SciTech Briefs

Carnivorous mouse aids research on pain signals

Researchers at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas have discovered that the southern grasshopper mouse, the only carnivorous mouse in North America, could help in the production of painkillers due to mutations that make the mouse resistant to pain.

Arizona bark scorpions are among the most poisonous scorpions in the world, but grasshopper mice are impervious to their poison. Normally, scorpion venom interacts with the Nav1.7 protein. Grasshopper mice, however, have mutated genes that encode a different protein, called Nav1.8, that blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. Researchers are looking into the special Nav1.8 protein in order to determine if it could help develop human painkillers.

Source: NewScientist

Temperatures reach new high in eastern Arctic

Gifford Miller, a geological sciences professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, and his team have determined that average temperatures over the last century in the Eastern Canadian Arctic are higher than they have been any century in at least the past 44,000 years.

Miller and his team looked at dead moss samples from receding ice caps on Baffin Island. Radiocarbon dating determined that the mosses have been covered by ice for at least 44,000–51,000 years. Radiocarbon dating is only precise up to about 50,000 years, so it is possible that the moss had not been exposed to the elements since before the last glaciation stage, which was approximately 120,000 years ago.

Miller’s team predicts that all of the ice caps on Baffin Island will eventually melt.

Source: ScienceDaily

New focus on improving deep brain stimulation

The Federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has declared that over the next five years they intend to invest over $70 million in brain implants to improve existing technology and create new technology.

The new program — called Systems-Based Neurotechnology and Understanding for the Treatment of Neuropsychological Illnesses — is part of the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative. Current deep-brain stimulation can treat disorders, but cannot track its own effectiveness. Researchers involved with the program hope to develop deep-brain devices able to monitor symptoms themselves and treat situations appropriately.

Source: The New York Times