SciTech Briefs

Whooping cough booster shot safe for pregnant women

Researchers from the Health Partners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis, Minn. have determined that pregnant women can safely get a Tdap booster shot during pregnancy without increasing the risk of their having problems during birth. The Tdap booster shot protects against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that women receive the Tdap booster during the last few months of pregnancy in order to protect themselves against pertussis, and also provide protection for the newborn, which is otherwise unprotected until eligible for the shot at two months old.

The results of this study have been published in the Nov. 12 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Source: Science News

New technology improves lung cancer detection

John Roeske, a professor of radiation oncology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, along with a team of researchers, has developed new technology that allows for improved detection of early-stage lung cancer during radiation therapy.

The technology combines the current method of dual-energy imaging with fluoroscopy, which allows for enhanced visibility of tumors. The researchers believe this new technology could be cost-effective for hospitals because the combined approach would require new software and, therefore, would not require the hospital to replace their current X-ray machines.

Roeske and his colleagues have patented this technology and recently presented this research at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

Source: Science Daily

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot caused by ultraviolet light

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. have discovered that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is caused by chemical decomposition due to sunlight. Using ultraviolet light to simulate the sun, they discovered that breaking down ammonia and acetylene, two chemicals known to be found on Jupiter, produced a color similar to that of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

The researchers also determined that this color is greatly dependent on altitude. The Great Red Spot’s extremely high altitude allows for ammonia particles to be higher in the atmosphere and, therefore, closer to the sun, which facilitates the break down of ammonia and acetylene. This decomposition is also promoted due to the vortex shape of the Great Red Spot, which traps ammonia particles in a single location.

Source: Science Daily

Serotonin shown to mediate pain and itch in mice

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have determined that serotonin, a chemical messenger produced in response to pain, is also involved in the regulation of itch.

The researchers found that mice with decreased serotonin levels didn’t respond as much to itch-causing irritants as mice with normal serotonin levels. They discovered that mice’s response to itch is regulated by A1 and gastrin-dependent peptide receptors activated by serotonin. When a mouse scratches an itch, pain causes the release of serotonin. This release activates the two regulatory receptors, which cause the mouse to again experience an itch. Researchers believe this mechanism explains why, excluding immediate relief, scratching increases itchiness instead of reducing it.

Source: Science News

U.S. and China commit to carbon emission cuts

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced their commitment to achieve specific cuts in carbon emissions.

President Xi Jinping declared that China’s carbon emissions would peak around 2030. President Obama announced that, by 2025, the United States would cut emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels.

Despite these concrete goals, experts still say these cuts are not enough to prevent an increase in global temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is thought to be the point at which global warming will become irreversible. These targets are precedents to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference set to begin Nov. 30.

So far, no other countries have announced specific plans to reduce emissions.

Source: The New York Times

Link between depression and infectious disease

In a recent paper, Turhan Canli, associate professor of psychology and radiology at Stony Brook University and the director of Stony Brook’s Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Center, has suggested that major depressive disorder (MDD) be considered an infectious disease.

He supports this suggestion by noting that patients with MDD exhibit behavior that suggests an illness-related cause, that parasites, bacteria, and viruses can alter emotional behavior, and that microorganisms greatly affect physiology and genetics. Canli proposes that research on depression should be shifted toward explicitly defining the link between MDD and infectious disease.

Source: Science Daily