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Latest scientists news and updates

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Researchers find 2 gene mutations linked to ovarian cancer

In what can be termed as a breakthrough that will better the treatment of patients suffering from ovarian cancer, scientists have identified two new genes named ARID1A and PPP2R1A, which are responsible for a ovarian cancer, which at times is hardest to treat.

Eye test could reveal Mad Cow disease

Boston -- A look into the eyes of cattle could be the basis of a long-sought test to detect the infection that causes Mad Cow disease, U.S. scientists say.

Such a test could help spot infected cattle and prevent the disease from entering the human food supply, an article in the journal Analytical Chemistry says.

The human form of Mad Cow disease is linked to eating beef from animals infected with abnormal proteins called prions implicated in a range of brain diseases, researchers say.

Studies suggest chemical changes in an animal's retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue in the back of the eye, could provide a basis for detecting prion diseases.

Valuable research frog to get home base

Boston -- An African frog prized by researchers of everything from birth defects to organ regeneration will get a new national home base, U.S. scientists say.

The South African frog, Xenopus laevis, will take up residence at a $3.4 million Xenopus center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., The Boston Globe reported Monday.

Xenopus first became known to medicine in the 1940s, when hospitals worldwide used it in pregnancy tests.

The amphibian is far more prized now as a lab subject, used to study fundamental questions about embryo development.

Xenopus has the unusual ability to regrow the lens of its eye, holding the promise of helping humans regrow organs some day.

Mars life may have been missed years ago

Washington -- New analysis of data sent from Mars 34 years ago showing there was no organic material on the planet suggests maybe there was after all, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers say the result from re-examining findings of the 1976 Viking mission does not bring scientists closer to discovering life on Mars, but it does increase likelihood that life exists, or once existed, on the planet, The Washington Post reported.

The findings demonstrate the risk of "false negatives" in space exploration based on limitations of the equipment used and on scientists' assumptions about conditions beyond Earth, Mary Voytek, senior scientist for astrobiology at NASA, said

Chemical basis for first life theorized

Arlington, Va. -- The start of life on Earth presents a paradox, scientists say: How did amino acids arise before there were biological catalysts needed to build them?

It's a chicken-and-the-egg puzzle: How could the basic biochemicals like amino acids and nucleotides have come about when there were no catalysts, like proteins or ribosomes, around to create them?

Now scientists propose that a third type of catalyst could have jumpstarted metabolism and life itself, deep in hydrothermal ocean vents, an article in The Biological Bulletin says.

Path of giant iceberg tracked from space

Paris -- Scientists say a European satellite has been tracking an iceberg, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, that cracked from the Greenland ice sheet Aug. 4.

The European Space Agency's Envisat satellite has observed the huge mass of ice, 19 miles long by 9 miles wide, since it calved from the Petermann glacier in northern Greenland, an agency release said Friday.

The satellite's latest images show the iceberg has moved about 17 miles from the glacier and is entering Nares Straight -- a stretch of water leading to the Arctic Ocean.

The iceberg has hit a small island, which may delay its progression for a while and could also cause it to break up.

Toxic bacteria present in Greek lake

Athens, Greece -- A type of bacteria that can present a toxic threat exists in the waters of a lake in northern Greece, scientists say.

The bacteria, which can form a dangerous algal bloom on the surface of the water, has existed in Lake Kastoria for two decades, but recent DNA tests confirmed the bacteria, called microcystis, produces toxins that could a pose a risk to public health, Kathimerini newspaper reported.

Experts from the Biology Department at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University say they could not determine whether the concentration of the bacteria in the water is currently at a potentially dangerous level.

NASA plans close encounter with the sun

Washington -- NASA has started development of Solar Probe Plus, a mission to study the sun more closely than ever before, with a target launch date of 2018, the agency says.

The spacecraft will plunge directly into the sun's atmosphere at approximately 4 million miles from the sun's surface, into a region that no other probe has ever encountered, an agency release said.

The mission will carry five separate science investigations hoping to discover more about our sun than any previous mission, NASA said.

Scientists study Earthly 'flip-flop'

Los Angeles -- Scientists studying rocks in Nevada say they've found evidence that Earth's magnetic field can reverse or "flip-flop" more rapidly than previously believed.

"Geomagnetic field reversals" of the Earth's magnetism occur every couple hundred thousand years and normally take about 4,000 years but the Nevada finding suggest at least one particular reversal of the globe's magnetic poles happened much faster, ScienceNews.org reported.

The discovery bolsters the theory, first proposed after a similar examination of rocks in Oregon in 1995, that reversals really can happen quickly, over the course of years or centuries instead of millennia, researchers say.

Computers predicted Gulf oil movement

Santa Barbara, Calif. -- Scientists in California say they were successful in predicting the spread of oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill and when and where it would wash ashore.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, used computer models to describe how slicks of oil tend to be stretched into filaments by motion at the sea surface, a university release said.

To produce predictions of oil movement after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Igor Mezic, a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB who studies fluid dynamics, utilized forecasts of sea surface conditions from a U.S. Navy model.

"We predicted where the oil was going to go," Mezic said. "We were able to do three-day predictions pretty accurately."