The largest analysis of mouse genes to date has identified the function of 159 genes whose purpose was previously unknown. An international group of researchers including three Canadians developed new statistical methods to analyse the 413 measurements and 320 genes from each mouse. The new data set is available to the scientific community as a reference resource. The researchers took 413 measurements, including body weight, behavioral traits, and grip strength, from over 27,000 mice. They identified physical traits associated with 159 out of 179 genes whose functions were previously unknown. More at the Science Media Centre of Canada.
Footprints found in clay on the shore of Calvert Island on British Columbia's central coast appear to be 13,200 years old, which would make them older than any others ever found in North America. University of Victoria archeologists Duncan McLaren and Daryl Fedje led the team that made the discovery. More at Hakai Magazine.
Mick Bhatia, director of McMaster University's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, says his lab hopes to eventually develop neurons that could one day be transplanted into patients to restore healthy brain cells as a treatment for various diseases, like Alzheimer's. More at the CBC.
Scientists at the University of Alberta used MRI video to determine what happens inside finger joints to cause the distinctive popping sounds heard when cracking knuckles. For the first time, they observed that the cause is a cavity forming rapidly inside the joint. Watch the video available at the UofA Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Statistics Canada reported today that, based on the 2013 census, one in four Canadian households maintain bird feeders in their gardens. Homes in non-urban settings had the most bird feeders at 36%, while city dwellers provide bird feeders at the rate of 20%. Also, 9% of Canadian families own bird identification books or binoculars for bird watching.
Spiders make seven different kinds of silk they use for different purposes. But although humans have farmed silkworms for thousands of years, spider silk has proven impractical. Instead, scientists in Jan Rainey's biochemistry lab at Dalhousie University are working out the molecular nature of the strongest kind of spider silk, which is used for wrapping prey, and using the knowledge to create new ultra-strong biomimetic fibers. Read more...
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has issued its latest guidelines on adult obesity prevention and management. Adult obesity in Canada has nearly tripled in the past 40 years. Today 67% of men and 54% of women are considered overweight or obese making adult obesity one of Canada’s most pressing public health challenges. Among other things the new guidelines recommend life-style changes over diet drugs such as orlistat or metformin. Experts note that a weight reduction of even 5% is beneficial and can extend life expectancy.
Canada would need to leave 75 per cent of its oil in the ground as part of a global effort to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a new study shows. The authors also conclude that the exploitation of resources in the Arctic should be ruled out. Using computer models, the authors found that if current global fossil fuel reserves are burned as planned, that will result in CO2 levels on Earth about three times higher than the +2 degree C level predicted by IPCC models. See our Stop The Burning page, Source: Science Media Centre.
A team of scientists, led by the University of Toronto's Barbara Sherwood Lollar, has mapped the location of hydrogen-rich waters found trapped kilometres beneath Earth's surface in rock fractures in Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia. Hydrogen sulfide and other salts in these waters support bacterial life, possibly for billions of years, which means there could be similar life deep beneath the surface of Mars and other planets. More at eScience news.
A team of over 50 scientists led by Andras Nagy of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital have discovered a new class of stem cells, which could eventually lead to new treatments for all sorts of diseases. In particular they have characterized all the proteins involved in the three week process that changes an ordinary skin cell into a stem cell, which can then become any kind of cell in the human body. The results are published today in the journal Nature.
Researchers at Université Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering and Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers have developed smart textiles able to monitor and transmit wearers' biomedical information via wireless or cellular networks. This technological breakthrough, described in a recent article in the scientific journal Sensors, clears a path for a host of new developments for people suffering from chronic diseases, elderly people living alone, and even firemen and police officers. read more
Canadian scientists working with the element iridium in Gary Schrobilgen's lab at McMaster university set a new record for the highest formal oxidation state in the periodic table of the elements. Oxidation state describes the number of electrons an atom loses or gains when it joins with other atoms in chemical compounds; the higher the oxidation state, the more electrons, critical in many applications, especially batteries. Previously the highest number was 8. Working with Chinese and German colleagues, the scientists created a gaseous form of iridium tetroxide reaching an oxidation state of 9. More at the Science Media Centre...
Two recent papers suggest that some parasites may be good for us. UBC botanist Laura Wegener-Parfrey and Julius Lukeš of the Canadian Centre for Advanced Research question our traditional perception of intestinal parasites. The papers offer a systematic review of cases where humans have deliberately ingested parasites for research and suggest that certain parasites could have beneficial effects on conditions such as Crohn's disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. More at Science Media Centre of Canada.
Amber is fossilized tree sap, an organic polymer that lasts millions of years, far longer than any plastic. A new analysis technique delveloped by scientists at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa explains how amber achieves its strength and durability, and could help humans mimic it in their own materials. Scientists have been able to isolate the building blocks – including communol, ozol and succinic acid. Now we are beginning to understand how exactly how they fit together. More at the Science Media Centre of Canada.
Researchers have discovered a link between egg size of chinook salmon and their ability to deal with warmer temperatures. The team captured spawning salmon and measured examined the genetic and maternal effects acting on the ability of offspring to tolerate heat; they found that mothers with larger eggs have more thermally tolerant offspring. As egg […]
Green-chemistry researchers at McGill University have discovered a way to use water as a solvent in one of the reactions most widely used to synthesize chemical products and pharmaceuticals.
Scientists have named a new species of horned dinosaur (ceratopsian) based on fossils collected from Montana in the United States and Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops (mer-cure-E-sare-ah-tops) gemini was approximately 6 meters (20 feet) long and weighed more than 2 tons. It lived about 77 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. Research describing the new species is published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.
An international team led by glaciologists from the University of Colorado Boulder and Trent University in Ontario, Canada has completed the first mapping of virtually all of the world's glaciers -- including their locations and sizes -- allowing for calculations of their volumes and ongoing contributions to global sea rise as the world warms.
A virus that invaded the genomes of humanity's ancestors millions of years ago now plays a critical role in the embryonic stem cells from which all cells in the human body derive, Canadian research shows. Computational biologist Guillaume Bourque at McGill University in Montreal, co-authored the study published online March 30 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. Read more about this at National Geographic.
Expected to rival the Burgess Shale, a new fossil bed in the Kootenays should shed more light on the great Cambian explosion of diversity of living creatures that happened about 550 million years ago. Many fosilized creatures found at the new site have never been seen before. The team leader Jean-Bernard Caron is a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum. Read more...
Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in Canada have discovered that two genes linked to hereditary Parkinson's disease are involved in the early-stage quality control of mitochondria. The protective mechanism, which is reported in The EMBO Journal, removes damaged proteins that arise from oxidative stress from mitochondria.
A study released today demonstrates how Canadian women prefer to choose non-science and non-mathematics related university courses even if they have a propensity for math in high-school. The study was based on the 2011 National Household Survey as well as a long-term Youth in Transition study that followed students from 2000 - 2010. Even if women have high mathematics aptitute they are twice as likely to choose to study the social sciences rather than engineering and computer science. Read the full study at the Statistics Canada Website. The data supports the findings of Canadian neuroscientist Doreen Kimura who has studied sex differences in human brains all her life.
Trends related to the most-tweeted peer-reviewed scientific papers published between 2010 and 2012, and their social media success, have been identified by Stefanie Haustein at the University of Montreal's School of Library and Information Science. Based on 1.4 million documents from PubMed and Web of Science, it is the largest Twitter study of scholarly articles so far. Consider that a paper about an altered gene during radiation exposure was tweeted 963 times but only received 9 academic citations. "When we look at the most tweeted articles, many have a surprising or humourous character. Articles are often tweeted anecdotally," says her supervisor Vincent Larivière.
Scientists and surgeons at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have discovered a promising new approach to treating colorectal cancer by disarming the gene that drives self-renewal in stem cells that are the root cause of disease, resistance to treatment and relapse. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world.
An international team of scientists led by physicist Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada have created stable "Qubits" of information encoded in a room temperature silicon system lasting 100 times longer than ever before. Such memory systems are essential for future quantum computers. More from the BBC.
Swallowing pills containing a concentrate of fecal bacteria successfully stops recurrent bouts of debilitating Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection by rebalancing the bacteria in the gut, according to Dr. Tom Louie at the University of Calgary.
University of Calgary scientists have overcome an "Achilles' heel" of quantum-based secure communication systems by using a new approach that works in the real world to safeguard secrets.
Researchers at the University of Alberta announced today that they have determined the chemical composition of human urine. The study, headed by David Wishart took more than seven years and involved a team of nearly 20 researchers. It found that more than 3,000 chemicals or "metabolites" can be detected in urine. The results are expected to have significant implications for medical, nutritional, drug and environmental testing. read more
University of Alberta marketing researcher Jennifer Argo found that people don't recycle products that look like garbage. If a can is dented or a paper package is torn people are more likely to throw it out. The research has implications for policy makers as well as manufacturers of products.
McMaster University researchers have revealed the location of human blood stem cells that may improve bone marrow transplants. The best stem cells are at the ends of the bone.
Canadian neuroscientists in Montreal contributed to a landmark three-dimensional (3D) digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain. You can fly through brain anatomy at a spatial resolution of 20 microns, smaller than a human hair --and it's in the public domain. Lead author is Alan Evans at the Montreal Neurological Institute.
Canada's Mackenzie River basin -- among the world's most important major ecosystems -- is poorly studied, inadequately monitored, and at serious risk due to climate change and resource exploitation, a panel of international scientists warn today.
A team of researchers including McMaster’s Greg Slater discovered what may be some of the oldest pockets of water on the planet pouring out of boreholes in a mine nearly 2.5 km below the ground in Timmins, located in northern Ontario, Canada – and they may contain life. read more
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University scanned participants’ brains as they heard particular patterns of sounds for the very first time. They found that neural activity in a part of the ‘pleasure center’ of the brain reacts differently for different individuals depending on the kind of music they have listened to throughout their lives. Activity in this region also predicted how much people were willing to pay for music. Learn more...
Two University of Calgary researchers have developed a ground-breaking way to make new affordable and efficient catalysts for converting electricity into chemical energy.
Germany’s largest and most prestigious research institute has pulled out of a Canadian government-funded $25 million research project into sustainable solutions to tar sands pollution, citing fears for its environmental reputation. As many as 20 scientists at the world-famous Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres have ceased involvement in the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI), after a moratorium on contacts was declared last month. Read more...
A research team led by the Canadian Museum of Nature has identified the first evidence for an extinct giant camel in Canada's High Arctic. The discovery is based on 30 fossil fragments of a leg bone found on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut and represents the most northerly record for early camels, whose ancestors are known to have originated in North America some 45 million years ago.
Obesity rates across Canada are reaching alarming levels and continue to climb, according to a new University of British Columbia study.
It’s the first research telescope built in Canada in more than three decades and includes scientists from the observatory, the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto. Read more at Macleans.
A group of Canadian scientists at Waterloo University led by engineer philosopher Chris Eliasmith have developed Spaun— the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network— which is capable of complex behaviours such as seeing and recognizing, remembering, thinking about, and writing numbers. It draws numbers "by hand" based on what it learned. The group published a paper recently in Science entitled 'A Large-Scale Model of the Functioning Brain' with details about this state-of-the-art brain model that has redefined the race for a synthetic animal-like brain. Another story appears in Nature.