||From left, Christopher Farwell, Sarah Bagby, and David Valentine
Underwater Asphalt Volcanoes
Seen for the First Time
UCSB scientists, working with colleagues from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), UC Davis, University of Sydney, and University of Rhode Island, say that they have identified a series of asphalt volcanoes on the floor of the Santa Barbara Channel. The largest of these undersea Ice Age domes is at a depth of 700 feet (220 meters) — much too deep for scuba diving — which explains why the volcanoes have never been spotted by humans.
“It’s larger than a football field long and as tall as a six-story building,” said David Valentine, professor of earth science and the lead author of a National Science Foundation-funded study published online in the journal Nature Geoscience. “It’s a massive feature, completely made out of asphalt.”
Chris Reddy, director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at WHOI and a co-author of the study, has studied oil spills his whole career. “These volcanoes are an astonishing display of nature,” Reddy said. “And they underscore one little known fact: Half of the oil that enters the coastal environment is from natural oil seeps like the ones off the coast of California.”
Black Studies Scholar Examines Life of Music Legend Johnny Otis
In a new biography titled Midnight at the Barrelhouse — The Johnny Otis Story (University of Minnesota Press), George Lipsitz, professor of Black Studies and sociology, tells the story of the man considered by many to be the godfather of rhythm and blues.
In 1943, Otis opened The Barrelhouse, a nightclub in Watts that was the first to feature rhythm and blues exclusively.
A towering figure in the history of African American music and culture, Otis has also been a music producer, disc jockey, artist, writer, entrepreneur, pastor, and a tireless fighter in the battle for racial equality.
Throughout his career, however, his driving passion was his unyielding opposition to racial injustice.
“Johnny felt conflicted about being a white man in black music,” Lipsitz said. “He felt the imitators got more credit than the originators. And he believed that if he was going to draw from the well of black creativity, he owed something to the black culture that created it.”
Geologist Finds Pattern in Earth’s Long-Term Climate Record
In an analysis of the past 1.2 million years, geologist Lorraine Lisiecki discovered a pattern that connects the regular changes of the Earth’s orbital cycle to changes in the Earth’s climate. The finding was reported in a recent issue of the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.
Lisiecki, assistant professor of earth science, links the climate record to the history of the Earth’s orbit.
The Earth’s orbit around the sun changes shape every 100,000 years, becoming either more round or more elliptical at these intervals. The shape of the orbit is known as its “eccentricity.” A related aspect is the 41,000-year cycle in the tilt of the Earth’s axis.
Glaciation of the Earth also occurs every 100,000 years. Lisiecki found that the timing of changes in climate and eccentricity coincided. “The clear correlation between the timing of the change in orbit and the change in the Earth’s climate is strong evidence of a link between the two,” said Lisiecki.
Asian Studies Scholar Explores Social Hierarchies Among Chinese Americans
In her recently published book, The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy (Rutgers University Press, 2010), Xiaojian Zhao, associate professor of Asian American Studies, provides a detailed and comprehensive study of contemporary Chinese America and the new social hierarchy that emerged among Chinese Americans in the three decades following passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Using class analysis, Zhao examines the difficulties of everyday survival for poor and undocumented immigrants and their middle class compatriots. The book also examines the process through which social mobility occurs.
According to Zhao, ethnic ties have enabled the Chinese in the United States to establish a thriving economy of their own that serves employers, workers, and consumers. While the growth of the ethnic economy enhances ethnic bonds by increasing mutual dependencies among different groups of Chinese Americans, it also determines the limits of possibility for various individuals, depending on their socioeconomic and immigration status, she said.
Researchers Advance Effectiveness of Cancer Drugs
A team of researchers led by Erkki Ruoslahti, a professor at the Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research at UCSB, has shown that a peptide (a chain of amino acids) called iRGD helps co-administered drugs penetrate deeply into tumor tissue. The peptide has been shown to substantially increase treatment efficacy against human breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers in mice, achieving the same therapeutic effect as a normal dose with one-third as much of the drug. Their work, which represents a significant advance in cancer therapy, appeared recently in the online edition of the journal Science.
“Drugs generally have difficulty penetrating tumors beyond a few cell diameters from a blood vessel,” said Ruoslahti. “This leaves some tumor cells with a suboptimal dose, increasing the risk of both recurrence and drug resistance. The iRGD peptide solves this problem by activating a transport system in tumors that distributes co-injected drugs into the entire tumor and increases drug accumulation in the tumor.”
Simply co-administering iRGD with a drug enhances the drug’s anti-cancer properties. Co-administration could be even more effective at delivering therapeutic agents inside tumors than conjugating the agents with the peptide.
This new paradigm means that iRGD has the potential to enhance the efficacy of already approved drugs without creating new chemical entities, which would complicate the path to approval for clinical use. Ruoslahti credits much of the team’s success to colleagues, Kazuki Sugahara and Tambet Teesalu, also of the Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research at UCSB.