Researchers of the University of Michigan, usa, have cracked the genetic secrets of nicotine addiction. Whether or
not one gets hooked to smoking is dependent on a particular variant of a gene-- chrna 5--they say. So far, it was
believed that smoking is governed by one's genes, environmental factors and peer pressure. The research suggests that the gene could be at
work from the very first instance of exposure to nicotine. The finding may help in the development of anti-smoking drugs and make it easier for
people to wean themselves off cigarettes, or even stop them from taking up the habit. Genetic data was obtained from 435 volunteers, some of
whom were regular smokers, and some who had tried cigarettes but were not currently smokers.They were quizzed about how they felt about
their first smoking experience. Regular smokers were far more likely to have the variant version of the gene and more likely to report that their first
smoking experience was pleasurable.
The Global Environment Facility, a partnership among 178 countries to address global environmental issues, has launched a project worth class='UCASE'>us $26.45 million to better protect pollinators--beets, bats, birds--that are essential to the world's crop production. The
main threats to pollinators are from disease, pesticide use, habitat loss and degradation, monocultures and introduction of exotic species. The
United Nations Environment Programme will implement the five-year project, Conservation and Management of Pollinators for Sustainable
Agriculture through an Ecosystem Approach. Pollinators such as birds, bees, butterflies, bats and even mosquitoes are essential for food
production becausetheytransferpollenbetweenseed plants-impacting 35 per cent of the world'scrops.
Platelets and malaria
Platelets play an important early role in promoting cerebral malaria, say researchers of Johns Hopkins University. When red blood cells are
infected with the malaria parasite, they activate platelets to secrete pf 4 protein, which triggers the immune system
to inflame blood vessels and obstruct capillaries in the brain; both distinct features of cerebral malaria. This should help in treating the ailment
better. Researchers first infected human red blood cells in culture with the malaria parasite and found that it induced platelet activation. They then
infected separate sets of live mice with the malaria parasite one set lacked platelets and two others with platelet inhibitors that prevent the
release of pf 4. The survival rate of mice without platelets as well as those treated with inhibitors was improved over
that of the mice left alone, but only when the treatment began very soon after infection.
Researchers of Purdue and Pennsylvania universities in the us have discovered an unusual molecule that break
down pollutants, especially compounds that cause acid rain. The Earth's atmosphere has the ability to "burn" or oxidize pollutants, especially
nitric oxides emitted from sources such as factories and automobiles. "The chemical details of how the atmosphere removes nitric acid have not
been clear till now," a researcher said. This discovery will allow scientists to better model how pollutants react in the atmosphere and to predict
potential outcomes. The molecule has two hydrogen bonds, which allows it to form a six-sided ring structure. Hydrogen bonds are usually weaker
than the normal bonds between atoms in a molecule, which are known as covalent bonds. Covalent bonds are 20 times stronger than hydrogen
bonds. But in this case, these two hydrogen bonds are strong enough to affect atmospheric chemistry.
Oldest anthropoids in India
Fossilized teeth, just nine-thousandths of a square inch in size, were discovered from an Indian open-pit coalmine by researchers of Duke
University, usa and iits in India. This could be the oldest Asian remains ever found of
anthropoids, the primate lineage of today's monkeys, apes and humans. The teeth are about 54.
5 million years old and suggest that these early
primates were no larger than modern dwarf lemurs weighing about 0.08 kg. Until now, fossil record of anthropoid primates has extended back
only 45 million years. The specimens found also represent a new genus and species of anthropoid, which the researchers call Anthrasimias
Gujaratensis by drawing from the Greek word for coal, Latin for monkey and Gujarat where the teeth were found.
Ginger in danger
Ginger has been extensively cultivated for use as a spice and traditional medicine. A study has confirmed that the pathogen Aspergilus niger
causes necrotic leaf spot disease. This is the first report ever of the pathogen afflicting ginger. During a survey in Maharashtra in September
last year, it was found that ginger leaves suffered from the disease. Symptoms appeared as small, rectangular to irregular, yellow spots on the
leaves that covered a major area of the leaf when severe. The infection caused defoliation.