SciTech Briefs

Astronaut embarks on space walk

On Saturday morning, astronaut Scott Parazynski stood on the end of a 60-foot robotic arm to mend a solar array.

Armed with a heavily reinforced space suit and some needle-nose pliers, Parazynski stepped outside the International Space Station and worked on the repairs for seven hours and 19 minutes — all the while avoiding contact with the solar panels, which could transmit electricity.

The space walk put Parazynksi farther from the safety of the airlock than any previous astronaut. The walk took Parazynksi so far out of range that returning to safety would have required more than 30 minutes of oxygen.

Source: The New York Times

Researchers target cancer virus

In a recent study, scientists have shown that as many as 1.3 million cases of cancer a year could be successfully treated by targeting the preexisting viruses that trigger them.

The research, performed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Teshiva University in New York City, could help cure many virus-linked cancers, including liver cancer, cervical cancer, and skin cancer.

The key to preventing cancer is to destroy the virus before it becomes cancerous. This is achieved by radioimmunotherapy, a method in which radioisotopes mounted on antibodies are injected into the body to seek out and destroy viral antigens.

Source: Scientific American

Cat genome is sequenced

The genome of the domestic cat has been sequenced. The subject was a red-furred 4-year-old Abyssinian named Cinnamon.

Knowledge of the genetic makeup could lead to more effective treatment of the cats, which occupy the homes of nearly 90 million Americans.

Researchers estimated that the cat genome would have roughly 20,000 genes, based on pre-existing human, chimp, mouse, rat, and dog analogs.

The genetic makeup of Cinnamon has already helped identify the gene responsible for blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa. The disease causes blindness in kittens, as well as one in every 3500 humans.

Source: The Washington Post

Smallest radio receiver tunes in

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have built the smallest, fully functioning radio receiver using a single carbon nanotube.

The nanotube vibrates at the exact frequency of incoming sound waves, instead of receiving and transmitting electromagnetic signals like traditional receivers.

The nanotube radio, thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, is composed of a seamless tube of carbon atoms. While researchers have developed nano-sized radio wave detectors before, this marks the first time that a nano-sized detector has been functional in a working radio system.

Source: American Chemical Society