Scientific Discoveries this Week – 10/07/92

Geneticists at Trinity College in Dublin have made a breakthrough in finding out why duplicate genes remain in the genome. Gene duplication involves the creation of sister genes, or duplicated genes, that can allow organisms to tolerate possibly deadly mutations. Researchers tested this robustness on yeast cells, showing that the gene duplication helped the cells survive in stressful conditions. They found that genes, thought to be duplicated over 100 million years ago, were still able to respond to different environments as they changed. Gene duplication was previously thought be redundant, but is now seen to be essential in the survival of entire species.

Researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have been working on creating a new drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the stomach lining. The outside of these microneedle pills is coated with a pH sensitive coating which dissolves only in the stomach acid, allowing the drug to be released through the microneedles covering the pill’s surface. The current prototype is about 2cm long and 1 cm in diameter covered with hollow, stainless steel needles about 5mm long. These drugs are predicted to be much more effective and faster-onset than under the skin injection. Researchers are looking at using these pills for insulin injection or other vaccines that are normally injected.

A study at the University of Melbourne has found that when people make immediate judgments about images it may unconsciously impact their decisions. This means that it is possible to predict abstract judgments from brain waves, even though the people themselves are not yet aware of making such judgments. Researchers used electroencephalography technology or (EEG) to measure the electrical activity as participants looked at different pictures. The pictures showed food, social interactions, money, and cars. They were then asked questions about how they felt about the pictures. Researchers found that by decoding their EEG brain activity, they could predict how participants would feel about the pictures before they were even consciously aware of their own reactions.

A four year study done by experts at Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) evaluated the positives and negatives of energy drinks on athletes. The study looked a players of football, basketball, rugby, volleyball, hockey, tennis, and swimmers. These athletes took either the equivalents of three cans of energy drink, or a placebo before a sports competition. Researchers found that the energy drinks increased the athlete’s performance by between 3% and 7%. Athletes ran further, at higher intensities, jumped higher, had more overall force and power, and went at generally higher speeds than those with the placebo. However the drinks also came with many side effects. Those who took the energy drinks had an increase of insomnia, nervousness, and increased stimulation following the competition.

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