Scientists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada enrolled patients with Parkinson’s disease who were scheduled to have deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery and removed small biopsies near the surface of the brain.
They then multiplied the cells in culture to generate millions of patient-specific cells that were then subjected to genetic analysis.
These cells exhibited regeneration and characteristics of a fundamental class of brain cells, called glia. The cells expressed a broad array of natural and potent protective agents, called neurotrophic factors.
“It is our hope that the results of this study provide a footing for further advancement of personalized, cell-based treatments for currently incurable and devastating neurological disorders,” said Matthew O. Hebb, M.D., Ph.D., FRCSC, a researcher involved in the work from the Departments of Clinical Neurological Sciences (Neurosurgery), Oncology and Otolaryngology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
Such lab-grown therapeutic brain cells could be used in the future to treat a wide range of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, and also express a broad array of natural and potent protective agents providing preservation and protection against injury, toxins and diseases.
Charcoal has a long soil residence time, which has resulted in its production and use as a carbon sequestration technique (biochar). A range of biological effects can be triggered by soil biochar that can positively and negatively influence carbon storage, such as changing the decomposition rate of organic matter and altering plant biomass production. Sorption of cellular signals has been hypothesized to underlie some of these effects, but it remains unknown whether the binding of biochemical signals occurs, and if so, on time scales relevant to microbial growth and communication. We examined biochar sorption of N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine lactone, an acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) intercellular signaling molecule used by many gram-negative soil microbes to regulate gene expression. We show that wood biochars disrupt communication within a growing multicellular system that is made up of sender cells that synthesize AHL and receiver cells that express green fluorescent protein in response to an AHL signal. However, biochar inhibition of AHL-mediated cell–cell communication varied, with the biochar prepared at 700 °C (surface area of 301 m2/g) inhibiting cellular communication 10-fold more than an equivalent mass of biochar prepared at 300 °C (surface area of 3 m2/g). These findings provide the first direct evidence that biochars elicit a range of effects on gene expression dependent on intercellular signaling, implicating the method of biochar preparation as a parameter that could be tuned to regulate microbial-dependent soil processes, like nitrogen fixation and pest attack of root crops.
Remote cameras intended to monitor Siberian tigers in Russia instead caught a golden eagle's fatal attack on a deer, snapping three photos as the massive bird dug its talons into the distressed animal's back.
A group of scientists from Harvard and MIT have created a state of matter that until now has only been found in the realms of science fiction. (RT @RouReynolds: "@Mari0705: Bloody hell... Scientists bind light together?
The artifacts studied may belong to Homo erectus and suggest the now-extinct human species migrated to China 700,000 years earlier than thought. Such hominid migrations to East Asia may have been due to cooling and aridity in Africa and Eurasia.
The human lineage evolved in Africa, with now-extinct species of humans dispersing away from their origin continent more than a million years before modern humans did. Scientists would like tolearn more about when and where humans went to better understand what drove human evolution.
Researchers investigated the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Beijing. It holds more than 60 sites from the Stone Age, with thousands of stone tools found there since 1972 — relatively simple types, such as stone flakes altogether known as the Oldowan. Researchers suspect these artifacts belonged to Homo erectus, "thought to be ancestral to Homo sapiens," Hong Ao, a paleomagnetist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an, told LiveScience.
The exact age of these sites was long uncertain. To find out, Ao and his colleagues analyzed the earth above, below and in which stone tools at the Shangshazui site in the Nihewan Basin were found. The tools in question were stone blades potentially used for cutting or scraping.
The scientists analyzed the way in which the samples of earth were magnetized — since the Earth's magnetic field has regularly flippednumerous times over millions of years, looking at the manner in which the magnetic fields of minerals are oriented can shed light on how old they are. The researchers discovered this site in northern China might be about 1.6 million to 1.7 million years old, making it 600,000 or 700,000 years older than previously thought.
Horse, elephant and other fossils suggest the area back when the stone tools were made was mainly grassland interspersed with patches of woodland. A lake between the mountains there was probably a major attraction for hominid explorers, providing water and a range of other food sources, while the mountains could have represented an important material source for making stone tools. The researchers suggest hominid migrations to East Asia during the early Stone Age were a consequence of increasing cooling and aridity in Africa and Eurasia.
Given that slightly older artifacts and bones belonging to Homo erectuswere previously discovered in southern China more than 1,500 miles (2,500 km) away, these new findings suggest early and now-extinct human species may potentially have occupied a huge territory in China.
"Homo erectus occupied a vast area in China by 1.7 million to 1.6 million years ago," Ao said.
A skeleton uncovered north of Vienna is forcing archaeologists to take a fresh look at prehistoric gender roles after it appeared to be that of a female fine metal worker - a profession that was previously thought to have been carried out exclusively by men.
On the exoplanet Kepler 7b, the weather is highly predictable, an international team of scientists has found: On any given day, the exoplanet, which orbits a star nearly 1,000 light-years from Earth, is heavily overcast on one side, while the other side likely enjoys clear, cloudless weather.
The new work, by researchers from MIT and other institutions, is the first mapping of the distribution of clouds on an exoplanet. The scientists observed that one of Kepler 7b’s hemispheres is blanketed with a dense layer of clouds — far denser than any found on Earth, and so thick that it reflects a significant portion of its host star’s incoming light. This shield of clouds makes the planet cooler than others of its type, creating an atmosphere that encourages further cloud formation.
The team generated a low-resolution map of the planet’s clouds using optical data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. The researchers also analyzed the light originating from Kepler 7b at various phases of its orbit, finding that much of the planet’s reflectivity is due to the presence of clouds, and that this cloud cover is unevenly distributed.
“There are a lot of different chemical processes that could take place to create this inhomogeneous cloud,” says Nikole Lewis, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). “Kepler 7b is an important test-bed for the way circulation and cloud distribution work together in exoplanet atmospheres.”
Lewis and her colleagues have published their results in Astrophysical Journal Letters. Co-authors from MIT include postdocs Brice-Olivier Demory and Andras Zsom, graduate student Julien de Wit, and Sara Seager, the Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science.
Kepler 7b was among the first exoplanets identified by the Kepler spacecraft, which has since confirmed more than 130 planets outside our solar system. The planet is considered a “hot Jupiter,” as it is composed mostly of gas, and is about 50 percent larger than Jupiter (although it has only about half the mass of that planet).
In 2011, Demory analyzed Kepler 7b’s albedo, or reflectivity, and found that it is unusually bright for an exoplanet, reflecting about 50 percent of light from its star. At the time, the cause of such reflectivity was a mystery, but the new analysis, which makes use of Spitzer’s infrared observations, reveals that much of it is due to the presence of clouds in Kepler 7b’s atmosphere.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers looked through three years’ worth of Kepler light data, combined with recent thermal observations from the planet, taken with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Combining both datasets, the researchers compared the amount of light and heat given off by the planet at every phase of its orbit. The planet is tidally locked, presenting the same face to its star at all times. From Earth, the planet appears to wax and wane as it circles its star, much like the phases of our moon.
“You can reconstruct the information in terms of brightness, slice by slice,” de Wit says. “This is really fantastic, because though the planet is extremely small, there are techniques for getting spatial information about the planet.”
It takes less energy—and thus releases less carbon dioxide—to make stuff at home with a 3D printer than to manufacture it overseas and ship it to the US.
3D printing isn’t just cheaper, it’s also greener, says Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce. Even Pearce, an aficionado of the make-it-yourself-and-save technology, was surprised at his study’s results. It showed that making stuff on a 3D printer uses less energy—and therefore releases less carbon dioxide—than producing it en masse in a factory and shipping it to a warehouse.
Most 3D printers for home use, like the RepRap used in this study, are about the size of microwave ovens. They work by melting filament, usually plastic, and depositing it layer by layer in a specific pattern. Free designs for thousands of products are available from outlets like Thingiverse.com.
Common sense would suggest that mass-producing plastic widgets would take less energy per unit than making them one at a time on a 3D printer. Or, as Pearce says, “It’s more efficient to melt things in a cauldron than in a test tube.” However, his group found it’s actually greener to make stuff at home.
They conducted life cycle impact analyses on three products: an orange juicer, a children’s building block and a waterspout. The cradle-to-gate analysis of energy use went from raw material extraction to one of two endpoints: entry into the US for an item manufactured overseas or printing it a home on a 3D printer.
Pearce’s group found that making the items on a basic 3D printer took from 41 percent to 64 percent less energy than making them in a factory and shipping them to the US.
Some of the savings come from using less raw material. “Children’s blocks are normally made of solid wood or plastic,” said Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering. 3D printed blocks can be made partially or even completely hollow, requiring much less plastic.
Pearce’s team ran their analysis with two common types of plastic filament used in 3D printing, including polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, making it a greener alternative to petroleum-based plastics. The team also did a separate analysis on products made using solar-powered 3D printers, which drove down the environmental impact even further.
“The bottom line is, we can get substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions from making things at home,” Pearce said. “And the home manufacturer would be motivated to do the right thing and use less energy, because it costs so much less to make things on a 3D printer than to buy them off the shelf or on the Internet.”
About 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic age ushered in one of the most dramatic periods of human cultural and technological transition, where independently, different world populations developed the domestication of plants and animals.
A five-year test of NASA's latest ion drive for future spacecraft has set a new world record for the longest single space engine test.
The space agency's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) project completed a continuous test the ion engine for more than 48,000 hours — over five and a half years — longer than any other space propulsion system ever tested. With low fuel weight and long-running efficiency, ion engines have become strong contenders for deep space missions.
Spacecraft traveling through miles of space require energy to keep moving. Ion propulsion engines can help to minimize the bulkiness of fuel, allowing for increased scientific exploration in smaller packages. Over the course of nearly six years, NEXT consumed only 1,900 pounds (860 kilograms) of fuel, compared to the 22,000 pounds (10,000 kg) a conventional rocket would burn to create the same momentum.
In a collective act of media irresponsibility, the New York Times and Washington Post have joined the Wall Street Journal in publishing "don't worry, be happy" articles days before the big UN climate science report will say quite the opposite.
Evolutionary anthropology is the interdisciplinary study of the evolution of human physiology and human behavior and the relation between hominids and non-hominid primates. Studies of biological evolution generally concern the evolution of the human form. Note that cultural evolution is not the same as biological evolution. Evolutionary anthropology also studies human anatomy, endocrinology, and neurobiology and differences and changes between species, variation between human groups, the relationships to cultural factors, and the interaction of humans with their environment.
Robot empathy? Scientists at the University of Duisburg Essen say participants in two studies registered similar emotional reactions when they witnessed humans and robots being treated poorly.
Ever watch your Roomba robot vacuum cleaner make the rounds in the living room while you watch Netflix and eat chocolate and feel a little sorry that it has to clean up after you and your three cats? No?
But if you did feel badly it wouldn’t be that strange, researchers in Germany say, after they determined humans can feel empathy for robots in the same way they might for their fellow homo sapiens.
Scientists at the University of Duisburg Essen say participants in two studies registered similar emotional reactions when they witnessed humans and robots being treated poorly.
Fast-accumulating data seem to indicate that our close cousins, the Neanderthals, were much more similar to us than imagined even a decade ago. But did they have anything like modern speech and language? And if so, what are the implications for understanding present-day linguistic diversity? The MPI for Psycholinguistics researchers Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson argue in their paper in Frontiers in Language Sciences that modern language and speech can be traced back to the last common ancestor we shared with the Neandertals roughly half a million years ago.
The Neanderthals have fascinated both the academic world and the general public ever since their discovery almost 200 years ago. Initially thought to be subhuman brutes incapable of anything but the most primitive of grunts, they were a successful form of humanity inhabiting vast swathes of western Eurasia for several hundreds of thousands of years, during harsh ages and milder interglacial periods. We knew that they were our closest cousins, sharing a common ancestor with us around half a million years ago (probably Homo heidelbergensis), but it was unclear what their cognitive capacities were like, or why modern humans succeeded in replacing them after thousands of years of cohabitation. Recently, due to new palaeoanthropological and archaeological discoveries and the reassessment of older data, but especially to the availability of ancient DNA, we have started to realise that their fate was much more intertwined with ours and that, far from being slow brutes, their cognitive capacities and culture were comparable to ours.
Dediu and Levinson review all these strands of literature and argue that essentially modern language and speech are an ancient feature of our lineage dating back at least to the most recent ancestor we shared with the Neanderthals and the Denisovans (another form of humanity known mostly from their genome). Their interpretation of the intrinsically ambiguous and scant evidence goes against the scenario usually assumed by most language scientists, namely that of a sudden and recent emergence of modernity, presumably due to a single – or very few – genetic mutations. This pushes back the origins of modern language by a factor of 10 from the often-cited 50 or so thousand years, to around a million years ago – somewhere between the origins of our genus, Homo, some 1.8 million years ago, and the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis. This reassessment of the evidence goes against a saltationist scenario where a single catastrophic mutation in a single individual would suddenly give rise to language, and suggests that a gradual accumulation of biological and cultural innovations is much more plausible.
Interestingly, given that we know from the archaeological record and recent genetic data that the modern humans spreading out of Africa interacted both genetically and culturally with the Neanderthals and Denisovans, then just as our bodies carry around some of their genes, maybe our languages preserve traces of their languages too. This would mean that at least some of the observed linguistic diversity is due to these ancient encounters, an idea testable by comparing the structural properties of the African and non-African languages, and by detailed computer simulations of language spread.
Some researchers are suggesting that Neanderthals were driven to extinction by a massive volcanic eruption near Naples. The suggestion is one of the topics under debate this week at a conference at London's British Museum examining what forces led to the destruction of the Neanderthals and what led to the triumph of the homo sapiens. One new theory holds that a gigantic eruption of the volcano in the Campi Flegrei area near Naples 39,000 years ago was catastrophic for the Neanderthals. That was the biggest volcanic eruption in Europe for more than 200,000 years and scientists say that its enormous plumes of ash would have blotted out the sun for months, or possibly years. And that, in turn, would have caused temperatures to plummet and filled the atmosphere with toxic matter that may have contributed to the end of the Neanderthals. But not all scientists agree. Some argue the Neanderthals were already extinct before the eruption. This is just one of the major issues at the conference called: "When Europe was covered by ice and ash". At the meeting scientists will also try to understand why homo sapiens are the only species left today and why other version of humanity died out.
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