December 18, 2018

    Delayed high school start in the morning improves sleep, grades and attention in teenagers

    Health | Dec 13, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    When high school start is delayed, teenagers sleep longer in the morning
    Delayed high school start in the morning improves sleep, grades and attention in teenagers - health short science news

    Scientists have reported on the effects of delaying high school start from 7:50 am to 8:45 pm leads to increased sleep time in teenagers. Sleep measurements were done with wrist activity monitors, and not self-reports as is usually done in sleep research.

    While the teenagers did not go to bed later, but woke up later in the morning, sleep duration increased by more than half an hour (from 6 h 50 min to 7 h 24 min). This improved attention and grades at school.

    Scientists say that the new school times fit better with the biological clock of teenagers, although the teenagers still do not manage to sleep the recommended eight to ten hours each night.

    Read the full story: University of Washington – Seattle
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    Chronic bullying affects the brain structure

    Mind and Brain | Dec 13, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Bullying changes the brain structure
    Chronic bullying affects the brain structure - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found out that chronic peer victimization during adolescence has an impact on the mental health of these individuals due to structural changes in the brain. Of the 682 young people studied, 36 of them had suffered from chronic bullying.

    While, this research replicated the fact that chronic bullying leads to increased incidence of depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, the novelty of this study is that there was a decrease in the volumes of parts of the brain named caudate and putamen which are involved in reward sensitivity, motivation, attention and emotional processing.

    This shows that we need to limit bullying before it causes irreversible changes in the brain structure.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Looking at the birth of planets

    Space | Dec 13, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    ALMA's high-resolution images of nearby protoplanetary disks, which are results of the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project (DSHARP). Image: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Andrews et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello
    Looking at the birth of planets - space short science news

    Astronomers have acquired new insights into the speed with which planets can form by studying protoplanetary disks, the belts of dust and gas around young stars. The observations were made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

    The most striking finding was that that large planets the size of Neptune or Saturn from quickly, much faster than current theories hold for possible. Also, rocky planets like Earth can form without falling into their star by finding shelter in de protoplanetary disk.

    These and other observations are described in a series of papers in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Read the full story: National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal Letters


    Technology that can visualize nerve cells firing

    Mind and Brain | Dec 13, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Now we can visualize the activity of neurons
    Technology that can visualize nerve cells firing- short science news and articles

    Researchers have developed a non-invasive technology to detect firing of nerve cells on the basis of changes in shape. When neurons fire, there is a change in the electrical potential of the cells, but also there are subtle variations in the shape of the neuron.

    This leads to a very high signal to noise ratio and hence the researchers have developed an interferometric microscope with a high-speed camera which collects 50,000 frames per second. They further developed a new algorithm that can detect that part of the neuron which moves the most further boosting the signal.

    This technology can be used to observe the neuronal activity in light-accessible parts of the body such as the eyes which could help us monitor visual functions at a cellular level.

    Read the full story: NIH/National Eye Institute
    Scientific publication: Light: Science & Applications


    A non-opioid to treat chronic pain?

    Health | Dec 12, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    A new drug to treat chronic pain
    A non-opioid to treat chronic pain? - short science news and articles

    Researchers are developing a new drug which is now in its earliest stages to treat chronic pain without the addictive properties of opioids. This drug, technically named as the ML351, inhibits the 15-Lipoxygenase-1 enzyme which is involved in the synthesis of bioactive lipids which contribute directly to chronic pain which is usually not relieved by the anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

    Currently available drugs like the opioids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce pain from inflammation, but not so much for chronic pain.

    ML351 is targeting a new signaling pathway and it could be effective in treatment of chronic debilitating pain. This could also decrease the current opioid crisis.

    Read the full story: Virginia Tech
    Scientific publication: PAIN


    How social status affects the cellular response to stress

    Mind and Brain | Dec 12, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    The status in social hierarchy could play a role on how an individual responds to stress
    How social status affects the cellular response to stress - short science news and articles

    While stress is ubiquitous in our daily life, it seems that the social hierarchy plays an important role as to how our cells respond to stress. Researchers studied the effects of glucocorticoids (the stress hormone) injections on rhesus monkeys depending on their social hierarchy.

    It was observed that immune cells of the lower status monkeys responded less productively as compared to higher-status monkeys to glucocorticoid injections. One possible explanation could be due to gene accessibility. Interestingly, low status monkeys had immune system activation, but these cells were less accessible to signals from glucocorticoids as compared to cells from higher status monkeys.

    This indicates that not all individuals respond to stress similarly and other factors influence the animals response to stress.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Linking biological clocks with disease

    Health | Dec 12, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Circadian rhythms are guided by internal clocks in cells that enable organisms to adapt to night and day cycles
    Linking biological clocks with disease - health short science news

    Scientists have found a new biological clock in liver cells that helps sustain key organ tasks.

    Disruption of this clock, which is mediated by the nuclear receptor protein HNF4A, may lead to diseases such as diabetes and cancers.

    This new clock provides thus a biological connection between modern lifestyles, such as working nightshifts, urban dwelling and intercontinental travel, and disease.

    Read the full story: University of South Carolina
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Importing anxiety

    Mind and Brain | Dec 12, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    In mice lacking the protein called importin alpha-5 (right), MeCP2 (red), known to affect anxiety behaviors, stays on the outside brain cell nuclei (blue), instead of getting inside the nuclei, as it does in regular mice (left). Image : Weizmann Institute of Science
    Importing anxiety - brain short science news

    Researchers have found in mice that anxiety can be regulated by a particular protein, importin alpha 5. This protein is a transporter that shuttles another protein into the nucleus of the cell.

    This second protein, MeCP2, controls the expression of the gene Sphk1. When mice lack importin alpha 5, they are not anxious when they are placed in a stressful situation. Importantly, if the MeCP2-Sphk1 pathway is inhibited by a drug already used in schizophrenia (fingolimod) in normal mice, they also become less anxious.

    The current study has thus discovered a new biochemical pathway in brain cells that can be targeted for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

    Read the full story: Weizmann Institute of Science
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    Coffee to protect against Parkinson’s? Why Not..

    Mind and Brain | Dec 11, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Coffee could help in our fight against Parkinson's disease
    Coffee to protect against Parkinson’s? Why Not.. short science news and articles

    A new animal study has found that your daily cup of coffee with its caffeine and an additional component found in the waxy coating of the coffee beans might help protect against development of Parkinson’s disease.

    The additional substance called EHT is a derivative of serotonin and could work in synergy with caffeine to show these effects. While each component alone wasn’t effective, given together they prevented the accumulation of harmful substance alpha-synuclein in the brains of mice predisposed to developing these conditions.

    This gives new hope for developing therapies against Parkinson’s disease.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Shutting down genes to regrow damaged neurons

    Mind and Brain | Dec 11, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Inhibiting genes might be necessary to help nerves regenerate
    Shutting down genes to regrow damaged neurons - short science news and articles

    One of the holy grails of neurology is to find out how to regenerate neurons once they are injured since the neurons in the brain and the spinal cord do not regenerate as compared to those neurons in the rest of the body.

    Now, researchers have found out that while several genes are activated after a neuron is cut, there is a set of genes that needs to be inhibited for the cells to regenerate. These genes are specifically those involved in sending and receiving chemical and electrical signals which is primary duty of neurons in general.

    Plainly put, neurons have to stop doing what they are programmed to do and focus on repairing themselves once they are injured.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Early universe matter created in the laboratory

    Space | Dec 11, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Visualization of expanding drops of quark gluon plasmas in three geometric shapes. Image: Javier Orjuela Koop
    Early universe matter created in the laboratory - space short science news

    Scientists have created tiny droplets of extremely hot matter that are thought to have filled the early universe, i.e. the first microseconds after the Big Bang.

    The matter was in a liquid-like state called quark gluon plasma, and took the form of circles, ellipses and triangles.

    Scientists have never been closer before to answering the question of what the smallest amount of early universe matter could have been.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado – Boulder
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics


    Hope for the coral reefs

    Earth | Dec 11, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Scientists found that corals of the Great Barrier Reef responded differently to high sea water temperatures in 2016 and 2017
    Hope for the coral reefs - climate change short science news

    Scientists found that corals of the Great Barrier Reef responded differently to the high sea water temperatures in 2017 as compared with 2016.

    The rate of bleaching in 2017 appeared to be much less than in 2016, the latter causing the death of millions of corals. It appears that the more resistant species have survived the first bleaching event, and might have been better prepared for the second.

    Thus, the mix of coral species populating the Great Barrier Reef is changing, but not completely dying, as a consequence of global warming.

    Read the full story: Arc Centre of Excellence – Coral Reef Studies
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    Antimicrobial peptide engineered on the basis of wasp venom

    Health | Dec 11, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Venom of these South American wasps, Polybia paulista, has been repurposed to an antibiotic drug. Image: Wikimedia, Charles J Sharp
    Antimicrobial peptide engineered on the basis of wasp venom - health short science news

    In the quest for treatment options for antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections, scientists have repurposed the venom of South American wasps, normally toxic, to selectively kill bacteria while leaving body cells intact.

    The antimicrobial peptide was isolated and further biochemically optimized to keep its bacteria-fighting capacities while eliminating toxicity. The synthesized peptide was shown to affect human cells in culture, and could completely clear a Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in mice.

    Thus, optimizing naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides is a promising way to develop new antibiotic drugs.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications Biology


    Water molecules to unlock secrets of brain cells

    Mind and Brain | Dec 11, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    When electrical currents pass through the membrane of a neuron, water molecules realign and this allows monitoring of electrical activity in brain cells
    Water molecules to unlock secrets of brain cells - daily short science news headlines

    A team of researchers has come out with a new way of monitoring the electrical signals of neurons by analyzing the movement of water molecules surrounding their membranes.

    Normally, scientists measure the electrical signals of brain cells using electrodes or special molecules named fluorophores, both having disadvantages. Using water molecules as the readout is less invasive and the scientists successfully tested the technique in vitro, on mouse neurons.

    “When the membrane potential changes, the water molecules will re-orient – and we can observe that.”, the scientists declared. The discovery has potential applications both in research and in practice.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Just imagine charging your phone only two times per month

    Technology | Dec 10, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Fluoride based batteries might be the answer to longer lasting batteries
    Just imagine charging your phone only two times per month - short science news and articles

    Researchers have developed Fluoride-based batteries which could potentially last eight times longer effectively reducing the number of times you need to charge your devices. They have developed the first rechargeable fluoride batteries using liquid components that work at room temperatures.

    Batteries drive electric currents by shuttling ions between positive and negative electrodes. While, the current lithium-based batteries use positive lithium ions for this, the new fluoride-based batteries use negatively charged ions for the same.

    Importantly, it’s more difficult to move the lithium positive ion as compared to the single charged fluoride ion, thereby needing recharging less frequently.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Science


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