A handful of genes have been reported in the literature to be functional in mouse and money but they are non-functional in human, several with little functional explanation.
Further reading: http://tinyurl.com/6zrt7e7
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Researchers have developed a microfluidic chip that can capture rare clusters of circulating tumor cells, which could yield important new insights into how cancer spreads. The work was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that break away from a tumor and move through a cancer patient’s bloodstream. Single CTCs are extremely rare, typically fewer than 1 in 1 billion cells. These cells can take up residence in distant organs, and researchers believe this is one mode by which cancer spreads.
Even less common than single CTCs are small groups of CTCs, or clusters. While the existence of CTC clusters has been known for more than 50 years, their prevalence in the blood as well as their role in metastasis has not been thoroughly investigated, mostly because they are so elusive. However, recent advances in biomedical technologies that enable researchers to capture single CTCs have renewed interest in CTC clusters, which are occasionally captured along with single CTCs.
Now, researchers led by Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., professor of surgery (biomedical engineering) at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health & Sciences Technology, report the development of a novel microfluidic chip that is specifically designed for the efficient capture of CTC clusters from whole, unprocessed blood.
“Very little is known about CTC clusters and their role in the progression and metastasis of cancer. This unique technology presents an exciting opportunity to capture these exceptionally rare groups of cells for further analysis in a way that is minimally-invasive,” said NIBIB Director Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D. “This is the kind of breakthrough technology that could have a very large impact on cancer research.”
The new technology — called Cluster-Chip — was developed with support from a Quantum Grant from NIBIB, which funds transformative technological innovation designed to solve major medical problems with a substantial disease burden, such as preventing cancer metastasis or precisely tailoring therapeutics to an individual’s cancer cell biology.
Toner and his collaborator Dr. Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., also at MGH, recently used Cluster-Chip to capture and analyze CTC clusters in a group of 60 patients with metastatic breast, prostate, and melanoma cancers. The researchers found CTC clusters — ranging from two to 19 cells — in 30-40 percent of the patients.
“The presence of these clusters is far more common than we thought in the past,” said Toner. “The fact that we saw clusters in this many patients is really a remarkable finding.” Further analysis of the patients’ CTC clusters yielded new insights into the biology of CTC clusters. The researchers published their results in the May 18, 2015 advance online issue of Nature Methods.
The chip is designed to slowly push blood through many rows of microscopic triangle-shaped posts. The posts are arranged in such a way that every two posts funnels cells towards the tip of a third post. At the tip, single cells — including blood cells and single CTCs — easily slide to either side of the post and continue through the chip until reaching the next tip; however CTC clusters are left at the tip, hanging in the balance due to forces pulling them down the post in opposite directions.
To determine the efficiency of Cluster-Chip, the researchers introduced fluorescently tagged cell clusters (ranging from 2-30 cells) into the chip and counted the number of clusters that were captured and the number that flowed through undetected. At a blood flow rate of 2.5ml/hr, the chip captured 99 percent of clusters containing four or more cells, 70 percent of three-cell clusters, and 41 percent of two-cell clusters. Comparison of the clusters under a microscope before and after capture found that the chip had no negative effects on the integrity of the clusters as a whole.
The researchers next compared the efficiency of their novel chip to two currently-used methods that have had some success capturing CTC clusters. They found that at similar blood flow rates, the Cluster-Chip was significantly more efficient than a filter-based method, which pushes blood through a membrane with pores only large enough to let single cells pass through. The chip was also more efficient than a different microfluidic chip — previously developed by Toner — that isolates CTCs and occasionally clusters using antibodies that stick to special proteins found on the surface of some tumor cells.
The results highlight the importance of the unique Cluster-Chip capture technique, which is based on the structural properties of CTC clusters rather than their size or the presence of surface proteins. This latter property makes the Cluster-Chip well-suited for capturing CTC clusters from a range of cancer types, including those that lose surface proteins during metastasis and those that never express them, such as melanoma.
The researchers went on to test the Cluster-Chip in a small trial of 60 patients with metastatic cancer. In this study, the chip captured CTC clusters in 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) breast cancer patients, 6 of 20 (30 percent) melanoma patients, and 4 of 13 (31 percent) prostate patients. The large number of clusters found in the patient samples suggests a possibly greater role for clusters in the metastatic cascade. While the significance of CTC clusters has not been fully established, a previous study published by Toner and the Haber team in Cell (2014) found an association between increased number of CTC clusters in patients with metastatic breast cancer and reduced survival, and an association between the presence of clusters and reduced survival in prostate cancer patients.
Researchers meeting in Chicago are hailing what they believe may be a potent new weapon in the fight against cancer: the body's own immune system.
An international study found that a combination of two drugs that helped allow the immune system to fight the cancer -- ipilimumab and nivolumab -- stopped the deadly skin cancer melanoma from advancing for nearly a year in 58% of the cases. Melanoma, though a skin cancer, can spread to the lungs, liver, bone, lymph nodes and brain.
Other studies have shown promise in treating lung cancer. The research is being presented in Chicago at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and published inThe New England Journal of Medicine.
Those involved in the fight against cancer are divided as to just how excited to get over the promise of immunotherapy in battling cancer.
"Immunotherapy drugs have already revolutionized melanoma treatment, and now we're seeing how they might be even more powerful when they're combined," said Dr. Steven O'Day, an expert with the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"But the results also warrant caution -- the nivolumab and ipilimumab combination used in this study came with greater side effects, which might offset its benefits for some patients. Physicians and patients will need to weigh these considerations carefully," O'Day said.
In the study, 36% of the patients receiving the two-drug combination had to stop the therapy due to side effects. Both drugs are made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, the sponsors of the study. And Nell Barrie, a spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK, while calling the results "encouraging" and "promising," told CNN that much remains to be learned and the new drugs would not replace any of the existing cancer treatments.
Surgery, she said, would remain vital. So, too, would chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she said. She noted that researchers had yet to study the long-term survival rates for immunotherapy. And the side effects can include inflammation of the stomach and bowel serious enough to require hospitalization, she said.
But Dr. James Larkin, the lead author of the melanoma study, called the results a game changer. "We've seen these drugs working in a wide range of cancers, and I think we are at the beginning of a new era in treating cancer," Larkin said.
More than 100,000 saigas in Central Asia have died in recent weeks of an unknown disease.
Before the end of the last Ice Age, saigas roamed by the millions in a range stretching from England to Siberia, even into Alaska. Eventually they moved to the steppes of Central Asia, where they continued to thrive — until the 20th century, when these strange-looking antelopes began flirting with extinction.
Hunted for its horns, 95 percent of the population disappeared, and the saiga was declared critically endangered. After the implementation of strict antipoaching measures, the population recovered, from a low of 50,000 to about 250,000 last year. “It was a big success story,” said Eleanor J. Milner-Gulland, the chairwoman of the Saiga Conservation Alliance.
Now that success is in jeopardy. Last month, a mysterious disease swept through the remaining saiga herds, littering the steppes with carcasses. The so-called die-off claimed more than a third of the world’s population in just weeks.
An international team of wildlife biologists is now examining tissues taken from dead saigas, hoping to figure out what killed them. Whatever it is, it has the potential to undo years of conservation efforts, further endangering the species.
“Once we know what’s causing it, then we need to think very hard about how to avoid it in the future,” said Aline Kuehl-Stenzel, the terrestrial species coordinator of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
From time to time, saigas have faced widespread die-offs. The last major one occurred in 2010, when 12,000 animals died. The causes are still uncertain, because biologists did not reach the animals until long after they expired.
First 'virgin birth' fish found in the wild. The discovery, published today in Cell Biology , is the first-known example of the asexual reproductive process known as parthenogenesis to have been uncovered in the wild.
'Virgin births' in the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) may be triggered by the population's dwindling numbers, report the researchers.
The smalltooth sawfish is a large, critically endangered ray that is estimated to have declined to 1-5 per cent of its population size since 1900. It is currently found mainly in southwest Florida. Between 2004 and 2013, 190 individuals ranging in total length from 67.1 centimeters to 3.81 meters were sampled, tagged, and released in the Caloosahatchee River, Peace River and Ten Thousand Islands regions.
Routine testing of the fish's DNA showed several markers that would normally contain a lot of variability were homozygous, or contained the same DNA sequence, says lead author Andrew Fields, a doctoral student at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
"We were conducting routine DNA fingerprinting of the sawfish found in this area in order to see if relatives were often reproducing with relatives due to their small population size," says Fields.
"What the DNA fingerprints told us was altogether more surprising: female sawfish are sometimes reproducing without even mating." Seven of the sample fish -- or 3 per cent -- were found to be produced through parthenogenesis.
Vertebrate parthenogenesis is thought to occur when an unfertilised egg absorbs a genetically identical sister cell. The resulting offspring have about half of the genetic diversity of their mothers, so the genetic diversity of the wild population is reduced, says Fields.
Parthenogenesis is common in invertebrates but rare in vertebrate animals, the researchers say in the paper.
The mammalian Y chromosome has lost many hundreds of genes throughout evolution. Surviving Y chromosome genes were recently shown to havebroadly important cellular functions, rather than male-specific roles, plus corresponding copies on the X chromosome.
Following on a large survey of the evolution of the mammalian Y chromosomepublished last year, Jennifer Hughes, a research scientist in David Page’s laboratory at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and her colleagues now provide evidence to suggest that four presumably essential and highly conserved genes lost from the Y chromosome in several mammalian species—including humans—have been preserved in the genome through transposition onto autosomal chromosomes. The team’s results were published today (May 28) in Genome Biology.
This preservation of essential Y chromosome genes through transposition was previously thought to have occurred only in isolated cases, such as the loss of the entire Y chromosome in the Ryukyu spiny rat. The new work suggests that migration of important genes from a sex chromosome to an autosome is more prevalent in mammals than expected.
“This is an interesting story. It’s remarkable to see how consistently genes that were lost from the Y chromosome were rescued by autosomal copies in multiple species,” said Christine Disteche, who studies the regulation of mammalian sex chromosomes at the University of Washington and was not involved in the current work. “What is amazing is that this seemed to have happened independently in multiple lineages. That stresses how important this is.”
“The observations confirm the view that gene loss from the Y can be compensated for,” Jennifer Marshall Graves, a geneticist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. While this was known, she continued, “it’s nice to have good evidence of this process.” Graves, who was not involved in the present study, previously demonstrated the transposition of an ancient gene pair from both the X and Y chromosomes onto several autosomes in mammals.
Hughes and her colleagues last year found that evolutionary conserved genes necessary for cellular processes, such as protein translation, were missing from the Y chromosomes of certain mammalian species. Analyzing those same eight species, the researchers recently identified seven single-copy Y chromosome genes with cellular functions normally required by both males and females that were lost in one or more species.
The team found four of these genes on an autosome in species with the missing Y chromosome gene—presumably, the genes were transferred to the new chromosome through a retrotransposition event. The team identified eight instances of apparent retrotransposition, including in a few species in which such gene-jumping occurred more than once.
The EIF2S3Y (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 subunit) gene, involved in protein synthesis, was missing from the Y chromosome only among primates the team studied. “If this gene is so important, why does it appear to be dispensable in some species?” asked Hughes. So the researchers traced the gene to three different autosomal locations in each of the three primate groups (Old World monkeys, New World monkeys, and apes), which suggested that this gene transposed from the Y chromosome to an autosome and the X chromosome independently on three separate occasions.
Unlike in the New World monkey lineage, EIF2S3 expression in apes and Old World monkeys was restricted to the testes. While previous studies considered this autosomal copy a pseudogene, the current analysis provides evidence that the gene is indeed expressed and may be functional. Several years ago, this gene was shown to be one of just two Y chromosome genes required for assisted reproduction in mice. While not on the Y chromosome in primates, the gene is likely to be performing the same function during spermatogenesis and may be important in male infertility, Hughes and her colleagues suggested.
The Project Brillo announcement was one of the event's highlights making news at Google's I/O conference last week. Brillo fundamentally is Google's answer to the Internet of Things operating system. Brillo is designed to run on and connect various IoT low-power devices. If Android was Google's answer for a mobile operating system, Brillo is a mini, or lightweight, Android OS–and part of The Register's headline on the announcement story was "Google puts Android on a diet".
Brillo was developed to connect IoT objects from "washing machine to a rubbish bin and linking in with existing Google technologies," according to The Guardian.
As The Guardian also pointed out, they are not just talking about your kitchen where the fridge is telling the phone that it's low on milk; the Brillo vision goes beyond home systems to farms or to city systems where a trashbin could tell the council when it is full and needs collecting. "Bins, toasters, roads and lights will be able to talk to each other for automatic, more efficient control and monitoring."
Brillo is derived from Android. Commented Peter Bright, technology editor, Ars Technica: "Brillo is smaller and slimmer than Android, providing a kernel, hardware abstraction, connectivity, and security infrastructure." The Next Web similarly explained Brillo as "a stripped down version of Android that can run on minimal system requirements."
The Brillo debut is accompanied by another key component, Weave. This is the communications layer, and it allows the cloud, mobile, and Brillo to speak to one another. AnandTech described Weave as "an API framework meant to standardize communications between all these devices."
Putting a hole in the center of the donut—a mid-nineteenth-century invention—allows the deep-fried pastry to cook evenly, inside and out. As it turns out, the hole in the center of the donut also holds answers for a type of more efficient and reliable quantum information teleportation, a critical goal for quantum information science.
Quantum teleportation is a method of communicating information from one location to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached. Instead, the sender (Alice) and the receiver (Bob) share a pair of entangled elementary particles—in this experiment, photons, the smallest units of light—that transmit information through their shared quantum state. In simplified terms, Alice encodes information in the form of the quantum state of her photon. She then sends a key to Bob over traditional communication channels, indicating what operation he must perform on his photon to prepare the same quantum state, thus teleporting the information.
Quantum teleportation has been achieved by a number of research teams around the globe since it was first theorized in 1993, but current experimental methods require extensive resources and/or only work successfully a fraction of the time.
Now, by taking advantage of the mathematical properties intrinsic to the shape of a donut—or torus, in mathematical terminology—a research team led by physicist Paul Kwiat of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has made great strides by realizing “superdense teleportation”. This new protocol, developed by coauthor physicist Herbert Bernstein of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, effectively reduces the resources and effort required to teleport quantum information, while at the same time improving the reliability of the information transfer.
Like a dairy farmer tending to a herd of cows to produce milk, researchers are tending to colonies of the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to produce new forms of antibiotics — including three that show promise in fighting drug-resistant bacteria. The research, published in the journal Science Advances, was led by Blaine A. Pfeifer, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His team included first author Guojian Zhang, Yi Li and Lei Fang, all in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
For more than a decade, Pfeifer has been studying how to engineer E. coli to generate new varieties of erythromycin, a popular antibiotic. In the new study, he and colleagues report that they have done this successfully, harnessing E. coli to synthesize dozens of new forms of the drug that have a slightly different structure from existing versions.
Three of these new varieties of erythromycin successfully killed bacteria of the species Bacillus subtilis that were resistant to the original form of erythromycin used clinically.
“We’re focused on trying to come up with new antibiotics that can overcome antibiotic resistance, and we see this as an important step forward,” said Pfeifer, PhD.
“We have not only created new analogs of erythromycin, but also developed a platform for using E. coli to produce the drug,” he said. “This opens the door for additional engineering possibilities in the future and it could lead to even more new forms of the drug.”
The bizarre nature of reality as laid out by quantum theory has survived another test, with scientists performing a famous experiment and proving that reality does not exist until it is measured.
Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have conducted John Wheeler's delayed-choice thought experiment, which involves a moving object that is given the choice to act like a particle or a wave. Wheeler's experiment then asks - at which point does the object decide? Common sense says the object is either wave-like or particle-like, independent of how we measure it. But quantum physics predicts that whether you observe wave like behavior (interference) or particle behavior (no interference) depends only on how it is actually measured at the end of its journey. This is exactly what the ANU team found.
"It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it," said Associate Professor Andrew Truscott from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
Despite the apparent weirdness, the results confirm the validity of quantum theory, which governs the world of the very small, and has enabled the development of many technologies such as LEDs, lasers and computer chips. The ANU team not only succeeded in building the experiment, which seemed nearly impossible when it was proposed in 1978, but reversed Wheeler's original concept of light beams being bounced by mirrors, and instead used atoms scattered by laser light.
"Quantum physics' predictions about interference seem odd enough when applied to light, which seems more like a wave, but to have done the experiment with atoms, which are complicated things that have mass and interact with electric fields and so on, adds to the weirdness," said Roman Khakimov, PhD student at the Research School of Physics and Engineering.
Professor Truscott's team first trapped a collection of helium atoms in a suspended state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, and then ejected them until there was only a single atom left. The single atom was then dropped through a pair of counter-propagating laser beams, which formed a grating pattern that acted as crossroads in the same way a solid grating would scatter light. A second light grating to recombine the paths was randomly added, which led to constructive or destructive interference as if the atom had travelled both paths. When the second light grating was not added, no interference was observed as if the atom chose only one path.
However, the random number determining whether the grating was added was only generated after the atom had passed through the crossroads. If one chooses to believe that the atom really did take a particular path or paths then one has to accept that a future measurement is affecting the atom's past, said Truscott.
"The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence," he said.
Chaos & Complexity are related; both are forms of “Coarse Damping”. While chaos is a form of coarse damping in “Time”, complexity on the other hand is a form of coarse damping in “Structure”!
Complexity arises from the ubiquitous “Collaborative Interplay of Entropy and Symmetry-Breaking” in all naturally damped-driven systems – Complexity is a form of coarse damping to uniformity! A form of coarse symmetry! “Complexity is Coarse Entropy!”
Progressive Complexity arises from the ubiquitous “Competitive Interplay of Entropy and Coarse Entropy” in all naturally damped-driven systems – Evolution is a form of coarse damping to complexity! “Evolution is the Progressive Upheaval and Rejuvenation of Coarse Entropy!”
There are two fundamental forces at work in nature and all evolutionary systems; one is the entropic force of spontaneous decay and disorder (otherwise known as “The Second Law of Thermodynamics”); the other is a universal, and somewhat mysterious, capacity for self-organization and spontaneous emergence!
Via Philippe Vallat
Massive beams of selenite dwarf human explorers in Mexico’s Cave of Crystals, deep below the Chihuahuan Desert. Formed over millennia, these crystals are among the largest yet discovered on Earth. It's 50˚C and has a humidity of 100%, less than a couple of hundred people have been inside and it's so deadly that even with respirators and suits of ice you can only survive for 20 minutes before your body starts to fail. It’s the nearest thing to visiting another planet – it’s going deep inside our own.
Cueva de los Cristales is the incarnation of our most awesome science fiction imaginations - Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Superman's Fortress of Solitude. At about the same time as humans first ventured out of Africa, these crystals began to slowly grow. For half a million years they remained protected and nurtured by a womb of hot hydrothermal fluids rich with minerals.
Undisturbed, one can only guess how big they may have eventually grown. Yet when mining began here over a hundred years ago, the water table was lowered and the cave drained. The crystals seemingly interminable development was frozen forever leaving them as relics of the deep earth. It wasn't until 2000 that miners, searching for lead, eventually penetrated the cave wall and brought it to light. Who knows what other wonders lie hidden deep inside the earth.
A new technique developed at Stanford University harnesses the buzz of everyday human activity to map the interior of the Earth. "We think we can use it to image the subsurface of the entire continental United States," said Stanford geophysics postdoctoral researcher Nori Nakata.
Using tiny ground tremors generated by the rumble of cars and trucks across highways, the activities within offices and homes, pedestrians crossing the street and even airplanes flying overhead, a team led by Nakata created detailed three-dimensional subsurface maps of the California port city of Long Beach.
The maps, detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, marks the first successful demonstration of an elusive Earth-imaging technique, called ambient noise body wave tomography. "It's a technique that scientists have been trying to develop for more than 15 years," said Nakata, who is the Thompson Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
There are two major types of seismic waves: surface waves and body waves. As their name suggests, surface waves travel along the surface of the Earth. Scientists have long been able to harness surface waves to study the upper layers of the planet's crust, and recently they have even been able to extract surface waves from the so-called ambient seismic field. Also known as ambient noise, these are very weak but continuous seismic waves that are generated by colliding ocean waves, among other things.
Body waves, in contrast, travel through the Earth, and as a result can provide much better spatial resolution of the planet's interior than surface waves. "Scientists have been performing body-wave tomography with signals from earthquakes and explosives for decades," said study coauthor Jesse Lawrence, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford. "But you can't control when and where an earthquake happens, and explosives are expensive and often damaging."
For this reason, geophysicists have long sought to develop a way to perform body wave tomography without relying on earthquakes or resorting to explosives. This has proven challenging, however, because body waves have lower amplitudes than surface waves, and are therefore harder to observe. "Usually you need to combine and average lots and lots of data to even see them," Lawrence said.
In the new study, the Stanford team applied a new software processing technique, called a body-wave extraction filter. Nakata developed the filter to analyze ambient noise data gathered from a network of thousands of sensors that had been installed across Long Beach to monitor existing oil reservoirs beneath the city. Using this filter, the team was able to create maps that revealed details about the subsurface of Long Beach down to a depth of more than half a mile (1.1. kilometers). The body-wave maps were comparable to, and in some cases better than, existing imaging techniques.
One map, for example, clearly revealed the Newport-Inglewood fault, an active geological fault that cuts through Long Beach. This fault also shows up in surface-wave maps, but the spatial resolution of the body-wave velocity map was much higher, and revealed new information about the velocity of seismic waves traveling through the fault's surrounding rocks, which in turn provides valuable clues about their composition and organization.
Huge 3D Displays without 3D Glasses: A new invention opens the door to a new generation of outdoor displays. Different pictures can be seen at different angles, creating 3D effects without the need for 3D glasses.
Public screenings have become an important part of major sports events. In the future, we will be able to enjoy them in 3D, thanks to a new invention from Austrian scientists. A sophisticated laser system sends laser beams into different directions. Therefore, different pictures are visible from different angles. The angular resolution is so fine that the left eye is presented a different picture than the right one, creating a 3D effect.
You can run, but you can't hide: A new DNA test makes it easier to differentiate between identical twins in forensic cases.
Although short tandem repeat profiling is extremely powerful in identifying individuals from crime scene stains, it is unable to differentiate between monozygotic (MZ) twins. Efforts to address this include mutation analysis through whole genome sequencing and through DNA methylation studies. Methylation of DNA is affected by environmental factors; thus, as MZ twins age, their DNA methylation patterns change. This can be characterized by bisulfite treatment followed by pyrosequencing. However, this can be time-consuming and expensive; thus, it is unlikely to be widely used by investigators. If the sequences are different, then in theory the melting temperature should be different. Thus, the aim of a recent study was to assess whether high-resolution melt curve analysis can be used to differentiate between MZ twins. Five sets of MZ twins provided buccal swabs that underwent extraction, quantification, bisulfite treatment, polymerase chain reaction amplification and high-resolution melting curve analysis targeting two markers, Alu-E2F3 and Alu-SP. Significant differences were observed between all MZ twins targeting Alu-E2F3 and in four of five MZ twins targeting Alu-SP (P < 0.05). Thus, it has been demonstrated that bisulfite treatment followed by high-resolution melting curve analysis could be used to differentiate between MZ twins.
By the end of this century, the landscape around Mount Everest may drastically change. As the planet continues to warm, the Everest region of Nepal could lose most of its glaciers, according to a study published in the journal The Cryosphere.
“We did not expect to see glaciers reduced at such a large scale,” said Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal and lead author of the new report. “The numbers are quite frightening.”
Dr. Shea and his colleagues found that moderate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could result in a 70 percent loss of glaciers around Mount Everest, while a business-as-usual scenario in which emissions remain at the same levels could result in a 99 percent loss.
To arrive at these findings, Dr. Shea and his colleagues used a computer model for glacier melt, accumulation and redistribution. They customized the model with data on temperature and precipitation, measurements from the field and remote-sensing observations collected over 50 years from the Dudh Koshi basin, which includes Mount Everest and several of the world’s other highest peaks.
The model took into account how much mass glaciers gain from snowfall, as well as the way that mass is redistributed by continual downward movement. The researchers applied the model to eight future climate scenarios, from moderate emissions reductions to none at all.
The results do not bode well for the glaciers around Everest. Even if emissions are reduced by midcentury and rain in the region increases, the model predicts that the majority of the glaciers will probably disappear by 2100.
Gigantic jets of gas that leap out of galaxies at nearly the speed of light occur only after two galaxies merge, a survey of the distant Universe shows. The results suggest that the jets are powered by the collision of black holes at the galaxies’ centres and solve the puzzle of why only some galaxies emit these jets.
The link between mergers and galactic jets seems to be a “slam dunk”, says astronomer Sylvain Veilleux of the University of Maryland in College Park, who was not involved in the work. Most large galaxies are thought to host black holes at their centres, and these can be billions of times as massive as the Sun. Some black holes, including the one at the heart of our own Milky Way, are dormant and are mostly only noticeable from the gravitational pull that they exert on nearby stars. But other black holes are surrounded by a disk of matter, light years across, that shines more brightly than the rest of its galaxy combined as the matters spirals into the black hole.
Only a few of these ‘active galactic nuclei’ have been seen producing what are probably the most spectacular fireworks in the Universe: jets of matter accelerated to nearly the speed of light that stream out of the galaxy centres in opposite directions, at right angles to the disks. These jets shine brightly in the radio spectrum and their hosts are therefore known as radio galaxies.
But why some systems have jets and some do not has been a puzzle. Marco Chiaberge, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and his collaborators stumbled on an explanation almost by chance in late 2013, during a survey of radio galaxies using the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope. “We printed out the images of this new survey and put them on a table,” Chiaberge recalls. “We looked at them and we said, ‘These are all mergers!’”
The team followed up their initial intuition with more careful work on a larger sample of 19 radio galaxies, all of them at least 7.8 billion light years (2.4 billion parsecs) away. Nearly all had irregular shapes with regions of intense star formation, a sign that they were the result of a recent merger, on cosmic time scales. Not all galaxy mergers are seen producing jets because in some of them the central black holes are still falling towards each other and are not merging, Chiaberge suggests. The results are available on the preprint server arXiv1 and are due to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The number of new cases of cancer in the world is rising, according to a new report that looked at cancer in 118 countries. Globally, the number of new cancer cases increased from 8.5 million in 1990 to 14.9 million in 2013, the study found. The world population rose from 5.3 billion to 7.1 billion during that time. In addition, cancer is accounting for an increasingly greater proportion of deaths: In 1990, 12 percent of all deaths in the countries studied were due to cancer, but in 2013, it was 15 percent.
The researchers specifically looked at 28 different types of cancer, and found that cases from nearly all of these types of cancer have increased in the last two decades — ranging from a 9 percent increase in cervical cancer cases to a 217 percent increase in prostate cancer cases. The only cancer that decreased during the study period was Hodgkin's lymphoma, which saw a 10 percent decrease in the number of new cases between 1990 and 2013.
The overall rise in cancer cases is partly due to longer life spans, since the risk of cancer increases with age. "With life expectancy increasing globally, the future burden of cancer will likely increase," the researchers said. The growing global population, increases in obesity and poor dietary habits also have contributed to the rise, they said.
Cancer is more common in men than in women, with 1 in 3 men worldwide developing cancer before age 79, compared with 1 in 5 women. The most common cancer overall was cancer of the lungs, trachea or bronchus, with 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2013, followed by breast cancer and colon cancer. The most common cancer in men was prostate cancer, and the most common cancer in women was breast cancer.
A particularly concerning trend is an increase in cancer cases in developing countries, the researchers said. In 2013, the rates of new cancer cases were higher in developing countries than in developed countries for stomach cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancer, cervical cancer, mouth cancer, and nose and throat cancer.
Phonons—the elemental particles that transmit both heat and sound—have magnetic properties, according to a landmark study supported by Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) services and recently published by a researcher group from The Ohio State University.
In a recent issue of the journal Nature Materials, the researchers describe how a magnetic field, roughly the size of a medical MRI, reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12 percent. Simulations performed at OSC then identified the reason for it—the magnetic field induces a diamagnetic response in vibrating atoms known as phonons, which changes how they transport heat.
"This adds a new dimension to our understanding of acoustic waves," said Joseph Heremans, Ph.D., Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology and a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State whose group performed the experiments. "We've shown that we can steer heat magnetically. With a strong enough magnetic field, we should be able to steer sound waves, too."
People might be surprised enough to learn that heat and sound have anything to do with each other, much less that either can be controlled by magnets, Heremans acknowledged. But both are expressions of the same form of energy, quantum mechanically speaking. So any force that controls one should control the other.
Investigators for the nationwide trial, NCI-MATCH: MolecularAnalysis for Therapy Choice (EAY131), announced today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago that the precision medicine trial will open to patient enrollment in July. The trial seeks to determine whether targeted therapies for people whose tumors have specific gene mutations will be effective regardless of their cancer type. NCI-MATCH will incorporate more than 20 different study drugs or drug combinations, each targeting a specific gene mutation, in order to match each patient in the trial with a therapy that targets a molecular abnormality in their tumor. The study was co-developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, part of the NCI-sponsored National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). It is being led by ECOG-ACRIN.
NCI-MATCH is a phase II trial with numerous small substudies (arms) for each treatment being investigated. It will open with approximately 10 substudies, moving to 20 or more within months. The study parameters for the first 10 arms are being sent to 2,400 participating sites in the NCTN for review in preparation for patient enrollment beginning in July. The exact date for the opening of patient enrollment will be decided shortly after the ASCO meeting. Additional substudies are in development and will be added over time as the trial progresses.
Via Integrated DNA Technologies
A patient tormented by suicidal thoughts gives his psychiatrist a few strands of his hair. She derives stem cells from them to grow budding brain tissue harboring the secrets of his unique illness in a petri dish. She uses the information to genetically engineer a personalized treatment to correct his brain circuit functioning. Just Sci-fi? Yes, but...
An evolving “disease-in-a-dish” technology, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is bringing closer the day when such a seemingly futuristic personalized medicine scenario might not seem so far-fetched. Scientists have perfected mini cultured 3-D structures that grow and function much like the outer mantle – the key working tissue, or cortex — of the brain of the person from whom they were derived. Strikingly, these “organoids” buzz with neuronal network activity. Cells talk with each other in circuits, much as they do in our brains.
Sergiu Pasca, M.D. , of Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, and colleagues, debut what they call “human cortical spheroids,” May 25, 2015 online in the journal Nature Methods.
“There’s been amazing progress in this field over the past few years,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, which provided most of the funding for the study. “The cortex spheroids grow to a state in which they express functional connectivity, allowing for modeling and understanding of mental illnesses. They do not even begin to approach the complexity of a whole human brain. But that is not exactly what we need to study disorders of brain circuitry. As we seek advances that promise enormous potential benefits to patients, we are ever mindful of the ethical issues they present.”
Prior to the new study, scientists had developed a way to study neurons differentiated from stem cells derived from patients’ skin cells — using a technology called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They had even produced primitive organoids by coaxing neurons and support cells to organize themselves, mimicking the brain’s own architecture. But these lacked the complex circuitry required to even begin to mimic the workings of our brains.
The researchers have shown that acoustic vortices act like tornados of sound, causing microparticles to rotate and drawing them to the vortex core. Like a tornado, what happens to the particles depends strongly on their size.
Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and one of the authors of the study, said: “We have now shown that these vortices can rotate microparticles, which opens up potential applications such as the creation of microscopic centrifuges for biological cell sorting or small-scale, low-power water purification.
“If the large-scale acoustic vortex devices were thought of as sonic screwdrivers, we have invented the watchmakers sonic screwdriver.” The research team used a number of tiny ultra-sonic loudspeakers arranged in a circle to create the swirling sound waves. They found that when a mixture of small microparticles (less than 1 micron) and water were introduced they rotated slowly about the vortex core. However, larger microparticles (household flour) were drawn into the core and were seen to spin at high speeds or become stuck in a series of circular rings due to acoustic radiation forces.
Dr ZhenYu Hong, of the Department of Applied Physics at Northwestern Polytechnical University in China, added: “Previously researchers have shown that much larger objects, centimeters in scale, could be rotated with acoustic vortices, proving that they carry rotational momentum.”
Imagine you need to have an almost exact copy of an object. Now imagine that you can just pull your smartphone out of your pocket, take a snapshot with its integrated 3-D imager, send it to your 3-D printer, and within minutes you have reproduced a replica accurate to within microns of the original object. This feat may soon be possible because of a new, tiny high-resolution 3-D imager developed at Caltech.
Any time you want to make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, the first step is to produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. Such 3-D imaging has been around for decades, but the most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications.
A cheap, compact yet highly accurate new device known as a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) promises to change that. Using an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter square in size, the NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device.
The work, done in the laboratory of Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, is described in the February 2015 issue of Optics Express.
Via Enrico De Angelis
Factories are about to get smarter. The machines that make everything from our phones to our sandwiches rely on creaking technology -- but not for long. "We will have a fourth industrial revolution," says professor Detlef Zühlke, a lead researcher in the factories of the future. And that fourth revolution is all about making factories less stupid.
Zühlke and his team have spent the past decade developing a new standard for factories, a sort of internet of things for manufacturing. "There will be hundreds of thousands of computers everywhere," Zühlke tells WIRED.co.uk. "Some of these technologies will be disruptive".
In Germany this impending revolution is known as Industry 4.0, with the government shovelling close to €500m (£357m) into developing the technology. In China, Japan, South Korea and the USA big steps are also being made to create global standards and systems that will make factories smarter. The rest of the world, Zühlke claims, is "quite inactive". Zühlke is head of one of the largest research centers for smart factory technology in the world. The facility, located at the German Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DFKID) in the south-western city of Kaiserslautern, houses a row of boxes packed with wires and circuitry.
At first it looks like any factory, but then you notice all the machines are on wheels. This, Zühlke explains, is the factory of the future. His vision is based on cyber physical systems, combining mechanical systems with electronics to connect everything together. And the wheels? One day different modules in the factory could potentially drive themselves around to allow factories to alter the production line. For now, moving the modules is done by humans.
The demo factory is currently producing business card holders. Each module performs a different task and they can be rearranged into any order, with the modules able to understand when it is their turn to carry out a task. A storage module feeds into an engraver, a robot arm, a laser marker, a quality control module and so forth. New modules can be added at any time, a process Zühlke compares to playing with Lego.
The idea owes a lot to how we've all been using home computers for years. For more than a decade it has been easy to plug in a new printer or other USB device and have it instantly recognized. On a computer this is known as "plug and play", in a factory Zühlke describes it as "plug and produce". A key breakthrough has been the development of a USB port on an industrial scale, Zühlke explains. This cable, which looks more like a giant hose, sends data and pressurized air to modules in a smart factory, with a control centre receiving information back.
In two years Zühlke expects the first wave of factories using smart technology to be fully operational, with widespread adoption in factories around the world in the next decade. For now, smart factories remain a research project.
Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to connect different scents with the sweet reward of sugar, depending on the hour: menthol in the morning and mushrooms in the afternoon.
Researchers say that the findings show the surprising mental abilities of animals, no matter how small. "If even the fly, with its miniature brain, has the sense of time, most animals may have it," says Martin Heisenberg of Rudolf Virchow Center in Germany.
In earlier studies, researchers showed that mice and honeybees can associate a reward--food or a mate, for instance--with a particular time of day. To understand how this memory for time works in the new study, Heisenberg and his colleagues looked to the fruit fly.
The researchers trained hungry flies to associated two different chemical odors with sugar in the morning or in the afternoon on two consecutive days. On the third day, they tested the flies' preference for one scent or the other.
The results were clear: the flies learned to switch their scent preference over the course of the day. Flies tested in the morning preferred the odor paired during training with sucrose in the morning, while flies tested in the afternoon preferred the odor paired with sucrose in the afternoon. Their ability to tell time remained as long as the two separate events were separated by a period of at least four hours.
The researchers found that the flies' time-keeping ability remained both in constant darkness and with a regular light-dark cycle. The flies couldn't keep time, however, when the lights were kept on around the clock. Flies lacking clock genes known to be important for maintaining a daily circadian rhythm still learned to like certain odors, but they couldn't associate those scents with the time.
The findings show that flies can use time as an additional clue to find what's good to eat. The next step is to explore the underlying molecular mechanism for this time-odor learning in greater detail.
"Given the formidable collection of genetic tools for studying the fly brain, this can now be achieved," Heisenberg says.
Chemists at the University of Waterloo have discovered the key reaction that takes place in sodium-air batteries that could pave the way for development of the so-called holy grail of electrochemical energy storage. The key lies in Nazar's group discovery of the so-called proton phase transfer catalyst. By isolating its role in the battery's discharge and recharge reactions, Nazar and colleagues were not only able to boost the battery's capacity, they achieved a near-perfect recharge of the cell. When the researchers eliminated the catalyst from the system, they found the battery no longer worked. Unlike the traditional solid-state battery design, a metal-oxygen battery uses a gas cathode that takes oxygen and combines it with a metal such as sodium or lithium to form a metal oxide, storing electrons in the process. Applying an electric current reverses the reaction and reverts the metal to its original form.
Understanding how sodium-oxygen batteries work has implications for developing the more powerful lithium-oxygen battery, which is has been seen as the holy grail of electrochemical energy storage. Their results appear in the journal Nature Chemistry.
"Our new understanding brings together a lot of different, disconnected bits of a puzzle that have allowed us to assemble the full picture," says Nazar, a Chemistry professor in the Faculty of Science.