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Stories by Katherine Harmon

Cell Phone Data Could Help Clip Malaria Spread

Your cell phone location information can be used to help you find restaurants or help companies serve you targeted ads. What if all of this data could also play a role in studying and fighting deadly infectious diseases, such as malaria?...

October 11, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Complex Brains Existed 520 Million Years Ago in Cockroach Relative

Your everyday cockroach might not seem terribly intelligent. But new fossil evidence from 520 million years ago suggests that this insidious insect might have had some surprisingly smart early ancestors.Cockroaches and other insects belong to a group called the arthropods, which arose some 540 million years ago...

October 10, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Can Octopuses Help Us Make Better Kindles?

Octopuses and Kindles might have more in common than you think. It's true that you can't read a Jules Verne novel off an octopus. And a Kindle can't camouflage itself against a brightly colored, textured coral reef...

October 9, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Baby Mice Born from Eggs Made from Stem Cells

Stem cells have been coaxed into creating everything from liver cells to beating heart tissue. Recently, these versatile cells were even used to make fertile mouse sperm, suggesting that stem cell technology might eventually be able to play a role in the treatment of human infertility.Now two types of stem cells have been turned into viable mouse egg cells that were fertilized and eventually yielded healthy baby mice...

October 4, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Super-Toxic Snake Venom Could Yield New Painkillers

A bite from the black mamba snake ( Dendroaspis polylepis ) can kill an adult human within 20 minutes. But mixed in with that toxic venom is a new natural class of compound that could be used to help develop new painkillers.Named "mambalgins," these peptides block acute and inflammatory pain in mice as well as morphine does, according to a new study.Researchers, led by Sylvie Diochot, of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Nice University, Sophia Antipolis in France, purified the peptides from the venom and profiled the compounds' structure...

October 3, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Silk-Based Electronics Dissolve on Cue for Vanishing Medical Implants

Imagine an electronic medical implant that, like dissolvable stitches, could disintegrate after it is no longer needed. An innovative combination of silk and silicon have now been used to create just such ephemeral but effective devices, including diodes, transistors, mini heaters and stress sensors.A flexible device that is just nanometers thick can fight post-surgical infections or even capture images—until its work is done, when it vanishes right on cue...

September 27, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Can We Shrink Portions (and the Obesity Epidemic) with Psychology?

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Eating might seem, principally, like a simple, primal act. We get hungry; we eat; we're full. But surprising new research suggests that our habits, previous experiences, and our desire to conform to social norms helps determine not only how much we eat, but also how full we feel later on...

September 26, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Can Personal Technology Stop the Obesity Epidemic?

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—So much of our information from—and interaction with—the world is now mediated by computers, cell phones and tablets that health experts have been practically running themselves ragged trying to find ways to use these conduits to help people make healthier choices.Great success stories have come out of parts of the developing world, where cell phones have been used to improve maternal and infant care and help people adhere to medication guidelines...

September 25, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Bumblebees Quickly Learn Best Paths to Sweet Flowers

Bumblebees, it turns out, don't bumble. Using tiny radar tracking devices, motion-activated cameras and artificial flowers, scientists have learned how the bees themselves quickly learn the best routes to take when they go foraging from flower to flower...

September 20, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Oyster Genome Pries Open Mollusk Evolutionary Shell

The world of the mollusk genome is now our oyster, as researchers have now sequenced the genetic code of this hearty (and delicious) shellfish, revealing it to be even more complex and adaptable than previously imagined.The new genome provides insights how oysters manage to cope with a dynamic habitat and how they build their shells...

September 19, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

What Caused the Yosemite Hantavirus Outbreak?

With the Yosemite tourists having died from this normally high-altitude illness, we spoke with an infectious disease expert to see if hantavirus could spread to other areas of the country...

September 7, 2012 — Katherine Harmon
"Junk" DNA Holds Clues to Common Diseases

"Junk" DNA Holds Clues to Common Diseases

With the new annotation of the human genome, researchers are finding that most of the code between genes is controlling crucial functions for life and health

September 5, 2012 — Katherine Harmon
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