Now we know
August 31, 2011 |  by Dale Keiger

…Biomedical engineers led by School of Medicine professor Jennifer Elisseeff report promising results from experiments with a new composite material that helps restore soft tissue. The material begins as a liquid injected under the skin, which then hardens into a more solid structure that might have use in facial reconstruction. The researchers’ report appeared in the July 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

…The July 20 issue of the same journal published news of a gene-based test to distinguish harmless cysts from precancerous pancreatic cysts. The test—developed by 16 researchers, including several from Johns Hopkins—could help avoid unnecessary surgery to remove benign cysts. Lead author was School of Medicine research fellow Jian Wu.

Consent forms provided to volunteers for HIV/AIDS research are too long and laden with overly complicated language. Meanwhile, frequently misunderstood concepts like randomization and placebos are given insufficient explanation. Those were the findings of a detailed review of consent forms led by Nancy Kass, deputy director of public health at the Berman Institute of Bioethics. The Journal of General Internal Medicine published the study in its August issue.

…School of Nursing assistant professor Sarah L. Szanton was corresponding author on a study that found education level to be a good predictor of preclinical mobility disability (PCD) in older women. Someone diagnosed with PCD has begun to compensate for mobility problems—leaning on a grocery cart, for example—without acknowledging any difficulties. PCD predicts future disabilities that might be prevented by timely intervention, and the study found that women with fewer than nine years of education were more likely to have it.

…Johns Hopkins scientists studying a brain stem cell in adult mice found something unexpected: Not only can the stem cell produce specialized neurons and glial cells, it also can generate two additional stem cells. Co-author Hongjun Song, director of the Stem Cell Biology Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, noted in a press release that researchers might be able to exploit the unexpected property to increase brain stem cells. The study appeared in the June 24 issue of Cell.

…Mathematical skill in young children correlates to an inborn primitive number sense, according to new research led by Melissa Libertus, a postdoctoral fellow in the Krieger School’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. A study of 200 4-year-olds found that the better they were at estimating the number of objects flashed on a computer monitor—a gauge of their innate feel for numbers—the higher their scores on a standardized test of rudimentary mathematics. The study appeared in the August online edition of Developmental Science.