Science & Technology - Briefs

Published: Sunday 31 August 2014

Dark cure for cancer

Sleeping in complete darkness at night is essential during breast cancer treatment


SLEEPING WITH the light switched on at night is very harmful for breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. Exposure to light stops the production of melatonin, a hormone produced in the body only during night-time. Melatonin is vital to the success of tamoxifen, a widely used breast cancer drug. In absence of melatonin, tumours become resistant to the drug. Even extremely weak light, comparable to that coming from beneath the door, is enough to impact melatonin production. Analysis of rats implanted with human breast cancer cells showed that melatonin on its own delays tumour formation and brings down their growth rate. The study could make exposure to light a new variable in cancer research. It also has implications for people who work late in the night, or sit for long hours in front of television or computer screen. Cancer Research, July 15

Transgenerational impact

The IMPACT of exposure to pesticide methoxychlor stays for generations and can cause diseases related to the kidney and ovaries. Methoxychlor was introduced in 1948 as a safer alternative to DDT. However, it is known to disrupt the endocrine system. Scientists suspect that the transgenerational impact of methoxychloris due to its ability to control how genes are turned on and off, even though it does not have an impact on the DNA.

PLoS ONE, July 24

Silica shade for solar cells

imageSolar CELLS can reach a temperature of 130o Celcius under normal operating conditions and for every degree rise in temperature, their efficiency decreases by about half a per cent. But the problem of overheating can be overcome by covering the cell with an extremely thin layer of silica glass embedded with microscopic pyramidical structures. By controlling the shape of the pyramids the infrared light of the sun, which is the primary carrier of heat, can be radiated back into the atmosphere. Optica, July 22

Collision course

A 15-YEAR-LONG analysis of blue whale movement along the west coast of the US has found that their feeding areas are intersected by shipping routes, severely threatening the species with injury and mortality. Between 1993 and 2008, 171 whales were tagged with transmitters at different times and tracked through satellite. The study found that shifting sea routes slightly away from Los Angeles and San Francisco shipping lanes could significantly reduce the threat. One-fourth of the world's blue whale population is found in the eastern Pacific. PLoS ONE, July 23

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