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Archive - Sep 27, 2014

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Discovery of Branched Carbon Molecule in Space Supports Interstellar Origin of Life

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule – one with a branched structure – contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. Like finding a molecular needle in a cosmic haystack, astronomers have detected radio waves emitted by isopropyl cyanide. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, known as the ALMA Observatory, a group of radio telescopes funded partially through the National Science Foundation, researchers studied the gaseous star-forming region Sagittarius B2. Astronomers from Cornell, the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, and the University of Cologne describe their discovery in the September 26, 2014 issue of Science. Organic molecules usually found in these star-forming regions consist of a single “backbone” of carbon atoms arranged in a straight chain. But the carbon structure of isopropyl cyanide branches off, making it the first interstellar detection of such a molecule, says Dr. Rob Garrod, Cornell senior research associate at the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. This detection opens a new frontier in the complexity of molecules that can be formed in interstellar space and that might ultimately find their way to the surfaces of planets, says Dr. Garrod. The branched carbon structure of isopropyl cyanide is a common feature in molecules that are needed for life – such as amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. This new discovery lends weight to the idea that biologically crucial molecules, like amino acids that are commonly found in meteorites, are produced early in the process of star formation – even before planets such as Earth are formed. Dr.

New Poison Dart Frog Species Confirmed by DNA Sequencing

A bright orange poison dart frog with a unique call has been discovered in Donoso, Panama, and described by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. In the species description published on September 24, 2014 in Zootaxa, the frog was named Andinobates geminisae for Geminis Vargas, "the beloved wife of [coauthor] Marcos Ponce, for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology." Every new species name is based on a representative specimen. The specimen for this species was collected February 21, 2011, in the headwaters of the Rio Caño, in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama, by Samuel Valdés, who was then the MWH Global Inc. environment office director, and his field assistant, Carlos de la Cruz. Additional specimens were collected between the Rio Coclé del Norte and the Rio Belen by biologists Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista, then a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí. The specimens were deposited in the Museo de Vertebrados at the University of Panama, the Museo Herpetólogico de Chiriquí at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí, and in the Círculo Herpetólogico de Panamá. "Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce were the first to note the presence of this species," said Dr. Cesar Jaramillo, a Smithsonian herpetologist. "They've known it was there for several years. However, they were not sure if it was only a variety of another poison dart frog species, Oophaga pumilio, which exhibits tremendous color variation. Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates." Dr.

Single-Cell Mass Cytometry of Immune Cells Used to Establish Protein Signatures That Predict Recovery Time from Surgery

On September 25, 2014, Fluidigm (NASDAQ:FLDM) (www.fluidigm.com) in South San Francisco, California, announced that researchers at Stanford University had demonstrated the ability to predict the recovery time of patients who underwent surgical trauma. Convalescence after surgery varies significantly from patient to patient—often with protracted recovery periods resulting in personal suffering as well as substantial societal and economic costs. Now, using the deep profiling capabilities of mass cytometry, scientists have been able to correlate changes in certain blood cell types with surgical recovery times, underscoring a growing understanding of how immune health relates to recovery from traumatic injuries. These findings were published online on September 24, 2014 in Science Translational Medicine. Researchers used Fluidigm’s CyTOF® Mass Cytometry Instrument, a high parameter single-cell-based platform that can determine functional responses in precisely phenotyped immune subsets. The system was employed to comprehensively characterize phenotypic and functional alterations of the human immune system as they occurred in-vivo, in patients undergoing major surgery -- hip replacement in this instance. “A major advantage afforded by the use of the CyTOF instrument lies in its ability to detect finely tuned cell subsets with signaling changes that would be undetectable using other technologies,” said Gajus Worthington, Fluidigm Chief Executive Officer and President. “The discovery, using a panel of 35 protein markers, was only possible using the CyTOF,” Mr. Worthington added. More than 100 million surgeries are performed annually in the United States and Europe. The number is expected to grow as the population ages.