Oldest known rock on Earth is discovered
MONTREAL, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Scientists using geochemical testing say Canadian bedrock more than 4 billion years old might be the oldest known section of the Earth's early crust.
U.S. researchers from the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Canadian scientists from McGill University in Montreal determined an age of 4.28 billion years for rock samples taken from the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt, making it 250 million years more ancient than any previously discovered rocks.
The Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt -- an expanse of bedrock exposed on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec -- was first recognized in 2001 as a potential site of very old rocks.
Samples of the Nuvvuagittuq rocks were analyzed by geologists Jonathan O'Neil of McGill University and Richard Carlson of the Carnegie Institution. By measuring minute variations in the isotopic composition of the rare earth elements neodymium and samarium in the rocks, O'Neil and Carlson said they determined the rock samples range from 3.8 billion to 4.28 billion years old.
Before the study, the oldest dated rocks were from a body of rock known as the Acasta Gneiss in the Northwest Territories, which are 4.03 billion years old.
The findings appear in the journal Science.
New arena in fight against heart disease
LA JOLLA, Calif., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. medical researchers say they are focusing on a new approach in the fight against heart disease.
Scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology say statins -- cholesterol-lowering drugs -- have lowered the number of people who suffer from heart disease and heart attacks.
"We hope we can bite off another chunk by controlling the impact of inflammation-causing immune cells on the artery wall," said Dr. Klaus Ley, director of the institute's recently created Inflammation Biology Division.
"The scientific community used to think cholesterol alone led to plaque formation," Ley said. "While it is true that cholesterol plays a major role, it is not the whole story."
Ley said inflammation caused by the immune system also aids in plaque formation and weakening of the artery wall. As such, it offers a whole new therapeutic avenue for potential ways to combat heart disease.
Ley previously was director of the Berne Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Virginia. He was recently selected as the 2008 recipient of the Bonazinga Research Award from the Society for Leukocyte Biology.
Busy October hurricane period is forecast
FORT COLLINS, Colo., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. hurricane forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say their October forecast calls for three named storms, two of them becoming hurricanes.
If that proves accurate, it would result in nearly twice the storm activity level of an average October.
The Colorado State University weather scientists noted they correctly predicted above average Net Tropical Cyclone activity for the month of September.
Gray, professor emeritus of atmospheric science, and Klotzbach, a research scientist, said that while they correctly predicted above-average September NTC, they predicted more activity than occurred.
"Our October-only forecast calls for thre named storms, two hurricanes, one major hurricane and NTC activity of 35, which is well above the October-only average value of 18," they said. "We think we are now entering a new period of heightened activity that is likely to go for another two or three weeks.
"Information obtained through (Sept. 30) shows we have so far experienced 124 percent of the average of a full season's NTC activity and about 155 percent of the long-period average season through September," they said.
The Atlantic Ocean hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
Study may cut malaria treatment costs
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have developed a method of mass producing an anti-malarial compound, potentially making malaria treatments less expensive.
The researchers, led by University of Illinois microbiology Professor William Metcalf, said the compound is one of a group known as phosphonates, that is made in nature by bacteria. Metcalf said be became interested in that process partly because some phosphonates have antibiotic properties.
Recently, Metcalf and his lab reported successfully identifying the processes by which bacteria make that particular phosphonate compound, known as FR900098.
Although the compound was previously chemically synthesized, that is a costly process, the researchers said. By knowing how the phosphonate is biosynthesized, it can now be inexpensively mass-produced by harnessing the cellular machinery of bacteria.
"Malaria is a problem in Third World countries that can least afford expensive medicines, and many antibiotics are expensive," Metcalf said.
Now he and chemical engineering Professor Huimin Zhao are working to engineer E. coli strains to overproduce FR900098, which can then be harvested for medicine.
The research is reported in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology.