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Creatine, a popular nutritional supplement renowned for enhancing athletic performance and muscle strength, does not improve exercise outcomes in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study. The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study provided the most powerful evidence to date that the effect of creatine (Cr) supplementation was negligible at best among these patients.

"We have evidence to suggest Cr uptake into muscles [in COPD patients] but are unable to explain why an increase in muscle Cr did not enhance training," wrote the study's lead author, Sarah Deacon, M.D., specialist registrar at the Institute for Lung Health at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England.

The results were published in the first issue for August of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine by the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

Sleep-disordered breathing (also known as sleep apnea) is associated with an increased risk of death, according to new results from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, an 18-year observational study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that adults (ages 30 to 60) with sleep-disordered breathing at the start of the study were two to three times more likely to die from any cause compared to those who did not have sleep-disordered breathing. The risk of death was linked to the severity of sleep-disordered breathing and was not attributable to age, gender, body mass index (an indicator of overweight or obesity), or cardiovascular health status.

University of Illinois researchers writing in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience report this week that chronic exposure to estradiol, the main estrogen in the body, diminishes some cognitive functions. Rats exposed to a steady dose of estradiol were impaired on tasks involving working memory and response inhibition, the researchers found.

The researchers made the discovery when studying the effects of estradiol on activities mediated by the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is vital to working memory and to the ability to plan, respond to changing conditions and moderate or control one's behavior.

Low levels of naturally occurring antibodies may represent an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke in men. This discovery, published in Atherosclerosis, has now led to attempts to develop an immunization against cardiovascular disease.

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is an inflammatory disease in which the walls of the blood vessels are thickened and become less elastic. It can cause blood clots and other cardiovascular diseases. It is not known precisely what causes atherosclerosis, but the immune system probably plays an important role.

Judging by the astonishing increase in journal papers written by scientists in China, China is finding its place as one of the world’s scientific power houses, says Michael Banks, but he also quantifies this surge in scientific output China and measures whether quality matches quantity in August’s Physics World.

Nanoscience, quantum computing and high-temperature superconductivity are three of the cutting-edge areas of physics that have seen particularly large increases. Published journal articles in nanoscience, for example, with at least one co-author based in China, have seen a 10-fold increase since the beginning of the millennium, rising to more than 10,500 in 2007.

China has already overtaken the UK and Germany in the number of physics papers published and is beginning to nip at the heels of the United States. If China’s output continues to increase at its current pace, the country will be publishing more articles in physics - and indeed all of science - than the US by 2012.

Have you ever wondered what our world would look like stripped bare of all plants, soils, water and man-made structures?

So have earth and computer scientists from 79 nations who are working together on a global project called OneGeology to produce the first digital geological map of the world.

Images of the Earth as never seen before have been unveiled in what is the world’s biggest geological mapping project ever.

Begun just over a year ago, the project is doing for the rocks beneath our feet what Google does for maps of the Earth’s surface. Pretty fast for a science that usually counts time in millions of years.