Scientific discoveries this week: 4/15/13

Honolulu, Hawaii – The Hawaii State Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. The telescope will be the largest in the world. The telescope is expected to be able to see 13 billion light years in the astronomical past and also to view extrasolar planets. The project is expected to cost more than $1 billion.

Lake Erie, Michigan/Ohio/New York/Ontario – Millions of miniature plastic pieces litter Lake Erie, scientists report. Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Superior searched the lake for microplastics, which are smaller than 5 millimeters. Chemical analysis indicates that the microplastics contain various levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls. Both are well-known pollutants.

Washington, D.C. – A new ovarian cancer contains an antibody with a tumor-killing toxin that may be able to combat drug-resistant cancer. The drug was given to 44 patients with advanced, drug-resistant ovarian cancers. One patient saw a “complete response,” meaning the tumor was completely gone. Four others saw their tumors decrease in size by more than 30%.

Emeryville, CA – Researchers have discovered a shortcut to create malaria drugs, using genetically modified yeast. Traditionally, these drugs are made with artemisinin, produced by a sweet wormwood plant. Though this remedy has been in use or thousands of years, growing the plants requires months. Generating this chemical in a lab would streamline the production process.

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