Leaks from the lab

Researchers find origin of crab claws

The discovery of a 390 million-year-old fossil by Yale researchers has added the missing piece to an evolutionary puzzle: the origins of the front claw of living scorpions and horseshoe crabs. The fossil, called Schinderhannes bartelsi, was found in a quarry near Budenbach, Germany — a site where a particularly well-known, durable set of fossils, called the Hunsruck Slate, has been previously found. The fossil suggests that the mysterious appendages may have been inherited from the ancient predatory ancestor, Anomalocaris, which became extinct during the Cambrian period, 100 million years before Schinderhannes lived.

Study examines roots of West Nile vulnerability

New research by Yale scientists has shed light on the differences in susceptibility to infection by the West Nile virus. The study uncovered a series of deficiencies in the immune system of mice that reduced their ability to fight off an infection. The authors postulate that the same mechanisms likely function to compromise the human immune system. The findings may help the process of finding a therapeutic tool for West Nile — for which an approved treatment does not yet exist.

Bailyn receives prize for work on black holes

Charles Bailyn, professor of astronomy and physics, has been awarded the 2009 Bruno Rossi Prize in recognition of his 15 years of work on measuring the mass of black holes. The prize is given to scientists “for significant contributions as well as recent and original work in high-energy astrophysics.” Since the first black hole was discovered in 1986 by scientists McClintock and Remillard, about two dozen have been confirmed — of which about half have been found by Bailyn and his team. But scientists say that anywhere from hundreds up to tens of thousands could exist in the universe.

Fertility Center director criticizes Italian in-vitro law

Last month, Yale Fertility Center Director Pasquale Patrizio spoke out against a 2004 Italian law that limits in-vitro fertilization pregnancies in an address to the Italian Parliament in Rome. The law, he said, is contributing to reducing fertility among the Italian population and an increase in the rate of multiple births. The law prevents doctors from inseminating more than three eggs per patient and requires that all eggs to result in fertilization be implanted, as well as disallows the use of genetic screening.