Yosemite bears prefer minivans

Courtesy Kevin Collins/Creative Commons License.

Inspired to visit Yosemite, perhaps after watching the Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea?

Don’t drive the minivan. Bad idea. The SUV also might be a little risky.

So say researchers who analyzed seven years of data on the vehicles broken into by black bears in Yosemite Valley.

Of nine categories of cars and trucks, minivans and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) vied for number one on the black bear break-in list every year from 2001 to 2007. Continue reading “Yosemite bears prefer minivans”

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Harvard Catalyst Colloquium Series: Informed Consent for Research

Research is not treatment. One of the biggest misconceptions of people who volunteer to be experimental subjects in a clinical trial is that the study offers medical therapy in the best interests of the patient. Continue reading “Harvard Catalyst Colloquium Series: Informed Consent for Research”

Research on Brown Fat Heats Up

This ‘Good’ Fat More Active in Leaner Adults, Cool Temperatures

In a sizeable advance in body fat research, three independent teams have identified a surprising energy-burning organ in healthy adults: brown fat. Splayed beneath collarbones and tucked under neck muscles, brown fat appears more active and plentiful in leaner bodies, but may be present in most people, the studies suggest.

These results overturn conventional wisdom, at least in the medical specialty that concerns itself with obesity and related diseases. Continue reading “Research on Brown Fat Heats Up”

Personal Risk Prediction: Not There Yet

Linking a Person’s Genetic Sequence to Risk of Disease is an Inexact Science

Whoooooosh! That rushing sound you hear could be the plummeting cost of genome scans, the surge in studies linking common genetic markers to widespread human diseases and traits, or the murmurs of people discussing what those genetic markers portend for their personal health risks.

But it is still early days, say the Harvard researchers who helped bring about this convergence of science, technology and popular interest in personal genomics. These researchers are scrambling to bridge the knowledge gap between the reality and the expectations for predicting diseases using high-tech genomics technologies.

In the meantime, scientists caution doctors, patients and consumers to be skeptical about estimates of genetic risk based on the latest findings, especially given interventions that might have even riskier side effects. A person’s actual DNA sequence may stand the test of time, but genetic risk profiles are likely to evolve as science zips ahead. Continue reading “Personal Risk Prediction: Not There Yet”

HMS Looks to Stimulus Funding To Save Jobs, Advance Science

Administration Coordinating Resources for Faculty

Donald Coen,  professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston, may be able to save a skilled research job and restore another in his lab. Isaac Kohane, co-director of the HMS Center for Biomedical Informatics, hopes to hire and train new bioinformatics staff. Peter Sorger, HMS professor of systems biology, wants to buy a powerful data storage system from a U.S. company to share with his colleagues.

These are a few possible local results of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Continue reading “HMS Looks to Stimulus Funding To Save Jobs, Advance Science”

Eye Drives Restructuring of Young Brain

Plasticity Depends on Transcription Factor Traveling Cell to Cell

In the months and years after a much-loved child is born, attentive parents marvel at their many distinct spurts in mental skills. Babies’ eyes begin to focus and soon track moving people and objects. They respond to spoken language before they can utter their first intelligible sounds. In succession, kids can read single letters, then words. Soon, they compose whole sentences and eventually devour the latest Harry Potter book. Continue reading “Eye Drives Restructuring of Young Brain”

Obesity and Inflammation: The Relationship Heats Up

There are many ways to die, but most people’s last breath will come when festering plaque in a clogged artery ruptures and triggers a heart attack. Scientists suspect obesity and its molecular sidekick inflammation to be key villains in this scenario and in five of the other six leading causes of death in this country, including stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Continue reading “Obesity and Inflammation: The Relationship Heats Up”