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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

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

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



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

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

Arturo Pereira's curator insight, August 12, 2017 9:01 AM
The democratization of knowledge!
Nevermore Sithole's curator insight, September 11, 2017 2:42 AM
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Human Olfaction Function without Apparent Olfactory Bulbs Found in Women But Never Men

Human Olfaction Function without Apparent Olfactory Bulbs Found in Women But Never Men | Amazing Science |

The olfactory bulbs (OBs) are the first site of odor representation in the mammalian brain, and their unique ultrastructure is considered a necessary substrate for spatiotemporal coding of smell. Given this, we were struck by the serendipitous observation at MRI of two otherwise healthy young left-handed women, yet with no apparent OBs. Standardized tests revealed normal odor awareness, detection, discrimination, identification, and representation.


Functional MRI of these women’s brains revealed that odorant-induced activity in piriform cortex, the primary OB target, was similar in its extent to that of intact controls. Finally, review of a public brain-MRI database with 1,113 participants (606 women) also tested for olfactory performance, uncovered olfaction without anatomically defined OBs in ∼0.6% of women and ∼4.25% of left-handed women. Thus, humans can perform the basic facets of olfaction without canonical OBs, implying extreme plasticity in the functional neuroanatomy of this sensory system.

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CRISPR To Fight Cancer Looks 'Promising' In 1st Safety Test

CRISPR To Fight Cancer Looks 'Promising' In 1st Safety Test | Amazing Science |

The powerful gene-editing technique known as CRISPR has raised a lot of hope in recent years for its potential to offer new ways to treat many diseases, including cancer. But until now, scientists have released very little information about results of tests in patients.


Now, researchers revealed data from the first study involving U.S. cancer patients who received cells genetically modified with CRISPR. The highly anticipated results, while quite preliminary, seem to be encouraging, scientists say. "This is a very important first step," says Dr. Edward Stadtmauer, a professor in oncology at the University of Pennsylvania and the study's principal investigator. "We hope this is the beginning of the next generation of engineering cells to help many different diseases and many different tumors."


Stadtmauer stresses that the trial was not designed to determine whether the approach actually works — only whether it is safe and feasible. "This treatment is not ready for prime time," he says. "But it is definitely very promising."


Other researchers agree. "I'm just so excited about this," says Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the discovery and development of CRISPR techniques.


"It's an important step on the path toward using CRISPR-Cas genome editing in patients and shows the potential of this technology to be a safe and effective therapy," Doudna says. Dr. Michel Sadelain, who is doing related research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, says he's glad to see the editing of genes move into the clinic this way, though he stresses that patients will have to be followed much longer to gain confidence that the approach is truly safe.

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NASA scientist's video shows dinosaurs' journey through the Milky Way

NASA scientist's video shows dinosaurs' journey through the Milky Way | Amazing Science |

When dinosaurs ruled the Earth, the planet was on a completely different side of the galaxy. A new animation by NASA scientist Jessie Christiansen shows just how long the dinosaurs' reign lasted, and how short the era of humans has been in comparison, by tracing our solar system's movement through the Milky Way.


Our sun orbits the galaxy's center, completing its rotation every 250 million years or so. So Christiansen's animation shows that last time our solar system was at its current point in the galaxy, the Triassic Period was in full swing and dinosaurs were just beginning to emerge. Many of the most iconic dinosaurs roamed Earth when the planet was in a very different part of the Milky Way.


Christiansen got the idea to illustrate this history when she was leading a stargazing party at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Attendees were astonished when she mentioned that our solar system had been across the galaxy when dinosaurs roamed. 


"That was the first time I realized that those time scales — archaeological, fossil record time scales and astronomical time scales — actually kind of match along together," Christiansen told Business Insider. "Then I had this idea that I could map out dinosaur evolution through the galaxy's rotation."

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Researchers Create New Non-Toxic Pigments Inspired By Bird Feathers

Researchers Create New Non-Toxic Pigments Inspired By Bird Feathers | Amazing Science |
Birds display a rainbow palette of colors, many of which come from special arrangements of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our skin. Researchers at the University of Akron have developed a safe and stable pigment based on the melanin structures.


In the colorful world in which we live, colors are significant for not only aesthetics and pleasure, but also for communication, signaling, and security. Colors are produced through either absorption of light by molecules -- pigmentary colors -- or scattering of light by nanostructures -- structural colors.


Structural colors enable the creation of a spectrum of non-fading colors without pigments, potentially replacing toxic metal oxides and organic pigments. However, there are challenges. Many traditional structural colors are iridescent and thus not useful for wide-angle displays. Recent examples of non-iridescent structural colors have been found to lack sufficient color saturation in the absence of absorbing materials to reduce incoherent scattering.


Core-shell nanoparticles with a shell refractive index (RI) similar to water have been used to tune the spacing between cores to achieve optimal scattering for non-iridescent colors, but only in solution. Even though both bottom-up and top-down methods have been widely used, there is a demand for a scalable process for mass production of structural colors.


In this research, scientists from The University of Akron, Northwestern University, and University of Ghent demonstrate a feasible solution for producing structural colors inspired by bird feathers. Their findings have been published on Science Advances, an open access online journal established by Science.


Nature provides many spectacular examples of structural colors, such as duck wing feathers and wild turkey feathers. In continuation of their earlier research that unraveled the fundamental properties of melanin -- a family of natural pigments found in skin, hair, eyes and the plumage of brightly colored birds -- these examples served as bio-inspiration for the design of core-shell synthetic melanin nanoparticles for the production of bright structural colors.


Melanin has been around for millions of years. "Melanin is an important biomaterial that has so far been underutilized in materials science and technological applications," states Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, H. A. Morton Professor of Polymer Science and one of the principal investigators on the project.


In this most recent research work, the team has found that tiny packets of synthetic melanin produce structural color when they are packed into semi-ordered spherical particles. Structural color occurs through the interaction of light with materials that have patterns on a sub-micron scale, which reflect light to make some wavelengths brighter and others darker.


"The chemistry we use to make these particles is based on the main ingredient that goes into making melanin," said Dhinojwala. "Then we take these melanin particles and self-assemble into a structure using a very straight forward process. It is similar to things we see in our homes, like mixing oil and water together creating emulsions. Those emulsions essentially allow us to assemble these particles into photonic inks which we call photonic supraballs."

Via Miguel Prazeres
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Blue Whales' Migrations Depend on Their Memories and not on Their Current Food Location

Blue Whales' Migrations Depend on Their Memories and not on Their Current Food Location | Amazing Science |

A clever new study shows that blue whales lean on their memory to guide their epic migrations.


The blue whales of the North Pacific spend their winters in their breeding grounds off California and Costa Rica. Come spring, they swim up the coast of North America toward the food-rich summer waters of the Pacific Northwest. They could make the journey in two months (and they do, on the reverse trip back south). Instead, they take twice that time, pausing to gorge themselves on blooms of krill that appear along the way. It’s a leisurely season-long tour of a continent-wide buffet line.


Scientists can get a good sense of this changing buffet by measuring the concentrations of chlorophyll in different patches of ocean. This green pigment reflects the amount of plankton, which in turn is eaten by krill. The more chlorophyll there is, the more food a blue whale might find.


By comparing chlorophyll counts to whale movements, Abrahms and her team expected to see that “they follow the timing of their prey, as it becomes available,” she says. But they were surprised to learn that the animals very rarely tracked contemporary waves of krill. Instead, their movements were strongly correlated with 10-year historical averages of chlorophyll. Put it this way: You could predict a blue whale’s movements with far more accuracy by looking at where their food has been than where their food currently is.

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The Worst Disease Ever Recorded

The Worst Disease Ever Recorded | Amazing Science |

A doomsday fungus known as Bd has condemned more species to extinction than any other pathogen.


A century ago, a strain of pandemic flu killed up to 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population. In 2013, a new mystery illness swept the western coast of North America, causing starfish to disintegrate. In 2015, a big-nosed Asian antelope known as the saiga lost two-thirds of its population—some 200,000 individuals—to what now looks to be a bacterial infection. But none of these devastating infections comes close to the destructive power of Bd—a singularly apocalyptic fungus that’s unrivaled in its ability not only to kill animals, but to delete entire species from existence.

Bd—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in full—kills frogs and other amphibians by eating away at their skin and triggering fatal heart attacks. It’s often said that the fungus has caused the decline or extinction of 200 amphibian species, but that figure is almost two decades out-of-date. New figures, compiled by a team led by Ben Scheele from the Australian National University, are much worse.


Scheele’s team estimates that the fungus has caused the decline of 501 amphibian species—about 6.5 percent of the known total. Of these, 90 have been wiped out entirely. Another 124 have fallen by more than 90 percent, and their odds of recovery are slim. Never in recorded history has a single disease burned down so much of the tree of life. “It rewrote our understanding of what disease could do to wildlife,” Scheele says.

Via Neelima Sinha
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A Power Law Keeps the Brain’s Perceptions Balanced

A Power Law Keeps the Brain’s Perceptions Balanced | Amazing Science |
Researchers have discovered a surprising mathematical relationship in the brain’s representations of sensory information, with possible applications to AI research.


The human brain is often described in the language of tipping points: It toes a careful line between high and low activity, between dense and sparse networks, between order and disorder. Now, by analyzing firing patterns from a record number of neurons, researchers have uncovered yet another tipping point — this time, in the neural code, the mathematical relationship between incoming sensory information and the brain’s neural representation of that information.


Their findings, published in Nature in June, suggest that the brain strikes a balance between encoding as much information as possible and responding flexibly to noise, which allows it to prioritize the most significant features of a stimulus rather than endlessly cataloging smaller details. The way it accomplishes this feat could offer fresh insights into how artificial intelligence systems might work, too.


A balancing act is not what the scientists initially set out to find. Their work began with a simpler question: Does the visual cortex represent various stimuli with many different response patterns, or does it use similar patterns over and over again? Researchers refer to the neural activity in the latter scenario as low-dimensional: The neural code associated with it would have a very limited vocabulary, but it would also be resilient to small perturbations in sensory inputs. Imagine a one-dimensional code in which a stimulus is simply represented as either good or bad. The amount of firing by individual neurons might vary with the input, but the neurons as a population would be highly correlated, their firing patterns always either increasing or decreasing together in the same overall arrangement. Even if some neurons misfired, a stimulus would most likely still get correctly labeled.

Via Complexity Digest
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MIT engineers develop a new way to remove carbon dioxide from air

MIT engineers develop a new way to remove carbon dioxide from air | Amazing Science |

A new way of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of air could provide a significant tool in the battle against climate change. The new system can work on the gas at virtually any concentration level, even down to the roughly 400 parts per million currently found in the atmosphere.


Most methods of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of gas require higher concentrations, such as those found in the flue emissions from fossil fuel-based power plants. A few variations have been developed that can work with the low concentrations found in air, but the new method is significantly less energy-intensive and expensive, the researchers say.


The technique, based on passing air through a stack of charged electrochemical plates, is described in a new paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, by MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian, who developed the work during his PhD, and T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering.


The device is essentially a large, specialized battery that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air (or other gas stream) passing over its electrodes as it is being charged up, and then releases the gas as it is being discharged. In operation, the device would simply alternate between charging and discharging, with fresh air or feed gas being blown through the system during the charging cycle, and then the pure, concentrated carbon dioxide being blown out during the discharging.


As the battery charges, an electrochemical reaction takes place at the surface of each of a stack of electrodes. These are coated with a compound called polyanthraquinone, which is composited with carbon nanotubes. The electrodes have a natural affinity for carbon dioxide and readily react with its molecules in the airstream or feed gas, even when it is present at very low concentrations. The reverse reaction takes place when the battery is discharged — during which the device can provide part of the power needed for the whole system — and in the process ejects a stream of pure carbon dioxide. The whole system operates at room temperature and normal air pressure.

Via YEC Geo
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New elevation data TRIPLE estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding

New elevation data TRIPLE estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding | Amazing Science |

Most estimates of global mean sea-level rise this century fall below 2 m (7 ft). This quantity is comparable to the positive vertical bias of the principle digital elevation model (DEM) used to assess global and national population exposures to extreme coastal water levels, NASA’s SRTM. CoastalDEM is a new DEM utilizing neural networks to reduce SRTM error.


Scientists now show – employing CoastalDEM—that 190 M people (150–250 M, 90% CI) currently occupy global land below projected high tide lines for 2100 under low carbon emissions, up from 110 M today, for a median increase of 80 M. These figures triple SRTM-based values. Under high emissions, CoastalDEM indicates up to 630 M people live on land below projected annual flood levels for 2100, and up to 340 M for mid-century, versus roughly 250 M at present. We estimate one billion people now occupy land less than 10 m above current high tide lines, including 250 M below 1 m.

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Melting Glaciers Are Helping Capture Carbon, paradoxically

Melting Glaciers Are Helping Capture Carbon, paradoxically | Amazing Science |

The thing about carbon dioxide is that it flows freely across the surface of water—the water can both absorb the gas and give it off. In a typical river, organisms are consuming organic material and giving off CO2, or respirating, just like humans do. Thus the river becomes a net carbon producer, because it’s saturated with so much CO2 that the water just can’t dissolve any more CO2 from the air. Same goes for ponds and lakes the world over—they’re greenhouse gas emitters.


Glacial meltwater, on the other hand, doesn’t have this organic respiration, so it can dissolve more CO2 from the air. The sediments that the meltwater picks up along the way in turn consume the CO2 that’s dissolved in the water. “You get the sediments mixing into the water and mixing with the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that results in a change in the chemistry of the river as it moves downstream,” says St. Pierre, head of the study. When the sediment reacts with the CO2, some of material dissolves, so the river itself becomes a meandering carbon sink—to an impressive degree, in fact.

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Lithium ion battery design can charge an electric vehicle in 10 min, possibly 5 min in the future

Lithium ion battery design can charge an electric vehicle in 10 min, possibly 5 min in the future | Amazing Science |

Scientist have developed a lithium ion battery that charges at an elevated temperature to increase reaction rate but keeps the cell cool during discharge, showing the potential to add 200 miles of driving range to an electric car in 10 minutes. If scaled, the design is one potential strategy to alleviate concerns that all-electric vehicles lack sufficient cruise range to safely reach a destination without stalling mid-journey. The Pennsylvania State University researchers present the work October 30 in the journal Joule.


Scientists have recognized the need to design electric vehicle batteries capable of charging extremely fast in order to meet the needs of drivers. However, such a speedy charge rate would require a battery to rapidly take in 400 kilowatts of energy, a feat that current vehicles cannot accomplish because it risks lithium plating (the formation of metallic lithium around the anode), which would severely deteriorate battery life.


While conventional lithium batteries are charged and discharged at the same temperature, the researchers found they could circumvent the lithium plating issue by charging the battery to an elevated temperature of 60 degrees Celsius for a few minutes, then discharging it at cooler temperatures.


"In addition to fast charging, this design allows us to limit the battery's exposure time to the elevated charge temperature, thus generating a very long cycle life," says senior author Chao-Yang Wang, a mechanical engineer at The Pennsylvania State University. "The key is to realize rapid heating; otherwise, the battery will stay at elevated temperatures for too long, causing severe degradation."


In order to shorten heat time and heat the entire battery at a uniform temperature, Wang and colleagues outfitted a lithium ion battery design with a self-heating nickel structure that preheats in less than thirty seconds. To test their model, they charged three graphite pouch cells designed for hybrid electric vehicles at 40, 49, and 60 degrees Celsius, as well as a control at 20 degrees Celsius, using various cooling strategies to maintain constant charge temperatures. To confirm that lithium plating did not occur, they later fully discharged the cells and opened them for analysis.

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Machine Learning Predicts Behavior of Biological Circuits

Machine Learning Predicts Behavior of Biological Circuits | Amazing Science |

Neural networks cut modeling times of complex biological circuits to enable new insights into their inner workings.


Biomedical engineers at Duke University have devised a machine learning approach to modeling the interactions between complex variables in engineered bacteria that would otherwise be too cumbersome to predict. Their algorithms are generalizable to many kinds of biological systems.


In the new study, the researchers trained a neural network to predict the circular patterns that would be created by a biological circuit embedded into a bacterial culture. The system worked 30,000 times faster than the existing computational model.

To further improve accuracy, the team devised a method for retraining the machine learning model multiple times to compare their answers. Then they used it to solve a second biological system that is computationally demanding in a different way, showing the algorithm can work for disparate challenges.

The results appear online on September 25 in the journal Nature Communications.


"This work was inspired by Google showing that neural networks could learn to beat a human in the board game Go," said Lingchong You, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke.

"Even though the game has simple rules, there are far too many possibilities for a computer to calculate the best next option deterministically," You said. "I wondered if such an approach could be useful in coping with certain aspects of biological complexity confronting us."


The challenge facing You and his postdoctoral associate Shangying Wang was determining what set of parameters could produce a specific pattern in a bacteria culture following an engineered gene circuit. In previous work, You's laboratory programmed bacteria to produce proteins that, depending on the specifics of the culture's growth, interact with one another to form rings. By controlling variables such as the size of the growth environment and the amount of nutrients provided, the researchers found they could control the ring's thickness, how long it took to appear and other characteristics.


By changing any number of dozens of potential variables, the researchers discovered they could do more, such as causing the formation of two or even three rings. But because a single computer simulation took five minutes, it became impractical to search any large design space for a specific result.


For their study, the system consisted of 13 bacterial variables such as the rates of growth, diffusion, protein degradation and cellular movement. Just to calculate six values per parameter would take a single computer more than 600 years. Running it on a parallel computer cluster with hundreds of nodes might cut that run-time down to several months, but machine learning can cut it down to hours.


"The model we use is slow because it has to take into account intermediate steps in time at a small enough rate to be accurate," said You. "But we don't always care about the intermediate steps. We just want the end results for certain applications. And we can (go back to) figure out the intermediate steps if we find the end results interesting."

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2019: The International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements

2019: The International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements | Amazing Science |
2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements. Here, we discuss the history of the periodic table as well as the designated year.


Elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 — fill out the seventh row of the periodic table of the elements. All are superheavies. That’s why they sit at the base right of the bench (see above). Naming rights classically go to those who find an element. And that’s what happen here. Element 113 was found by scientists at RIKEN in Wako, Japan. They have requested to call it Nihonium, to be shortened as Nh. This name comes from Nihon. It’s Japanese for “Land of the Rising Sun,” which is what a lot of people call Japan. Element 115 will turn out to be Moscovium, abridged as Mc. It refers to the Moscow area. And that was where the combined organization for Nuclear Research is based (Dubna). It exposed number 115 in a teamwork with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. That's why Tennessee also gets a periodic table entry. It’s the home location of ORNL, Vanderbilt University & the University of Tennessee. So element 117 will become Tennessine and will be represented by the symbol Ts.
Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian was involved in the detection of several superheavy elements. So the group behind number 118 determined to name it after him. It becomes Oganesson — or Og.
“I see it as thrilling to be familiar with that international collaborations were at the core of these discovery,” says Jan Reedijk at the Leiden organization of Chemistry in the Netherlands. He contacts the labs involved with the recently discovered elements and invite their scientists to propose names for them. Those names, Reedijk says, at the present “make the discovery somewhat tangible,” meaning seemingly more real.
Element names have to follow certain rules. Allowed is: names of a scientist, a place or geographic location, a mineral, a mythological nature or concept, or some feature that is trait of the element.The recently recommended names are now open to appraisal by IUPAC and the public. Following that, the names will be official.
And that’s not the finish of activities to tweak the periodic table. Physicists are already probing for still heavier elements. These would sit in a new eighth row on the table. Some scientists as well are working to confirm that copernicium is genuine. Somewhat smaller than the latest elements, it would be number 112. To evaluate all of this continuing work, chemists and physicists are collaborating to set up a latest group. They will evaluate claims of any new additions of elements.
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Spiders and ants inspire metal that won’t sink

Spiders and ants inspire metal that won’t sink | Amazing Science |

Researchers, inspired by diving bell spiders and rafts of fire ants, have created a metallic structure that is so water repellent, it refuses to sink—no matter how often it is forced into water or how much it is damaged or punctured.


Could this lead to an unsinkable ship? A wearable flotation device that will still float after being punctured? Electronic monitoring devices that can survive in long term in the ocean? All of the above, says Chunlei Guo, professor of optics and physics, whose lab describes the structure in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces


.The structure uses a groundbreaking technique the lab developed for using femtosecond bursts of lasers to “etch” the surfaces of metals with intricate micro- and nanoscale patterns that trap air and make the surfaces superhydrophobic, or water repellent.

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Scientists detect a first new strain of HIV virus in 19 years

Scientists detect a first new strain of HIV virus in 19 years | Amazing Science |
For the first time in 19 years, a team of scientists have detected a new strain of HIV. 
The strain is a part of the Group M version of HIV-1, the same family of virus subtypes to blame for the global HIV pandemic, according to Abbott Laboratories, which conducted the research along with the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
The findings were published Wednesday, November 7th in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. HIV has several different subtypes or strains, and like other viruses, it has the ability to change and mutate over time.
This is the first new Group M HIV strain identified since guidelines for classifying subtypes were established in 2000. It is important to know what strains of the virus are circulating to ensure that tests used to detect the disease are effective.
"It can be a real challenge for diagnostic tests," Mary Rodgers, a co-author of the report and a principal scientist at Abbott, said. Her company tests more than 60% of the world's blood supply, she said, and they have to look for new strains and track those in circulation so "we can accurately detect it, no matter where it happens to be in the world."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said current treatments for HIV are effective against this strain and others. However, identifying a new strain provides a more complete map of how HIV evolves.
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Liquid-in-liquid printing method could put 3D-printed organs within reach

Liquid-in-liquid printing method could put 3D-printed organs within reach | Amazing Science |
New technique makes it easier to build stable “tissues”


3D-printed tissues and organs could revolutionize transplants, drug screens, and lab models—but replicating complicated body parts such as gastric tracts, windpipes, and blood vessels is a major challenge. That’s because these vascularized tissues are hard to build up in traditional solid layer-by-layer 3D printing without constructing supporting scaffolding that can later prove impossible to remove.


One potential solution is replacing these support structures with liquid—a specially designed fluid matrix into which liquid designs could be injected before the “ink” is set and the matrix is drained away. But past attempts to make such aqueous structures have literally collapsed, as their surfaces shrink and their structures crumple into useless blobs.


So, researchers from China turned to water-loving, or hydrophilic, liquid polymers that create a stable membrane where they meet, thanks to the attraction of their hydrogen bonds. The researchers say various polymer combinations could work; they used a polyethylene oxide matrix and an ink made of a long carbohydrate molecule called dextran. They pumped their ink into the matrix with an injection nozzle that can move through the liquid and even suck up and rewrite lines that have already been drawn. The resulting liquid structures can hold their shape for as long as 10 days before they begin to merge, the team reported last month in Advanced Materials.


Using their new method, the researchers printed an assortment of complex shapes—including tornadoesque whirls, single and double helices (above), branched treelike shapes, and even one that resembles a goldfish. Once printing is finished, the shapes are set by adding polyvinyl alcohol to the inky portion of the structure. That means, the scientists say, that complex 3D-printed tissues made by including living cells in the ink could soon be within our grasp.

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Stunning: Researchers able to reverse age-related diseases in mice with a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy

Stunning: Researchers able to reverse age-related diseases in mice with a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy | Amazing Science |
Wyss Institute, Harvard Medical School study offers hope for single genetic treatment for multiple age-related ills.


New research from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School (HMS) suggests that it may be possible someday to tend to multiple ailments with one treatment.


In the Wyss study, a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy, which delivered combinations of three longevity-associated genes to mice, dramatically improved or completely reversed multiple age-related diseases, suggesting that a systems-level approach to treating such diseases could improve overall health and lifespan. The research is reported in PNAS.


“The results we saw were stunning and suggest that holistically addressing aging via gene therapy could be more effective than the piecemeal approach that currently exists,” said first author Noah Davidsohn, a former research scientist at the Wyss Institute and HMS who is now chief technology officer of Rejuvenate Bio. “Everyone wants to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and this study is a first step toward reducing the suffering caused by debilitating diseases.”


The study was conducted in the lab of Wyss core faculty member George Church as part of Davidsohn’s postdoctoral research into the genetics of aging. Davidsohn, Church, and their co-authors homed in on three genes that had been shown to confer increased health and lifespan benefits in mice that were genetically engineered to overexpress them: FGF21, sTGFβR2, and αKlotho. They hypothesized that providing extra copies of those genes to nonengineered mice via gene therapy would similarly combat age-related diseases and bring health benefits.


The team created separate gene therapy constructs for each gene using the AAV8 serotype as a delivery vehicle, and injected them into mouse models of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and renal failure both individually and in combination with the other genes to see whether there was a positive synergistic effect.

FGF21 caused complete reversal of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes in obese, diabetic mice following a single gene therapy administration, and its combination with sTGFβR2 reduced kidney atrophy by 75 percent in mice with renal fibrosis. Heart function in mice with heart failure improved by 58 percent when they were given sTGFβR2 alone or in combination with either of the other two genes, showing that a combined therapeutic treatment of FGF21 and sTGFβR2 could successfully treat all four age-related conditions, therefore improving health and survival. Administering all three genes together resulted in slightly worse outcomes, likely from an adverse interaction between FGF21 and αKlotho, which remains to be studied.

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Doctors Confirm 'Semi-Identical' Twins Born From One Egg and Two Sperm

Doctors Confirm 'Semi-Identical' Twins Born From One Egg and Two Sperm | Amazing Science |

Doctors in Australia say they have identified a second case of twins apparently created from one egg and two sperm, a boy-girl combination in whom the mother’s DNA is identical in both babies but the father’s DNA varies in each twin. They’re being called semi-identical twins and a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that such twins are extraordinarily rare. The only other reported case was uncovered in 2007.


Virtually all twins are either fraternal (where two eggs and two sperm have created two separate embryos) or identical (where one embryo splits in two before resuming normal development for each child). “This is confirming there is this third type of twinning where it’s not fraternal and it’s not identical. It’s this strange place in between,” chief author Dr Michael Terrence Gabbett of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane told Reuters in a telephone interview. Each sperm cell contains half the father’s DNA. But it’s not identical from sperm to sperm because each man is a mixture of the genetic material from his parents, and each time a slightly different assortment of that full DNA set gets divided to go into a sperm.


For example, some sperm will contain a copy of the father’s Y chromosome that makes the child develop into a boy and some will carry the father’s X chromosome, which makes the child a girl.

In the case of the Australian twins, who live in Brisbane and are now four-and-a-half years old, the mother’s egg was fertilized with one sperm carrying an X chromosome and one with a Y. Because an ultrasound taken early in the pregnancy showed that both fetuses shared the same placenta, doctors assumed the fetuses were identical twins.


But when an ultrasound eight weeks later revealed that one child was male and the other female, something considered impossible for identical twins, the Gabbett team knew something extraordinary had happened. The researchers say it appears that after fertilization, the DNA from the egg and two sperm divided, then got divvied up to create three embryos. Two of these had enough egg DNA and sperm DNA to make viable embryos. The remaining embryo, with only sperm DNA, was not viable.


The twin boy and girl were found to have 100% of their mother’s DNA in common, but were only 78% identical in the paternal DNA they carry.

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CRISPR might be the banana’s only hope against a deadly fungus

CRISPR might be the banana’s only hope against a deadly fungus | Amazing Science |

Researchers are using the gene-editing tool to boost the fruit’s defences and prevent the extinction of a major commercial variety.


The race to engineer the next-generation banana is on. The Colombian government confirmed last month that a banana-killing fungus has invaded the Americas — the source of much of the world’s banana supply. The invasion has given new urgency to efforts to create fruit that can withstand the scourge.


Scientists are using a mix of approaches to save the banana. A team in Australia has inserted a gene from wild bananas into the top commercial variety — known as the Cavendish — and are currently testing these modified bananas in field trials.


Researchers are also turning to the powerful, precise gene-editing tool CRISPR to boost the Cavendish’s resilience against the fungus, known as Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4).


Breeding TR4 resistance into the Cavendish using conventional methods isn’t possible because the variety is sterile and propagated by cloning. So the only way to save the Cavendish may be to tweak its genome, says Randy Ploetz, a plant pathologist at the University of Florida in Homestead. The variety accounts for 99% of global banana shipments.


James Dale, a biotechnologist at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, started getting enquiries about his genetically modified (GM) bananas in July, as the first rumors surfaced that TR4 had reached Colombia. “Then Colombia declared a national emergency,” Dale says, “and now the amount of interest is through the roof.”

An appealing alternative

This isn’t the first time that a commercial banana variety has faced extinction. In the first half of the 1900s, another strain of the Fusarium fungus called TR1 nearly wiped out the era’s top banana, the Gros Michel. But farmers had a backup in the Cavendish, which was resistant to TR1, tough enough to withstand handling during export and had a broadly acceptable texture and taste. By the 1960s, big banana growers such as Chiquita, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were switching to the Cavendish.

Via Neelima Sinha
Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Science, Space, and news from 'out there'!

A New Theory On Time Indicates Present And Future Exist Simultaneously

A New Theory On Time Indicates Present And Future Exist Simultaneously | Amazing Science |

The new theory suggests that time does not PASS and that everything is ever-present.


In fact, time is not linear as we have been thinking all along, and everything around us is ever present.


The researchers indicates that time should be regarded as a dimension of spacetime, as relativity theory holds — so it does not pass by us in some way, because spacetime doesn’t. Instead, time is part of the uniform larger fabric of the universe, not something moving around inside it.According to a scientist, everything that has happened, and everything that will happen is in fact occurring at this very moment as time is positioned in space.


The new theory proposed by Dr. Bradford Skow, an associated professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) indicates that if we were to look down on the universe, we would actually observe time and events spreading out in all directions.


So what does this actually mean? Well, it suggests that time as we know it is incorrect, in other words, it’s not linear as we have been thinking all along. In fact, everything around us is ever present.


The new theory is detailed in Dr. Skow’s book, Objective Beginning, where he writes: “When you ask people, ‘Tell me about the passage of time,’ they usually make a metaphor.


“They say time flows like a river, or we move through time like a ship sailing through the sea.” The author argues that he “wouldn’t want to believe in that unless I saw good arguments for it.”


In “Objective Becoming,” Skow aims to convince readers that things could hardly be otherwise. To do so, he spends much of the book considering competing ideas about time — the ones that assume time does pass or move by us in some way. “I was interested in seeing what kind of view of the universe you would have if you took these metaphors about the passage of time very, very seriously,” Skow says. e='text-align:justify'>“They say time flows like a river, or we move through time like a ship sailing through the sea.”


The author argues that he “wouldn’t want to believe in that unless I saw good arguments for it.”


Dr. Skow believes that in a so-called ‘block universe- a theory which states that the past, present and future exist simultaneously. In other words, this means that once an even has occurred, it continues to exist somewhere in space-time.

Via Sepp Hasslberger
Sepp Hasslberger's curator insight, October 28, 3:22 PM

Time isn't real, they say, but time does exist. It just doesn't pass in a linear fashion. According to new research, the past, present and future exist simultaneously. 

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Big butt worm Chaetopterus pugaporcinus — A worm like no other

Big butt worm Chaetopterus pugaporcinus — A worm like no other | Amazing Science |

It sounds like a junior high school riddle—”What lives 3,000 feet below the ocean surface, is about the size of a marble, and looks like the back side of a pig?” MBARI marine biologists have pondering this riddle for years, having seen a number of these strange, round organisms during deep dives in Monterey Canyon.


MBARI biologist Karen Osborn and her colleagues recently came up with an answer to this riddle by combining modern DNA analysis with traditional methods of scientific observation. What they discovered was a new species of deep-sea worm, but a worm like no other. In a recent scientific paper, they gave this little creature a Latin name: Chaetopterus pugaporcinus.


Although this animal looks unlike any adult worm known to science, coauthor Greg Rouse noticed that it had some features in common with the larvae (young) of a group of worms called chaetopterids. However, as Osborn and her coauthors wrote, “If the specimens described here are larvae, they are remarkable for their size, which . . . is five to ten times larger than any known chaetopterid larvae.” The animals also lacked certain body parts typically found on chaetopterid larvae.


At this point, the researchers began to suspect that they might have an adult worm on their hands (or in their sampling containers). However, all known adult chaetopterid worms have elongated, segmented bodies, and spend their lives inside parchment-like tubes attached to the seafloor. The concentric ovals are body segments that have been flattened against a single central segment that has ballooned out to form the bulk of the worm’s body.


Looking closely at specimens of the new worm, the researchers found that although the worms had segmented bodies, one of their middle segments was inflated like a balloon, giving the animals a distinctive gum-ball shape. All the other segments were compressed up against the front and back of the inflated segment, like a cartoon character whose nose and hind-parts have been flattened in an unfortunate accident.


Even after the scientists figured out that they had found a new chaetopterid worm, there was no easy way to classify the creature because of its unique features. Chaetopterid worms are a pretty motley bunch in the first place, with dozens of species living in a wide variety of seafloor habitats. As Osborn put it, Chaetopterus is “a genus fraught with taxonomic controversy.”

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NASA Is Getting Serious About a New Interstellar Mission, and Soon

NASA Is Getting Serious About a New Interstellar Mission, and Soon | Amazing Science |
Only two spacecraft have ever escaped our solar system to dip into interstellar space. Now NASA wants to go back—and soon.


Interstellar space exploration has long been the stuff of science fiction, a technological challenge that many engineers believe humans just aren’t up to yet. But an ongoing study by a group of NASA-affiliated researchers is challenging this assumption. The researchers have a vision for a mission that could be built with existing technology. Indeed, the group says that if their mission is selected by NASA it could fly as soon as 2030.


“This is humanity’s first explicit step into interstellar space,” says Pontus Brandt, a physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who is working on the interstellar probe study. The lab kicked off its Interstellar Probe study last summer at the behest of NASA’s Heliophysics division. A year in, they are now hashing out the nitty-gritty engineering details of such a mission. At the end of 2021, Brandt and his colleagues will submit it for inclusion in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Heliophysics decadal survey, which determines sun-related mission priorities for the next 10 years.


The basic idea for the interstellar mission is to launch a spacecraft weighing less than 1,700 pounds on NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket, which is expected to be ready by 2021. That will get it traveling across our solar system like any other probe. To give it another boost, it will then use a gravity assist to sling the craft to speeds well over 100,000 miles per hour. The team at the Applied Physics Lab is currently considering two types of gravity assists—a “plain vanilla” assist that swings the probe around Jupiter and another that swings it around the sun.


Using the sun is advantageous, because the spacecraft can reach far higher speeds than it can from a Jupiter assist. But the spacecraft would have to pass several times closer to the sun than the Parker Solar Probe, which recently became the closest human-made object to pass by the star. This requires some serious heat shielding, but at a certain point the heat shield becomes so bulky that it reduces the spacecraft’s speed the closer it gets to the sun.


The task for Brandt and his colleagues will be to find the sweet spot that takes the craft to interstellar space as fast as possible.

“It’s time we have a vision we can actually execute,” says Ralph McNutt, a physicist at the Applied Physics Laboratory. “Up to now, people haven’t thought about this as an engineering problem. They kick the can down the road, saying, ‘Well, we just need a little bit more new technology.’”


NASA’s interstellar probe has a more modest goal compared to other interstellar mission proposals, like Breakthrough Starshot, which aims to send a thumbnail-sized craft to another star. Instead, NASA wants to launch a probe that will last for 50 years and travel 92 billion miles—about 1,000 times the distance from Earth to the sun. To put this in perspective, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, the only spacecraft to make it to interstellar space, are currently around 13 billion miles away from Earth. It took those spacecraft nearly four decades to cover this distance, but NASA’s new interstellar probe could make it there in less than 15 years.

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X-37B: The Air Force's Mysterious Space Plane

X-37B: The Air Force's Mysterious Space Plane | Amazing Science |

The U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B space plane has flown four clandestine missions to date, carrying secret payloads on long-duration flights in Earth orbit. The robotic vehicle resembles NASA's famous space shuttle but is much smaller. The X-37B is about 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.5 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan just less than 15 feet (4.6 m). At launch, it weighs 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms).


The X-37B's payload bay (the area in which the cargo is packed) measures 7 feet long by 4 feet wide (2.1 by 1.2 m) — about the size of a pickup truck bed. Just what the X-37B carries in there is unclear, however. Air Force officials generally comment only on the overall goals of the program, stressing that each payload is classified.


"The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth," states an X-37B fact sheet produced by the Air Force.

Like the space shuttle, the solar-powered X-37B space plane launches vertically, with the aid of a rocket, and cruises back to Earth for a runway landing. The diminutive space plane is designed to operate at altitudes ranging from 110 to 500 miles (177 to 805 km).

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People Who Have Never Existed: Style-based GANs – Generating and Tuning Realistic Artificial Faces

People Who Have Never Existed: Style-based GANs – Generating and Tuning Realistic Artificial Faces | Amazing Science |

Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) are a relatively new concept in Machine Learning, introduced for the first time in 2014. Their goal is to synthesize artificial samples, such as images, that are indistinguishable from authentic images. A common example of a GAN application is to generate artificial face images by learning from a dataset of celebrity faces. While GAN images became more realistic over time, one of their main challenges is controlling their output, i.e. changing specific features such pose, face shape and hair style in an image of a face.  


A new paper by NVIDIA, A Style-Based Generator Architecture for GANs (StyleGAN), presents a novel model which addresses this challenge. StyleGAN generates the artificial image gradually, starting from a very low resolution and continuing to a high resolution (1024×1024). By modifying the input of each level separately, it controls the visual features that are expressed in that level, from coarse features (pose, face shape) to fine details (hair color), without affecting other levels.


This technique not only allows for a better understanding of the generated output, but also produces state-of-the-art results – high-res images that look more authentic than previously generated images.

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Tiny, biocompatible nanolaser could function inside living tissues

Tiny, biocompatible nanolaser could function inside living tissues | Amazing Science |
Researchers have developed a tiny nanolaser that can fit and function inside of living tissues, such as deep-brain tissues, without harming them.


Just 50 to 150 nanometers thick, the laser is about 1/1,000th the thickness of a single human hair. At this size, the laser can fit and function inside living tissues, with the potential to sense disease biomarkers or perhaps treat deep-brain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.


Developed by researchers at Northwestern and Columbia Universities, the nanolaser shows specific promise for imaging in living tissues. Not only is it made mostly of glass, which is intrinsically biocompatible, the laser can also be excited with longer wavelengths of light and emit at shorter wavelengths.


"Longer wavelengths of light are needed for bioimaging because they can penetrate farther into tissues than visible wavelength photons," said Northwestern's Teri Odom, who co-led the research. "But shorter wavelengths of light are often desirable at those same deep areas. We have designed an optically clean system that can effectively deliver visible laser light at penetration depths accessible to longer wavelengths."


The nanolaser also can operate in extremely confined spaces, including quantum circuits and microprocessors for ultra-fast and low-power electronics. The paper was published on Sept. 23, 2019 in the journal Nature Materials. Odom co-led the work with P. James Schuck at Columbia University's School of Engineering. While many applications require increasingly small lasers, researchers continually run into the same roadblock: Nanolasers tend to be much less efficient than their macroscopic counterparts. And these lasers typically need shorter wavelengths, such as ultraviolet light, to power them.


"This is bad because the unconventional environments in which people want to use small lasers are highly susceptible to damage from UV light and the excess heat generated by inefficient operation," said Schuck, an associate professor of mechanical engineering.


Odom, Schuck and their teams were able to achieve a nanolaser platform that solves these issues by using photon upconversion. In upconversion, low-energy photons are absorbed and converted into one photon with higher energy. In this project, the team started with low-energy, "bio-friendly" infrared photons and upconverted them to visible laser beams. The resulting laser can function under low powers and is vertically much smaller than the wavelength of light.


"Our nanolaser is transparent but can generate visible photons when optically pumped with light our eyes cannot see," said Odom, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. "The continuous wave, low-power characteristics will open numerous new applications, especially in biological imaging."