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The Laboratory
in the News

Diagnosing disease before symptoms
A new national security research initiative at the Laboratory aims to rapidly diagnose infection one to two days after exposure to a pathogen, rather than waiting days to weeks for symptoms to appear. This approach to disease detection, called “pathomics,” is the focus of a multimillion-dollar Livermore research effort that spans seven directorates and many disciplines. Pathomics is, in effect, the study of the molecular basis of infectious disease. It focuses on the changes in protein levels and other molecules that occur when a body has been exposed to a pathogen.
“The premise of pathomics is that before the onset of illness, there is a molecular indication of disease in human blood,” explains project co-leader Fred Milanovich and founder of the Laboratory’s Chemical and Biological National Security Program. Faster disease detection, followed by more rapid treatment, could help save the lives of people exposed to bioterrorist agents such as anthrax and plague. Ken Turteltaub, who is also a project co-leader, says, “We are focusing on the national security aspects of this technology. We want to be able to move from the discovery of a disease signature to its use in the country’s national biodefense architecture.”
So far, Laboratory researchers have identified four analytic techniques for pathomics that together should provide nearly comprehensive measurements of the protein and RNA content of blood samples.
Contact: Fred Milanovich (925) 422-6838 (milanovich1@llnl.gov).

Discrepancies found in seismic hazard estimates
A five-year collaborative research project initiated and directed by François Heuze, a geotechnical engineer at Livermore, has determined that current methods for estimating the ground-shaking effects of major earthquakes could underestimate their severity. The results of this pioneering study of earthquake hazards at three University of California (UC) campuses—Santa Barbara (UCSB), Riverside (UCR), and San Diego (UCSD)—were reported in the April 2004 issue of Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering.
The researchers found wide discrepancies between their own seismic hazard estimates for the three campuses and those produced by current estimating techniques used for designing new buildings and retrofitting existing buildings. “The biggest weakness in the current state of the practice for seismic hazard assessment,” says Ralph Archuleta, professor of seismology at UCSB, “is that we have very little data for very large earthquakes where the site is close to the causative fault.” UCSB, UCR, and UCSD all have major faults that are close to the campus.
“A single estimate of ground motion for a site is not appropriate,” says Heuze. “Even if you have a known fault and restrict your calculations to a known magnitude, this fault could provide that magnitude in many different fashions. Thus, the severity of the ground shock where you stand could vary widely.” To overcome this problem, the researchers placed several seismic monitoring stations at each campus in boreholes up to 100 meters deep and collected data on small earthquakes from local faults as well as regional seismic events. They tested soil samples at various depths and simulated hundreds of possible earthquake scenarios based on such variables as where a rupture might occur on the fault, the path it might travel, and how fast it might move. Because the soil may not behave in a linear fashion under very strong shaking, the researchers used nonlinear soil dynamics computer models to calculate the surface ground motions created by fault ruptures.
Contact: François Heuze (925) 423-0363 (heuze@llnl.gov).

Measuring stratospheric ozone in the upper troposphere
A team of scientists has identified a new method to measure the amount of stratospheric ozone that is present at any given time in the upper troposphere. Working with researchers from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the University of Colorado, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center, and Harvard University, Livermore atmospheric scientists Cyndi Atherton and Dan Bergmann successfully quantified ozone as it is transported from the stratosphere down to the troposphere. The research is presented in the April 9, 2004, issue of Science.
Scientists within Livermore’s Atmospheric Science Division created a computer model that can simulate how both ozone and hydrogen chloride (HCl) in the stratosphere travel downward through the tropopause and into the upper troposphere. Atherton and Bergmann used this model to simulate specific atmospheric events. These results, when compared to measurements, validated a novel technique that uses HCl to better understand the contribution of the stratosphere to upper-tropospheric ozone concentrations.
“This research shows that there are times when a significant amount of the ozone found in the upper troposphere was due to stratosphere-to-troposphere transport events,” says Atherton. “Using this measurement method will lead to a better understanding of how much of this material is transported to the upper troposphere, where it affects climate and the chemical balance of the atmosphere.” Until now, no experimental technique could reliably quantify stratospheric ozone in the upper troposphere.
Contact: Cyndi Atherton (925) 422-1825 (atherton2@llnl.gov) or Dan Bergmann (925) 423-6765 (bergmann1@llnl.gov).



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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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UCRL-52000-04-6 | June 4, 2004