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Scientific discoveries this week: 2/10/14

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Written by Jessica Deters

Posted on 09 February 2014

Israel—Step Closer to Beginning of Time
A major breakthrough made by researchers at Tel Aviv University may hold answers pertaining to the origin of the universe. When the first stars formed, the universe was filled with hydrogen atoms. This study suggests that the black holes that formed from these first stars heated the hydrogen gas that filled the universe later than previously estimated. According to Professor Rennan Barkana of Tel Aviv University, the discovery of the delayed heating of the universe results in a "new prediction of an early time at which the sky was uniformly filled with radio waves emitted by the hydrogen gas."

San Francisco, CA—Cure for Diabetes on Horizon
Living with type one diabetes currently equates to frequent injections of insulin to make up for the body's inability to produce insulin. A research team from the Gladstone Institutes found a method by which to reprogram animals' skin cells into endoderm-like cells, which eventually mature, mimic pancreas-like cells and produce insulin. The study found a direct link between the transplanted, reprogrammed cells and a decrease in the animals' glucose levels. Matthias Hebrok, PhD and one of the authors of the study, believes this discovery is an important step toward a much-needed cure for type one diabetes.

United Kingdom—New Evidence of Pre-Historic Human Migration
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum discovered evidence that suggests human movement in northeast Norfolk in the United Kingdom over 800,000 years ago. Scientists believe the footprints were imprinted into the bank of an ancient river at a time when Britain and continental Europe were still connected. These footprints provide the first-known evidence of humans in northern Europe and offer insight into the movements and migration of people over 800,000 years ago.

Finland—Quantifying the Gender Height Gap
A study from the University of Helsinki found correlations between the X chromosome and height. Dr. Taru Tukiainen of Massachusetts General Hospital said,
"Studying the X chromosome has some particular challenges. The fact that women have two copies of this chromosome and men only one has to be taken into account in the analysis. We nevertheless wanted to take up the challenge since we had a strong belief that opening 'the X files' for research would reveal new, interesting biological insights." The study did, in fact, reveal new biological insights in its finding that the variant in the X-chromosome between men and women accounts for anywhere between one to two percent of differences in height between genders in the Finnish population.