August 15, 2018

    Latest in fashion: clothing with electronic devices built right into it

    Technology | Aug 09, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    For the first time, scientists created fibers with embedded electronics that are so flexible they can be woven into soft fabrics and made into wearable clothing. Credit: the researchers / MIT
    Latest in fashion: clothing with electronic devices built right into it - science news

    Researchers managed to create textiles and fibers that incorporate high-speed optoelectronic semiconductor devices, including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and diode photodetectors. The tiny electronic devices were embedded within the fibers that were then woven into soft, washable fabrics. As a result, “smart” clothing can be obtained that behave like communication systems. This discovery, the researchers say, could unleash a rapid development for smart fabrics. The capabilities of fibers could grow rapidly and exponentially over time, just as the capabilities of microchips have grown over decades.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Poor maturation of synapses responsible for poor social interactions in autism

    Mind and Brain | Aug 09, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Picture of Dopamine neurons involved in Social interaction. Credit: UNIGE
    Poor maturation of synapses responsible for poor social interactions in autism - science news in short

    One of the hallmark symptoms of autism is a deficit in social interactions. A new study from the Universities of Geneva and Basel revealed some of the neural mechanism that could explain how this happens. A malfunction of the synaptic activity of the neurons present in the reward system seems to be important. To understand this, scientists studied mice in whom a gene called “Neuroligin 3” was suppressed or whose activity in dopaminergic neurons had been greatly reduced, in order to imitate a mutation identified in autistic people. Unlike their counterparts, these mice had a lack of interest in novelty and less motivation to interact socially, behavioral traits frequently found in some autistic individuals. The study is taking one step further in the understanding of a disorder that affects more than one child in 200 today.

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


    A germinating seed has only 48 hours to become a plant and survive

    Life | Aug 05, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A germinating seed must turn into a small plant before its reserves have exhausted
    A germinating seed has only 48 hours to become a plant and survive - science news

    A germinating seed has only two days to become a young seedling capable of photosynthesis otherwise, the plant will not survive. During these first 48 hours, it relies solely on its internal reserves, which are quickly consumed. If photosynthesis doesn’t start immediately after, the plant will die. A new study showed that this process is controlled by a key mechanism that direct the formation of chloroplasts from proplastids, hitherto poorly studied organelles. This mechanism ensures a rapid transition to autonomous growth, as soon as the seed decides to germinate.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Where the mysterious builders of Stonehenge came from?

    Earth | Aug 03, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Strontium levels in bones from an ancient burial site allow scientists to tell where the builders of Stonehenge came from. Credit: Freesaly, Flickr
    Where the mysterious builders of Stonehenge came from - short science news

    About five thousand years ago, the builders of the mysterious Stonehenge monument buried cremated bodies near Amesbury, U.K. Now, archeologists are investigating this ancient burial site and they think that now they know where those people came from. The burials of 58 individuals were uncovered in 1919. Dating of the remains revealed that the cremations were interred during the earliest stages of the construction of Stonehenge, from 3000 to 2480 B.C.E. The study suggests that 10 of the builders were living most probably west Wales; the remaining 15 bodies investigated were from the region local to Stonehenge. The researchers analyzed Strontium levels in the bones to conclude this.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Bacteria becoming resistant to hospital hand disinfectant

    Health | Aug 03, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    One hospital superbug is becoming tolerant to alcohol and thus hand disinfectants are inefficient against it
    Bacteria becoming resistant to hospital hand disinfectant - science news

    A key component of current disinfectant hand rubs is alcohol, which is pretty effective in killing bacteria. However, new research shows that a certain type of hospital super-bacteria is becoming increasingly tolerant to alcohol. The results reveal that Enterococcus faecium bacteria have become more and more tolerant to alcohol thus making the usual hand disinfectants used in hospitals inefficient. This is an alarm call for infection control hospital teams. New strategies to control bacteria and prevent the spreading o infections need to be developed soon.

    Read the full story: The Guardian
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    Physicists tie light in knots to understand how it flows through space

    Technology | Aug 02, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Experimentally measured polarization singularity trefoil knot. Credit: University of Bristol
    Physicists tie light in knots to understand how it flows through space - science news physics

    Laser light may appear to be a single, focused beam. In fact, it is an electromagnetic field, vibrating in an ellipse shape at each point in space (the light is polarized). Now, scientists have been able to use holographic technology to twist a polarized laser beam into knots. This way, one can study the topology of the knotted light fields. The researchers were able to create knots of much greater complexity than previously possible. Understanding how light flows through space provides important information for the fields on optics and polarization and could lead to the creation of new devices which process information through customized complex light structures.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics


    Deadly heat waves could hit China hard by the end of the century

    Earth | Aug 02, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    China faces a great risk for heat waves that are dangerous for the human life. Credit: MIT
    Deadly heat waves could hit China hard by the end of the century - science news daily

    China holds one of the biggest density of people on Earth, but soon it could become less hospitable due to climate change. A recent study shows that the risk of deadly heat waves is significantly increased because of intensive irrigation in a relatively dry but highly fertile region, known as the North China Plain. The irrigation exposes more water to evaporation, leading to higher humidity in the air than would otherwise be present and exacerbating the physiological stresses of the temperature. Towards the end of the century, the increase in temperatures may push this region towards the boundaries of habitability.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Almost no more marine wilderness

    Earth | Jul 27, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Only 13% of the Earth's oceans are considered to be untouched by human activities
    Almost no more marine wilderness - Earth science news

    Only 13% of the world’s oceans can be considered untouched by human activities, a new study indicates. These "natural" oceans are the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and the seas around remote islands such as French Polynesia. However, climate change makes the waters at the Poles more readily accessible, so that they are under threat. All other oceans suffer from shipping fleets, all sorts of fishery activities, and sediment runoff along many coastal areas. Scientists warn that urgent international action is needed to preserve the last of the wild oceans.

    Read the full story: University of California – Santa Barbara
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    New drug discovery system identifies drugs for undruggable enzymes in disease

    Health | Jul 27, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Huntingtin protein (green) in untreated cells (left) and treated with a drug identified with a new system (right). Image: Krzyzosiak et al./ Cell
    New drug discovery system identifies drugs for undruggable enzymes in disease - health science news

    Phosphatases are a class of enzymes that often act as a brake on iintracellular signalling, thus switching off certain processes within cells. Until now, it has been extremely difficult to develop drugs that act specifically on one phosphatase only, but now researchers have developed a new screening system based on synthetic phosphatases to identify molecules that do exactly this. Indeed, researchers have identified a new drug, called Raphin1, that targets only one phosphatase, which is involved in Huntington’s disease. Raphin1 was found to successfully inhibit the accumulation of toxic proteins in brain cells of a mouse model of this disease, suggesting that the new drug discovery system will yield more drugs for other phosphatases involved in disease as well.

    Read the full story: Medical Research Council
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Nano-carriers for drug release into senescent cells

    Technology | Jul 26, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Frontal and lateral scans of mouse lungs with fibrosis (grey), before and after treatment with nanoparticles carrying drugs. Image: Guillem Garaulet and Francisca Mulero, CNIO
    Nano-carriers for drug release into senescent cells - technology science news

    Senescent cells accumulate during aging, and play an active role in aging-related diseases. Scientists have now developed a drug delivery tool that specifically targets senescent cells by employing the high lysosomal (degradative) activity of these cells. Nanoparticles carrying drugs have been designed in such a way that they will go to the lysosomes, and thus release their drugs in senescent cells. In a mouse model of lung fibrosis, these nanoparticles effectively removed senescent cells, and the lung tissue regenerated. For the treatment of a cancer in mice, chemotherapy first induced the formation of senescent cells, which were then destroyed by the drugs brought by the nanoparticles. This combined therapy reduced the tumor. This versatile drug delivery system is expected to become an efficient tool for the treatment of various illnesses.

    Read the full story: IRB Barcelona
    Scientific publication: EMBO Molecular Medicine


    Cell biological mechanism discovered that could protect against Huntington’s disease

    Health | Jul 26, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Green aggregates of toxic proteins in C.elegans, a worm model of Huntington's disease, without UBR5. Image: Seda Koyuncu and Isabel Saez
    Cell biological mechanism discovered that could protect against Huntington’s disease - health science news

    The protein ubiquitin ligase UBR5 has been found to inhibit the formation of toxic protein aggregates in neurons that cause Huntington’s disease. These aggregates are formed as a consequence of mutations in the huntintin gene, and cause neurodegeneration and eventually death of the patient within 20 years after the onset of the disease. Using induced pluripotent stem cells from Huntington’s disease patients, scientists created neurons, and noticed that no aggregates were formed. This appeared to be caused by the protective UBR5 that these cells started to build. Blocking UBR5 induced the aggregation of toxic proteins again. Thus, a critical factor in Huntington’s disease has been discovered, with therapeutic potential for future treatment.

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


    Global biodiversity collapse expected

    Earth | Jul 26, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Biodiversity is expected to collapse if no proper measures are taken to conserve and protect the tropics
    Global biodiversity collapse expected - Earth science news

    Scientists warn that urgent action is required to halt species loss in the tropics to save biodiversity on Earth. While the tropics cover 40% of our planet, and encompass four important ecosystems (tropical forests, savannas, lake and rivers, and coral reefs), the harbor more than 75% of plant and animals species, and even more than 90% of the world’s birds species. Climate change, over-exploitation, and other human activities are the main causes of extinction, and only concerted action across the globe can halt this otherwise irreversible process. The scientists have called for implementation of sustainable development and effective conservation interventions to restore tropical ecosystems and protect the species living there.

    Read the full story: Lancaster University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Enormous liquid water lake discovered under the south pole of Mars

    Space | Jul 25, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The red planet with the white south pole at the bottom. Image: ESA and Max Planck Institute / OSIRIS team
    Enormous liquid water lake discovered under the surface of Mars - space science news

    Data obtained with the radar system of the Mars Express suggest that there is liquid water under the surface of Mars. This underground water reservoir is 20 km wide and up to 1.5 km deep. It is located under Mars’ south pole under a thick ice sheet. While water temperature in the reservoir is -68 degrees Celcius, it remains liquid due to the extremely high salt content. Also, the pressure from the ice sheet may contribute to this. Due to the high salt content, high pressure, and low temperature, researchers think it is unlikely that there are any life forms in the water reservoir, but the discovery of the permanent presence of liquid water is nevertheless spectacular and exceeds astronomer’s highest expectations.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag.org
    Scientific publication: Science


    One unique source of Martian dust identified

    Space | Jul 25, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Part of the Medusae Fossae Formation, with clear marks of erosion. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
    One unique source of Martian dust identified - space science news

    The dust that is storming over Mars at the moment has been formed over the course of a few billion of years at one specific location: the Medusae Fossae Formation. Scientists have reached this conclusion after analysis of data obtained by the landers and rovers on the Red Planet, and by the spacecraft Mars Odyssey. It appeared that the chemical composition of the dust on the entire planet is exactly the same as found on the surface of the Medusae Fossae Formation. The formation is of volcanic origin, and once was of the size equal to 50% of the US. Because of erosion, it has shrunk to 20%, and the lost 30% has formed the dust that coats much of the surface of Mars today.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Blood test helps to decide which prostate cancer therapy to choose

    Health | Jul 25, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Analysis of the blood of advanced prostate cancer patients helps to select the optimal therapy
    Blood test helps to decide which prostate cancer therapy to choose - health science news

    A new blood test has been developed that will help oncologists to decide whether a hormonal or a chemotherapy should be followed for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. The test is based on the presence or absence of a nuclear protein in cancer cells that have left the prostate. If this protein (AR-V7) is absent, the best treatment option is to continue with a hormone-based therapy with androgen-receptor signaling inhibitors. They make use of the dependency of the cancer on testosterone. If AR-V7 (a splice variant of the androgen receptor) is present, the cancer has found a way to grow independently of testosterone, so that hormone therapy will be without effect, and chemotherapy should be chosen.

    Read the full story: Lawson Health Research Institute
    Scientific publication: JAMA Oncology


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