February 18, 2019

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

    Possible vulcanic activity under the surface of Mars

    Space | Feb 13, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The Martian South Pole. A new study argues there needs to be an underground source of heat for liquid water to exist underneath the polar ice cap. Image: NASA
    Possible vulcanic activity under the surface of Mars - space short science news

    While a recent study had reported the presence of liquid water under the icecap of the Martian southpole, it is still unknown how water could from there in such a cold environment.

    A new modeling study suggests that high salt concentrations (necessary to lower the freezing point of water) cannot explain the presence of the liquid water. Local temperature should therefore be higher under the icecap, and scientists think that this is because of underground volcanic activity.

    This should heat up the crust enough to melt the ice under the iceshheet of the Martian southpole. More research is needed to confirm this theory, however.

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


    Asymmetrical pollen grains are preferred by nature

    Life | Feb 12, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Asymmetical pollen patterns are favored by nature over symmetrical pollen patterns. Image: SEM images: Asja Radja; Simulations: Asja Radja and Maxim Lavrentovich.
    Asymmetrical pollen grains are preferred by nature - life short science news

    Plants favor the production of uneven, asymmetrical patterns on the surface of pollen grains over more symmetrical patterns, a new study shows.

    It seems that pollen evolve into asymmetrical pattern because of kinetic arrest of pattern evolution, which would lead to symmetrical forms when pattern evolution is completed.

    This interpretation was made possible with a biophysical model that researchers hope to refine to shed more light on pollen evolution and to explore the possibility of designing artificial pollen.

    Read the full story: University of Tennessee
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Alzheimer’s linked to insulin signaling failure

    Mind and Brain | Feb 12, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Diabetes and its link to Alzheimer's revealed
    Alzheimer’s linked to insulin signaling failure - interesting science news

    Researchers have found that impaired insulin signalling in the brain diminishes its learning and memory properties as a result of which those with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    Researchers developed a new mouse model in which they blocked the expression of insulin and insulin like growth factor receptors in the brain regions involved with learning and memory by testing these mice in a maze.

    These mice also had decreased expression of the glutamate receptor GluA1 which is involved in making important brain connections. This could be the reason for altered mood and cognition impairment in these mice.

    Read the full story: Joslin Diabetes Center
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent miscarriages

    Health | Feb 12, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Fatty acids may help reduce bacteria-induced pregnancy problems
    Omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent miscarriages - science news articles

    Between 10 and 30% of preterm births are caused by uterine infections with a type of bacteria named F. nucleatum, commonly found in the mouth. When reaching the placenta, the bacteria causes inflammation, which endangers the pregnancy.

    The scientists discovered that omega-3 fatty acids, common in fish oil, were able to reduce the inflammation and bacterial growth in lab animals. Moreover, supplements with these fatty acids reduced miscarriages in pregnant mice.

    To prove the same benefits will be available to humans, the omega-3 acids should be tested in future clinical trials.

    Read the full story: Columbia University
    Scientific publication: JCI Insight


    Cocaine addiction linked to increased number of orexin neurons

    Mind and Brain | Feb 12, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A specific type of neurons might mediate cocaine addiction
    Cocaine addiction linked to increased number of orexin neurons - top science news stories

    In a new research study, scientists found an interesting correlation between a type of brain cells called orexin neurons and cocaine addiction. When the number of orexin neurons is higher the chance of becoming addicted or relapsing is increased.

    The study involved rats that were addicted. These animals had a greater number of brain cells that produce orexins. The increase in neurons lasted for up to six months after cocaine use, which might explain why addicts often relapse.

    Interestingly, when researchers restored the number of neurons to normal, cocaine-seeking rats were no longer addicted. Moreover, a previous study already showed a similar pattern in humans that were addicted to heroin.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry


    Spinal cord can perform complicated tasks, independent from the brain

    Mind and Brain | Feb 11, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Spinal stretch reflexes help to control hand position
    Spinal cord can perform complicated tasks, independent from the brain - neuroscience short news

    The spinal cord can control complex functions, and not only the brain is able to doing so, new research indicates.

    While the spinal cord has always been conceived as a highway of passing information back and forth between the brain and the body, it can control complex tasks such as maintaining the position and orientation of the hand.

    This finding was made possible by the use of specialized robotic technology, and raises questions of what other smart things the spinal cord can do by itself, without instructions from the brain.

    Read the full story: University of Western Ontario
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Sea snakes do not drink seawater

    Life | Feb 11, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus) is the only reptile in the order Squamata that lives on the open sea. Image: Mark Sandfoss, University of Florida
    Sea snakes do not drink seawater - life short science news

    In contrast to what biologists had always assumed, sea water snakes do not drink seawater, and need freshwater in order not to dehydrate.

    Now it turns out that sea snakes can drink freshwater after heavy rains, when the rainwater forms lenses or patches on the surface of the seawater.

    This is of a low enough salinity for the sea snakes to drink.

    Read the full story: University of Florida
    Scientific publication: PLoS ONE


    No more insulin injections? That’s cool

    Health | Feb 11, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    An MIT-led research team has developed a drug capsule that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin. Credit: Felice Frankel
    No more insulin injections? That’s cool - interesting science news

    Researchers from the MIT have developed a drug capsule which was deliver insulin orally which could potentially replace insulin injections in patients with type 2 diabetes which they need everyday.

    A few years back another drug capsule was developed which was coated with several tiny needles, which could inject the drug in the stomach lining or small intestine. However, the new capsule has just 1 needle thereby avoiding the injection in the stomach, which used to break down the insulin by the stomach acid.

    The researchers have also developed a technology to control the rate at which the insulin can be released so that it can be optimized for each patient.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Science


    Exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s? Why not

    Mind and Brain | Feb 11, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Exercises like swimming could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease
    Exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s? Why not - interesting science news

    Physical activity has been shown to improve memory. However, now researchers have shown that it could also decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Recently, it was shown that exercise releases a hormone named irisin. While the initial thought was that it was involved in energy metabolism, now researchers have shown that it also improves neuronal growth in the hippocampus, which is a brain region, involved with learning and memory. More interestingly, post mortem evidence showed that irisin levels were lower in patients who had Alzheimer’s.

    The researchers then tested the hypothesis in mice and found that inhibiting irisin in healthy mice impaired their memory and boosting its level improved it. This could be the first step towards developing new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

    Read the full story: Columbia University Irving Medical Center
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Choosing a high-calorie dessert first might be good

    Mind and Brain | Feb 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Lets start choosing desserts first
    Choosing a high-calorie dessert first might be good - interesting science news

    It’s the usual scenario, we go to a restaurant, eat a heavy meal and then choose the dessert which is even more high on calories. Now, psychologists have found out that if we flip the situation and first choose a high-calorie dessert, then we might actually end up have a healthier main course. But there is a caveat.

    The caveat being, if there was a lot on the mind of the person and he/she were distracted, then the participants who chose an indulgent dessert also choose a high calorie main dish.

    This shows that restaurants and cafeterias as well as food delivery websites could promote healthy eating depending on where they place those high calorie dessert. Whether they would do that is another question all together.

    Read the full story: American Psychological Association
    Scientific publication: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied


    Beer before wine and its fine? No, say scientists

    Mind and Brain | Feb 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Only the amount of alcohol you drink matters for Hangover; the order doesn't
    Beer before wine and its fine? No, say scientists - interesting science news

    There is an age old saying, ‘Beer before wine and you will feel fine; wine before beer and you will feel queer.’ Now, scientists actually tested this theory to know if the order in which we drink alcohol is important for avoiding hangover.

    To everyone’s disappointment, it really doesn’t matter and the amount of alcohol a person drinks is much more important than the order in which you drink. The researchers studied three groups of individuals with varying sequence of alcohol intake and found that as per the Acute Hangover Scale which is based on thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea and other symptoms, all groups had similar Hangover score.

    The most important aspect of this study was that it had a crossover design which means that the same person was made to drink different sequence of alcohol on different days thereby negating any individual differences.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


    Simple drug formulation turns astrocytes into neurons

    Mind and Brain | Feb 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    A simple treatment using four small molecules converts human astrocytes - a common type of cells in the nervous system - into new neurons Image: Gong Chen Lab, Penn State
    Simple drug formulation turns astrocytes into neurons - brain short science news

    The biggest hurdle to recovery after neuronal damage is the fact that neurons do not divide. Cells known as astrocytes that support and insulate neurons can divide and infiltrate the side of nerve injury.

    Now, scientists have developed a simple formula consisting of only four drugs that turn human astrocytes into functional neurons.

    While these results were obtained in a lab dish, scientists say that an important step forward has been made for effective treatment of nerve injuries in the future.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: Stem Cell Reports


    Fighting cancer cells from within

    Health | Feb 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Cytological specimen showing cervical cancer. Image: National Cancer Institute / Wikimedia Commons
    Fighting cancer cells from within - health short science news

    A new cancer drug invades cancer cells and kills them. This new concept has shown promise in patients with six different cancer types.

    In patients with advanced, drug-resistant cancers, over a quarter with cervical and bladder tumours, and nearly 15 per cent with ovarian and lung tumours, responded to the new treatment. Results have allowed to move the drug forward to phase II clinical testing, to test it at a larger scale in more patients.

    This is an especially hopeful development for patients whose cancers do not respond to regular drug treatment.

    Read the full story: The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
    Scientific publication: The Lancet Oncology


    Microscopic, soft robots might keep you healthy in the future

    Technology | Feb 08, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Tiny, modular robots, powered by small muscles could have important applications in medicine. Credit: Microbiorobotic Systems Laboratory (MICROBS), EPFL
    Microscopic, soft robots might keep you healthy in the near future - science news articles

    A team of researchers reports the development of microscopic, soft micromachines, able to travel inside the body and mechanically stimulate cells and tissues. The tiny robots are powered by artificial muscles, the size of a cell and are wirelessly activated by laser beams.

    Inside the human body, there is a variety of mechanical stimuli that act on tissues affecting their ability to carry on physiological functions. The scientists aim to control and reproduce these types of stimuli using the micromachines.

    For the moment the discovery is used for fundamental research, but the technology has practical applications too. Soon, these devices could be used as medical implants with the aim of improving the health of human beings.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Lab on a Chip


    Hidden history of bacteria evolution revealed

    Life | Feb 08, 2019 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Bacteria underwent a boost in evolution in the Paleozoic Era
    Hidden history of bacteria evolution revealed - latest science news stories

    Since bacteria is not well represented in fossil records it is difficult for science to understand how different groups evolved. Now, researchers have devised a new approach to pinpoint evolutionary milestones for these microorganisms.

    Using the new approach, scientists discovered that around 450 to 350 million years ago, several groups of soil bacteria acquired a new gene from fungi. This allowed them to digest chitin, a hard material found in fungi and insects. This allowed the bacteria to thrive in a chitin-rich environment.

    This evolutionary step occurred at the same time with the diversification of land animals including chitin-producing arthropods as shown by fossil records.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: BMC Evolutionary Biology


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