Volume III, Issue 1: September 2010


Big quakes more frequent than thought on San Andreas fault

UCI seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig
UCI seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig

Earthquakes have rocked the powerful San Andreas fault that splits California far more often than previously thought, according to UCI and Arizona State University researchers who charted temblors there stretching back 700 years. Large ruptures have occurred on the Carrizo Plain portion of the fault — about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles — as often as every 45 to 144 years. But the last big quake was in 1857, more than 150 years ago. While it's possible the fault is experiencing a natural lull, the researchers think it's more likely a major quake could happen soon. "If you're waiting for somebody to tell you when we're close to the next San Andreas earthquake, just look at the data," said UCI seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig, principal study investigator.

Quake finding »

Nerve connections regenerated after spinal cord injury

Oswald Steward
Oswald Steward, Reeve-Irvine Research Center director

Researchers for the first time have induced regeneration of nerve connections that control voluntary movement after spinal cord injury, showing the potential for new therapeutic approaches to paralysis and other motor function impairment. In a study on rodents, the UCI, UC San Diego and Harvard University team achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical for the growth of corticospinal tract nerve connections. "Until now, such robust nerve regeneration has been impossible in the spinal cord," said Oswald Steward, director of UCI's Reeve-Irvine Research Center.

Nerve regeneration »

Robots redefining cancer surgery

Drs. Thomas E. Ahlering and Michael K. Louie
Drs. Thomas E. Ahlering (left) and Michael K. Louie head UC Irvine Medical Center's new Robotic Oncology Center.

In the ever-evolving battle against cancer, the surgical robot is gaining ground. UC Irvine Healthcare has become the first medical center on the West Coast and the only one in California to perform robotic thyroidectomies, which remove the diseased gland without leaving a visible scar on the neck. The da Vinci Surgical System is facilitating an increasing number of such procedures, and to further advance use of this new technology, UC Irvine Healthcare has established a new Robotic Oncology Center.

Surgical robot »

Distinguishing 'senior moments' from Alzheimer's

Diana Burns sits with her mother Imma
UCI study volunteer Diana Burns (right) keeps an eye on her mother, Irma, who has late-stage Alzheimer's.

With the help of volunteers aged 18 to 89, UCI researchers have identified for the first time in humans a long-hidden part of the brain called the perforant path. Scientists have struggled for decades to locate the tiny passage, which is believed to deteriorate gradually as part of normal aging and far more quickly due to Alzheimer's disease. "The nice thing about this is we may be able to predict Alzheimer's very early," said Craig Stark, associate professor of neurobiology & behavior.

Alzheimer's path »

Latinos, Asians exposed to more toxic waste

Southern California Latinos and Asians are disproportionately exposed to toxic waste sites, according to a new UCI study. Researchers measured residential proximity to plants manufacturing cleaning solvents, paint and petroleum products — and emitting toxic chemicals — in six heavily populated, ethnically diverse Southern California counties between 1990 and 2000. They found that neighborhoods with higher percentages of Latinos or Asians were more likely to be near toxic waste sites than those home to more whites or African Americans.

Toxic study »