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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Science Scene

Production of electronics adds greenhouse gas to atmosphere

A little-known greenhouse gas, nitrogen trifluoride, often used in the manufacturing of semiconductors for cell phones, MP3 players and flat-screen TVs, could soon be a major contributor to global warming, according to a UC Irvine study.

The heat-trapping gas has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of 550 years and was originally introduced as an alternative to a perfluorocarbon gas, which is 9,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide with a 10,000-year lifespan. Nitrogen trifluoride production subsequently increased exponentially, and with the rising demand for electronics, especially plasma technologies, production is expected to continue to surge.

Scientists say that while an estimated 97 percent of the gas never reaches the atmosphere, it has a high potential for global warming and should be monitored. Nitrogen trifluoride is not on the list of greenhouse gases included in the Kyoto Protocol – something that is common for a number of gases determined to contribute to global warming since the treaty’s creation in 1995. (source: nature.com)


Scientists unlock a key to preventing the Ebola virus

Researchers at The Scripps Institute have identified the structure of the lone protein attached to the surface of the deadly Ebola virus which tricks the host cell into accepting and replicating the infection. This increased understanding of the protein’s structure could lead to treatments to prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells.

The protein is encased in a layer of carbohydrates that trick the body’s immune system into thinking the virus is benign. The discovery shows researchers where this protective coating is most vulnerable and therefore, where best to disable the virus.

Scientists made the discovery by examining the bone marrow of a survivor of a 1995 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since Ebola was discovered in 1976 in sub-Saharan Africa, the rare but lethal virus has killed 68 percent of all documented infections. (source: Scientific American)


Genetic variation could be contributing to high HIV infection rates in Africa

A genetic variation that evolved to protect African populations from a now extinct form of malaria could actually make people carrying the variation 40 percent more susceptible to contracting HIV, according to researchers from universities in Texas and London.

The genetic variation was initially studied in HIV-infected populations from the United States Air Force, which has kept diligent personnel health records for 25 years. African Americans who carry the genetic variation were found to be 50 percent more likely to acquire HIV than those who did not. While they were more susceptible to the infection, they also had slower rates of disease progression.

The variation results in the lack of a certain receptor otherwise found on the surface of red blood cells and occurs in approximately 90 percent of Africans and 60 percent of African Americans. Scientists don’t know exactly how the lack of the receptor promotes the infection of HIV, but if the initial study’s results can be independently verified, it would provide an important window into the biology of the virus. (source: nytimes.com)


ALYSOUN BONDE compiles SCIENCE SCENE and can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.


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