Discovered: A protoplanet with no signs of aging; hypnosis helps with hot flashes; even nocturnal redheads could get skin cancer; guys who work out have stronger sperm.
What's your secret, Vesta? The inner solar system object Vesta isn't quite a planet, but isn't really an asteroid either. Though it might be a bit existentially confused, it has one thing going for it—its ability to never age. Data from NASA's Dawn mission shows that the protoplanet's keeps rejuvenating its crust, perpetually presenting a young face to the universe and avoiding signs of aging. This is strange, since Vesta has an airless atmosphere. "Ever since Dawn arrived at Vesta [in July 2011] and we saw the bright and dark streaks across the surface, we have wondered how the zebra got her stripes," says UCLA's Christopher T. Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission. "Now we know that the bright streaks and spots are due to very pure early Vestan material, and the dark patches are deposits on the surface most probably due to collisions with material from the dark outer reaches of the asteroid belt." [NASA]
You're feeling very sleepy, and very free from hot flashes. Researchers from Baylor University's Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory have found that clinical hypnotic relaxation therapy reduced hot flashes and other symptoms in post-menopausal women by up to 80 percent. Researchers led by Baylor professor Gary Elkins studied 187 women over a five-week period, taking into account physical signs of symptoms as well as women's self-reported experiences following hypnosis. "This is the first study in which we compared both self-reporting and physiological monitoring—not just a change in tolerance or ability to cope, but the hot flashes themselves decreased," says Elkins. Research into the medical and psychological benefits of hypnosis is getting interesting, with pain, anxiety, and trauma all being alleviated in clinical studies. [Baylor University]
Skin cancer may be deeply encoded in ginger DNA. Even in the shade, gingers can't escape the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Researchers led by David Fisher of Massachusetts General Hospital have were able to genetically predispose mice to melanoma. Unlike the albino and black haired lab mice, red-headed rodents developed tumors before the researchers even had a chance to blast them with UV rays. Fisher says this was, "a big surprise." He believes that red-heads may be genetically prepped to develop skin cancer, even if they keep UV exposure to a minimum. "Red pigment has a capacity to cause oxidative stress," he says, leading to the growth of skin cancer. [New Scientist]
Semen gets stronger when men work out. University of Cordoba researchers have found that men who work out aren't just beefing up their own muscle mass—they're also making their sperm more resilient. In the last fifty years, sperm quality has gone down as men get more sedentary and hooked on cigarettes and alcohol. Hormone levels and gonad function improve when men take the time to perform moderate regular exercise, making them more likely to be able to reproduce when trying to conceive. "We have analysed qualitative semen parameters like the ejaculated volume, sperm count, mobility and sperm morphology," says lead researcher Diana Vaamonde. "Despite that fact that more studies are needed to confirm these findings, we can suggest exercise to improve the hormonal environment and stimulate the sperm process." [Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology]