Scientists find microbes in lava tube living in conditions like those on Mars

The microbes tolerate temperatures near freezing and low levels of oxygen, and they can grow in the absence of organic food. Under these conditions their metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the rocks of the lava tube. These factors make the microbes capable of living in the subsurface of Mars and other planetary bodies, the scientists say.

The findings, supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are detailed in the journal Astrobiology.

“This microbe is from one of the most common genera of bacteria on Earth,” said Amy Smith, a doctoral student at Oregon State University and one of the authors of the study. “You can find its cousins in caves, on your skin, at the bottom of the ocean and just about anywhere. What is different, in this case, is its unique qualities that allow it to grow in Mars-like conditions.”

In a laboratory setting at room temperature and with normal oxygen levels, the scientists demonstrated that the microbes can consume organic material (sugar). But when the researchers removed the organic material, reduced the temperature to near-freezing, and lowered the oxygen levels, the microbes began to use the iron within olivine – a common silicate material found in volcanic rocks on Earth and on Mars – as its energy source.

“This reaction involving a common mineral from volcanic rocks just hasn’t been documented before,” said Martin Fisk, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and an author on the study. “In volcanic rocks directly exposed to air and at warmer temperatures, the oxygen in the atmosphere oxidizes the iron before the microbes can use it. But in the lava tube, where the bacteria are covered in ice and thus sheltered from the atmosphere, they out-compete the oxygen for the iron.

Source:The Journal of Astrobiology

Low vitamin D levels may be risk factor for type 2 diabetes in obese children

Obese children were more likely to have lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels than non-overweight children, according to study results.

This reduced vitamin D level was linked to indicators for diabetes in the obese population.

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center recorded systolic and diastolic blood pressure, dietary information, serum 25-(OH)D levels, fasting glucose and insulin, 2-hour glucose from oral glucose tolerance test, HbA1c and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance information for 411 obese children and 25-(OH)D information for 87 non-overweight controls. Eligible children in both groups were aged 6 to 16 years.

There were multiple aims of the study, apart from comparing the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in obese and non-overweight children, which included analyzing relationships between dietary habits and 25-(OH)D level in obese children and examining the relationship between 25-(OH)D level and markers of abnormal glucose metabolism and BP.

Levels of 25-(OH)D were less than 75 nmol/L in 92% of obese children and less than 50 nmol/L in 50% of obese children. In the control group, 68% of children had 25-(OH)D levels less than 75 nmol/L and 22% had 25-(OH)D levels less than 50 nmol/L (both P,.01 compared with obese children).

A negative association was observed between 25-(OH)D levels and soda intake (P<.001), juice intake (P=.009) and skipping breakfast (P<.001). After adjusting for age and BMI, a negative correlation was observed between 25-(OH)D levels and HOMA of insulin resistance (P=.001) and 2-hour glucose (P=.04).

No correlation was observed for the 25-(OH)D levels and HbA1c, systolic BP z score or diastolic BP z score.

“Vitamin D deficiency is common in children in this southern United States location and is significantly more prevalent in obese children,” the researchers wrote. “Lower 25-(OH)D level is associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes in obese children.”

Source:Endocrine  Today


HbA1c level of less than 6.5% associated with excess mortality in CKD

An HbA1c level of more than 9% is associated with worse clinical outcomes in patients with chronic kidney disease who are not dependent on hemodialysis, according to data from a recent study.

The researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, also found that HbA1c levels of less than 6.5% are associated with excess mortality.

“Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that better glycemic control in patients with stage III to IV chronic kidney disease tends to improve clinical outcomes, but overly intensive therapy may be harmful,” the researchers wrote.

The study included 23,296 participants with diabetes who also had an estimated glomerular filtration rate of less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2. All of the participants had a serum creatinine measurement taken as part of routine care in Alberta from 2005 to 2006. They were classified in groups by their first HbA1c measurement: HbA1c level of less than 7%; HbA1c level from 7% to 9%; and HbA1c level of more than 9%. The researchers used Cox regression models to assess associations between HbA1c level and death, progression of kidney disease, new end-stage renal disease, cardiovascular events and all-cause hospitalization.

A higher HbA1c level was strongly and independently associated with all of the outcomes (P<.001). A lower HbA1c level was also associated with an increased risk of mortality. Among those with a baseline eGFR of 30 mL/min/1.73 m2 to 59.9 mL/min/1.73 m2, the risk for end-stage renal disease increased by 22% in those with an HbA1c level of 7% to 9% and by 152% in those with an HbA1c level of more than 9% (P<.001).

Source:Endocrine Today

HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Encourage Risky Sexual Activity

CDC Survey Shows No Evidence That Vaccine Encourages Risk Taking Among Adolescents and Young Women.
teens embracing

Girls and young women who are vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) appear to be no more likely than those who are not vaccinated to engage in sexually risky behaviors, a CDC survey finds.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., with an estimated 6.2 million new infections each year.

Two types of the virus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. HPV also causes genital warts and can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and anus.

With the approval of the first vaccine to prevent HPV infection in 2006 and the second in 2009, concerns emerged that vaccination might promote sexually risky behaviors.

Results from the CDC survey suggest these concerns may be unfounded, but researcher Nicole C. Liddon, PhD, warns against over-interpreting the findings.

Liddon is a research scientist with the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

“This survey represents a snapshot in time, and we cannot rule out the possibility that the HPV vaccine leads to sexual risk taking,” she tells WebMD. “But this should help calm concerns of parents and (health care) providers to some degree.”

 Among non-vaccinated girls and boys, infection with HPV is very common following initiation of sexual behavior.

By one estimate, 24% of teenaged girls in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 19 and 45% of women in their early to mid-20s are infected with HPV.

For this reason, vaccination efforts target girls who are not yet sexually active. Current recommendations call for vaccination of girls and women ages 11-26 with the Cervarix or Gardasil vaccine. The Gardasil vaccine is also approved for use in boys.

In an effort to examine vaccine coverage rates and whether being vaccinated against HPV has any impact on behavior, Liddon and colleagues examined survey data from more than 1,200 young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

The women were participants in a CDC-sponsored survey examining sexual and reproductive health issues among teens and young adults.

The young women were surveyed between 2007 and 2008, after the first HPV vaccine became available.

Twice as many teens as women in their early 20s reported initiating the three-dose HPV vaccine series (30% vs. 15%). Liddon says this finding was not surprising because early efforts to promote the vaccine focused on teens.

Among the surveyed teens, race did not appear to be a factor in HPV vaccine coverage, but young women with health insurance were more likely to have had initiated HPV vaccination than young women without health insurance.

The survey did not include information on the young women’s ages at HPV vaccination, and it was not clear if vaccination occurred before or after they became sexually active.

Among sexually active women, those who had initiated HPV vaccination were more likely than unvaccinated women to report that they consistently used a condom during sex.

The researchers conclude that this may be because young women who are more concerned about practicing safe sex are also more likely to be vaccinated against HPV.

In a report released last August, CDC officials reported that HPV vaccination rates among teens are lagging behind two other vaccines introduced for the age group at close to the same time.

Melinda Wharton, MD, MPH, of the CDC, says it appears many health care providers are not offering the HPV vaccine to their young female patients at age 11 or 12 as recommended, but are instead vaccinating girls later.

Wharton is deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“There is a sense that it is OK to wait until closer to the time that teens become sexually active,” she tells WebMD. “The problem is that you may be waiting until it is too late for vaccination to have an impact.”

She says pediatricians and other health care providers need to recommend the HPV vaccine as strongly as they recommend other immunizations.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine.



Colorectal Cancer on the Rise in Adults Under 50

High Proportion of Younger Adults Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer Have Advanced Disease
colon cancer

In some respects, the U.S. is winning the war on cancer. Recent reports show an overall decline in the number of new cancer cases and fewer cancer deaths.

But those gains aren’t being shared by everyone. A case in point: A new study shows that rates of colon and rectal cancers have climbed in younger adults over the last decade.

That’s happening even as colorectal cancer rates have dropped steadily in adults over 50, the age most people are advised to start screening for the disease.

Researchers aren’t sure what’s causing the increase in younger adults. But they hope their study will raise awareness among younger patients and their doctors, who may dismiss cancer as a cause of their symptoms.

“These young people are getting ignored. They’ve had symptoms for a year or a year and a half before they finally get diagnosed,” says researcher Y. Nancy You, MD, a surgeon at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Tracking Trends in Colon Cancer

The study looked at nearly 600,000 colorectal cancer cases reported to a national registry between 1998 and 2007.

As expected, cancer was much more common in the older age group. About 89% of the cases were seen in adults over age 50.

But while colorectal cancer cases have dropped steadily in adults over 50, they increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults.

The increase was highest for rectal cancers, which jumped nearly 4% each year. Colon cancer rates rose nearly 3% per year.

To compound the problem, doctors say many people may not suspect cancer when symptoms like bleeding, abdominal pain, or a change in bowel habits strike someone in their 30s or 40s.

“Most young people, when they have these types of symptoms, they are not thinking that they have cancer. Then they go to their physician and the physician isn’t thinking that they have cancer,” says Rebecca Siegel, MPH, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

The result is often a delay in diagnosis.

The study found that younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers, which are harder to treat.

People in their 30s were about 20% more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed when their cancers were stage III or IV, with stage IV being the most severe grade of the disease. Other factors that increased the risk for having an advanced cancer at diagnosis were being African-American or lacking health insurance.

“It’s cause for concern,” says Siegel, who was not involved in the study. “And hopefully, it will spur additional research to try to identify what’s causing this trend.”

The study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It isn’t the first to spot the uptick, but it is the largest so far to note the increase.

Advice to Patients

Experts say the message to patients is clear: “Just because you’re under 50 doesn’t mean you’re not at risk,” says Anthony Starpoli, MD, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“If you have a family history, go talk to your doctor,” Starpoli tells WebMD, especially if that relative got colon cancer before they were 50.


Studies Identify Stillbirth Risk Factors, Causes

Women Can Change Some Risks, Researchers Say

Although many risk factors for stillbirth are out of a woman’s control, others can be changed to help lower risk, new research shows.

The cause of death can be identified for many stillbirths, researchers have also found. That can help parents heal.

“The good news is, a lot of the risk factors that are known early [in pregnancy] are changeable,” says researcher George Saade, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and chief of the division of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Among those, he and his colleagues found, are losing weight, if needed, and not using illegal drugs. Another risk factor is not smoking during the three months before pregnancy occurs, they found.

Stillbirth, defined as fetal death at 20 weeks into the pregnancy or later, affects one in 160 U.S. pregnancies. In the U.S., about 26,000 infants are stillborn each year. After a decline in stillbirth from 1990 to 2003, the rate has been stagnant.

The new research, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, was conducted by the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network. It was set up to address stillbirth as a public health issue.

The research is published as two studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Stillbirth: Risk Factors Known in Early Pregnancy

Saade and his colleagues evaluated 614 stillborn infants, comparing them to 1,816 infants delivered healthy. The study was done between March 2006 and September 2008 at 59 U.S. hospitals.

After evaluating a number of factors, they found many maternal factors associated with stillbirth. They include:

  • Being African-American
  • Having diabetes
  • Being age 40 or older
  • Having AB blood type
  • Having a history of illegal drug use with addiction
  • Smoking cigarettes in the three months before getting pregnant
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not living with a partner
  • Having a previous stillbirth
  • Carrying multiples

The odds of stillbirth for each risk factor ranged. Smoking during the three months before pregnancy, for instance, raised the odds about 1.5 times; previous stillbirth nearly six-fold.

The research results point to the need for good prenatal care and counseling, Saade tells WebMD. “It’s important to start prenatal care early, so that any of these risk factors can be addressed,” he says.

Even so, he says, the changeable risk factors “still account for a rather small proportion of the risk,” probably less than a quarter of cases, he says. Other risk factors are still unknown, he says.

Eventually, the list of risk factors will be even longer, Saade says.

However, he says, some unchangeable risk factors aren’t as strong as people may believe.

Even though a woman who has had one stillbirth is at increased risk of another, he says, “the majority of women with a previous stillbirth have a live birth in a subsequent pregnancy.”

One major strength of this new study, Saade tells WebMD, is that it looks at an entire population, not just stillbirths from one hospital or one region. This makes the results more valid.

In a second study, researchers conducted autopsies on stillborn infants. The study was done from March 2006 to September 2008 at the 59 hospitals. They found a probable or possible cause of death in 390 of them, with 312 of them having a probable cause.

“A cause of death can be found in the majority of cases,” says study researcher Bob Silver, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Most commonly, the causes of death were:

  • Obstetric complications
  • Placental abnormalities
  • Fetal genetic or structural abnormalities
  • Infection
  • Umbilical cord abnormalities
  • High blood pressure or other health problems in the mother

African-American mothers were more likely to have a stillbirth than women of other races, with 43% of black women (but 23% of women of other races) experiencing a stillbirth.

Silver tells WebMD that many parents are reluctant to undergo an autopsy on the fetus. However, he encourages them to do so. “We think it’s really important to find a cause,” he says. “It helps facilitate emotional healing and closure for parents.”

“Almost invariably, they want to think about another pregnancy,” he says of parents who have a stillborn infant. With the information from the autopsy, an evaluation of the placenta, and genetic testing on the baby, he says, the parents can be counseled about future pregnancies.

Stillbirths: Perspective on Causes, Risk Factors

The two new studies are an important contribution in an under-studied research area, says Gene Burkett, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the maternal-fetal medicine division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He reviewed the findings but was not involved in the research.

“If we can find the risk factors and make a pointed effort to deal with the risk factors, we can lower the incidence of stillbirths,” he says.

Burkett heads an effort to reduce stillbirth at his university. One of the causes noted by Silver’s group, placental problems, may actually reflect underlying health conditions that need treatment, Burkett says.

Even so, the findings point to the need for good and early prenatal care, he says, especially for those known now to be at higher risk.



Are Working Moms Healthier and Happier?

Working Part Time May Be Better for Mothers’ Health Than Staying Home When Children Are Young.


business mom holding baby

Mothers who work part time may be enjoying some unexpected full-time perks: Better overall health and fewer signs of depression compared to stay-at-home moms.

A new study suggests mothers who work part time, especially when their children are babies and preschool age, have less symptoms of depression and better self-reported health than mothers who stay home.

In fact, in many areas, the emotional well-being and health of moms working part time was no different from mothers holding down full-time positions — even if there were differences in paychecks.

“A mother’s economic role is central to family life, and it supports her well-being and her parenting,” says researcher Cheryl Buehler, PhD. Previous research has looked at whether or not a mother was working and how this affected her children. But those results have been inconsistent.

Yet there’s been little study of part-time work in particular, and its effect on motherhood, family life, and parenting in general.

In this study, researchers wanted to find out whether a mother’s part-time work was more similar to those who stay at home or those who work full time. Working part time was considered anything between one and 32 hours of work a week.

Researchers reviewed data from more than 1,300 mothers across the U.S. Information was collected from seven different interviews with mothers over a 10-year period beginning in 1991.

Mom’s Part-Time Perks

As expected, mothers who worked part time tended to have fewer work and family conflicts and were more involved in their child’s schooling than their full-time peers.

They also provided more learning opportunities both inside the home, such as reading books, and outside of it, such as visiting parks or museums.

In addition, part timers appeared to have a gentler touch when it came to parenting. They were shown to be more sensitive with their preschool-age children than full timers and even stay-at-home mothers.

“Work offers mothers real important opportunities and resources to minimize social isolation and enrich their social development and well-being,” says Buehler. She is a professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “It gives mothers tools, ideas, and strategies when raising a child.”

On the job, mothers are involved in problem solving, grappling with different points of view, and handling diverse personalities, Buehler tells WebMD. And all these skills can be taken home and put to use, especially as children get older.

Buehler also found it interesting that although mothers who worked full time reported more work-family conflicts, this stress did not appear to affect the women’s psychological well-being. In other words, it was not translating into more depressive symptoms, such as feeling down or trouble sleeping.

Mothers working part time did more housework and childcare than full-time working mothers. And having a part-time job did not increase a couple’s intimacy.

Since the study spanned a decade, it followed mothers from when their child was a baby until sixth grade. And while roughly 25% of mothers worked part time over this period, employment status shifted a lot between not working, part-time jobs, and full-time positions.

Movement within the work force is even truer in today’s economic climate, where both mothers and fathers are taking work when and where they can get it.

“In terms of parenting and balancing work and home, being a part-time worker provides the best of both worlds for mothers,” says Jennifer Fraone, who was not involved in the study. She is an assistant director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family in Chestnut Hill, Mass. This seems intuitive, she says, because they have more time.

Fraone, a part-time working mother, says she can be both an involved mom and a talented employee. Mothers like her may benefit from the social aspects of work, the increased financial stability, and from being challenged or feeling fulfilled on the job.

“One thing I really dislike is the ‘mommy wars’ conflict — [the notion] that one situation, working or staying home, is better than another,” Fraone tells WebMD. “This is a very personal decision for every woman and for every couple.”

But it’s her hope that from research like this, more companies might think “outside the box” and consider creating more part time and flexible work arrangements for mothers.

Source: Journal of Family Psychology.


USC Scientists Find Mechanism for Reprogramming Stem Cells

In healthy bodies, liver cells beget liver cells, while skin cells beget skin cells. Previous research, however, has shown that cells sometimes can be reprogrammed, for example, from skin to muscle or vice versa. This phenomenon has stumped scientists because there are cellular mechanisms in place to prevent such changes from occurring.

New research from the Keck School of Medicine of USC shows how proteins called transcription factors can reprogram genes that have been turned off, shedding light on what happens when a cell’s fate changes course and why. The paper appears in the Dec. 9 edition of the journal Cell.

Stem cells are unique because they can divide and differentiate into different types of cells in the body. Typically, as the stem cells become specialized – into organs, blood and bone – genes are suppressed so the cells no longer are able to switch from one type of cell to another. While scientists have been able to force specialized cells to revert back to stem cells, they have not understood the mechanism by which it happened.

Promoters and enhancers are regulatory regions on a gene. They regulate transcription, which is the first step to gene expression. When a gene is not expressed, the promoter is occupied by nucleosomes – cellular structures that contain DNA. Promoters on genes that are expressed are not occupied by nucleosomes and are receptive to transcription.

“We think that an embryonic stem cell is able to differentiate because most of the gene enhancers are open – that’s what we expect to see,” said Peter Jones, Distinguished Professor of Urology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Keck School and principal investigator of the study. “Think of the promoter as the front door and the enhancer as the back. If we look at differentiated cells, we were surprised to find that, in many cases, when the front door is shut, the back door was still open. We don’t know why that is, but it explains how you can reprogram cells – it’s because the back door is open.”

Jones and his colleagues targeted MYOD1, a protein that plays a key role in muscle differentiation.

“MYOD1 is a master transcription factor – it is what makes a muscle cell a muscle cell. You would not expect that gene to be expressed in a skin cell. The gene is not expressed, but its enhancer remained receptive,” Jones said.

The team inserted MYOD1 into fibroblast cells and found that it bound to the enhancer and was transferred to the promoter. This forced out the nucleosomes and established a permissive state for expression. The structure of the MYOD1 enhancer in the fibroblast was indistinguishable from the enhancer in a muscle cell.

Study co-author Xianghong Jasmine Zhou, associate professor of biological sciences and computer science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, analyzed the structure of five differentiated cell types and found that many genes suppressed by the protein polycomb – and therefore not expressed – have a permissive enhancer.

The study of enhancers is relatively new, but they play a potentially major role in biology.

“The difference between species – for example, between us and monkeys – is probably due to different enhancers and not to different genes. Differences in disease susceptibility among people are probably due to changes in enhancers,” Jones said.

Source: Cell.


MIT’s trillion frames per second light-tracking camera.

A Camera capable of visualising the movement of light has been unveiled by a team of scientists in the US.

The equipment captures images at a rate of roughly a trillion frames per second – or about 40 billion times faster than a UK television camera.

Direct recording of light is impossible at that speed, so the camera takes millions of repeated scans to recreate each image.

The team said the technique could be used to understand ultrafast processes.

The process has been dubbed femto-photography and has been detailed on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab’s website.

“There’s nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera,” said Andrea Velten, one of the researchers involved in the project.

Scan lines

To create the technique, the scientists adapted a “streak tube” – equipment used to take data readings from light pulses.

It works in a similar fashion to the way pictures are created on traditional television cathode ray tubes, scanning one thin horizontal line at a time.

Since each image is only equivalent to one scan line on the television set, many hundred scans had to be taken to create a single frame.

The scientists did this by repeating each shot, angling the camera’s view with mirrors to record a different scan line of the object.

As a result, the technique is only suitable for capturing an event that can be recreated exactly the same way multiple times.

To create a moving picture, a laser pulse was used to illuminate the scene – flashing briefly once every 13 billionth of a second.

These pulses triggered the streak tube, which captured the light that returned from the scene.

The laser and the camera were carefully synchronised to ensure each pulse was identical. When the scan lines were stitched together, they appeared to have been taken at the same time.

It took about an hour to take enough shots to make a final video representing a fraction of a second of real time, leading one member of the team to dub the equipment “the world’s slowest fastest camera”.

Software was then used to turn all the images into movies lasting roughly 480 frames.

One showed a pulse of light, less than a millimetre long, travelling through a soft drink bottle at a rate of half a millimetre per frame.

Another showed different wavelengths of light rippling over the surface of a tomato and the table it was sitting on.

In addition to revealing new ways of seeing the world, the MIT scientists say the process could have some practical uses.

“Applications include industrial imaging to analyse faults and material properties, scientific imaging for understanding ultrafast processes and medical imaging to reconstruct sub-surface elements, ie ‘ultrasound with light,'” they say on their website.





Scientists break world record for data transfer speeds.

Researchers are claiming a new world record for data transfers over long distances.

Data was moved back and forth at a combined rate of 186Gbps (gigabits per second), fast enough to transfer two million gigabytes of data or 100,000 full Blu-ray discs in one day.

It could pave the way for networks with standard speeds of 100Gbps.

That would speed up the sharing of scientific research, such as that at the Large Hadron Collider.

The tests involved sending data between the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Washington State Convention Centre in Seattle.

The team achieved two-way data rates of 186Gbps, breaking their previous record of 119Gbps set in 2009. The data’s fastest speed in a single direction was 98Gbps.

By contrast current fibre optic networks have a top speed of about 1Gbps.

The distances spanned nearly 131 miles (212km) and relied on the latest optical equipment, highly tuned servers and ran over a 100Gbps circuit, set up by CANARIE, Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network.

In an even larger demonstration, researchers transferred massive amounts of data between a booth at the SuperComputing 2011 conference in Seattle and other locations within the US, Brazil and Korea.

The experiments brought together physicists, computer scientists and network engineers from a range of institutions, including the California Institute of Technology, the University of Victoria, the University of Michigan, the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern) and Florida International University.

“Our group and its partners are showing how massive amounts of data will be handled and transported in the future,” said Harvey Newman, a professor of physics who headed up the physicist team.

According to the researchers the achievement will help establish new ways to transport the increasingly large amounts of data that currently travel via optical fibre networks across continents and under oceans.

“Having these tools in our hands allows us to engage in realisable visions others do not have. We can see a clear path to a future other cannot yet imagine with any confidence,” said Prof Newman.

Fast data transfers are particularly crucial for sharing the work of big scientific projects, such as work at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC has made the headlines this week as scientists announced that they could have seen first glimpses of the elusive Higgs boson particle, believed to be responsible for giving everything in the universe its mass.

At Cern the group of scientists behind the particle accelerator have so far processed, distributed and analysed more than 100 petabytes of data – over four million Blu-ray discs – in their search for a better understanding of the nature of matter, space and time.

Data volumes are expected to rise as the team cranks up their efforts and it is crucial to be able to share the data with researchers around the world.

Enabling scientists anywhere in the world to work on the LHC data is a key objective of the project as it seeks to solve some of the biggest mysteries of the universe.

“One can think of these 100Gbps links as a huge highway for our data. But we obviously don’t ship data just to take it on a cruise: we want to get it from A to B because B will do the number crunching. And that in turn means we now have a huge bandwidth of data to crunch on,” said Axel Naumann, one of the LHC scientists.

“The 100Gbps demonstration… is pushing the limits of network technology by showing that it is possible to transfer petascale particle physics data in a matter of hours to anywhere around the world,” said Randall Sobie, a research scientist at the Institute of Particle Physics in Canada and a team member.

The push for higher data rates in light-based telecommunications technologies has seen a number of significant leaps in recent years.

In May, researchers set a new record for the rate of data transfer using a single laser: 26 terabits per second.

At those speeds, the contents of nearly 1,000 high-definition DVDs could be sent down an optical fibre in a second.

Source: science.