Jul. 11, 2013

Building Better Broccoli, a Nose Spray for Alzheimer's?, Bedtime Blunders, and More

by Jordan Davidson

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Building a Better Broccoli
Broccoli typically hates extreme heat—that’s why East Coasters are often forced to buy varieties grown in temperate California. But Thomas Bjorkman—vegetarian, processed food poo-pooer, and petri dish mastermind—is out to change that. He’s engineered a broccoli variety into a wundercrop that thrives in heat and is inexpensive to grow. While it will take a few years before you see Bjorkman’s broccoli stacked on supermarket shelves, some of the project’s seeds are already being sold by distributors. Just imagine—local New York broccoli plucked in mid-July!
 
Targeting Alzheimer’s
A team at Northwestern University is honing a technique that could be used for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers created an antibody that binds to what most neuroscientists consider the primary toxin responsible for Alzheimer’s, and they linked it to nano-sized iron oxide compounds that can be seen through MRI. Such scans could signal the presence of the disease in its early stages. The antibody-nanoparticle probe—which could one day be delivered to humans via nasal spray—could also potentially be used for early treatment or monitoring how sufferers respond to therapy.
 
Bedtime Blunders
Irregular bedtimes may lead to sleep deprivation and body-clock disruptions that negatively affect a child’s ability to learn and store new information, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Researchers looked at a long-term study of British children and found that kids without routine bedtimes fared worse on a variety of mental tasks, at various ages, than children who went to bed at a prescribed hour. Girls were more affected than boys. As for the "right" bedtime, it doesn’t matter when a child hits the sack—the hour just needs to be consistent. Goodnight; sleep tight, little one.
 
High Alert Lemurs
Why worry about security when others can do it for you? New research published in PLoS ONE suggests that the Sahamalaza sportive lemur—a little-known, critically endangered Madagascan primate—will glean information about predators from the distress signals of surrounding animals such as the crested coua or a Madagascar magpie-robin. This is the first record of a lemur using information from a non-primate species. Here, we’re left to wonder, could the sportive lemur also learn to tune out those awful car alarms?

 

 

 

About Jordan Davidson

Jordan Davidson is a freelance writer based in New York.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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