What's The Buzz

What's The Buzz

Turn off the light at night to lose weight

It is well-known that too much junk food and lack of exercise makes us fat. But a new research suggests there may be another factor at play: too much light at night.

The study in mice has shown that persistent exposure to light at night may lead to weight gain, even without changing physical activity or eating more food. Researchers found that mice exposed to a relatively dim light at night over eight weeks had a body mass gain that was about 50 per cent more than other mice that lived in a standard light-dark cycle.

“Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others,” said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

The study appears this week in the online early edition of the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’.

High-resolution X-ray camera to help dentists

A Swedish company has taken inspiration from an advanced technique used for miniaturising space hardware to make a visit to the dentist a little more comfortable.

The tiny new high-resolution X-ray camera captures pictures that are dramatically more detailed and with higher contrast than the conventional X-ray machines widely used. The heart of the camera is a tiny ‘structured scintillator’ device that converts X-rays to visible light. The camera was designed by Scint-X and the scintillator was built by Swedish company Nanospace.

In fact, the production technology has already been used by Nanospace to cut the world’s smallest rocket motor out of silicon wafers. “Our scintillator uses a specially structured silicon substrate and with this unique and patented manufacturing technique we can obtain substantially higher resolution than what is on the market today,” explained Per Wiklund of Scint-X.

The X-ray unit inserted into the patient’s mouth is much thinner than today’s models, making the procedure more comfortable. Scint-X’s innovative technology also has potential for use in space. The Swedish Space Corporation is planning to use the camera aboard a rocket in May 2011 by ESA.

Theory of modern drug design challenged

New evidence that challenges the current theory about a process key to the way modern drugs are designed and how they work in the human body has been uncovered by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute.

The theory about ligands — compounds that bind to proteins and trigger a specific biological action — and how they bind to proteins runs along the lines of a one person-one vote paradigm. Ligands are considered to be the relatively static partner in the process, and easily rejected if the protein dramatically changes shape.

In contrast, working with the molecular systems that recognise the hormone estrogen, the study found that as protein receptors change shape ligands can adapt to that change, binding productively to both active and inactive structures.

The scientists worked with a receptor (which binds substances triggering certain biological effects) for the hormone estrogen and a well-known estrogen receptor antagonist (which blocks the receptor).

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