Amazing Science
391.7K views | +231 today
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
onto Amazing Science!

Gene Therapy's Next Frontier: Zinc-Finger Nucleases for Somatic Gene Therapy

Gene Therapy's Next Frontier: Zinc-Finger Nucleases for Somatic Gene Therapy | Amazing Science |

Zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) are a powerful tool that can be used to edit the human genome ad libitum. The technology has experienced remarkable development in the last few years with regard to both the target site specificity and the engineering platforms used to generate zinc-finger proteins. As a result, two phase I clinical trials aimed at knocking out the CCR5 receptor in T cells isolated from HIV patients to protect these lymphocytes from infection with the virus have been initiated. Moreover, ZFNs have been successfully employed to knockout or correct disease-related genes in human stem cells, including hematopoietic precursor cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Targeted genome engineering approaches in multipotent and pluripotent stem cells hold great promise for future strategies geared toward correcting inborn mutations for personalized cell replacement therapies.


Short-lived ZFN expression from episomal DNA-based expression vectors—such as plasmid DNA, integrase-deficient lentiviral vectors, adenoviral vectors, and vectors based on adeno-associated virus—can only be achieved in mitotic cells, which ensures rapid dilution of the vectors during cell divisions. Because DNA-based vector systems have a tendency to integrate into the host genome, it will be important to closely follow the fate of the ZFN expression vectors in the target cells. An alternative way of delivering ZFNs is the transfer of ZFN-encoding mRNA, which ensures rapid but transient ZFN expression and avoids the issue of illegitimate integration.


Microinjection of ZFN-encoding mRNA has been performed in zebrafish and rat single-cell embryos, and the ZFN-mediated gene disruption frequency was comparable to plasmid DNA delivery. Moreover, delivery of ZFNs by mRNA transfection has been used to target the integration of a transgene into the AAVS1 locus in human iPSCs.


If direct in situ correction of a disease locus is not an option, an important consideration will be to determine where to integrate a therapeutic transgene cassette into the human genome. The AAVS1 site on chromosome 19 is thus far the most promising candidate for such a safe harbor, as a native insulator region appears to both protect transgene expression from position-effect variegation and silencing and prevent the transgene promoter from affecting the host transcriptome.


The fact that ZFNs can be used to create knockout animals is especially encouraging and emphasizes the high specificity the technology has reached in the last 3 years. Moreover, the development of alternative designer nucleases, such as TALENs and meganucleases, has further spurred interest in targeted genome engineering approaches. Conversely, studies reporting ZFN off-target activities in zebrafish and human cells must not be overlooked and should serve as the basis for further improvement of the technology. The employment of highly specific designer nucleases is especially important when DSB-based genome engineering is applied to multipotent or pluripotent stem cells, such as HSCs or iPSCs, with their high proliferative potential. Even so, the remarkable progress achieved in the last few years demonstrates that ZFNs represent a tool that allows researchers and clinicians for the first time to rationally edit the genome of human cells and to take this technology from the bench to the bedside for therapeutic applications.

No comment yet.
Amazing Science
Amazing science facts - 3D_printing • aging • AI • anthropology • art • astronomy • bigdata • bioinformatics • biology • biotech • chemistry • computers • cosmology • education • environment • evolution • future • genetics • genomics • geosciences • green_energy • history • language • map • material_science • math • med • medicine • microscopy • nanotech • neuroscience • paleontology • photography • photonics • physics • postings • robotics • science • technology • video
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities | Amazing Science |

NOTE: To subscribe to the RSS feed of Amazing Science, copy into the URL field of your browser and click "subscribe".


This newsletter is aggregated from over 1450 news sources:


All my Tweets and Scoop.It! posts sorted and searchable:



You can search through all the articles semantically on my

archived twitter feed


NOTE: All articles in the amazing-science newsletter can also be sorted by topic. To do so, click the FIND buntton (symbolized by the FUNNEL on the top right of the screen)  and display all the relevant postings SORTED by TOPICS.


You can also type your own query:


e.g., you are looking for articles involving "dna" as a keyword

Or CLICK on the little

FUNNEL symbol at the

 top right of the screen


MOST_READ • 3D_printing • aging • AI • anthropology • art • astronomy • bigdata • bioinformatics • biology • biotech • chemistry • computers • cosmology • education • environment • evolution • future • genetics • genomics • geosciences • green_energy • history • language • map • material_science • math • med • medicine • microscopy • nanotech • neuroscience • paleontology • photography • photonics • physics • postings • robotics • science • technology • video 

Siegfried Holle's curator insight, July 4, 2014 8:45 AM

Your knowledge is your strength and power 

Saberes Sin Fronteras Ong's curator insight, November 30, 2014 5:33 PM

Acceso gratuito a documentos de las mejores universidades del mundo

♥ princess leia ♥'s curator insight, December 28, 2014 11:58 AM

WoW  .. Expand  your mind!! It has room to grow!!! 

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Scientists Turn Pure Metal into Glass

Scientists Turn Pure Metal into Glass | Amazing Science |

Metallic glasses are unique in that their structure is not crystalline as it is in most metals, but rather is disordered, with the atoms randomly arranged. They are sought for various commercial applications because they are very strong and are easily processed.

Prof Mao’s method of creating metallic glass involved developing and implementing a novel technique – a cooling nano-device under in-situtransmission electron microscope. This technique enabled Prof Mao and his colleagues to achieve an unprecedentedly high cooling rate that allowed for the transformation of liquefied elemental metals tantalum (Ta) and vanadium (V) into glass.

“This is a fundamental issue explored by people in this field for a long time, but nobody could solve the problem,” said Prof Mao, who is the senior author of apaper describing the new technique in the journal Nature.

“People believed that it could be done, and now we’re able to show that it is possible.”

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Aragoscope is space telescope system that could achieve 1,000 times higher resolution than Hubble Telescope

Aragoscope is space telescope system that could achieve 1,000 times higher resolution than Hubble Telescope | Amazing Science |

A new space telescope concept, named the Aragoscope after French scientist Francois Arago who first detected diffracted light waves around a disk, could allow scientists to image space objects like black hole “event horizons” and plasma swaps between stars, said Cash of CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy. The novel telescope system also could point toward Earth and image objects as small as a rabbit, giving it the ability to hunt for lost campers in the mountains, he said. The Aragoscope could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. 

A conventional space telescope is pointed at an opaque disk along an axis to a distant target. The disk boosts the resolution of the system with no loss of collecting area. It can be used to achieve the diffraction limit based on the size of the low cost disk, rather than the high cost telescope mirror. One can envision affordable telescopes that could provide 7 centimeter resolution of the ground from geosynchronous orbit or images of the sky with one thousand times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

“Quite frankly, our New Worlds starshade project overlaps with the architecture we want to use for the Aragoscope, so we feel we are in pretty good shape going into Phase Two,” said Cash. The Aragoscope would be parked in a geostationary orbit 25,000 miles high that follows Earth’s rotation, making it appear motionless from the ground.

“Traditionally, space telescopes have essentially been monolithic pieces of glass like the Hubble Space Telescope,” said CU-Boulder doctoral student Anthony Harness of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, who is working with Cash on the project. “But the heavier the space telescope, the more expensive the cost of the launch. We have found a way to solve that problem by putting large, lightweight optics into space that offer a much higher resolution and lower cost.”

The opaque space disk would be made of a strong, dark, plastic-like material (think Hefty Bag) that could be launched in a compressed fashion like a parachute, then unfurled in orbit. The space shield would be tethered to the telescope at distances from tens to hundreds of miles depending on the size of the disk, said Harness.

“The opaque disk of the Aragoscope works in a similar way to a basic lens,” said Harness. “The light diffracted around the edge of the circular disk travels the same path length to the center and comes into focus as an image.” Since image resolution increases with telescope diameter, being able to launch such a large, yet lightweight disk would allow astronomers to achieve higher-resolution images than with smaller, traditional space telescopes, he said. 

Cash and Harness said they hope to conduct an astronomical demonstration of the Aragoscope concept in the lab using a 1-meter disk placed several meters from a telescope. The light source would be fixed about 5 or 10 meters behind the disk.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

4-Year-Old Australian Boy Receives World’s First Version of an Artificial Pancreas

4-Year-Old Australian Boy Receives World’s First Version of an Artificial Pancreas | Amazing Science |

In 2013 alone, over 79,000 children around the globe were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes: an autoimmune disorder that affects the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas. Receiving insulin therapy through a traditional pump or injections can require a lot of work to ensure blood sugar levels are safe, particularly during the night. A tremendous step forward has been made in the treatment of this disease when a 4-year-old boy from Australia was fitted with the world’s first commercially-available artificial pancreas which automatically regulates his insulin levels. With the device managing insulin output, diabetics who typically test their blood sugar up to eight times a day will need to do so less frequently.

Xavier Hames from Perth received the device from Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, where he has been receiving treatment for his diabetes since he was 22 months old. This is also where clinical trials for the device have been ongoing for several years. Xavier is the first person to receive the pump commercially, which is available for AUS$10,000 (US$8,100).

The artificial pancreas features a sensor that reads blood sugar levels and communicates to the pump, which is connected to the body underneath the skin to administer the insulin. Unlike traditional pumps, this new technology does not deliver a constant stream of insulin to the body. Instead, the artificial pancreas uses an algorithm to track blood sugar levels over time, predicting when insulin is no longer required. This reduces the risk of dangerously low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia.

Symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack can be mild and include sweating or fatigue, but in more serious cases, weakness, temporary unconsciousness, organ damage, coma, or death can occur. These typically happen while the person is sleeping (and therefore not eating) because the insulin is still working in their body, bringing their blood sugar to dangerously low levels. Diabetics often have to wake up several times each night in order to monitor their blood sugar.

"The majority of hypoglycemic attacks occur at night when a person is asleep and they might not be able to react or recognize the attack," Professor Tim Jones from Princess Margaret Hospital told The West Australian. "This device can predict hypoglycemia before it happens and stop insulin delivery before a predicted event. This, coupled with the fact that the pump automatically resumes insulin when glucose levels recover, is a real medical breakthrough.”

It is not clear exactly when Xavier was fitted with the pump, but his mother has already said that she expects it to greatly impact his day-to-day life. Because the pump stops administering insulin automatically, Xavier (and his parents) will be able to sleep more soundly when he would normally be at risk for hypoglycemia. Additionally, it will also allow him to act more like a kid and occasionally indulge in high carbohydrate foods such as pasta or snack foods. The device is also waterproof, meaning that Xavier can wear it in the bathtub or while swimming.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

First-of-its-kind tube laser created for on-chip optical communications

First-of-its-kind tube laser created for on-chip optical communications | Amazing Science |

Nanophotonics, which takes advantage of the much faster speed of light compared with electrons, could potentially lead to future optical computers that transmit large amounts of data at very high speeds. Working toward this goal, researchers in a new study have developed a tiny laser 100 micrometers long and 5 micrometers in diameter—right at the limit of what the unaided human eye can see. As the first rolled-up semiconductor tube laser that is electrically powered, it can fit on an optical chip and serve as the light source for future optical communications technology.

A team of engineers, M. H. T. Dastjerdi, et al., at McGill University in Montreal have reported their development of the tiny laser in a recent issue of Applied Physics LettersFuture optical chips will require many vital components, such as modulators (which convert electrical signals into optical ones), photodetectors (which do the reverse), and waveguides (which control the path of light). Another essential requirement is, of course, the light itself, which may come from a micro- or nano-scale laser that can be integrated with the other components onto a silicon (Si) platform.

Although many different types of micro-sized lasers have been studied over the past several years, one promising candidate is a laser made from rolled-up semiconductor tubes. These lasers are fabricated by straining 2D nanomembranes on a substrate, and then selectively releasing parts of the nanomembranes so that they roll up into tiny tubes that act as optical cavities. The rolled-up tube lasers have an advantage over most other types of small lasers in that their optical emission characteristics can be precisely tailored using standard photolithography processes. They can also be easily transferred onto a Si platform, allowing for seamless integration with other chip components.

"In contrast to electrically injected devices, optically pumped devices require additional light sources (lasers, LEDs) to operate that take additional space on the chip and add a significant level of complexity," Zetian Mi, Associate Professor at McGill University, told "Therefore, optically pumped light sources are not practical for integrated chip-level optical communication systems."

As the researchers explain, fabricating electrically powered rolled-up tube lasers is difficult because the very thin nanomembranes make the process of injecting charge carriers into the laser very inefficient. To overcome this problem, the researchers designed the laser to lie horizontally on top of two supporting pieces connected to the electrodes in a U-shaped mesa design. In this formation, charge carriers are injected into the laser cavity from the sides. By circumventing the thin membrane walls, this lateral carrier injection scheme emits light from the center of the tube laser, significantly increasing injection efficiency.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

UCI and fellow scientists find a way to unboil eggs and speed up refolding by a factor of thousands

UCI and fellow scientists find a way to unboil eggs and speed up refolding by a factor of thousands | Amazing Science |

UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today in the journal ChemBioChem.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Like many researchers, he has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but which frequently “misfold” into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

But older methods are expensive and time-consuming: The equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. “The new process takes minutes,” Weiss noted. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers write in ChemBioChemFor example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable. Industrial cheese makers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could also achieve more bang for their buck.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

After smallpox and rinderpest, Guinea Worm 3rd disease-causing organism to become extinct

After smallpox and rinderpest, Guinea Worm 3rd disease-causing organism to become extinct | Amazing Science |

The Guinea worm is inching ever closer to extinction, but unlike just about every other endangered species, no one is going to try to save it, least of all scientists. On the contrary, the worm’s disappearance would mark the scouring of a disease from the face of the earth—a feat humanity’s only been able to celebrate twice before, with the end of smallpox in 1980 and of the cattle disease rinderpest in 2011. Polio, despite the fact that a vaccine’s been around for more than half a century, has managed to hang on by its microscopic threads.

The Guinea worm is a parasite that enters the human body when the unwitting host-to-be drinks water contaminated with tiny water fleas in which Guinea worm larvae lurk. Once ingested, the fleas die and the Guinea worm larvae enter the host’s abdominal cavity and, unbeknownst to the host, begin maturing into a worm or worms that grow up to three feet in length. After about a year a painful blister forms on the host’s skin accompanied by itching and a burning sensation. Within about 10 to 15 days, one or more worms erupt from the person’s skin in a painful and drawn-out process. The emergence can occur from different parts of the body, including the roof of the mouth, the genitals, or the eye sockets, but around 90 percent of the worms emerge from the lower legs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While the disease rarely kills, it can leave the host debilitated and weakened for a short or long period of time. Thanks in large part to the work of the Carter Center, the incidence of Guinea worm disease (also known as dracunculiasis, which is Latin for “affliction with little dragons”) has plummeted in recent years, falling from an estimated 3.5 million cases worldwide in the mid-1980s to just 148 in 2013 and 126 in 2014, according to the WHO.

How has such success been achieved? It’s taken the concerted effort of all involved—the scientists who have figured out how to contain it, community organizers who have helped spread the word on preventative solutions, and the people in areas where Guinea worm disease has been a big problem who are implementing the necessary changes to keep the parasite at bay.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Giant atmospheric rivers add mass to Antarctica’s ice sheet

Giant atmospheric rivers add mass to Antarctica’s ice sheet | Amazing Science |

Extreme weather phenomena called atmospheric rivers were behind intense snowstorms recorded in 2009 and 2011 in East Antarctica. The resulting snow accumulation partly offset recent ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet, report researchers from KU Leuven.   

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow water vapour plumes stretching thousands of kilometres across the sky over vast ocean areas. They are capable of rapidly transporting large amounts of moisture around the globe and can cause devastating precipitation when they hit coastal areas.

Although atmospheric rivers are notorious for their flood-inducing impact in Europe and the Americas, their importance for Earth’s polar climate – and for global sea levels – is only now coming to light.

In a recent study, an international team of researchers led by Irina Gorodetskaya of KU Leuven’s Regional Climate Studies research group used a combination of advanced modelling techniques and data collected at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth polar research station in East Antarctica’s Dronning Maud Land to produce the first ever in-depth look at how atmospheric rivers affect precipitation in Antarctica.

The researchers studied two particular instances of heavy snowfall in the East Antarctic region in detail, one in May 2009 and another in February 2011, and found that both were caused by atmospheric rivers slamming into the East Antarctic coast.   

The Princess Elisabeth polar research station recorded snow accumulation equivalent to up to 5 centimetres of water for each of these weather events, good for 22 per cent of the total annual snow accumulation in those years.

The findings point to atmospheric rivers’ impressive snow-producing power. “When we looked at all the extreme weather events that took place during 2009 and 2011, we found that the nine atmospheric rivers that hit East Antarctica in those years accounted for 80 per cent of the exceptional snow accumulation at Princess Elisabeth station,” says Irina Gorodetskaya.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Asteroids Had Magnetic Fields That Could Have Protected Hitchhiking Lifeforms

Asteroids Had Magnetic Fields That Could Have Protected Hitchhiking Lifeforms | Amazing Science |

Our planet's trusty magnetic field—an invisible barrier created by the churning of molten-hot matter in Earth's core—protects us from the lethal space radiation that engulfs most of the known universe. Without this field, Earth today would look as barren as Mars. Scientists have a hard time imagining how life anywhere could exist without one. 

According to a new study out today, magnetic fields like Earth's may have been far more common in our early universe than scientists ever suspected. As a team of planetary scientists led by James Bryson of the University of Cambridge reports in the journal Nature, space rubble such as asteroids and meteoroids once created their own powerful magnetic fields that lasted for millions to tens of millions of years. This new discovery not only radically alters our understanding of asteroid evolution, but also bolsters the possibility that life—or the delicate chemical precursors to life—could survive by hitchhiking on space rubble. 

"The fact that you can get this very efficient, very long-lived magnetic activity on asteroids is really going to change the perspective on how we think these things evolved," Bryson says. "And from an even wider perspective, I think it's also becoming incredibly apparent that asteroids in many ways are just small, sped-up versions of our own planet." 

Bryson and his team made this discovery after painstakingly studying the magnetic cores of meteorites that crashed into Earth. They used x-ray and magnetic imaging to map the magnetic fingerprints. After collecting these fingerprints, the scientists plugged them into a computer model that not only extrapolated what the former meteoroid's magnetic field had looked like, but also how that had changed over its lifespan.

This new understanding of asteroids has tantalizing implications for the panspermia hypothesis—the idea that life, or its precursor chemicals, could have found its way to Earth from elsewhere in the universe by hitchhiking on asteroids, meteors, or comets. Bryson is careful to point out that this is still a very open question, and his new finding is not concrete evidence that meteors and asteroids did or could support life. However, he says, it certainly strengthens the case. 

"Obviously Earth's magnetic field has been linked to life on the Earth. And if magnetic fields are crucial for life, the increased magnetic activity in the solar system helps come up with a cohesive or coherent story of life in the solar system." 

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Malware detection technology identifies malware without examining source cod

Malware detection technology identifies malware without examining source cod | Amazing Science |

Hyperion, new malware detection software that can quickly recognize malicious software even if the specific program has not been previously identified as a threat, has been licensed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to R&K Cyber Solutions LLC (R&K).

Hyperion, which has been under development for a decade, offers more comprehensive scanning capabilities than existing cyber security methods, said one of its inventors, Stacy Prowell of the ONRL Cyber Warfare Research team. By computing and analyzing program behaviors associated with harmful intent, Hyperion can determine the software’s behavior without using its source code or even running the program.

“These behaviors can be automatically checked for known malicious operations as well as domain-specific problems,” Prowell said. “This technology helps detect vulnerabilities and can uncover malicious content before it has a chance to execute.”

“This approach is better than signature detection, which only searches for patterns of bytes,” Prowell said. “It’s easy for somebody to hide that — they can break it up and scatter it about the program so it won’t match any signature.”

“Software behavior computation is an emerging science and technology that will have a profound effect on malware analysis and software assurance,” said R&K Cyber Solutions CEO Joseph Carter. “Computed behavior based on deep functional semantics is a much-needed cyber security approach that has not been previously available. Unlike current methods, behavior computation does not look at surface structure. Rather, it looks at deeper behavioral patterns.”

Carter adds that technology’s malware analysis capabilities can be applied to multiple related cyber security problems, including software assurance in the absence of source code, hardware and software data exploitation and forensics, supply chain security analysis, anti-tamper analysis, and potential first intrusion detection systems based on behavior semantics.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Top Rated Electronic Health Record Software Is Free

Top Rated Electronic Health Record Software Is Free | Amazing Science |

Earlier this month, Medscape published the results of their recent survey (here) which asked 18,575 physicians across 25 specialties to rate their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. For overall satisfaction, the #1 ranked EHR solution was the VA’s Computerized Patient Record System ‒ also known as VistA. It was built using open‒source software and is therefore license free.

There’s also a publicly available version of VistA called OpenVista and several companies leverage a services-only business model for larger OpenVista installations. For smaller installations, a YouTube video (here) suggests the free OpenVista software can be installed in about 10 minutes ‒ bring your own hardware.

Of course free software licensing doesn’t make the hardware, installation or maintenance free, but the lack of any software licensing fees at all does reduce the overall cost ‒ especially for large installations ‒ and that can typically save millions of dollars.

Open-source software also charts a much different course for design changes that are not dependent on the resources, budgets (or revenue requirements) of independent software vendors (ISV’s).

In many ways, VistA’s top rating is no surprise because it’s the only EHR installation in the U.S. with a truly national footprint. As a single software solution, VistA is designed to support almost 9 million vets through about 1,700 different care sites around the country.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Laser-generated surface structures create extremely hydrophobic metals

Laser-generated surface structures create extremely hydrophobic metals | Amazing Science |
Scientists at the University of Rochester have used lasers to transform metals into extremely water repellent, or super-hydrophobic, materials without the need for temporary coatings.

Super-hydrophobic materials are desirable for a number of applications such as rust prevention, anti-icing, or even in sanitation uses. However, as Rochester's Chunlei Guo explains, most current hydrophobic materials rely on chemical coatings. In a paper published today in the Journal of Applied Physics, Guo and his colleague at the University's Institute of Optics, Anatoliy Vorobyev, describe a powerful and precise laser-patterning technique that creates an intricate pattern of micro- and nanoscale structures to give the metals their new properties. This work builds on earlier research by the team in which they used a similar laser-patterning technique that turned metals black. Guo states that using this technique they can create multifunctional surfaces that are not only super-hydrophobic but also highly-absorbent optically.

Guo adds that one of the big advantages of his team's process is that "the structures created by our laser on the metals are intrinsically part of the material surface." That means they won't rub off. And it is these patterns that make the metals repel water.

"The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off. Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface," said Guo, professor of optics at the University of Rochester. That whole process takes less than a second. As the water bounces off the super-hydrophobic surfaces, it also collects dust particles and takes them along for the ride. To test this self-cleaning property, Guo and his team took ordinary dust from a vacuum cleaner and dumped it onto the treated surface. Roughly half of the dust particles were removed with just three drops of water. It took only a dozen drops to leave the surface spotless. Better yet, it remains completely dry.

Guo is excited by potential applications of super-hydrophobic materials in developing countries. It is this potential that has piqued the interest of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has supported the work.

Steve Foster's curator insight, January 22, 4:05 PM

If our future cars are made of this stuff, rust is a goner. Waterslides, sleds, skis, skates... Things made of this stuff would glide so easily! Metal and lasers are the answers to most problems, this just adds another to the list!

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Zebrafish Imaging: Live Imaging Captures How Blood Stem Cells Take Root in the Body

Zebrafish Imaging: Live Imaging Captures How Blood Stem Cells Take Root in the Body | Amazing Science |

For years, the lab of Leonard Zon, MD, director of the Stem Cell Research Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, has sought ways to enhance bone marrow transplants for patients with cancer, serious immune deficiencies and blood disorders. Using zebrafish as a drug-screening platform, the lab has found a number of promising compounds, including one called ProHema that is now in clinical trials. But truthfully, until now, Zon and his colleagues have largely been flying blind.

“Stem cell and bone marrow transplants are still very much a black box: cells are introduced into a patient and later on we can measure recovery of their blood system, but what happens in between can’t be seen,” says Owen Tamplin, PhD, in the Zon Lab. “Now we have a system where we can actually watch that middle step.” The animation, based on live imaging of naturally transparent zebrafish, reveals a surprisingly dynamic system in which newborn blood stem cells travel through the blood, exit into a “niche” where they get “cuddled” and nurtured, and then proceed to their final blood-making home. Their journey, also described in the January 15 issue of Cell, offers several clues for helping bone marrow transplants “take.”

“The same process occurs during a bone marrow transplant as occurs in the body naturally,” says Zon. “Our direct visualization gives us a series of steps to target, and in theory we can look for drugs that affect every step of that process.”

Read more in the Harvard Gazette.  A more technical version of the video can be viewed on Cell’s website.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Germanene: European Scientists Synthesize New Cousin of Graphene

Germanene: European Scientists Synthesize New Cousin of Graphene | Amazing Science |

Scientists from Spain, Germany and France managed to synthesize graphene's cousin - an atom-thin, ordered, two-dimensional material named germanene. Germanene does not exist in nature and is made up of a single layer of germanium atoms. It is expected to exhibit impressive electrical and optical properties and could be widely integrated across the electronics industry in the future.

First proposed in 2009, the material has, up until now, remained elusive. Since then, graphene has been developed further whilst other two-dimensional materials, such as graphene’s silicon cousin – silicene, have been synthesized.

Much like silicene, the proposed method for synthesizing germanene is to deposit individual atoms of germanium onto a substrate under high temperatures and in an ultra-high vacuum.

“Following our synthesis of graphene’s other cousin, silicene, we thought it natural to try and produce germanene in the same way, by depositing germanium onto a silver substrate. This attempt failed, so I decided to switch to a gold substrate,” said Prof Guy Le Lay of Aix-Marseille University, who is the senior author of a paper published in the New Journal of Physics.

After depositing the germanium atoms onto a gold substrate, Prof Le Lay’s team was able to confirm that the material was in fact germanene. The material was also observed under a scanning tunneling microscope, which revealed the characteristic honeycomb structure of a 2D material.

The scientists said the unique properties of germanene could make it a robust two-dimensional topological insulator, particularly up to room temperature, opening up the possibility of using the material in quantum computing.

“An important aspect of our study is that we have increased the lego of 2D materials that we can use to build a whole host of artificial solid materials with a wide range of differing properties,” said co-author Prof Angel Rubio of the University of the Basque Country.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

The language of T lymphocytes deciphered, the 'Rosetta Stone' of the immune system

The language of T lymphocytes deciphered, the 'Rosetta Stone' of the immune system | Amazing Science |

How can our immune system defend us against aggressors so diverse such as viruses, parasites, fungi and tumors? The secret lies in the large number of clones of T and B lymphocytes, each of which expresses a particular specific receptor. Until a few years ago, deciphering the complexity of this vast repertoire was considered impossible. Today, thanks to the development of new methods for DNA sequencing (Next Generation Sequencing, NGS), it is possible to obtain millions of sequences that represent the "identity card" of T lymphocytes. But how is it possible to use this data to trace back to the specificity of the single clones, and how can we understand their function?

This question has now been answered by a study published Jan. 23 in the journal Science and conducted by a group of researchers led by Federica Sallusto from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Bellinzona (Università della Svizzera italiana). The study describes a new approach that allows deciphering the language of T lymphocytes, which are cells of the immune system that protect us from pathogens and tumours. Combining methods of Next Generation Sequencing with in vitro stimulation and analysis of specific T cells, the researchers were able for the first time to establish a complete catalogue of the immune response to pathogens and vaccines. In particular, they have catalogued all the clones that respond to a particular microorganism, determining their specificity and their functional properties, for example their ability to produce inflammatory mediators (cytokines) or to migrate to different tissues.

The research results are surprising from many points of view. First, the repertoire of specific T lymphocytes is very broad and includes thousands of clones, each characterised by a different receptor. A second unexpected result is that, within the same clone, the cells can become specialised to perform different functions and to migrate to different tissues.

According to Federica Sallusto, "using this new approach we can rapidly decipher the language of T lymphocytes, that is, their identity, specificity and function, and we can do it for the thousands of clones that mediate the immune response against microbes and vaccines. In this way we discovered that when a naive T cell recognizes a pathogen and proliferates in order to eradicate it, the progeny cells may undergo different fates, such as acquiring the ability to produce different types of cytokines or to migrate to different tissues of the organism. This extreme flexibility of T lymphocytes represents a new element that explains how the human immune system is able to respond to attacks with different weapons and on several fronts."

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Early human ancestors used their hands like modern humans

Early human ancestors used their hands like modern humans | Amazing Science |

Some of the morphological characteristics of the human hand are different from that of other primates enabling us to grab objects with precision and use them exerting a force. Yet, how did our early human ancestors use their hands? This question was long debated among scientists. Anthropologists from the University of Kent, working with researchers from University College London, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, have produced the first research findings to support archaeological evidence for stone tool use among fossil Australopiths three to two million years ago and found that Australopithecus africanus used their hands the way modern humans do.

The distinctly human ability for forceful precision (e.g., when turning a key) and power “squeeze” gripping (e.g., when using a hammer) is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of stone tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred.

Matthew Skinner and Tracy Kivell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Kent used new techniques to reveal how fossil species were using their hands by examining the internal spongey structure of bone called trabeculae. Trabecular bone remodels quickly during life and can reflect the actual behaviour of individuals in their lifetime. “Over time these structures adapt in a way that enables them to handle the daily loads in the best way possible“, says Dieter Pahr of the Institute of Lightweight Design and Structural Biomechanics at the Vienna University of Technology where special computer algorithms for the analysis of the computer tomography images of the bones had been developed.

The researchers first examined the trabeculae of hand bones of humans and chimpanzees. They found clear differences between humans, who have a unique ability for forceful precision gripping between thumb and fingers, and chimpanzees, who cannot adopt human-like postures. This unique human pattern is present in known non-arboreal and stone tool-making fossil human species, such as Neandertals.

The research shows that Australopithecus africanus, a three to two million-year-old species from South Africa traditionally considered not to have engaged in habitual tool manufacture, has a human-like trabecular bone pattern in the bones of the thumb and palm (the metacarpals) consistent with forceful opposition of the thumb and fingers typically adopted during tool use. “This new evidence changes our understanding of the behaviour of our early ancestors and, in particular, suggests that in some aspects they were more similar to humans than we previously thought”, says Matthew Skinner of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Kent.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

First Human Protein Atlas and major protein analysis published

First Human Protein Atlas and major protein analysis published | Amazing Science |

The Human Protein Atlas, a major multinational research project supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, recently launched (November 6, 2014) an open source tissue-based interactive map of the human protein. Based on 13 million annotated images, the database maps the distribution of proteins in all major tissues and organs in the human body, showing both proteins restricted to certain tissues, such as the brain, heart, or liver, and those present in all. As an open access resource, it is expected to help drive the development of new diagnostics and drugs, but also to provide basic insights in normal human biology.

In the Science article, "Tissue-based Atlas of the Human Proteome", the approximately 20,000 protein coding genes in humans have been analysed and classified using a combination of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and antibody-based profiling, says the article's lead author, Mathias Uhlén, Professor of Microbiology at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the director of the Human Protein Atlas program. The analysis shows that almost half of the protein-coding genes are expressed in a ubiquitous manner and thus found in all analysed tissues.

Approximately 15% of the genes show an enriched expression in one or several tissues or organs, including well-known tissue-specific proteins, such as insulin and troponin. The testes, or testicles, have the most tissue-enriched proteins followed by the brain and the liver. The analysis suggests that approximately 3,000 proteins are secreted from the cells and an additional 5,500 proteins are located to the membrane systems of the cells.

"This is important information for the pharmaceutical industry. We show that 70% of the current targets for approved pharmaceutical drugs are either secreted or membrane-bound proteins," Uhlén says. "Interestingly, 30% of these protein targets are found in all analysed tissues and organs. This could help explain some side effects of drugs and thus might have consequences for future drug development." The analysis also contains a study of the metabolic reactions occurring in different parts of the human body. The most specialised organ is the liver with a large number of chemical reactions not found in other parts of the human body.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Australia's Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10 percent if ocean warming continues

Australia's Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10 percent if ocean warming continues | Amazing Science |

The coverage of living corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10 percent if ocean warming continues, according to a new study that explores the short- and long-term consequences of environmental changes to the reef.

Environmental change has caused the loss of more than half the world's reef building corals. Coral cover, a measure of the percentage of the seafloor covered by living coral, is now just 10-20 percent worldwide. The Great Barrier Reef, once thought to be one of the more pristine global reef systems, has lost half of its coral cover in only the last 27 years. Overfishing, coastal pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions leading to increased temperatures and ocean acidification, as well as other human impacts are all affecting the delicate balance maintained in coral reef ecosystems.

Now, in a new study that aims to project the composition of the future Great Barrier Reef under current and future environmental scenarios, researchers found that in the long term, moderate warming of 1-2 degrees Celsius would result in a high probability of coral cover declining to less than 10 percent, a number thought to be important for maintaining reef growth.

In the short term, with increasing temperatures as well as local man-made threats like coastal development, pollution, and over-fishing, the study found that corals—tiny animals related to jellyfish—would be over-run by seaweed which would, in effect, suffocate them. In the longer term, interactions among reef organisms would lead to dominance by other groups, including sponges and soft corals known as gorgonians.

The study, now in pre-print online in the journal Ecology, uses a multivariate statistical model and includes quantitative surveys of 46 reef habitats over 10 years of data from 1996-2006.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Telomere extension turns back aging clock in cultured human cells, study finds

Telomere extension turns back aging clock in cultured human cells, study finds | Amazing Science |

Researchers delivered a modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells. Cell proliferation capacity was dramatically increased, yielding large numbers of cells for study.

A new procedure can quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging and disease, according to scientists at the Stanford University School of MedicineTreated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying.

The procedure, which involves the use of a modified type of RNA, will improve the ability of researchers to generate large numbers of cells for study or drug development, the scientists say. Skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide up to 40 more times than untreated cells. The research may point to new ways to treat diseases caused by shortened telomeres.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes, which house our genomes. In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division, however, and when they reach a critical length the cell stops dividing or dies. This internal “clock” makes it difficult to keep most cells growing in a laboratory for more than a few cell doublings.

“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”

“This new approach paves the way toward preventing or treating diseases of aging,” said Blau. “There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment.” Blau and her colleagues became interested in telomeres when previous work in her lab showed that the muscle stem cells of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy had telomeres that were much shorter than those of boys without the disease. This finding not only has implications for understanding how the cells function — or don’t function —  in making new muscle, but it also helps explain the limited ability to grow affected cells in the laboratory for study.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Self-cleaning sensor that can be cleaned with UV light

Self-cleaning sensor that can be cleaned with UV light | Amazing Science |

Scientists in Italy have engineered a cheap and simple electrochemical sensor that cleans itself when exposed to ultraviolet light. Their system offers a route towards self-cleaning electrodes with myriad environmental and biomedical sensing applications – from detecting pollutants in water to monitoring medications in blood.

Open any book on chemical or biological sensors and you’ll find a lot of content on electrochemical devices. This prevalence is testament to the importance and advantages of electrode-based sensing; and electrodes containing nanomaterials are becoming increasingly popular, owing to their high surface-to-volume ratio, which can improve their sensitivity and lower costs.

However, nanomaterial-based electrodes are very difficult to keep clean, hindering their application in environmental and biomedical sensing. River water, for example, contains species that can foul electrochemical sensors and prevent their reuse. In another example, dopamine – an important neurotransmitter, particularly in Parkinson’s disease – fouls sensors during its electroanalytical detection, preventing reusability.

To solve the fouling problem, Luigi Falciola and his team at the University of Milan have engineered an electrochemical sensor with a photoactive top layer of titania that can be directly cleaned with ultraviolet light and repeatedly reused to detect dopamine. The titania covers a highly ordered distribution of silver nanoparticles (the actual sensing tool), arrayed on a bottom layer of silica.

Self-cleaning surfaces based on titania are an increasingly common part of our everyday lives, from self-cleaning windows, cars and cements to self-sterilising medical devices. These applications all clean using the same basic chemistry: ultraviolet light – from sunlight or an artificial source – induces photocatalysis at a titania coating, which breaks down organic foulants. Falciola’s team have incorporated the same principle in their sensor.

‘There are a few previous examples of self-cleaning electrodes, but our device is simpler and also probably cheaper to make,’ explains Falciola.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Synthetic Biology Researchers engineered E. coli to rely on artificial amino acids

Synthetic Biology Researchers engineered E. coli to rely on artificial amino acids | Amazing Science |

By rewriting the DNA of Escherichia coli so that the bacterium requires a synthetic amino acid to produce its essential proteins, two research teams may have paved the way to ensure that genetically modified organisms don’t escape into the environment. The life-or-death dependence of the newly engineered E. coli on synthetic amino acids makes it astronomically difficult for the genetically modified organism to survive outside the laboratory, explains Harvard Medical School’s George M. Church, who led one of the teams reporting the discovery in Nature (2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14121).

That’s because no pool of synthetic amino acids exists in nature, he explains. A similar strategy was simultaneously published by Farren J. Isaacs and his colleagues at Yale University, also in Nature (2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14095). The discoveries help construct improved containment barriers for genetically modified bacteria currently used in the biotech-based production of products as diverse as yogurt, propanediol, or insulin, Isaacs says. They also set the stage for expanding the use of genetically modified organisms in applications outside the lab, Isaacs adds. For example, he says, the bacteria could be used as the “basis for designer probiotics for diseases that originate in the gut of our bodies, or for specialized microorganisms that clean up landfills or oil spills.”

“There are all these ideas for using engineered cells [outside the confines of a lab], but the problem is that they’re not contained,” comments Christopher A. Voigt, a synthetic biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is the proof-of-principle work for addressing that problem.” To make the genetic firewall, both teams made changes to E. coli’s genome so that the bacteria’s protein production machinery inserts a nonnatural amino acid when it reads a specific three-base-pair codon. “They’ve extended the genetic code so that it can take a 21st amino acid,” explains Tom Ellis, a synthetic biologist at Imperial University, in London, who was not involved in the work. The two teams used different synthetic amino acids, but both groups selected mimics of phenylalanine, a bulky, hydrophobic amino acid.

Next, both teams scoured E. coli’s genome for essential proteins that the organism needed to survive. They looked for areas in those proteins where the synthetic amino acids might replace natural amino acids. Although both teams combined computational design and evolutionary biology to select which amino acid to replace in three essential proteins, Church’s team relied more on the former approach and Isaacs’ team on the latter.

Finally, they showed that when the engineered bacteria have access to a pool of the synthetic amino acids, they can build their essential proteins. With no access to the synthetic amino acids, protein production stalls and the bacteria die.

The teams performed extensive tests to see whether the newly engineered bacteria could evolve ways to sidestep the need for synthetic amino acids. Whenever the microbes managed the feat, the researchers tweaked the DNA until the bacteria depended solely on the synthetic amino acids.

Previous strategies for containing genetically modified bacteria seem “naive” in hindsight, Ellis says. These earlier strategies employed kill switches, which are “systems where the organism dies if some compound or environmental cue wasn’t given,” he adds. “Here the kill system is fully embedded in the heart of the bacteria.”

In theory, the strategy could be extended to other genetically modified organisms, such as plants, Voigt says. “It will probably be really hard, but not impossible,” he adds. According to Ellis, the next step is to get the platform working in yeast, which will be “an order of magnitude harder than bacteria.”

Another important step is to improve containment by ensuring that all DNA engineered into the organism relies on the synthetic amino acid, Ellis says. “If you accidentally spill the bacteria into the environment, it’s going to die,” he says. “But that DNA is left behind. The genetically modified genes could be incorporated into other bacteria through horizontal transfer,” he warns. “To alleviate all fears, we need to ensure that all genes you add to an organism—say for making insulin or biofuels—are also behind the genetic firewall and somehow encode the 21st amino acid.”

Sharrock's curator insight, January 22, 12:36 PM

I didn't know why synthetic biology might ensure our safety to a certain degree. I love this quote: "Another important step is to improve containment by ensuring that all DNA engineered into the organism relies on the synthetic amino acid, Ellis says. “If you accidentally spill the bacteria into the environment, it’s going to die,” he says. “But that DNA is left behind. The genetically modified genes could be incorporated into other bacteria through horizontal transfer,” he warns. “To alleviate all fears, we need to ensure that all genes you add to an organism—say for making insulin or biofuels—are also behind the genetic firewall and somehow encode the 21st amino acid.”" 

Fernan Aguero's curator insight, January 23, 8:14 AM

Horizontal gene transfer of engineered genes is a big warning, of course. But one must not assume lightly that engineered bacteria cannot survive in the environment. Synthetic aminoacids may not exist in nature as such, but what about chemical analogs (e.g. produced by a plant, insect, fungi) that may substitute them?


OK, I'm just being skeptic :)

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Atoms can indeed be in two places at the same time, shown by indirect measurement

Atoms can indeed be in two places at the same time, shown by indirect measurement | Amazing Science |

Almost 100 years ago physicists Werner Heisenberg, Max Born und Erwin Schrödinger created a new field of physics: quantum mechanics. Objects of the quantum world – according to quantum theory – no longer move along a single well-defined path. Rather, they can simultaneously take different paths and end up at different places at once. Physicists speak of quantum superposition of different paths. At the level of atoms, it looks as if objects indeed obey quantum mechanical laws. Over the years, many experiments have confirmed quantum mechanical predictions. In our macroscopic daily experience, however, we witness a football flying along exactly one path; it never strikes the goal and misses at the same time. Why is that so?

"There are two different interpretations," says Dr. Andrea Alberti of the Institute of Applied Physics of the University of Bonn. "Quantum mechanics allows superposition states of large, macroscopic objects. But these states are very fragile, even following the football with our eyes is enough to destroy the superposition and makes it follow a definite trajectory."

But it could also be that footballs obey completely different rules than those applying for single atoms. "Let us talk about the macro-realistic view of the world," Alberti explains. "According to this interpretation, the ball always moves on a specific trajectory, independent of our observation, and in contrast to the atom." But which of the two interpretations is correct? Do "large" objects move differently from small ones?

The physicists describe their research in the journal Physical Review X: With two optical tweezers they grabbed a single Caesium atom and pulled it in two opposing directions. In the macro-realist's world the atom would then be at only one of the two final locations.  Quantum-mechanically, the atom would instead occupy a superposition of the two positions.

"We have now used indirect measurements to determine the final position of the atom in the most gentle way possible," says the PhD student Carsten Robens. Even such an indirect measurement (see figure) significantly modified the result of the experiments. This observation excludes – falsifies, as Karl Popper would say more precisely – the possibility that Caesium atoms follow a macro-realistic theory. Instead, the experimental findings of the Bonn team fit well with an interpretation based on superposition states that get destroyed when the indirect measurement occurs. All that we can do is to accept that the atom has indeed taken different paths at the same time.

"This is not yet a proof that quantum mechanics hold for large objects," cautions Alberti. "The next step is to separate the Caesium atom's two positions by several millimetres. Should we still find the superposition in our experiment, the macro-realistic theory would suffer another setback."

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

2014 was Earth's hottest year on record, scientists say

2014 was Earth's hottest year on record, scientists say | Amazing Science |

2014 was Earth’s hottest on record demonstrating new evidence that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S. government agencies said on Friday. The White House said the studies, by the U.S. space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change was happening now and that action was needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.

The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since 1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims by some skeptics that global warming has stopped in recent years.

Record temperatures in 2014 were spread around the globe, including most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, the western United States, far eastern Russia into western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia and elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said.

“While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

“The data shows quite clearly that it’s the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible for the majority of the trends,” he told reporters. Emissions were still rising “so we may anticipate further record highs in the years to come.”

U.N. studies show there already are more extremes of heat and rainfall and project ever more disruptions to food and water supplies. Sea levels are rising, threatening millions of people living near coasts, as ice melts from Greenland to Antarctica.

Next December, about 200 governments will meet in Paris to try to reach a deal to limit global warming, shifting to renewable energies. China and the United States, the top emitters of greenhouse gases, say they are cooperating more to achieve a U.N. accord.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Transformative Genomics: England Begins Daunting Task of Sequencing 100,000 Genomes by 2017

Transformative Genomics: England Begins Daunting Task of Sequencing 100,000 Genomes by 2017 | Amazing Science |
Genomics England begins its 100,000 Genome Project to speed time to diagnosis and inform personalized treatment regimens

The project, titled 100,000 Genomes, is a transformative research project aimed at finding new ways to identify and care for patients, and could ultimately change how patients are treated in the National Health Service, according to Professor Mark Caulfield, lead scientist of Genomics England“The overall impact of the work of Genomics England could be to transform the NHS provision of diagnostic tests and then care to a whole range of patients,” says Caulfield. “This could itself have an impact on how services are commissioned, with perhaps greater emphasis on testing of the broader population in order to achieve earlier diagnosis and more effective intervention for patients most at risk from developing very serious illnesses”, Prof Caulfield said.

Genomics is the study of genes and how they work. A genome is a complete map of a person’s DNA. It “contains all the information needed to build and maintain the organism,” according to Genome Home Reference, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Genomics lends insight into the cause of diseases and how diseases develop in each individual. Currently, medical researchers use genomics in an effort to develop personalized treatments for diseases. Also useful in public health, genomics helps track infectious diseases. It can help in understanding how infections spread and in many cases allow the pinpointing of the source and nature of an outbreak.

Genomics England has procured Illumina, a global leader in gene sequencing, to sequence and analyze the genomes. After analysis, results will be sent to NHS for review and possible clinical application. Some 75,000 participants are expected to take part in the 100,000 Genome Project, and recruitment will begin in early February 2015. Clinicians will refer eligible patients who wish to be involved in this project to one of 11 designated genomic medical centers. A genome project of this magnitude is not without challenges.

Referring to these inherent challenges, Jim Davies, Chief Technology Officer of Genomics England, said“The data we need for Genomics England is large and complex: to get to 100,000 genomes we’ll be collecting 10 petabytes of sequence data, and detailed, relevant health data on up to 100,000 people.” Additional challenges include the need for informed patient consent, which means educating people about what a genome is and how learning about it might impact their lives, and ensuring data privacy.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Herculaneum, Italy: Physicists read scrolls scorched by ancient volcanic eruption

Herculaneum, Italy: Physicists read scrolls scorched by ancient volcanic eruption | Amazing Science |

Pompeii wasn’t the only Roman town destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. The blast of hot air and rain of volcanic ash also reached nearby Herculaneum (pictured above), where it entombed a library of papyrus scrolls. Unfortunately, it also transformed them from pliable parchment into little more than blackened, carbonized lumps. Archaeologists have tried several techniques to unroll the scrolls since the library was discovered in the 1750s, but they always ran the risk of destroying them in the process. Now, a new technique using high-energy x-rays offers a nondestructive way of reading these ancient texts. By placing a rolled up scroll in the path of a beam of powerful x-rays produced by a particle accelerator, researchers can measure a key difference between the burned papyrus and the ink on its surface: how fast the x-rays move through each substance. That allows them to differentiate between the scroll and the writing on it and, slowly but surely, reconstruct the text. Although they’ve managed to read only a few complete words so far, the researchers have reconstructed a nearly complete Greek alphabet from the letters inscribed on a still-rolled-up scroll, they report today in Nature Communications. The handwriting style is characteristic of texts written in the middle of the first century B.C.E.; in fact, it looks a lot like the handwriting on a previously unrolled scroll attributed to the philosopher Philodemus, the team says. More studies with even higher energy x-rays are needed to reconstruct the whole text on this and other scrolls, but the technique offers the possibility of reading works that haven’t been seen for nearly 2000 years.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Elon Musk reveals plan to put internet connectivity in space

Elon Musk reveals plan to put internet connectivity in space | Amazing Science |

At the SpaceX event held in Seattle, Elon Musk revealed his grand (and expensive) $10 billion plan to build internet connectivity in space. Musk’s vision wants to radically change the way we access internet. His plan includes putting satellites in space, between which data packets would bounce around before being passed down to Earth. Right now, data packets bounce about the various networks via routers.

Some say that Elon Musk’s ambitious project would enable a Smartphone to access the internet just like it communicates with GPS satellites. SpaceX will launch its satellites in a low orbit, so as to reduce communication lag. While geosynchronous communication satellites orbit the Earth from an altitude of 22,000 miles, SpaceX’s satellites would be orbiting the Earth from an altitude of 750 miles.

Once Musk’s system is in place, data packets would simply be sent to space, from where they would bounce about the satellites, and ultimately be sent back to Earth. “The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber,” says Musk, which is why he believes that his unnamed SpaceX venture is the future of internet connectivity, replacing traditional routers and networks.

The project is based out of SpaceX’s new Seattle office. It will initially start out with 60 workers, but Musk predicts that the workforce may grow to over 1,000 in three to four years. Musk wants “the best engineers that either live in Seattle or that want to move to the Seattle area and work on electronics, software, structures, and power systems,” to work with SpaceX.

JebaQpt's comment, January 21, 11:21 PM
Elon Musk quotes