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Paying Closer Attention To Attention

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Photosynthesis converts light energy into chemical energy in plants, algae, phytoplankton and some species of bacteria and archaea. Photosynthesis in plants involves an elaborate array of chemical reactions requiring dozens of protein enzymes and other chemical components. Most photosynthesis occurs in a plant’s leaves.

Now University of Illinois researchers have built a plant that produces more leaves and fruit without needing extra fertilizer using a computer model that mimics the process of evolution. Theirs is the first model to simulate every step of the photosynthetic process.

The research findings appeared in Plant Physiology and will be presented today at the BIO-Asia 2007 Conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

Eating too much fructose and glucose can turn off the gene that regulates the levels of active testosterone and estrogen in the body, shows a new study in mice and human cell cultures that’s published this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. This discovery reinforces public health advice to eat complex carbohydrates and avoid sugar.

Table sugar is made of glucose and fructose, while fructose is also commonly used in sweetened beverages, syrups, and low-fat food products. Estimates suggest North Americans consume 33 kg of refined sugar and an additional 20 kg of high fructose corn syrup per person per year.

Glucose and fructose are metabolized in the liver. When there’s too much sugar in the diet, the liver converts it to lipid.

A tiny “electronic nose” that MIT researchers have engineered with a novel inkjet printing method could be used to detect hazards including carbon monoxide, harmful industrial solvents and explosives.

Led by MIT professor Harry Tuller, the researchers have devised a way to print thin sensor films onto a microchip, a process that could eventually allow for mass production of highly sensitive gas detectors.

“Mass production would be an enormous breakthrough for this kind of gas sensing technology,” said Tuller, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), who is presenting the research at the Composites at Lake Louise Conference in Alberta, Canada, on Oct. 30.

Known until now as a simple number in a catalogue, NGC 134, the 'Island in the Universe' that was observed by the European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik on a visit to ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal is replete with remarkable attributes, and the VLT has clapped its eyes on them.

Just like our own Galaxy, NGC 134 is a barred spiral with its spiral arms loosely wrapped around a bright, bar-shaped central region.

One feature that stands out is its warped disc. While a galaxy's disc is often pictured as a flat structure of gas and stars surrounding the galaxy's centre, a warped disc is a structure that, when viewed sideways, resembles a bent record album left out too long in the burning Sun.

Overweight children and adults have low levels in their blood of a protein known as SHGB, which transports sex steroids and regulates their entry into tissues. Low levels of SHGB are a marker of the metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders that increase an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

An explanation as to why low levels of SHGB are such a good marker of the metabolic syndrome are now provided by Geoffrey Hammond and colleagues at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Tumor progression can now be mapped less to mathematical standards and more to individual patients according to a new study by researchers at Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities. The study provides a new paradigm in calculating tumor development, showing that it appears to be driven by mutations in many genes.

Our understanding of the progression of cancer has long been based on streamlined models where cancer is driven by mutations in only a few genes. Niko Beerenwinkel et al. show how tumor progression can be driven by hundreds of genes. As many as 20 different mutated genes might be responsible for driving an individual tumor’s development.