DR/TL*

Brief mentions of things going on among Duke researchers, scholars, and other enterprises

ANIMALS AND MICROBES

Tiny fossilized wrist bones indicate that early apes, living 20 million years ago, swung and climbed in trees millions of years earlier than was previously thought. / Look! A giant squid! / Also it turns out there once was a giant sort of tiger-y thing that weighed 3,000 pounds and had a head as big as a rhino’s and banana-sized canine teeth. Nice kitty. / High-status male baboons, who have to fight their way to that status, seem to have higher genetic activity in immune cells, perhaps because the strong immune function helped them achieve status; female baboons “inherit” status from their mothers, and their immune-cell genetic activity does not seem to vary with status. / The legless larvae of gall midges can jump high—right out of their petri dishes. They do it by bending to connect sort of Velcro-like hair on their heads and butts, and then increasing the tension until they suddenly unsnap. Boing.

PEOPLE

You can only go so fast—about 2.5 times your resting metabolic rate, as it happens. Seems to have to do with how fast your digestive system can process food. Researchers figured this out by studying people who ran six marathons a week for five months, which is a thing that actually happened. / Reviewers selecting medical-school graduates for residencies in radiology discriminated against applicants who were obese or facially unattractive. / Prostate cancer cells become lethal and spread to bones by imitating bone-forming cells. Understanding this may lead to improved ability to target them in therapy. / Cell surface receptors may work much more like dials, with multiple states, than like binary switches with only two. This understanding may vastly improve drug design. / MMP inhibitors, a class of cancer drug that prevented cancer cells from dissolving cell membranes, failed to help prevent cancer spread in human tests. It now seems they failed because in the absence of the capacity to dissolve membranes, cancer cells just build battering rams and bash their way around. / It turns out MRI can not only diagnose heart disease but can also predict which cases are potentially fatal, making MRI, underutilized in cardiac applications, a possible alternative to more-invasive, sometimes toxic tests like catheterization and stress echocardiograms or nuclear tests. / Media accounts of mass shootings by disturbed people reinforce the belief that disturbed people are dangerous, despite the fact that most disturbed people are not violent. Mental illness does, though, correlate with increased risk of suicide, which accounts for most U.S. firearms-related deaths. /Antihistamines block only one of the pathways that bring the itch of poison ivy to you. Proteins and a neurotransmitter seem to carry the signal of itchiness to mice who’ve contacted poison ivy, and blocking them seems to have helped the mice feel better. With climate change seemingly designing an environment specifically to improve things for poison ivy, here’s hoping.

MISCELLANY

Scientists looking at the sky from Chile for six years, and combining multiple measurement techniques, have determined that the mysterious dark energy, which evidently makes up 70 percent of everything even though we can’t see it, still seems really complex. / Conservation efforts do not seem to be slowing deforestation in Cameroon. / Scientists have figured out the structure of the protein that senses cold in people and animals, and now they’ve figured out what that protein looks like when it binds to menthol and another cooling agent. They hope this understanding might lead to improvements in soothing remedies like topical painkillers and migraine medications.*

DUKE

Duke scored twice among 2019 MacArthur Fellows: Danielle (Morris) Citron ’90, now a law professor at Boston University, received a “genius grant” for her work studying online privacy issues. Jenny Tung ’03, PhD ’10, and now associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and biology, received one of the ten-year, $625,000 stipends for her work on the social determinants of health. / Duke received a $50 million grant from The Duke Endowment to accelerate and expand the recruitment of research scientists in the basic and applied sciences. / Health policy scholar Don Taylor, a longtime professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, has been named the new director of Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. / For the eleventh straight year, the Arbor Day Foundation named Duke a 2018 Tree Campus USA. / Ana Baros and Vahid Tarokh of the Pratt School of Engineering have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. / Joseph S. Ramus, professor emeritus at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the highest civilian honors bestowed by the State of North Carolina.

 

*Didn't Read?/Too Long? Well, we did, and now we're all smarter.

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