New & Notable: 11/26 - 12/02

/ by Edit Staff /

Year-long love, tricking the body to stay thin, the beautiful Crab Nebula, and more nasty boys!

crabnebula.jpg An image composite of the Crab Nebula produced by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.  Courtesy of NASA, European Space Agency and Arizona State University (Allison Loll/Jeff Hester)

I Love You, But Not Longtime
Researchers have correlated puppy love to nerve growth factor (NGF). After studying the concentrations of a set of neuron-regulating proteins, the researchers found that levels of NGF mollecules were 85% higher in the bloodstreams of study participants in the early romantic phase of a relationship, compared to those already in long-term companionships. Of the couples that were still together after two years, NGF concentrations had returned to pre-love levels. The study suggests that many behavioral quirks associated with new love could be attributed to the love molecule.
(source: Psychoneuroendocrinology)

Licking Lipids With a Fat Trick
A research group is developing an obesity treatment based on small-molecule food additives that would trick the body into thinking it is receiving lipids. The research is complicated by the fact that fat receptors are found throughout the body, not just in the taste buds (though 90% of taste buds can detect lipids). By targeting receptors in the small intestines with fat substitutes or with drugs using nanoparticle technology, the researchers hope to trigger the “I’m satified” chemical message.  The idea, developed by scientists at Utah State University, is for people to feel satisfied with a small serving of food instead of feeling the need to pig out.

British Men Double Their Pleasure
British men are twice as likely to pay for sex as they were 10 years ago, according to a new study in the specialty journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. In 2000, 4.2% of study participants said they’d paid for sex in the previous five years, while only 2% of participants claimed to have done so in 1990.  Londoners were found to be the randiest of the lot, shagging with sex workers twice as often as those in other cities. The study implicates the increase in divorce rates and the prevalence of commercial sex services, and suggests that the change in sexual attitudes puts Brits at higher risks for STDs.

Nebulous Clarity
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope produced its highest resolution image of the Crab Nebula, the six-lightyear-wide remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed by astronomers in 1054 CE. Taken by the telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 between 1999 and 2000, the 16-megapixel picture (a composite of 24 images) shows the expanding gas cloud that NASA calls “one of the most intricately structured and highly dynamical objects ever observed.”
(source: Space Telescope Science Institute)


  • MicroRNA’s big job: MicroRNA, short segments of RNA that don’t code for proteins, regulate as many as one-third of genes, suggesting that microRNA coevolved with mammal genes. MicroRNAs could affect the expression or evolution of a large percentage of the genes in the human genome. (source: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research)
  • First face transplant: The AP reported that the first partial face transplant was performed in a French hospital for a dog-maul victim. The woman’s face will look like a hybrid of her’s and the brain-dead donor’s.
  • Pot hole: In France, a study has shown that cannibis inhalation doubles the risk of car crash fatality. Alcohol-related crashes still outnumber those due to marijuana. (source: BMJ)
  • The comeback lipid: Lost weight doesn’t stay lost because the body regenerates fat, compensating for a drop in levels of the protein hormone leptin. Drugs that target leptin-related reactions could help keep the weight off for good. (source: Journal of Clinical Investigation)
  • Skyscraper, earth-shaker: Taipei 101 is more than the world’s tallest building, it is the likely cause of two recent earthquakes in Taiwan. Geologists say the strain of 700,000 tons of concrete and steel over a relatively small area may have reopened an old fault line. Japan’s vertical Sky City 1000 is starting to look like a very bad idea. (source: Guardian Unlimited)
  • Tangled in the web: Mental health professionals estimate that 6% to 10% of the 189-million Internet users in the US have an Internet addiction—one that can be as debilitating as alcoholism or drug addiction. Twelve-step Internet addiction recovery programs are popping up everywhere, but the condition hasn’t made its way into the mental health Bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, yet, so addicts are paying out of pocket. (source: the New York Times)

Originally published December 5, 2005

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