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The Arctic: Brittle Behavior

The arctic ice field may be more “fragile” than previously thought, say a team of French and American researchers.1 In the March 2007 issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters,2 they suggest that the arctic ice field behaves not like a viscous fluid, as earlier mechanics models indicated, but like a brittle solid. Because this thin coat of ice plays a vital role in the regulation of the earth's climate, by both reflecting sunlight away from the ocean and acting as a thermal insulator, this discovery will require important alterations to current climate models.

1. French researchers from LGGE: Laboratoire de glaciologie et géophysique de l'environnement (CNRS / UJF Grenoble), with colleagues from Darthmouth College and the University of Washington.

2. J. Weiss et al., Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 255:1-8. 2007.



Cystic Fibrosis

Genetic testing could help target new treatments for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. A joint CNRS/INSERM team in Paris found that patients with a particular type of mutation in the CFtr gene, the one involved in the development of the disease, could be treated with gentamicin, an antibiotic commonly used for bacterial infections.1 A strategy that will be tested for other illnesses as well, such as certain types of myopathies.

1. I. Sermet-Gaudelus et al., BMC Medicine. 5: 5. 2007.



(No) Mood Disorders?

Could nitric oxide help regulate mood disorders? Last April, researchers from the IGF1 highlighted an interaction between the enzyme that synthesizes nitric oxide (NO) in the brain and the protein that carries serotonin, a key mood regulator.2 If researchers are able to “manipulate” this interaction, their work could lead to new therapies for patients who are immune to traditional antidepressants.

1. Institut de Génomique fonctionnelle (Inserm / CNRS / Universités Montpellier 1 and 2).

2. B. Chanrion et al., PNAS. 104: 8119-24. 2007.



Ocean Fertilization

New research casts doubt on the efficacy of “ocean fertilization,” a proposal by geo-engineering companies to artificially add iron to the ocean as a way to reduce carbon concentration in the atmosphere. Indeed, a team led by Stéphane Blain1 just showed2 that artificial iron supplements are ten times less efficient in activating the ocean's “biological carbon pump” (the microorganisms that fix carbon molecules and draw them down to the depths) as the natural iron already present in the water. Besides, the side effects of such additions on marine resources remain largely unknown.

1. Laboratoire d'océanographie et de biogéochimie de Marseille (CNRS / Université Aix-Marseille 2).

2. S. Blain et al., Nature. 446: 1070-4. 2007.


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