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Another good thing about being young at heart, and other science stories

Sebastian Kaulitzki/iStockphoto

A roundup of some of the week's science headlines

Huge news, literally: Astronomers have discovered the largest known structure in the universe – a group of quasars so large it would take 4 billion years to cross it while travelling at speed of light. Quasars are believed to be the brightest objects in the universe, with light emanating from the nuclei of galaxies from the early days of the universe and visible billions of light-years away. They tend to clump together into large groups – what scientists call LQGs. This newly discovered LQG has a dimension of 500 megaparsecs. (One megaparsec is equal to 3.3 million light-years.) Because the LQG is elongated, its longest dimension is 1,200 megaparsecs, or 4 billion light-years. The findings by academics from Britain's University of Central Lancashire were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and reported on the society's website Friday. – Reuters

Young at heart: Young people are able to make new heart-muscle cells, contesting conventional knowledge that the heart grows with humans as existing cells become larger. This discovery could lead to a way to fix injured hearts by triggering new cell growth, possibly leading to new treatments for heart failure, the researchers said in a release. The team at Boston Children's Hospital examined specimens from the hearts of people aged 0 to 59. They found that cells were still dividing after birth in a process that occurred up until the age of 20, evidence that healthy young heart growth also comes from new cells, not just changes in existing ones. The findings were published online Wednesday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. – Aleysha Haniff

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Spit gland solution?: Scientists have developed a possible test for Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is currently diagnosed by evaluating medical history and ruling out other health problems. But new research suggests that testing the submandibular saliva glands, located in the lower jaw, may offer a more accurate diagnosis. Certain abnormal proteins linked to the disease are often found in that gland. Of the 15 participants, 11 of them offered a large enough sample to study and nine of them had the protein. A better diagnostic tool would give people with Parkinson's a better quality of life – up to 30 per cent of people with the disease are initially misdiagnosed. As well, a more accurate diagnosis could help other research into the disease by weeding out people without Parkinson's from studies, the researchers said in a release. The study, funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, was released Thursday. – Aleysha Haniff

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