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SciTech Briefs

Energy drinks linked to heart attack risk

Australian research has claimed a single serving of an energy drink can significantly boost blood pressure and alter normal blood vessel function, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Researchers at the University of Adelaide and Royal Adelaide Hospital have conducted a study involving 50 healthy volunteers aged 20 to identify the effects of energy drinks on the human cardiovascular system.

Results show that a small amount of energy drink, 250 milliliters, can increase blood clotting potential and drastically modify blood vessel function, both of which increase the risk of heart attacks. Energy drinks are widespread among students and exercise enthusiasts. The study was prompted by reports of heart attacks and related heart problems linked with the consumption of energy drinks.

The results of the study have been published in The American Journal of Medicine. Along with France and Denmark, the New South Wales government has moved to pass guidelines to regulate the amount of caffeine in such beverages.

Source: ABC News

Nerve cells created from skin cells

Dr. Marius Wernig and his team of researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University have discovered a means to transform skin cells into neurons. Researchers at Stanford University claim skin cells are capable of maturing into any desired cell type. They have successfully transformed the skin cells of mice into nerve cells that are similar in most respects to the normal healthy neuron. The only drawback of the new “induced neuronal cells” is that they do not proliferate as well as primitive stem cells. However, Wernig believes these problems can be overcome.

While this study deals with mice, past stem cell research has been replicated in humans within months. Stem cell research has aimed to transform cells from one type to another, and Wernig and his team have finally been able to achieve this without using stem cells. Up until this study, only embryonic stem cells have been manipulated to become a desired cell type. Now, while not explicitly precluding their use, this study does provide a method to avoid using embryonic stem cells.

Source: Reuters

Molecular transistor devised

Scientists from the U.S. and South Korea have together devised a transistor comprised of only a benzene ring and two gold electrodes. Today, transistors are around 45 nanometers wide, and these devices act as amplifiers and switches that run our computers. The team devised two types of molecular transistors, one consisting of a string of eight methylene groups between two electrodes and the other consisting of six methylene groups connected together to form a benzene ring. Methylene is a chemical species consisting of one carbon atom and two hydrogen atoms. While both worked, the first required large amounts of energy while the second required much less.

The team stressed the need to not only reduce the size of the transistors, but also to reduce the amount of energy spent in transferring data. These results seem more like a discovery and not a realizable transistor for computing, as multiple transistors would be required to manufacture a processor. As of now, there are no existing methods to connect many benzene rings together in such a way as to allow for accurate data manipulation.

Source: Discovery News