Friday, November 4, 2016

Here's how smoking scars your DNA

Yearly number of mutations produced in a given type of cell, Illustration by Genome Research Limited.

An international team of researchers found a batch of genetic mutations caused by smoking — mutations that could be expected to cause cancer.

Cancer is a disease caused by DNA damage, and the team, including Ludmil Alexandrov of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Mike Stratton of Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, found a lot of damage. Lung cells accumulated 150 different mutations for each year of smoking, they found.

Throat cells did, also — larynx cells on average undergo 97 new mutations in a year of smoking, and pharynx cells get 39. The team found 18 new mutations in bladder cells. (Full Story)

Every 50 cigarettes smoked cause one DNA mutation per lung cell

Photo from NewScientist.

Epidemiological studies previously linked tobacco smoking with at least 17 classes of cancer, but this is the first time researchers have been able to quantify the molecular damage inflicted on DNA.

Ludmil Alexandrov at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and his colleagues achieved this by comparing tumour DNA from 2500 smokers and 1000 non-smokers. This allowed them to identify which mutations were associated with smoking.

Theoretically, every DNA mutation has the potential to trigger a cascade of genetic damage that causes cells to become cancerous. However, we still don’t know what the probability is of a single smoking-related DNA mutation turning into cancer, or which mutation types are likely to be more malignant. “This is research we are currently pursuing,” Alexandrov says. (Full Story)

Smoking-linked cancer mutations mapped

Illustration from The Scientist.

Ludmil Alexandrov of the Los Alamos National Lab, along with the Wellcome Trust’s Michael Stratton  and their colleagues, used whole-genome sequences of 610 tumors and the exomes of 4,633 additional tumors, together covering 17 smoking-associated forms of cancer. The researchers examined each tumor as a mixture of multiple genomic mutation signatures identified in a previous study, which spanned a wider range of tumor types.  Of the 5,243 tumors the researchers examined in the present study, 2,490 were derived from tobacco smokers and 1,063 from never-smokers. (Full Story)

Also from the BBC and Fox News

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Outsmarting the art of camouflage

A modern-day soldier in camouflage. From Discover.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we study camouflage in nature to learn how we can identify things trying to disguise themselves. We do that by looking at marine organisms that are exceptionally good at the art of blending in: flounders, skates, cuttlefish, and octopi.

Take, for example, flounders. They’re not completely flat, but they appear flat—with two eyes on top of their heads. Similar to the octopus, they are able to change both the color and texture of their skin to imitate those found on the ocean floor. Identifying them is no easy task. (Full Story)

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Experiment helps to advance nuclear explosion monitoring

A canister holding explosives and diagnostic equipment at NNSS, LANL photo.

Last month, Los Alamos National Laboratory participated in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) sixth detonation of an underground conventional explosive at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) as part of its ongoing Source Physics Experiment (SPE) series.

“By conducting the experiments near the location of previous underground nuclear tests, we are more able to compare data between conventional and nuclear explosions,” said Cathy Snelson, R&D manager in Geophysics at the Laboratory. “This helps us improve the U.S. capability to differentiate low-yield nuclear test explosions from other seismic activity, such as mining operations and earthquakes.” (Full Story)

New APS Fellows for Los Alamos announced

From top left, Evgenya Simakov, James Werner, Joel Kress, Paul Johnson. From lower left, Herbert Funsten, John Kline, Richard Gustavsen and Jian-Xin Zhu.

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists are being honored as new Fellows in the American Physical Society (APS).

"Success in accomplishing Los Alamos’s essential national-security missions requires innovation across an incredible breadth of scientific and technical disciplines,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. "The American Physical Society’s recognition of eight Los Alamos researchers as Fellows helps underscore the Laboratory’s ongoing requirements to attract and retain the best scientists in their fields. We are immensely proud of these eight individuals, and I applaud their innovative contributions to research and to helping make our world a safer place.” (Full Story)

California SCAQMD partnering with Los Alamos on H2 sensors

A closeup of a sensor element (left) at a refueling station in Burbank, SCAQMD photo.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is partnering with researchers from Los Alamos and Livermore National Laboratories on a demonstration of highly sensitive hydrogen sensor prototypes.

The initial development of the sensors has spanned more than a decade, mostly led by teams headed by chemist Bob Glass at Livermore and Eric Brosha at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Good vibrations at LANL quarterly community meeting

Director McMillan, Post photo.            

The theme of the Los Alamos National Laboratory community update in the Buffalo Thunder conference center last week was about how everything at the lab works together “to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.”

Early morning talks featured LANL Director Charlie McMillan; Doug Hintze, LANL Environmental Management field office manager; and Harris Walker, National Nuclear Security intergovernmental affairs director. The morning concluded with four separate breakout sessions. (Full Story)

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