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Scientists are wary of lunar dust

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	    Scientists are wary of lunar dust

U.S. National Space Biomedical Research Institute scientists 
say they are studying the possible negative effects lunar dust 
may have on visiting astronauts.  NSBRI researchers Kim Prisk 
and Chantal Darquenne are evaluating how long exposure to 
deposits of the tiny particles of moon dust can affect an 
astronaut's lungs in a reduced gravity environment. The 
researchers say their findings will influence the design of 
lunar bases and could also provide benefits for healthcare on 
Earth, such as improved delivery of aerosol medications.
During the 1960s and 1970s Apollo lunar missions, dust particles 
were easily transported via spacesuits into the lunar lander 
following moonwalks, officials said. Although there were no 
known illnesses due to exposure, scientists said lunar dust 
is a concern because it has properties comparable to that of 
fractured quartz -- a highly toxic substance. However, the 
Apollo flights lasted only a few days. During the proposed 
return to the moon, astronauts might be exposed to lunar dust 
during missions that could last months. As for benefits on 
Earth, the scientists said their findings might lead to a 
better understanding of how the lungs work and how particles 
distribute within the lungs.

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	 The molecule hydroxyl is detected on Venus

The European Space Agency said the molecule hydroxyl has been 
detected on another planet for the first time by its Venus 
Express spacecraft. The ESA said hydroxyl, an important but 
difficult-to-detect molecule, consists of one hydrogen and 
one oxygen atom. It was detected in the upper reaches of the 
Venusian atmosphere, approximately 60 miles above the surface, 
by Venus Express's Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging 
Spectrometer, or VIRTIS. Scientists said the molecule was 
discovered by turning the spacecraft away from the planet and 
looking along the faintly visible layer of atmosphere 
surrounding the planet's disc. The instrument detected the 
hydroxyl molecules by measuring the amount of infrared light 
they produce. Venus Express showed the amount of hydroxyl at 
Venus is highly variable. It can change by 50 percent from 
one orbit to the next, possibly caused by differing amounts 
of ozone in the atmosphere. "Venus Express has already shown 
us that Venus is much more Earth-like than once thought. The 
detection of hydroxyl brings it a step closer," said one of 
the principal investigators of the VIRTIS experiment, 
Giuseppe Piccioni of The Institute of Astrophysics in Rome.
The discovery is detailed in the journal Astronomy & 
Astrophysics Letters.

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 	  Genes in mice act differently in humans

Although mice are used in medical research since they share 85 
percent of their genes with humans, a U.S. study suggests 
genes behave differently in mice. University of Michigan 
evolutionary biologists Ben-Yang Liao and Associate Professor 
Jianzhi Zhang said their findings have serious implications 
for the use of mouse models in studying human disease. 
"Everyone assumes deletion of the same gene in the mouse 
and in humans produces the same phenotype," said Zhang. "Our 
results show that may not always be the case." Zhang and 
graduate student Liao focused their study on 120 so-called 
essential genes which, through their effects on survival or 
fertility, are necessary for organisms to reach sexual 
maturity and reproduce. "To our surprise, 22 percent of the 
120 human essential genes are non-essential in the mouse," 
Zhang said. "If our sample is unbiased, our results will have 
some important implications," he said, noting people draw 
inferences about gene function by using information from other 
organisms. "We need to be careful doing this because … genes 
may have different functions or different importance in 
different species." The study appears in the Proceedings of 
the National Academy of Sciences.

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