Findings

Science  22 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6028, pp. 404
  1. High-Risk Factor: Off-Label Use Of Clotting Drug

    An expensive clotting drug approved to treat only hemophilia has become extremely popular in hospitals to stem bleeding during heart surgery, brain hemorrhages, trauma, liver transplants, and prostate removal. A massive new analysis drawing on 64 studies of these “off-label” uses of the drug, recombinant factor VIIa (rFVIIa), found no evidence that it prolonged life; in some cases, it caused dangerous embolisms. “The stakes are high here in terms of patient outcome and costs,” says Veronica Yank, a clinician at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who specializes in prevention research and led the study published 19 April in Annals of Internal Medicine.

    In a second paper in the same issue, Yank and her colleagues showed that in U.S. hospitals in 2008, 97% of the use of rFVIIa, which costs $10,000 a dose and is made by Novo Nordisk, was off-label. It's legal for physicians to prescribe drugs off-label, but Jerry Avorn, a clinician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who co-wrote an accompanying editorial, says hospitals have a responsibility to act on these findings. And if they don't? “If I were a liability attorney, I'd find that interesting,” Avorn says.

  2. Whale 'Pop Songs' Spread Across the Ocean

    CREDIT: CORNELIA OEDEKOVEN/PROTECTED RESOURCES DIVISION, SOUTHWEST FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTER, LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

    Just like humans, humpback whales in the South Pacific follow musical trends that change by the season, a new study reveals. The hits move from west to east across thousands of miles of ocean—from the east coast of Australia to French Polynesia—over a year or two. The authors say it's one of the most complex and rapid patterns of cultural evolution across a region ever observed in a nonhuman species.

    Marine biologist Ellen Garland of the University of Queensland in Australia and colleagues listened to 775 songs recorded over 11 years from six whale populations across the South Pacific. They found 11 distinct styles. But at any given time and place, there was only one song, which changed every few months, the team reported online last week in Current Biology.

    Male whales sing to woo females, so perhaps there's pressure both to conform and be creative, Garland suggests. “If it were just novelty, then everyone would just do their own thing,” says Peter Tyack, a marine biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who was not involved in the research. Maybe whales, he thinks, have “a sense of aesthetic judgment.”

    http://scim.ag/whale-songs

  3. A Moveable Feast

    The current endangered status of Near East gazelles may have been the fault of humans long before modernity, a new study finds.

    In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Bedouin tribes in the Near East—an area that includes modern-day Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria—used long stone walls known as desert kites, which ranged for up to tens of kilometers before ending in circular pits, to wantonly slaughter migrating gazelle herds. Now a team led by zooarchaeologist Guy Bar-Oz at the University of Haifa in Israel has evidence that the practice was much older. The team analyzed a cache of 2631 pieces of gazelle bone from Tell Kuran, a settlement or hunting camp in northeastern Syria dated to between 5500 and 5100 years ago. The fragments, which bear butchery marks from stone tools, represent at least 93 individual Persian gazelles of all ages, suggesting that an entire herd had been wiped out. The fact that several desert kites are within 10 kilometers of Tell Kuran, and that rock art depicts stone traps for hunting gazelles, bolsters the case for the ancient mass killings, the team report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Although rock art hints at a ceremonial aspect, scientists think the killings might also have been a group effort to gather large amounts of meat.

    http://scim.ag/gazelle-hunt

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