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  • News in Brief

    Kidney stones grow and dissolve much like geological crystals

    It took a close look at crystal formation in Yellowstone’s hot springs to understand stones much closer to home. Growth and dissolution patterns found in rocks there mirror what’s going on with stones in our kidneys, says Bruce Fouke, a geobiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, contradicting the medical dogma that kidney stones don’t dissolve.

    Fouke, who usually...

    09/21/2018 - 07:00 Health, Physiology
  • News

    Tiny bits of RNA can trigger pain and itchiness

    Some snippets of RNA can be a real pain.

    A microRNA called miR-30c-5p contributes to nerve pain in rats and people, a new study finds. A different microRNA, miR-711, interacts with a well-known itch-inducing protein to cause itching, a second study concludes. Together, the research highlights the important role that the small pieces of genetic material can play in nerve cell function,...

    08/13/2018 - 14:06 Cells, Physiology, Neuroscience, Genetics
  • News

    How a slime mold near death packs bacteria to feed the next generation

    In the final frenzy of reproduction and death, social amoebas secrete proteins that help preserve a starter kit of food for its offspring.

    Dictyostelium discoideum, a type of slime mold in soil, eats bacteria. Some wild forms of this species essentially farm the microbes, passing them along in spore cases that give the next generation of amoebas the beginnings of a fine local patch of...

    07/27/2018 - 15:35 Microbes, Cells, Physiology
  • It's Alive

    How a squishy clam conquers a rock

    Burrowing giant clams have perfected the ship-in-a-bottle trick, and the one big thing that scientists convinced themselves couldn’t explain it, actually can.

    Tridacna crocea, the smallest of the 10 or so giant clam species, grows a shell that eventually reaches the size of a large fist. Starting as youngsters, the burrowers bore into the stony mass of an Indo-Pacific coral reef,...

    06/22/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Physiology, Microbes
  • News in Brief

    Here’s how drinking coffee could protect your heart

    Coffee revs up cell’s energy factories and helps hearts recover from heart attacks, a study of mice suggests.

    In the study, researchers gave mice the equivalent of four cups of coffee a day for 10 days before inducing heart attacks in the rodents. Cells in mice that got caffeine repaired the heart attack damage better than cells in mice that didn’t get caffeine, researchers report June...

    06/21/2018 - 14:00 Cells, Physiology
  • News

    Green blood in lizards probably evolved four times

    Green blood is weird enough. But now the first genealogical tree tracing green blood in New Guinea’s Prasinohaema lizards is suggesting something even odder.

    These skinks have been lumped into one genus just because of blood color, says biologist Christopher Austin of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Yet they don’t all turn out to be close relatives. Green blood looks as if it...

    05/16/2018 - 14:10 Animals, Evolution, Physiology
  • News in Brief

    Larger spleens may help ‘sea nomads’ stay underwater longer

    In turquoise waters off the Indonesian coast, evolutionary geneticist Melissa Ilardo watched as the diver, wearing handmade, wooden goggles, spotted a giant clam meters below and darted down to retrieve it.

    The diver was one of the Bajau people of Southeast Asia, known for holding their breath for long periods while spearing fish and gathering other seafood. During a typical day, these “...

    04/19/2018 - 15:04 Physiology, Genetics
  • News

    A peek into polar bears’ lives reveals revved-up metabolisms

    View the video

    Female polar bears prowling springtime sea ice have extreme weight swings, some losing more than 10 percent of their body mass in just over a week. And the beginnings of bear video blogging help explain why.

    An ambitious study of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Alaska has found that their overall metabolic rate is 1.6 times greater than thought, says wildlife...

    02/01/2018 - 15:24 Animals, Physiology, Climate
  • News

    Light pollution can prolong the risk of sparrows passing along West Nile virus

    SAN FRANCISCO — Even moderate light pollution can roughly double the time a house sparrow remains a risk for passing along the worrisome West Nile virus.

    House sparrows, about as widespread across the United States as artificial lighting itself, make a useful test species for a first-of-its-kind study of how night illumination might contribute to disease spread, said Meredith Kernbach,...

    01/19/2018 - 09:00 Physiology, Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Blowflies use drool to keep their cool

    SAN FRANCISCO — Blowflies don’t sweat, but they have raised cooling by drooling to a high art.

    In hot times, sturdy, big-eyed Chrysomya megacephala flies repeatedly release — and then retract — a droplet of saliva, Denis Andrade reported January 4 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. This process isn’t sweating. Blowfly droplets put the cooling...

    01/05/2018 - 18:04 Animals, Physiology