Now we know…
June 1, 2011 |  by Dale Keiger

…Johns Hopkins researchers may have found an alternative to liver transplants. A team led by Yoon-Young Jang, assistant professor of oncology at the Kimmel Cancer Center, demonstrated that adult stem cells that had been genetically reprogrammed to revert to an embryonic state succeed in regenerating liver tissue in mice. The research appeared in the May 11 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

…A bit of real-life science fiction: Saturn is beaming ions at its moon Enceladus. The high-energy emissions were discovered by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft using a camera developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory. In a paper published April 21 in Nature, APL’s Don Mitchell and Abigail Rymer noted that the ion beam had sufficient energy to generate a glowing spot, similar to the northern lights observable on Earth, that appeared on images snapped by Cassini.

…Global climate change could result in heat waves that kill between 166 and 2,217 people per year in Chicago, according to analyses by Bloomberg School researchers. Lead author Roger Peng, associate professor of biostatistics, and his team analyzed three climate change scenarios for the years 2081 to 2100. Said Peng in a press release, “For a major U.S. city like Chicago, the impact will likely be profound and potentially devastating.” The research appeared in the May 1 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

…Mild trauma induced by explosions accounts for four-fifths of the brain injuries suffered by combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. A study out of the School of Medicine has found that armor shielding the torsos of laboratory mice subjected to simulated explosive blasts reduced axonal damage to their brains by 80 percent. This suggests that wearing improved body armor could be critical to safeguarding combat troops. Lead author of the study, in the May issue of Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, was Hopkins neuropathologist Vassilis Koliatsos.

…DNA, ordinarily stable, sometimes changes chemically, and these changes have been implicated in a list of cancers, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. In new research published online April 14 by the journal Cell, School of Medicine scientists led by professor of neurology Hongjun Song announced that they had uncovered a previously unknown step and two molecules involved in this alteration of DNA. The finding raises the possibility of future manipulation of the process to treat various diseases.

…Hands-free faucets that automatically dispense water were installed in and near patient rooms in Johns Hopkins Hospital to reduce bacterial contamination. An investigation led by Lisa Maragakis, director of hospital epidemiology, has discovered that the new technology was more likely to be contaminated. The high-tech faucets cut daily water consumption by more than half, but the more complicated valve components appear to offer more surfaces on which Legionella bacteria can grow, despite disinfection efforts. The study was presented at the April annual meeting of the Society for Health Care Epidemiology.