Take one space shuttle, seven highly trained astronauts, tons of equipment, and one legendary orbiting telescope and you have the 5.3 million-mile odyssey that was the final servicing mission for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

After months of training and a seven-month postponement, the STS-125 crew's mission got under way with an on-time launch into a brilliant-blue Florida sky. The May 11, 2009, liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis took place at 2:01 p.m. EDT from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. As if to say, "Come on up!" the 19-year-old Hubble was passing directly over Kennedy at the time of the launch. The mission ended later than planned at the backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California. Lingering tropical rain in Florida produced three consecutive days of wave-offs at Kennedy before Atlantis made an 11:39 a.m. EDT touchdown at Edwards on May 24.

by Megan Scudellari

Analyses of individual stem cells are gaining momentum, but technological barriers persist

Stem cells are defined by their remarkable ability to self-renew and differentiate into specialized cells. But even after careful sorting, a single population of stem cells is dynamic: some divide rapidly and others more slowly; some differentiate, others self-renew; some can give rise to more lineages than others. Because of this variation, population studies of stem cells are unable to accurately address essential questions, such as defining discrete steps from a single stem cell to a complex population of cells.

by Monya Baker

The cold war helps settle a hot debate about how hearts grow

Fallout from nuclear bomb tests during the cold war has just yielded encouraging news for those searching for ways to reverse heart disease.

A team led by Jonas Frisén from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has shown that adult human hearts make new muscle cells, albeit very, very slowly1. Human heart cells that can generate cardiomyocytes in culture have been identified before. But how the heart regenerates naturally has been hotly contested, says Kenneth Chien of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge. "This study shows for the first time and very clearly that there is some turnover of cardiomyocytes within the lifetime of an individual." It also lays to rest claims that heart cells turn over quickly, says Deepak Srivastava of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, California.

by Catherine M. Delude

Motion illusions reveal new insights into perception

In the classic waterfall illusion, if you stare at the downward motion of a waterfall for some period of time, stationary objects -- such as rocks -- appear to drift upward. MIT neuroscientists have found that this phenomenon, called motion aftereffect, occurs not only in our visual perception but also in our tactile perception, and that these senses actually influence one another. Put another way, how you feel the world can actually change how you see it -- and vice versa. 

by Mick Aulakh

The protein p53 regulates haematopoietic stem cell quiescence; a new labelling technique lets researchers watch cells divide.

Every day, haematopoietic stem cells replenish the blood system, but they only make as much blood as the body needs. Although much is known about how haematopoietic stem cells move through both self-renewal and differentiation to become many blood types, far less is understood about what keeps the cells in a nondividing state. Now, researchers led by Stephen Nimer at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have elucidated a key role for p53 in the regulation of haematopoietic stem cell quiescence. 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the first hospital in New England to offer a powerful hybrid imaging system that allows physicians to precisely pinpoint the location of tumors, fractures and infections.

The Philips Precedence SPECT/CT system allows physicians to simultaneously perform a SPECT and a CT scan. It then fuses images from the two scans, giving physicians' crucial information about both metabolism and structure.

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This news service is provided by Good Samaritan Institute, located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

GSI is a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of medical research by improving communication among scientists.