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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

July 14, 2009 at 5:44 PM   |   Comments

Simulated 105-day Mars mission ends

MOSCOW, July 14 (UPI) -- A crew of six people Tuesday completed a 105-day simulated Mars mission, the European Space Agency said.

The crew left a special isolation facility in Moscow for the first time since March 31, ending an experiment that was part of the Mars500 program that will help scientists better understand the psychological and medical aspects of long spaceflights.

The crew included two ESA crew members: Oliver Knickel, a mechanical engineer in the German army, and Cyrille Fournier, an airline pilot from France. The remaining four were Russians: cosmonauts Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Artemyev, Alexei Baranov, a medical doctor, and Alexei Shpakov, a sports physiologist.

"We have successfully completed our mission," said Knickel. "This is a big accomplishment that I am very proud of. I hope that the scientific data we have provided over the last months will help to make a mission to Mars possible."

During the isolation the crew faced a range of scenarios as if they really were traveling to Mars, including simulated emergencies, while coping with a communication delay of up to 20 minutes each way. The experiments were proposed by research institutes in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and Russia, as well as in the United States.

The study is the precursor to a simulation of a full 520-day mission to Mars and back, which is to start early next year.


Staphylococus infection genetically mapped

DALLAS, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have mapped the genetic profiles of children with Staphylococcus aureus infections, showing how the immune system responds to the pathogen.

The infectious disease specialists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said their findings might lead to improved therapeutic interventions and show why some people are apt to get more severe staphylococcal infections than others.

The researchers said their gene expression profiling summarizes how individual genes are being activated or suppressed in response to the infection. The results pinpointed how an individual's immune system responds to a S. aureus infection at the genetic level.

"The beauty of our study is that we were able to use existing technology to understand in a real clinical setting what's going on in actual humans -- not models, not cells, not mice, but humans," Dr. Monica Ardura, lead author of the study, said. "We have provided the first description of a pattern of response within an individual's immune system that is very consistent, very reproducible and very intense."

However, Ardura stressed more research is needed because the results represent a one-time snapshot of what's going on in the cell during an invasive staphylococcal infection. The next step, he said, is to study those dynamics in patients before, during and after infection.

The research is reported in the online journal PLoS One.


New monkey subspecies found in Brazil

NEW YORK, July 14 (UPI) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society says a new subspecies of monkey has been discovered in a remote region of the Amazon in Brazil.

The organization said the monkey is related to saddleback tamarins, which include several species of monkeys known for their distinctively marked backs. The new subspecies was first seen by scientists on a 2007 expedition into the state of Amazonas in northwestern Brazil.

Researchers have dubbed the monkey Mura's saddleback tamarin (saguinus fuscicollis mura) after the Mura Indians, the ethnic group of Amerindians of the Purus and Madeira river basins where the monkey lives.

Biologists said the monkey is mostly gray and dark brown in color, with a distinctly mottled "saddle." It weighs less than three-quarters of a pound and is 9 inches tall with a 12.6-inch tail.

"This newly described monkey shows that even today there are still major wildlife discoveries to be made," said the study's lead author, Fabio Rohe of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "This discovery should serve as a wake-up call that there is still so much to learn from the world's wild places, yet humans continue to threaten these areas with destruction."

The discovery was reported in the June online edition of the International Journal of Primatology.


43,000 children injured by bathroom falls

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 14 (UPI) -- Every day, an average of 120 U.S. children are hurt in the tub or shower and require treatment at a hospital emergency department, researchers said.

Researchers at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said bathroom slips and falls send more than 43,000 children a year to the emergency room and in most cases, parents are watching their kids.

"Unfortunately, adult supervision isn't enough to prevent these injuries, they happen so quickly that a parent simply can't react quickly enough to prevent them," Dr. Gary Smith of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy said in a statement.

"Therefore it is important to prevent them from happening by using a slip resistant mat inside and outside the bath and shower," he added.

Smith suggested installing support bars so children can hold onto them when getting in and out of the tub and shower.

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