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    Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Reuters - Brain chemical may play key role in anxiety

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    Brain chemical may play key role in anxiety

    Thursday, May 14, 2009 11:38AM UTC

    By Julie Steenhuysen

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - A chemical important for brain development may play a role in explaining why some people are genetically predisposed to anxiety and could lead to new treatments, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

    They said rats bred to be highly anxious had very low levels of a brain chemical called fibroblast growth factor 2 or FGF2 compared with rats that were more laid back.

    But when they improved the anxious rats' living conditions, -- giving them new toys to explore, an obstacle course and a bigger cage to live in -- levels of this brain chemical increased and they became less anxious.

    "The levels of this molecule increased in response to the experiences that the rats were exposed to. It also decreased their anxiety," Javier Perez of the University of Michigan, whose study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience, said in a telephone interview.

    "It made them behave the same way as the rats that were laid back and had low anxiety to begin with," he said.

    Injecting the rats with the chemical also made them less anxious, he said.

    In a prior study of people who were severely depressed before they died, the team found the gene that makes FGF2 was producing very low levels of the growth factor, which is known primarily for organizing the brain during development and repairing it after injury.

    Perez thinks the brain chemical may be a marker for genetic vulnerability to anxiety and depression. But it can also respond to changes in the environment in a positive way, possibly by preserving new brain cells.

    While both the calm and anxious rats produced the same number of new brain cells, these cells were less likely to survive in the high-anxiety rats, the team found.

    Giving the rats better living conditions or injecting them with FGF2 helped improve cell survival.

    "This discovery may pave the way for new, more specific treatments for anxiety that will not be based on sedation, like currently prescribed drugs, but will instead fight the real cause of the disease," Dr. Pier Vincenzo Piazza of the University of Bordeaux in France, who had seen the study, said in a statement.

    Perez said the study was funded in part by the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Disorders Research Fund, which is seeking to patent the molecule.

    (Editing by Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman)

    Reuters - Cloud ice crystals carry biological matter: research

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    Cloud ice crystals carry biological matter: research

    Sunday, May 17, 2009 5:14PM UTC

    By Julie Steenhuysen

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Ice crystals plucked from clouds and quickly analyzed in flight show bits of biological material -- bacteria, spores and plants -- play a role in the formation of clouds, U.S. researchers said on Sunday.

    The finding, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, offers the first direct evidence of airborne bacteria in clouds, they said.

    Climate scientists typically rely on computer models to predict climate change, but until now it has been difficult to directly measure the composition of ice crystals in clouds, which are the very seeds that form clouds.

    "By sampling clouds in real time from an aircraft, these investigators were able to get information about ice particles in clouds at an unprecedented level of detail," Anne-Marie Schmoltner of the National Science Foundation's Division of Atmospheric sciences, said in a statement.

    "By determining the chemical composition of the very cores of individual ice particles, they discovered that both mineral dust and, surprisingly, biological particles play a major role in the formation of clouds."

    For this study, Kim Prather of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California San Diego loaded up an aircraft with a specially designed lab instrument called a mass spectrometer. The team made a series of flights over the skies of Wyoming to analyze the chemical composition of ice-forming particles in clouds.

    "The key to cloud formation is these little seeds that feed the clouds," Prather said in a telephone interview. "We are basically trying to understand what is forming clouds."

    The team, lead by Prather's graduate student Kerri Pratt, found that biological matter accounted for 33 percent of the particles in ice crystals, and mineral dust accounted for 50 percent.

    "The big deal was to be able to measure the chemistry of each particle one at a time," Prather said.

    Other teams have captured ice crystals and examined their contents on the ground, she said, but by that time they had melted, and it was impossible to know for sure what they were analyzing.

    She said the ice pocket they measured contained Asian dust. The findings suggest biological particles that get swept up in dust storms help induce cloud formation.

    It was impossible to tell whether bits of plant matter, fungal spores and bacteria they detected had been alive because the instrument they used "smashed them to bits" and analyzed their composition, she said..

    "They were potentially living. We can't say for sure."

    But other teams have found living bacteria in studies of cloud water, she said. And some scientists suspect clouds may be capable of transporting viruses and bacteria and depositing them long distances in the form of rain and snow.

    "It's almost like the biological material is hitching a ride along with the dust," she said.

    Prather said understanding the exact composition of clouds will help climate scientists better predict climate change, and may even lead to new ways of forming rain clouds to alleviate drought.

    The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

    Reuters - AT&T to offer cloud-based storage as a service

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    AT&T to offer cloud-based storage as a service

    Monday, May 18, 2009 4:22AM UTC

    BOSTON (Reuters) - AT&T Inc, the biggest U.S. telephone company, plans to offer Web-based data storage services for corporations using "cloud computing" technologies developed by data storage equipment maker EMC Corp.

    The telecommunications giant will join International Business Machines Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Symantec Corp, Iron Mountain Inc and others in offering storage as a service product, which allow companies to use the Internet to transfer information to remote storage facilities.

    AT&T said on Monday it will initially run the service from two data centers in the United states, although the company intends to expand overseas.

    It is still early days for the industry.

    Market researcher Gartner forecasts that revenue from cloud-based storage and backup services will rise 22 percent this year to about $400 million.

    Cloud-based storage services charge companies for space as they use it at an agreed rate per gigabyte per month, rather than requiring them to purchase storage equipment in advance or pay for maintaining that gear.

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Andre Grenon)

    CNN - New York principal's death linked to flu virus, hospital says

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    New York principal's death linked to flu virus, hospital says


    An New York middle school assistant principal who was hospitalized with the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, died Sunday apparently from flu complications, a hospital spokesman said.

    Mitchell Weiner, 55, assistant principal at Intermediate School 238 in Queens, died at 6:17 p.m. Sunday, Flushing Hospital spokesman Andrew Rubin said.

    "We believe he had complications of the swine flu," Rubin told CNN Radio, adding that once Weiner was admitted to the hospital, he was listed in critical condition. However, he wouldn't say whether Rubin had any pre-existing medical conditions.

    "It is with great sadness tonight that we learn that New York has lost one of its residents to an illness related to H1N1," New York Gov. David Paterson said.

    Last week, when city and state officials announced that four students were infected and a school official in Queens was "critically ill" with the virus, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not name the official. He described the staffer as an assistant principal who "may have had other health problems."

    "We're trying to identify that and ascertain whether those problems were exacerbated by the flu or whether it's totally unrelated," Bloomberg said at the time.

    Since the H1N1 outbreak surfaced last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention has linked four U.S. deaths to the virus: A Washington state man with heart problems who died from flu complications; an Arizona woman with lung disease; a Mexican toddler who was visiting with her family and a pregnant woman who had been on life support since April. All had preexisting medical problems.

    Weiner's school is one of eight schools temporarily closed in New York due to flu concerns.

    "We are now seeing a rising tide of flu in many parts of New York City," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden earlier Sunday.

    "With the virus spreading widely, closing these and other individual schools will make little difference in transmission throughout New York City, but we hope will help slow transmission within the individual school communities."

    The flu strain, which originated in Mexico, killed dozens of people there, causing U.S. officials to worry that it could take a similar toll after spreading across the border. But it has thus far acted similar to typical seasonal influenza -- which usually can be treated successfully but can be deadly among the very old, very young and people with preexisting health problems.

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