Nell Greenfieldboyce http://nhpr.org en Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems http://nhpr.org/post/big-data-peeps-your-medical-records-find-drug-problems No one likes it when a new drug in people's medicine cabinets turns out to have problems — just remember the Vioxx debacle a decade ago, when the painkiller was removed from the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.<p>To do a better job of spotting unforeseen risks and side effects, the Food and Drug Administration is trying something new — and there's a decent chance that it involves your medical records.<p>It's called <a href="http://www.mini-sentinel.org/">Mini-Sentinel</a>, and it's a $116 million government project to actively go out and look for adve Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:27:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 52281 at http://nhpr.org Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't http://nhpr.org/post/little-spacecraft-couldnt An audacious quest to reconnect with a vintage NASA spacecraft has suffered a serious setback and is now pretty much over.<p>The satellite launched in 1978 and has been in a long, looping orbit around the sun for about three decades. Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:55:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 51653 at http://nhpr.org The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon http://nhpr.org/post/engines-sputter-life-vintage-spacecraft-turns-toward-moon A gung-ho group of <a href="http://spacecollege.org/isee3/">space enthusiasts</a> has started the process of putting a vintage NASA spacecraft on a new flight path, so that this venerable piece of hardware will be able to do useful science once again.<p>The old spacecraft, called ISEE-3, launched back in August 1978. Its original job was to hang out between the Earth and the Sun and study their interactions. Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:44:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 51561 at http://nhpr.org As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet http://nhpr.org/post/chemists-expand-natures-genetic-alphabet For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.<p>The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.<p>What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.<p>The instructions in DNA really are written in a kind of code. Wed, 07 May 2014 18:18:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 48090 at http://nhpr.org Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet Who's Protecting Whom From Deadly Toxin? http://nhpr.org/post/whos-protecting-whom-deadly-toxin Questions are swirling around a science journal's decision last year to publish a description of a newly discovered botulinum toxin while omitting key genetic details that researchers would normally disclose.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/11/230957188/why-scientists-held-back-details-on-a-unique-botulinum-toxin">unusual case</a> highlights important unresolved issues in how to balance scientific openness with the worry that biological information could potentially be misused.<p>NPR has learned that the scientist at the center of this controversy has not been sharing ma Tue, 22 Apr 2014 00:41:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 47153 at http://nhpr.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' http://nhpr.org/post/scientists-spot-planet-looks-earths-cousin Scientists who have been hunting for another Earth beyond our solar system have come across a planet that's remarkably similar to our world.<p>It's almost the same size as Earth, and it orbits in its star's "Goldilocks zone" — where temperatures are not too hot, not too cold, and maybe just right for life.<p>But a lot about this planet is going to remain a mystery, because it's 500 light-years away.<p>Researchers detected the planet while poring over data collected by <a href="http://kepler.nasa.gov/">NASA's Kepler Space Telescope</a>. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:02:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46943 at http://nhpr.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says http://nhpr.org/post/climate-change-adjustments-must-be-fast-and-large-un-panel-says A new report from the United Nations' panel on climate change says major action is needed, and fast, if policymakers want to limit global warming to acceptable levels.<p>There's an international target to control climate change: keeping the global temperature rise to just 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The <a href="http://mitigation2014.org/">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a> now says it's technically possible to meet that goal. Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:40:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46676 at http://nhpr.org Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious http://nhpr.org/post/scientists-publish-recipe-making-bird-flu-more-contagious The Dutch virologist accused of engineering a dangerous superflu a few years ago is back with more contentious research.<p>In 2011, <a href="http://www.erasmusmc.nl/MScMM/faculty/CVs/fouchier_cv?lang=en">Ron Fouchier</a> and his team at Erasmus Medical Center took the H5N1 flu virus and made it more contagious. Now the team has published another study with more details on the exact genetic changes needed to do the trick.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/tags/146924995/h5n1">H5N1</a> bird flu is known to have sickened 650 people worldwide, and of those, 386 died. Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:06:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46545 at http://nhpr.org Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier http://nhpr.org/post/smithsonians-air-and-space-museum-get-30-million-spiffier Throngs of museum-goers mill through the grand entrance hall of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., every day, gawking at such treasures as the Apollo 11 capsule that carried Neil Armstrong's crew to the moon and back, as well as Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:45:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46145 at http://nhpr.org Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel http://nhpr.org/post/ethicists-tell-nasa-how-weigh-hazards-space-travel NASA is hoping to soon venture out farther into space than ever before. Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:23:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46062 at http://nhpr.org Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits http://nhpr.org/post/new-dwarf-planet-found-solar-systems-outer-limits Scientists have spotted a new dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. It's a kind of pink ice ball that's way out there, far beyond Pluto.<p>Astronomers used to think this region of space was a no man's land. But the <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/dwarf-planet-stretches-solar-system-s-edge-1.14921#/ref-link-1">new findings</a> suggest that it holds many small worlds — and there are even hints of an unseen planet bigger than Earth.<p>"We used to think there's just not much out there. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:01:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 45670 at http://nhpr.org New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium http://nhpr.org/post/if-yellowstone-could-talk-it-might-squeak-blame-helium A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.<p>The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7488/full/nature12992.html">Nature</a> this week.<p>The helium is being released because in the past couple of million years — very recently, in geologic time — that old part of the crust has been feeling the heat from a huge volcano that is now s Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:39:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 43817 at http://nhpr.org If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research http://nhpr.org/post/drugmakers-and-nih-band-together-speed-research The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.<p>The public-private partnership is called <a href="http://www.nih.gov/science/amp/index.htm">AMP</a>, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.<p>This is a five-year, $230 million venture. NIH is splitting the cost with industry. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 42989 at http://nhpr.org Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth http://nhpr.org/post/ancient-plagues-dna-revived-1500-year-old-tooth Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.<p>They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.<p>This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22767313">Justinian plague</a>. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:59:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 42613 at http://nhpr.org Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? http://nhpr.org/post/search-habitable-planets-why-stop-earth In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says.<p>So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2013.1088">study</a> published this month in the journal <em>Astrobiology</em>.<p>"In my point of view, astrono Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:35:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 41973 at http://nhpr.org In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'?