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JUNE 2003
Volume 95, Issue 5
 

GRAPHIC:  ResearchCitations

Grow up already
Most Americans agree that becoming an adult is a gradual process that culminates around age 26. That’s according to the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which found that today’s young adults are reaching certain milestones about a half-decade later than did their parents, says study author Tom Smith, PhD’80, who directs the General Social Survey. The report, based on in-person surveys of Americans over 18, identified seven steps toward adulthood and the average age of expected completion. Finishing an education, at 22.3 years, was considered most important. The other steps, ranked in order of importance, were full-time employment (21.2 years old), supporting a family (24.5), financial independence (20.9), living independently of parents (21.1), marriage (25.7), and having a child (26.2).

IMAGE:  161-million-year-old salamander fossil.
Photo by Mick Ellison

161-million-year-old salamander fossil.

Scientists uncover oldest salamanders
A new salamander species found in a 161-million-year-old fossil traces the amphibian's origin to Asia. The previous oldest-known salamander fossil, found in North America, dated back 65 million years. Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy Neil Shubin and Peking University scientists, who reported their discovery in the March 27 Nature, found thousands of fossils in seven Chinese excavation sites. The magnitude of fossils may help answer how independently evolving salamander species developed similar features.

Bipolar genes
Chicago researchers have linked bipolar disorder to the gene complex G72/G30 on Chromosome 13. Although bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, was long thought to be inherited separately from schizophrenia, the same gene complex previously was found to increase risk for the latter illness. Bipolar disorder is caused by many genes and was linked to another in 2002. The G72/G30 complex increases bipolar disease susceptibility by about 25 percent, according to Elliot Gershon, chair of psychiatry, and research associates Eiji Hattori and Chunyu Liu, whose findings were published in the May American Journal of Human Genetics.

Climate changes not so mild
Although many scientists focus on gradual climate change, abrupt changes may be more typical of Earth’s history than the relatively stable climate of the past few centuries, argued Chicago geophysical-sciences professor Ray Pierrehumbert and ten coauthors in the March 28 Science. Examining the chemical composition of Greenland’s ice cores, the researchers theorized that the gradual warming that began 10,000 years ago, after the last ice age, was interrupted abruptly by returned glacial conditions, which lasted for about 1,000 years. The recent climate stability and preceding cold spell are not fully understood. Because it would be difficult to adapt to such instability, Pierrehumbert says, it is important to study such changes.

Plaque control
Formerly elusive plaques found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease can now be observed more closely. The plaques—made of millions of ribbon-like peptide chains, or fibrils—may be a cause or a symptom of the disease. Removing amino acids, a team including Argonne chemists Roberto Botto, David Gregory, and P. Thiyagarajan, Chicago pathologist Stephen Meredith, PhD’82, and former Chicago chemist David Lynn (now at Emory) found that the truncated peptide would form fibrils just as the whole one does. Because the resulting peptide is less complex, scientists can study the self-assembly process and the fibril’s structure.

—D.G.R.


 


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