News In Brief

Obama Administration Brings Hope to UC Research
With the election of President Barack Obama, research universities are hopeful for changes to begin with increased federal funding for university research, especially in the areas of stem cells, global warming and alternative energy.
UC Irvine brings in around $250 million in federal and state research grants and contracts. Changes made in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento can significantly impact campus research.
The United States Food and Drug Administration’s approval of UCI’s clinical trials using embryonic stem cell treatment on humans is the first of many more expected breakthroughs whose benefits will encourage further investment in research.
Continuing problems with the California state budget, however, will make guaranteeing funding for projects more difficult, and Vice Chancellor of Research at UCI Susan Bryant fears that the lack of funds will restrict faculty recruitment and strand some projects that are stripped of funding.
Nonetheless, in spite of the economic condition of the state and nation, Bryant stated in a University Communications question and answer session that she is hopeful for Obama’s stimulus package and the new administration’s perspective and willingness to invest in scientific research in general.

Trend Found Between Time Commuting and Requests for Raises
UC Irvine doctoral candidate in economics Kent Hymel found that increased traffic leads to disgruntled workers who will consequently request higher wages to compensate for their time spent commuting.
Hymel conducted a study of traffic congestion that found that though it is usually indicative of economic prosperity, it is now pointing to slower job growth. Boosting the public infrastructure to decrease congestion and commute time can help spur local economic growth. However, the problem with boosting the infrastructure is that it would be costly.
Hymel observed that the number of vehicles on the roads is increasing more rapidly than the freeways that are expanding to accommodate them all. The resulting high levels of congestion also contribute to increased costs of shipping products.
Hymel’s research highlights prospective areas of change for policymakers. His study can be found online in the Journal of Urban Economics.

Muscle and Bone Deterioration in Space Worse Than Previously Thought
The lack of gravity in space and consequential lack of exercise for astronauts has been known to result in muscle atrophy. A recent study by researchers at UC Irvine and UC San Francisco has found that there is a much greater rate of bone deterioration than predicted.
Joyce Keyak, UCI orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering professor, led the study. Evaluating 13 different astronauts who spent four to six months in space, researchers found that hip bone strength decreased 14 percent on average among all the astronauts. The astronauts suffered 20 to 30 percent losses, which are far too close to the bone loss seen in older women with osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and prone to breaks.
While previous studies have focused on bone mineral density, this is the first to specifically evaluate bone strength.
The study found that the hip bone is the most susceptible to strength loss. Hip fractures present a danger since they impair a person’s ability to walk and can cause permanent disabilities and even death.