Sci-Tech Briefs

Popcorn may cause lung disease

According to Cecile Rose, a doctor at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, fumes from microwave popcorn may have led to a “deadly lung disease” in one of her patients.

Rose claims that her patient, who consumed two or more bags of popcorn per day, experienced coughing and breathing difficulty. Medical tests revealed that the patient had bronchiolitis obliterans.

This lung disease was seen about five years ago in popcorn factory workers. The disease may be linked to consumption of diacetyl, a chemical found in microwave popcorn. High levels of diacetyl were detected at the home of Rose’s patient.

Experts have not yet found a direct link between consuming diacetyl and contracting lung disease. However, some companies, including General Mills and Pop Weaver, said that they will stop making their microwave popcorn with diacetyl.

Source: WebMD

Scientists make muscle fibers

Harvard University researchers have created patterns of muscle fibers using molecular chains.

To create these fibers, researchers first placed protein bands on top of polymers. They then placed muscle cells on top of these protein bands, and after incubation, the muscle cells formed fibers.

In experiments, the muscle fibers were arranged into specific shapes; researchers moved the fibers by shocking them with electricity.

The muscle cells used in the experiment came from mice. Eventually, though, researchers would like to use muscle cells from human hearts to repair damaged organs and test new drugs.


IBM creates molecular switch

Researchers from IBM have developed a molecular switch that can rotate without changing shape.

The molecule is called naphthalocyanine. It has two hydrogen atoms that are located on opposite ends of the molecule, and researchers have seen these two atoms flip when electricity is applied to the molecule.

Because the switch does not change shape when turned on or off, it can be combined with other switches to form a logic gate. A logic gate is a circuit whose output is determined by patterns of inputs. When an electrical pulse is sent through one of the molecules, it travels through the adjoined molecules.


Tropical disease spreads to Europe

Health officials report that the disease Chikungunya, which is native to the tropics, has spread to Europe. The disease may continue to spread around the world if the virus is hereditary in mosquitoes.

Chikungunya is transmitted by a type of mosquito called Aedes albopictus. The disease affected over 100 people in Italy this summer. Researchers suggest that the virus spread to Italy through a man who contracted the virus in India.

Symptoms include nausea, headaches, and muscle pain. There is no cure for this disease.