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March 11, 2013, DHNS

Life expectancy linked to DNA length

Researchers have been able to predict survival rates among patients with heart disease based on the length of strands of DNA found on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres. The new study found that the longer the patient’s telomeres, the greater the chance of living a longer life.

Previous research has shown that length of telomere can be used as a measure of age, but these expanded findings suggest that they may also predict the life expectancy of patients with heart disease.  Telomeres protect the ends of chromosome from becoming damaged. As people get older, their telomeres get shorter until the cell is unable to divide.

John Carlquist, PhD, director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab said once telomeres become too short, they no longer function properly, signalling the end of life for the cell and when cells reach this stage, the patient’s risk for age-associated diseases increases dramatically. Carlquist and his colleagues from the Intermountain Heart Institute at IntermountainMedical Center tested the DNA samples from more than 3,500 heart attack and stroke patients.

He said that their research shows that if statistically adjusted for age, patients with longer telomeres live longer, suggesting that telomere length is more than just a measure of age, but may also indicate the probability for survival.
Longer telomere length directly correlate with the likelihood for a longer life—even for patients with heart disease.

Quantum computing moves closer to reality

New technologies that exploit quantum behaviour for computing and other applications are closer than ever to being a reality due to recent advances. These advances could enable the creation of immensely powerful computers as well as other applications, such as highly sensitive detectors capable of probing biological systems.

“We are really excited about the possibilities of new semiconductor materials and new experimental systems that have become available in the last decade,” Jason Petta, one of the authors of the report and an associate professor of physics at Princeton University said.

Petta co-authored the article with David Awschalom of the University of Chicago, Lee Basset of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales and Evelyn Hu of Harvard University.

Two significant breakthroughs are enabling this forward progress, Petta said in an interview.

The first is the ability to control quantum units of information, known as quantum bits, at room temperature.  Until recently, temperatures near absolute zero were required, but new diamond-based materials allow spin qubits to be operated on a table top, at room temperature.

Stonehenge was a huge burial ground

A new theory proposed by British researchers suggests Stonehenge may have started as a giant burial ground for elite families around 3,000 BC.

According to the researchers, new studies of cremated human remains excavated from the site suggest that about 500 years before the Stonehenge was built, a larger stone circle was erected at the same site as a community graveyard. These were men, women, children and it seems they belong to family groups, said University College London professor Mike Parker Pearson, who led the team.

"We'd thought that maybe it was a place where a dynasty of kings was buried, but this seemed to be much more of a community, a different kind of power structure," the new channel quoted Parker Pearson as saying.

Archeologists who studied the cremated bones of 63 individuals believe they were buried around 3,000 B.C, said Parker Pearson.

The location of many of the cremated bodies was originally marked by bluestones, he said.


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