SciTech Briefs

New technique makes healthier cheese

Currently yogurt is the most common delivery vehicle for probiotics, or bacteria which symbiotically benefit the intestinal health of the host. However, Portuguese researchers have developed a technique to easily monitor the composition of cheese as it ripens using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). This new technique may allow for healthy bacteria to be safely incorporated into cheese in the future, thus avoiding protein degradation in the new cheeses.

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

Unknown particle detected by Fermilab’s Tevatron

Fermilab’s Tevatron particle accelerator in Illinois detected a particle of unknown origin last week. The particle may not fit the Standard Model, which describes particle physicists’ best guess at how all of the elementary particles in the physical world interact.If the particle is proven to be real, it may turn the current understanding of particle physics on its side. Physicists say that there is a 1:1000 chance that the detection of the particle was a statistical fluke, giving them confidence that it was real, but opening up many questions as to its source.

Source: New Scientist

New evaluation of strawberry evolution

A new variety of strawberry has had its genome sequenced this year. This new sequencing data of the woodland strawberry, Frageria vesca, provides the opportunity to analyze the evolution of the domestically cultivated strawberry, Frageria ananassa. Analysis of the woodland strawberry also indicates that the assignment of strawberries to the Frageria class may be incorrect and that an assignment to the Populus class might be more applicable.

Source: Nature Genetics

Smartphones may improve public transit

Boston and San Francisco commuters participated in a study that involved giving up their cars for a week in favor of traveling by public transit. The study found that having real-time information about transit schedules, delays, and stops made the participants significantly more likely to utilize the public transit system. These results are anticipated to catch the attention of transportation planners and programmers alike to increase the ridership of mass transit options and take more individual automobiles off the road.

Source: Wired magazine

Pennsylvania calls for more water-quality testing

In response to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency to the state, Pennsylvania environmental regulators are calling for an increase in water quality testing to assess whether radioactive pollutants and other contaminants from Marcellus Shale drilling are affecting the state’s rivers and other bodies of water. This involves adding radium, uranium, and a few other previously unconsidered pollutants to the list of contaminants tested for, and increasing the frequency of tests.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Icelandic genetics expose gene for sick sinus syndrome

The genotype of over 38,000 Icelanders has been evaluated to show prevalence of a gene that can lead to increased susceptibility of sick sinus syndrome, which is a serious heart rhythm disorder. The research shows that a single mutation in the gene MYH6 can lead to a change in the structure of a protein. The risk of being diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome increases from 6 percent for patients without the mutation to 50 percent for patients with the mutation.

Source: Nature Genetics