February 19, 2019

    Short Science News, Articles And The Latest Scientific Discoveries And Research

    Combined drug cancer therapy might be implemented in the near future

    Health | Feb 18, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Drug combination might become the new standard for the treatment of advanced renal cancer. Image: Nephron [CC BY-SA 3.0 (Creative commons)]
    Combined drug cancer therapy might be implemented in the near future - health short science news

    Clinical research is advancing for the future treatment of advanced cancers. A new report has disclosed the results of a phase III clinical study in which renal cancer patients were treated with two drugs: one used in immunotherapy, and one targeted to renal cancer.

    The results show that the tumor shrunk in more than 55% of the patients versus 25% of the patients that received standard treatment with the targeted drug only.

    However, many (38%) patients suffered from side effects related to the activation of the immune system, mostly resulting in thyroid disorders. The combined treatment is not curative, but prolongs life.

    Read the full story: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine


    Reversing depression by exciting excitatory neurons

    Mind and Brain | Feb 18, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Scientists continue to look for the genetic origin of depression
    Reversing depression by exciting excitatory neurons - brain short science news

    Activation of a gene known as SIRT1 in the prefrontal cortex can reduce the symptoms of depression in male mice, a new study shows.

    In the absence of this gene, the excitatory neurons in the prefrontal cortex have less mitochondria, the energy generators of the cell, and the mice show depressive behavior. SIRT1 is thus necessary to energize the excitatory neurons to prevent depression.

    While the SIRT1 gene had been found to be related to depression previously in women, modulating the amount of SIRT1 in female mice was without effect. Thus, SIRT1 has anti-depressive activity, but more research is needed to translate this finding to the clinic.

    Read the full story: Augusta University
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Teenage cannabis use linked to adult depression

    Mind and Brain | Feb 15, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Teenage cannabis use linked to adult depression - interesting science news
    Adolescent cannabis smoking might be considered cool, but it causes mental health problems

    Cannabis has been lot in news lately with all the health benefits it is touted for especially for psychosis. However, not much attention is given to its use and the risk of depression and anxiety.

    Now, researchers have done a huge meta-analysis comprising of 11 international studies, which included a total of 23,317 patients, and it shows that cannabis use especially in adolescents is associated with increased risk of depression and suicide in adulthood. However, its use is not linked to anxiety.

    This translates to about 400,000 adolescent cases of depression in the US alone. However, the study falls short of finding a dose-dependent risk of cannabis use.

    Read the full story: University of Oxford (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Molecular image of key enzyme in photosynthesis obtained

    Life | Feb 15, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The cryo-EM structure of the NAD(P)H dehydrogenase-like complex (NDH), a protein complex crucial for photosynthesis. Thomas Laughlin/UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab
    Molecular image of key enzyme in photosynthesis obtained - life short science news

    With the aid of the recently developed direct electron counting camera, researchers have succeeded in obtaining a molecular blueprint of a protein complex called NADH dehydrogenase-like complex from cyanobacteria.

    This complex plays an important role in photosynthesis, but its precise functions in the process of transforming sunlight into sugar can only now be explored in more detail.

    The current study could therefore have important implications for the production of bioproducts, such as plastic alternatives and biofuel.

    Read the full story: Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature


    The fundamental properties of matter revealed by merging neutron stars

    Space | Feb 15, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Simulation of merging neutron stars calculated with supercomputers. Different colors show the mass density and the temperature after the merger has taken place and before the object collapses to a black hole. Quarks could form where temperature and density are higher. Image: C. Breu, L. Rezzolla
    The fundamental properties of matter revealed by merging neutron stars - space short science news

    Quarks are the smallest building blocks of matter, and are always tightly bound inside protons and neutrons. However, neutron stars are so dense that it is possible for a transition from neutron matter to quark matter can occur.

    Scientists have found envidence for free quarks by measuring gravitational waves that were emitted by merging neutron stars, and using Einstein equations.

    Thus, a cosmic event of merging neutron stars gives insight in the fundemental properties of matter.

    Read the full story: Helmholtz Association (GSI)
    Scientific publication: Physical Review Letters


    Immersive virtual reality to treat autism phobias

    Mind and Brain | Feb 15, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Virtual reality scenarios may help autistic patients cope with their fears
    Immersive virtual reality to treat autism phobias - latest science news in brief

    Immersive virtual reality (VR) can help children with autism to overcome their phobias, according to a new research study. Scientists created a special room for VR experiences, which requires no googles, to allow patients to investigate various scenarios with the help of a therapist.

    In a randomized controlled trial, 32 children with autism received treatment for phobias using the VR system. According to the authors, 40% of children showed improvements 2 weeks later and 45% after six months.

    In a separate study, the VR room was also used for adults with autism. Although this study only tested on eight adults, five of them reported improved symptoms six months after the therapy.

    Read the full story: Newcastle University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders


    General anesthesia in infancy unlikely to be harmful

    Health | Feb 15, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A new study provides evidence that short exposure to anesthesia is safe for infants
    General anesthesia in infancy unlikely to be harmful - short science news

    For the first time, a randomized clinical trial assessed the effects of general anesthesia on children and their development. The study claims that one hour of anesthesia did not induce any measurable neurodevelopmental or behavioral problems up to the age of 5 years.

    This is evidence that brief general anesthesia, required by many surgical interventions, is safe for young children.

    The study involved 722 infants from seven countries. Since 84% of the participants were males, the findings should be confirmed in girls. Moreover, there is still the question if the same is true for longer exposure to anesthesia.

    Read the full story: EurekaAlert
    Scientific publication: The Lancet


    Farewell Opportunity!

    Space | Feb 14, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Opportunity rover has ended its mission on planet Mars after 15 years of exploration
    Farewell Opportunity! - Latest science and space news

    In the summer of 2003, NASA launched two rovers to explore the planet Mars: Opportunity and Spirit. Spirit ceased to operate in 2010, but Opportunity heroically continued to explore the planet until May 2018, when a massive sand storm covered its solar panels, preventing the batteries from recharging.

    Ever since the rover was in hibernation. NASA tried to contact and revive the explorer hundreds of times, without success. After all the efforts, the agency declared the rover “dead” on February 13, 2019. "I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration Rover mission complete," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said.

    Opportunity holds the record for the longest distance traveled on the surface of another world: 28.06 miles (45.16 km). Its mission was a success and carried on long after it was supposed to expire. It helped us to better understand planet Mars and for this, it will never be forgotten.

    Read the full story: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA


    Mechanism of solar wind heating discovered

    Space | Feb 14, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The MMS spacecraft measuring the solar wind plasma in the interaction region with the Earth's magnetic field. Image: NASA
    Mechanism of solar wind heating discovered - space short science news

    Scientists have shown that a process known as Landau damping is responsible for transferring energy from the electromagnetic plasma turbulence in space to electrons in the solar wind (stream of charged particles, i.e. plasma). This energizes the electrons and produces heat.

    This phenomenon was discovered with high-resolution measurements from NASA’s Magnetospheric Multi-Scale spacecraft, launched in 2015, together with a newly developed data analysis technique.

    Landau damping could explain why the solar corona is hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the Sun.

    Read the full story: Queen Mary University of London
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    A robot that finds its way like a desert ant

    Technology | Feb 14, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Antbot, the first walking robot that moves without GPS. Image: Julien Dupeyroux, ISM (CNRS/AMU)
    A robot that finds its way like a desert ant - technology short science news

    While moving robots find their way in their environment by GPS, researchers have now constructed one that navigates like a desert ant.

    Desert ants use the polarized pattern of skylight and combine this with an estimation of the distance traveled based on how many steps they took and to the rate at which the ground moves across the eye. The newly developed robot uses these principles successfully, as indicated by the mean homing error of only 0.67%.

    Thus, it seems possible to use the strategies found in ants for robotics, and could be combined with already existing techniques, researchers say.

    Read the full story: CNRS
    Scientific publication: Science Robotics


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