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Researchers at the University of Leeds say they have solved a medical condition that puzzled Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago. The phenomenon of "finger clubbing", a deformity of the fingers and fingernails, has been known for thousands of years, and has long been recognized to be a sign of a wide range of serious diseases.

Lung cancer, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, various gastrointestinal diseases and many other conditions all result in finger clubbing. But exactly why swollen, reddened fingers should be an indicator of serious illness has remained a mystery – until now.

"It's one of the first things they teach you at medical school," explained Professor David Bonthron of the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine. "You shake the patient by the hand, and take a good look at their fingers in the process."
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Nitrogen is the primary nutrient that dictates productivity (and thus carbon consumption) in boreal forests. In pristine boreal ecosystems, most new nitrogen enters the forest through cyanobacteria living on the shoots of feather mosses, which grows in dense cushions on the forest floor.

These bacteria convert nitrogen from the atmosphere to a form that can be used by other living organisms, a process referred to as "nitrogen-fixation." The researchers showed that this natural fertilization process appears to be partially controlled by trees and shrubs that sit above the feather mosses.

In the summer of 2006, the researchers placed small tubes, called resin lysimeters, in the moss layer to catch nitrogen deposited on the feather moss carpets from the above canopy and then monitored nitrogen fixation rates in the mosses. The studies revealed that when high levels of nitrogen were deposited on the moss cushion from above, a condition typical of young forests, nitrogen fixation was extremely low. In older, low-productivity forests, very little nitrogen was deposited on the moss cushion, resulting in extremely high nitrogen fixation rates.

Pavan Sukhdev of Deutsche Bank has laid out a case for what he called a "comprehensive and compelling economic case for the conservation of biodiversity" today.

Nature obviously provides human society with a vast diversity of benefits, like food, water, healthy soil and protection from floods but while we are totally dependent upon these "ecosystem services" they are predominantly public goods with no markets and no prices, so they often are not detected by our current economic compass.

As a result, due to pressures from population growth, changing diets and urbanization, biodiversity is declining.

The report presented today shows that if we do not adopt the right policies, the current decline in biodiversity and the related loss of ecosystem services will continue and in some cases even accelerate. Some ecosystems are likely to be damaged beyond repair. With a "business as usual" scenario, by 2050 we will be faced with serious consequences:

Don't put a down payment on that invisible plane just yet but a team of scientists from Boston College and Duke University developed a highly-engineered metamaterial capable of absorbing all of the light that strikes it – to a scientific standard of perfection.

The metamaterial uses tiny geometric surface features to successfully capture the electric and magnetic properties of a microwave to the point of total absorption.

The group used computer simulations based on prior research findings in the field to design resonators able to couple individually to electric and magnetic fields to successfully absorb all incident radiation, according to the findings in Physical Review Letters..

Millions of patients suffer from poorly healing large-area wounds caused by complaints such as diabetes, burns or bedsores. The wounds can be treated with conventional collagen dressings or polylactic acid dressings, but the success rate is not as good as it should be.

A new type of dressing made of silica gel fibers, developed by scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg, could solve the problem. This novel dressing has many advantages: it is shape-stable, pH-neutral and 100 percent bioresorbable.

Once applied it remains in the body, where it gradually degrades without leaving any residues. The fiber fleece provides the healthy cells around the edges of the wound with the structure they additionally need for a proper supply of growth-supporting nutrients. To prevent any infection, treatment of the wound must be absolutely sterile.

Peptide arrays are powerful tools for developing new medical substances as well as for diagnosis and therapy techniques. A new production method based on laser printing will enable the potential of peptide arrays to be better utilized for more applications.

Peptides are protein fragments consisting of up to 50 amino acids. Peptides with a length of 15 to 20 amino acids arranged in arrays are sufficient for drug research and for identifying pathogenic proteins but the capacity of such arrays is limited.

A maximum of 10,000 peptides will fit onto a glass slide at present but biochips with 100,000 peptides are needed in order to represent each of the approximately thousand proteins in a bacterium – in the form of 100 overlapping peptides – and a staggering 500,000 are required for a malaria pathogen.