October 18, 2018

    Cause of dementia may be found in the embryonic stage

    Mind and Brain | Oct 15, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Dementia may be caused by DNA replication errors in the womb
    Cause of dementia may be found in the embryonic stage - neuroscience news

    While dementia (Alzheimers’ disease, Lewy body dementia) has a genetic component, for most patients there are no cases of the disease in their family history. Scientists have now found, by genetic analyses of human brain samples, that spontaneous errors in our DNA might explain the development of dementia. These errors occur already during embryonic development as cells divide and replicate. Some of these errors result in wrongly folded proteins in the brain at old age, and cause dementia. Thus, the origin of dementia for most patients traces back to the time when they were not even born.

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


    Dissolving snails due to acidification of seawater

    Life | Oct 15, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    A comparison of shells assessed during the research, with the top shell taken from waters with present-day CO22 levels and the bottom one from waters with future predicted levels. Image: Ben Harvey/University of Tsukuba
    Dissolving snails due to acidification of seawater - life science news

    Biologists have found that increased CO2 levels in seawater harms the shell of the snail Charonia lampas, or triton shell. The research was conducted off the coast of Shikinejima in Japan, where CO2 bubbles up from the seabed. This allowed the scientists to assess the effects of future high CO2 levels. The snails living in this CO2-rich area were one third smaller than the snails living in other parts of the ocean nearby, where CO2 levels are still normal. Further, high CO2 levels negatively influenced thickness, density, and structure of the shells. These effects are caused by increased stress imposed by acidification of the water, which reduces the snails’ ability to control the calcification process. The researchers conclude that increased acidification of the oceans will impact on shellfish fisheries and marine ecosystems.

    Read the full story: University of Plymouth
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Marine Science


    Panspermia at galactic scale: could Milky Way spread life?

    Space | Oct 13, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Stellar systems could exchange the building elements of life. Credit: NASA
    Panspermia at galactic scale: could Milky Way spread life? - science news

    The Panspermia theory claims that life may be spread throughout the universe by astronomical objects, such as asteroids.

    Now, a new study tried to understand if panspermia could be possible on a galactic scale.
    The study used a theoretical model to determine how likely it is that objects are being exchanged between star systems on a galactic scale. The model predicted that, even in the worst cases scenarios, Milky Way could be exchanging biotic components across vast distances.

    Thus, the study concluded that panspermia is viable on galactic scales, and even between galaxies. In principle, life could even be transferred between galaxies, since some stars escape from the Milky Way,” said Abraham Loeb, one of the authors.

    Read the full story: Universe Today
    Scientific publication: Arxiv


    Metabolites predict the risk for obesity-related diseases

    Health | Oct 12, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The pattern of the presence of many metabolites is the best predictor of obesity-related diseases
    Metabolites predict the risk for obesity-related diseases - health science news

    Predictors of future diabetes and cardiovascular disease for a person with obesity can be found among the body’s metabolites, new research shows. Metabolites were analyzed in almost 2400 people and it appeared that the composition of metabolites was profoundly altered with obesity. The most important changes concerned the metabolites that influence how the body distributes fat. 49 of the metabolites showed a strong correlation with the body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity. The measurements allowed for an accurate prediction rate of obesity status of 80-90 percent. The study shows that looking at one metabolite or one indicator often is not enough for proper prediction of disease, but that the pattern of metabolites as a whole is the best biomarker.

    Read the full story: Scripps Research
    Scientific publication: Cell Metabolism


    Reprogramming mature mouse neurons

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

    Surprise! Mature neurons can be reprogrammed to become another type of neuron
    Reprogramming mature mouse neurons - neuroscience news

    While trying to convert supporting brain cells (glia cells) into neurons that produce dopamine, neuroscientists instead reprogrammed mature mouse inhibitory, GABAergic, neurons into dopamine neurons (these are lost in Parkinson’s disease). This came as a big surprise, as until now it was believed that mature neurons cannot be reprogrammed to become some other type of neuron. Researchers use stem cells instead to produce a wide variety of neurons, but apparently this is not always necesssary.

    Read the full story: UT Southwestern Medial Center
    Scientific publication: Stem Cell Reports


    Self-healing polymers produced at low cost

    Technology | Oct 12, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Broken screens of portable telephones might be a thing of the past soon with the development of new self-healing polymers that can be used for the coating of the screen.
    Self-healing polymers produced at low cost - technology science news

    A new study reports the production of a new self-healing polymer that is cheap and can be applied to for instance the coating of cell phone screens, plastics, and paints. The researchers took advantage of interactions between co-polymers that look like spaghetti strands with little brushes on the side. When they get longer, they become more entangled, and the side groups interlock so that it becomes harder to pull them apart. Also, when they are being pulled out, they come back together, and are self-healing like our skin. Researchers expect that the polymers can be synthesized at an industrial scale relatively soon.

    Read the full story: Clemson University
    Scientific publication: Science


    The death of a star and the birth of a particular neutron star configuration

    Space | Oct 11, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The three panels represent moments before, during, and after the faint supernova iPTF14gqr, visible in the middle panel, appeared in the outskirts of a spiral galaxy located 920 million light years away. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt
    The death of a star and the birth of a particular neutron star configuration - space science news

    Astronomers have observed the death of a massive star that exploded in a rapidly faiding supernova. This observation gives rise to think that the dying star had an undetected companion, and that the exploded star became a neutron star orbiting this companion, according to the researchers. Thus, the death of the massive star gave birth to a compact neutron binary system, a phenomenon that had never been observed before.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Science


    Noninvasive blood glucose test appears effective

    Health | Oct 11, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Device uses laser technology to detect glucose levels under the skin, an alternative to painful pricking. Image: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Noninvasive blood glucose test appears effective - diabetes science news

    In the queste for noninvasive methods to measure glucose in the blood, researchers have now established a laser device that accurately detects glucose levels under the skin. When comparing the results of glucose measuring through a painful finger prick, the new laser technology obtains similar acurate glucose values in twenty healthy volunteers, before and after drinking a glucose-rich beverage. For those living with diabetes, and having to monitor their glucose levels on a daily basis, there seems to be hope on the horizon that, after further testing of the device, painful finger pricking will no longer be necessary in the not too distant future.

    Read the full story: University of Missouri
    Scientific publication: Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry


    Feed bacteria with gold, and they will produce more biofuel

    Technology | Oct 10, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    A single nanocluster of 22 gold atoms -- Au22 -- is only 1 nanometer in diameter, allowing it to easily slip through the bacterial cell wall. Image: Peidong Yang, UC Berkeley
    Feed bacteria with gold, and they will produce more biofuel - biotechnology science news

    Researchers have established that feeding the bacterium Moorella thermoacetica with gold clusters of 1 nm in size transforms them into an artificial photosynthesis system. The bacteria take up the gold particles quite efficiently, and have thus a sunlight-absorbing metal inside that is close to the enzymes involved in photosynthesis and electron transfer to generate energy. This energy can be used for the production of useful chemicals, including biofuel.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley – College of Chemistry
    Scientific publication: Nature Nanotechnology


    New approach solves problem with excess heat for fusion power plants

    Technology | Oct 10, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Compacting reactors could reduce the danger of excess heat for fusion power plants. Credit: MIT
    New approach solves problem with excess heat for fusion power plants - science news - energy production

    The development of real fusion power plants is facing several problems. For example: how to get rid of the excess heat that would cause structural damage to the plant?

    Now, a group of scientists came up with a possible solution to this problem: using an innovative approach the scientists can compact fusion reactors using superconducting magnets.

    The new design has several added advantages, like allowing the replacement of critical components, which is not possible in typical fusion plants designs.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Fusion Engineering and Design


    The chemistry of the oceans is changing

    Earth | Oct 10, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Acidification of oceans impacts on marine ecosystems. Image: Liang Xue/ University of Delaware
    The chemistry of the oceans is changing - Earth science news

    The ongoing acidification of oceans has been attributed to vast capacity of the oceans to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but new research has shown that this cannot be the only culprit. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, the western winds that strengthen during summer, bring more acidic surface water from higher latitudes, and from subsurface polar water that naturally stores much carbon dioxide. The resulting increased acidification of the Southern Ocean surface water is therefore greater than can be caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The data help to understand how ocean acidification is controlled, which is important for predicting the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine ecosystems in the future.

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


    Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field for navigation

    Life | Oct 10, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A new study shows for the first time that the Atlantic salmon uses magnetic fields for navigation. Credit: Oregon State University
    Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field for navigation - science news

    Similar to their relatives, the Pacific salmon, the Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field as a navigational tool, according to a new study.

    Interestingly, the study showed that the fish do not lose the ability to use the magnetic field as a GPS through several generations, even after they have been transplanted into a land-locked lake.

    The use of the magnetic field explains, in part, how salmon can find the way to their river of origin. This ability does not seem to be lost when not used, as in the case of the fish confined to a small space.

    Read the full story: Oregon State University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


    Planet size puts limits on its chemical composition

    Space | Oct 10, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Model of a planet with a rocky core and a gaseous atmosphere. Image: UZH
    Planet size puts limits on its chemical composition - space science news

    A computational analysis has revealed that the chemical composition and structure of exoplanets has a so-called “threshold radius”, that sets limits as to what a planet can be made off. For instance, planets with a radius of 1.4 times that of the Earth can be earth-like, i.e. have a similar chemical composition than our planet. Planets with a radius above this will contain more silicates or other light materials, planets with a radius of more 1.6 times that of the Earth will have more hydrogen-helium gas and a rocky core. Big planets (with 2.6 times the radius of the Earth) cannot contain water, and the giant planets (with 4 or more times the radius of the Earth) would be very gaseous, much like Jupiter and Neptune in our solar system. Thus, this analysis provides an estimation of whether a planet is earth-like, is made of gas or rock, or is a water-world.

    Read the full story: University of Zürich
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal


    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


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