August 19, 2018

    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


    Surprising virus population changes in inflammatory bowel disease

    Health | Jul 25, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Bacteriophages as seen with an electron microscope. Image: H. Hendricks, NC State Phage Hunters, E. Miller, NC State University
    Surprising virus population changes in inflammatory bowel disease - health science news

    The bacteriophage population in the intestines, the collection of viruses in the guts that infect and often kill bacteria, is varied in healthy persons, reflecting the rich variety in intestinal bacteria. Now researchers found that in inflammatory bowel disease in experimental mice, the number of bacteriophage species drops enormously, and that the viruses that remain are not necessarily directed against disease-causing bacteria. Also, there was a huge difference between virus populations between diseased-mice amongst themselves. While scientists cannot explain these seemingly random changes in bacteriophage population changes as yet, similar changes seem to occur in humans with inflammatory bowel disease.

    Read the full story: North Carolina State University
    Scientific publication: Nature Microbiology


    Global warming will likely increase suicide rates globally

    Mind and Brain | Jul 24, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Increasing temperatures may lead to higher suicide rates due to the impact of warmer weather on how individuals perceive, evaluate and act on their own personal situation
    Global warming will likely increase suicide rates globally - science news

    According to a new study, rising temperature due to global warming will have a surprising effect: they will increase the rates of suicide worldwide. The study estimates that by 2050 increasing temperatures could lead to an additional 21,000 suicides in the United States and Mexico. Until now, it has been difficult to disentangle the role of temperature and other risk factors in suicide. This study could be the first evidence that climate change will have a substantial effect on mental health, with tragic consequences.

    Read the full story: Univresity of California, Berkely
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    Scientists create smallest robots that can sense the environment and store data

    Technology | Jul 24, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Cell-sized robots can sense changes in your body, but also in the environment, detecting and reporting problems. Credit: MIT
    Scientists create smallest robots that can sense the environment and store data - science news latest in medical technology

    Researchers from MIT have created the smallest robots – the size of a human cell – with the ability to detect changes in their environment, record data and even perform computations. They were created using two-dimensional materials and small particles called colloids. The colloids make it possible for the electrical circuits inside the robots to work. The applications are countless, from the diagnostic of the human body to measuring water contamination and other industrial applications.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature Nanotechnology


    Want to know where a cell should go? Ask a mathematician!

    Life | Jul 23, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    How are biological principles organized that determine where an embryonic cell should go during development?
    Want to know where a cell should go? Ask a mathematician! - life science news

    Scientists have long puzzled over the question of how the position of each cell is correctly specified, so that limbs, arms and other organs grow at the correct place. Biologists and mathematicians have now joined forces to provide a mathematical model of how cell positioning is organized. They studied a relatively simple organism, the fruit fly, and assessed the importance of a cell in a so-called egg chamber, a collection of 16 cells from one of which will become the fertilizable egg. These 16 cells are formed through incomplete cell division, resulting in cytoplasmic bridges connecting cells. On the basis of these observations it was possible to identify the mathematical principles that govern the packing of cells in the egg chamber. As incomplete cell division has also been observed in other organisms, including amphibians and even mammals, it seems possible that the same mathematic principles apply to the development of animals that are more complex than fruit flies, and even control cell positioning during embryonic development in humans.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics


    Women under-treated for heart attack have higher risk of dying then men

    Health | Jul 23, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A new study of 2898 patients (2183 men, 715 women) shows that women are less likely to receive proper care and death rates are higher compared to men
    Women under-treated for heart attack have higher risk of dying then men - short science news from health

    An Australian study reveals that women admitted to hospitals with serious heart attacks are half as likely as men to get proper treatment. Moreover, six months after hospital discharge, death rates, and serious adverse cardiovascular events among these women were more than double the rates seen in men. It is not clear why women received under-treatment and less medical management compared to men. This shows that measures must be taken to correct the discrepancies between genders.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Medical Journal of Australia


    Archeology: new imaging method allows identification of North American mounds

    Technology | Jul 23, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Researchers have developed an imaging technology able to identify hidden mounds to help unravel the history of Native Americans. Credit: Carl Lipo
    Archeology: new imaging method allows identification of North American mounds - science news in brief

    Mounds are artificial elevated structures, like little hills, formed through gradual accumulation of debris upon which a continuously occupied settlement is built. People lived in such areas for hundreds or thousands of years. They are invaluable for archeology, but difficult to find because they are hidden by vegetation or by the landscape. Now, scientists have used a new image-based analysis technique to identify hidden North American mounds, which could reveal valuable information about pre-contact Native Americans. To achieve this, they used satellite images and a special software designed to automatically identify mounds.

    Read the full story: Phys.org
    Scientific publication: Southeastern Archaeology


    Detailed images of the sun’s corona reveal physical structure

    Space | Jul 22, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    A detailed view of the solar corona from the STEREO-A coronagraph after extensive image processing. Image: Craig DeForest, SwRI
    Detailed images of the sun’s corona reveal physical structure - space science news

    New image processing software made it possible to study the structure of the sun’s corona in much more detail before. Pictures taken by the COR2 coronagraph aboard NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relation Observatory, which orbits the Sun between Venus and Earth, thus revealed physical structure. Until now it was believed that the corona was homogenous and smooth, but this misinterpretation, as it turns out, is due to poor prior image resolution. Thus, the new observations give more insight in the structure of the corona, which is important for understanding solar winds that embed magnetic fields that we can measure on Earth. The findings of this study will be extended soon, when NASA’s new mission with the Parker Solar Probe, which aims to make measurements from within the corona itself.

    Read the full story: NASA
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal


    Reversing skin wrinkling and hair loss associated with aging

    Health | Jul 22, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Wrinkled skin might be smoothed in the futureby restoring mitochondrial function
    Reversing skin wrinkling and hair loss associated with aging - health science news

    Scientists have for the first time managed to reverse skin wrinkling and hair loss during aging. In a mouse model, they found that restoring the function of mitochondria by switching off an enzyme that is responsible for mitochondria malfunction, as seen in the elderly, makes the fur regrow and smooth the skin. These mice are indistinguishable from normal, healthy mice. This reversal of high age-associated changes seems only to work in skin cells, and more research is still necessary to understand the precise molecular mechanisms involved, before scientists can begin to think of how this reversal might be employed in humans.

    Read the full story: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Cell Death & Disease


    Global dust storm engulfs planet Mars

    Space | Jul 22, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    A sudden storm covers Mars completely
    Global dust storm engulfs planet Mars - short space science news

    In the past month, astronomers have witnessed planet Mars being completely covered in dust. This is due to a global storm that creates dust clouds so large that they envelop the planet. This phenomenon appears periodically, every 3 – 4 Mars years. Scientists still do not understand how and why these storms are formed. Therefore, the event provides a welcome opportunity for further studies. For the Opportunity rover, this means a sudden drop in visibility from a clear, sunny day to that of an overcast one. Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover’s batteries. As of 18 July, no response has been received from the rover.

    Read the full story: NASA


    Sahara dust may not be pleasant, but it is killing storms

    Earth | Jul 22, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Saharan dust streaming out over the Mediterranean Sea and northeastward to Italy. Credit: NASA
    Sahara dust may not be pleasant, but it is killing storms - science news in brief

    Sahara provides a huge amount of dust (2 to 9 trillion pounds) that is blown by winds all over the world. Now, a new study suggests that the dust creates a temperature inversion which in turn tends to prevent cloud and eventually storm formation. It means that fewer storms and even hurricanes are less likely to strike when the dust is present. So, even if the dust is an annoying presence, especially during the last weeks in Texas and Southern United States, it may provide some benefits after all.

    Read the full story: Texas A&M University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Climate


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