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Text messages, friends and erectile dysfunction medication for children.

Fall 2005
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Air-quality texts


Street-by-street air-quality warnings could one day be routinely text-messaged to asthma sufferers.

THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY is text-messaging air-quality warnings to the cell phones of 1,000 asthma sufferers in London. The service, YourAir, predicts the levels of air pollutants—down to individual streets—by analyzing traffic patterns and other sources of pollution. Plans are in the works to include satellite observations to improve the accuracy of the reports.

THE LENGTH OF GENE SEQUENCES, once dismissed as nonfunctional, may be a key to determining behavioral traits—ranging from who remains a faithful spouse to who is outgoing and who is shy. Scientists at Emory University found that the length of these sequences determined male-female relations as well as parenting performance in a species of voles.

VIAGRA may benefit children suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension, a potentially fatal lung disease. A Canadian study followed the progress of patients for a year. After six months on the drug, which increases blood flow by relaxing muscles in blood vessels, children were able to walk farther and breathe easier.

YOU CAN PICK YOUR FRIENDS, the saying goes, but you can’t pick your family. And that could help explain why in one 10-year study, adults 70 and older with a strong group of friends lived longer than those with children and relatives, according to Australian scientists.

CHIMPS AND HUMANS share a 99% similarity in their DNA sequences but virtually no recombination hot spots (sites where there are increased DNA exchanges between two parents’ chromosomes). Scientists in the U.S., U.K. and Netherlands say that hot spots are evolving faster than the rest of the genome—which may help scientists construct better studies to pinpoint disease-causing genes.

AN INJURED ATHLETE could continue training by watching other athletes, say scientists at UCL (University College London). Once an athlete has learned a skill, their study suggests, parts of the brain can simulate the physical movement while the athlete is simply observing it. This has implications for stroke victims: Watching a motor skill they used to be able to perform could help them relearn it.

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