Science

Twins
5:01 am
Fri June 6, 2014

UW's Twinfest Will Celebrate Twin Culture, And Their Unique Contribution To Science

UW will celebrate twins' unique contribution to science, and publicize the UW Twin Registry, at this weekend's "Twinfest."
Jane Waterbury Flickr

The University of Washington will host a big party this weekend to drum up publicity for a key branch of research, and only twins are on the guest list.

Scientists have long had a keen interest in twins because people who share genes can help tease out the influences of nature and nurture.

“There’s this very unique kind of natural experiment that they provide,” said Dr. Glen Duncan, director of the UW Twin Registry. “So they really provide a very powerful approach to studying very difficult questions.”

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Comb Jellies
5:01 am
Thu May 22, 2014

A Shimmery Sea Blob From The San Juans May Have Just Upended Evolutionary History

Comb jellies may actually represent the first branch on animals' evolutionary tree.
Smithsonian Institution

A squishy little sea creature fished out of the Salish Sea may be rewriting our history of how animal life first evolved.

They’re called comb jellies, and they have nothing to do with hair products. They are translucent blobs that propel themselves with rows of shimmering threads called cilia.

Scientists captured specimens at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories and analyzed their genomes, coming to two pretty startling conclusions. First, these animals have nervous systems, but they look almost nothing like those of people or fish, or any other animal on Earth.

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Ancient Americans
11:00 am
Thu May 15, 2014

First Kennewick Man, Now Naia: Seattle-Area Scientist Probes Secrets In Ancient Skeleton

Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3D model.
Courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

They call her Naia. She was probably about 16, a forager living mainly on fruit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. One day she ventured into a cave when the floor gave out. She plunged maybe 100 feet and died.

And that’s how divers would find her, some 12,000 years later, alongside saber-tooth cats and other extinct animal bones in the now-underwater cave system.

“It’s the most complete female paleoamerican skeleton, period,” said James Chatters, owner of the Bothell-based company Applied Paleoscience.

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Science
11:59 am
Fri May 9, 2014

UW Labs May Move To Avoid Interference From Magnetic Light Rail Trains

Even 100 feet underground, a train can be a headache for scientists that rely on sensitive equipment.
Flickr

For engineers that use sensitive equipment like electron microscopes, a train is a big, moving, magnetic nightmare.

That’s why Sound Transit and the University of Washington are hashing out a deal that would give the university $43 million to move some of its labs across campus, away from a new light rail line in the works set to run beneath them.

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Nuclear Weapons
5:01 am
Thu May 8, 2014

More Washington Nuclear Weapons Workers To Be Screened For Cancer

Two tanks under construction at Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Some construction workers there were exposed to multiple carcinogens.
Department of Energy

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Brain Injuries
5:22 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

A 20-Minute Chat Might Help Boost Recovery For Patients With Brain Injuries

A short intervention by a social worker might help people recover from mild traumatic brain injuries.
Joint Base Lewis McChord Public Affairs Office

Spending just 20 minutes talking to a social worker might boost recovery from head injuries, and the benefits seem to last for months according to new research out of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

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Heart Disease
4:06 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

'Shivers Up My Spine': UW Scientists Take Big Step Toward Healing Damaged Hearts

Implanted graft of cells derived from human stem cells (green) meshed and beat with monkeys' heart cells (red).
Courtesy of the Murry Lab University of Washignton

Seattle researchers have taken a key step toward beating back the world’s leading cause of death by regrowing damaged heart tissue in monkeys.

Scientists had long thought getting heart tissue to regenerate was impossible. But stem cell research began to raise hopes in the 1990s, and over the years, researchers like Chuck Murry of University of Washington Medicine’s cardiology division started to get some traction.

First came successes with rats, then with guinea pigs. Now Murry’s team has managed to repair heart tissue in an animal more closely related to humans: monkeys called pigtail macaques.

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Horse Sense
10:05 am
Mon April 28, 2014

WSU Researchers Sift Spit For Evidence That Therapeutic Horse Programs Work

Washington State University

Horses have been used therapeutically for years, but new research from Washington State University provides some of the first scientific evidence that it works to reduce stress.

Under stress, the body produces a hormone called cortisol, which is supposed to rise and fall in a particular way over the course of a day.

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Evolution
2:37 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Scientists: Washington's State Fish Has A Remarkable Evolutionary Past

The rainbow trout is an incredibly versatile and widespread fish.
Virgil Beck Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

It turns out the Washington state fish is a piece of evolutionary wonder. An international group of scientists sequenced the genome of the rainbow trout and found some surprises. 

About 100 million years ago, something odd happened to the ancestor of salmon and rainbow trout. Instead of inheriting two copies of chromosome sets — one from mom and one from dad, they managed to inherit four copies. In evolutionary terms, this was a recent and dramatic event.

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Aerial Acrobatics
5:00 am
Fri April 18, 2014

UW Researchers: Tiny-Brained Fruit Flies Are Top Gun Fliers

A fruit fly executes an agile banked turn with just the subtlest wing motion.
Florian Muijres University of Washington

New research out of the University of Washington shows that an insect with a brain smaller than a salt grain can take complex evasive action in flight. The findings could have value for engineers.

Consider the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. It’s — actually, wait. You really should click this soundtrack before you read any further.

Right. So, drosophila. You see them buzzing around your wine glass or your compost bin. Maybe you wave it away with your hand, and it seems to dart around to avoid the swat.

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Total Eclipse Of the Moon
3:12 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Seattle-Area Skygazers May See Glimpse Of 'Blood Moon' — If They're Persistent

The "blood moon" glows reddish in the Earth's shadow.
Fred Espenak NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Puget Sound region won’t be the best place to take in the lunar eclipse in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. High clouds are likely to obscure the so-called “blood moon,” which flushes reddish in the shadow of the Earth.

University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass says the northwest Washington coast might fare better. And cloud breaks might give even Seattle-area moon-gazers a glimpse — if they keep looking.  

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Gesture Recognition
3:01 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

UW Team Invents Gesture Recognition Technology That Pulls Power From Thin Air

University of Washington

A University of Washington research team has developed technology that could let people control devices with hand gestures. And the sensor doesn’t use battery power; it pulls electricity out of thin air.

Technology to read hand gestures already exists in devices like Microsoft’s Kinect. But most of it uses cameras or beams, which make it expensive and hungry for electricity.

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Voice Banking
2:04 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Losing Voice To ALS, Kent Man Recording All He'll Ever Want To Say

Carl Moore, a former helicopter mechanic, was diagnosed with ALS 20 years ago.
Justin Steyer KPLU

It's hard to imagine a more devastating diagnosis than ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. For most people, it means their nervous system is going to deteriorate until their body is completely immobile. That also means they'll lose their ability to speak.

So Carl Moore of Kent worked with a speech pathologist to record his own voice to use later, when he can no longer talk on his own.

Brain Science
9:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain

In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end.
Tom Szalay

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 9:07 am

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

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Nutrient Supplements
4:18 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Seattle Scientists: Supplements Thought To Protect Against Cancer Increase Risk

vissago Flickr

Two nutrient supplements once thought to protect against cancer may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a study led by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 4,856 men taking large doses of vitamin E and selenium, either alone or together, or a placebo.

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