Friday, February 27, 2009

Kepler Scouting for Alien Worlds

NASA is ready to utilize a new tool in the hunt for alien lifeforms, it is called the Kepler Telescope and it is designed to survey a region of the Milky Way and potentially discover hundreds of Earth-like planets in habitable zones around other stars. Scientists say it could also spot telltale signs of intelligent life, if it exists, in the patters of light coming from those stars.

They plan to focus the Kepler in on a specific section of the galaxy, to observe over 100,000 stars in the next 4 or 5 years. They are looking for tiny, regular changes in how much light is coming from the stars, relative to Kepler's view, which may be caused by a planet passing in front of its parent star.

The technique, in use for about a decade, has helped astronomers discover more than 300 large planets. Kepler is intended to hone in on smaller worlds, like Earth, that are well positioned around their parent stars for Earth-like life.

Are you ready for what the Kepler will find? Here is a video of a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Life) Astronomer explaining what that might be.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Study Shows Marijuana Cuts Lung Cancer Tumor Growth in Half

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University shows that the active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half, and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer cells to spread. The researchers conducted the experiment in both lab and mouse studies, with extraordinary results.

They say this is the first set of experiments to show that the compound, Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers with high levels of EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy.

"The beauty of this study is that we are showing that a substance of abuse, if used prudently, may offer a new road to therapy against lung cancer," said Anju Preet, Ph.D., a researcher in the Division of Experimental Medicine.

Although the researchers do not know why THC inhibits tumor growth, they say the substance could be activating molecules that inhibit the cell cycle. They speculate that THC may also interfere with angiogenesis and vascularization, which promotes cancer growth.

Preet says much work is needed to clarify the pathway by which THC functions, and cautions that some animal studies have shown that THC can stimulate some cancers. "THC offers some promise, but we have a long way to go before we know what its potential is."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Amphibian Species Found in Colombian Forest

A recent scientific exploration in Colombia's mountainous Darien region has discovered 10 new species of amphibians, the environmental organization Conservation International reported. The area is described as being a "safe haven" for frogs, and the species are completely new to science, being unearthed after only a three week survey of the area.