October 19, 2018

    Smoking by fathers may cause health problems in their children

    Health | Oct 19, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Nicotine changes the DNA in sperm cells, causing cognitive deficits in the offspring
    Smoking by fathers may cause health problems in their children - health science news

    Studies in mice have revealed that nicotine exposure induces epigenetic changes on the DNA in sperm cells. When the male mice that had received nicotine at the time of sperm production were mated with nicotine-free female mice, their offspring displayed hyperactivity, attention deficit and cognitive inflexibility. These neural problems were not caused by behavioral changes of the father, but by epigenetic changes of multiple genes. This included the dopamine receptor D2 gene, which is important for learning and brain development, and could be at the origin of the cognitive deficits in the offspring. Further research is necessary to determine whether similar epigenetic changes occur in sperm cells of smoking men.

    Read the full story: Florida State University
    Scientific publication: PLoS Biology

    Powerful blasts of radiation by young stars detected

    Space | Oct 19, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarfs (right) may make conditions uninhabitable on orbiting planets (left). Image: NASA, ESA, and D. Player (STScI)
    Powerful blasts of radiation by young stars detected - space science news

    Astronomers have observed a red dwarf star in a violent outburst, which was more powerful than ever detected from the sun. This powerful blast would likely prevent the habitability of any planets orbiting the red dwarf. The blast is likely powered by intense magnetic fields that get tangled by the roiling motions of the stellar atmosphere. When tangling gets too intense, the fields break, reconnect and unleash a tremendous amount of energy. The observation was made as part of a Hubble Telescope observing program.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal

    Origin of some cancers in young women revealed

    Health | Oct 19, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Migration of primordial germ cells in the human embryo. Image: Laurence Zulianello
    Origin of some cancers in young women revealed . health science news

    A new study has found that primordial germ cells (cells that will give rise to oocytes during adulthood) at times do not migrate to the gonads, but end up in the pancreas or the ovaries during embryonic development. Here, they increase the risk for cancer, which can occur thirty years later. This mechanism underlying these so-called « mucinous cancers » was found following large-scale analyses of genomic data. The faulty migration of primordial germ cells explains why only young women, not men, can have pancreatic cancer without the involvement of sex hormones.

    Read the full story: Université de Genève
    Scientific publication: Journal of Pathology

    Greening of the Arctic thaws permafrost

    Earth | Oct 18, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Plants insulated by snow thaw permafrost, thus increasing fresh water flow into lakes, rivers, and oceans
    Greening of the Arctic thaws permafrost - climate change science news

    Greening of the Arctic is not only the result of global warming, it has also become a local accelerator. When insulating snow covers the shrubs, it promotes the warming of the ground, thus thawing the permafrost. This will lead to increases in discharges of fresh water into rivers, lakes and oceans. These observations, strengthened with computer simulations, show that snow and vegetation interact to influence permafrost hydrology.

    Read the full story: Los Alamos National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters

    Largest galaxy proto-supercluster found

    Space | Oct 18, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    This colossal structure in the early universe is a galaxy proto-supercluster, named Hyperion; the image is based on real data. Image: ESO/L. Calçada & Olga Cucciati et al.
    Largest galaxy proto-supercluster found - space science news

    An international team of astronomers, using the VIMOS instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has found an enormous proto-supercluster forming in the early universe, 2.3 billion after the Big Bang. Its mass has been calculated to be more than one million billion times that of the sun. Unlike other superclusters and the supercluster of which our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part, mass is evenly distributed throughout the newly found proto-supercluster, which is due its relatively young age. These observations give more insight into the formation of the universe’s superclusters.

    Read the full story: European Southern Observatory
    Scientific publication: Astronomy and Astrophysics

    The electron is still round

    Space | Oct 18, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    In this artist's representation, an electron orbits an atom's nucleus, spinning about its axis as a cloud of other subatomic particles are constantly emitted and reabsorbed. Image: Nicolle R. Fuller, National Science Foundation
    The electron is still round - short science news

    Researchers have measured the shape of an electron’s charge with stunning precision, and found that it is perfectly spherical. This observation is in line with the so-called « Standard Model » of particle physics. However, the Standard Model is known be wrong, because it cannot explain why the universe exists. Several theories to replace the Standard Model have therefore been forwarded, that posit that there could be heavy particles in the electron’s presence. The current experiments, in which a beam of cold thorium-oxide molecules was fired into a chamber, and the emitted light from the molecules was measured, found no evidence for such heavy particles, as this would have distorted the emitted light pattern. Thus, the current alternative theories need rethinking, and the Standard Model, although not correct, is still the best we have to describe electrons and the universe’s mysteries.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Yellowstone has benefited from the reintroduction of wolves

    Life | Oct 17, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Reintroduction of wolves has made Yellowstone's ecosystem dynamic and complex
    Yellowstone has benefited from the reintroduction of wolves - ecology science news

    The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has made the park’s ecosystem very complex and heterogeneous, a new study shows. While human interventions in the park are kept minimal, the presence of wolves led to the recovery of a variety of plants and trees, and bison have replaced elk as the dominant herbivore in the Northern Range of the park. Yellowstone has thus benefited from the reintroduction of wolves in the park, but this success is not easy to recapitulate in other areas where the influence of human activity (agriculture, hunting, livestock) is dominant.

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Journal of Mammalogy

    Terrorism does not increase PTSD more than other distresses

    Health | Oct 17, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Ground zero. Interest for the effects of terrorism on mental health was sparked by the events of 9/11.
    Terrorism does not increase PTSD more than expected - health science news

    By reviewing more than 400 scientific publications describing the association between acts of terrorism and mental health, scientists conclude that terrorims does not cause more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than would be expected from any other traumatizing or distressing event. This observation goes against the much heard view in the media that terrorist attacks negatively impact on peoples’ psychological wellbeing. The scientists argue that policy-makers should focus more on promoting social bonds and people’s resilience in response to terrorist attacks, rather than stressing peoples’ psychological vulnerability.

    Read the full story: University of Bath
    Scientific publication: The Lancet Psychiatry

    NASA wants to send manned missions to Venus

    Space | Oct 17, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    One day, astronauts could hoover Venus using airships flying in the atmosphere of the planet. Credit: HAVOC/NASA
    NASA wants to send manned missions to Venus - space science news

    Planet Venus is one of the most inhospitable places one could imagine, with temperatures on the surface of 460 degrees Celsius, a toxic atmosphere and crushing pressure. However, this doesn’t stop NASA from planning a manned mission to Venus.

    The plan is to use ships that are able to hover the planet in its dense atmosphere. Between 50 and 60 km from the surface, the conditions in the atmosphere are similar to the ones found on Earth’s surface. Moreover, its density can protect astronauts from radiations.

    The imagined airship would float around Venus allowing the exploration of the planet. Overall, such a mission would require less time to complete than sending people to Mars.

    Read the full story: The Conversation
    Scientific publication: HAVOC Mission, NASA

    Controlling genes with light

    Technology | Oct 17, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Fluorescent cells shaped as number 10 (to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Department of Biosystems in Basel). In response to the light, transcription was initiated in the illuminated cells. Credit: Group Mustafa Khammash/ETH Zurich
    Controlling genes with light - science news

    Scientists report the development of a new technology that controls gene transcription using light. Gene transcription is the process that allows the conversion of DNA into RNA, a crucial step in producing proteins that impact how cells function.

    The researchers used single yeast cells genetically engineered to respond to blue light. When the light is present, the cells activate a transcription factor and thereby promote the transcription of a specific gene.

    Currently, the technique only works under the microscope, so the applications are limited. However, it is very useful for research, tissue engineering and, stem cells. Further studies will be conducted to expand the applicability of the discovery.

    Read the full story: ETH Zurich
    Scientific publication: Molecular Cell

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