Scientific discoveries this week: 10/7/13

Princeton University and Michigan University
A new method developed by researchers called “in silico nano-dissection” uses computers to separate and identify genes from specific cell types. The team used this new method to identify genes expressed in cells called podocytes that often malfunction in kidney disease. They showed that certain patterns of activity of these genes correlated with the severity of the kidney disease. They also demonstrated that their computer-based approach was more accurate than existing methods at identifying cell lineage specific genes.Using the method on kidney biopsy samples the researchers identified 136 genes and showed that two of these genes are able to cause kidney disease. The computational method can be used for cells other than those found in the kidney suggesting that the method could be useful for identifying genes for a range of diseases.

East China Normal University – Shanghai
According to a new study published in Brain, the left and right hemispheres of Albert Einstein’s brain were unusually well connected to each other and may have contributed to his brilliance. The study was the first to detail Einstein’s corpus callosum, the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connects the two hemispheres. The researchers technique measures and color-codes the varying thicknesses of subdivisions. These thicknesses indicate how many nerves cross and how connected the two hemispheres of the brain are. The team’s findings indicate that Einstein had more extensive connections between parts of his cerebral hemispheres when compared to both younger and older control groups.

University of Electro-Communications – Chōfu, Japan
Astronomers recently discovered a large hot cocoon around a small baby star. The observed hot cloud around the start is about ten times larger than those found around typical baby stars. These hot molecular clouds are often called “hot cores” and have temperatures of -160 degrees Celsius which is approximately 100 degrees hotter than normal molecular clouds. The large size of the cloud shows that more energy is being emitted from the central baby star than normal. According to the researchers this may be due to the higher mass infall rate, or multiplicity of the central baby star. These results indicate that their is a large diversity in the star formation process.

London England
A new study shows that mental health issues among 509 British youth was reduced to 33% following two 90-minute group therapy sessions. Nineteen schools in London participated in the study which also included a control group in which students did not receive any intervention. Students were evaluated to ascertain their risk of developing mental health issues or substance abuse problems. The two sessions of interventions included cognitive behavioural strategies for managing their life and the groups discussed their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. After the interventions students completed questionnaires every few months that allowed researchers to establish the development of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. According to the study there was a significant improvement between the control group and the intervention group. The teenagers reported 33 percent less mental health issues with only two 90 minute interventions.

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