August 21, 2019

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

    Does CRISPR technology increase mortality?

    Life | Jun 04, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    DNA editing is still too dangerous to be used in humans
    Does CRISPR technology increase mortality? - life short science news

    You may remember that a Chinese scientist has applied a gene-editing technique called CRISPR in two human baby girls in 2018. Apart from ethical issues, there is now also concern that the genetic mutation that was introduced into the girls to protect them against HIV, is actually doing more harm than good.

    Researchers have now associated this mutation with a 21% increase in mortality later in life. This association is based on the analysis of 400,000 genomes and linked health records contained in a British database, the UK Biobank.

    Researchers conclude that CRISPR is still a far too risky technique to employ in humans, because health effects of many genes and gene mutations are largely unknown.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Tick tock goes the clock, throughout our body and not only in the brain

    Life | Jun 03, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Organs in our body can tell the difference between day and night
    Tick tock goes the clock, throughout our body and not only in the brain - life short science news

    New research has shown that organs can detect variations in light between day and night, even when they do not receive instructions anymore from the central clock in the hypothalamus of the brain.

    This remarkable finding was obtained in studies with mice in which organs could be studied independently of other organs.

    Thus, while the master clock in the brain is important for e.g. synchronization of activity of all organs, each individual organ can still function minimally (like organs preparing for the arrival of a meal) when other organs in the body have a failure.

    Read the full story: IRB Barcelona
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Neurons dump their waste to astrocytes

    Mind and Brain | Jun 03, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Human cultured astrocytes. Astrocytes protect neurons from toxic buildup. Image: Bruno Pascal [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
    Neurons dump their waste to astrocytes - brain short science news

    Neurons that are highly active damage their lipids, which can become toxic. A new study found that these neurons secrete these toxic, damaged lipids, which are then being taken up and processed by astrocytes.

    Astrocytes are helper cells in the brain, and channel the lipids from the neurons to their mitochondria to produce energy.

    Most cells of the body direct damaged lipids to their mitochondria, but neurons are apparently unusual in this, and unload their toxic lipids to neighboring astrocytes.

    Read the full story: Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Janelia Research Campus)
    Scientific publication: Cell


    A simple test developed to know if you are stressed

    Health | May 29, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    A machine in UC's Nanoelectronics Laboratory makes test strips that can measure stress biomarkers. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services
    A simple test developed to know if you are stressed - interesting science news

    Researchers have developed a very simple test, which can easily measure the common stress hormones in sweat, blood, saliva or urine in humans. Eventually they hope that patients monitor their health using this device.

    This device uses ultraviolet light to measure the stress hormones. What is unique of this device is that it can measure not one but multiple biomarkers of stress at the same time.

    While this device is not intended to replace a full laboratory blood test, it’s a do at home system which gives us a ballpoint estimate of the patients current health status.

    Read the full story: University of Cincinnati
    Scientific publication: ACS Sensors


    Making Oxygen from CO2

    Technology | May 29, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    In Giapis's reactor, carbon dioxide is converted into molecular oxygen. Credit: Caltech
    Making Oxygen from CO2  - interesting science news

    Exploring space with all its complexities has one big issue; we as humans need oxygen and hence we need to carry our own oxygen wherever we go into space.

    Scientists have now demonstrated a new chemical reaction for generating oxygen which could not only help us explore the universe but also fight climate change on Earth. They found that CO2 on collision with the comet surface effectively splitting it such that O2 gets released from the same CO2 molecule.

    The researchers used a gold foil to mimic the comet surface in their experiments. The basic requirements are that the surface and CO2 should crash each other at a very high speed like in a comet. While the current efficacy is very low (2 O2 molecules from 100 CO2 molecules), further refinement is being done right now.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Nature Communication


    Bacteria in fermented food signal to the immune system

    Life | May 27, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    D-phenyllactic acid is absorbed from lactic acid bacteria fermented food and induces HCA3-dependent migration in human monocytes (immune cells). Image: Claudia Stäubert
    Bacteria in fermented food signal to the immune system - life short science news

    Lactic acid bacteria, which convert cabbage into sauerkraut and milk into yoghurt, have been found to secrete a substance (D-phenyllactic acid) that binds to a particular receptor on immune cells unique to apes and humans.

    D-phenyllactic acid signals to the immune system and to fat cells that that both foreign substances and energy have entered the body.

    This signaling pathway from gut bacteria to cells in the body may be at the basis of the beneficial effects of eating fermented food (yoghurt, sauerkraut) on human health.

    Read the full story: Universität Leipzig
    Scientific publication: PLoS Genetics


    Genetic mutation protects against dementia

    Mind and Brain | May 27, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    A genetic mutation in the immune system of the brain protects against various forms of dementia
    Genetic mutation protects against dementia - brain short science news

    A mutation in the PLCG2 gene protects against various forms of dementia. Carriers of this mutation have a greatly increased chance of turning 100 without dementia. This finding is the result of genetic research conducted with no less than half a million of hundred-year-olds worldwide.

    PLCG2 is part of the immune system in the brain, suggesting that dementia is a result of faulty immune function in patients.

    Researchers now try to determine why PLCG2 protects against dementia, so that this effect might be mimicked by medication in the future.

    Read the full story: Amsterdam UMC (in Dutch)
    Scientific publication: Acta Neuropathologica


    How Moon helped bring water to Earth

    Earth | May 27, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Moon creation brought water to Earth
    How Moon helped bring water to Earth - interesting science news

    Earth is a pretty unique planet in our solar system since it is the only one with a large amount of water and also a relatively large moon. Now researchers claim that water came to earth due to formation of the moon.

    Earlier studies tell us that 4.5 billion years ago when the solar system was formed, the ‘dry’ material (which formed the Earth) was separated from the ‘wet’ material, the later being rich in water (which were the meteorites).

    Now scientists used the Molybdenum isotope to distinguish between dry and wet materials and found that the entire water on Earth came from the collision of the protoplanet Theia who’s collision on Earth 4.4 billion years ago formed the Moon. So, there would be no water if there would be no Moon.

    Read the full story: University of Münster
    Scientific publication: Nature Astronomy


    Gene targeting could help in treatment for Down’s syndrome

    Health | May 27, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Gene therapy could help in treating Down syndrome
    Gene targeting could help in treatment for Down’s syndrome - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that targeting specific genes before birth might help in treatment of Down’s syndrome by reversing the brain maldevelopment and also improving the cognitive functioning.

    The scientists developed two experimental models and used stem cells, which are cells that can turn into other cells in the brain. They found that inhibitory neurons were overproduced in these models of Down’s syndrome.

    The gene targeted was the OLIG2 gene, which helped in rebalancing the excitatory-inhibitory balance towards a more healthy setting. Someday this approach could be used for treatment in humans.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell


    Billion-year-old fossil of a fungus found in Canada

    Life | May 23, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Fungi such as these mushrooms have an evolutionary tree that goes back one billion years in time
    Billion-year-old fossil of a fungus found in Canada - life short science news

    Numerous microfossils of fungi have been found in Canada, which are up to one billion years old. This find pushes the age of fungi back by 450 million years.

    Fungi play an important role in ecosystems, as they break down organic material. This has led the discoverers of these old fungi to speculate that also other simple life must have existed at that time, although the oldest fossils of simple animals date back to “only” 635 million years ago.

    The newly discovered fungus, likely an ancestor of modern fungi, contained chitin, a fibrous component that forms fungi cell walls, making this the oldest record of chitin as well.

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


    Artificial photosynthesis for green energy advances

    Technology | May 23, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Under green light and assisted by an ionic liquid, gold nanoparticles, bottom, lend electrons to convert CO2 molecules, the red and grey spheres in the center, to more complex hydrocarbon fuel molecules. Image: Sungju Yu, Jain Lab at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Artificial photosynthesis for green energy advances - green technology short science news

    Researchers have succeeded to produce fuel from water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight, in a process that is similar to what plants use to generate energy from light (photosynthesis).

    By converting carbon dioxide into more complex organic molecules like propane, with the aid of gold as a catalyst in the chemical reactions, they have come closer to using excess carbon dioxide to store solar energy.

    While this artificial from of photosynthesis is not as efficient yet as natural photosynthesis in plants, the storing capacity of energy in the form of chemical bonds inn liquid fuel might be a strategy to be adopted in the future for the development of green energy.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Dead cells modulate how immune cells function

    Life | May 22, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Macrophages at a wound. Image: Dr Iwan Evans, University of Sheffield
    Dead cells modulate how immune cells function - life short science news

    Immune cells prioritize removal of dead cells over fighting infections and healing wounds, a new study found.

    While clearance of dead cells is important, during times of injury immune cells are needed at the wound to prevent infections and aid healing processess. Also, these cells can worsen many human conditions if they are at the wrong site or overactive.

    Researchers found that the protein Simu is needed to keep macorphages at wound sites in fruit flies, so that targeting this protein in humans might provide new possibilities for improved wound healing and less infections in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Sheffield
    Scientific publication: PLoS Biology


    Evolution of color revealed in fossilized mouse

    Life | May 22, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    A color pigment scan of a fossilised, three million old mouse. Image: University of Manchester
    Evolution of color revealed in fossilized mouse - life short science news

    Scientists have found red pigmet in the fur of a three million year old fossilized mouse.

    The chemistry of the pigment shows that the trace metals of the pigment in the mouse fur are bonded to organic chemicals, just like they are in modern day animals with red fur such as foxes.

    The combination of techniques used in this study have made it possible to study unstable pigments in fossils, revealing secrets of color evolution, and teaching us how animals have used color for their behavior in the past.

    Read the full story: University of Manchester
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Aluminium discovered around a young star

    Space | May 17, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Protostar Orion KL Source I, where aluminium has been discovered. The star is in the center of the image, surrounded by a gas disk (red). Image: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO), Hirota et al.
    Aluminium discovered around a young star - space short science news

    Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) discovered for the first time an aluminium-bearing molecule around a young star.

    Aluminium is part of the oldest objects formed in our Solar System, but until now it was not known how aluminium-rich materials contributed to star and planet formation.

    The discovery of aluminium oxide around a young star offers new possibilities to study early phases of meteorite and planet formation, researchers say.

    Read the full story: ALMA
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal Letters


    24% of West Antarctic ice has become unstable

    Earth | May 17, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Loss of Antarctic ice has raised global sea level by 4.6 mm since 1992
    24% of West Antarctic ice has become unstable - climate short science news

    In only 25 years, ice thinning has spread across West Antarctica so rapidly that now 24% of its glacier ice has become unstable, a new study found.

    By analysing satellite images taken between 1992 and 2017, which include over 800 million measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet height, it appeared that snowfall changed ice thickness only to a small extent, and that the most pronounced changes in ice thickness are the result of longer term changes in climate, such as increasing ocean temperatures.

    The loss of Antarctic ice has raised the global sea level by 4.6 mm since 1992.

    Read the full story: American Geophysical Union
    Scientific publication: Geophysical Research Letters


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