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Study: HIV likely to remain deadly

Tucson -- An ancestor of the AIDS virus is thousands of years older than previously thought, suggesting HIV will be around for some time yet, U.S. scientists say.

Simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV, which infects monkeys, took thousands of years, not hundreds as previously believed, to evolve into a mostly non-lethal state, suggesting HIV will remain deadly to humans for a long time, University of Arizona researchers say.

SIV, unlike HIV, does not cause AIDS in most of its primate hosts. If it took thousands of years for SIV to become non-lethal, it would likely take a very long time for HIV to follow the same path, scientists say.

New gene technique zeroes in on disease

Ann Arbor, Mich. -- A new technique has identified a gene responsible for an inherited kidney disorder and may speed the search for cures of other diseases, U.S. scientists say.disorder

Researchers at the University of Michigan described their success with exome capture, a groundbreaking genetic analysis technique, in the journal Nature Genetics.
The success offers hope that scientists can speed the painstaking search for the genes responsible for many rare diseases and test drugs to treat them, a UM release said Thursday.

Friedhelm Hildebrandt and colleagues combined exome capture with a method of ultra-fast data analysis to identify a new gene involved in a family of congenital cystic kidney diseases.

Acne, not treatment, creates burdens

New York -- Norwegian researchers looking into the mental health of teenagers with acne say there's no link between therapies for acne and depression or suicidal thoughts.

Adverse events once thought to be associated with the effects of medication more likely reflect the social and mental burdens substantial acne can place on young people, an article in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology said.

Acne commonly affects adolescents during an important period when social relationships change and develop and young adults become increasingly independent, and when physical appearance is an essential factor in maintaining self-image and confidence, the article said.

Call for European ocean health 'network'

Brussels -- Scientists and policy makers in Europe say they want an integrated network of marine observatories to monitor the health of the area's seas and oceans.

The aim is reliable, long-term data to underpin science and policy decision regarding the use of seas for fisheries, aquaculture, energy and shipping, as well as tourism and recreation, a European Science Foundation release said Thursday.

"We should not take for granted the wealth and well-being provided by the seas and oceans" Lars Horn of the Research Council of Norway and chair of the Marine Board said. "This call needs to be heard by national and European decision makers and budget holders.

New details of moon's surface revealed

Washington -- Our moon was bombarded by two distinct waves of asteroids or comets in its youth, leaving it surface more complex than previously thought, U.S. scientists say.

New results from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft are featured in papers appearing in the Sept. 17 issue of Science, NASA said in a release Thursday.

LRO data shows there were two separate populations of impacts on the moon's surface with the earlier period featuring much larger impacts than the later assault, James Head of Brown University wrote in a study.

The rich record of craters on the moon can give clues to the effects of similar impacts in Earth's early history, he said.

'Tornado tours' big business in Midwest

Columbia, Mo. -- Tornado Alley has become a U.S. vacation destination for world tourists seeking an experience beyond just thrills, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Missouri say most of these travelers aren't just looking for risk but are seeking a unique and unconventional opportunity to enjoy the power and beauty of nature, a university release said.

Sonja Wilhelm Stanis and Carla Barbieri, associate professors in the School of Natural Resources, surveyed these "tornado tourists" and found the pull of tornadoes on people is worldwide.

Drugs to genetically 'target' cancers

Bethesda, Md. -- U.S. scientists say they're on the trail of drugs that can use genetic data to target individual types of cancers, stopping and even reversing them.

Researchers using genetic information derived from the human genome sequencing project have completed a clinical trial of a drug to block the effects of a specific gene mutation linked to malignant melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

In the trial, tumors shrank by at least 30 per cent in 24 out of 32 patients and disappeared entirely in two other patients, the newspaper said.

Further trials will be called for, as the drug has side effects and can only treat the one very narrow type of gene mutation, researchers say.

Comets may have 'seeded' life on Earth

Livermore, Calif. -- The building blocks of life on Earth may have been brought to the planet by special delivery -- by comets slamming into the Earth's surface, researchers say.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California say comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced amino acids, the precursors of life, a laboratory release said.

Their computer simulations show long chains containing carbon-nitrogen bonds can form during shock compression of cometary ice in an impact. After expansion, the long chains can break apart to form complexes containing the protein-building amino acid glycine, scientists say.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are linear chains of amino acids.

Walrus 'haul-out' puzzles U.S. scientists

Point Lay, Alaska -- Scientists say tens of thousands of walruses have hauled themselves from the ocean to gather on an Alaskan beach in a behavior that has researchers puzzled.

The huge pod of marine mammals has congregated on a beach just north of Point Lay on Alaska's Arctic Ocean coast, the Alaska Dispatch reports.

"You can see them right now," Mayor Leo Ferreira said Friday. "I am on the main road facing the ocean. I am right by the church and I can see them right here and they are about two miles away."

Ferreira theorizes that ship traffic is diverting the walruses to shore in unusually large numbers.

But government scientists say they suspect it has more to do with an increasing lack of sea ice.

Gene could improve crop yields

Edinburgh, Scotland -- A discovery in plant genetics could help scientists develop crops that could grow well in cooler conditions, U.K. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh were part of a study that found a gene known as Spatula limits the growth of plants in lower temperatures to possibly help them survive in cooler weather, a university release said Thursday.

Scientists believe that by manipulating the gene, they might produce the opposite effect -- enabling development of crops that grow better as temperatures get cooler.