Briefly

    After a landmark 23-hour separation surgery, formerly conjoined twins Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez left UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital Jan. 13 after a seven-month stay to return to Guatemala with their parents.

    Because UCLA provided the site and $2 million cost of the twins’ care, Cris Embleton, co-founder of Healing the Children, the nonprofit group that brought the twins to UCLA Medical Center, presented two checks to the hospital.

    The first check was a gift of $450,000 from an anonymous donor. The second check was for $20,652 in individual donations from people around the world wishing to contribute to the 17-month-old sisters’ medical expenses.

    A seven-person UCLA medical team will accompany the twins on their flight back to Guatemala. In addition to Dr. Jorge Lazareff, the lead neurosurgeon for the twins’ medical team, four nurses, a pediatrician and a physical therapist will spend several days in Guatemala. The local hospital requested the UCLA team’s presence to assure a smooth medical transition for the twins’ caregivers.

    UCLA physicians remain optimistic that Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus will fully recover from their surgery, which took place on Aug. 6, 2002, to lead normal lives.

    Book by prof. links math to good conversation

    A new book, titled “”777 Mathematical Conversation Starters,”” by John de Pillis, emeritus professor of mathematics at University of California at Riverside, shows that there are few degrees of separation between mathematics and topics that provoke interesting conversations.

    The topics presented in the book include the value of fame, why language matters, the anatomy of thought, how we know what we know, how the Pythagorean theorem (with very little physics) shows that Einstein was correct about time dilation and distance contraction, as well as how mathematics produces intuition-defying examples.

    The crossover book presents material that is of interest to a curious reader who may or may not have advanced mathematical training. There is material for those who choose to explore special relativity at an elementary level, while those who wish to delve more deeply are provided with detailed equations and explanations.

    New approach helps find water pollution causes

    An innovative approach for beachside communities to pinpoint the causes of water pollution has been provided by a UC Irvine-led study.

    The study reveals that it’s possible to identify and track the specific sources of water pollution by combining bacteria sampling with genetic testing. The research team used this technique while studying the causes of beach pollution in Avalon, Catalina Island — a popular tourist destination for swimming and recreational boating. By combining these methods, the researchers found that decaying sewage pipes in the downtown area adjacent to Avalon Bay had been leaking human waste into the shoreline water.

    As a result of this research, Avalon officials sliplined the city’s sewer lines to seal the leaks and are currently investigating connecting pipes from private businesses and homes for further leakage. Their work has already decreased bacteria levels along the shoreline by more than 50 percent, and beach closures declined from 31 in 2001 to 15 in 2002.

    UCSF scientists closer to male infertility gene

    By using a human gene to correct a defect in infertile flies that prevented them from creating sperm, UC San Francisco scientists have advanced the effort to identify the genes involved in human male infertility and may provide a possible target for a male contraceptive.

    In their study of the fly, the researchers focused on a gene named boule that regulates meiosis, a key step in the creation of sperm and egg in all animals, including humans. In the male fly, loss of the gene leads to meiotic arrest, and hence infertility. When the scientists inserted a normal copy of the gene into the flies, meiosis resumed; more notably, however, when they inserted the human form of boule, into the meiosis-defective flies, development of the fly sperm also resumed.

    The new finding strongly suggests that the human boule gene regulates meiosis in human sperm development. This is significant because about 30 percent of infertile men have meiotic arrest during sperm development.

    The UCSF study will be published in the Jan. 15 issue of Human Molecular Genetics.

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