Amazing Science
Follow
458.9K views | +65 today
 
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
onto Amazing Science
Scoop.it!

Flying hawk moth inspires robotics

Flying hawk moth inspires robotics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The hawk moth's wings are a blur of mottled grey motion as it hovers tethered to a steel rod in large white plastic orb. Outside the orb in the darkened room where I stand, a projector casts moving patterns of dimmed light onto the sphere's surface, illuminating the moth's field of vision with oscillating stripes.

 

Tonya Muller, a DPhil student in Oxford University's Department of Zoology, sits at the computer controlling the experiment. At regular intervals, she directs the computer to alter the direction, amplitude and frequency of the light stripes.

 

These changing light patterns create altered visual environments for the moth inside, which aim to simulate real-world visual disruptions the moth might experience when exposed to wind gusts. As the patterns change, the moth makes rapid adjustments to its flight behaviour to maintain constant stability.

Though imperceptible to the human eye, the moth's responses to the visual stimuli are detected by a force sensor attached to the end of the steel rod and relayed to Tonya's computer. These recordings are helping Tonya to understand the moth's remarkable visual-motor system, and identify the mechanisms of visual feedback in insect flight control.

 

'Understanding vision-based flight control in insects has far reaching uses in the fields of sensor development, signal processing, and robotics,' says Tonya, whose background is in mechanical engineering. Vision is important for information gathering in insects and up to 50% of an insect's brain can be composed of visual neurons. In fact, despite their small brain size, insects can solve extremely sophisticated orientation problems both rapidly and reliably. Yet their eyes are far less sophisticated than our own.

 

'Insects receive visual information through a relatively noisy, low-resolution sensor. But with this sensor they are able to processes information at sufficient speeds to react and respond to unexpected disturbances,' Tonya tells me.'This is extremely interesting from an engineering perspective because developing technologies that use simpler and fewer electrical sensors and perform equally well can reduce manufacturing costs and computational power.'

more...
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
Scoop.it!

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

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

NOTE: To subscribe to the RSS feed of Amazing Science, copy http://www.scoop.it/t/amazing-science/rss.xml into the URL field of your browser and click "subscribe".

 

This newsletter is aggregated from over 1450 news sources:

http://www.genautica.com/links/1450_news_sources.html

 

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

http://www.genautica.com/tweets/index.html

 

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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

 

http://www.scoop.it/t/amazing-science/?q=dna


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 

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

Your knowledge is your strength and power 

Saberes Sin Fronteras OVS'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
Scoop.it!

Mortality Gap: Have Women Always Lived Longer than Men?

Mortality Gap: Have Women Always Lived Longer than Men? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In every single country on the planet, women live longer than men. In response to this unpleasant fact, men are fond of replying, "That's because we have to put up with women." Humorous though it may be, that's not the actual reason women live longer than men. In fact, it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th Century that the "mortality gap" between men and women became so striking.


To investigate the underlying reason for the gender gap in life expectancy, a team of researchers examined mortality data for people born between 1800 and 1935 in 13 developed countries. Using this data, they were able to determine changes in the male-female mortality ratio, as well as determine when and why women began to outlive men.


In the figure above, each birth cohort is represented by a single colored line. For example, people born between 1800 and 1819 are represented by 20 different lines, each of which is colored black; people born between 1920 and 1935 are represented by 16 colored lines, each of which is colored red. The chart plots age on the X-axis (i.e., "age at time of death") against the male-female mortality rate ratio on the Y-axis.


The figure shows that the relative mortality rate for men gets worse in subsequent years. Compare the mortality rates at age 60, for instance. The mortality rate ratio for people born between 1800 and 1839 (black and gray lines) hovers roughly around 1.2; that means that about 120 men died for every 100 women who died at age 60. Just a few decades later, a dramatic shift occurs: the male-female mortality rate ratio for people born between 1880 and 1899 (green lines) skyrockets to 1.6, meaning that 160 men died for every 100 women who died at age 60. Then it goes from bad to worse. For the 1920-1935 birth cohort, the ratio is a shocking 2.1 at age 60, meaning that 210 men died for every 100 women.


Why is this the case? The authors' analysis suggests two major factors: The first is smoking, which is more common among men. (With smoking factored out, the pattern of an increasing male-female mortality ratio still persists but to a lesser extent, as shown above.) The second is cardiovascular disease, a condition to which men seem to be more vulnerable than women. This may be due to gender differences in diet, lifestyle, and even genetics. Indeed, the researchers found that cardiovascular disease was the major factor causing excess deaths among men as compared to women.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Better, Stronger, Faster: The Future of the Bionic Body

In the future, a woman with a spinal cord injury could make a full recovery; a baby with a weak heart could pump his own blood. How close are we today to the bold promise of bionics—and could this technology be used to improve normal human functions, as well as to repair us? Join Bill Blakemore, John Donoghue, Jennifer French, Joseph J. Fins, and P. Hunter Peckham at "Better, Stronger, Faster," part of the Big Ideas Series, as they explore the unfolding future of embedded technology.
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

The U.S. just recorded its first confirmed measles death in 12 years

The U.S. just recorded its first confirmed measles death in 12 years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

[Everything you need to know about measles]


Health officials on Thursday confirmed the country's first measles death since 2003, and they believe the victim was most likely exposed to the virus in a health facility in Washington state during an outbreak there.


The woman died in the spring; a later autopsy confirmed that she had an undetected measles infection, the Washington State Department of Health said in a statement. The official cause of death was announced as "pneumonia due to measles."


The woman was at a Clallam County health facility "at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles," the health department statement read. "The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system. She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death."


The release did not provide any other identifying details, including the woman’s age. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 178 people from 24 states and the District were reported to have measles from Jan. 1 through June 26 of this year. Two-thirds of the cases, the CDC noted, were "part of a large multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Human eye-like structure discovered in single-celled plankton: Mitochondria, plastids evolved together

Human eye-like structure discovered in single-celled plankton: Mitochondria, plastids evolved together | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Scientists have peered into the eye-like structure of single-celled marine plankton called warnowiids and found it contains many of the components of a complex eye.

The single-cell marine plankton, a predatory microbe, bears a dark purple spot known as an ocelloid. It resembles the multicellular eye of animals so much that it was originally mistaken for part of an animal the warnowiids had eaten.

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research senior fellows Brian Leander and Patrick Keeling supervised lead author Greg Gavelis at the University of British Columbia and, in collaboration with senior fellow Curtis Suttle, showed that this eye-like structure contains a collection of sub-cellular organelles that look very much like the lens, cornea, iris and retina of multicellular eyes that can detect objects -- known as camera eyes -- that are found in humans and other larger animals.

The researchers gathered single cells of warnowiids off the coasts of B.C. and Japan, sequenced their genomes, and analyzed how the eyes are built using new methods in electron microscopy that allow the reconstruction of three dimensional structures at the subcellular level.

They found that a layer of interconnected mitochondria, organelles that supply energy to cells, surrounds a robust lens and makes up the warnowiids's equivalent of a cornea. In addition, a network of interconnected plastids that originated from an ancient symbiosis with red alga radiate from the retinal body.

Plastids have their own genome and are responsible for harvesting energy from light in photosynthetic plants and algae. The scientists determined that the retinal body contains a plastid genome suggesting components of the light-harvesting machinery may have been adapted to use in detecting light for sensory functions rather than to acquire energy.

Scientists still don't know exactly how warnowiids use the eye-like structure, but clues about the way they live have fuelled compelling speculation. warnowiids hunt other dinoflagellates, many of which are transparent. They have large nematocysts, which Leander describes as "little harpoons," for catching prey. And some have a piston -- a tentacle that can extend and retract very quickly -- with an unknown function that might be used for escape or feeding.
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Bristol researchers gain new insight into a human visual supersense

Bristol researchers gain new insight into a human visual supersense | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An experiment originally designed to test the visual abilities of octopuses and cuttlefish has given University of Bristol researchers an unprecedented insight into the human ability to perceive polarized light – the supersense that most of us don’t even know we have.


We are all familiar with colour and brightness, but there is a third property of light, the ‘polarization’, which tells us the orientation in which the light waves are oscillating. Dr Shelby Temple, a Research Associate from the Ecology of Vision Group in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and one of the study’s lead authors said: “Imagine a skipping rope represents a light wave travelling through space.  If you move the rope from side to side, the wave you make is horizontally polarized.  If you shake the rope up and down you create a vertically polarized wave. Generally, light is a mixture of polarizations, but sometimes – for example in parts of the sky, on your computer screen and in reflections from water or glass – a large percentage of the waves are oscillating in the same orientation and the light is strongly polarized.”


Animals, like bees and ants, use polarization patterns in the sky as a navigation aid.  But few, even in the scientific community, are aware that humans can perceive the polarization of light with the naked eye too.  We do so using ‘Haidinger’s brushes’, a subtle visual effect, which appears like a yellow bow tie at right angles to the polarization angle.


In the present study, the researchers developed special filters to vary the percentage of polarized light from 0 to 100 per cent and tested the minimum percentage polarization at which Haidinger’s brushes could be detected.  Among 24 people, the average polarization sensitivity threshold was 56 per cent.  Some people could still see Haidinger’s brushes when the light was less than 25 per cent polarized – not quite as good as cuttlefish but still better than any other vertebrate tested to date.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Three year clinical trial has recently been completed for bionic eye retinal implants

Three year clinical trial has recently been completed for bionic eye retinal implants | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The experimental device, known as the Argus II, functions to improve the vision in people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. RP is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. The Argus II restores low levels of vision in functionally blind patients.


The device works by using a microscopic video camera, located in the glasses of the patient. The device sends collected information to a special processing unit. The unit then converts the signals to an electronic device implanted into the patient’s retina.


Trials were conducted on 30 subjects in 10 centers in the United States and Europe. Tests showed that 89 percent of the subjects in a trial reported that they received strong images when using the device. Further tests are continuing, based on the very promising results. The Argus II has a unit cost of around $100,000.


The experimental device, known as the Argus II, functions to improve the vision in people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. RP is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. The Argus II restores low levels of vision in functionally blind patients.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds: Scientists have created a hologram that can be touched

Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds: Scientists have created a hologram that can be touched | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Hologram technology already exists. Whatever is not yet sufficiently advanced, however, we have witnessed some progress in this area as: hologram created in mid air by laser, 3D hologram displays, holograms in the toy industry and the like. Unfortunately Hologram display can not be touched and interaction with it would feel more natural.

That at least was true till now when a Japanese team of scientists from Digital Nature Group managed to create a hologram display that you can touch. The concept is similar to the hologram which was created in mid air (also in Japan). Namely, the laser is used to create display emits superfast and supershort radiation (measured in femtoseconds). These radiations wiggle molecules of air, while helping to ionize (resulting in their lighting). As we know, a set of ionized particles to a place called plasma, which is generated by the laser.


The very fact that the molecules are forced to move in the air is causing the ability to touch them. Namely, when you put a finger in the hologram air, molecules are hitting your skin and you feel like it you touched something. According to lead author of the study it feels like you're touching sand paper or electrostatic shock. Additionally, by using a camera which is placed under the display you can recognize when you touched the display and where, and to convey the command somewhere in the software. 


Scientists say that they have chosen femtosecond display nanoseconds because it is safer for the skin because there is not enough time to warm up and damage. This will allow interactive 3D holograms that can be touched, which will contribute to significant progress in hologram technology. The projection of such holograms may allow upgrading of our reality in the case if these kind of devices are placed all around us and project images and objects that we could touch.


This femtosecond laser-based volumetric display will be demonstrated to the public as a part of the Siggraph 2015 exhibition in August.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Inside a Lizard's Regenerating Tail

Inside a Lizard's Regenerating Tail | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers created visual and DNA analysis of how anoles regenerate their tails.


ANOLES ARE CURIOUS little lizards capable of ditching their tails when they feel threatened. This self-amputation, called autotomy, takes about 25 days for the tail to regrow. A paper published today in the open-access online journal PLOS ONE describes the genetic process anoles use to regenerate. The researchers created the above graphic as a visual aid in their genetic sequencing. These ultra-thin slices of tail were taken from euthanized anoles at progressive stages of regeneration. This is very sad, but their sacrifices may someday help humans learn how to regenerate, too.


For the first 10 days, the lizard’s tail heals similarly to any other wound—new blood vessels form, and epithelial tissue (the soft, white skin under a scab) closes the gap over raw flesh. Then the tail starts to regrow, beginning with nerve tissue from the spinal cord (days 10-15), soft muscle, and tissue for transporting fluids. By day 20, the muscular tissue is starting to firm up around a cartilaginous tube that will eventually harden, and segment into tail bones. The far right of the image shows a 25-day-old tail. The lower-case ‘m’ indicates strong muscle fibers capable of quick motor control—the anole can flick its new tail. Interestingly, regeneration is very different from the way embryonic anoles grow their tails, where segments of bone and muscle are formed early.


The main thrust of the paper was figuring out which genes anoles uses to regenerate. DNA is a library of an organisms genes contained in every cell, and RNA is the enzyme that activates those genes when and where they are needed. The researchers used a technique called transcriptomic analysis to figure out which genes the anoles were using at different parts of the tail during different times in the regeneration process. In all, they identified 326 genes.


Most other regenerating animals, like zebrafish and newts, inherited their ability from an ancestor they don’t share with mammals. Anoles though, are more closely related to us than fish and amphibians. In fact, 302 of the 326 genes the researchers identified have homologs (similar genes) in mammal DNA. These genes could put scientists closer figuring out how to regrow limbs in humans.

more...
LEONARDO WILD's curator insight, July 3, 9:47 AM

Truth is like a lizard, the moment you have it in your hands, it will run away and grow a new one in a twinkling. (Paraphrasing words that  Ivan Turgenev wrote to Leo Tolstoy (1856)).

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Rice University's new electron microscope will capture images at subnanometer resolution

Rice University's new electron microscope will capture images at subnanometer resolution | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Rice University, renowned for nanoscale science, has installed microscopes that will allow researchers to peer deeper than ever into the fabric of the universe. The Titan Themis scanning/transmission electron microscope, one of the most powerful in the United States, will enable scientists from Rice as well as academic and industrial partners to view and analyze materials smaller than a nanometer — a billionth of a meter — with startling clarity.


The new microscope has the ability to take images of materials at angstrom-scale (one-tenth of a nanometer) resolution, about the size of a single hydrogen atom. Images will be captured with a variety of detectors, including X-ray, optical and multiple electron detectors and a 4K-resolution camera, equivalent to the number of pixels in the most modern high-resolution televisions. The microscope gives researchers the ability to create three-dimensional structural reconstructions and carry out electric field mapping of subnanoscale materials.


“Seeing single atoms is exciting, of course, and it’s beautiful,” said Emilie Ringe, a Rice assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry. “But scientists saw single atoms in the ’90s, and even before. Now, the real breakthrough is that we can identify the composition of those atoms, and do it easily and reliably.” Ringe’s research group will operate the Titan Themis and a companion microscope that will image larger samples.


Electron microscopes use beams of electrons rather than rays of light to illuminate objects of interest. Because the wavelength of electrons is so much smaller than that of photons, the microscopes are able to capture images of much smaller things with greater detail than even the highest-resolution optical microscope.


“The beauty of these newer instruments is their analytical capabilities,” Ringe said. “Before, in order to see single atoms, we had to work a machine for an entire day and get it just right and then take a picture and hold our breath. These days, seeing atoms is routine.


“And now we can probe a particular atom’s chemical composition. Through various techniques, either via scattering intensity, X-rays emission or electron-beam absorption, we can figure out, say, that we’re looking at a palladium atom or a carbon atom. We couldn’t do that before.”


Ringe said when an electron beam ejects a bound electron from a target atom, it creates an empty site. “That can be filled by another electron within the atom, and the energy difference between this electron and the missing electron is emitted as an X-ray,” she said. “That X-ray is like a fingerprint, which we can read. Different types of atoms have different energies.” 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Chromatin Remodeling Enzymes: The Human Protein Methyltransferases

Chromatin Remodeling Enzymes: The Human Protein Methyltransferases | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Methyltransferases are enzymes that facilitate the transfer of a methyl (-CH3) group to specific nucleophilic sites on proteins, nucleic acids or other biomolecules. They share a reaction mechanism in which the nucleophilic acceptor site attacks the electrophilic carbon of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) in an SN2 displacement reaction that produces a methylated biomolecule and S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine (SAH) as a byproduct. Methylation reactions are essential transformations in small-molecule metabolism, and methylation is a common modification of DNA and RNA. The recent discovery of dynamic and reversible methylation of amino acid side chains of chromatin proteins, particularly within the N-terminal tail of histone proteins, has revealed the importance of methyl 'marks' as regulators of gene expression. Human protein methyltransferases (PMTs) fall into two major families - protein lysine methyltransferases (PKMTs) and protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) - that are distinguishable by the amino acid that accepts the methyl group and by the conserved sequences of their respective catalytic domains. Given their involvement in many cellular processes, PMTs have attracted attention as potential drug targets, spurring the search for small-molecule PMT inhibitors. Several classes of inhibitors have been identified, but new specific chemical probes that are active in cells will be required to elucidate the biological roles of PMTs and serve as potent leads for PMT-focused drug development.


Protein lysine methyltransferases (PKMTs)

The phylogenetic tree shows 51 genes predicted to encode PKMTs, which are positioned in the tree on the basis of the similarities of their amino acid sequences. This tree excludes one validated PKMT, DOT1L, which lacks a SET domain - the catalytic domain conserved in this family - and clusters more closely with the PRMTs. The tree has four major branches, and each branch contains enzymes with validated methyltransferase activity (highlighted in red). Some PKMTs add a single methyl group, resulting in a mono-methylated product (Kme), whereas others produce di-(Kme2) or tri-methylated (Kme3) lysine modifications. Many of the validated PKMTs methylate lysines on histones, though nonhistone substrates have also been identified.


Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs)

The human PRMT phylogenetic tree comprises 45 predicted enzymes including the PKMT DOT1L. There are two major types of PRMTs; both catalyze the formation of mono-methylarginine (Rme1) but distinct reaction mechanisms yield symmetric (Rme2s) or asymmetric (Rme2a) dimethylarginine. A small number of predicted PRMTs have validated activity (highlighted in blue). In addition to PRMTs, this tree includes validated RNA methyltransferases (highlighted in green) and biosynthetic enzymes (highlighted in violet). It remains uncertain whether these latter enzymes have PRMT activity, despite their shared structural features. Substrates for the enzymes shown include RNA, metabolites, histones and RNA-binding and spiceosomal proteins.


More info: http://www.epizyme.com/epigenetics/about-epigenetics/chromatin-modifying-enzymes/

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

NASA explains why 30 June 2015 will get an extra ‘leap second’

NASA explains why 30 June 2015 will get an extra ‘leap second’ | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The day will officially be a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, 30 June 2015, because an extra second, or “leap” second, will be added.
“Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that,” said Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Strictly speaking, a day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives – Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. UTC is “atomic time” – the duration of one second is based on extremely predictable electromagnetic transitions in atoms of caesium. These transitions are so reliable that the caesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years.

However, the mean solar day – the average length of a day, based on how long it takes Earth to rotate – is about 86,400.002 seconds long. That’s because Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, due to a kind of braking force caused by the gravitational tug of war between Earth, the Moon and the Sun. Scientists estimate that the mean solar day hasn’t been 86,400 seconds long since the year 1820 or so.

This difference of 2 milliseconds, or two thousandths of a second – far less than the blink of an eye – hardly seems noticeable at first. But if this small discrepancy were repeated every day for an entire year, it would add up to almost a second. In reality, that’s not quite what happens. Although Earth’s rotation is slowing down on average, the length of each individual day varies in an unpredictable way.

The length of day is influenced by many factors, mainly the atmosphere over periods less than a year. Our seasonal and daily weather variations can affect the length of day by a few milliseconds over a year. Other contributors to this variation include dynamics of the Earth’s inner core (over long time periods), variations in the atmosphere and oceans, groundwater, and ice storage (over time periods of months to decades), and oceanic and atmospheric tides. Atmospheric variations due to El Niño can cause Earth’s rotation to slow down, increasing the length of day by as much as 1 millisecond, or a thousandth of a second.

Scientists monitor how long it takes Earth to complete a full rotation using an extremely precise technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). These measurements are conducted by a worldwide network of stations, with Goddard providing essential coordination of VLBI, as well as analysing and archiving the data collected.

The time standard called Universal Time 1, or UT1, is based on VLBI measurements of Earth’s rotation. UT1 isn’t as uniform as the caesium clock, so UT1 and UTC tend to drift apart. Leap seconds are added, when needed, to keep the two time standards within 0.9 seconds of each other. The decision to add leap seconds is made by a unit within the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.


Typically, a leap second is inserted either on 30 June or 31 December. Normally, the clock would move from 23:59:59 to 00:00:00 the next day. But with the leap second on 30 June, UTC will move from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60, and then to 00:00:00 on 1 July. In practice, many systems are instead turned off for one second. Previous leap seconds have created challenges for some computer systems and generated some calls to abandon them altogether. One reason is that the need to add a leap second cannot be anticipated far in advance.


“In the short term, leap seconds are not as predictable as everyone would like,” said Chopo Ma, a geophysicist at Goddard and a member of the directing board of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service. “The modelling of the Earth predicts that more and more leap seconds will be called for in the long-term, but we can’t say that one will be needed every year.”


From 1972, when leap seconds were first implemented, through 1999, leap seconds were added at a rate averaging close to one per year. Since then, leap seconds have become less frequent. This June’s leap second will be only the fourth to be added since 2000. Before 1972, adjustments were made in a different way.


Scientists don’t know exactly why fewer leap seconds have been needed lately. Sometimes, sudden geological events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, can affect Earth’s rotation in the short-term, but the big picture is more complex.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Sequencing Uncovers New Monogenic Form of Obesity

Sequencing Uncovers New Monogenic Form of Obesity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team from the UK, the Netherlands, and Ireland has identified a form of inherited obesity and type 2 diabetes that appears to stem from a mutation in a single enzyme-coding gene. As they reported online in PLOS One, the researchers did exome sequencing on members of a consanguineous family affected by a condition characterized by extreme obesity, type 2 diabetes, intellectual disability, and other features. Their search led to truncating mutations affecting both copies of a gene that codes for a peptide-processing enzyme called carboxypeptidase E.


That enzyme normally plays a role in regulating hormone and neuropeptide peptides, the team explained. And past mouse studies suggest that mutations that alter the enzyme's ability to regulate such peptides can throw off appetite control, normal glucose metabolism, and other physiological processes.


"There are now an increasing number of single-gene causes of obesity and diabetes known," corresponding author Alexandra Blakemore, a diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism researcher at the Imperial College of Medicine, said in a statement.


"We don't know how many more have yet to be discovered, or what proportion of the severely obese people in our population have these diseases — it is not possible to tell just by looking," Blakemore added, explaining that such inherited conditions can affect individuals' bodies and their ability to appropriately respond to hunger and fullness signals.


In an effort to track down new genes that contribute to inherited, single-gene forms of obesity, the researchers performed exome sequencing on members of a Sudanese family found through a genetic obesity clinic at a UK hospital.


Using the Agilent SureSelectXT Human All Exon V4+UTR kit, the team isolated protein-coding DNA from an affected family member — a morbidly obese 21-year-old woman with childhood-onset obesity, type 2 diabetes, intellectual disability, and reproductive problems — along with her mother and sister. After sequencing these exomes with the Illumina HiSeq 2500, the researchers scrutinized the sequences for single nucleotide changes, small insertions and deletions, and copy number variants.


The search ultimately led to a truncating frameshift mutation in the first exon of the CPE gene. With the help of Sanger sequencing, the team determined that the affected woman carried two copies of this mutation, while her mother, sister, and two brothers had one copy of the altered CPE gene. Similarly, when researchers used real-time PCR to track expression of the gene in blood samples from family members and female controls, they did not detect CPE transcripts in blood samples from the affected women. A sister with one copy of the mutation had lower-than-usual CPE expression compared to six control individuals.


The study's authors argued that the newly detected mutation, together with those in other genes involved in monogenic forms of obesity, should provide opportunities to find the basis of disease in ever more individuals with inherited obesity.


"Diagnosis is very valuable to the patient. It helps to set realistic expectations, and can help them get the best possible treatment," Blakemore noted, explaining that such diagnoses also make it possible to provide genetic counseling and advice to other members of affected families. 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

The First Evidence for STDs in Honeybees

The First Evidence for STDs in Honeybees | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

One of the most common parasites infecting honeybees is sexually-transmitted, a new study published to Scientific Reports finds. Nosema is a unicellular fungus that causes nosemosis, the most widespread disease of honeybees. Diseased bees are often afflicted with dysentery, disjointed wings, and an absent sting reflex, among many other symptoms.


The most common way Nosema is passed is via spore-ridden fecal matter. Bees swallow the spores, which make their way to the insects' guts and germinate. But it turns out that spores can also get into the semen of male bees, and when these bees copulate with the queen, she can also become infected.


Researchers primarily based out of the University of Leeds collected sexually mature male bees from 39 colonies infested by Nosema. They then harvested the insects' semen (very delicately, as one would surmise) and inseminated a group of queens. One out of every five of the queens developed nosemosis.


Luckily for the colony, infected queens do not pass Nosema onto their young. None of the 400 eggs laid by queens in the experiment carried the parasite. However, unluckily for parasite-ridden queens, their days are usually numbered once they take on the parasite. An infected queen's ovaries quickly degenerate, severely reducing her egg-laying capacity. Sensing the queen's infertility, workers then set about rearing replacement queens. When one is ready to take the throne, workers encircle the old queen and sting her to death.


"The results provide the first quantitative evidence of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in social insects," the researchers said of the study. STDs have been found in insects before, though, unlike vertebrate STDs, which are commonly caused by bacteria or viruses, insect STDS are usually caused by parasites -- mites, nematodes, fungi, and protists.

more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Melanoma BRAF Inhibitors Review
Scoop.it!

New Treatment for Melanoma Uses a Form of the Herpes Virus

New Treatment for Melanoma Uses a Form of the Herpes Virus | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and almost 10,000 will die from this deadliest form of skin cancer. Over the past several years, treatment of advanced cases of melanoma has been transformed as new FDA-approved therapies developed by several different companies have come onto the market. An FDA advisory committee recently approved a therapy that takes a totally novel approach that involves injecting a live attenuated virus directly into regionally or distant metastatic melanoma tumors.


HSV-1 infections cause cold sores and sometimes genital herpes, although infection with human simplex virus 2 is more often the cause of genital herpes. Researchers have characterized the virulence genes of the virus. Talimogene laherparepvec, sometimes shortened to T-VEC, is made by depleting those virulence genes and inserting sequences that generate GM-CSF. It’s believed that removal of the virulence genes decreases the chances that the virus will infect nerve cells and will instead home in on tumor cells. By delivering GM-CSF, the genetically engineered virus enhances tumor antigen presentation to the immune system and induction of immune system attack on the malignancy.

Encouraging durable response results


Talimogene laherparepvec was studied in a randomized, open label phase 3 study to compare the new therapy with GM-CSF injections in subjects with unresectable stage IIIB, IIIC, and IV melanoma. A total of 437 subjects were randomized into the study at 64 study sites. The study was designed to demonstrate an improvement in durable response rate, which was defined as a complete response or partial response maintained for at least six months. Subjects were to receive therapy until Week 24, even if their melanoma was progressing. GM-CSF was used for comparison purposes because at the time that this study was designed, it was also in clinical studies as a treatment for melanoma. It is unclear, though, if GM-CSF by itself has any therapeutic value.


To be enrolled in the study, people had to be age 18 or older, have a histologically confirmed malignant melanoma of the stages listed in the previous paragraph, measurable disease of at least 1 cm, injectable disease (either on the surface of the skin or through the use of ultrasound guidance), ECOG performance of 0 or 1, and a life expectancy greater than four months from date of randomization. The study exclusions included active cerebral disease, any bone metastases, history of secondary cancer unless disease-free for at least five years, open herpetic skin lesions, and primary ocular or mucosal melanoma.


Via Krishan Maggon
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Babies Can Form Abstract Relations Before They Even Learn Words

Babies Can Form Abstract Relations Before They Even Learn Words | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

According to a new study published in the journal Child Development, infants are capable of understanding abstract relations like ‘same’ and ‘different.’


“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said Dr Alissa Ferry of the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati in Italy, lead author of the study.


To trace the origins of relational thinking in infants, Dr Ferry and her colleagues from Northwestern University tested whether 7-month-old infants could understand the simplest and most basic abstract relation – the same-different relation.


Infants were shown pairs of items that were either the same (two Elmo dolls) or different (Elmo doll and a toy camel) until their looking time declined.


In the test phase, the infants looked longer at pairs showing the novel relation, even when the test pairs were composed of new objects. That is, infants who had learned the same relation looked longer at test pairs showing the different relation during test, and vice versa.


This suggests that the infants had encoded the abstract relation and detected when the relation changed. “We found that infants are capable of learning these relations. Additionally, infants exhibit the same patterns of learning as older children and adults – relational learning benefits from seeing multiple examples of the relation and is impeded when attention is drawn to the individual objects composing the relation,” Dr Ferry said.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Nationwide study measures short-term spike in July 4 particulate matter due to fireworks

Nationwide study measures short-term spike in July 4 particulate matter due to fireworks | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

From our nation's founding, the Fourth of July has been synonymous with fireworks. While many grew up learning that fireworks can be dangerous to the eyes and hands if not handled properly, fireworks also produce air pollutants, including particulate matter, that are linked to short-term or long-term health effects.


NOAA scientist Dian Seidel and Abigail Birnbaum, a student intern at NOAA, have authored a new study appearing in the journal Atmospheric Environment that quantifies the surge in fine particulate matter -particles that are two and one half microns in diameter (PM2.5) -on July 4, using observations from the 315 U.S. air quality monitoring sites that operated from 1999 to 2013. While scientists have known that fireworks displays produce a surge in fine particulates, the new study is the first nationwide quantitative analysis of the effects.


"We chose the holiday, not to put a damper on celebrations of America's independence, but because it is the best way to do a nationwide study of the effects of fireworks on air quality," said Seidel, a senior scientist at NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory in College Park, Maryland. "These results will help improve air quality predictions, which currently don't account for fireworks as a source of air pollution. The study is also another wake up call for those who may be particularly sensitive to the effects of fine particulate matter."


PM2.5 are microscopic particles that can affect health because they travel deep into a person's respiratory tract, entering the lungs. Both long- and short-term exposures to fine particles are linked to a range of health effects - from coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, to asthma attacks, heart attack and stroke, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are among those most at risk from particle pollution exposure. For more information on risks, go online to the Environmental Protection Agency at: http://www.epa.gov/airquality/particlepollution/2012/decfshealth.pdf


The new research shows that hourly concentrations of fine particulate matter typically reach their highest levels, when compared to the days before and after July 4, on the evening of July 4. Levels drop back down by noon on July 5, according to the research. On average, the increases are largest from 9-10 p.m. on the holiday. Average concentrations over the 24-hour period starting at 8 p.m. on July 4 are 42 percent greater than on the days preceding and following the holiday.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

First trial of gene therapy for cystic fibrosis to show beneficial effect on lung function

First trial of gene therapy for cystic fibrosis to show beneficial effect on lung function | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
For the first time gene therapy for cystic fibrosis has shown a significant benefit in lung function compared with placebo, in a phase 2 randomised trial published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal. The technique replaces the defective gene response for cystic fibrosis by using inhaled molecules of DNA to deliver a normal working copy of the gene to lung cells.

“Patients who received the gene therapy showed a significant, if modest, benefit in tests of lung function compared with the placebo group and there were no safety concerns,” said senior author Professor Eric Alton from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. “Whilst the effect was inconsistent, with some patients responding better than others, the results are encouraging.” [1]

Cystic fibrosis is a rare inherited disease caused by mutations in a single gene called cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and affects 1 in every 2500 newborns in the UK and over 90000 people worldwide. Scientists have discovered around 2000 CFTR mutations so far. These mutations make the lining of the lungs secrete unusually thick mucus. This leads to recurrent life-threatening lung infections, which result in lung damage that causes 90% of deaths in people with cystic fibrosis.

Since the discovery of the genetic basis for cystic fibrosis in 1989, scientists have developed a variety of viral and non-viral vector systems for delivering a corrected CFTR gene back into lung cells.  Despite expectations of a rapid breakthrough, no cystic fibrosis gene therapy trial so far has been able to show long-term clinical improvement.

Coordinated by the UK Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Consortium [2], the two-year study involved 136 CF patients aged 12 years or older from across the UK. Participants were randomly assigned to either 5ml of nebulised (inhaled) pGM169/GL67A (gene therapy) or saline (placebo) at monthly intervals over 1 year. Lung function was evaluated using a common clinical measure of the volume of air forcibly exhaled in one second (FEV1).

After a year of treatment, in the 62 patients who received the gene therapy, FEV1 was 3.7% greater compared to placebo [3]. This was a result of stabilisation of respiratory function rather than an improvement. However, the effects were inconsistent, with some patients responding better than others. In particular, in the half of patients with the worst lung function at the start of the study, there was a doubling of the treatment effect, with changes in FEV1 of 6.4%.
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

A colloidal quantum dot spectrometer that fits on your cell phone and let you scan for skin cancer

A colloidal quantum dot spectrometer that fits on your cell phone and let you scan for skin cancer | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

We use them to spy on exoplanets, diagnose skin-cancer, and ID the makeup of unknown chemicals. They're on NASA spacecraft flying around Saturn's moons right now. Yes, right alongside the microscope, the optical spectrometer—an instrument that breaks down the light that something reflects or emits, telling you what its made of—is one of the most ubiquitous tools in all of science. Today, Jie Bao, a physicist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, has just discovered a fascinating way to make them smaller, lighter, and less expensive than we ever thought possible.


By using tiny amounts of strange, light-sensitive inks, Bao and his colleague Moungi Bawendi—a chemist at MIT—have designed a working spectrometer that's small enough to fit on your smartphone. Because of the tool's simple design and its need for only an incredibly small amount of the inks, Bao says, his spectrometer only requires a few dollars worth of materials to make. They report the research today in the journal Nature.


"Of course we still have a lot of room for improvement. But performance-wise, even at this preliminary stage, our spectrometer works very close to what's currently being sold in the market," Bao says. "I think that's one of the most attractive results of our research: This spectrometer is already so close to a real product."


As if making micro-sized stained glass windows, Bao prints a tiny grid of 195 different-colored liquid inks directly onto a flat sensor. (That sensor, called a CCD sensor, is what your phone's camera uses to pick up light.) Each of the 195 windows is made of a material called colloidal quantum dots, and each "absorbs certain wavelengths of light, and lets others go," says Bao. When light hits each window and travels through, the underlying sensor records how the light changed. Later, a computer can compare the data from all of the windows and reconstruct what wavelengths made up the original light.


Right now, Bao's spectrometer is about the size of a quarter, and he says the underlying CCD sensors he uses can be bought online for less than a dollar a pop. Because he's using just a tiny drop of each of the colloidal quantum dot inks (which have only recently been developed) the cost all 195 drops is only on the order of a few dollars.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Underwater farmers grow strawberries in balloon gardens

Underwater farmers grow strawberries in balloon gardens | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This is a snapshot of life at one of the world's strangest farms. In the eerie blue light, a diver drifts between underwater greenhouses, where the first seeds of the year – basil, strawberry, lettuce and beans – were planted last week. The transparent "biospheres" beneath the Bay of Noli, in Savona, Italy, are part of the three-year-old Nemo's Garden project, which aims to find innovative ways of growing crops in places that lack freshwater or fertile soil.


Resembling large balloons, the air-filled structures are anchored to the sea floor and float between 5 and 10 meters below the surface. Inside, water condenses on the roof of the spheres, dripping back down to keep the plants watered, while the warm, near-constant sea temperature nurtures the plants.


The site is equipped with four cameras that stream back live video, allowing the unusual farmers to be watched in action online. Sensors collecting live data can also be monitored from a website, revealing for example the humidity and air temperature in the greenhouses. It's not the only unlikely garden around. An island of green was built in the middle of a sea of garbage in Djenné, Mali.

more...
Lorraine Chaffer's curator insight, July 4, 9:03 PM
Innovative ideas for future food production?
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Why human egg cells don't age well

Why human egg cells don't age well | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
When egg cells form with an incorrect number of chromosomes--a problem that increases with age--the result is usually a miscarriage or a genetic disease such as Down syndrome. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have used a novel imaging technique to pinpoint a significant event that leads to these types of age-related chromosomal errors. Published in Nature Communications, the study shows that as egg cells mature in older women, paired copies of matching chromosomes often separate from each other at the wrong time, leading to early division of chromosomes and their incorrect segregation into mature egg cells.

Most cells have two copies of each chromosome--one from each parent. Immature egg cells begin this way, but are transformed through a process called meiosis into mature egg cells that only have one copy of each chromosome. At the beginning of meiosis each chromosome copies itself and joins with its matching pair to form a group of four chromosomes that swap genetic material.

These groups of four chromosomes--called bivalents--then split apart into single pairs, and the cell divides. One part continues as the egg cell and the other part degrades. In the second stage of meiosis, the single pairs of chromosomes--two sister chromatids joined in the middle--separate and the egg cell divides again in the same way, leaving a single mature egg cell with one copy of each chromosome.

"What we found," explains team leader Tomoya Kitajima, "is that in older cells, the bivalents sometimes separate early, and this leads to division of sister chromatids in the first stage of meiosis, rather than in the second stage."

To determine the most common type of age-related segregation errors, the researchers first used a novel high resolution imaging technique to visualize chromosomes in live mouse egg cells throughout the whole first stage of meiosis. They found that chromosomes were always distributed correctly in young egg cells, but that a little less than 10% of older cells suffered from segregation errors. Closer examination of the chromosome-tracking data showed that the dominant type of error was predivision of sister chromatids, and not movement of intact chromosome pairs to only one of the new cells.

The tracking data also allowed researchers to go back in time and look at what was happening to chromosomes that eventually segregated incorrectly. They found that a large majority of them had been part of bivalents whose connection between paired chromosome copies had become hyperstretched and then snapped earlier in meiosis, leaving single pairs.
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

External magnetic field controlled, nanoscale bacteria-like robots could replace stents and angioplasty balloons

External magnetic field controlled, nanoscale bacteria-like robots could replace stents and angioplasty balloons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Swarms of microscopic, magnetic, robotic beads could be used within five years by vascular surgeons to clear blocked arteries. These minimally invasive microrobots, which look and move like corkscrew-shaped bacteria, are being developed by an $18-million, 11-institution research initiative headed by the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technologies (KEIT).


These “microswimmers” are driven and controlled by external magnetic fields, similar to how nanowires from Purdue University and ETH Zurich/Technion (recently covered on KurzweilAI) work, but based on a different design. Instead of wires, they’re made from chains of three or more iron oxide beads, rigidly linked together via chemical bonds and magnetic force. The beads are put in motion by an external magnetic field that causes each of them to rotate. Because they are linked together, their individual rotations cause the chain to twist like a corkscrew and this movement propels the microswimmer. The chains are small enough­­ — the nanoparticles are 50–100 nanometers in diameter — that they can navigate in the bloodstream like a tiny boat, Fantastic Voyage movie style (but without the microscopic humans) via a catheter to navigate directly to the blocked artery, where a drill would clear it completely.


Drilling through plaque:

The inspiration for using the robotic swimmers as tiny drills came from the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria (shown above), which causes Lyme’s Disease and wreaks havoc inside the body by burrowing through healthy tissue. Its spiral shape enables both its movement and the resultant cellular destruction. By controlling the magnetic field, a surgeon could direct the speed and direction of the microswimmers. The magnetism also allows for joining separate strands of microswimmers together to make longer strings, which can then be propelled with greater force.


Once flow is restored in the artery, the microswimmer chains could disperse and be used to deliver anti-coagulant medication directly to the effected area to prevent future blockage. This procedure could supplant the two most common methods for treating blocked arteries: stenting and angioplasty. Stenting is a way of creating a bypass for blood to flow around the block by inserting a series of tubes into the artery, while angioplasty balloons out the blockage by expanding the artery with help from an inflatable probe.


“Current treatments for chronic total occlusion are only about 60 percent successful,” said MinJun Kim, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering and director of the Biological Actuation, Sensing & Transport Laboratory (BASTLab) at Drexel University. “We believe that the method we are developing could be as high as 80–90 percent successful and possibly shorten recovery time. The microswimmers are composed of inorganic biodegradable beads so they will not trigger an immune response in the body. We can adjust their size and surface properties to accurately deal with any type of arterial occlusion.” Kim’s research was recently reported in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.


Mechanical engineers at Drexel University are using these microswimmers as a part of a surgical toolkit being assembled by the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST)Researchers from other institutions on the project include ETH ZurichSeoul National UniversityHanyang UniversityKorea Institute of Science and Technology, and Samsung Medical Center.


DGIST anticipates testing the technology in lab and clinical settings within the next four years.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Broad Institute, Google Genomics combine bioinformatics and computing expertise

Broad Institute, Google Genomics combine bioinformatics and computing expertise | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is teaming up with Google Genomics to explore how to break down major technical barriers that increasingly hinder biomedical research by addressing the need for computing infrastructure to store and process enormous datasets, and by creating tools to analyze such data and unravel long-standing mysteries about human health.

As a first step, Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit, or GATK, will be offered as a service on the Google Cloud Platform, as part of Google Genomics. The goal is to enable any genomic researcher to upload, store, and analyze data in a cloud-based environment that combines the Broad Institute’s best-in-class genomic analysis tools with the scale and computing power of Google.

GATK is a software package developed at the Broad Institute to analyze high-throughput genomic sequencing data. GATK offers a wide variety of analysis tools, with a primary focus on genetic variant discovery and genotyping as well as a strong emphasis on data quality assurance. Its robust architecture, powerful processing engine, and high-performance computing features make it capable of taking on projects of any size.

GATK is already available for download at no cost to academic and non-profit users. In addition, business users can license GATK from the Broad. To date, more than 20,000 users have processed genomic data using GATK.

The Google Genomics service will provide researchers with a powerful, additional way to use GATK. Researchers will be able to upload genetic data and run GATK-powered analyses on Google Cloud Platform, and may use GATK to analyze genetic data already available for research via Google Genomics. GATK as a service will make best-practice genomic analysis readily available to researchers who don’t have access to the dedicated compute infrastructure and engineering teams required for analyzing genomic data at scale. An initial alpha release of the GATK service will be made available to a limited set of users.

“Large-scale genomic information is accelerating scientific progress in cancer, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, and many other diseases,” said Eric Lander, President and Director of Broad Institute. “Storing, analyzing, and managing these data is becoming a critical challenge for biomedical researchers. We are excited to work with Google’s talented and experienced engineers to develop ways to empower researchers around the world by making it easier to access and use genomic information.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer (100% accurate in early tests)

Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer (100% accurate in early tests) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer - one of the hardest tumours to detect and treat. The test, which they describe as "a major advance", hunts for tiny spheres of fat that are shed by the cancers. Early results published in the journal Nature showed the test was 100% accurate.


Experts said the findings were striking and ingenious, but required refinement before they could become a cancer test. The number of people who survive 10 years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is less than 1% in England and Wales compared with 78% for breast cancer. The tumor results in very few symptoms in its early stages and by the time people become unwell, the cancer has often spread around the body and become virtually untreatable.

A cell surface proteoglycan, glypican-1 (GPC1), on circulating exosomes may serve as a potential noninvasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early stages of pancreatic cancer, according to research published online June 24 in Nature.


Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., chair of cancer biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues analyzed blood samples from about 250 pancreatic cancer patients and 32 breast cancer patients. For comparison, they used blood samples from healthy donors and small groups of people with other conditions, such as pancreatitis.


The researchers found that exosomes from cancer cells, but not other cell types, harbored high levels of the GPC1 protein. "Any time we identified GPC1-enriched exosomes, we could tell it was a cancer cell," Kalluri told HealthDay. And while many breast tumors released high amounts of GPC1, all pancreatic tumors did -- including early-stage cancers.


"GPC1+ circulating exosomes may serve as a potential noninvasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early stages of pancreatic cancer to facilitate possible curative surgical therapy," the authors write. "These results encouraged us to perform further analyses to potentially inform on the utility of GPC1+ circulating exosomes as a detection and monitoring tool for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma."

more...
Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Breast Cancer News
Scoop.it!

Paths To Longevity: The New Cancer Survivors

Paths To Longevity: The New Cancer Survivors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Extraordinary advances have turned cancer from an apparent death sentence into a manageable chronic illness for many. But what does it mean to live with a terminal disease...interminably?


Several broad forces have contributed to the transformation of cancer over the past two decades. The first is early detection. The preponderance of screening tests along with new, more refined imaging technologies have led to the discovery of tumors earlier than ever, often before they’ve spread beyond the original site. And even in the case of metastasized tumors, catching them early can improve a person’s ability to weather treatment and fight the disease.


There have also been remarkable medical advances, including targeted therapies, which are drugs designed to act against particular molecules involved in cancer-cell growth in specific types of cancer; personalized medicine, which allows doctors to identify and respond to genetic and biological abnormalities in an individual patient’s cancer; and targeted immunotherapy, a new type of treatment that harnesses the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.


Last is the growing field of psycho-oncology, which has led to an expanded understandingof cancer patients’ emotional and social needs and has been shown to add not just to the quality of their years but to the quantity as well. Being better informed and supported can motivate people to work on their overall physical wellness and opt to participate in experimental treatments and clinical trials, which can be life-extending.


All these developments are factors in the increasing number of people whose cancer can be considered cured, a nebulous term that generally describes those who are cancer-free five years after their diagnosis. But at the same time, they’re enabling more and more people like Brad Slocum to live longer with active or persistent cancer, including tumors that are controlled without being eliminated or tumors that go through continuous cycles of remission and recurrence.


“It’s very different from being cured,” says Michael Fisch, chair of general oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “Being cured becomes a story like, ‘Back in 2002, I had a small breast tumor, and they took care of it,’ or ‘I had a small melanoma removed five years ago, and I live a normal life now.’ It’s a line item on a medical history that maybe isn’t too important. But taking Sutent, or periodically having surgeries, or having a lot of CT scans, or having a fear of recurrence or progression, or being on maintenance chemotherapy—that’s a different experience.”


Via Susan Zager
more...
Susan Zager's curator insight, June 30, 11:04 AM

Great Article- thought provoking. 

Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Eldritch Weird
Scoop.it!

Quanta: A New Physics Theory of Life

Quanta: A New Physics Theory of Life | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
An MIT physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire lifelike physical properties.


Why does life exist? Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”


From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.


“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said. England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. “I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”


His idea, detailed in a recent paper and further elaborated in a talk he is delivering at universities around the world, has sparked controversy among his colleagues, who see it as either tenuous or a potential breakthrough, or both.


England has taken “a very brave and very important step,” said Alexander Grosberg, a professor of physics at New York University who has followed England’s work since its early stages. The “big hope” is that he has identified the underlying physical principle driving the origin and evolution of life, Grosberg said.


England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab. “He’s trying something radically different,” said Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard who is contemplating such an experiment after learning about England’s work. “As an organizing lens, I think he has a fabulous idea. Right or wrong, it’s going to be very much worth the investigation.”


At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the “arrow of time.” Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses. Entropy is a measure of this tendency, quantifying how dispersed the energy is among the particles in a system, and how diffuse those particles are throughout space. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated. Thus, as particles in a system move around and interact, they will, through sheer chance, tend to adopt configurations in which the energy is spread out. Eventually, the system arrives at a state of maximum entropy called “thermodynamic equilibrium,” in which energy is uniformly distributed. A cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example. As long as the cup and the room are left alone, this process is irreversible. The coffee never spontaneously heats up again because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against so much of the room’s energy randomly concentrating in its atoms.


Although entropy must increase over time in an isolated or “closed” system, an “open” system can keep its entropy low — that is, divide energy unevenly among its atoms — by greatly increasing the entropy of its surroundings. In his influential 1944 monograph “What Is Life?” the eminent quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger argued that this is what living things must do. A plant, for example, absorbs extremely energetic sunlight, uses it to build sugars, and ejects infrared light, a much less concentrated form of energy. The overall entropy of the universe increases during photosynthesis as the sunlight dissipates, even as the plant prevents itself from decaying by maintaining an orderly internal structure.


Via SIN JONES
more...
No comment yet.