October 20, 2018

    Newly discovered star allows study of early universe

    Space | Oct 09, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    One of the oldest stars in our galaxy has an odd chemical composition and it allows scientists to understand more about the beginning of the universe. Credit: EPFL
    Newly discovered star allows study of early universe - space science news

    Astrophysicists discovered a rare star, very old and extremely low in metals. Called Pristine 221, it is among the 10 most metal-poor stars known to date in our Galaxy. Moreover, the star is almost carbon-free.

    The scientists believe that it belongs to the early generation of stars formed in the galaxy. The discovery will allow us to learn more about the early universe and to understand how the first stars were formed.

    The discovery questions our present understanding about the formation of the early stars. It was thought that carbon was needed as a cooling agent, however, the low carbon content of Pristine 221 suggests the current model has to be revised.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


    Bioelectronic medicine: implantable and biodegradable electric device for nerve regeneration

    Technology | Oct 09, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Biodegradable electronic implant used for nerve regeneration. Image. Northwestern University
    Bioelectronic medicine: implantable and biodegradable electric device for nerve regeneration - health technology news

    Researchers have designed and tested a prototype of an implantable, biodegradable, and wireless device that accelerates the regeneration of nerves. This example of bioelectronic medicine delivers regular pulses of electricity to damaged peripheral nerves in rats. It is about the size of a dime, as thin as a sheet of paper, and is degraded within two weeks by the body. This type of technology could be used in patients in the future to deliver care at the location in the body where it is needed, during a clinically relevant period, and is therefore expected to cause less side effects or risks associated with implants that are in use today.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University (through Eurekalert)
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Genetic metabolic disease cured in mice by gene editing

    Health | Oct 09, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Repair of DNA by gene editing techniques might be the way forward to treat metabolic diseases in the future
    Genetic metabolic disease cured in mice by gene editing - health science news

    By using a new genome editing technique, researchers have repaired a gene (phenylalanine hydroxylase) in the liver that causes the metabolic disease known as phenylketonuria. This disease should be diagnosed as soon as possible in babies, because the baby’s diet has to be phenylalanine-free to prevent accumulation of this amino acid, and subsequent mental retardation. Gene repair was achieved by delivering the genes necessary for the repair in a harmless virus that infects liver cells. These cells will make use of the genes brought by the virus, and repair the gene, so that the liver can metabolize phenylalanine. Thus, this new gene editing technique holds great promise for the future treatment of this and other metabolic diseases in humans.

    Read the full story: ETH Zürich
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Global sea level rise projected to be 50 feet by 2300

    Earth | Oct 09, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Parts of New Jersey and New York with 8 feet of sea-level rise. Image: NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer
    Global sea level rise projected to be 50 feet by 2030 - climate science news

    Sea water level will rise by about 8 inches (20 cm) by 2100, and probably by 50 feet (1.5 m) by 2300, a new study reports. These estimations are based on methods that have reconstructed the past, and are then projected into the future. They represent a worst-case scenario, meaning a situation in which emissions of greenhouse gases remain high. These projected levels represent a real danger for coastal infrastructure, economies, and ecosystems around the world, including the 11 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people living in coastal areas below 33 feet (1 m) above sea level.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Annual Review of Environment and Resources


    Retail business success or failure predicted by social media and transport data

    Technology | Oct 09, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Social media and transport data can predict if a business will be a success or a failure
    Retail business success or failure predicted by social media and transport data - daily short science news

    Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a model that can predict if a given retail business will succeed or not, with an accuracy of 80%.

    To predict the future of a business, scientists used social media data and transport information. Their model included over 71 million check-ins from location-based social network and 181 million taxi trips. The data showed that across all ten cities tested, venues that are popular around the clock, rather than just at certain points of the day, are more likely to succeed.

    The model suggests that to ensure the success of a business, owners should consider the ways that people move to and through that neighbourhood at different times.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: ACM Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp)


    New clues about how Titan’s haze was formed

    Space | Oct 08, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The atmospheric haze of Titan, Saturn's largest moon (pictured here along Saturn's midsection), is captured in this natural-color image (box at left). Image: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Space Science Institute, Caltech
    New clues about how Titan’s haze was formed - space science news

    In a multidisciplinary approach including laboratory experiments, computer simulations and modeling, scientists found that the complex carbon structures found in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan could have been formed through chemical reactions under low temperature. This is contrary to current views that assume that the complex carbon structures, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), require high temperatures. The laboratory experiments formed the chemicals that have been observed in the atmosphere of Titan, the precise reaction mechanisms were revealed by the computer simulations, and the modeling showed how gases should flow so that they mix properly to produce the PAHs that form the brownish haze in Titan’s atmosphere.

    Read the full story: Berkeley National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Nature Astronomy


    Education improves economic decision-making

    Life | Oct 08, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Education equips people with better abilities to make high-quality choices
    Education improves economic decision-making - life science news

    Education support and laboratory experiments that mimicked real-life situations improved economic decision-making in a group of nearly 3,000 girls in secondary schools in Malawi. The students received one year of financial support, and the effects on economic choices the students made were assessed four years later. It turned out that students tried to obtain the greatest value possible from an economic decision, which is a criterion for economic rationality. Thus, education is a tool for enhancing and individual’s economic decision-making quality.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Science


    This is how the brain forms memories during sleep

    Mind and Brain | Oct 08, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Memories are stored in your brain while you sleep
    This is how the brain forms memories during sleep - neuroscience news

    Neuroscientists have for the first time recorded the brain activity underlying memory. They did this in epileptic patients that had electrodes implanted for surgery (this is normal procedure in these patients). The participants were shown a set of pictures to memorize, and then took an afternoon nap. Recordings through the electrodes revealed a characteristic electrical band pattern (known as gamma oscillations), that occurred in two phases: a superficial processing phase that took place during the first half a second after image presentation, and a deep processing phase after that. For memory to form, this activity during the deep processing phase had to coincide with a particular form of activity in the hippocampus, known as ripples. When gamma activity was reactivated when the hippocampal ripples did not occur, the information about the picture was forgotten.

    Read the full story: Ruhr Univerität Bochum
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Our viral defenses are inherited from Neanderthals

    Life | Oct 05, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    We inherited DNA from Neanderthals that helps us to fight viral infections. Image: Claire Scully
    Our viral defenses are inherited from Neanderthals - life science news

    New research has shown that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred and exchanged viruses. The Neanderthal DNA ended up in our DNA, and helps us to protect ourselves against viruses. This DNA-based adaptation was particularly strong against RNA viruses in Europeans. Thus, before vanishing from the globe, Neanderthals gave us the genetic tools to fight viral infections.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Species-rich forests take up twice as much carbon as monocultures

    Earth | Oct 05, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The more variety in tree species, the more carbon a forest will store. Image: UZH
    Species-rich forests take up twice as much carbon as monocultures - Earth science news

    Subtropical forests with a rich variety of tree species store more than twice as much carbon as monocultures, new research shows. This has been concluded after evaluation of data from forests that had been planted especially for this study in China, and included over 150,000 trees. Species-rich forests stored 32 tons, while monocultures stored only 12 tons of carbon per hectare. These data follow the ones that had already been documented for grasslands in the US and Europe, and indicate that reforestation should involve the planting of many different tree species for better productivity and protection from climate changes.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Science


    Aggressive prostate and lung cancers share similar mechanisms

    Health | Oct 05, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Two cancers originating from different organs share very similar genetic mechanisms when they become invasive. A microscopic image of small cell neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Credit: UCLA
    Aggressive prostate and lung cancers share similar mechanisms - health science news - cancer

    The development of late-stage prostate and lung cancers is similar in the genetic mechanisms that underly their aggressivity, according to a new study.

    Even if initially they are genetically very different, when they reach the small cells stage (highly malignant cancer) they become almost identical.

    Discovery of the shared mechanisms could lead to a better understanding of invasive cancers and may help to discover the “master genes” that regulate cancer development and spreading.

    Read the full story: University of California, Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: Science


    Malaria severity depends on immune cells variations

    Health | Oct 05, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A natural killer (NK) cell binds to a malaria-infected red blood cell and destroys it. Credit: Weijian Ye, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology
    Malaria severity depends on immune cells variations - science news

    According to new research, the severity of malaria is influenced by the failure of some components of the immune system to effectively destroy infected blood cells.

    Basically, a type of immune cells (NK – natural killer) cannot activate a genetic programme required to fight the disease. This doesn’t happen in all individuals, due to variations in the NK cells, and it explains why some people are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of malaria.

    Researchers managed to re-activate these cells in the lab, suggesting the possibility to develop treatments that could reduce the severity of malaria.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: PLOS Pathogens


    The two moons of Mars could be pieces of the planet itself

    Space | Oct 05, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars, could be pieces ripped away from the planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.
    The two moons of Mars could be pieces of the planet itself - space science news headlines

    A new study about the origin of the two Martian moons contradicts previous long-lasting theories claiming that Phobos and Deimos, were asteroids captured in Mars’ gravitational pull.

    According to the new research study, the moons are made up of pieces of planet Mars itself. Most likely they were blasted off of Mars at some point in the history of the planet.

    The conclusion was based on comparing the spectral properties of the Tagish Lake meteorite (coming from the asteroid belt) with those of the Martian moons. This hypothesis is similar to the current theories about the origin of the Earth’s moon.

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Journal of Geophysical Research


    New system can spot fake news at the source

    Technology | Oct 04, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Fake news could be stopped at the origin with this new algorithm
    New system can spot fake news at the source - science news

    Detecting fake news is not an easy task, and many companies invest millions in this direction.

    Now, researchers from MIT have developed a new approach, based on machine learning, to identify fake news right at the source. The system automatically collects data about different websites and after analyzing about 150 articles it can reliably estimate whether a news source is trustable.

    The system is still in development however, it helped already establish a database of 1,000 news sources, annotated with factuality and bias scores, that is the world’s largest database of its kind.

    Read the full story: MIT


    Pseudo-embryos from stem cells created in the lab

    Life | Oct 04, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Embryos created from stem cells could open new possibilities for developmental biology. Seven-day old gastruloid. Credit: Mehmet Girgin, EPFL
    Pseud-embryos from stem cells created in the lab - science news
    A new research study reports that mouse stem cells have the ability to produce pseudo-embryos, similar in many aspects to real embryos of 6 to 10 days.

    The study showed that the three main embryonic axes were formed using around 300 stem cells, according to a gene expression program similar to that of normal embryos.

    This new approach has great potential for the study of the early stages of development in mammals and could one day replace the use of real embryos in research.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Nature


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