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March 31, 2014 | By Mary MacVean
If legislation banning smoking protects people from disease, then the proportion of the world population covered by such laws is too low - just 16%, according to researchers. “Smoke-free legislation is associated with substantial reductions in preterm births” and hospital visits for asthma, the researchers wrote in the Lancet last week. That conclusion, combined with the benefits of such laws to adults, is strong support for the recommendation of the World Health Organization to create smoke-free environments, wrote the researchers from the Maastricht University School for Public Health, Hasselt University and the University of Leuven, both in Belgium, and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
March 28, 2014 | By Howard Blume
David Koff, a filmmaker and union activist whose investigation of a campus construction project profoundly changed the Los Angeles school system, has died. He was 74. He committed suicide March 6 in Hastings, N.Y., his family said. Koff was the indefatigable researcher who, in the 1990s, took on the Belmont Learning Complex, turning it into a symbol of civic dysfunction as it became the nation's most expensive high school. Outside Los Angeles, Koff was best known as a talented documentary filmmaker who took uncompromising stands.
March 27, 2014 | Monte Morin
As new revelations further discredit a highly publicized Japanese study on the use of acid to create so-called STAP stem cells, scientists in the U.S. have quietly announced a research breakthrough that involves a more traditional means of producing the amazingly versatile cells. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers said they had successfully generated embryonic stem cells using fertilized mouse embryos -- a feat that many scientists had thought was impossible.
March 26, 2014 | By Melissa Healy, This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.
When one of us takes in another's face, it's like a party in the brain. Signals dart from region to region as we piece together the eyes, the mouth, the emotional expression, the degree of attraction or fear we may feel, the memory of a familiar feature or mannerism. New research has found that, by listening in long enough to an individual's brain as he or she gazes at many faces, one can sketch a pretty good facsimile of an unfamiliar new face that person is seeing. Using the same technique, one might one day be able to reconstruct a facial image called to someone's mind by memory, or even seen in a dream.
March 25, 2014 | By Karen Kaplan
Unusual rib bones that grow out of the neck are giving scientists new clues about what caused the woolly mammoth to become extinct roughly 10,000 years ago. The so-called cervical ribs - extra rib bones that protrude from the vertebrae at the base of the neck - were about 10 times more common in mammoths living in the Late Pleistocene than they are in elephants alive today, according to a study by Dutch researchers published Tuesday in the...
March 24, 2014 | By Mary MacVean
A fair amount of conversation about e-cigarettes has involved their use in purportedly helping people to quit smoking. Researchers on Monday said the evidence for that has been “unconvincing,” and they suggest that regulations should forbid such claims until there's supporting research. In a letter Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Internal Medicine, researchers from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco noted that e-cigarettes are “aggressively promoted as smoking cessation aids.” Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery operated; they heat substances that usually include nicotine to deliver a vapor for inhalation that often also contains flavors (fruit, bubble gum and others)
March 24, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
You need a biopsy, or some other kind of minimally invasive treatment, and you are feeling anxious. Nothing is likely to go wrong, but you're still worried.  Would pre-procedure hypnosis help? Maybe. Soft music? Possibly. But a small study presented Monday at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 39th annual meeting, suggests that donning a pair of video glasses that displays a movie or television show only you can see is likely to help you the most.  "Whether they were watching a children's movie or nature show, patients wearing video glasses were successful at tuning out their surroundings," said David L. Waldman, chairman of the department of imaging sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., and lead author of the study.
March 19, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
Alzheimer's disease and other dementias not only destroy the lives of those who suffer from them but take a devastating toll on family caregivers and on those who must pay the cost of care. An estimated 5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's. But that number will increase exponentially in the years ahead because of what Robin Barr, a senior official at the National Institute on Aging, calls "an aging tsunami. " A highly cited published research analysis estimates that the number of people with Alzheimer's around the world will jump from 36 million today to 115 million by 2050.
March 17, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
Researchers at MIT are giving plants super powers by placing tiny carbon nanotubes deep within their cells. Some of the altered plants increased their photosynthetic activity by 30% compared with regular old plants. Others were able to detect tiny traces of pollutants in the air. And that's just the beginning. Medicines and machines, inspired by nature "The idea is to impart plants with functions that are non-native to them," said Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT. Strano's lab has been working at the nexus of plant biology and nanotechnology -- an area called plant nanobionics -- for three years, trying to figure out how to give plants new abilities.  Their first challenge was getting the nanotubes into the plants.
March 15, 2014 | By Alan Zarembo
It costs about $2,000 to buy an ounce of the illegal drug, the therapist said - enough for roughly 150 doses. She pays her longtime dealer in cash; he gives her a Ziploc bag of white powder. Back home, she scoops the contents into clear capsules. She calls it "the medicine"; others know it as MDMA, the active ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy. MDMA has been banned by the federal government since 1985 as a dangerous recreational drug with no medical value. But interest is rising in its potential to help people suffering from psychiatric or emotional problems.
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