British and Japanese scientists have managed to "reset" human stem cells to their earliest state, opening up a new realm of research into the start of human development and potentially life-saving regenerative medicines.
Sobering news keeps coming out of the West African Ebola outbreak. According to numbers released on August 6, the virus has sickened 1,711 and claimed 932 lives across four nations. The outbreak continues to grow, with a high risk of continued regional spread, according to a threat analysis released byHealthMap (an outbreak tracking system operated out of Boston Children’s Hospital) and Bio.Diaspora (a Canadian project that monitors communicable disease spread via international travel).
“What we’ve seen here—because of inadequate public health measures, because of general fear—is [an outbreak that] truly hasn’t been kept under control,”John Brownstein, PhD, co-founder of HealthMap and a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “The event started, calmed down and jumped up again. Now, we’re seeing movement into densely populated areas, which is highly concerning.”
If you’re interested in keeping tabs on the outbreak yourself, there are several tools that can help:
HealthMap’s Ebola map. The HealthMap team is maintaining a dedicated, interactive map and timeline of the epidemic athealthmap.org/ebola (embedded at the top of this post). Both map and timeline are regularly updated as new information becomes available, as is the HealthMap Twitter account.ProMED. The International Society for Infectious Disease, a non-profit organization for infectious and emerging disease research, operatesProMED, a disease news monitoring service that tracks outbreaks of human and veterinary infectious diseases. ProMED (short for Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) has been sending out regular email and Twitter alerts about the Ebola outbreak since it was first noticed in March.US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is regularly posting updated news and patient counts—as well as travel and preparedness guidance and other information about the virus—on both their website and Twitter.World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO’s Global Alert and Response system is providing regular updates on disease spread and control efforts. The organization is also distributing updates via its Twitter feed.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft is “on track for its anticipated first launch in November 2016,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC Space Systems, told a press conference on August 5 at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego.
Sirangelo explained “that the first launch, out of Florida’s Space Coast, would be one of two required for certification of the spacecraft, and will be unmanned.” The second launch, scheduled for November 2017, would be manned and piloted.” Sirangelo told the audience that “the tests are on track, and that the launch slots have been obtained.” He noted that SNC would fly “five test flights of Dream Chaser, with three of them being manned, in order to by fully comfortable with the craft’s ability to carry humans into space."
While flying over the famous Nazca desert recently, pilot Eduardo Herrán Gómez de la Torre spotted some geoglyphs that had not been seen before. He believes the geoglyphs or Nazca Lines, as others call them, were exposed after recent sand-storms carried away soil that was covering them.
The Nazca Lines have become world famous, showing up in paintings, movies, books and news articles. They exist on the floor of the Nazca desert in a southwestern part of Peru, near the ocean. Scientists believe the figures (approximately 700 in all) were created by the ancient Nazca people over a time period of a thousand years—500BC to 500AD.
The geoglyphs vary in size and have been categorized into two distinct categories: natural objects and geometric figures. The natural objects include animals such as birds, camelids, or snakes. It is believed the lines were created by removing iron-oxide coated pellets to a depth of four to six inches—that left the lighter sand below in stark contrast to the surrounding area. The images vary dramatically in size, with the largest approximately 935 feet long. It is a myth that the figures on the desert floor can only be seen by aircraft (they were first "discovered" by a pilot flying over the desert in 1939). In fact, they can be seen quite easily when standing on nearby mountains or hills.
The newly revealed figures discovered by de la Torre are of a snake (approximately 196 feet in length), a bird, a camelid (perhaps a llama) and some zig-zag lines. They are actually on some hills in the El Ingenio Valley and Pampas de Jumana near the desert floor. Archeologists have been alerted to authenticate the find.
The reason for the creation of the geoglyphs is still uncertain, though a host of possible explanations have been offered, many centered around religion and or water. Interestingly, all of the figures are believed to have been created using a single line that never crosses itself. Similar to how a picture might be drawn with a pencil, never lifting it from the paper. It has also been noted that many of the images depicted by geoglyphs also appear on pottery made by people over the same time period, and, archeologists have found evidence of wooden stakes used to help create the images, suggesting they were made using very simple techniques.
Natural products are compounds made by living organisms―typically plants, microbes, and marine organisms but also insects and even mammals―that serve to propagate the species. Predating recorded history, the use of natural products for medicinal purposes has long benefited human societies. The poppy Papaver somniferum and its product opium (containing the key pharmacologically active natural product morphine) were cultivated and consumed by Neolithic tribes dating back more than 8000 years. Even today, about 40% of prescription drugs are natural products, or derive from them. "Natural products remain an important source of therapeutic drug leads and continue to inspire new approaches to problems in organic chemistry." Science has been elevated by the study of natural products. Organic chemists are innately fascinated with the intricacy of complex natural product structures, freighted with latent potential for synthetic design and expression of talent in the art of total synthesis. Pharmacologists, who measure biological properties of natural products, are often astounded by the potency and selectivity of the effects on cellular and organismal physiology. In the new millennium, there is a tendency among some to “retire” the field as a mature science, a presumption that is belied by the vigorous reprise of vitality in contemporary natural products chemistry. Here, in this ACS Virtual Issue, we can read of this steady ascendancy, augmented and propelled by new technologies in spectroscopy, synthesis, and genomics that link to allied fields in biology, computational chemistry―and yes―new classes of molecular structures. I invite you to peruse, read, and immerse your attention in 22 fine articles―highlighted and summarized from the ACS publications Organic Letters, The Journal of Organic Chemistry, and Journal of the American Chemical Society―that frame 22 stories of discovery, surprise, and scientific enlightenment.
Dr. Javier Muñoz2,* andProf. Dr. Albert J. R. Heck1,*
A herculean task: Determining the human proteome sets the ultimate challenge in cell biology as it is thought to consist of more than 1 000 000 proteoforms, in contrast to “only” 20 000 protein-coding genes. Two teams of researchers have now proved the translation of 18 000 proteins (and more than 27 000 isoforms) by mass spectrometry. They obtained important information on the extent of protein translation and alternative splicing.
Scientists say an outbreak of beet western yellows virus is one of the worst cases ever seen in Australia.
Early estimates suggest up to 10,000 hectares of canola have been affected, in South Australia's lower north, mid north and lower mallee regions. The virus is transported by green peach aphids, which have thrived in the state's recent warm and humid weather. Ag consultant Mick Faulkner says agronomists felt like they'd been "blind-sided" after not being able to work out what had been affecting crops. "It took everyone a fair bit of time to realise that we weren't killing the aphids," Mr Faulkner said. "Green paddocks are now brown. "Those that have been affected, I have grave fears that they won't yield anything at all."
Virus halted for now - The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) says it's now testing samples to confirm how the virus is spreading and where else it might turn up. Pulse pathologist Jenny Davidson says with cooler weather, the virus-transmitting aphids aren't moving and at the moment the best thing growers can do is "nothing", "We expect that the spread of this virus would've stopped for now, so there's no point people going out and spraying aphids now," she says. "It's also important growers ascertain it actually is the virus causing problems in their canola crops, there may be other things going on as well. "The potential risk is what these aphids will do in spring time. "We're not sure whether or not pulse crops are at risk but we'll have that information back well and truly before the spring time flights." Ms Davidson says the virus isn't uncommon, but what is unusual is the extent of damage and infection being seen. She says it's taken everyone by surprise. "I've never seen this level of damage from any virus in crops," Ms Davidson says. "It's the magnitude of what we're dealing with that is totally un-expected."
Case fatality rate" - or CFR - is a term that's been tossed around a lot lately in the context of the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak… But what does it really mean?
The CFR – which is calculated by dividing the number of deaths that have occurred due to a certain condition by the total number of cases – is actually a measure of risk. For infectious disease, CFR is a very important epidemiological measure to estimate because it tells us the probability of dying after infection. If estimated properly in the middle of an outbreak, it can even help us examine the efficacy of interventions as they take place.
Because different outbreaks of the same disease can demonstrate different CFRs, there’s usually a range of possible CFRs for a given disease. In the past, outbreaks caused by Zaire ebolavirus have demonstrated a mean end-of-outbreak CFR of 80% . But based off of the WHO's most recent report, it seems that only about 53% of reported Ebola cases thus far have ended in death since the 2014 outbreak began.
However, if we want to be particular, that 53% isn't really a CFR; it's actually the proportion of fatal cases - or PFC. This is a critical distinction. Because the outbreak in West Africa is still ongoing, we can't calculate end-of-outbreak CFR yet. We don’t know how many people will die from Ebola in the weeks ahead or how many total cases will ultimately accumulate by the end of the outbreak. So, for the time being, we have to make do with the PFC, which is essentially the number of deaths thus far divided by the number of cases to date.
When the WHO releases a report on the current situation in West Africa, it tells us two things: the number of people who've died and the number of reported cases at some specified point in time. For instance, in the most recent report, the WHO cited 4293 total cases and 2296 deaths as of September 8th. Dividing 2296 by 4293 gives us our previously stated PFC of 53%.
At first glance, it might seem then that only 53% of Ebola cases have been dying during this outbreak - a good deal less than the 80% we've seen prior... But what it really means is that only 53% of Ebola cases have died as of September 8th. We have no way of knowing whether all the people who were still hospitalized as of September 8th will survive the disease. Because of this, mid-outbreak PFC - as we've defined it thus far - doesn't tell us much about the likelihood of dying.
Despite Ebola’s frightening reputation, not all Ebola fatalities happen quickly. Without a little fine-tuning, PFC doesn't account for the lag between when a case is reported and when a case dies - approximately 16 days for this outbreak . What this means is that the 2296 deaths reported as of September 8th were all likely reported as cases by August 23rd. Adjusting PFC for this lag-time gives us a much better approximation of CFR well before the outbreak ends.
Below is a chart that shows both unadjusted and lag-adjusted PFC over time for Ebola in West Africa . The lag-adjusted PFC - about 80-85% - is significantly higher than the unadjusted PFC but is consistent with recent fatality estimates by Médecins Sans Frontières.
The concept of a viral role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), specifically of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), was first proposed several decades ago (Ball, 1982; Gannicliffe et al., 1986). Legitimizing the concept clearly depended on a positive answer to a number of test questions, the first of which was whether or not HSV1 is ever present in human brain. The subsequent discovery that HSV1 DNA resides in a high proportion of brains of elderly people in latent form (Jamieson et al., 1991)—both normals and AD patients—immediately made the concept more credible, but raised associated questions such as whether or not the virus is ever active in brain or is merely a passive resident there; whether on its own it is a causative factor in AD or it acts thus only with another factor, perhaps genetic; if active, what causes its activity; whether there is any link with the characteristic abnormal features of AD brains or their components, and whether, if indeed implicated in AD, antiviral agents would be useful for treating the disease. These questions were posed in a previous review (Wozniak and Itzhaki, 2010)—and strong evidence was presented that permitted the answer to each question to be “yes” or, very likely to be “yes”. The present review briefly summarizes the earlier evidence, and provides an update, which is especially timely in view of the subsequent steady increase in number of relevant publications.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), when present in brain of carriers of the type 4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE), has been implicated as a major factor in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is proposed that virus is normally latent in many elderly brains but reactivates periodically (as in the peripheral nervous system) under certain conditions, for example stress, immunosuppression, and peripheral infection, causing cumulative damage and eventually development of AD.
Diverse approaches have provided data that explicitly support, directly or indirectly, these concepts. Several have confirmed HSV1 DNA presence in human brains, and the HSV1-APOE-ε4 association in AD. Further, studies on HSV1-infected APOE-transgenic mice have shown that APOE-e4 animals display a greater potential for viral damage. Reactivated HSV1 can cause direct and inflammatory damage, probably involving increased formation of beta amyloid (Aβ) and of AD-like tau (P-tau)—changes found to occur in HSV1-infected cell cultures.
Implicating HSV1 further in AD is the discovery that HSV1 DNA is specifically localized in amyloid plaques in AD. Other relevant, harmful effects of infection include the following: dynamic interactions between HSV1 and amyloid precursor protein (APP), which would affect both viral and APP transport; induction of toll-like receptors (TLRs) in HSV1-infected astrocyte cultures, which has been linked to the likely effects of reactivation of the virus in brain.
Several epidemiological studies have now shown, using serological data, an association between systemic infections and cognitive decline, with HSV1 particularly implicated. Genetic studies too have linked various pathways in AD with those occurring on HSV1 infection. In relation to the potential usage of antivirals to treat AD patients, acyclovir (ACV) is effective in reducing HSV1-induced AD-like changes in cell cultures, and valacyclovir, the bioactive form of ACV, might be most effective if combined with an antiviral that acts by a different mechanism, such as intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
Bacteria found in soil called Clostridium novyi (C. novyi) is known to cause tissue-damaging infections. But researchers from John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed a modified version that triggers an anti-tumor response in rats, dogs and humans. The breakthrough could complement existing methods to provide better targeted treatment of cancerous growths.
Our universe may have emerged from a black hole in a higher-dimensional universe, propose a trio of Perimeter Institute researchers.
The big bang poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it?
Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang. It's a bit perplexing, but it is grounded in sound mathematics, testable, and enticing enough to earn the cover story in Scientific American, called "The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time." What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional "mirage" of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.
"Cosmology's greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself," write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan. Conventional understanding holds that the big bang began with a singularity – an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of spacetime where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited. "For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity," Afshordi says in an interview with Nature.
In our three-dimensional universe, black holes have two-dimensional event horizons – that is, they are surrounded by a two-dimensional boundary that marks the "point of no return." In the case of a four-dimensional universe, a black hole would have a three-dimensional event horizon. In their proposed scenario, our universe was never inside the singularity; rather, it came into being outside an event horizon, protected from the singularity. It originated as – and remains – just one feature in the imploded wreck of a four-dimensional star.
The researchers emphasize that this idea, though it may sound "absurd," is grounded firmly in the best modern mathematics describing space and time. Specifically, they've used the tools of holography to "turn the big bang into a cosmic mirage." Along the way, their model appears to address long-standing cosmological puzzles and – crucially – produce testable predictions. Of course, our intuition tends to recoil at the idea that everything and everyone we know emerged from the event horizon of a single four-dimensional black hole. We have no concept of what a four-dimensional universe might look like. We don't know how a four-dimensional "parent" universe itself came to be.
But our fallible human intuitions, the researchers argue, evolved in a three-dimensional world that may only reveal shadows of reality. They draw a parallel to Plato's allegory of the cave, in which prisoners spend their lives seeing only the flickering shadows cast by a fire on a cavern wall.
"Their shackles have prevented them from perceiving the true world, a realm with one additional dimension," they write. "Plato's prisoners didn't understand the powers behind the sun, just as we don't understand the four-dimensional bulk universe. But at least they knew where to look for answers."
When Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, comments on the future, ears in the tech space perk up. But a weekend mini-rant from the futurist drew the attention of even some non-techies and revealed that he's more worried about an artificial intelligence (A.I.) apocalypse than he's let on in recent months.
Posting his thoughts to Twitter on Saturday, after recommending a book about A.I., Musk made what might be the most controversial technology statement of his career: "We need to be super careful with A.I. Potentially more dangerous than nukes."
Others, like Google's Ray Kurzweil, have discussed a technological "singularity," in which A.I.'s take over from humans, but rarely has such a high profile voice with real ties to the technology business put the prospect in such stark terms.
To be fair, Musk's thoughts should be considered within the context he made them, that is, suggesting the book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, a work by Nick Bostrom that asks major questions about how humanity will cope with super-intelligent computers in the future.
Nevertheless, the comparison of A.I. to nuclear weapons, a threat that has cast a worrying shadow over much of the last 30 years in terms of humanity's longevity possibly being cut short by a nuclear war, immediately raises a couple of questions.
The first, and most likely from many quarters, will be to question Musk's future-casting. Some may use Musk's A.I. concerns — which remain fantastical to many — as proof that his predictions regarding electric cars and commercial space travel are the visions of someone who has seen too many science fiction films. "If Musk really thinks robots might destroy humanity, maybe we need to dismiss his long view thoughts on other technologies." Those essays are likely already being written.
In recent years, Musk's most science fiction-inspired comments have revolved aroundcolonizing Mars, but this latest comment, and the one he made back in June about fearing a "Terminator" future, indicate that this is a serious issue for the tech mogul. As for whether his concerns hold any weight, we can't be sure, just yet, but Musk is hedging his bets by investing in an artificial intelligence research company called Vicarious.
Apparently, although not as vocal about it, others in the tech space agree with Musk's investment approach toward super-intelligent machines. Investors in Vicarious include the likes of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon's Jeff Bezos.
Workers with the Insect Museum of West China, who were recently given several very large dragon-fly looking insects, with long teeth, by locals in a part of Sichuan, have declared it, a giant dobsonfly the largest known aquatic insect in the world alive today. The find displaces the previous record holder, the South American helicopter damselfly, by just two centimeters.
The dobsonfly is common (there are over 220 species of them) in China, India, Africa, South America and some other parts of Asia, but until now, no specimens as large as those recently found in China have been known. The largest specimens in the found group had a wingspan of 21 centimeters, making it large enough to cover the entire face of a human adult. Locals don't have to worry too much about injury from the insects, however, as officials from the museum report that larger males' mandibles are so huge in proportion to their bodies that they are relatively weak—incapable of piercing human skin. They can kick up a stink, however, as they are able to spray an offensive odor when threatened.
Also, despite the fact that they look an awful lot like dragonflies, they are more closely related to fishflies. The long mandibles, though scary looking to humans, are actually used for mating—males use them to show off for females, and to hold them still during copulation. Interestingly, while their large wings (commonly twice their body length) make for great flying, they only make use of them for about a week—the rest of their time alive as adults is spent hiding under rocks or moving around on or under the water. That means that they are rarely seen as adults, which for most people is probably a good thing as the giants found in China would probably present a frightening sight. They are much better known during their long larval stage when they are used as bait by fishermen.
LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer's and call this an important step towards developing a test for the incurable
Download Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding Of Space And Time (great Discoveries) - Michio Kaku here: http://bit.ly/1uzhNuo In paperback for the centenary of the discovery of ...