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Scientists call for new Mars life search

Mountain View, Calif. -- Finding life on Mars should be the top priority for any future robotic probes or rovers sent to the planet, some U.S. scientists argue.

The first and only attempts to search for life on Mars were the Viking missions launched in 1975, and when they failed to find evidence it was generally assumed that cold, radiation, the lack of water and other environmental factors ruled out the chances for microbial activity on or near the surface of Mars, reported.

New pump made for infant heart surgery

West Lafayette, Ind. -- U.S. researchers say they've developed a new heart pump that could help infants born with congenital heart defects survive necessary surgeries.

Scientists at Purdue University have created a "viscous impeller pump" for children born with univentricular circulation, a congenital heart disease that is the leading cause of death from birth defects in the first year of a child's life, a university release said Tuesday.

The normal human heart contains two pumping chambers, called ventricles.

One circulates oxygenated blood throughout the body, while the other less-powerful ventricle circulates deoxygenated blood to the lungs.

Narwhals recruited for ocean studies

Seattle -- U.S. climate scientists hoping to collect sea temperature data in the icy, remote waters of Baffin Bay say they have enlisted some unusual helpers -- narwhals.

A total of 14 of the tusked marine mammals were fitted with thermometers and satellite transmitters during a biological study by a researcher from the University of Washington.

When UW marine biologist Kristin Laidre offered to share temperature data collected during her study of narwhals, climate scientists leaped at the opportunity, the journal Nature reported.

The animals gave the most comprehensive coverage of the bay, between Canada and Greenland, ever recorded, occasionally even diving as deep as 5,800 feet.

Canadian scientists successfully convert skin into blood

Now human skin cells can be directly converted into blood cells without first reversing them into flexible pluripotent stem cells, which are used to grow tissues, Canadian scientists have reported in the journal 'Nature.'

Dead, dying coral at gulf oil spill site

University Park, Pa. -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered dying corals and other sea creatures in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Biologists on a research ship made the discovery Tuesday of a community of corals with numbers of recently dead colonies and others that are clearly dying, a Penn State University release said Friday.

"We discovered a community of coral that has been impacted fairly recently by something very toxic," Charles Fisher, a professor of biology at Penn State who is chief scientist on the cruise, said.
Fisher said a colony of the hard coral species Madrepora at a depth of 4,500 feet appeared to be unhealthy.

Genetic 'variation' linked to autism

Atlanta -- People with a genetic flaw in a particular chromosome have a higher risk of autism and schizophrenia, U.S. researchers say.

While both conditions are known to be influenced by genetic factors, this is the first time a specific flaw or variation leading to a very high risk has been identified, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

Researchers at Emory University analyzed the DNA of more than 23,000 patients with autism, developmental delay, intellectual disability or schizophrenia and say they detected a genetic deletion known as a copy number variation on a particular area -- chromosome 17 -- in 24 of those patients.

19th century artifacts unearthed in Calif.

San Francisco -- Bones and bottles found near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge could offer a picture of how the city's residents lived 150 years ago, researchers say.

City work crews clearing soil contaminated by lead paint uncovered the artifacts at historic Fort Mason, a popular tourist site within view of the iconic bridge, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

"The bones and artifacts were just a couple of feet underground, and as soon as the archaeologist we had on site to monitor the work was notified, he stopped all of the work," National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said.

Federal law intended to prevent looting prohibits her from revealing the exact location, she said.

Scientists seek to 'polish' a technique

Baltimore -- The chore of polishing the family silver may become a thing of the past, as U.S. scientists say they may have banished tarnish to history.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and the Walters Art Museum are developing a microscopic coating they say can slow the tarnishing of silver to a nearly undetectable rate, The Baltimore Sun reported Monday.

A $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the project to refine a process known as "atomic layer deposition," with the main goal of benefiting museums, like the Walters, which hold extensive collections of ancient silver statues, jewelry and other silver artifacts.

One-fifth of world's vertebrates at risk of extinction--study

As per researchers of a new study published in journal 'Science' on Tuesday, one fifth of all vertebrates, animals with a backbone, and plant species are at risk of extinction and something needs to be done to prevent this from happening.

Fossils in amber give clue to India's past

New Delhi -- A rich collection of insect fossils preserved in amber in India shows a greater amount of prehistoric biodiversity than scientists say they expected.

German and U.S. researchers say the 52-million-year-old fossils of bees, ants, gnats, flies, termites and other insects discovered in amber deposits in western India reveal a wider range of insects than India's geological history would suggest, reported Monday.

At the time the amber formed, India was in a period of isolation.

The tectonic plate carrying it had separated from Madagascar about 40 million years earlier, and was just about to collide with the Asian plate that would eventually give rise to the Himalayas.