep priceless home videos forever in sharp and crystal-clear DVD/CD quality. Using the Easy Wizard Mode, anyone can transfer VHS, Beta, or other videotapes to DVD with just a few clicks, using step-by-step pictorial instructions that guide the user through the process. Advanced scene editing tools allow users to record movies, delete commercials or unwanted scenes, and easily add special effects, titles and chapter points.

VHS to DVD 3.0 Deluxe comes complete with a USB 2.0 MY-VIDBOX and provides entertainment with the power to easily create and archive any DVD/CD movie from a camcorder, VCR, or DVD player. New features include the ability to convert cassette tapes and LP records to MP3 files and audio CDs, and formatting that allows users to watch videos on new devices, such as an iPod, PSP and more.

Gamers can easily record console play either by utilizing a video splitter, available separately through retailers and video stores, to send their video stream to both VHS to DVD Deluxe's MY-VIDBOX and their television monitor, or by putting their S-Video console output into the MY-VIDBOX and viewing their game play on their computer monitors via the USB 2.0 connecting the MY VIDBOX to their computer. With one-click recording VHS to DVD Deluxe then records the game play in real time and can be later burned onto a DVD, uploaded to a social network, or sent as a file.

VHS to DVD 3.0 Deluxe supports CD-R/RW, DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW and DVD+/- R DL and also includes a burning-after-recording feature that is useful when converting a video that is longer than 30 minutes. A recording can be made for the duration set and then burned to the media of choice. Recording time is adjustable so that only the section of a movie desired is made into a clip. Movie clips are then managed in a file pool for ease of viewing, editing and deleting.

The plug-and-play USB MY-VIDBOX allows users to capture both audio and video through USB 2.0 with speeds up to 480Mbits without the need to connect an extra audio cable. The USB MY-VIDBOX supports S-Video and composite video inputs. With the S-Video input, users can capture the best video quality from sources with S-Video outputs. No external power adapter is needed, making the USB MY-VIDBOX especially suitable for laptop users.

Sonica Audio Labs LLC Debuts Cosmos-Q Audio Workstation

WINDHAM, N.H./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 26, 2007 --- Sonica does it again with the release of the Cosmos-Q audio workstation. Powered by the Intel XEON 3250 Quad Core Processor running at 2.4GHz per core, the system is accompanied by 8MB of cache memory and with a 1066MHz Front Side Bus (FSB). The Cosmos-Q workstation incorporates Extreme XMS II DDR2-800MHz memory, SATA II storage and dual display support. This is one fast and quiet machine running at 22 db (A) and able to run over 200 plug-ins with ease.

The Cosmos-Q workstation supports all the very latest Intel technologies, allowing Sonica Audio Labs to outdistance itself from its competitors. The performance boost gained by the Cosmos-Q workstation simply translates into more plug-ins to run, more VST instruments to run and more tracks to add, resulting in an overall increase on users' efficiency - to minimize their total production time while maintaining rock-solid stability.

The system has tested to be compatible with leading DAW applicatios including Pro Tools LE, Nuendo, Cubase, Samplitude, Sequoia, SONAR, Live, Reason, GigaStudio and Kontact.

Compatibility with leading Pro Audio interfaces includes a lengthy list: Digidesigns M-BOX II, 003, Presonus FP10, FireStudio, RME Fireface 400/800, HDSP MADI, 9652, 9632, Multiface/Digiface with PCI/PCIe card, M-AUDIO 410, 1814, MIX I/O, MOTU, Traveler, 424 PCIe based systems.

With its brushed aluminum case, words such as "stylish" could be used to describe an audio PC. While being sexier than a standard beige or black PC, the Cosmos-Q audio workstation utilizes heat-pipe technology, ultra-quiet fans and sound barrier to keep a user's audio production environment quiet.

The Cosmos-Q audio workstation also offers a range of ports to add additional hardware and interface to a studio gear. There are ten USB2.0 ports, dual Texas Instruments FireWire IEEE-1394a ports, along with eSATA and dual display support.

Sonica Audio Labs LLC. configures the Cosmos-Q audio workstation with audio production in mind, shipping with customized BIOS and optimized Windows XP services.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Honestech Introduces Claymation Studio Deluxe, Affordable Stop-Motion Video Studio for Consumers

AUSTIN, Texas/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 26, 2007 --- Honestech, Inc. today announced the release of "Claymation Studio Deluxe," an easy-to-use stop-motion authoring studio which enables novice users to create claymation, stop-motion video, animation and cell-based videos from imported images, photographs, music audio and recorded sound tracks. Honestech, a leading developer and marketer of digital video and Internet Protocol (IP) software technology for multimedia content on PCs, handheld devices and phones, will retail the product at under $50.00.

The new product, which includes Clay, targets the fast growing consumer created content market, allows users to capture images using a digital camera, webcam, DV camcorder or any digital image source, create characters, apply small changes, and add background images and music to create complete claymation movies.

IBM Partner Watson SCS, Inc. Offers Complimentary IT Security Assessment

TAMPA, Fla./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 26, 2007 --- In a world where identity theft and corporate corruption seem to run rampant, companies across all industries are quickly finding themselves and their IT departments under the microscope of federal, state and industry bodies, forcing them to comply with ever-changing standards. One IBM business partner is offering complimentary IT security assessments to assist companies in figuring out where their vulnerabilities lie and how to fix them.

Watson SCS has recently announced this limited time offer for potential clients concerned about the security of their computer systems and those struggling to comply with strict regulations. This no-obligation, IT Security Access Administration Assessment is conducted by Watson SCS' IBM Tivoli security specialists. It analyzes the company's critical systems and business processes in order to discover whether their IT environment is maintained for maximum security and regulatory compliance. A findings report is provided at the end of the assessment, along with recommendations to improve their overall IT security posture.

In about four hours onsite, Watson SCS conducts a review of key systems and business processes to gauge each client's current environment for compliance and efficiency. The security assessment process includes a review of HR information in the security administration process; access request and approval processes; termination processes; password related helpdesk calls; password policy and enforcement; user ID audit reporting; and typical number of applications used per user session.

Once the review is complete, Watson presents the client with a report outlining where their systems and processes stand when compared with various regulations and legislative requirements. It also reveals how the company's overall security posture measures up against that of other organizations in the same industry. In addition, the assessment report will provide recommendations on how the client can improve systems and processes to create a more compliant and secure environment, and ways to streamline IT operations for maximum cost effectiveness and return on investment. The client receiving the assessment and findings report is under no obligation to purchase any of the software or services offered by Watson SCS, Inc.

The free assessment campaign was launched in July of 2007, and, because Watson SCS is an advanced IBM business partner, was originally designed for use with IBM representatives. Although the offer has been expanded significantly, senior IBM representatives still support, recommend and leverage both the assessment and the work of Watson SCS.

According to Watson SCS Founder Kyle Watson, "Our close relationship with IBM has created lots of benefits for our clients. They have the support of Watson SCS security experts, who are certified specialists in IBM Tivoli Security Software and often in other areas as well. When we tell a potential client that we have the IBM security and support teams behind us at all times, Watson SCS' credibility immediately increases."

Watson SCS specializes in IBM Tivoli Security Software and employs Tivoli certified security specialists. Watson SCS helps organizations nationwide comply with HIPAA, SOX, and PCI DSS and other regulations by implementing centralized user ID and password management tools and processes, effectively mitigating the risk of unauthorized access. Watson SCS' customers achieve audit compliance and single sign-on while reducing help desk and administration costs.

3rd Global Summit on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

Chiang Mai, Thailand - The event aims to provide a forum for scientists, researchers, reprosentatives from the medical and phamaceutical industries to share ideas for future collaboration.

Medicinal plants in many forms have been used since the ancient time in the traditional medicine and for health care. Aromatic plants and their products particularly the essential oils are also becoming more important. Traditional medicine is, at the present time, accepted as an alternative for or used in conjunction with the western medical practice in many counties. The 3rd Globals Summit on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants is therefore being organized to provide a forum for the scientists, researchers, reprosentatives from the medical and phamaceutical industries as well as traditional medicine to discuss, share the ideas, information and experiences for future collaboration in the globals developement of medicinal and aromatic plant industries.

Participants who intend to submit contributed papers or posters are requested to complete and return the accompanying form indication. Please provide a title for your paper and an abstract of no more than 300 words.
After the review by the Scientific Committee, you will be informed the acceptance. A book of abstracts will be avalable at the conference, and the accepted full paper will be published in the proceedings.

Seventh Asian Computational Fluid Dynamics (ACFD7) Conference

Karnataka, India - The major objective of ACFD is to provide a common forum for exchange of new ideas and experiences amongst the scientists and engineers from Asia and other parts of the globe.

The Asian Computational Fluid Dynamics (ACFD) Conference (ACFD) is held once every two years. The major objective of ACFD is to provide a common forum for exchange of new ideas and experiences amongst the scientists and engineers from Asia as well as other parts of the globe, working on algorithms and applications of CFD.
The Seventh ACFD will be held at Bangalore, India during November 26 - 30, 2007. The programme includes invited keynote lectures by distinguished experts from across the globe. There will be a few plenary sessions and a large number of parallel technical sessions spread over five days.

War and Free Speech Protests Leads Lisa Grant to Become the First 'Bid to Hire' Virtual Protester

CRANSTON, R.I./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 25, 2007 --- 'We can do almost anything virtually these days," says Lisa Grant, founder and executive director of FreeHealthCareNOW (FHCN), "so why not Virtually Protest something?"

Grant, a publisher by day, became "an instant activist" after viewing Michael Moore's film SiCKO. "My life changed overnight," Grant says, "and FreeHealthCareNOW was literally born the next morning. There was no way I could just go back to living as I had before I saw the movie, and the suffering of Americans without - and with - health insurance." Based in Providence, Rhode Island, FHCN is dedicated to obtaining Health Care for all Americans.

When she learned that the Troops Out Now Coalition's protest against the Iraq war this week in the nation's capitol would press the theme of "Health Care, Not Warfare," Grant was determined to take part but was aware of possible problems. "Free Speech in our country has become, if not silenced, then certainly muffled," Grant adds, "and I watched with the rest of the country as protesters were tasered and arrested. I knew that wouldn't stop me, though I'm almost old enough to be a grandma, but I worried that concern about altercations and personal safety might prevent or deter others from doing something they really believed in."

Grant's unique solution: she's offering herself as a Virtual Political Protester on eBay. The winner of the auction, which ends Thursday afternoon, will get the slogan of their choice placed on a sign or poster and will receive a digital video of the sign being carried by Grant throughout the march. It will be, Grant says, "A safe and guaranteed Taser-Free Experience!."

If the concept catches on, Grant intends to hire herself out Virtually for other marches, protests, and 2008 Debate attendee to question candidates for those who cannot be there themselves.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Crush Sets Sail Around the Country with the Real Pirates

BURBANK, Calif./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 24, 2007 --- Crush Creative, a Southern California based visual communications agency, recently completed graphics for the Real Pirates traveling exhibit that was unveiled at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 30, 2007.

The exhibit, organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, consists of 12 galleries and a pirate ship that is approximately 50 feet long. After receiving the majority of artwork from New York and Portland based artist, Greg Manchess, Crush scanned and printed the graphics on a variety of materials. Among those included numerous Artex banners printed on the Inca and many Broadway cloth banners stretched around wood frames, some as large as 32' x 8'. The frames had to be shipped from Los Angeles in 8' x 8' pieces and were then bolted together onsite in Cincinnati.

Adorned throughout the ship itself are numerous Sintra-mounted labels printed from the Lambda and pieces of imaged Artex stretched around curved pieces of MDF plywood-all explaining different aspects of a pirate's daily life. Crush also used Broadway cloth to produce the ship's large black mast sail. The project took several months to complete and required a team of approximately 50 people to install.

The exhibit allows visitors to experience 18th Century piracy at its best with an interactive virtual journey on the recreated Whydah, a slave ship built in London in 1715 that was captured by the notorious pirate Sam Bellamy and turned into a pirate ship. The ship sank in a fierce storm in April, 1717, off Cape Cod and was later located by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984. More than 200 treasures were recovered from the wreck and are now used as part of the exhibit.

Douglass W. McDonald, president/CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center, commented, "It's a world class educational and historically significant experience, created by the best exhibition developers in the world." The tour will make its way to various cities across the U.S. during the next five years.

Crush Creative is a member of the Merisel group of graphics companies and has been a major supporter of the creative community for over forty years. Producing the finest in visual communications, Crush is one of the largest digital imaging, creative services and finishing companies on the West Coast.

Merisel is a leading supplier of graphic image arts in the United States with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Merisel's mission is to provide Graphic Solutions - Designed to fit your image. This is achieved through four wholly owned companies.Coloredge Art, Coloredge Visual, Comp24 and Crush Creative.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sciral Introduces Flying Logic Planning Support Software

LOS ANGELES/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 24, 2007 --- Today Sciral ("PSY-ruhl") released the first version of its innovative planning support software, "Flying Logic." Originally developed for a major defense contractor as part of its advanced concepts development program and targeted for use in military Course of Action Analysis (COA), Flying Logic uses a patented, highly visual interface to support techniques employed by strategists, planners, and consultants in the creation of plans at the earliest, most fluid stages.

"We set out to create a fresh, visual approach to the sort of critical thinking that military planners must apply to every mission, and realized that their methods had much in common with those used by professionals that specialize in business process reengineering and process improvement - they both have the goal of creating new, better situations out of existing, problematic situations," said Robert McNally, Sciral's president and the designer of Flying Logic.

Like spreadsheets do for financial planners, Flying Logic encourages strategic planners to play "what if" with cause-and-effect scenarios, giving them the ability to try many more possibilities in a shorter time than would be possible with any other kind of software. Planners focus on their planning, and Flying Logic takes care of the layout and formatting details, including using smooth, animated transitions as the diagram changes and grows. "Flying Logic is not a drawing program even though it is used to create diagrams," said McNally. "It is a new kind of spreadsheet - a spreadsheet for general rational thinking."

McNally continued, "When a system has problems, learning what really needs changing - and what to change to - encompasses a set of methodologies that are distinct from traditional project management. Answering these questions becomes even more complex in the world of organizational strategy: root causes must be identified, solutions created and tested, obstacles identifed and overcome, and negative outcomes mitigated or circumvented. There are proven practices for accomplishing these goals, but until now there has been no targeted software support for quickly and easily creating the cause-and-effect trees necessary to think them through."

Flying Logic is available for Windows and Mac OS X in three editions at special introductory prices: Professional ($149), Personal ($79), and Student ($39). All editions are available for immediate download from and include a fully-functional 30-day trial.

12th World Lake Conference

Jaipur, India - The gamut of subjects covered by the Conference is comprehensive and wide-scoped. It encompasses all aspects of lakes and wetlands.

The 12th World Lake Conference, in the series of conferences held every two years since 1985, under the aegis of the International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC) Foundation (Japan), will be organised at Jaipur (Rajasthan, India) at the invitation of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, New Delhi.

Central Theme: Conserving Lakes and Wetlands for Future
The gamut of subjects covered by the Conference is comprehensive and wide-scoped. It encompasses all aspects of lakes and wetlands.

The Conference will also provide forum for informal discussions, working groups, and satellite meetings on related subjects.

An exhibition of scientific literature, instruments, and technologies for lakes and reservoirs will be arranged.

The 12th World Lake Conference provides an excellent opportunity for Technology Developers, Enterpreneurs, Manufacturers, Suppliers and Distributors of Scientific Instruments, Equipment or Machinery related to the water quality monitoring, wastewater treatment, water management, lake restoration (dredgers, aerators, diffusers, weed harvesters, bioremediation, etc.) and publishers and book sellers of scientific journals and books and other literature (DVDs, CDs, Films etc.) to exhibit and publicise their products and technologies before a large international community of researchers, managers, decision and policy makers and other concerned people. More than 800-1000 participants from overseas & India are expected to attend the Conference, besides a large number of Government officials, Lake Development Authorities, Officers of Pollution Control Boards, and Environmental Engineers, etc.

Chemeca 2007

Victoria, Australia - Chemeca 2007 conference will interest all professionals in the chemical engineering and chemical process related sectors.

Chemeca 2007 will not only be a showcase for new knowledge but also a forum to discuss current issues. It is an excellent opportunity to share innovation. The industry and academia leaders will present their visions for the future of our profession, especially in the Australasian context. Chemeca 2007 also provides the opportunity for the technology and service providers to promote their products and services to a learned audience.

Chemeca 2007 will bring together people from throughout our region and beyond for the purpose of sharing experiences in the discovery, development and application of technology for the process industries.

The theme of the conference has been chosen to highlight the role of our profession in generating the benefits that academia and industry deliver for the community at large. Accordingly, we are calling for papers from academia and industry on a broad range of topics of both current relevance and future importance.

The Global Environment 2007

London, UK - Engage with those from a wide range of sectors and from across the world who are leading the debate on the key challenges of our time.

Over the past year we have seen extreme flooding in the UK and parts of Asia, the driest months on record in parts of Australia, one of the poorest ski seasons in years due to unseasonably warm temperatures and have been warned that the number of environmental refugees will be 100million by 2010.On the positive side, we have seen China successfully combating desertification, the first draft of the UK’s Climate Change Bill, the implementation of the WEEE Directive and the prioritisation of responding to climate change for companies, policy makers and the general public.

This year, CIWEM’s annual conference is bringing together a wider than ever cross-section of society to discuss these major challenges that we face.We are joined by Government representatives,key decisionmakers, business leaders, religious and cultural figures, artists, academics, students, young environmental professionals, entrepreneurs and grassroots organisations from across the world.
Over the three days,we will be addressing climate change, flood risk management, urbanisation, environmental management, artists’ contributions to sustainability, faith, the Olympics, a sustainable water industry, waste management and the role of expert witnesses. And then in the evening we will be celebrating and socialising, not least with the eagerly anticipated tour of historic Westminster pubs, led by CIWEM’s Executive Director Nick Reeves.

Join us to engage with those from a wide range of sectors and from across the world who are leading the debate on the key challenges of our time. This is an ideal opportunity to gain new perspectives, forge new relationships and accelerate your own learning. The conference provides accredited training for CPD. This event is for anyone who wants to be part of the solution and help shape future policies. Join us to meet, learn from and work with those who are leading and influencing the debate.

5th Congress of the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience

Kyoto, Japan - This is an ideal place to engage in the mutual exchange of new scientific knowledge and enjoy fruitful, exciting, discussions spanning the various fields of autonomic neuroscience, from both basic and clinical aspects.

The 5th Congress of the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience(ISAN 2007) provides an excellent opportunity for dynamic companies to showcase their brands commercially to a large number of experts and related organizations from around the world.


Sydney, Australia - GREENHOUSE 2007 is a unique opportunity to hear the latest findings in climate science, and discuss the implications for Australia and the region.

The conference will focus on projections for the future; the use of probabilities for risk management; the impact climate change will have on human activity; and changing perceptions of climate change.

There will be many examples of industry and government approaches to tackling climate change, as well as presentations on the latest Australian and international science findings.
This high-profile, prestigious international event is designed for representatives from industry, research organisations, government, and the community.

GREENHOUSE 2007 follows the highly successful GREENHOUSE 2005: Action on Climate Change, held in Melbourne in November 2005.

Australian Psychological Society 42nd Annual Conference

Brisbane, Australia - ‘Psychology Making an Impact' will provide a unique opportunity for local and international delegates to hear from leading psychologists in a program of interactive workshops, cutting-edge research papers, rapid communication posters and exciting symposia and fora.

‘Psychology Making an Impact' will provide a unique opportunity for local and international delegates to hear from leading psychologists in a program of interactive workshops, cutting-edge research papers, rapid communication posters and exciting symposia and fora.

The conference is being held at the world-class facilities of the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, which boasts excellent service, a central city location, technological sophistication, and access to all the cultural delights offered by one of the world's leading cities.

51st Annual Meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society

Victoria, Australia: Australian industries such as mining, aviation, finance, security and public health will reap long-term benefits from a meeting of mathematical minds in Melbourne from Tuesday 25th to Friday 28th September.

The 51st annual Australian Mathematical Society conference will give mathematical scientists the opportunity to share the latest in theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics, which will lead to improvements in modern applications such as scheduling in the aviation industry, on the docks and in railway yards; mining and transport efficiencies; internet and banking security; and patient waiting lists in hospitals.

Conference Director, Associate Professor Geoff Prince, from La Trobe University Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said the contribution of mathematics to modern society was more important than ever.

"Industry and government recognise that mathematics and statistics are critical to Australia's future prosperity," Associate Professor Prince said. "From saving millions of dollars through improved mining efficiencies to streamlining hospital admissions, and from predicting and preventing transport delays to improving internet security, today's mathematicians are making more of a contribution to society than at any other time in history. And this conference allows them to exchange the ideas, forge the new links and create the research partnerships that will lead to the next generation of mathematical breakthroughs."

More than 260 researchers — including 60 postgraduate students, the most ever — will be at the conference, which is the country's largest meeting of mathematical scientists. The discipline has recently been buoyed by the Australian Government's Budget response to the National Review of Mathematical Sciences, which last year warned of an impending crisis if funding for mathematical research continued to decline.

"There's definitely been a mood of optimism among Australian mathematicians and statisticians since the Government's turnaround following the review," said Australian Mathematical Society President, Professor Peter Hall.

"This is reflected in the number of conference registrations and particularly in the number of postgraduate students attending; it's the most we've ever had. We need young mathematicians and statisticians coming through the ranks to maintain our technological capability and international competitiveness."

The annual conference is the only national whole-of-discipline event where many Australian mathematical researchers are able to meet with peers, share ideas and initiate collaborations that will lead to new areas of research and development vital to Australia.

"The national review showed that support for collaborative work among mathematical scientists is critical to Australia's future technological development," Professor Hall said.

Streaming JMCS : A 3G Mobile Based Video On Demand System

Streaming JMCS is the next step in providing rich multimedia experience for 3G mobile users. A 3G mobile user can download and install a Java based application that will enable him to dynamically “stream” video contents to his mobile device using the high speed 3G network. Streaming is unlike “downloading” since the later will be bounded by the available storage within the mobile device not to mention the waiting period to “download” before playback can commence. Streaming will enable
“video on demand” media to be broadcasted live to the mobile device irrelevant of the device's storage capacity were playback can start almost immediately. We are at the age of multimedia communication devices and this technology could be used in education, businesses, services and entertainment to name few.

The system is composed of 3 basic modules bound by protocols that will guarantee high quality media and uninterruptible video playback as long as the 3G connection holds. These basic units are the “Client MIDlet”; the java application loaded on the user's 3G mobile phone, a “web server” to handle login & authentications guaranteeing a secure experience for both the client and the service provider, and a “streaming server” responsible for providing the broadcast ability to connected clients making use of industry standard CODECs namely 3gp and MP4. The system will
also provide important statistical data that is useful for any service provider to enhance the quality of their service.

Finding co-dependent genes in fission yeast

A method for the rapid and large-scale generation of double mutants in a popular yeast strain to determine which genes are functionally dependent on each other is published online this week in Nature Methods.

Yeast is a simple unicellular organism but it comes in many different species that are only very distantly related on an evolutionary scale. The two main species used for research are budding and fission yeast – the former being very popular with geneticists for ease of handling, the latter being of interest because it is more closely related to higher eukaryotes.

Yeast, being a single cell organism, is ideal for the screening of genes that together are essential for survival of the cell. These interaction screens are done in yeast cells with a haploid genome - consisting of only one set of chromosomes – where each cell has mutations in two genes. If the combination of the two genes is required the yeast will die. By generating all possible combinations of gene pairs, a map of genetic interaction can be drawn.

These screens are already widely used in budding yeast, but the difficulty in generating haploid double mutants in fission yeast have prevented their application in this species. Nevan Krogan and colleagues now present a strategy to target genes of interest in fission yeast and select for haploid double-mutant cells. By investigating the pairs of all genes linked to a certain biological process they can draw a comprehensive map of the genes involved in this process.

Comparing the genetic maps in both of these yeast species will shed light on biological pathways that were conserved or diverged during evolution.

Fountain of youth

Researchers have identified the cells that provide an essential survival factor to newly created immune cells according a report published online in Nature Immunology this week.

White blood cells known as T lymphocytes are born in the thymus and these cells are required to fight off viral and other infections. Upon leaving the thymus these cells prowl throughout the body seeking out potential foreign agents; however, the survival of these cells depends on periodic visits to lymph nodes, where they can ‘recharge’ by receiving a chemical signal called interleukin 7 (IL-7).

It was known for many years that IL-7 provides ‘survival’ signals to these naive T cells, but what actually produced IL-7 proved elusive. Sanjiv Luther and colleagues identify specialized ‘fibroblastic reticular cells’ found in lymph nodes and spleen as the source of IL-7. These cells make chemical signals that direct T cells to them and supply the essential IL-7 that prevents T cells from dying, thereby allowing them to continue to recirculate throughout the body searching for enemies.

Catching bird flu in a droplet

Detecting bird flu may soon get a whole lot easier, according to a report online in Nature Medicine this week. Juergen Pipper and colleagues describe a cheap, fast and effective droplet-based system for detecting the H5N1 virus directly from a throat swab sample in less than 30 minutes. The method could also be adapted to other viruses such as SARS, AIDS and hepatitis B.

In the event of a flu epidemic, its rapid containment would depend on the prompt identification of the first cases. But as routine surveillance may be problematic in countries with limited public health resources, low-cost, easy-to-use detection assays would be are advantageous.

The new system uses droplets that contain particles to automatically isolate, purify and concentrate viral RNA. The method is as sensitive as other available tests, but over one hundred times faster and even cheaper. In addition, it may be applicable not only to the flu virus, but could be adapted to other infectious agents, and to other bodily fluids like blood, urine or saliva.

Catching bird flu in a droplet

Detecting bird flu may soon get a whole lot easier, according to a report online in Nature Medicine this week. Juergen Pipper and colleagues describe a cheap, fast and effective droplet-based system for detecting the H5N1 virus directly from a throat swab sample in less than 30 minutes. The method could also be adapted to other viruses such as SARS, AIDS and hepatitis B.

In the event of a flu epidemic, its rapid containment would depend on the prompt identification of the first cases. But as routine surveillance may be problematic in countries with limited public health resources, low-cost, easy-to-use detection assays would be are advantageous.

The new system uses droplets that contain particles to automatically isolate, purify and concentrate viral RNA. The method is as sensitive as other available tests, but over one hundred times faster and even cheaper. In addition, it may be applicable not only to the flu virus, but could be adapted to other infectious agents, and to other bodily fluids like blood, urine or saliva.

In charge of biosensing

A scanning probe microscope capable of detecting changes in the electrical charge on a surface is described in a report online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. This technique offers a rapid and sensitive way to sense biological targets, such as DNA and proteins.

Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) is named after Lord Kelvin who investigated how charge is generated when two different materials are brought into close contact. Although KPFM is an established method that has been used to detect biomolecules in microarrays, Angela Belcher and Asher Sinensky have now applied it to measure binding events at the nanoscale. By considering much smaller feature sizes than previously studied, this development has increased both the speed and sensitivity of the technique.

The authors patterned single strands of DNA, which are negatively charged, onto gold substrates and measured their KPFM response. When complementary ‘target’ DNA strands were captured on the surface, the charge density in a given area was doubled and easily detected with KPFM. In this way, Sinensky and Belcher demonstrate the selective sensing of DNA sequences taken from the genes of anthrax and malaria.

Home Decor Goes to the Dogs, With Blueberry Dog Fetching the Perfect

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y./EWORLDWIRE/June 11, 2007 --- With summer on the
way, that means long weekends on "The East End" or "In the Country."
Augustus, Blueberry Dog's resident dachshund, is prepared to help
guests grace the host or hostess's door with a gift that will never be
hidden in the closet.

"We have guests out to our home in the Hamptons, and people were
always at a loss when purchasing for the friend who has everything,"
says Corey Cordell, owner and president of Blueberry Dog. "My company
was created out of the love for finding the perfect gift at affordable

Augustus, the store's mascot, has been traversing the globe looking
for special, "one of a kind" home decorating ideas for the past year.

AFCEA Educational Foundation Announces The 2007 National High School

FAIRFAX, Va./EWORLDWIRE/June 12, 2007 --- The AFCEA Educational
Foundation is pleased to announce that Franz Sauer is this year's
grand prize winner for the 2007 AFCEA National High School Science
Fair Award for the best high school science project related to
communications, intelligence or information systems. The winning
project was selected from science fairs nationwide and will be
displayed at AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute's Transformation
Warfare conference and exposition, June 19-21, 2007, at the Virginia
Beach Convention Center. The award includes a cash prize and a trip to
Virginia Beach for the winner and his family.

Sauer is a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New
Jersey. His project, entitled, "Towards Making the Smallest Tool
Machine for Nanotechnology: Engineering an Aberration Corrector for
Focused Ion Beam (FIB) Microscopes," aims to use advances in
nanotechnology to create better equipment to protect soldiers in the

A corrector was designed to reduce spherical aberration in focused ion
beam (FIB) microscopes by condensing the ion beam with a positively
charged funnel-shaped cylinder before entering the final objective
lens. This corrector can significantly reduce the size of the ion
beam's "tool tip" and greatly improve microscope imaging capabilities
for nanotechnology. Reducing spherical aberration is necessary for
better resolution for FIB microscopes and can help scientists break
the resolution barrier and image materials that have never before been

Through the Liberty Science Partners in Science program, Sauer was
introduced to his mentor, Dr. Nan Yao from the Princeton Institute for
the Science and Technology of Materials at Princeton University. He
introduced the student to the field of ion optics and Sauer was
hooked. Sauer plans to continue his research this summer with Dr. Yao
and design correctors for other aberrations in focused ion beam

Other awards that Franz and his science project have won this year
include first place in Engineering at the New Jersey Academy of
Science and an invitation to attend the American Junior Academy of
Science Conference in 2008 first place award in Engineering and Top
Project award in Engineering from the Institute of Electronics and
Electrical Engineers (IEEE) at the Jersey Shore Science Fair first
place at the Monmouth Junior Science Symposium (MJSS) winning a four
year scholarship to Monmouth University and an invitation to compete
at the National Junior Science & Humanities Symposium and bronze
medalist of the Marie Curie Fair at the Delaware Valley Science Fair
winning a four year scholarship to Drexel University, the Yale
University Science and Engineering Award and an invitation to attend
the ISEF in Albuquerque, New Mexico and compete at the NANODAY@Penn
Fair at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sauer's passions are physics and engineering, and he was selected as
the 2006 U.S. Physics Young Ambassador to the International Physics
Young Ambassador Symposium in Taiwan. He was featured as a student
scientist with Bill Nye, the Science Guy in his new video series
"Greatest Inventions: Transportation." Through his high school he is
involved in the National Honor Society, Model United Nations, and
Robotics Club, and volunteers with the Stars Challenge program at
Monmouth University which promotes sciences to middle school students
and encourages them to pursue scientific research. In his spare time
he fences foil for the local fencing club and organizes fencing
tournaments. He enjoys funny movies, computer games, and spending time
with his friends.

Twenty First Century Communications Provides Buckeye Alerts

COLUMBUS, Ohio/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 21, 2007 --- In the wake of the
Virginia Tech tragedy, colleges and universities across America began
beefing up their safety and response measures - including emergency

The Ohio State University (OSU) and Franklin County (Ohio) have had
emergency notification systems in place since 2004. As Fall Quarter
begins, Ohio State introduces the "Buckeye Alert" system which will
send users a text message in the case of an emergency, alerting them
of the situation and giving them instructions.

The company providing the system is located right in the heart of
Columbus, Ohio. In fact, Twenty First Century Communications (TFCC)
was founded in Columbus in 1989, by Ohio State University graduate and
former professor James Kennedy.

"Twenty First Century has provided crisis notification services to
private companies and government agencies for over a decade. It is a
sign of the times that colleges must now be prepared to handle events
such as that of Virginia Tech on their campuses," says James Kennedy,
president of Twenty First Century Communications.

Twenty First Century provides high-speed, high volume alerting via
phone, cell, text-message, e-mail and fax. The company is dedicated
to critical communications, serving many public safety and emergency
management agencies, as well as the Department of Homeland Security
and the American Red Cross.

Schmap Tops 30 Million Travel Guides

CARRBORO, N.C./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 24, 2007 --- Schmap announced today
that the number of its desktop travel guides downloaded by the
traveling public has recently topped 30 million, with 3 million
new Schmap Guides now downloaded each month, more than the
combined global distribution of leading traditional hardcopy
guidebooks from Fodor's, Frommer's and Lonely Planet.

Schmap's series of digital travel guides integrates dynamic maps
with useful background reading, suggested tours, photos from
the traveling public and reviews by local correspondents (for
sights and attractions, hotels, restaurants, bars, parks, theaters,
galleries, museums and more) to profile 200 destinations throughout
the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Schmap Guides can be browsed online, or downloaded and used offline
with Schmap 2.0, a powerful desktop application (PC and Mac
compatible) that gives readers a world of additional trip planning
convenience, including options to take virtual tours and custom print
full-color guides.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Keio University collaboration with the d'Albi-Carmaux School of the Ecole des Mines

The Ecole des Mines is the oldest school in Paris, it can claim a French president and Nobel Prize winner amongst its many graduates; it is ranked in the top three universities for science and technology in France.

On August 29th 2007, Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology established a formal agreement for academic linkage and collaboration with the d'Albi-Carmaux School of the Ecole des Mines.

The Ecole des Mines has seven campuses, including the Albi-Carmaux. It is considered one of the most prestigious schools in France, graduating many who have gone on to influential roles in the business world. As the oldest school in Paris, it can claim a French president and Nobel Prize winner amongst its many graduates; it is ranked in the top three universities for science and technology in France.

With the establishment of this agreement between Keio and the Ecole des Mines d'Albi-Carmaux, we hope to ensure great future developments with our new partner School as well as the Ecole des Mines Group.

Japanese scientists describe crystal structures at the heart of antitumor compound synthesis

Japanese biochemists have brought the design of anticancer compounds a step closer in a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA1. Shingo Nagano, Yoshitsugu Shiro and their colleagues from the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, the University of Hyogo and Toyama Prefectural University have studied the biosynthesis of a natural product called staurosporine. This molecule is isolated from bacteria of the genus Streptomyces and is of interest because it exhibits antitumor activity. Staurosporine has been identified as a potent inhibitor of enzymes that regulate cell growth and death, known as protein kinases.

Staurosporine is a member of a family of compounds whose biosynthesis involves the formation of a base unit called an indolocarbazole core. Because of their potential as therapeutic agents for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, indolocarbazole compounds have attracted scientists’ attention.

The formation of the indolocarbazole core in part involves binding a molecule of chromopyrrolic acid with an enzyme known as cytochrome P450 StaP. StaP is a member of the cytochrome P450 family of compounds which includes enzymes involved in steroid hormone biosynthesis, drug metabolism and many other physiologically important reactions.

Nagano and co-workers presents the first report of the precise arrangement of atoms during a key stage in the formation of the core structure. The configuration of atoms they describe is known as its crystal structure and is elucidated using the technology of x-ray crystallography, a method of determining the arrangement of atoms in a molecule by analyzing the reflection patterns of x-rays directed at it.

The study provides high resolution crystal structures of StaP in the presence and absence of the substrate chromopyrrolic acid (Fig. 1). The structure of the complex with the substrate StaP in place provides structural insights into the process of enzyme-substrate recognition and the molecular mechanism of indolocarbazole core formation.

This crystallographic study provides valuable insights into the process of staurosporine biosynthesis, the mechanism of indolocarbazole synthesis, and the diverse chemistry performed by cytochrome P450s.

“The ultimate goal of our project on indolocarbazole is structure-based design of enzymes that produce ‘unnatural’ indolocarbazole which have improved antitumor activity or new bioactivities,” says Nagano. Moving forward, in a study to be published shortly, the group has described the structure of an enzyme involved in another similar reaction. The ultimate aim is to synthesize a variety of indolocarbazole compounds that could have important therapeutic use in the fight against cancer.

Clockwork orange beats time for the body

A RIKEN-led team of researchers from Japan and the US has used an innovative combination of genome survey techniques in live Drosophila fruit flies to reveal a previously unknown master gene involved in setting circadian rhythms. It is the tenth of a series of genes which generate proteins that interact in complex interlocking feedback loops to measure day length.

This network of genes, which has been highly conserved during evolution, ensures that the rhythms of organisms—sleep and wakefulness, changes in body temperature, the secretion of hormones—are attuned to daily and seasonal cycles. In humans, such common problems as jet lag and lack of alertness of shift workers arise when the body’s circadian rhythms are not properly adjusted to the external environment. But permanent disruption of the body’s clock can lead to much more serious disorders, such as delayed sleep phase syndrome. It has also been implicated in mental illness. The work could well have relevance to treating these conditions.

In a recent issue of the journal Genes & Development (1), the research group—from RIKEN’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Kyushu University, Japan’s National Institute of Genetics and two universities in Texas—detailed how they found the new gene, clockwork orange (cwo).

With micro-array technology that shows which genes are switched on, the researchers initially followed the daily activity pattern of all genes in the genome of the head region of the fruit fly. Then, using RNA interference techniques, they blocked the activity of each of the nearly 130 genes which showed regular daily cycles of activity, and looked for dramatic disturbances of overall rhythmic behavior. This happened in only the few cases where they disrupted the core circadian genes which set the body’s clock. Of these, cwo was the gene that had the most pronounced impact.

Using a combination of micro-array technology and antibodies, the group then set out to discover the proteins and genes with which cwo interacts. The genes they found were all known to play a key role in the network which regulates the body’s internal clock.

“The work is still far from complete,” says Hiroki Ueda, the research team leader. “But I feel the discovery of cwo, which has a counterpart in the human genome, represents an important step in deciphering biological clocks. We next want to apply our techniques to the mouse, which is very near to humans compared with the fruit fly.”

Building capacity of small-scale shrimp farmers

“Thailand is the major exporter of shrimp, but the majority of the exports, about 40 percent, are going to the US. The portion going to the EU is only a little more than 4 percent, yet the EU is the number one global consumer, more than 50 percent. What are the major drawbacks preventing Thailand exporting more?” wonders Dr Dhirendra Prasad Thakur, an aquaculture research specialist at the Asian Institute of Technology’s aquaculture and aquatic resources management programme.

Understanding the problems and devising solutions and training remedies should boost the incomes of many poor farmers and improve access to the European Union market. Dr Thakur has set out to do just that with the help of funds from the Small Projects Facility. “The aim is to find a way to increase shrimp exports to the EU and spread the benefits to the smaller-scale shrimp farmers.”

Tariffs are not the big issue, even India and Vietnam sell more of their shrimp exports to the EU than Thailand. The problem is more fundamental: the shortage of information and market access barriers facing Thailand’s small-scale shrimp farmers, typically those with shrimp ponds covering less than five hectares.

“Nearly 80 percent of the shrimp farms belong to smallholders. The problem for the smaller scale farmers is they are only getting the domestic price, they are not benefiting from the export market. There is a knowledge gap, they are relying on middlemen,” says Dr Thakur.

Clearly, smallholder farmers are struggling to get their fairshare of the market. “When we see the industry in Thailand in general we see a social imbalance. Only about 20 percent of the people involved in the industry are getting most of the benefits, for the rest of the farmers involved in the industry their conditions have not improved much in the years I have been studying them since 1994,” says Dr Thakur.

His study will try to establish exactly how much shrimp from small-holders is making it into exports. Everyone agrees this is far less than their share of production. Suspicion lies in quality, food safety, marketing and a lack of negotiating power.

He is also asking hundreds of small-scale shrimp farmers, in Rayong and Nakhon Sri Thammarat provinces, about their shrimp farming knowledge and practices. That information will help identify knowledge gaps and develop training relevant to local conditions. As well as better farming and food safety practices, farmers will also receive advice and information about marketing.

“Thai farmers are good at day-to-day management, but lack knowledge about environment impacts and lack access to information about marketing. We hope to use local experts to help them improve quality and form groups to bargain for better prices,” says Dr Thakur.

Experts, farmers, officials from the department of fisheries met in April to discuss the findings and lay the basis for training programmes. These will take place in July or August 2007 through half-day sessions, each for 20 farmers, leaving the other half of the day for taking care of the shrimps.

“Seafood safety and product quality guidelines will be taken mostly from the EU. The most complete documentation we can find is from the EU. We will take this information and communicate this to the farmers through outreach via training and brochures and develop some audio-visual CDs or DVDs,” explains Dr Thakur.

Follow-up studies will examine the effectiveness of the training and implementation. Experts, farmers, officials and shrimp processors and exporters will discuss the results at a workshop, probably in September 2007 when the project ends.

Dr Thakur thinks the research and training will not only upgrade the skills and prospects for smallholder shrimp farmers but also improve Thailand’s economic relations with the European Union.

He sees this project as only the beginning as it only tackles the export side of the trading relationship. He hopes to devise a project and elicit cooperation and funding to bring European importers into the equation.

“It would have been nice to have some activity where we could develop links with importers. We need people from the EU-side, from the importers, to help identify best practices. Social issues are also important. If there is a social imbalance in developing countries, developed countries will not be happy. We should have a workshop to bring together importers, exporters and shrimp farmers.”

In the meantime, SPF financing is helping to identify the problems and barriers facing tens of thousands of hard-pressed smallscale shrimp farmers in Thailand, and provide them with the knowledge and skills that can help them increase their earnings and improve their livelihoods.

Differentiating strains of Gumboro disease

Infectious bursal disease (IBD) also known as Gumboro disease is the second most important poultry disease after Newcastle disease. Economical loses associated with IBD is highly mortality and poor vaccine performances due to immune suppression. Even though, infection with very virulent IBDV associated with distinct pathological lesions, the diagnosis of IBD is complicated due to presence of vaccine-induced immunity. In addition, laboratory detection of field strains of IBDV may facilitate farmers to choose the appropriate vaccines to vaccinate their flocks against very virulent IBDV.

The current routine method to differentiate very virulent and vaccine strains of IBDV is by restriction fragment length polymorphism of VP2 gene. However, this method is time consuming, prone to error and less sensitive. Hence, development of improved laboratory detection method is essential for effective control of clinical and sub-clinical IBDV outbreaks. Rapid advances have been made in the development of real-time PCR techniques in the detection of avian pathogens.

In most of the studies, the detection of viruses was based on real-time PCR assays utilizing probe labeled with TaqMan or FRET technology. Besides fluorescent labeled probe PCR assay, Sybr Green I based real-time PCR assay has been used to detect viruses that affect humans such as dengue viruses and hepatitis viruses. This has also been used to detect genetic polymorphisms or genotyping of genes that are associated with clinical disorders in humans. Studies on the application of Sybr Green I based real-time PCR in differentiating different strains of poultry viruses is lacking.

In this study, we reported for the first time the use of Sybr Green I based real-time PCR to differentiate different strains of IBDV. The developed assays were optimized using novel set of primers and previously characterized field and vaccine strains of IBDV (Malaysian Patent PI 20044610). Based on the optimized PCR procedures, a signatory threshold value (Ct) and melting temperature (Tm) values were established as the basis for the detection and differentiation of IBDV strains. The optimized PCR procedure has been transformed into a prototype kit, IBDReal check. The performances of the kit are currently been tested and validated using both standard and clinical samples.

The kit has 100 % specificity when compared to other established IBD detection tests including sequencing of the VP2 gene. In addition, the kit detects dual infections ie. vvIBDV and vaccine strains from bursa samples obtained from outbreak cases of IBDV and at least as sensitive as the conventional virus isolation in embryonated eggs. Furthermore, compared to fluorescent labeled probe based real-time PCR, the developed kit is more rapid, economical and suitable to be used as routine high throughput assay in diagnosing IBDV in chickens.

Many targets – one tube

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a powerful method to specifically amplify stretches of DNA from the complex background of the genome. This week Nature Methods presents a strategy to increase the number of targets that are amplified in one reaction.

PCR requires two primers for every DNA sequence to be amplified, one on each end. Since these primer sequences are unique to the target region, in theory, primers for many different targets could be used simultaneously in the same PCR reaction, also known as a multiplex reaction. In practice the presence of multiple primers leads to unspecific priming and the formation of primer-dimers, both of which produce artifacts and severely limit the efficacy of the amplification.

To minimize these limitations Anthony Brookes and colleagues developed a solid-phase amplification method, where primers are physically separated from each other by immobilization on a solid surface. The authors show that this MegaPlex-PCR strategy can amplify 75 genomic regions selected at random. They also demonstrate that no complicated pre-selection of primers is needed, and primers against any sequence of choice yield high quality results.

MegaPlex PCR will be of interest to researchers needing to amplify many different regions, such as exons or promoters, from complex genomes in a single reaction.

Delicate and dynamic immunological equilibrium

Immune cells patrolling the microbe-rich intestine are able to ‘tolerate’ harmless, microorganisms while attacking and eliminating potentially dangerous pathogens. Work published online this week in Nature Immunology deepens our understanding of how this process occurs.

Previous work implicates immune cells called regulatory T cells in enforcing immunological tolerance to harmless or ‘commensal’ gut microbes. Bali Pulendran and colleagues pinpointed particular populations of gut ‘accessory’ cells called macrophages and dendritic cells which, although located adjacent to each other in the gut mucosa, exert opposite immune functions. Macrophages promote production of regulatory T cells, whereas dendritic cells elicit development of potentially pathogenic non-regulatory T cells capable of releasing pro-inflammatory mediators.

Complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating this likely dynamic cooperation among accessory cell populations in the gut awaits further investigation.

Biochemical pay dirt

Both halves of a protein, previously thought to operate with one half inactive, are required to produce ‘earth odour’, according to a paper in the November issue of Nature Chemical Biology. Geosmin – the chemical that is responsible for the smell of freshly ploughed soil – is produced by a number of micro-organisms. Although the chemical structure of geosmin has been known since 1965, the way it is made by these organisms has been difficult to decipher. Because geosmin causes an undesirable musty smell in water, wine and food products, understanding the biosynthesis of this earthy odour, beyond its chemical interest, may help in efforts to prevent musty food and drink.

David E. Cane and colleagues have now determined important details in the biosynthesis of geosmin. They did this by altering specific amino acids in the enzyme responsible for producing geosmin and chemically characterizing the enzymatic products of these ‘mutant’ enzymes. the authors demonstrated that one half of the protein catalyzes the formation of an intermediate chemical and then the other half of the protein turns this intermediate into geosmin.

Genetics: A rose by any other gene

Genetic variation in just one single odorant receptor can affect an individual's experience of smells, as well as their sensitivity to them. Researchers screened ~400 human odorant receptors for response to 66 odours and combined these results with those from over 300 genetically varied subjects who were asked for their perceptions of the same compounds.

Leslie Vosshall and colleagues report in Nature this week that the receptor OR7D4 is selectively activated by androstenone, a steroid that some believe is a human pheromone, but not by the 64 other odours or by two solvents. Variations in the gene encoding OR7D4 affected how the subjects thought the androstenone smelt — some found it pleasant, others offensive, yet it remained odourless to others — and also how intense that smell was.

Keio University's New Partnership with Manhattanville College, USA

On September 4th, 2007, Keio University and Manhattanville College, USA established new university-wide partnership and student exchange agreements. The partnership, which also includes Keio’s affiliated high school in New York State, aims to promote student and research exchange, and to explore various other possibilities for collaboration between the three schools.

Manhattanville College, established in 1841, is an American liberal arts college, located next to the Keio Academy of New York in Westchester County.

Tanya Jones Transforms Tragedy into Triumph with Her Life as a Testimony

ST. LOUIS/EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 17, 2007 --- Reaching deep to find inner strength to overcome the most life-changing hardships and experiences is what Tanya Jones is all about - and because she knows she’s not alone in the onslaught of adversity, she put pen to paper to share her story and her strength with others.

Via a collection of narratives, the [40-something] mother shares her protracted, tumultuous journey through the years before arriving at the doorsteps of her current home. With roots in a housing project, the robbing of her innocence began at eight when her path crossed that of a family member, and less than a handful of years later, when a gang of five unscrupulous characters violently molested her. The passage of time took her years and her youth - with alcohol, spousal abuse and drugs striking out to scar her along the way, but the impediments did little to cork the power of her positive thinking.

Said Jones, "No matter how bad things become in a person's life, there is still room for encouragement, strength, compassion, faith and victory.”

Throughout the pages of "My Life as a Testimony," Jones recounts in graphic detail the physical and mental abuses she was subjected to during her marriage to a ruthless husband whose pursuit was relentless, when she struggled to escape his muscle and mastery. Her exchanges with law enforcement and the justice system, criminals and medical professionals led Jones not to question their abilities but to ruminate about the types of personalities compelled to pursue these professions.

The steps that led to her freedom - and ultimately to her faith - cover subjects that some readers will find controversial, such as interracial relationships and personal observations about being a black woman today. Jones applied her life lessons to the pages of her book and went further with her writings to expound on other social issues such abortion, capital punishment, marital infidelity, parenting and children, from a Christian point of view.

"By sharing my experiences, I am letting others know that they are not alone. I want to show them I care and that if I can overcome, so can they. God made a way out of no way for me. If by sharing my experiences I help the next person, then, so be it," stated Jones.

In one instance, harassment in the workplace at a government agency drove her from her job. Moving to support herself and her two children, Jones focused on the job hunt, applying for and being denied at over 200 positions in a year. Odd jobs she took on - doing others' hair, acting as a personal chaffeur shuffling people around in her car and bartending at parties - were the only source of income, until she opened a daycare in her home.

"No matter where you come from, who you are, what race, gender, religion, sexual preference, how much of less education you have, or even how much riches you have, we all still have something in common," added Jones, "and moreover, something to offer."
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