Discovered: The Pacific Ocean is polluted with caffeine; Stanford scientists sequence entire sperm genomes; a compound that kills petri-dish HIV; and drinking can prevent kidney cancer.
So that's where all that Stumptown coffee ends up. If the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon seems perkier than usual, that's because it's polluted with caffeine. Portland State University researchers collected samples of sea water from various locations along the Oregon coast, finding that human pollution has caused caffeine levels to rise noticeably. "We humans drink caffeinated beverages because caffeine has a biological effect on us," says Elise Granek, who studies the effects of caffeine on intertidal mussels. "So it isn't too surprising that caffeine affects other animals, too." [EurekAlert]
Sequencing sperm genomes. Stanford University researchers have sequenced entire genomes of 91 human sperm, all taken from the same man. This marks the first time a human gamete has been fully sequenced, and the researchers say the findings provide insights into the genetic variation naturally occurring within single individuals. "We now have devices that will allow us to routinely amplify and sequence to a high degree of accuracy the entire genomes of single cells, which has far-ranging implications for the study of cancer, infertility and many other disorders," says Stephen Quake, who has worked on this project for nearly a decade. [Stanford University]
Another promising way to combat HIV. Fresh off the introduction of a drug that effectively prevents HIV, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a natural compound that can virtually kill HIV in infected cell cultures. Cortistatin A, as the compound is known, reduced viral production by 99.7% in lab settings. "The compound in the current study virtually eliminates all viral replication from already-infected cells where HIV hides," says biologist Susana Valente, who led the study. HIV/AIDS afflicts 34 million individuals throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. [Scripps]
To prevent kidney cancer, drink up! Researchers at Boston University have established an inverse relationship between drinking alcohol and the risk of renal cell cancer. They came to this conclusion through a meta-analysis of relevant studies featured on reputable research databases. Don't start chugging beer after beer to avoid kidney cancer, though. The benefits only come with moderate alcohol consumption. [Boston University]