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South Korean Kaist Team wins the DARPA Robotics Challenge

South Korean Kaist Team wins the DARPA Robotics Challenge | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

First place in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals this past weekend in Pomona, California went to Team Kaist of South Korea for its DRC-Hubo robot, winning $2 million in prize money. Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Fla., with its Running Man (Atlas) robot came in at second place ($1 million prize), followed by Tartan Rescue of Pittsburgh with its CHIMP robot ($500,000 prize).


The DARPA Robotics Challenge, with three increasingly demanding competitions over two years, was launched in response to a humanitarian need that became glaringly clear during the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, DARPA said. The goal was to “accelerate progress in robotics and hasten the day when robots have sufficient dexterity and robustness to enter areas too dangerous for humans and mitigate the impacts of natural or man-made disasters.”


The difficult course of eight tasks simulated Fukushima-like conditions, such as driving alone, walking through rubble, tripping circuit breakers, turning valves, and climbing stairs. Representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, a dozen teams from the United States and another eleven from Japan, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea and Hong Kong competed.


More DARPA Robotics Challenge videos

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New instrument for imaging the magnetosensitivity of photochemical reactions on a submicron scale

New instrument for imaging the magnetosensitivity of photochemical reactions on a submicron scale | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have succeeded in developing a new microscope capable of observing the magnetic sensitivity of photochemical reactions believed to be responsible for the ability of some animals to navigate in Earth's magnetic field, on a scale small enough to follow these reactions taking place inside sub-cellular structures.


Several species of insects, fish, birds and mammals are believed to be able to detect magnetic fields -- an ability known as magnetoreception. For example, birds are able to sense Earth's magnetic field and use it to help navigate when migrating. Recent research suggests that a group of proteins called cryptochromes and particularly the molecule flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) that forms part of the cryptochrome, are implicated in magnetoreception. When cryptochromes absorb blue light, they can form what are known as radical pairs. The magnetic field around the cryptochromes determines the spins of these radical pairs, altering their reactivity. However, to date there has been no way to measure the effect of magnetic fields on radical pairs in living cells.


The research group of Associate Professor Jonathan Woodward at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are specialists in radical pair chemistry and investigating the magnetic sensitivity of biological systems. In this latest research, PhD student Lewis Antill made measurements using a special microscope to detect radical pairs formed from FAD, and the influence of very weak magnetic fields on their reactivity, in volumes less than 4 millionths of a billionth of a liter (4 femtoliters). This was possible using a technique the group developed called TOAD (transient optical absorption detection) imaging, employing a microscope built by postdoctoral research associate Dr. Joshua Beardmore based on a design by Beardmore and Woodward.


"In the future, using another mode of the new microscope called MIM (magnetic intensity modulation), also introduced in this work, it may be possible to directly image only the magnetically sensitive regions of living cells," says Woodward. "The new imaging microscope developed in this research will enable the study of the magnetic sensitivity of photochemical reactions in a variety of important biological and other contexts, and hopefully help to unlock the secrets of animals' miraculous magnetic sense."

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Researchers targeting the host rather than the flu virus have success with new treatment tested in mice

Researchers targeting the host rather than the flu virus have success with new treatment tested in mice | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The flu kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year, yet there is essentially only one class of drugs to fight the ever-changing virus. Cases of flu resistant to this class of drugs have already been reported and researchers worry a completely new strain of flu could evolve, leading to a pandemic like the one in 1918 that killed approximately 50 million people.


Many researchers are trying to develop new drugs to defeat the flu virus. But researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital had a completely different idea. People who die from the flu actually die from respiratory failure, when the lung’s tiny blood vessels start leaking fluid into the lung’s air sacs. Dr. Warren Lee, a researcher with the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Sciences, wondered what would happen if someone developed a treatment that would prevent those blood vessels from leaking?


Working with mice, Dr. Lee tested a new drug developed by researchers at Sunnybrook Hospital that acts on the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels.


Their work, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, found that: The drug, Vasculotide, was effective against multiple strains of influenza, including the 2009 swine flu pandemic strain. Without the drug, 100 per cent of the mice died within one week. With the drug, more than 80 per cent survived.


In addition:

  • The drug worked even if it was administered days after the infection began. Traditional antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu must be started immediately.
  • The drug worked alone and in combination with antivirals.
  • It worked without compromising the body’s ability to mount an immune response to the virus.


Dr. Lee, a critical care physician and cell biologist, said that while this research was conducted in mice, he found the results exciting since the drug was effective in two different strains of mice and three different strains of flu. He said that since the mechanism of blood vessels leaking into lungs is common throughout animals, he was optimistic the drug could be effective in animals other than mice, including humans. St. Michael’s and Sunnybrook have jointly applied for a U.S. patent for the drug.

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Superdense Teleportation: Transporting Quantum Information Without Moving Matter

Superdense Teleportation: Transporting Quantum Information Without Moving Matter | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of scientists have taken quantum teleportation – a method of communicating information from one location to another without having to physically move it – to a higher level by using certain high-dimensional states (which they dubbed “donut” states) for teleportation. Stony Brook University physicist Tzu-Chieh Wei, PhD, and colleagues nationally demonstrated that their method works, is more reliable than previous teleportation schemes, and could be a stepping stone toward building a quantum communications network. Their findings appear in Nature Communications.


The researchers developed entangled elementary particles – in this case photons, the smallest units of light – to transmit information through a shared pair of entangled quantum state of photons – both the sender and receiver have one photon, one half of each entangled pair. In simple communication terms, the process of superdense-teleporting would involve one person to encode information in the form of a quantum state on his photon. Then the person would perform measurement on his photon and then use traditional communication channels (phone or email) to let the other person know what operation to perform on her photon in the laboratory to re-create the same quantum state.


“This process of a re-creation is essentially a transport without having any matter move from location A to location B,” said Dr. Wei, an Assistant Professor in Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. “Loosely speaking you could also view teleportation as a miniature version of teletransportation in the ‘Star Trek’ movies.”


Dr. Wei also likened the teleportation method as quantum information created and then stored in a kind of invisible parallel “shared folder” for end users. A broadening and testing of this concept could help to form a quantum communications network that could potentially be used to encode and transmit useful quantities of quantum data for scientific experimentation and communication virtually anywhere on earth or in space.


In “Superdense teleportation using hyper-entangled photons,” the team took advantage of the mathematical properties intrinsic to the shape of a donut – or torus, in mathematical terms to use “superdense teleportation.” The work, led by physicist Paul Kwiat of the University of Illinois, built on this new protocol for teleportation that was developed by co-author physicist Herbert Bernstein of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. The method effectively reduces the resources required to teleport quantum information, while at the same time improving the rate and reliability of the information transfer.


With this new method, the researchers experimentally achieved 88 percent transmission fidelity, twice that of 44 percent, the very best that could be achieved by any system that didn’t have access to the entangled quantum resource. To make the whole process more efficient, the protocol uses pairs of photons that are “hyperentangled” – simultaneously entangled in more than one property, in this case in polarization and in orbital angular momentum – with a restricted number of possible states in each variable. Using multiple properties allows each photon to carry more information than the earlier quantum teleportation experiments.

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Going places: Chikungunya virus is on the move

Going places: Chikungunya virus is on the move | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The chikungunya virus spreads via mosquitoes in tropical regions. Now it has found a way to hijack a second mosquito, posing a threat to people in Europe, North America and China.


In one decade, chikungunya (chihk-uhn-GUHN-yuh) fever has gone from an obscure tropical ailment to an international threat, causing more than 3 million infections worldwide. The virus has established itself in Latin America and may now have the wherewithal to inflict its particular brand of misery in cooler climates.


Chikungunya rarely kills its victims, but it can bring a world of hurt. It comes on like the flu — fever, chills, headache, aching joints — and typically lingers for a week. Many patients later develop severe joint pain that can recur for months or years. In the Makonde language of East Africa, where the virus was first identified in 1952, chikungunya means “to walk bent over” or “to become contorted,” a reference to the stooped posture of many sufferers.


Just how chikungunya went global in 10 years is a story of international travel, viral mutations and an accomplice with wings. Historical accounts suggest that the mosquito-borne virus has ventured from its natural home in Africa several times, even hitting North America in the 1820s. But apart from settling into Southeast Asia in the late 1950s, other sorties from Africa have fizzled.


Not this time. In 2005, chikungunya departed Kenya, hit several islands in the Indian Ocean and spread like a brush fire through India and Southeast Asia, where it lingers today. In 2013, the strain of chikungunya that had been ensconced in Asia since the 1950s found its way to the Caribbean and even nicked Florida in 2014.


It’s not unprecedented for a tropical disease to reach other warm regions. But one strain of the chikungunya virus has found a way to survive in mosquitoes that live in temperate zones, leading to recent forays into Italy and France. North America, China and Europe are now fair game.


That means chikungunya could be coming to a mosquito near you. The virus has not established long-term roots in temperate zones, and no one knows whether it has the chops to do so. But Stephen Higgs, a parasitologist and chikungunya expert at Kansas State University in Manhattan, says U.S. outbreaks are a real possibility.

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CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR

CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Three years ago, Bruce Conklin came across a method that made him change the course of his lab. Conklin, a geneticist at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, had been trying to work out how variations in DNA affect various human diseases, but his tools were cumbersome. When he worked with cells from patients, it was hard to know which sequences were important for disease and which were just background noise. And engineering a mutation into cells was expensive and laborious work. “It was a student's entire thesis to change one gene,” he says.


Then, in 2012, he read about a newly published technique1 called CRISPR that would allow researchers to quickly change the DNA of nearly any organism — including humans. Soon after, Conklin abandoned his previous approach to modelling disease and adopted this new one. His lab is now feverishly altering genes associated with various heart conditions. “CRISPR is turning everything on its head,” he says.


The sentiment is widely shared: CRISPR is causing a major upheaval in biomedical research. Unlike other gene-editing methods, it is cheap, quick and easy to use, and it has swept through labs around the world as a result. Researchers hope to use it to adjust human genes to eliminate diseases, create hardier plants, wipe out pathogens and much more besides. “I've seen two huge developments since I've been in science: CRISPR and PCR,” says John Schimenti, a geneticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Like PCR, the gene-amplification method that revolutionized genetic engineering after its invention in 1985, “CRISPR is impacting the life sciences in so many ways,” he says.


But although CRISPR has much to offer, some scientists are worried that the field's breakneck pace leaves little time for addressing the ethical and safety concerns such experiments can raise. The problem was thrust into the spotlight in April, when news broke that scientists had used CRISPR to engineer human embryos (see Nature 520, 593–595; 2015). The embryos they used were unable to result in a live birth, but the report2 has generated heated debate over whether and how CRISPR should be used to make heritable changes to the human genome. And there are other concerns. Some scientists want to see more studies that probe whether the technique generates stray and potentially risky genome edits; others worry that edited organisms could disrupt entire ecosystems.


“This power is so easily accessible by labs — you don't need a very expensive piece of equipment and people don't need to get many years of training to do this,” says Stanley Qi, a systems biologist at Stanford University in California. “We should think carefully about how we are going to use that power.”


Biologists have long been able to edit genomes with molecular tools. About ten years ago, they became excited by enzymes called zinc finger nucleases that promised to do this accurately and efficiently. But zinc fingers, which cost US$5,000 or more to order, were not widely adopted because they are difficult to engineer and expensive, says James Haber, a molecular biologist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. CRISPR works differently: it relies on an enzyme called Cas9 that uses a guide RNA molecule to home in on its target DNA, then edits the DNA to disrupt genes or insert desired sequences. Researchers often need to order only the RNA fragment; the other components can be bought off the shelf. Total cost: as little as $30. “That effectively democratized the technology so that everyone is using it,” says Haber. “It's a huge revolution.”


CRISPR methodology is quickly eclipsing zinc finger nucleases and other editing tools (see 'The rise of CRISPR'). For some, that means abandoning techniques they had taken years to perfect. “I'm depressed,” says Bill Skarnes, a geneticist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, “but I'm also excited.” Skarnes had spent much of his career using a technology introduced in the mid-1980s: inserting DNA into embryonic stem cells and then using those cells to generate genetically modified mice. The technique became a laboratory workhorse, but it was also time-consuming and costly. CRISPR takes a fraction of the time, and Skarnes adopted the technique two years ago.


Researchers have traditionally relied heavily on model organisms such as mice and fruit flies, partly because they were the only species that came with a good tool kit for genetic manipulation. Now CRISPR is making it possible to edit genes in many more organisms. In April, for example, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported using CRISPR to study Candida albicans, a fungus that is particularly deadly in people with weakened immune systems, but had been difficult to genetically manipulate in the lab3. Jennifer Doudna, a CRISPR pioneer at the University of California, Berkeley, is keeping a list of CRISPR-altered creatures. So far, she has three dozen entries, including disease-causing parasites called trypanosomes and yeasts used to make biofuels.


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World's first biolimb: Rat forelimb grown in the lab

World's first biolimb: Rat forelimb grown in the lab | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

IT MIGHT look like an amputated rat forelimb, but the photo above is of something much more exciting: the limb has been grown in the lab from living cells. It may go down in history as the first step to creating real, biologically functional limbs for amputees.


"We're focusing on the forearm and hand to use it as a model system and proof of principle," says Harald Ott of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who grew the limb. "But the techniques would apply equally to legs, arms and other extremities."


"This is science fiction coming to life," says Daniel Weiss at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, who works on lung regeneration. "It's a very exciting development, but the challenge will be to create a functioning limb."


Many amputees receive artificial replacements that look fine cosmetically, but don't function as well as real limbs. And while bionic replacement limbs that work well

 are now being made, they look unnatural. Hand transplants have also been successful, but the recipient needs lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their body rejecting the hand. "This is the first attempt to make a biolimb, and I'm not aware of any other technology able to generate a composite tissue of this complexity," says Ott.


The technique behind the rat forelimb – dubbed "decel/recel" – has previously been used to build hearts

lungs and kidneys in the lab. Simpler organs such as windpipes and voicebox tissue have been built and transplanted into people with varying levels of success, but not without controversy (see "Rocky road to replacement organs").


In the first, decel step – short for decellularisation – organs from dead donors are treated with detergents that strip off the soft tissue, leaving just the"scaffold" of the organ, built mainly from the inert protein collagen. This retains all the intricate architecture of the original organ. In the case of the rat forearm, this included the collagen structures that make up blood vessels, tendons, muscles and bones.


In the second recel step the flesh of the organ is recellularised by seeding the scaffold with the relevant cells from the recipient. The scaffold is then nourished in a bioreactor, enabling new tissue to grow and colonize the scaffold.

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New color blindness gene identified: ATF6

New color blindness gene identified: ATF6 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A rare eye disorder marked by color blindness, light sensitivity, and other vision problems can result from a newly discovered gene mutation identified by an international research team, including scientists from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). The findings, which were published today in the online edition of Nature Genetics, could lead to new, targeted treatments for this form of color blindness.


The researchers found that mutations to a gene called ATF6, a key regulator of the unfolded protein response, can lead to achromatopsia, a hereditary visual disorder characterized by color blindness, decreased vision, light sensitivity, and uncontrolled eye movement in children. The unfolded protein response is a mechanism cells use to prevent the dangerous accumulation of unfolded or mis-folded proteins.


Based on mouse studies, the researchers suspect that the cone cells of people with achromatopsia are not permanently damaged and could be revived by enhancing the pathway that regulates the unfolded protein response. "Several drugs that activate this pathway have already been approved by the FDA for other conditions and could potentially benefit patients with achromatopsia," said one of the study leaders, Stephen Tsang, MD, PhD, who is the Laszlo Z. Bito Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, and is affiliated with the Institute of Human Nutrition, at CUMC.


"Dr. Tsang's innovative research continues to unfold the genetic basis for a variety of ocular diseases. This finding is an example of the finest clinically based science that will ultimately allow us to overcome preventable vision loss," said George A. Cioffi, MD, Edward S. Harness Chairman and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.


"Five genes had previously been linked to achromatopsia; however, they accounted for only about half of all cases," said Dr. Tsang. "Using next-generation gene sequencing on a small group of patients, we found that mutations in a sixth gene -- ATF6 -- can independently lead to the disease."

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World’s smallest spirals could guard against identity theft

World’s smallest spirals could guard against identity theft | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Vanderbilt researchers have made the world’s smallest spirals and found they have unique optical properties that are nearly impossible to counterfeit.


Take gold spirals about the size of a dime…and shrink them down about six million times. The result is the world’s smallest continuous spirals: “nano-spirals” with unique optical properties that would be almost impossible to counterfeit if they were added to identity cards, currency and other important objects.


Students and faculty at Vanderbilt University fabricated these tiny Archimedes’ spirals and then used ultrafast lasers at Vanderbilt and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, to characterize their optical properties. The results are reported in a paper published online by the Journal of Nanophotonics on May 21.


“They are certainly smaller than any of the spirals we’ve found reported in the scientific literature,” said Roderick Davidson II, the Vanderbilt doctoral student who figured out how to study their optical behavior. The spirals were designed and made at Vanderbilt by another doctoral student, Jed Ziegler, now at the Naval Research Laboratory.


When these spirals are shrunk to sizes smaller than the wavelength of visible light, they develop unusual optical properties. For example, when they are illuminated with infrared laser light, they emit visible blue light. A number of crystals produce this effect, called frequency doubling or harmonic generation, to various degrees. The strongest frequency doubler previously known is the synthetic crystal beta barium borate, but the nano-spirals produce four times more blue light per unit volume.


When infrared laser light strikes the tiny spirals, it is absorbed by electrons in the gold arms. The arms are so thin that the electrons are forced to move along the spiral. Electrons that are driven toward the center absorb enough energy so that some of them emit blue light at double the frequency of the incoming infrared light.


“This is similar to what happens with a violin string when it is bowed vigorously,” said Stevenson Professor of Physics Richard Haglund, who directed the research. “If you bow a violin string very lightly it produces a single tone. But, if you bow it vigorously, it also begins producing higher harmonics, or overtones. The electrons at the center of the spirals are driven pretty vigorously by the laser’s electric field. The blue light is exactly an octave higher than the infrared – the second harmonic.”

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Study Suggests that Dinosaurs were Warm-Blooded - Stony Brook University Newsroom

Study Suggests that Dinosaurs were Warm-Blooded - Stony Brook University Newsroom | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Dinosaurs grew as fast as your average living mammal, according to a research paper published by Stony Brook University paleontologist Michael D’Emic, PhD. The paper, to published in Science on May 29,is a re-analysis of a widely publicized  2014 Science paper on dinosaur metabolism and growth that concluded dinosaurs were neither ectothermic nor endothermic—terms popularly simplified as ‘cold-blooded’ and ‘warm-blooded’—but instead occupied an intermediate category.


“The study that I re-analyzed was remarkable for its breadth—the authors compiled an unprecedented dataset on growth and metabolism from studies of hundreds of living animals,” said Dr. D’Emic, a Research Instructor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences as Stony Brook, when referring to “Evidence for mesothermy in dinosaurs.”


“Upon re-analysis, it was apparent that dinosaurs weren’t just somewhat like living mammals in their physiology—they fit right within our understanding of what it means to be a ‘warm-blooded’ mammal,” he said. 


To learn more about this finding and Dr. D’Emic’s research, see this Stony Brook University videoDr. D’Emic specializes in bone microanatomy, or the study of the structure of bone on scales that are just a fraction of the width of a human hair. Based on his knowledge of how dinosaurs grew, Dr. D’Emic re-analyzed that study, which led him to the strikingly different conclusion that dinosaurs were more like mammals than reptiles in their growth and metabolism.


Dr. D’Emic re-analyzed the study from two aspects. First, the original study had scaled yearly growth rates to daily ones in order to standardize comparisons. “This is problematic,” Dr. D’Emic explains, “because many animals do not grow continuously throughout the year, generally slowing or pausing growth during colder, drier, or otherwise more stressful seasons. “Therefore, the previous study underestimated dinosaur growth rates by failing to account for their uneven growth. Like most animals, dinosaurs slowed or paused their growth annually, as shown by rings in their bones analogous to tree rings,” he explained.


He added that the growth rates were especially underestimated for larger animals and animals that live in very stressful or seasonal environments—both of which characterize dinosaurs.

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Muscles engineered to be photosensitive could lead to treatments for paralysis

Muscles engineered to be photosensitive could lead to treatments for paralysis | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have genetically engineered muscles to move in response to pulses of light. The technique, demonstrated on vocal cords removed from mice, is reported on 2 June in Nature Communications1. Researchers say that it could probe how muscles function — and might eventually help to treat people who have a paralysis that interferes with speech and breathing.  The work relies on a method called optogenetics, which can make cells that usually respond to electrical signals also react to light. The approach alters mammalian cells by inserting a gene for a protein such as channelrhodopsin, which in its natural setting allows blue-green algae to swim towards or away from light.


Optogenetics was first used in 2005 to modify neurons2, and has since become a standard tool to study the brain and nervous system. Applications outside neuroscience, however, are less common. The latest study is fascinating, says Julio Vergara, a physiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies how electrical signals cause muscles to contract. “It shows the potential use of this very powerful technique for very important medical problems,” he says.


The study's authors had previously used optogenetics to engineer heart muscle in mice3 — light caused parts of the heart to beat out of sync, simulating arrhythmias. The latest research extends this to muscles that move under conscious command.


“Skeletal muscles follow different rules than the heart,” says Philipp Sasse, a co-author of the study and a physiologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. “Each fibre in a skeletal muscle can contract separately, which allows controlling movements as well as muscle strength very precisely.”

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How to weigh the Milky Way? Astronomers use stars to infer mass

How to weigh the Milky Way? Astronomers use stars to infer mass | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Even though today we peer deeper into space than ever before, our home galaxy's weight is still unknown to about a factor of four. Researchers at Columbia University's Astronomy Department have now developed a new method to give the Milky Way a more precise physical checkup.


The Milky Way consists of roughly 100 billion stars that form a huge stellar disk with a diameter of 100-200 thousand light years. The Sun is part of this structure, hence, when we look into the sky, we look right into a gigantic disk of stars. The vast number of stars and the huge extent on the sky make it hard to measure fundamental quantities for the Milky Way, such as its weight.


An international team of scientists led by Columbia University researcher Andreas Küpper used stars outside this disk, which orbit around the Milky Way in a stream-like structure, to weigh the Milky Way to high precision. In a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal, the team demonstrates that such streams, produced by dissolving globular clusters, can be used to measure not only the weight of our Galaxy, but can also be exploited as yardsticks to determine the location of the Sun within the Milky Way.


"Globular clusters are compact groups of thousands to several millions of stars that were born together when the universe was still very young," said Küpper. "They orbit around the Milky Way and slowly disintegrate over the course of billions of years, leaving a unique trace behind. Such star streams stick out from the rest of the stars in the sky as they are dense and coherent, much like contrails from airplanes easily stick out from regular clouds."


The researchers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which scanned the sky of the Northern Hemisphere for about 10 years to create a comprehensive catalog of stars in the sky. The stream they tested the new technique on was produced by a globular cluster named Palomar 5, and had already been discovered in 2001 high above the Galactic disk. Eduardo Balbinot, coauthor on the current study from the University of Surrey in England, revisited the Sloan data and detected density wiggles in the stream of Palomar 5.


"We found the wiggles to be very pronounced and regularly spaced along the stream," said Balbinot. "Such variations cannot be random."

It is these wiggles that allow the researchers to gain the unprecedented precision of their measurement. Using the Yeti supercomputer of Columbia University, they created several million models of the stream in different realizations of the Milky Way. From these models and from comparing the wiggle pattern of the models to the observations, they were able to infer the mass of the Milky Way within a radius of 60,000 light years to be 210 billion times the mass of the Sun with an uncertainty of only 20 percent. The unique pattern of the density wiggles helped significantly to rule out models of the Milky Way, which were either too heavy or too skinny.


"An important advance in this work was using robust statistical tools - the same ones used to study changes in the genome and employed by internet search engines to rank websites," explained Ana Bonaca, a coauthor from Yale University. This rigorous approach helped in achieving the high precision in weighing the Milky Way."

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NIH study: Novel microchip captures clusters of circulating tumor cells

NIH study: Novel microchip captures clusters of circulating tumor cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Video


Researchers have developed a microfluidic chip that can capture rare clusters of circulating tumor cells, which could yield important new insights into how cancer spreads. The work was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that break away from a tumor and move through a cancer patient’s bloodstream. Single CTCs are extremely rare, typically fewer than 1 in 1 billion cells. These cells can take up residence in distant organs, and researchers believe this is one mode by which cancer spreads.


Even less common than single CTCs are small groups of CTCs, or clusters. While the existence of CTC clusters has been known for more than 50 years, their prevalence in the blood as well as their role in metastasis has not been thoroughly investigated, mostly because they are so elusive. However, recent advances in biomedical technologies that enable researchers to capture single CTCs have renewed interest in CTC clusters, which are occasionally captured along with single CTCs.


Now, researchers led by Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., professor of surgery (biomedical engineering) at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health & Sciences Technology, report the development of a novel microfluidic chip that is specifically designed for the efficient capture of CTC clusters from whole, unprocessed blood.


“Very little is known about CTC clusters and their role in the progression and metastasis of cancer. This unique technology presents an exciting opportunity to capture these exceptionally rare groups of cells for further analysis in a way that is minimally-invasive,” said NIBIB Director Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D. “This is the kind of breakthrough technology that could have a very large impact on cancer research.”


The new technology — called Cluster-Chip — was developed with support from a Quantum Grant from NIBIB, which funds transformative technological innovation designed to solve major medical problems with a substantial disease burden, such as preventing cancer metastasis or precisely tailoring therapeutics to an individual’s cancer cell biology.


Toner and his collaborator Dr. Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., also at MGH, recently used Cluster-Chip to capture and analyze CTC clusters in a group of 60 patients with metastatic breast, prostate, and melanoma cancers. The researchers found CTC clusters — ranging from two to 19 cells — in 30-40 percent of the patients. 


“The presence of these clusters is far more common than we thought in the past,” said Toner. “The fact that we saw clusters in this many patients is really a remarkable finding.” Further analysis of the patients’ CTC clusters yielded new insights into the biology of CTC clusters. The researchers published their results in the May 18, 2015 advance online issue of Nature Methods.


The chip is designed to slowly push blood through many rows of microscopic triangle-shaped posts. The posts are arranged in such a way that every two posts funnels cells towards the tip of a third post. At the tip, single cells — including blood cells and single CTCs — easily slide to either side of the post and continue through the chip until reaching the next tip; however CTC clusters are left at the tip, hanging in the balance due to forces pulling them down the post in opposite directions.


To determine the efficiency of Cluster-Chip, the researchers introduced fluorescently tagged cell clusters (ranging from 2-30 cells) into the chip and counted the number of clusters that were captured and the number that flowed through undetected. At a blood flow rate of 2.5ml/hr, the chip captured 99 percent of clusters containing four or more cells, 70 percent of three-cell clusters, and 41 percent of two-cell clusters. Comparison of the clusters under a microscope before and after capture found that the chip had no negative effects on the integrity of the clusters as a whole.


The researchers next compared the efficiency of their novel chip to two currently-used methods that have had some success capturing CTC clusters. They found that at similar blood flow rates, the Cluster-Chip was significantly more efficient than a filter-based method, which pushes blood through a membrane with pores only large enough to let single cells pass through. The chip was also more efficient than a different microfluidic chip — previously developed by Toner — that isolates CTCs and occasionally clusters using antibodies that stick to special proteins found on the surface of some tumor cells.


The results highlight the importance of the unique Cluster-Chip capture technique, which is based on the structural properties of CTC clusters rather than their size or the presence of surface proteins. This latter property makes the Cluster-Chip well-suited for capturing CTC clusters from a range of cancer types, including those that lose surface proteins during metastasis and those that never express them, such as melanoma.


The researchers went on to test the Cluster-Chip in a small trial of 60 patients with metastatic cancer. In this study, the chip captured CTC clusters in 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) breast cancer patients, 6 of 20 (30 percent) melanoma patients, and 4 of 13 (31 percent) prostate patients. The large number of clusters found in the patient samples suggests a possibly greater role for clusters in the metastatic cascade. While the significance of CTC clusters has not been fully established, a previous study published by Toner and the Haber team in Cell (2014) found an association between increased number of CTC clusters in patients with metastatic breast cancer and reduced survival, and an association between the presence of clusters and reduced survival in prostate cancer patients.

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South Korean MERS outbreak is not a global threat

South Korean MERS outbreak is not a global threat | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The world is watching as the largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outside the Middle East continues in South Korea. According to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization, 30 people have been infected, two of whom have died. Hundreds of schools have been closed. The causal coronavirus, MERS-CoV, is one of many viruses that are considered potential pandemic threats. But experts do not consider this outbreak, in which all cases are hospital-associated, to have pandemic potential or even expect it to spread further within South Korea. Here are some of the reasons why:

• MERS-CoV is not a human virus

• MERS-CoV mainly spreads in hospitals

• South Korea is doing a great job

• MERS is not SARS

• This outbreak is not that big

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First Demonstration of a Surveillance Camera Powered by Ordinary Wi-Fi Broadcasts

First Demonstration of a Surveillance Camera Powered by Ordinary Wi-Fi Broadcasts | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The ability to power remote sensors and devices using Wi-Fi signals could be the enabling technology behind the Internet of things, say electrical engineers.


One of the most significant barriers to deploying sensors, cameras, and communicators is the question of power. The task of fitting a security camera on an external wall or a temperature sensor in an attic immediately runs into the question of how to run a power cable to the device or to arrange for batteries to be replaced on a regular basis.


Then there is the Internet of things, the idea that almost every object could be fitted with a chip that broadcasts data such as its location, whether it is full or empty or whether some other parameter such as temperature or pressure is dangerously high or low.


Great things are expected of the Internet of things but only if engineers can solve one potential show-stopper of a question: how to power these numerous tiny machines. Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Vamsi Talla and pals at the University of Washington in Seattle. These guys have developed a way to broadcast power to remote devices using an existing technology that many people already have in their living rooms: ordinary Wi-Fi. They call their new approach power over Wi-Fi or PoWi-Fi.


The University of Washington team’s approach to this is refreshingly straightforward. They simply connect an antenna to a temperature sensor, place it close to a Wi-Fi router and measure the resulting voltages in the device and for how long it can operate on this remote power source alone. The simple answer is that the voltage across the sensor is never high enough to cross the operating threshold of around 300 millivolts. However, it often comes close.


But a closer examination of the data makes for interesting reading. The problem is that Wi-Fi broadcasts are not continuous. Routers tend to broadcast on a single channel in bursts. This provides enough power for the sensor but as soon as the broadcast stops, the voltages drop. The result is that, on average, the sensor does not have enough juice to work.


That gave Talla and pals an idea. Why not program the router to broadcast noise when it is not broadcasting information and employ adjacent Wi-Fi channels to carry it so that it doesn’t interfere with data rates. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. To do this they require the electronic innards of three routers, one for each of the channels they intend to broadcast on. Wi-Fi broadcasts can be on any of 11 overlapping channels within a 72 MHz band centered on the 2.4 GHz frequency. This allows for three non-overlapping channels to be broadcast simultaneously.

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Planarian regeneration model discovered by AI algorithm

Planarian regeneration model discovered by AI algorithm | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
An artificial intelligence system has for the first time reverse-engineered the regeneration mechanism of planaria — the small worms whose extraordinary power to regrow body parts has made them a research model in human regenerative medicine.

The discovery by Tufts University biologists presents the first model of regeneration discovered by a non-human intelligence and the first comprehensive model of planarian regeneration, which had eluded human scientists for more than 100 years. The work, published in the June 4 issue of PLOS Computational Biology (open access), demonstrates how “robot science” can help human scientists in the future.

To bioengineer complex organs, scientists need to understand the mechanisms by which those shapes are normally produced by the living organism.

However, there’s a significant knowledge gap between the molecular genetic components needed to produce a particular organism shape and understanding how to generate that particular complex shape in the correct size, shape and orientation, said the paper’s senior author, Michael Levin, Ph.D., Vannevar Bush professor of biology and director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology.

“Most regenerative models today derived from genetic experiments are arrow diagrams, showing which gene regulates which other gene. That’s fine, but it doesn’t tell you what the ultimate shape will be. You cannot tell if the outcome of many genetic pathway models will look like a tree, an octopus or a human,” said Levin.

“Most models show some necessary components for the process to happen, but not what dynamics are sufficient to produce the shape, step by step. What we need are algorithmic or constructive models, which you could follow precisely and there would be no mystery or uncertainty. You follow the recipe and out comes the shape.”
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Biochemists devise new technique for blueprinting cell membrane proteins

Biochemists devise new technique for blueprinting cell membrane proteins | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Biochemists from Trinity College Dublin have devised a new technique that will make the difficult but critical job of blueprinting certain proteins considerably faster, easier and cheaper.


The breakthrough will make a big splash in the field of drug discovery and development, where precise protein structure blueprints can help researchers understand how individual proteins work. Critically, these blueprints can show weaknesses that allow drug developers to draw up specific battle plans in the fight against diseases and infections.

Professor of Membrane Structural and Functional Biology at Trinity, Martin Caffrey, is the senior author of the research, which has just been published in the international peer-reviewed journal Acta Crystallographica D.


He said: "This is a truly exciting development. We have demonstrated the method on a variety of cell membrane proteins, some of which act as transporters. It will work with existing equipment at a host of facilities worldwide, and it is very simple to implement."


Over 50% of drugs on the market target cell membrane proteins, which are vital for the everyday functioning of complex cellular processes. They act as transporters to ensure that specific molecules enter and leave our cells, as signal interpreters important in decoding messages and initiating responses, and as agents that speed up appropriate responses.


The major challenge facing researchers is the production of large membrane protein crystals, which are used to determine the precise 3-D structural blueprints. That challenge has now been lessened thanks to the Trinity biochemists' advent - the in meso in situ serial crystallography (IMISX) method.


Beforehand, researchers needed to harvest protein crystals and cool them at inhospitable temperatures in a complex set of events that was damaging, inefficient and prone to error. The IMISX method allows researchers to determine structural blueprints as and where the crystals grow.


Professor Caffrey added: "The best part of this is that these proteins are as close to being 'live' and yet packaged in the crystals we need to determine their structure as they could ever be. As a result, this breakthrough is likely to supplant existing protocols and will make the early stages of drug development considerably more efficient."

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Most dinosaurs had scales, not feathers, fossil analysis concludes

Most dinosaurs had scales, not feathers, fossil analysis concludes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Despite recent theories suggesting a common feathered ancestor or proto-feathers on all dinosaurs, new survey confirms that scales were the norm.


Researchers have called time on a growing suspicion that many dinosaurs were not the dry, scaly animals of popular conception, but fluffy, feathered beasts instead. Remains unearthed in recent years have revealed feathers or proto-feathers on a range of dinosaurs, leading some paleontologists to wonder if all of the animals evolved from a feathered ancestor and sported some kind of plumage themselves.


But while many meat-eating theropods, such as velociraptors and relatives of tyrannosaurs, were clearly clad in feathers, a fresh analysis of prehistoric remains suggests that most dinosaurs were scaly beasts after all.


Nicolás Campione, a dinosaur researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, worked with scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to survey some of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils from museums around the world. 


The scientists collected information on around 75 species that are known from the fossil remains of their soft tissues to have had either scales or feathers. From these, they created a dinosaur family tree and used a statistical model to work out the odds of species having feathers at different points in dinosaur history.


“What we found from this analysis is that the first dinosaur was probably not feathered,” said Campione. “Feathers clearly evolved in the dinosaur lineage, but right now, the data do not point to a feathered ancestor for them all.”


The first dinosaurs evolved from reptiles more than 230 million years ago. Feathers are thought to have arisen more than once in dinosaur lineages, and while they live on and give flight to modern birds, feathers first emerged for other reasons: for warmth or to provide colorful plumage displays.

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We can see millions of colors but the brain stores them as basic, general hues

We can see millions of colors but the brain stores them as basic, general hues | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Though people can distinguish between millions of colors, we have trouble remembering specific shades because our brains tend to store what we’ve seen as one of just a few basic hues, a Johns Hopkins University-led team discovered. In a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,researchers led by cognitive psychologist Jonathan Flombaum dispute standard assumptions about memory, demonstrating for the first time that people’s memories for colors are biased in favor of “best” versions of basic colors over colors they actually saw.


For example, there’s azure, there’s navy, there’s cobalt and ultramarine. The human brain is sensitive to the differences between these hues —we can, after all, tell them apart. But when storing them in memory, people label all of these various colors as “blue,” the researchers found. The same thing goes for shades of green, pink, purple, etc. This is why, Flombaum said, someone would have trouble glancing at the color of his living room and then trying to match it at the paint store.


“Trying to pick out a color for touch-ups, I’d end up making a mistake,” he said. “This is because I’d mis-remember my wall as more prototypically blue. It could be a green as far as Sherwin-Williams is concerned, but I remember it as blue.”


Flombaum, working with cognitive scientists Gi-Yeul Bae of the University of California, Davis, Maria Olkkonen of the University of Pennsylvania and Sarah R. Allred of Rutgers University, demonstrated that what seems like a difference in the memorability of certain colors is actually the result of the brain’s tendency to categorize colors. People remember colors more accurately, they found, when the colors are good examples of their respective categories.


The team established this color bias and its consequences through a series of experiments. First the researchers asked subjects to look at a color wheel made up of 180 different hues, and to find the “best” examples of blue, pink, green, purple, orange and yellow.  Next they conducted a memory experiment with a different group of participants. These participants were shown a colored square for one tenth of a second. They were asked to try to remember it, looking at a blank screen for a little less than one second, and then asked to find the color on the color wheel featuring the 180 hues.


When attempting to match hues, all subjects tended to err on the side of the basic, “best” colors, but the bias toward the archetypes amplified considerably when subjects had to remember the hue, even for less than a second. “We can differentiate millions of colors, but to store this information, our brain has a trick,” Flombaum said. “We tag the color with a coarse label. That then makes our memories more biased, but still pretty useful.”


The findings have broad implications for the understanding of visual working memory. When faced with a multitude of something — colors, birds, faces — people tend to remember them later as more prototypical, Flombaum said. It’s not that the brain “doesn’t have enough space” to remember the millions of options, he said, it’s that the mind tries to reconcile those precise details with more limited, language-driven categories. So an object that’s teal might be remembered as more “blue” or more “green,” while a coral object might be remembered as more “pink” or more “orange."

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Quantum hard drive breakthrough - prototype developed

Quantum hard drive breakthrough - prototype developed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Physicists developing a prototype quantum hard drive have improved storage time by a factor of more than 100


The team’s record storage time of six hours is a major step towards a secure worldwide data encryption network based on quantum information, which could be used for banking transactions and personal emails.


“We believe it will soon be possible to distribute quantum information between any two points on the globe,” said lead author Manjin Zhong, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE).


Quantum states are very fragile and normally collapse in milliseconds. Our long storage times have the potential to revolutionise the transmission of quantum information.” Quantum information promises unbreakable encryption because quantum particles such as photons of light can be created in a way that intrinsically links them. Interactions with either of these entangled particles affect the other, no matter how far they are separated.


The team of physicists at ANU and the University of Otago stored quantum information in atoms of the rare earth element europium embedded in a crystal. Their solid-state technique is a promising alternative to using laser beams in optical fibers, an approach which is currently used to create quantum networks around 100 kilometers long.

“Our storage times are now so long that it means people need to rethink what is the best way to distribute quantum data,” Ms Zhong said.  “Even transporting our crystals at pedestrian speeds we have less loss than laser systems for a given distance.”


“We can now imagine storing entangled light in separate crystals and then transporting them to different parts of the network thousands of kilometers apart. So, we are thinking of our crystals as portable optical hard drives for quantum entanglement.” After writing a quantum state onto the nuclear spin of the europium using laser light, the team subjected the crystal to a combination of a fixed and oscillating magnetic fields to preserve the fragile quantum information.


“The two fields isolate the europium spins and prevent the quantum information leaking away,” said Dr Jevon Longdell of the University of Otago. The ANU group is also excited about the fundamental tests of quantum mechanics that a quantum optical hard drive will enable.

"We have never before had the possibility to explore quantum entanglement over such long distances," said Associate Professor Matthew Sellars, leader of the research team.


“We should always be looking to test whether our theories match up with reality. Maybe in this new regime our theory of quantum mechanics breaks.” Their research is published in Nature.

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Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons, Nix and Hydra

Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons, Nix and Hydra | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

If you lived on one of Pluto's moons Nix or Hydra, you'd have a hard time setting your alarm clock. That's because you could not know for sure when, or even in which direction, the sun would rise. A comprehensive analysis of all available Hubble Space Telescope data shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, are wobbling unpredictably. Scientists believe the other two small moons, Kerberos and Styx, are likely in a similar situation, pending further study.


"Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. "When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July we'll get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal."


Why the chaos? Because the moons are embedded inside a dynamically shifting gravitational field caused by the system's two central bodies, Pluto and Charon, whirling about each other. The variable gravitational field induces torques that send the smaller moons tumbling in unpredictable ways. This torque is strengthened by the fact the moons are football shaped rather than spherical.


The surprising results of the Hubble research, conducted by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and Doug Hamilton of the University of Maryland at College Park, are appearing in the June 4 issue of the British science journal Nature.


"Prior to the Hubble observations nobody appreciated the intricate dynamics of the Pluto system," Showalter said. "Our report provides important new constraints on the sequence of events that led to the formation of the system."


Hubble's monitoring of Pluto's four outer moons has also revealed that three of them, Nix, Styx, and Hydra, are presently locked together in resonance where there is a precise ratio among their orbital periods. "This ties together their motion in a way similar to that of three of Jupiter's large moons," noted Hamilton. "If you were sitting on Nix you would see that Styx orbits Pluto twice for every three orbits made by Hydra."


Hubble provides observational evidence that the satellites are also orbiting chaotically. "However, that does not necessarily mean that the system is on the brink of flying apart," Showalter added. "We need to know a lot more about the system before we can determine its long-term fate."


To the surprise of astronomers, Hubble also found that the moon Kerberos is as dark as a charcoal briquette, while the other satellites are as bright as white sand. It was predicted that pollution by dust blasted off the satellites by meteorite impacts should overcoat all the moons, giving their surfaces a homogeneous look. "This is a very provocative result," Showalter said.

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Deepest known hydrothermal vents discovered in the Pacific Ocean

Deepest known hydrothermal vents discovered in the Pacific Ocean | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In spring 2015, MBARI researchers discovered a large, previously unknown field of hydrothermal vents in the Gulf of California, about 150 kilometers (100 miles) east of La Paz, Mexico. Lying more than 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) below the surface, the Pescadero Basin vents are the deepest high-temperature hydrothermal vents ever observed in or around the Pacific Ocean. They are also the only vents in the Pacific known to emit superheated fluids rich in both carbonate minerals and hydrocarbons. The vents have been colonized by dense communities of tubeworms and other animals unlike any other known vent communities in the in the eastern Pacific.


Like another vent field in the Gulf that MBARI discovered in 2012, the Pescadero Basin vents were initially identified in high-resolution sonar data collected by an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). MBARI’s yellow, torpedo-shaped seafloor-mapping AUV spent two days flying about 50 meters above the bottom of the Basin, using sound beams to map the depth and shape of the seafloor.


The AUV team, led by MBARI engineer David Caress, pored over the detailed bathymetric map they created from the AUV data and saw a number of mounds and spires rising up from the seafloor. Data from the AUV also showed slightly warmer water over some of the spires, which implied that they might be active hydrothermal-vent chimneys. A team of geologists led by David Clague then used a tethered underwater robot, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts, to dive down to the seafloor, fly around the vents, and collect video and samples of rocks and hot water spewing from the chimneys.

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Researchers Find Textbook-Altering Link Between Brain, Immune System

Researchers Find Textbook-Altering Link Between Brain, Immune System | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.


That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.


“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in U.Va.’s Department of Neuroscience and director of U.Va.’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions."


He added, “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. [It’s] hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a neurological disease with an immune component.”


Kevin Lee, who chairs the Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab: “The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.’ There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”


Even Kipnis was skeptical initially. “I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” he said. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, a postdoctoral fellow in Kipnis’ lab. The vessels were detected after Louveau developed a method to mount a mouse’s meninges – the membranes covering the brain – on a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. “It was fairly easy, actually,” he said. “There was one trick: We fixed the meninges within the skullcap, so that the tissue is secured in its physiological condition, and then we dissected it. If we had done it the other way around, it wouldn’t have worked.”


After noticing vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on his slides, he tested for lymphatic vessels and there they were. The impossible existed. The soft-spoken Louveau recalled the moment: “I called Jony [Kipnis] to the microscope and I said, ‘I think we have something.’”


As to how the brain’s lymphatic vessels managed to escape notice all this time, Kipnis described them as “very well hidden” and noted that they follow a major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area difficult to image. “It’s so close to the blood vessel, you just miss it,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re after, you just miss it.

“Live imaging of these vessels was crucial to demonstrate their function, and it would not be possible without collaboration with Tajie Harris,” Kipnis noted. Harris is an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. Kipnis also saluted the “phenomenal” surgical skills of Igor Smirnov, a research associate in the Kipnis lab whose work was critical to the imaging success of the study. 


The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. For example, take Alzheimer’s disease. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.” He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore. And there’s an enormous array of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis, that must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science insisted did not exist.

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Some of Earth organisms can survive under Martian conditions

Some of Earth organisms can survive under Martian conditions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New research at the University of Arkansas suggests that methanogens -- among the simplest and oldest organisms on Earth -- could survive on Mars.


Methanogens, microorganisms in the domain Archaea, use hydrogen as their energy source and carbon dioxide as their carbon source, to metabolize and produce methane, also known as natural gas. Methanogens live in swamps and marshes, but can also be found in the gut of cattle, termites and other herbivores as well as in dead and decaying matter.


Methanogens are anaerobic, so they don't require oxygen. They don't require organic nutrients, either, and are non-photosynthetic, indicating they could exist in sub-surface environments and therefore are ideal candidates for life on Mars.


Rebecca Mickol, a doctoral student in space and planetary sciences, found that in the laboratory, four species of methanogens survived low-pressure conditions that simulated a subsurface liquid aquifer on Mars.

"These organisms are ideal candidates for life on Mars," Mickol said.


"All methanogen species displayed survival after exposure to low pressure, indicated by methane production in both original and transfer cultures following each experiment. This work represents a stepping-stone toward determining if methanogens can exist on Mars."

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Billboards of the future could show astonishing 3D effects, thanks to a new technology from Austria

Billboards of the future could show astonishing 3D effects, thanks to a new technology from Austria | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Huge 3D Displays without 3D Glasses: A new invention opens the door to a new generation of outdoor displays. Different pictures can be seen at different angles, creating 3D effects without the need for 3D glasses.


Public screenings have become an important part of major sports events. In the future, we will be able to enjoy them in 3D, thanks to a new invention from Austrian scientists. A sophisticated laser system sends laser beams into different directions. Therefore, different pictures are visible from different angles. The angular resolution is so fine that the left eye is presented a different picture than the right one, creating a 3D effect.

In 2013, the young start-up company TriLite Technologies had the idea to develop this new kind of display, which sends beams of light directly to the viewers’ eyes. The highly interdisciplinary project was carried out together with the Vienna University of Technology.

A Start-up Company and a University
Together, TriLite and TU Vienna have created the first prototype. Currently it only has a modest resolution of five pixels by three, but it clearly shows that the system works. “We are creating a second prototype, which will display colour pictures with a higher resolution. But the crucial point is that the individual laser pixels work. Scaling it up to a display with many pixels is not a problem”, says Jörg Reitterer (TriLite Technologies and PhD-student in the team of Professor Ulrich Schmid at the Vienna University of Technology).

Every single 3D-Pixel (also called “Trixel”) consists of lasers and a moveable mirror. “The mirror directs the laser beams across the field of vision, from left to right. During that movement the laser intensity is modulated so that different laser flashes are sent into different directions”, says Ulrich Schmid. To experience the 3D effect, the viewer must be positioned in a certain distance range from the screen. If the distance is too large, both eyes receive the same image and only a normal 2D picture can be seen. The range in which the 3D effect can be experienced can be tuned according to the local requirements.

Hundreds of Images at Once
3D movies in the cinema only show two different pictures – one for each eye. The newly developed display, however, can present hundreds of pictures. Walking by the display, one can get a view of the displayed object from different sides, just like passing a real object. For this, however, a new video format is required, which has already been developed by the researchers. “Today’s 3D cinema movies can be converted into our 3D format, but we expect that new footage will be created especially for our displays – perhaps with a much larger number of cameras”, says Franz Fiedler, CTO of TriLite Technologies. 

Compared to a movie screen, the display is very vivid. Therefore it can be used outdoors, even in bright sunlight. This is not only interesting for 3D-presentations but also for targeted advertisements. Electronic Billboards could display different ads, seen from different angles. “Maybe someone wants to appeal specifically to the customers leaving the shop across the street, and a different ad is shown to the people waiting at the bus stop”, says Ferdinand Saint-Julien, CEO of TriLite Technologies. Technologically, this would not be a problem.

Entering the market

“We are very happy that the project was so successful in such a short period of time”, says Ulrich Schmid. It took only three years to get from the first designs to a working prototype. The technology has now been patented and presented in several scientific publications. The second prototype should be finished by the middle of the year, the commercial launch is scheduled for 2016.

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