June 18, 2019

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

    What we can learn from algae to improve photovoltaic cells

    Life | May 15, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Red algae are amongst the most efficient converters of sunlight into energy. Image: Johnmartindavies [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
    What we can learn from algae to improve photovoltaic cells - life short science news

    As algae manage to use and store solar energy more efficiently than any other organism (up to 98%), biochemists have set out to determine how algae do this precisely.

    They found that algae have many protrusions (antennae) on their surface, that are made up of stacks of tiny disks. Inside each disk there is a gamma building block that passes light efficiently into the light harvesting system. The efficiency may further be enhanced by the presence of at least four different gamma blocks, making it possible to capture light under all circumstances.

    Perhaps that the light capture system of algae could be used as a blueprint for the next generation of photovoltaic cells.

    Read the full story: Utrecht University
    Scientific publication: Chem


    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria

    Health | May 14, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria
    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria - interesting science news

    Researchers studied the impact of the food additive E171 (titanium dioxide nanoparticles) which is present in high quantities in food and medicine as a whitening agent. E171 is present in everything from chewing gum to mayonnaise and is consumed in high quantities by the general population.

    It is observed that in mice consuming E171, the gut bacteria are adversely affected triggering inflammation in the gut. This could lead to diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and even colorectal cancer.

    Also, increased incidence of dementia, auto-immune diseases and asthma is also linked to these titanium nanoparticles and this calls for strict regulation of food industry.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Nutrition


    Key brain protein involved in food intake discovered

    Mind and Brain | May 14, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Obesity is linked to a ACBP protein synthesized by astrocytes in the hypothalamus
    Key brain protein involved in food intake discovered - interesting science news

    This might come as a shock; however researchers have revealed that controlling your weight might be dependent on a brain protein regardless of the amount of exercise or diet you could be doing. The protein in question is acyl-CoA-binding protein (ACBP).

    ACBP is produced by astrocytes, which are cells which usually support the neurons. Researchers have shown that the proopiomelanocortin neurons which reduce our food intake are in close communication with the astrocytes that produce ACBP in a specific brain region called the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.

    This brain region is the feeding center of the brain and controls both food intake and energy expenditure. Absence of the ACBP gene in astrocytes in this brain region promotes obesity which indicates that it is involved in weight control.

    Read the full story: University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Clinical Investigation


    How much is too much coffee?

    Health | May 13, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Too much coffee can increase the risk of heart diseases
    How much is too much coffee? - interesting science news

    A morning coffee is sometimes the essential kick required by several people to begin their day. However, the question of how much is too much has always generated too much debate.

    Adding to this debate is the latest research which indicates that 6 or more coffees a day can be detrimental to your health and it could increase the risk of heart disease by 22%. This research confirms that excess coffee can trigger high blood pressure which is a precursor to heart diseases.

    The study used the data from UK Biobank which included approximately 350,000 participants in the age range of 37-73 years to come to this conclusion. So, coffee is moderation is absolutely fine and do not overindulge it.

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


    Climate change triggering growth in old trees

    Earth | May 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Tree rings collected from old-growth Dahurian larch trees. Trees grow one ring per year. Credit: Xianliang Zhang.
    Climate change triggering growth in old trees - interesting science news

    Larch trees, the northernmost tree species on Earth have grown more between 2005 and 2014 as compared to the previous 40 years and scientists put this on climate change.

    Further, it has been seen that the oldest trees have shown the biggest growth spurt i.e. trees older than 400 years have shown the most rapid growth.

    It has been seen that the soil warming due to global warming is behind this teenage like growth spurt in old trees. While this is good in the short term, it could spell a disaster in the long term, because slow-growing trees will ultimately degrade due to raising soil temperatures.

    Read the full story: American Geophysical Union
    Scientific publication: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences


    The afternoon siesta-suppressing gene discovered

    Health | May 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    The 'daywake' gene is linked to afternoon naps in flies
    The afternoon siesta-suppressing gene discovered - interesting science news

    Researchers working on fruit flies have identified a siesta-suppressing gene which could inform us on the biology that helps several organisms including humans to balance the benefits of a good afternoon nap vs. getting important things done.

    The afternoon naps which occur more on intense warm days were probably evolved as a protection against exposure to hot temperatures in the afternoon. However, certain fruit flies have a gene called ‘daywake’, which suppresses this activity especially when the temperatures cool down to increase the time spent seeking mates or food.

    Interestingly, the ‘daywake’ gene is adjacent to the ‘period’ gene which controls the circardian rhythm or the sleep-wake cycle of these flies.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Bad news: Salmonella carries a newly discovered antibiotic resistance gene

    Life | May 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    This is the protein encoded by the mcr-9 gene that renders bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Image: Ahmed Gaballa, Cornell University
    Bad news: Salmonella carries a newly discovered antibiotic resistance gene - life short science news

    When scientists analyzed the genome of Salmonella bacteria, they discovered a gene, named mcr-9, that renders bacteria resistant to the last resort antibiotic colistin.

    Colistin has been designated a highest priority antibiotic by the World Health Organization, and is given when other antibiotics are without effect.

    As mcr-9 can jump from bacteria species to species, this gene may impose problems for our health as more bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics, even to colistin.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: mBio


    Plastic gets its much-needed makeover

    Technology | May 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)
    Plastic gets its much-needed makeover - interesting science news

    Like a Lego set, researchers have designed a recyclable plastic which can be broken down into its individual parts at the molecular level and the it can be put back together into any other shape, texture and color multiple time. All this without a loss of performance or quality.

    The new material is called polydiketoenamine (PDK). Unlike the conventional plastic currently used, PDK can be broken down into its individual components by simply putting it in a highly acidic solution. This acid also separates PDK from the chemical additives which gives it a brand fresh look.

    This take recycling to the next level because the current plastic’s most recyclable component PET is only recycled at the rate of 20-30% and the rest of it goes into landfills to lie around for hundreds of years.

    Read the full story: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Nature Chemistry


    Gut bacteria and depression?

    Mind and Brain | May 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Gut bacteria linked to depression
    Gut bacteria and depression? - interesting science news

    Gut microbiome has been the center of the new wave of research over the last couple of years. In a recent study, researchers have shown that gut bacteria altered depression linked behavior as well as gut inflammation signs in rodents.

    Researchers found that stress altered the gut bacteria population in certain rodents which then went on to show depressive behavior. Then, they transplanted gut bacteria of stress vulnerable rats into to stress resilient rats and the later showed signs of depression too.

    The vulnerable rats had higher proportion of bacteria named Clostridia which could be at the center of this storm. Finding novel therapies some being based in gut bacterial transplants could be important for treating psychiatric conditions like depression.

    Read the full story: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Looking a fish in the mouth: a new species of parasite found

    Life | May 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Egg-carrying female of the new to science species Elthusa xena. Image: Serita van der Wal (under CC-BY 4.0 license)
    Looking a fish in the mouth: a new species of parasite found - life short science news

    Researchers from the North-West University in South Africa have discovered a new parasite of fish.

    They are crustaceans (like crabs and shrimps), and attach themselves to the gills of especially klipfish (genus Clinus).

    The new species has been baptized Elthusa Xena, named after the warrior princess Xena (from the American fantasy television series), as the females appear particularly tough with their elongated and ovioid bodies.

    Read the full story: North West University South Africa
    Scientific publication: Zookeys


    Why immunotherapy does not cure half of cancer patients

    Health | May 07, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Mismatch repair deficiency refers to a characteristic of some cancer cells that create a large number of changes in the DNA, leading to new products that can be attacked by the immune system during immunotherapy. Image: Andrew H. Lee
    Why immunotherapy does not cure half of cancer patients - cancer short science news

    Scientists have discovered why cancers in about half of the cancer patients do not respond to immunotherapy. Analysis of tumors in mice and humans revealed that those cancers that do respond have a higher degree of microsatellite instability (MSI) than those with a lower MSI.

    This means that the DNA of cancers with high MSI is changed considerably. This may give rise to new proteins in cancer cells that the immune system can attack.

    Thus, the level of MSI can now be used as a biomarker, like a crystal ball, to predict which patient will benefit from immunotherapy and which patient will not.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins
    Scientific publication: Science


    Alternative treatment of epilepsy in children identified

    Mind and Brain | May 07, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Alternative treatment of epilepsy in children has been identified
    Alternative treatment of epilepsy in children identified - brain short science news

    In a collaborative effort, clinicians and scientists have identified an alternative to phenytoin in the second order treatment of convulsive status epilepticus in children.

    By assessing 0ver 300 children with epilepsy, the researchers found that levetiracetam was not better than phenytoin, but is easier to prepare and administer, and did not show any interactions with anti-epilepsy or other drugs.

    If these data will be confirmed in follow up studies, levetiracetam could become a new drug to treat epilepsy in children.

    Read the full story: University of Liverpool
    Scientific publication: The Lancet


    Shrinking biodiversity threatens human life, research warns

    Life | May 06, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    More than ever is survival of many plant and animal species under threat as a consequence of human activities
    Shrinking biodiversity threatens human life, research warns - life short science news

    Plant and animal species on earth are declining at such a rapid pace that human life is also threatened. This emerges from a large scientific study of the biodiversity on earth of Ipbes, an organization affiliated with the United Nations.

    One million of the estimated eight million species are threatened with extinction in the coming decades.

    The loss of biodiversity is a "direct consequence of human action," the researchers say. The causes are changes in the use of land and sea, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and the arrival of invasive exotic species.

    Read the full story: Ipbes


    Stay away from second-hand smoke to protect your heart

    Health | May 06, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Second hand smoking linked to hypertension
    Stay away from second-hand smoke to protect your heart - interesting science news

    If you are about to enter a room or a car that’s smoky, do yourself a favour and wait till it clears off the smoke. This is because researchers have shown that non-smokers show an increased risk of high blood pressure with longer durations of passive smoking.

    Further, the research showed that passive smoking exposure for 10 years lead to a 17% increased risk of hypertension.

    This is the first study, which has positively assessed the link between hypertension and second-hand smoke with the exposed person’s tested for cotinine in urine which is a principal metabolite of nicotine.

    Read the full story: European Society of Cardiology


    Sequencing the peanut genome, peanuts?

    Life | May 03, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Some of the varieties of peanuts from Brazil. Image: Fábio de Oliveira Freitas
    Sequencing the peanut genome, peanuts? - life short science news

    With the latest advances in genomic sequencing, researchers have succeeded to sequence the complex genome of peanuts.

    This genetic analysis has revealed the evolutionary origin of the several varieties of cultivated peanut plants, and will give geneticists the necessary information to make peanut plants more resistant to disease and more productive.

    Thus, while the characterization of the peanut plant genome has not been peanuts, the efforts have paid off and will provide the basis for breeding and improvement of peanut crops.

    Read the full story: University of Georgia
    Scientific publication: Nature Genetics


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