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UCLA Campus Report: Study Reveals Accurate Data On Climate Change, More

A look at some of the non-sports stories making headlines around campus

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An occasional report from around campus that recognizes that UCLA is a school with a world-class reputation for research and innovation and whose people make real impact on the real world

This week’s news focuses on a new study yielding data on climate change, research on cancer and a study that shows building muscles help one live longer.

UCLA Headines

UCLA study yields more accurate data on thousands of years of climate change

Research also helps unravel the mystery of retreating glaciers in the Pacific Ocean's western tropics

Using a cutting-edge research technique, UCLA researchers have reconstructed the temperature history of a region that plays a major role in determining climate around the world.

The findings, published online Feb. 27 in the journalNature Geoscience, will help inform scientists about the processes influencing global warming in the western tropical Pacific Ocean.

The study analyzes how much temperatures have increased in the region near Indonesia, and how ocean temperatures affect nearby tropical glaciers in Papua New Guinea and Borneo. Researchers also evaluated the accuracy of existing climate model predictions for that region. The findings illustrate that the region is very sensitive to climate change and that it has warmed considerably over the last 20,000 years, since the last ice age.

The team chose the specific area examined in the study because it is Earth's warmest open ocean region and a primary source of heat and water vapor to the atmosphere. As a result, temperature changes there can influence climate not just regionally, but globally.

"The tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system has been called a sleeping dragon because of how it can influence climate elsewhere," said lead author Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the departments of Earth, planetary and space sciences, and atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

UV light aids cancer cells that creep along the outside of blood vessels

A new study by UCLA scientists and colleagues adds further proof to earlier findings by Dr. Claire Lugassy and Dr. Raymond Barnhill of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center that deadly melanoma cells can spread through the body by creeping like tiny spiders along the outside of blood vessels without ever entering the bloodstream.

In addition, the new research, published March 6 in the journal Nature, demonstrates that this process is accelerated when the skin cancer cells are exposed to ultraviolet light. The husband-and-wife team of Barnhill and Lugassy collaborated on the study with a team from Germany's University of Bonn led by Dr. Thomas Tuting.

It is well known that melanoma cells from an initial tumor can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, where they accumulate and form new tumors. Through such metastasis, a small skin cancer can become life-threatening by spreading to the brain, lungs, liver or other organs.

Fifteen years ago, Lugassy and Barnhill first discovered and described an alternative metastatic process, which they called extravascular migratory metastasis, or EVMM, by which melanoma cells could move along the outside, or abluminal, surface of blood vessels by way of angiotropism — a biological interaction between the cancer cells and the blood vessel cells. Since then, Lugassy and Barnhill have continued to assemble a body of scientific evidence confirming the existence of this metastatic pathway of cancer cells.

With angiotropism and EVMM, the cancer cells may replace tendril-like cells called pericytes, which are normally found on the outsides of blood vessels, through a process called pericytic mimicry. Imitating the pericytes, the melanoma cells creep along the length of blood vessels until they reach an organ or other point where they accumulate to form new tumors, "potentially explaining the delay between the detection of the primary cancer and the appearance of distant metastases," said Barnhill, a professor of pathology at UCLA.

"At first our idea was controversial," said Lugassy, a UCLA associate professor of pathology. "But mounting evidence confirming angiotropism and EVMM has revolutionized the knowledge of how cancer spreads through the body to the point that other scientists have confirmed the process in other solid-tumor cell types, such as pancreatic cancer."

Older adults: Build muscle and you'll live longer

New UCLA research suggests that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely. The findings add to the growing evidence that overall body composition — and not the widely used body mass index, or BMI — is a better predictor of all-cause mortality.

The study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, is the culmination of previous UCLA research led by Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant clinical professor in the endocrinology division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, that found that building muscle mass is important in decreasing metabolic risk.

"As there is no gold-standard measure of body composition, several studies have addressed this question using different measurement techniques and have obtained different results," Srikanthan said. "So many studies on the mortality impact of obesity focus on BMI. Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counseling older adults on preventative health behaviors."

UCLA in the News

World Wide Web Turns 25

Leonard Kleinrock, UCLA distinguished professor emeritus of computer science, was interviewed Wednesday on Bloomberg TV's "Bloomberg West" about the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Kleinrock discussed how the landmark development of web browsers gave consumers much easier access to the Internet.

Gambling Addiction and the Brain Dr. Timothy Fong, associate professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and director of the UCLA Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, was interviewed Wednesday on the syndicated TV program "America Now" about the ways that gambling addiction affects the brain.

L.A., Solar Energy and Jobs

The Los Angeles Daily News on Tuesday highlighted a study by researchers at UCLA's Luskin Center for Innovation and colleagues showing that by expanding the number of rooftops with solar panels, Los Angeles County could create nearly 18,000 jobs, attract $2 billion in private investment and significantly reduce climate change–causing emissions.

Smartphones and Not-So-Smart Parenting Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow–Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center, was interviewed Monday on KABC-Channel 7 about new research examining how parents' use of smartphones in the presence of their kids affects parent–child communication.