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Females have two X chromosomes in each of their cells. Fully unfolded, each copy is two inches long. One of these two X chromosomes is inactive – its genes are turned off. This copy folds into a structure called the Barr body, a mysterious configuration that was discovered in 1949. Recently, scientists have shown that the Barr body contains massive superloops bringing DNA sequences at opposite ends of the chromosome together inside the nucleus of a cell.
Now, a team of scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, Florida State University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has determined which part of the DNA code is responsible for these superloops and has shown that it is possible to use this information to change the structure of the Barr body as a whole. The report, which sheds light on female development in mammals, appears today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “X inactivation is fundamentally important for female development,” said Dr. Miriam Huntley, co-first author on the study. “Without it, females would generate too much of every gene product of the X chromosome.”
Huntley recently received her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she worked with co-senior author Dr. Erez Lieberman Aiden, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics, a McNair scholar and director of the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor. In earlier work, Huntley and her colleagues in the Aiden lab created the first genome-wide map of loops – positions where the genome folds back on itself in the nucleus of a cell and points that lie far apart along the contour of a chromosome come together in 3-D.
In the process, they demonstrated that the Barr body – the inactive X chromosome that is present in females – contains superloops, structures that have no analog in men. “The typical loop in a male genome spans about 200,000 letters of the DNA code. If fully stretched out, it would be about three thousandths of an inch long. But the loops in the Barr body can span as many as 77 million DNA letters – an inch of DNA,” said Huntley. “We call these giant structures superloops.”
Independently, the laboratory of Dr. Brian Chadwick at Florida State University had been studying X inactivation with a different set of techniques. “We had found that the human inactive X was organized into at least two different types of silent DNA that alternated along the chromosome. At one of the intersections was a strange DNA element called DXZ4, where a single sequence repeated, over and over again, for hundreds of thousands of letters,” said Chadwick, co-senior author of the new study. “I've always been fascinated with what the purpose of this repeat was. Other large repeats in our genome perform structural roles, such as the centromeres and telomeres. I was convinced that the role of DXZ4 was just waiting to be discovered.”
Increasingly sophisticated tissue organoids can model many aspects of disease, but animal studies retain a fundamental role in research, scientists say.
From mini brains to mini kidneys, an increasing number of organ models can now be grown in vitro. Some of these “organoids” can even perform certain functions of the human body in both health and disease, reducing the need for animal models. But organoid-based models still can’t fully recapitulate complex aspects of physiology that can only be studied in whole organisms.
“I believe that organoid models will replace a lot of current animal experimentation,” Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands, one of the field’s pioneers, wrote in an email to The Scientist. However, “a living organism is more than the sum of its parts,” he added. “There will always be the need for confirmation of any finding . . . in vivo.”
Organoids are three-dimensional miniature organs grown in vitro from adult or embryonic stem cells under chemical and physical conditions that mimic the human body. Clevers and colleagues grew the first mini guts in 2009; since then, researchers have succeeded in growing mini brains, kidneys, livers, pancreases, and prostate glands (see “Orchestrating Organoids,” The Scientist, September 1, 2015).
One area where organoids are well suited to reduce the use of animal models is toxicology, Clevers and others have noted.
Many drugs prove successful in mouse models only to fail in human trials. Organoids, on the other hand, can be grown from human stem cells. “The fact that [the cells are] human is really important,” James Wells, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center whose lab develops stomach organoids, told The Scientist. “There can be very different responses to drugs in a mouse and a human.”
Another advantage of organoids is that they can be used for personalized medicine.
Just when it seems that technology can't amaze us further, here comes a new batch of next-gen, gee-whiz projects en route to reality. Our panel of big thinkers opens a window on tomorrow. Have you heard of asteroid mining? Eric Anderson's company plans to probe space rocks for water and platinum group metals. Or how about John Kelly's vaunted IBM research team, tooling up its Watson technology (of "Jeopardy!" fame) to help sequence DNA and speed cancer treatment? Or Eric David's Organovo scientists developing printing capabilities to create living tissue--and even human organs--on demand? From the vastness of the cosmos to the microscopic foundations of life, this panel of visionaries points us to the marvels of the future.
Cancer-screening firm Ambry Genetics is giving away anonymized data on 10,000 breast and ovarian cancer patients to researchers.
Who owns our genetic heritage? It's a contentious question in the multi-billion-dollar genetics industry. Scientists now know not only all three billion-plus letters of the human genome, but many of the key genes that cause hereditary ailments including cancers, autism, Down syndrome, and Parkinson's. That's expensive knowledge, and some firms and institutions that footed the bill for research don't want to just give it away. "Companies are going to do as much as they can to collect as much genetic data as possible," says Sabah Oney, a biotech entrepreneur most recently with prenatal DNA testing firm Ariosa Diagnostics. "Whoever owns the most data is going to be the king."
Others say that companies should compete on services they offer, not the data they have collected. A vocal advocate on this side is genetic-testing company Ambry Genetics. It just opened up access to anonymized genetic sequencing and other medical data for 10,000 patients suffering from breast or ovarian cancers. The company promises to keep adding to the database in the future and also expand to data on other cancers on its site, AmbryShare.
"We're not here to aggregate data and try to sell it," says Charlie Dunlop, the founder and CEO of Ambry, which just opened a big new lab in Aliso Viejo, south of Los Angeles. Ambry's growth was helped by a lawsuit it won to bust patents by rival Myriad Genetics. So Dunlop has a big interest in the open-access side. Still, the genetic data that Ambry is opening up could be a big contribution to cancer treatments and cures, and set an example for other companies.
With the rapid advance of miniaturization, data processing using electric currents faces tough challenges, some of which are insurmountable.
Smaller, faster, more energy-efficient - this is the mantra for the further development of computers and mobile telephones which is currently progressing at a breathtaking pace. However, Dr. Sebastian Wintz of the HZDR Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research knows only too well, how difficult it already is to achieve any further degree of miniaturization. "One major problem with current technologies," he said, "is the heat which is generated when data are transmitted with the aid of electric currents. We need a new concept." The physicist is working with international colleagues on so-called spin waves (magnons) which are set to replace moving charges in the future as information carriers. The scientists have now succeeded for the first time in generating spin waves of such short wavelengths that they have potential for future applications in data processing.
The spin denotes a property which lends the particles a magnetic moment. They then act like tiny magnets which run parallel to each other in ferromagnetic materials. If one of the spins then changes direction, this has a knock-on effect on its neighbors. A chain reaction gives rise to a spin wave.
The processing of information is presently based on electric currents. The charged particles speed through a network of wires which are squeezed closer and closer together, driven by the desire for ever more compact chips. On their way, the electrons collide with atoms, causing them to rock to and fro in the crystal lattice thereby generating heat. If the wires are too close together, this heat can no longer be dissipated and the system breaks down. "The great advantage of spin waves is that the electrons themselves don't move," explained Wintz, "therefore precious little heat is produced by the flow of data."
The CRISPR gene editing technique has been in the news a lot of late as scientists creep ever closer to using it as a means to treat diseases or to change the very nature of biological beings. China has been a leader in promoting such research on human beings—they were the first to use the technique to on human embryos.
The new effort is seen as far less controversial—a team in the U.S. is planning a similar study as soon as they can get regulators to greenlight their project. The Chinese team plans to retrieve T cells from patients that have incurable lung cancer and then edit the genes in those cells. More specifically, they will be looking to disable a gene that encodes for a protein called PD-1—prior research has shown that it acts as a brake on an immune response to help prevent attacks on healthy cells. Once the cells have been edited and inspected very carefully to make sure there were no editing errors they will be allowed to multiply and then all of the cells will be injected back into the same patient's bloodstream. It is hoped that the edited cells will cause the immune system to mount a more aggressive attack on tumor cells, killing them and curing the patient.
The researchers acknowledge that they do not know for sure how the body will respond, whether it will cause a more aggressive attack on the tumor cells or kick off other problems related to an overzealous immune response.
The clinical trial is set to start next month, 30 candidates have been chosen, but only one will get the edited cellsinitially—a three dose regimen. That patient will be monitored very closely for both positive and negative responses—the overall goal is to see if the procedure is safe, but the researchers are hoping, of course, to see some sign of tumor reduction.
They can’t be explained by our existing laws of physics.
The new particles have been named X(4140), X(4274), X(4500), and X(4700) after their respective masses, and each one has been found to contain a unique combination of two charm quarks and two strange quarks.
This makes them the first four-quark particles found to be composed entirely of heavy quarks, Symmetry reports.
By 'exciting' the individual quarks inside their new tetraquark particles, the researchers were able to observe their unique internal structure, mass, and quantum numbers. In doing so, they discovered something that doesn’t fit with current physics models that work with so-called ordinary particles, such as composite hadrons built from either a quark and an anti-quark, or three separate quarks, CERN reports.
Physicists are now trying to come up with new models to explain their results. The results have been published in two papers on the pre-print website arXiv.org here and here, so are now going to be scrutinized by independent physicists ahead of the formal peer-review process.
The discovers are expecting one of two possibilities to be confirmed with further research: theoretical physicists are either going to have to explain the existence of this new family of particles, or they could be identified as the result of strange 'ripple effects' emanating from never-before-seen behaviors of existing particles.
A new 21st century map of the human brain contains 180 distinct areas in each hemisphere, including 97 previously undiscovered territories, research published Wednesday in the journal Nature revealed. It's not quite Google Maps, but the new optic still provides the most detailed understanding of the cerebral cortex to date, based on the freshest data from the latest technologies.
The new map "is a major revision and updating" of previous maps," said David Van Essen, senior author of the study. "Most of the new areas are in regions we associate with higher cognitive function," he said.
This is version 1.0, and as new data comes in, there will be revisions, said Dr. Greg Farber, director of technology development at the National Institute of Mental Health, echoing the authors of the research.
A DNA sequencer that was just delivered to the International Space Station can test not just known Earthly organisms. Turns out, the little device may also be able to analyze samples taken from alien life, NASA said.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule met up with the International Space Station (ISS) early yesterday morning (July 20), after being launched aboard the Falcon 9 rocket on July 18. Among the goods delivered was the MinION — a palm-sized sequencer with a lot of promise that weighs just 120 grams (0.27 pounds).
"This one piece of equipment might do a lot for us, in terms of exploration, research and crew health-related issues," said Sarah Wallace, a NASA microbiologist and member of the team working on the MinION experiment, in a recent conversation with Live Science.
One of the Moon's biggest craters was created by an asteroid more than 250km (150 miles) across, a study suggests. It smashed into the lunar surface about 3.8 billion years ago, forming Mare Imbrium - the feature also known as the right eye of the "Man in the Moon".
Scientists say the asteroid was three times bigger than previously estimated and debris from the collision would have rained down on the Earth. The research is published in the journal Nature.
The asteroid was so big it could be classified as a protoplanet - a space rock with the potential to become a fully formed world. Lead author Prof Peter Schultz, a planetary geologist from Brown University in the United States, said: "One implication of this work is that the asteroids may not have been these small chunks flying around - there may have been many more of these very large protoplanets. "It was a catastrophic period of time."
Scientists are exploring a mysterious pattern, found in birds’ eyes, boxes of marbles and other surprising places, that is neither regular nor random.
Many years ago, Joe Corbo stared into the eye of a chicken and saw something astonishing. The color-sensitive cone cells that carpeted the retina (detached from the fowl, and mounted under a microscope) appeared as polka dots of five different colors and sizes. But Corbo observed that, unlike the randomly dispersed cones in human eyes, or the neat rows of cones in the eyes of many fish, the chicken’s cones had a haphazard and yet remarkably uniform distribution. The dots’ locations followed no discernible rule, and yet dots never appeared too close together or too far apart. Each of the five interspersed sets of cones, and all of them together, exhibited this same arresting mix of randomness and regularity. Corbo, who runs a biology lab at Washington University in St. Louis, was hooked.
“It’s extremely beautiful just to look at these patterns,” he said. “We were kind of captured by the beauty, and had, purely out of curiosity, the desire to understand the patterns better.” He and his collaborators also hoped to figure out the patterns’ function, and how they were generated. He didn’t know then that these same questions were being asked in numerous other contexts, or that he had found the first biological manifestation of a type of hidden order that has also turned up all over mathematics and physics.
Corbo did know that whatever bird retinas are doing is probably the thing to do. Avian vision works spectacularly well (enabling eagles, for instance, to spot mice from a mile high), and his lab studies the evolutionary adaptations that make this so. Many of these attributes are believed to have been passed down to birds from a lizardlike creature that, 300 million years ago, gave rise to both dinosaurs and proto-mammals. While birds’ ancestors, the dinos, ruled the planetary roost, our mammalian kin scurried around in the dark, fearfully nocturnal and gradually losing color discrimination. Mammals’ cone types dropped to two — a nadir from which we are still clambering back. About 30 million years ago, one of our primate ancestors’ cones split into two — red- and green-detecting — which, together with the existing blue-detecting cone, give us trichromatic vision. But our cones, particularly the newer red and green ones, have a clumpy, scattershot distribution and sample light unevenly.
Bird eyes have had eons longer to optimize. Along with their higher cone count, they achieve a far more regular spacing of the cells. But why, Corbo and colleagues wondered, had evolution not opted for the perfect regularity of a grid or “lattice” distribution of cones? The strange, uncategorizable pattern they observed in the retinas was, in all likelihood, optimizing some unknown set of constraints. What these were, what the pattern was, and how the avian visual system achieved it remained unclear. The biologists did their best to quantify the regularity in the retinas, but this was unfamiliar terrain, and they needed help. In 2012, Corbo contacted Salvatore Torquato, a professor of theoretical chemistry at Princeton University and a renowned expert in a discipline known as “packing.” Packing problems ask about the densest way to pack objects (such as cone cells of five different sizes) in a given number of dimensions (in the case of a retina, two). “I wanted to get at this question of whether such a system was optimally packed,” Corbo said. Intrigued, Torquato ran some algorithms on digital images of the retinal patterns and “was astounded,” Corbo recalled, “to see the same phenomenon occurring in these systems as they’d seen in a lot of inorganic or physical systems.”
A very unusual new species of zoantharian surprised Drs Takuma Fujii and James Davis Reimer, affiliated with Kagoshima University and University of the Ryukyus.
The scientists stumbled upon a solitary individual polyp while conducting SCUBA surveys around the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. They noticed that the creatures were buried almost completely in the soft sediment of the seafloor. It was only their oral disks and tentacles that were protruding above the surface.
Generally, most known zoantharians are colonial (hence their common name of 'colonial anemones'), and many dwell in shallow waters of subtropical and tropical regions, where their large colonies can be found on coral reefs.
However, these newly discovered polyps were not only leading solitary lives. They were also found to lack zooxanthellae, single-celled organisms that coexist in symbiosis with certain marine invertebrates, also typical for the majority of zoantharians.
The discovery of this unusual new species is reported in the open access journal ZooKeys.
Solitary zoantharian species, such as this one, are known from scant few reports, and only three species are described, all reported more than 100 years ago from the Indo-Pacific region. Overall, very little is known about the hereby studied genus Sphenopus.
A young star cluster surrounded by three concentric bubbles was recently found near the M33 galaxy, revealing a cosmic splendor that could be compared to Russian matryoshka nesting dolls.
The concentric bubbles, which comprise what researchers call a triple-bubble, are actually three supernova remnants, shells of gas and dust that form following the explosion of a star. This is the first known case of three supernova remnants nesting one inside the other, said the researchers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), who made the discovery. The above illustration shows what a cross section of the three rings might look like if scientists could get a closer look.
The shells provide a unique opportunity to study the remains of these stellar explosions, as well as the the interstellar medium, which is the gas and dust that lies between stars, John Beckman, co-author of the new study, said in a news release. Beckman is an astrophysicist with the Spanish National Resource Council and IAC. "We can measure how much matter there is in a shell, approximately a couple of hundred times the mass of the sun in each of the shells," he said.
In fall 2015, the conclusion of the 1000 Genomes Project revealed 88 million variants in the human genome. What most of them mean for human health is unclear. Of the known associations between a genetic variant and disease, many are still tenuous at best. How can scientists determine which genes or genetic variants are truly detrimental?
Patients with rare diseases are often caught in the crosshairs of this uncertainty. By the time they have their genome, or portions of it, sequenced, they’ve endured countless physician visits and tests. Sequencing provides some hope for an answer, but the process of uncovering causal variants on which to build a treatment plan is still one of painstaking detective work with many false leads. Even variants that are known to be harmful show no effects in some individuals who harbor them, says Adrian Liston, a translational immunologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium who works on disease gene discovery.
Exome sequencing, which covers the 1 percent to 2 percent of the genome that codes for protein, typically turns up some 30,000 genetic variants, which need to be carefully assessed. Advances in bioinformatics tools have allowed researchers to rapidly whittle numerous variants or genes down to a manageable list. From there, other web-based platforms are helping investigators build a case for causation. These steps are important, Liston says, because testing a gene candidate in animal models or cell lines consumes a vast amount of resources.
The compact star system maintains its intricate balance through orbital resonance.
When NASA's Kepler space telescope first detected the "mini-solar system" of Kepler-80 in 2012, astronomers were astonished by how crowded it was. There are five worlds all orbiting their star well within the distance Mercury orbits the sun.
The discovery of Kepler-80 -- and other compact star systems like it known as Systems with Tightly-spaced Inner Planets, or "STIPs" -- challenges our understanding of how planets form, even adding an extra perspective to how Earth may have evolved.
Now astronomers have taken a long, hard look at Kepler-80, which is located around 1,100 light-years away, and are beginning to understand what makes it tick.
One of the biggest questions challenging our understanding of this system is how could all the exoplanets maintain their apparently stable orbits in such a small region? Wouldn't their motions have been thrown into dynamical chaos long ago?
Each exoplanet has an orbital period (or "year") of just one, three, four, seven and nine days. Whipping around the star at such high speed and close proximity should pose a problem; their gravities should interfere with one another.
And in new research to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, they do affect one another, but not in the negative sense. Researchers were able to precisely measure the orbital periods of all the planets and detected very slight gravitational tugs as they passed one another. The technique is known as transit timing variations and it has been used by Kepler before to detect the gravitational tug of worlds that remained undetected.
These precise measurements led the researchers to discover that all five worlds are in a tight, synchronized dance that maintains the stability of the whole star system.
"The outer four planets return to almost exactly the same configuration every 27 days," said Darin Ragozzine, of Florida Institute of Technology, in a statement.
This surprising synchronicity is known as orbital resonance. As Kepler-80 formed, the tight orbits of the planets it contained evolved into a clockwork-like balance, ensuring their orbits remained stable.
The four outer exoplanets are thought to be of between four to six times the mass of Earth and the two outermost worlds have diameters that are twice as large as the inner worlds. It is therefore thought the two outer worlds are gas giants.
After carrying out computer simulations of the evolution of Kepler-80, the researchers think all the worlds formed in much wider orbits, eventually migrating closer to the star. Over time, their orbits started to synchronize and settled into this uniquely compact state.
Stephen Kingsmore, M.D., D.Sc., president and CEO of Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine at Rady Children's Hospital – San Diego, is the official title holder of the Guinness World Records® designation for fastest genetic diagnosis, which he accomplished by successfully diagnosing critically ill newborns in just 26 hours, as published in the journal Genome Medicine.
The feat was made possible by several time-shrinking technologies, including Edico Genome's genomic data-crunching computer chip, DRAGEN, and one of Illumina's high-throughput sequencing instruments. In addition, other parameters of the sequencing process were optimized.
Dr. Kingsmore achieved this Guinness World Records title while serving as executive director of Medical Panomics at Children's Mercy Kansas City; he will implement the enabling technologies at the new Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine. Today's celebration in San Diego, often called "the genomics capital of the world," is being held on National DNA Day, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project and the discovery of DNA's double helix.
"Diagnosing acutely ill babies is a race against the clock, which is why it's so essential for physicians to have access to technology that will provide answers faster and help set the course of treatment," Dr. Kingsmore said. "My work at Children's Mercy Kansas City that led to this recognition would not have been possible without our key technology partners Edico Genome and Illumina, who share a vision for unraveling mysteries of disease and giving hope to families with ill newborns. I look forward to collaborating with both parties to implement this approach at Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine and ultimately neonatal and pediatric intensive care units across the country."
Teal is self-promoted as the world's fastest production drone. It is fast and can withstand 40mh winds. It is built to run as many apps as you can think of and it has a supercomputer on board.
Among the key features: modes for beginners to hardcore racers; control it from a smartphone, tablet or hobby controller; has something called Teal OS as a software platform, opening the way for people to build apps around it; fast processors on board the drone.
The drone is powered by NVIDIA TX1. It handles machine learning, autonomous flight, image recognition and more onboard. "This makes Teal a flying supercomputer. You can even plug Teal into a monitor, use it like a normal computer, play games on it...", Teal's inventor explains.
Teal has a 13MP wide field of view camera that supports 4K video recording and 3-axis electronic stabilization. Videos and photos can be stored directly on built in 16GB storage or to a microSD card.
Speed? How fast is fast? The max horizontal speed is listed as 70 mph. The site FAQ page stated that "Teal can fly over 70 MPH! In test runs, teal has even reached speeds over 85 MPH under certain conditions."
Teal is small enough to fit in a standard backpack without disassembly. The diagonal motor to motor measurement is listed as 261mm.
Synthetic biology allows researchers to program cells to perform novel functions such as fluorescing in response to a particular chemical or producing drugs in response to disease markers. In a step toward devising much more complex cellular circuits, MIT engineers have now programmed cells to remember and respond to a series of events.
A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, with assistance from another at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany has found a new way to get electrons to attract one. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes the technique they used and the ways their results might prove useful. Takis Kontos with Ecole Normale Supérieure in France offers a News & Views piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue and in addition to outlining their work offers some history on its development by others in the field.
Getting electrons to attract each is a big part of superconductivity, but unfortunately, due to the need for extremely cold temperatures most such materials have not proved to be of practical use. What scientists would really like to find is a material that could be a superconductor at room temperature and one promising avenue of research has been attempting to realize a theory proposed by William Little half a century ago—he suggested it might be possible to get electrons to attract one another by using the repulsion of other electrons. In this new effort, the researchers have attempted to prove this theory correct by using carbon nanotubes placed near one another.
Their experiment consisted of coaxing just two electrons into a carbon nanotube and a polarizer in the form of two energy wells in a second carbon nanotube. They then positioned the two nanotubes perpendicular to each other, with one over the top of the over forming a cross, though they were not allowed to touch—one was kept approximately 100 nanometers away from the other. At that distance, the researchers confirmed that the electrons became attracted to one another.
In theory, the team notes, it should be possible to create a superconductor using their method—unfortunately, creating an entire crystal, or even a short chain of material in such a way, is likely to be exceedingly difficult. Still, Kontos suggests that it could be used to create a quantum simulator which could be added as yet another tool for researchers in the field.
Death rates in humans increase dramatically in later life, leading to an upsweeping mortality curve (far right, 2009 data from Japanese women). But the mortality curves of plants and animals vary greatly, according to a recent data analysis. Hydra don’t appear to age at all, and the death rates of desert tortoises can actually decline later in life.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, a tiny green microbe joined forces with a fungus, and together they conquered the world. It’s a tale of two cross-kingdom organisms, one providing food and the one other shelter, and it’s been our touchstone example of symbiosis for 150 years. Trouble is, that story is nowhere near complete.
A sweeping genetic analysis of lichen has revealed a third symbiotic organism, hiding in plain sight alongside the familiar two, that has eluded scientists for decades. The stowaway is another fungus, a basidiomycete yeast. It’s been found in 52 genera of lichen across six continents, indicating that it is an extremely widespread, if not ubiquitous, part of the symbiosis. And according to molecular dating, it’s probably been along for the ride since the beginning.
“I think this will require some rewriting of the textbooks,” said Catharine Aime, a mycologist at Purdue University and co-author on the study published today in Science.
Scientists in Wales see gas in the grass. The green stuff growing in your yard might be an inexpensive source of renewable energy. With just sunlight and the help of a cheap catalyst, researchers at Cardiff University have found a way to derive hydrogen gas from fescue grass.
"Hydrogen is seen as an important future energy carrier as the world moves from fossil fuels to renewable feedstocks, and our research has shown that even garden grass could be a good way of getting hold of it," Michael Bowker, a professor at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said in a news release.
Hydrogen is plentiful on Earth, but it's not easy to unlock from its geological and biological sources. Many of the current synthesis strategies are expensive and energy-intensive, negating hydrogen's environmental benefits.
But scientists at Cardiff recently documented the promise of a new strategy called photoreforming, or photocatalysis. During photoreforming, sunlight triggers a catalyst, setting in motion a chemical reaction that converts cellulose and water into hydrogen.
Researchers tested three relatively cheap metal-based catalysts -- palladium, gold and nickel -- and found success with all three.
"Our results show that significant amounts of hydrogen can be produced using this method with the help of a bit of sunlight and a cheap catalyst," Bowker said.
If the Milky Way were strewn across a swath of silk and set aflutter in the breeze, it would look something like the rippling images in the gallery above. But these are representations of our home galaxy, produced from nearly 1,500 days of observations made by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite. Each of the images above corresponds to a numbered section in this map of the Milky Way:
It took hundreds of scientists — and about $3 billion — to assemble the first human genome sequence in 2001. Since then, the cost of DNA sequencing has crashed, while the accuracy has skyrocketed. Scientists have now sequenced the genomes of an estimated 150,000 people.
Despite this sequencing explosion, very few of the people who have their genomes sequenced get their hands on their own genomes. And those few people typically only get a highly filtered report.
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