Established in 2020 Friday, July 1, 2022

Ice Age wolf DNA reveals dogs trace ancestry to two separate wolf populations

A 32,000 year-old wolf skull from Yakutia from which a 12-fold coverage genome was sequenced as part of the study. Image courtesy: Love Dalén.

LONDON.- An international group of geneticists and archaeologists, led by the Francis Crick Institute, have found that the ancestry of dogs can be traced to at least two populations of ancient wolves. The work moves us a step closer to uncovering the mystery of where dogs underwent domestication, one of the biggest unanswered questions about human prehistory. Dogs are known to have originated from the gray wolf, with this domestication occurring during the Ice Age, at least 15,000 years ago. But where this happened, and if it occurred in one single location or in multiple places, is still unknown. Previous studies using the archaeological record and comparing the DNA of dogs and modern wolves have not found the answer. In their study, published in Nature today, the researchers turned to ancient wolf genomes to further understanding of where the first dogs evolved from wolves. They analyzed 72 ancient wolf genomes, spanning the last 100,000 ... More

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Pandas gave bamboo the thumbs up at least six million years ago   Researchers uncover new pathway for accumulation of age-promoting 'zombie cells'   The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes

An artist reconstruction of Ailurarctos from Shuitangba. Image courtesy: Mauricio Anton.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- When is a thumb not a thumb? When it's an elongated wrist bone of the giant panda used to grasp bamboo. Through its long evolutionary history, the panda's hand has never developed a truly opposable thumb and instead evolved a thumb-like digit from a wrist bone, the radial sesamoid. This unique adaptation helps these bears subsist entirely on bamboo despite being bears (members of the order Carnivora, or meat-eaters). In a new paper published in Scientific Reports, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Xiaoming Wang and colleagues report on the discovery of the earliest bamboo-eating ancestral panda to have this "thumb." Surprisingly, it's longer than its modern descendants. While the celebrated false thumb in living giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) has been known for more than 100 years, how this wrist bone evolved was not understood due to a near-total absence of fossil records. Uncover ... More

X-shaped chromosomes are stained purple, and telomeres appear as green spots at chromosome tips. Image courtesy: Barnes et al., Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, DOI: 10.1038/s41594-022-00790-y (2022).

PITTSBURGH, PA.- Senescent cells—those that have lost the ability to divide—accumulate with age and are key drivers of age-related diseases, such as cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease. In a new study, a team led by University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers has uncovered a mechanism by which senescent, or "zombie," cells develop. Published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, the study shows for the first time that oxidative damage to telomeres —the protective tips of chromosomes that act like plastic caps at the end of a shoelace—can trigger cellular senescence. These findings could eventually point to new therapeutics that promote healthy aging or combat cancer. "Zombie cells are still alive, but they can't divide, so they don't help replenish tissues," said senior author Patricia Opresko, Ph.D., professor of environmental and occupational health and of pharmacology and chemical biology at P ... More

One of the decades-old snake specimens from the Field Museum used in this study. Image courtesy: Sara Ruane, Field Museum.

CHICAGO, IL.- Two levels underground, Chicago's Field Museum has a secret bunker. The sub-basement Collections Resource Center houses millions of biological specimens for scientists around the world to use in their research, including countless bottles and jars containing pickled fish, lizards, and snakes, arranged like a library. Many of these specimens are decades or even centuries old, near-perfectly preserved by a combination of formalin and alcohol. But the process that preserves tissues often destroys or at least makes acquiring DNA for modern studies very difficult, which is bad news for scientists who study genetic relationships between organisms. A new study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, however, reveals new approaches for getting and maximizing usable DNA from decades-old pickled specimens, and uses these techniques to solve a long-standing mystery about a small snake from the island of Borneo. "As a true crime aficionado, ... More

Monitoring COVID-19: Could medicine found in wastewater provide an early warning?   Independent reanalysis of the M87 galactic center radio observational data   Off-the-shelf blood sugar monitors prove accurate for dialysis patients

To study medicines in wastewater, UB scientists use the equipment and techniques pictured here to isolate chemical compounds from water samples. Image courtesy: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki / University at Buffalo.

BUFFALO, NY.- In a pilot project exploring ways to monitor COVID-19, University at Buffalo scientists hunted for pharmaceuticals and viral RNA simultaneously in wastewater in Western New York. The results of their study, published on May 18 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, suggest that measuring the concentrations of medicines in wastewater could add another layer to disease-monitoring efforts. "Wastewater-based disease surveillance is being done worldwide through monitoring of viral RNA," says lead scientist Diana Aga, Ph.D., director of the UB RENEW Institute and Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. "The potential of complementing existing efforts with detection of pharmaceuticals is exciting. There are a lot of opportunities here, though more research is needed." One interesting discovery in the new study involves acetaminophen, a pain reliever and fever reducer that serves ... More

Radio images obtained from the reanalysis, showing the center of the elliptical galaxy M87. Image courtesy: Miyoshi et al.

TOKYO.- An independent reanalysis of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)’s observational data for the center of the elliptical galaxy M87 has produced images with different features, according to a new study. This study is part of the research process in modern science, in which observational data and analysis methods are open to the public and reviewed and discussed in various communities of researchers to produce more credible results. The radio observational data for the center of the elliptical galaxy M87 that were obtained by the Event Horizon Telescope in April 2017 and the methods by which the data were analyzed have been accessible to the public worldwide. Researchers not involved in the EHT have been independently reanalyzing these data and methods, thereby validating the results presented by the EHT. In fact, various teams have published their detailed reanalysis results in research papers. A research team consisting of Makoto Miyoshi (Assistant Professor at ... More

Dr. Meaghan M. Stumpf is an expert on diabetes and diabetes-management technology at UVA Health. Image courtesy: UVA Health.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.- In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, new UVA Health research reveals that a factory-calibrated continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be sufficiently accurate for use by people on dialysis, a group often plagued by dangerous swings in blood-sugar levels. The findings suggest that factory-calibrated blood glucose monitors could offer an important diabetes-management tool for patients on dialysis and those suffering end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the researchers conclude. “Patients with end-stage renal disease are often excluded from clinical research trials, as they are medically complex. Therefore, these CGM devices – often considered ‘game changers’ for patients with diabetes to monitor their sugars – are not yet FDA approved for patients with ESRD on dialysis,” said researcher Dr. Meaghan M. Stumpf, an expert on diabetes and diabetes-management technology at UVA Health. “However, ... More

Rapid seed dispersal by hornets facilitates reproduction of agarwood plants   Could carbon monoxide foam help fight inflammation?   Fresh hope for new flystrike control method

Hornets consume and move fresh fruits of Aquilaria sinensis. Image courtesy: ZHU Renbin.

XISHUANGBANNA DAI.- Aquilaria sinensis (family Thymelaeaceae) is the principal source of Chinese agarwood. It is a vulnerable evergreen tree native to lowland forests in southern China. Its fruit matures during the June-August hot season. However, most of its fruit dehisces on sunny hot-dry afternoons, exposing the seeds under the canopy. Due to this exposure, the seeds desiccate in four hours and lose viability within eight hours. Rapid dispersal is thus essential for these unusually short-lived seeds. Researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified three species of Vespa hornets that help move most Aquilaria sinensis seeds to more suitable places before they lose viability by eating the plant's fruit. The results were published in Current Biology. The hornets consume only the fleshy elaiosomes and deposit most seeds in damp shade where they can germinate, a mean of 166 meters from the par ... More

Researchers at MIT and several other institutions designed this foam that can deliver bubbles of carbon monoxide to the gastrointestinal tract and other organs of the body. Image courtesy: Traverso Lab.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Carbon monoxide is best known as a potentially deadly gas. However, in small doses it also has beneficial qualities: It has been shown to reduce inflammation and can help stimulate tissue regeneration. A team of researchers led by MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the University of Iowa, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has now devised a novel way to deliver carbon monoxide to the body while bypassing its potentially hazardous effects. Inspired by techniques used in molecular gastronomy, they were able to incorporate carbon monoxide into stable foams that can be delivered to the digestive tract. In a study of mice, the researchers showed that these foams reduced inflammation of the colon and helped to reverse acute liver failure caused by acetaminophen overdose. The new technique, described earlier this week in a Science Translational Medicine paper, could also be used to delive ... More

Dr Peter James. Image courtesy: Shan Goodwin Farmonline.

BRISBANE.- Tiny nanoparticles less than a thousandth of a millimetre in size are providing a promising new method to protect sheep against deadly flystrike, according to University of Queensland research. Senior Research Fellow Dr Peter James from UQ’s Centre for Animal Science said nanotechnology could be part of the solution to a problem that costs the Australian sheep industry $173 million a year. “New methods that can provide longer periods of protection are required to counter the development of resistance to flystrike insecticides and to support the reduced reliance on mulesing, a surgical technique that has been relied upon over many years,” Dr James said. The Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) funded project is designing and testing unique silica nanocapsule particles with surface spikes purpose-built to give prolonged periods of protection against flystrike and lice. “We’ve had very promising results during testi ... More

Solving renewable energy challenges with a new kind of nontoxic battery   Tonga volcano eruption was among the most powerful ever observed, triggering atmospheric gravity waves   Körber European Science Prize 2022 for Anthony Hyman

Jules Moutet, CarbeniumTec co-founder and chief technology officer, in the startup's lab. Image courtesy: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona.

TUCSON, AZ.- University of Arizona researchers have developed a metal-free electrolyte that they plan to use to make nontoxic batteries that can store large amounts of electricity – technology they hope helps solve a persistent challenge with renewable energy: where to store the energy before it gets used. The team of researchers, from the College of Science and College of Medicine – Tucson, has launched a startup called CarbeniumTec LLC to further develop the technology and bring it to the marketplace with the help of Tech Launch Arizona, the university office that commercializes inventions stemming from research. "We strive to develop a sustainable, metal-free and environmentally friendly solution that addresses the increasing demand for electricity storage," said co-inventor Thomas Gianetti, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and co-founder and chief executive officer of CarbeniumTec. The technolog ... More

GOES imagery courtesy of NOAA and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). Image courtesy: NOAA and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

BATH.- The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai submarine volcano in January 2022 was one of the most explosive volcanic events of the modern era, a new study has confirmed. Led by researchers from the University of Bath and published in Nature, the study combines extensive satellite data with ground-level observations to show that the eruption was unique in observed science in both its magnitude and speed, and in the range of the fast-moving gravity and atmospheric waves it created. Following a series of smaller events beginning in December 2021, Hunga Tonga erupted on 15 January this year, producing a vertical plume that extended more than 50km (30 miles) above the surface of the earth. Heat released from water and hot ash in the plume remained the biggest source of gravity waves on earth for the next 12 hours. The eruption also produced ripple-like gravity waves that satellite observations show extended across the Pacific basin. Th ... More

Anthony Hyman, director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. Image courtesy: © Friedrun Reinhold.

DRESDEN.- The director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden receives the award for the discovery of condensates - cell droplets without a membrane. In 2009, Hyman and his team – during studies on single-cell embryos of a threadworm – discovered a completely new state of biological matter: proteins can accumulate locally in high concentrations in the cell fluid. These "condensates" resemble tiny drops. They form dynamically, sometimes in a matter of seconds, and are usually also quickly broken down again. In the degradation is disturbed – often due to age – toxic substances can be deposited in affected cells, triggering degenerative diseases such as ALS or Alzheimer's disease. Hyman is now looking for new drugs that could cure these diseases. In healthy human cells, condensates are formed when, for example, they are exposed to stress – such as poisoning, radiation or heat: Stres ... More

We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands. Carl Sagan

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Cooking up a conductive alternative to copper with aluminum
RICHLAND, WA.- In the world of electricity, copper is king—for now. That could change with new research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that is serving up a recipe to increase the conductivity of aluminum, making it economically competitive with copper. This research opens the door to experiments that—if fully realized—could lead to an ultra-conductive aluminum alternative to copper that would be useful in markets beyond transmission lines, revolutionizing vehicles, electronics, and the power grid. "What if you could make aluminum more conductive—even 80% or 90% as conductive as copper? You could replace copper and that would make a massive difference because more conductive aluminum is lighter, cheaper, and more abundant," said Keerti Kappagantula, PNNL materials scientist and co-author ... More

A giant black hole that spins slower than its peers
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Astronomers have made a record-breaking measurement of a black hole's spin, one of two fundamental properties of black holes. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows this black hole is spinning slower than most of its smaller cousins. This is the most massive black hole with an accurate spin measurement and gives hints about how some of the universe's biggest black holes grow. Supermassive black holes contain millions or even billions of times more mass than the Sun. Astronomers think that nearly every large galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center. While the existence of supermassive black holes is not in dispute, scientists are still working to understand how they grow and evolve. One critical piece of information is how fast the black holes are spinning. "Every black ... More

A glucose meter could soon say whether you have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies
WASHINGTON, DC.- Over-the-counter COVID tests can quickly show whether you are infected with SARS-CoV-2. But if you have a positive result, there’s no equivalent at-home test to assess how long you’re protected against reinfection. In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers now report a simple, accurate glucose-meter-based test incorporating a novel fusion protein. The researchers say that consumers could someday use this assay to monitor their own SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and infection with the virus itself can guard against future infections for a while, but it’s unclear exactly how long that protection lasts. A good indication of immune protection is a person’s level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, but the gold standard measurement – the enzyme-linked ... More

New health research suggests novel combination therapy for triple-negative breast cancer
BATON ROUGE, LA.- Research led by Suresh Alahari, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry at LSU Health New Orleans schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies, suggests a combination of drugs already approved by the FDA for other cancers may be effective in treating chemo-resistant triple-negative breast cancer. The results were published in Molecular Cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) tumors lack estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). A subtype representing 12-55% of triple-negative breast cancer tumors has androgen receptors (AR). Since androgen receptors stimulate tumor cell progression in estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers, they have become a target of triple-negative breast cancer therapy. As well, since a substantial number of pati ... More

Study suggests two million ancient and veteran trees in England - ten times as many as previously recorded
NOTTINGHAM.- A new study has shown there could be around eight to ten times as many ancient and veteran trees in England than currently recorded, with estimates ranging from 1.7 to 2.1 million, compared to the 115,000 currently on record. As many of these trees are yet to be recorded, most are not likely to be protected by conservation methods, policy or legislation, and therefore we don’t know how many are at risk, why, or where. New location mapping, developed by experts at the University of Nottingham, means work towards recording and mapping them could become easier. The new research builds upon work carried out by the Woodland Trust, Ancient Tree Forum and the Tree Register, which has currently mapped 180,000 trees. In this new study, published in Ecological Applications, experts from the Schoo ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Gerald Edelman was born
July 01, 1929. Gerald Maurice Edelman (July 1, 1929 - May 17, 2014) was an American biologist who shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work with Rodney Robert Porter on the immune system. Edelman's Nobel Prize-winning research concerned discovery of the structure of antibody molecules. In interviews, he has said that the way the components of the immune system evolve over the life of the individual is analogous to the way the components of the brain evolve in a lifetime. There is a continuity in this way between his work on the immune system, for which he won the Nobel Prize, and his later work in neuroscience and in philosophy of mind. Edelman's theory of neuronal group selection, also known as 'Neural Darwinism', has three basic tenets-Developmental Selection, Experiential Selection and Reentry.

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