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2008 Research Press Releases

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Modified Plants May Yield More Biofuel
Modified Plants May Yield More Biofuel 22 December 2008Plants, genetically modified to ease the breaking down of their woody material, could be the key to a cheaper and greener way of making ethanol, according to researchers who add that the approach also could help turn agricultural waste into food for livestock.
Drama in the Heart of the Tarantula
Drama in the Heart of the Tarantula 11 December 2008A new image of the Tarantula Nebula, a massive star-forming region close to the Milky Way, will be released on 11 December 2008 by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The image, which will help astronomers to understand how massive stars shape other worlds, represents almost 31 hours of observing time with the Chandra X-Ray Telescope -- three times longer than previously recorded.
Probing Question: What is Nanotechnology?
08 December 2008You might not realize it, but there's probably some cutting-edge science in your dresser drawer. If you've ever bought a stain-resistant shirt or wrinkle-proof khakis, then you've experienced products created by one of the hottest arenas in scientific research: nanotechnology.
Properties of Unusual Virus Revealed in Research
Properties of Unusual Virus Revealed in Research 08 December 2008A team of researchers from Penn State University and the University of Chicago has uncovered clues that may explain how and why a particular virus, called N4, injects an unusual substance — an RNA polymerase protein — into an E. coli bacterial cell. The results, which are published in the current issue of the journalMolecular Cell, contribute to improved understanding of the infection strategies used by viruses that attack bacterial cells. Such viruses are known as bacteriophages, or phages. The results also may help other researchers to come up with new ideas about ways to kill E. coli bacteria, which can be dangerous to humans.
Scientists Sequence Woolly-Mammoth Genome
Scientists Sequence Woolly-Mammoth Genome 19 November 2008Scientists at Penn State are leaders of a team that is the first to report the genome-wide sequence of an extinct animal, according to Webb Miller, professor of biology and of computer science and engineering and one of the project's two leaders. The scientists sequenced the genome of the woolly mammoth, an extinct species of elephant that was adapted to living in the cold environment of the northern hemisphere. They sequenced four billion DNA bases using next-generation DNA-sequencing instruments and a novel approach that reads ancient DNA highly efficiently. More information about this project is on the Web at http://rw.mammoth.psu.edu/.
Scientists Discover New Planet Orbiting Dangerously Close to Giant Star
Scientists Discover New Planet Orbiting Dangerously Close to Giant Star 18 November 2008A team of astronomers from Penn State and Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland has discovered a new planet that is closely orbiting a red-giant star, HD 102272, which is much more evolved than our own Sun. The planet has a mass that is nearly six times that of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. The team includes Alexander Wolszczan, the discoverer of the first planets ever found outside our solar system, who is an Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the director of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State; and Andrzej Niedzielski, who leads his collaborators in Poland. The team suspects that a second planet may be orbiting HD 102272, as well. The findings, which will be published in a future issue of The Astrophysical Journal, shed light on the ways in which aging stars can influence nearby planets.
Researchers Shed Light on Evolution of Gene Regulation
 Researchers Shed Light on Evolution of Gene Regulation 18 November 2008Scientists at Penn State have shed light on some of the processes that regulate genes -- such as the processes that ensure that proteins are produced at the correct time, place, and amount in an organism -- and they also have shed light on the evolution of the DNA regions that regulate genes. The team focused on regulatory regions that, when bound to the protein GATA1, are thought to turn on genes that play an important role in the development of red blood cells. "Our findings could help others to develop drugs to treat people who suffer from sickle-cell anemia and other blood disorders," said Ross Hardison, the T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the team's leader. The results will be published on 1 December 2008 in the journal Genome Research.
Underwater Eden: Dispatches from Northeast Brazil
Underwater Eden: Dispatches from Northeast Brazil 18 November 2008Researchers have been embarking on a quest to document the uniqueness of Brazil’s coral species by studying the symbiotic algae that they require to survive. These dispatches chronicle their expedition.
Probing Question: What is a Molecular Clock
17 November 2008It doesn’t tick, it doesn’t have hands, and it doesn’t tell you what time of day it is. But a molecular clock does tell time—on an epoch scale. The molecular clock, explains Blair Hedges, is a tool used to calculate the timing of evolutionary events.
Global Warming Link to Amphibian Declines in Doubt
12 November 2008Evidence that global warming is causing the worldwide declines of amphibians may not be as conclusive as previously thought, according to biologists. The findings, which contradict two widely held views, could help reveal what is killing the frogs and toads and aid in their conservation.
Penn State Ranked in Top 5 for Astrophysics Research
Penn State Ranked in Top 5 for Astrophysics Research 07 November 2008Penn State is ranked among the top five institutions in the United States for its research in astronomy and astrophysics, according to a new research study published this week in the on-line journal of astrophysics, Astro-Ph. The study was conducted by A. L. Kinney, the former director of the astrophysics division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The investigation evaluated 36 institutions with doctoral-degree programs for the impact of their published research in astronomy from 1993 to 2003. Penn State ranked fourth in the nation for the astronomical research performed in its academic departments, laboratories, centers, and other research facilities.
Center for Nanoscale Science Receives $13.2 Million NSF Grant
22 October 2008Penn State's Center for Nanoscale Science has received a six-year, $13.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue research and educational activities in its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.
Silencing a Protein Could Kill T-Cells, Reverse Leukemia
22 October 2008Blocking the signals from a protein that activates cells in the immune system could help kill cells that cause a rare form of blood cancer, according to physicists and oncologists who combined computer modeling and molecular biology in their discovery.
Scientists Use Light to Control Proteins
Scientists Use Light to Control Proteins 16 October 2008A team of researchers from Penn State and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has discovered a way to use light to control certain proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions. "This is one of the first examples of someone successfully controlling the activity of a protein using light," said Stephen Benkovic, Penn State Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry, and one of the team's leaders. "The technology one day could be expanded to have multiple uses, including the ability to turn off the activities of some disease-causing proteins in the cell," he said. The team's results will appear in the 17 October issue of the journal Science.
Metal Particles That Power Themselves to Move Like Living Cells
15 October 2008Ayusman Sen makes tiny, non-living objects do something they have never been able to do on their own -- he makes them move. He also makes them chase food, engulf prey, tug cargo, gather like beach-goers on a steamy summer day, and disperse as though a shark just paid a visit to the swimming area.
Penn State Receives New NASA Astrobiology Grant
  14 October 2008
Researchers Teach Computers to Search for Photos Based on Their Contents
  08 October 2008
Scientists Identify Gene that May Contribute to Improved Rice Yield
  29 September 2008
Nearby Supernova Discovered, Among the Brightest Ever in X Rays
  25 September 2008
Bryan Grenfell Wins $10 Million from Gates Foundation to Help Stop Spread of Infectious Diseases
  23 September 2008

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