In Brief

In Brief

In The News

December 23, 2005

In Brief:


Snakeheads found in Delaware River

"Frankenfish" are swimming in the Delaware River. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials have confirmed what they long suspected: Northern snakeheads - aggressive, predatory fish imported from Asia - are in the river and probably growing in number.

"This is certainly not a shocking discovery," said agency spokesman Dan Tredinnick, noting that snakeheads showed up in Meadow Lake at Philadelphia's FDR Park in July 2004.

Snakeheads were first found in a Crofton, Md., pond in 2002. They were dubbed "Frankenfish" because of their voracious appetite, menacing looks and ability to travel short distances over land by using their fins as legs. They can live out of water for several days.

Since then, snakeheads have appeared in the Potomac's Virginia waters. Now that they're in the Delaware, officials say, they could eventually spread throughout the river's drainage, possibly even swimming upstream to Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.



Dark chocolate helps the blood

A few squares of dark chocolate a day may cut the risk of heart disease and artery hardening in smokers, according to a study in this week's edition of the journal Heart.

Researchers at University Hospital in Zurich took ultrasound scans of 20 male smokers two hours after the subjects had eaten 2 ounces of dark chocolate. The scans found that the dark chocolate reduced the activity of platelets, which are cells involved in the formation of blood clots, by about half, according to the study.

The dark chocolate also improved the smoothness of blood flow in the arteries and increased levels of antioxidants, which are chemicals that help fight cancer, the study said. Scientists also tried white chocolate, but it had no effect.

Smoking is one of the major factors associated with cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.



These bubbles aren't spheres

Harvard University researchers have developed "armored" bubbles capable of resisting their natural tendency to become spheres, thus allowing them to be formed into a variety of unusual shapes.

The team, led by engineering research associate Anand Bala Subramaniam, began by adhering the armor - a single chain of metallic or plastic particles - to the surface of gas bubbles. Natural forces compel liquids to reduce their exposed surface to the smallest possible area - a sphere. But the chain of particles, depending on its placement, restricted the bubbles' shape.

The particle chains were flexible enough to allow the researchers to mold the bubbles into the shapes of sausages, peapods, disks, doughnuts and others, said Subramaniam, who reported his results this week in the journal Nature.

Subramaniam said custom-shaped bubbles could be used in the future to create new textures in products such as ice cream and shaving foam. Nonspherical bubbles also could be used to create vessels for carrying minute doses of drugs into irregularly shaped blood capillaries.



Vaccine lessens traveler's diarrhea

An experimental vaccine based on an anti-cholera drug provided some protection against that scourge of tourism, traveler's diarrhea, when put to a rigorous test among U.S. students in Mexico and Guatemala, scientists at Johns Hopkins School Bloomberg School of Public Health report.

"This is a very encouraging first step," said microbiologist A. Louis Bourgeois, who led the study of the Swedish-developed vaccine. The research provides important evidence that a vaccine is possible against the hard-to-avoid germs, giving doctors an active alternative to warning travelers to avoid risky food and water.

Traveler's diarrhea is the leading cause of illness among visitors to developing countries, striking an estimated 20 million international travelers a year. While there are numerous causes, the chief culprit is bacteria called enterotoxigenic E. coli, or ETEC.

Scientists are hunting a variety of ways to make an anti-ETEC vaccine.


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