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Dissolvable medicated fabric could bring faster HIV protection

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  2 days ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Soon, protection from HIV infection could be as simple as inserting a medicated, disappearing fabric minutes before having sex. University of Washington bioengineers have discovered a potentially faster way to deliver a topical drug that protects women from contracting HIV. Their method spins the drug into silk-like fibers that quickly dissolve when in contact with moisture, releasing higher doses of the drug than possible with other topical materials such as gels or creams.

“This could offer women a potentially more effective, discreet way to protect themselves from HIV infection by inserting the drug-loaded materials into the vagina before sex,” said Cameron Ball, a UW doctoral student in bioengineering and lead author on a paper in the August issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy."

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Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  3 days ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water that is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell – huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region. A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“As the Arctic is melting, it’s a pretty simple prediction that the additional open water should make waves,” said lead author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. His data show that winds in mid-September 2012 created waves of 5 meters (16 feet) high during the peak of the storm. The research also traces the sources of those big waves: high winds, which have always howled through the Arctic, combined with the new reality of open water in summer."

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New protein structure could help treat Alzheimer's, related diseases

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  4 days ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but the research community is one step closer to finding treatment. University of Washington bioengineers have a designed a peptide structure that can stop the harmful changes of the body’s normal proteins into a state that’s linked to widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease. The synthetic molecule blocks these proteins as they shift from their normal state into an abnormally folded form by targeting a toxic intermediate phase. The discovery of a protein blocker could lead to ways to diagnose and even treat a large swath of diseases that are hard to pin down and rarely have a cure.

“If you can truly catch and neutralize the toxic version of these proteins, then you hopefully never get any further damage in the body,” said senior author Valerie Daggett, a UW professor of bioengineering. “What’s critical with this and what has never been done before is that a single peptide sequence will work against the toxic versions of a number of different amyloid proteins and peptides, regardless of their amino acid sequence or the normal 3-D structures.”"

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Oso disaster had its roots in earlier landslides

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about two weeks ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes.

The research indicates the landslide, the deadliest in U.S. history, happened in two major stages. The first stage remobilized the 2006 slide, including part of an adjacent forested slope from an ancient slide, and was made up largely or entirely of deposits from previous landslides. The first stage ultimately moved more than six-tenths of a mile across the north fork of the Stillaguamish River and caused nearly all the destruction in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood. The second stage started several minutes later and consisted of ancient landslide and glacial deposits. That material moved into the space vacated by the first stage and moved rapidly until it reached the trailing edge of the first stage, the study found.

The report, released Tuesday on the four-month anniversary of the slide, details an investigation by a team from the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association, or GEER. The scientists and engineers determined that intense rainfall in the three weeks before the slide likely was a major issue, but factors such as altered groundwater migration, weakened soil consistency because of previous landslides and changes in hillside stresses played key roles.

"Perhaps the most striking finding is that, while the Oso landslide was a rare geologic occurrence, it was not extraordinary," said Joseph Wartman, a University of Washington associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a team leader for the study.

"We observed several other older but very similar long-runout landslides in the surrounding Stillaguamish River Valley. This tells us these may be prevalent in this setting over long time frames. Even the apparent trigger of the event – several weeks of intense rainfall – was not truly exceptional for the region," Wartman said."

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Months before their first words, babies' brains rehearse speech mechanics

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about three weeks ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes ""Infants can tell the difference between sounds of all languages until about 8 months of age, when their brains start to focus only on sounds they hear around them. It’s been unclear how this transition occurs, but social interactions and caregivers’ use of exaggerated “parentese” style of speech seem to help.

New University of Washington research in 7- and 11-month-old infants shows that speech sounds stimulate areas of the brain that coordinate and plan motor movements for speech. The study, published July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that baby brains start laying down the groundwork of how to form words long before they actually begin to speak, and this may affect the developmental transition.

“Most babies babble by 7 months, but don’t utter their first words until after their first birthdays,” said lead author Patricia Kuhl, who is the co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. “Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds’ brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words.”

Kuhl and her research team believe this practice at motor planning contributes to the transition when infants become more sensitive to their native language.""

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Air pollution can disrupt pollinating insects

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about a month ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Car and truck exhaust fumes that foul the air for humans also cause problems for pollinators. In new research on how pollinators find flowers when background odors are strong, University of Washington and University of Arizona researchers found that both natural plant odors and human sources of pollution can conceal the scent of sought-after flowers.

When the calories from one feeding of a flower gets you only 15 minutes of flight, as is the case with the tobacco hornworn moth studied, being misled costs a pollinator energy and time.

“Local vegetation can mask the scent of flowers because the background scents activate the same moth olfactory channels as floral scents,” according to Jeffrey Riffell, UW assistant professor of biology. “Plus the chemicals in these scents are similar to those emitted from exhaust engines and we found that pollutant concentrations equivalent to urban environments can decrease the ability of pollinators to find flowers.”
Riffell is lead author of a paper on the subject in the June 27 issue of Science."

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West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse is under way

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "The West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds enough water to raise global seas by several feet, is thinning. Scientists have been warning of its collapse, based on theories, but with few firm predictions or timelines.

University of Washington researchers used detailed topography maps and computer modeling to show that the collapse appears to have already begun. The fast-moving Thwaites Glacier will likely disappear in a matter of centuries, researchers say, raising sea level by nearly 2 feet. That glacier also acts as a linchpin on the rest of the ice sheet, which contains enough ice to cause another 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) of global sea level rise. The study is published May 16 in Science.

“There’s been a lot of speculation about the stability of marine ice sheets, and many scientists suspected that this kind of behavior is under way,” said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “This study provides a more quantitative idea of the rates at which the collapse could take place.”"

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'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. That’s because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them — turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets — are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

This happens only at the outer edge of a star’s habitable zone, the swath of space around it where rocky worlds could maintain liquid water at their surface, a necessary condition for life. Further out, a “snowball state” of global ice becomes inevitable, and life impossible. The findings, which are published online and will appear in the April issue of Astrobiology, have the effect of expanding that perceived habitable zone by 10 to 20 percent."

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Fruit flies, fighter jets use similar tactics when attacked

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "When startled by predators, tiny fruit flies respond like fighter jets – employing screaming-fast banked turns to evade attacks. Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator.

“Although they have been described as swimming through the air, tiny flies actually roll their bodies just like aircraft in a banked turn to maneuver away from impending threats,” said Michael Dickinson, UW professor of biology and co-author of a paper on the findings in the April 11 issue of Science. “We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined.”

In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres, a UW postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper. “These flies normally flap their wings 200 times a second and, in almost a single wing beat, the animal can reorient its body to generate a force away from the threatening stimulus and then continues to accelerate,” he said."

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New software lets you see how a child will age

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Parents like to ponder: What will my child look like when she grows up? A computer could now answer the question in less than a minute. University of Washington researchers have developed software that automatically generates images of a young child’s face as it ages through a lifetime. The technique is the first fully automated approach for aging babies to adults that works with variable lighting, expressions and poses.

“Aging photos of very young children from a single photo is considered the most difficult of all scenarios, so we wanted to focus specifically on this very challenging case,” said Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “We took photos of children in completely unrestrained conditions and found that our method works remarkably well.” The research team has posted a paper on the new technique and will present its findings at the June IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Columbus, Ohio."

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Greenland's fastest glacier sets new speed record

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 6 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "The latest observations of Jakobshavn Glacier show that Greenland’s largest glacier is moving ice from land into the ocean at a speed that appears to be the fastest ever recorded. Researchers from the University of Washington and the German Space Agency measured the speed of the glacier in 2012 and 2013. The results were published Feb. 3 in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

Jakobshavn Glacier, which is widely believed to be the glacier that produced the large iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912, drains the Greenland ice sheet into a deep-ocean fjord on the west coast of the island. This speedup of Jakobshavn means that the glacier is adding more and more ice to the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s, on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” said lead author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW’s Polar Science Center.

The new observations show that in summer of 2012 the glacier reached a record speed of more than 10 miles (17 km) per year, or more than 150 feet (46 m) per day. These appear to be the fastest flow rates recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, researchers said."

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Climate change casts pall over penguins -- with photos

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 6 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Climate change is killing penguin chicks from the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, not just indirectly – by depriving them of food, as has been repeatedly documented for these and other seabirds – but directly as a result of drenching rainstorms and, at other times, heat, according to new findings from the University of Washington.

Too big for parents to sit over protectively, but still too young to have grown waterproof feathers, downy penguin chicks exposed to drenching rain can struggle and die of hypothermia in spite of the best efforts of their concerned parents. And during extreme heat, chicks without waterproofing can’t take a dip in cooling waters as adults can."

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Neanderthal lineages excavated from modern human genomes

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 6 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new analysis of 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.

University of Washington scientists Benjamin Bernot and Joshua M. Akey, both population geneticists from the Department of Genome Sciences, report their results Jan. 29 in Science Express."

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How strong of a football fan are you? There's a test for that

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 6 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "So, you think you’re a loyal supporter of a certain football team? Would you care to put that to a scientific test?

University of Washington psychologist Anthony Greenwald has developed a new version of his Implicit Association Test to measure the strength of one’s support for one of several football teams. Greenwald created the original Implicit Association Test in 1998 to gauge a person’s unconscious beliefs and hidden biases. He and colleagues have since adapted it for numerous scenarios, including racial attitudes during the 2012 presidential election.

Greenwald developed the current football test with psychologist Colin Smith at the University of Florida. It is designed for fans of the four teams that played in the NFC and AFC conference championships: Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. The 10-minute online test asks participants to respond quickly to images and words on the screen."

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DNA detectives'count' thousands of fish using a glass of water

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 7 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there. Researchers also discerned which of the species were most plentiful in the tank.

Being able to determine the relative abundance of fish species in a body of water is the next step in possibly using modern DNA identification techniques to census fish in the open ocean, according to Ryan Kelly, University of Washington assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, and lead author of a paper in the Jan. 15 issue of PLOS ONE.

“It might be unpleasant to think about when going for a swim in the ocean, but the water is a soup of cells shed by what lives there,” Kelly said. Fish shed cells from their skin, damaged tissues and as body wastes.

“Every one of those cells has DNA and if you have the right tools you can tell what species the cell came from. Now we’re working to find the relative abundance of each species present,” he said."

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Scientists to observe seismic energy from Seahawks' '12th man' quakes

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 7 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "University of Washington seismologists this week installed two strong-motion seismometers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle to augment an existing station in recording shaking from “earthquakes” expected on Saturday during the NFC divisional game between the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is preparing a special website at www.pnsn.org/seahawks for the game to display seismograms from all three seismic stations in near-real time, and seismologists will also be available to explain interesting signals. Seismologists also will highlight interesting signals in tweets (@PNSN1) and on Facebook (thePNSN).

Seahawks fans, collectively known as “the 12th man,” have a well-known reputation for generating noise and shaking in the stadium during games. Perhaps the best-known example occurred on Jan. 8, 2011, during a 67-yard touchdown run by the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch that helped Seattle defeat New Orleans in an NFC Wild Card game. Scientists hope to record similar shaking during Saturday’s game to better understand how the stadium responds to the activity, and to measure the energy transmitted to the ground within the stadium and within the surrounding neighborhood. “Because the fault ruptures that generate earthquake waves are almost always buried by miles of rocks, scientists aren’t sure about the action at the source that results in seismic shaking. In a way, the Seahawks’ 12th man provides us an opportunity to get inside the source that’s generating seismic waves,” said seismic network operations manager Paul Bodin, a UW research associate professor of Earth and space sciences."

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'Baby talk' helps babies master more words

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 7 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "New parents often hear the advice that the more they talk to their baby, the more their baby will learn language. Now new findings show that what spurs early language development isn’t so much the quantity of words as the style of speech and social context in which speech occurs.

The more parents exaggerated vowels – for example “How are youuuuu?” – and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production. Baby talk was most effective when a parent spoke with a child individually, without other adults or children around.

Parents can use baby talk when going about everyday activities, saying things like, “Where are your shoooes?,” “Let’s change your diiiiaper,” and “Oh, this tastes goooood!,” emphasizing important words and speaking slowly using a happy tone of voice.

“It’s not just talk, talk, talk at the child,” said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “It’s more important to work toward interaction and engagement around language. You want to engage the infant and get the baby to babble back. The more you get that serve and volley going, the more language advances.”"

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El Niño tied to melting of Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 7 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Pine Island Glacier is one of the biggest routes for ice to flow from Antarctica into the sea. The floating ice shelf at the glacier’s tip has been melting and thinning for the past four decades, causing the glacier to speed up and discharge more ice. Understanding this ice shelf is a key for predicting sea-level rise in a warming world. A paper published Jan. 2 in the advance online version of the journal Science shows that the ice shelf melting depends on the local wind direction, which is tied to tropical changes associated with El Niño. The study, led by author Pierre Dutrieux at the British Antarctic Survey, uses new data to show how winds and topography control how much warm water reaches the ice shelf. University of Washington co-authors provided atmospheric modeling expertise to help interpret the observations and show how they are related to climate conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. “These new results show that how much melt the Antarctic ice sheet experiences can be highly dependent on climatic conditions occurring elsewhere on the planet,” said co-author Eric Steig, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. The Pine Island ice shelf has thinned nearly continuously since observations began in the 1970s. Earlier studies have shown that warm deep-ocean water is melting the ice shelf from below, suggesting that warming global oceans are gradually targeting the underside of the ice sheet. But the picture is more complex, say authors of the new study. The deep ocean has been getting warmer but, more importantly, more warm water has been reaching the ice shelf."
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Scientists discover second code hiding in DNA

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 8 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA that contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease. A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery. The findings, reported in the Dec. 13 issue of Science, are part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute. Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said Stamatoyannopoulos. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.” The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The UW team discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one related to protein sequence and one related to gene control. These two meanings seem to have evolved in concert with each other. The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made. The discovery of duons has major implications for how scientists and physicians interpret a patient’s genome and will open new doors to the diagnosis and treatment of disease."

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Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 8 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, University of Washington scientists have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds. For more than a century it has been known that there is a point in Earth's atmosphere at about 40,000 to 50,000 feet, called the tropopause, where the air stops cooling and begins growing warmer, In the 1980s, NASA spacecraft discovered tropopauses in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as Saturn’s largest moon, Titan — and all occurring at about one-tenth of the air pressure at Earth’s surface.

A new paper by UW astronomer Tyler Robinson and planetary scientist David Catling, published online Dec. 8 in the journal Nature Geoscience, uses basic physics to show why this happens, and suggests that tropopauses are probably common to billions of thick-atmosphere planets and moons throughout the galaxy. “The explanation lies in the physics of infrared radiation,” said Robinson. Atmospheric gases gain energy by absorbing infrared light from the sunlit surface of a rocky planet or from the deeper parts of the atmosphere of a planet like Jupiter, which has no surface. The research shows that at high altitudes atmospheres become transparent to thermal radiation due to the low pressure. The findings could be used to extrapolate temperature and pressure conditions on the surface of planets and work out whether the worlds are potentially habitable — the key being whether pressure and temperature conditions allow liquid water on the surface of a rocky planet."

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