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Showing posts from December 23, 2015

Curbing Premature Birth May Hinge on a Single Molecule

Blocking a molecule in the uterus could delay or even halt premature birth, the leading cause of death and disability of newborns worldwide, according to a new study in rodents. As many as 3 percent are born quite prematurely, after less than 31 weeks of pregnancy, said study co-senior author Dr. David Cornfield, a pediatric pulmonary medicine physician and scientist at Stanford University in California. Premature birth can lead to major problems because many organs, including the brain, lungs, and liver, need the final weeks of pregnancy to fully develop.

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Skin-to-Skin 'Kangaroo-Style' Care May Benefit Newborns' Health

Babies born with a low birth weight who are regularly held by their mothers skin-to-skin — or "kangaroo style" — may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, according to a new analysis of previous research. In the analysis, researchers looked at 124 studies that examined the relationship between so-called kangaroo mother care and health outcomes in newborns. Newborns born at a low birth weight — less than 4.4 lbs. (2 kilograms) — who received kangaroo mother care had a 36 percent lower chance of dying prematurely, compared with low-birth-weight newborns who did not receive such care, the researchers found.

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Oh, Rats: Pet Rodent's Bite Gives Teen Rare Fever

A teenage girl who was scratched when breaking up a scuffle among her three pet rats wound up in the hospital with an extremely rare case of rat-bite fever. The infection, which is caused by a bacterium found in rat saliva, generally causes fever, joint pain and rash, and is fatal in up to 13 percent of cases, according to the report of the young woman's case. Rat-bite fever, which was described in writings dating back 2,300 years, is rare: Only about 200 cases of the disease have been reported in the past 150 years, the authors wrote in their report, published today (Dec. 22) in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

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Evil-Thwarting 'Rattles' Found in Prehistoric Infant's Grave

Tiny figurines that may have been used as rattling toys or charms to ward off evil spirits were discovered in the grave of an infant dating back 4,500 years, archaeologists say. The infant's remains, which were found in what appears to be a birchbark cradle, suggest he or she was less than a year old at death. On the infant's chest, archaeologists found "eight miniature horn figurines representing humanlike characters and heads of birds, elk, boar and a carnivore,"wrote archaeologists Andrey Polyakov and Yury Esin, in an article published recently in the journal Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia.


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Toddler Tech Pros? 2-Year-Olds Adept at Touch Screens

Kim Kardashian recently blamed her 2-year-old daughter, North, for posting a photo to Kardashian's Instagram account — but can toddlers really use touch screens? In the study, 91 percent of parents with touch-screen devices, such as smartphones or tablets, reported that their toddlers were able to swipe on the devices. "Children as young as 12 months of age are able to use [touch-screen] devices, and by 24 months have developed an array of skills allowing them to interact purposefully with a touch screen," the researchers wrote.

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Hail the Hydra, an Animal That May Be Immortal

A new study finds that hydra — spindly, freshwater polyps — can live seemingly forever, without aging. Unlike most multicellular species, hydra don't show any signs of deteriorating with age, according to the new research, published Dec. 7 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "I started my original experiment wanting to prove that hydra could not have escaped aging," study researcher Daniel Martinez, a Pomona College biologist, said in a statement.


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2 'Extinct' Sea Snakes Discovered Off Australian Coast

Two species of venomous sea snakes that were thought to be extinct have been discovered slithering off the coast of western Australia. The brownish-purple leaf-scaled sea snake (Aipysurus foliosquama) and the yellowish-brown short-nosed sea snake (Aipysurus apraefrontalis) once lived among the Ashmore and Hibernia reefs in the Timor Sea, but disappeared between 1998 and 2002, the researchers said. After that, both species were listed as critically endangered, first by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2010, and next by Australia's threatened species legislation in 2011, and many scientists presumed they were extinct.


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