Program 932,
  March 7 , 2006

 

A. A Study Finds Anthrax Toxins are Also Harmful to Fruit Flies

Narrator: This is Science Today. It's widely known that type 2 diabetes is directly linked to a high-fat diet and obesity, but just how and why has not been so clear. Now, researchers at the University of California , San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a molecular link. Dr. Jamey Marth, who led the study, says the link is a single gene that encodes an enzyme called GnT-4a, which enables pancreatic beta cells to sense blood glucose levels and produce the appropriate amount of insulin.

Marth: We were wondering whether or not this gene might be regulated by diet, because if it was regulated by diet, one might imagine that diet could either increase the amount of gene expression or decrease it. And if it decreased it, that could have an impact on the emergence of diabetes.

Narrator: In fact, in mice studies, Marth found that a high-fat diet suppressed this enzyme, resulting in diabetes.

Marth: What we think we might have uncovered here is the mechanistic explanation for how the disease occurs.

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

B. Scientists Developing a 'Nuclear Car Wash' to Protect Our Ports

Narrator: This is Science Today. A bomb detector that would scan cargo containers for a hidden nuclear device is under development at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Nuclear physicist Dennis Slaughter, who is leading the development team, says it's called Active Neutron Interrogation of Cargo, but they call it the nuclear car wash project.

Slaughter: We call it a car wash because our notion here is that you'd have this neutron beam, perhaps below ground, aimed upward or perhaps in a bridge aimed downward and you'd two a container passed this thing, either over it or under it, depending on the arrangement.

Narrator: The researchers are working out a variety of issues, including the speed of this technique.

Slaughter: The containers are off-loading off the ships nationwide at the rate of about twelve a minute, 24/7. In any one port, they're coming off the ships often times at one a minute. So, to look at a container, you've got one minute to make up your mind whether this container's OK for release or not and so we're aiming to do our sceening in one minute or less than that. We'd like to get down to twenty seconds per screening and we might get there, but today we're gunning for about a one-minute scan.

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

C. Study Finds Evolution Doesn't Always Favor Bigger Animals

Narrator: This is Science Today. Biologists have long believed in a maxim known as Cope's Rule, which states that evolution favors larger animals since the tendency is for lineages to get larger over time. But biologist Kaustuv Roy of the University of California , San Diego says their research suggests Cope's Rule may be only partly true.

Roy : What we noticed is there's another pattern that goes hand-in-hand with Cope's Rule that's called Bergman's Rule. And that one has to do with patterns in space, not time. What it says is, if you go from warm to cold climates, on average in many groups, things tend to get bigger as you go north. And one of the things we got curious about is with, is there some causal relationship between Cope's Rule and Bergman's Rule.

Narrator: Roy found there was by studying the fossil record of crustaceans called deep-sea ostracodes. Their body size increased only when the global ocean temperature cooled.

Roy : So, what we find was if you look over time, there's a very, very tight correlation between body size and temperature. When climate remained flat, it didn't change much, size didn't change much either.

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

D. NCI Funds Seven Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence

Narrator: This is Science Today. Using nanotechnology platforms to treat, understand and monitor cancer is the goal of seven Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. One of these national centers has been established at the University of California , San Diego and includes partnerships with other campuses, including the University of California , Riverside , where electrical engineer, Mihri Ozkan, is contributing her research of microelectrical arrays.

Ozkan: Microelectrical arrays is basically these little metal plates that are in the order of human hair size diameter. This mainly is to try to sense the electrical activity possibly coming from different types of cells.

Narrator: Ozkan has already identified electrical activity differences in certain cells, and has created a library of different signature patterns.

Ozkan: We want to apply this for the cancer research. Wwill just carry out this same principal to a smaller scale and see if we can sense this in a more sensitive way.

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

E. What It Would Take to Run Your Car on Ethanol

Narrator: This is Science Today. Scientists and legislators alike are looking into using other energy sources for fuel to fill our gas tanks, particularly the production of ethanol either from corn or from woody, fibrous plants, which is known as cellulosic technology. Dan Kammen of the University of California , Berkeley 's Energy and Resources Group says if the supply is there, it wouldn't cost much to switch cars to run on ethanol blends.

Kammen: It's about a hundred bucks to convert a truck to being flex fuel ready. You have to put better hoses in, a different gas cap it's really very simple.

Narrator: In fact, Kammen says the state of California currently has more flex-fuel vehicles on the road that is, vehicles than can burn ethanol or gasoline or blends than diesel cars.

Kammen: That's because a large fraction of the light duty pick up trucks that you see Ford F150s for example, they're already flex fuel and they're flex fuel because auto manufacturers need to meet U.S. air quality vehicle mileage standards, so called CAFE standards, and to do that, they made flex fuel vehicles because it's cheap.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For comments or more information about Science Today, contact Larissa Branin at larissa.branin@ucop.edu