Program 753,
  October 1, 2002

 

A. A Deadly Pathogen Found in California Redwoods and Douglas Firs

Narrator: This is Science Today. Plant pathologists were recently stunned to learn that a deadly pathogen that's killing thousands of coastal oak trees in the West, has also been found in California's coastal Redwood trees and in Douglas fir saplings. It's called sudden oak death syndrome and according to David Rizzo of the University of California, Davis, it was first discovered in California in 1995.

Rizzo: We think the main cause of sudden oak death is a fungus or fungus-like organism known as Phytophthora and that is what initially gets in there, it can kill trees on its own, but often it will stress trees that other organisms can also come in.

Narrator: In large trees, Rizzo says the earliest symptoms are a bleeding or oozing coming directly out of the bark.

Rizzo: As the tree goes on it shows less vigor and often times though, the tree will apparently appear to die over a period of a few weeks, but the tree has probably already been infected for quite a while before that.

Narrator: Researchers are not yet sure how the disease will impact redwoods and firs. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

B.Renewed Interest in Facial Expression Analysis

Narrator: This is Science Today. In the last year, national intelligence agencies have become more interested in the research of Dr. Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has been analyzing facial expressions for over four decades.

Ekman: I first became interested in looking at expression and gesture when I was a graduate student and I first started to observe behind a one-way mirror, group therapy sessions and I thought that so much of what was going on wasn't in the words alone, but it was in the expression and the gestures.

Narrator: Since then, Ekman has identified 19 different smiles and analyzed thousands of facial expressions with a measurement system he created. His work uncovering the true feelings behind otherwise deceptive gestures is now being sought by agencies investigating terrorism.

Ekman: It takes us about 12 hours to teach people and give them enough practice so that they can actually use it in their day-to-day work.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

C. A Less Invasive, More Accurate Approach to Diagnosing Certain Kinds of Cancer

Narrator:This is Science Today. Endoscopic ultrasound is a new technology, which combines video endoscopy with ultrasound. At the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Kenneth Chang, a gastrointestinal oncologist, is using this technique to provide a less invasive and more accurate approach to diagnosing certain kinds of cancer.

Chang: From inside, we can image structures and organs, such as the pancreas, gall bladder and liver, and we can also look at the extent of tumors through the wall of the stomach, esophagus, and make a definite diagnosis.

Narrator: Chang says this is especially helpful to the patient, since it eases the anxiety of wondering whether or not cancer is present.

Chang: In patients who we find cancer, endoscopic ultrasound is very useful for looking at the stage or the extent that the tumor has progressed, and we're also able to help the patient pick the best therapy, based on the extent of their disease.

Narrator: Currently, there are about 150 hospitals nationwide using endoscopic ultrasounds. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

D. Better Detection of a Nefarious Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. Plague - a disease that has caused three world epidemics during the course of human history and killed millions of people - is still endemic in some parts of the world. Researcher Bert Weinstein of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed a quick detection system for plague, which he says really is a nefarious disease.

Weinstein: It manages to make its living by killing all of its hosts. It kills the flea essentially by starving it to death and causing the flea to want to bite everything it can in sight because it's trying to feed and in the process, spreading the disease, then it kills the other animals - rodents, or in the case of humans - humans. And if there are any fleas on those animals, when the animal dies, they jump off going looking for new hosts.

Narrator: Weinstein says another problem with plague is the generality of the flu-like symptoms.

Weinstein: Plague is very treatable with antibiotics if caught early, so I think the main thing is just being aware of any potential exposure.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

E. The Psychological Impact of 9/11 Still Lingers

Narrator: This is Science Today. It's been over a year, but the national, psychological impact of September 11th is still lingering - and not just in New York City. A University of California, Irvine study found that six months after the attacks, six percent of the population outside of New York reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychologist Roxane Cohen Silver, led the study.

Cohen Silver: It is important for us to recognize that people did not have to be directly exposed to the trauma to maybe have some kind of psychological response to it.

Narrator: The study also found that those who tended to 'give up' or disengage, were more likely to be distressed.

Cohen Silver: The more traumas you had had in your life, the more likely you were to disengage. But, it wasn't as simple as that because some people disengaged who had not have prior trauma. What really seems to help us understand who would remain distressed were the early strategies that people used to cope with the trauma.

Narrator: For Science Today, Larissa Branin.

 

 

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