Established in 2020 Saturday, February 27, 2021

Scientists model a peculiar type of breast cancer

Scientists led by EPFL have developed a breakthrough in vivo model for invasive lobular carcinoma, a serious yet understudied type of breast cancer. The work will open up previously inaccessible study of the tumor’s biology and help discover new therapies. Image courtesy: EPFL.

LAUSANNE.- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast. It covers 10-15% of all breast cancer cases, has a high risk of late recurrence, unique metastatic sites, high sensitivity to hormones, unpredictable responses to therapies, unique histopathology, distinctive biology, and resists chemotherapy. More than 90% of ILC tumors also contain estrogen receptors, meaning that they can receive hormone signals from the body e.g. estradiol, that can spur their growth and metastasis. Despite all this, ILC is relatively understudied compared to other breast cancers, and as a result, there have been very few models developed to study it. The reason is the lower incidence of ILC in general, but also because ILC tumors don’t lend themselves to growth in culture or in mice, which is key to developing models. Now, scientists at EPFL’s have successfully overcome the lim ... More

The Best Photo of the Day

Teenage T-Rexes edged out smaller dinosaur species, says study   Healing with hydrogels   Pfizer to test third dose, tweaked vaccine to target S.African strain

Image: Stephen Leonardi, Unsplash.

by Issam Ahmed

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- A team of US scientists has demonstrated that the offspring of huge carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex, who grew from the size of house cats to towering monsters, reshaped their ecosystems by outcompeting smaller rival species. Their study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, helps answer an enduring mystery about the 150-million-year rule of dinosaurs: why were there many more large species compared to small, which is the opposite of what we see in land animals today? "Dinosaur communities were like shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon, jam-packed with teenagers," said Kat Schroeder, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico who led the research. "They made up a significant portion of the individuals in a species and would have had a very real impact on the resources available in communities." Even given the limitations of the fossil record, it's thought that overall, dinosaurs were not particularly diverse: there are only some 1,500 known species, compa ... More

Electrically conductive ink based on silver microparticles is being 3D printed on an elastomer sheet with cuts — or kirigami — to prepare an electronic circuit for the smart stretchable bandage that Yuk and Zhao developed. Image: John Freidah.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- In November, mechanical engineering PhD candidate Hyunwoo Yuk earned the top prize at the Collegiate Inventors Competition hosted by the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. Yuk was named the graduate winner for his invention SanaHeal, a bioadhesive tape that can easily bind to tissues or organs. The tape could one day be used in place of sutures to promote healing and minimize complications after surgery. Yuk accepted the prize a few weeks prior to successfully defending his doctoral thesis last December. These accomplishments marked the culmination of a personal journey that has its root in family tragedy. As he was completing his bachelor’s degree, Yuk received a call that his brother was involved in a horrific accident. He suffered multiple traumatic injuries and required intensive care. Yuk spent the next two years by his brother’s side as he was ushered in and out of operating rooms and intensive care units. “I’m 10 years older than my little brother, so I v ... More

In this file photo taken on December 14, 2020, a healthcare worker holds a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at Memorial Healthcare System, in Miramar, Florida. Chandan Khanna / AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday they are studying adding a third dose to their vaccine regime and testing a new version targeting the South African variant of the coronavirus. As countries around the world rush to vaccinate people, concerns have risen that more transmissible variants such as the one first detected in South Africa or another in Britain are more resistant to existing vaccines. In one study, the US and German pharmaceutical firms said they would look at what happens when people are given a third dose of their two-shot vaccine, six to 12 months after the booster. They said in a statement they are also talking to regulators about testing a modified version of their original vaccine to address the South African variant known as B.1.351. "We are taking multiple steps to act decisively and be ready in case a strain becomes resistant to the protection afforded by the vaccine," Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, said in a statement. The South African variant is considered among ... More

It's alive! Black-browed Babbler emerges after 170 years   Researchers discover mechanism behind influence of irradiation defects on tritium permeation barrier   Long Covid should be 'clear priority' for authorities: WHO

The bird has a chocolate colouring and distinctive black eye-stripe. Image courtesy: M. Suranto.

JAKARTA (AFP).- A bird last seen more than 170 years ago in the rainforests of Borneo has been rediscovered, amazing conservationists who have long assumed it was extinct. The Black-browed Babbler has only ever been documented once -- when it was first described by scientists around 1848 -- eluding all subsequent efforts to find it. But late last year, two men in Indonesian Borneo saw a bird they didn't recognise and snapped photos of it before releasing the palm-sized creature back into the forest, according to Global Wildlife Conservation. Ornithologists were astounded to find that the Black-browed Babbler was alive and well, despite not having been seen since before Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species". "It was a bit like a 'Eureka!' moment," said Panji Gusti Akbar, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Thursday in the journal BirdingASIA. "This bird is often called 'the biggest enigma in Indonesian ornithology.' It's mind-blowing to think that it's not extinct and it's s ... More

Formation energies of H-defect complexes in irradiated α-Al2O3 as a function of the Fermi level in Al-rich (left) and O-rich (right) growth environments. Image courtesy: Pan Xindong.

HEFEI.- Recently, researchers led by Prof. Zhou Haishan from the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science (HFIPS) reported their new findings about the influence of irradiation effects on hydrogen permeation through alpha-alumina (α-Al2O3) tritium permeation barrier (TPB). Tritium self-sufficiency is one of the most important issues in the development of nuclear fusion power. It is also one of the top priorities of the Chinese Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR). In order to reduce the permeation of tritium as much as possible, a thin coating layer adhered to the outer surface or inner wall of the structural materials in the blanket and auxiliary tritium handling systems, TPB, is suggested. α-Al2O3, owing to its good thermal stability, electrical insulation radiation stability and high permeation reduction factor (PRF), is considered to be the most promising TPB material for fusion reactors. H ... More

A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus walks past a mural of a young woman wearing a face mask in Madrid on February 24, 2021. Gabriel Bouys / AFP.

COPENHAGEN (AFP).- The World Health Organization on Thursday urged national authorities to make a priority of understanding the consequences of long-term coronavirus infections to help those suffering from worrying symptoms after many months. "It's a clear priority for WHO, and of the utmost importance. It should be for every health authority," Hans Kluge, regional director for WHO Europe, told a press conference. While some studies have begun to shed light on the illness, it is still unclear why some patients with Covid-19 continue to show symptoms for months, including tiredness, brain fog, and cardiac and neurological disorders. "The burden is real and it is significant. About one in 10 Covid-19 sufferers remain unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer," Kluge said. According to WHO Europe, about a quarter of Covid-19 patients suffer from symptoms four to five weeks after testing positive. Noting that reports of long-term symptoms came soon after the disease was first discovered, Kluge said tha ... More

Covid vaccines block disease, but do they stop infection?   Moderna S. Africa variant-specific vaccine ready for testing: company   Mass 'real world' study confirms Pfizer vaccine's efficacy

A man wearing a face mask looks at blooming trees in Madrid on February 25, 2021. Gabriel Bouys / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- As reports this week from Scotland and Israel -- where much or most of the population have gotten Covid jabs -- confirm that vaccines largely prevent people from getting sick, another question is emerging: do they also block infection? A lot depends on the answer, experts say. If vaccines being rolled out worldwide ward off not only symptoms but the virus itself, it could sharply slow the pathogen's spread and hasten the return to normalcy. "If the true impact on infections was very high, it would be great news because that is what we need for herd immunity," Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told AFP. Herd immunity is achieved when most of a population -- estimates vary between 60 to 80 percent -- have acquired defences against a virus, whether through vaccination or because they caught the bug and survived. But if the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines -- and perhaps others made in China, Ru ... More

Three vials of the 'Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine' are pictured in a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center at the 'Velodrom' (velodrome-stadium) in Berlin, Germany, on February 17, 2021. Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- US biotech firm Moderna said Wednesday that doses of its new Covid-19 vaccine candidate aimed at the South African coronavirus variant had been shipped to the US National Institutes of Health for testing. "We look forward to beginning the clinical study of our variant booster and are grateful for the NIH's continued collaboration to combat this pandemic," said CEO Stephane Bancel. The South African variant is considered among the more dangerous of current mutations because it evades some of the blocking action of antibodies that target the older coronavirus strain. That means people who were infected with the classic strain are more susceptible to reinfection, and research has also shown the variant has partly reduced the protection of the current generation of vaccines. While initial testing has shown that Moderna's original vaccine -- called mRNA-1273 -- remains effective against emerging variants, the company said it was pursuing the development of a variant-specific vaccine as part ... More

An employee of Panama's sanitation service is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, at the Torrijos Carter Park in Panama City, on February 26, 2021. Luis Acosta / AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine proved 94 percent effective in a huge real world study published Wednesday that involved 1.2 million people in Israel, confirming the power of mass immunization campaigns to end the coronavirus pandemic. The good news came as Ghana became the first country to receive shots under the global Covax scheme, paving the way for poorer nations to catch up with wealthier parts of the world. The Israeli study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also demonstrated there is likely a strong protective benefit against infection, a crucial element in breaking onward transmission. "This is the first peer-reviewed large scale evidence for the effectiveness of a vaccine in real world conditions," Ben Reis, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and one of the paper's authors, told AFP. It involved almost 600,000 people who received the shots and an equal number who hadn't but were closely matched to their vaccinated counterparts by age, sex, geographic, medical ... More

Large real world study confirms Pfizer Covid vaccine 94% effective   Overlooked cilium could be genetic key to common diseases   Can AI reduce time to breast cancer diagnosis?

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, at the Torrijos Carter Park in Panama City, on February 26, 2021. Luis Acosya / AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has proven 94 percent effective in a study involving 1.2 million people in Israel, the first peer-reviewed real world research confirming the power of mass immunization campaigns to bring the pandemic to a close. The paper, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, also demonstrated there is likely a strong protective benefit against infection, a crucial element in breaking onward transmission. "The fact that the vaccines worked so well in the real world... really does suggest that if the nations of the world can find the will, we now have the means to end Covid-19 forever," said Ben Neuman, a virologist from Texas A&M University who was not involved in the research. The experiment was carried out between December 20 2020 and February 1, 2021 -- a period when a newer variant first identified in Britain was rampant in Israel, making the vaccine's performance all the more impressive. Around 1.2 million people were divided into eq ... More

Long thought a vestigial part of human cells, new genetic analysis of the primary cilium shows that it may be tied to common conditions like diabetes and kidney failure. Image courtesy: University of Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Until recently, scientists believed that the primary cilium – an antenna-like structure found on the surface of most human cells – was largely vestigial and had little bearing on the day-to-day lives of human beings. But more recently, a relatively small number of people have been found to have rare genetic disorders affecting the cilium, characterized by a number of health problems, including common conditions like diabetes, kidney failure, and liver fibrosis. Now, an analysis of genes involved in the function of the cilium found that the same genes causing its rare diseases might also be behind the appearance of diabetes, kidney failure and liver fibrosis among the general public, too – pointing to a potential way to treat or even cure them. These findings were published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. “One of the most exciting implications of our study is that the cilium may represent a common therapeutic target since it appears to be involved in a num ... More

New research study will explore how AI models could help guide radiologist’s review of mammograms with higher likelihood of cancer. Image: National Cancer Institute, Unsplash.

CHICAGO, IL.- A new research study from Northwestern Medicine and Google will explore whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) models can reduce the time to diagnosis for women whose mammograms show a higher likelihood of breast cancer. The trial will evaluate if investigational AI models could help by prioritizing radiologist review of mammogram images with a higher suspicion of breast cancer. Digital mammography, or X-ray imaging of the breast, is the most common method to try to catch breast cancer as early as possible, with approximately 40 million exams performed each year in the U.S. In the current system, women go to the clinic for their mammogram and then 10% to 15% of them will require an additional diagnostic workup. This can take days or even weeks and requires at least two trips to the clinic for the patient, often resulting in added worry during that period of waiting. The AI model is trained to quickly find the mammograms which need further ... More

We are all star stuff. Carl Sagan

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Climate change influences biodiversity evolution of birds: Study
BEIJING.- A research team from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the biodiversity evolution of birds had been influenced mainly by long-term climatic changes and also by the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. The study was published in PNAS on Feb. 22. Dr. Zhang Chi and Dr. Xu Xing from IVPP and their co-supervised student Yu Yilun reconstructed the macroevolutionary pattern of bird biodiversity in a unified evolutionary framework by integrating molecular phylogenies of crown birds and fossil data from stem birds and non-avian coelurosaurs. They found that there were three distinct large-scale increases in the diversification rate across bird evolutionary history. "The first two increases were associated with rapid morphological evolution ... More

University of Miami leads a pilot program to track variants of COVID-19
CORAL GABLES, FL.- A team of University of Miami researchers working to detect variants of the novel coronavirus have found that approximately 25 percent of COVID-19 positive patients in the past two weeks were stricken with the more contagious U.K. variant. In addition, they have found three samples of the Brazilian variant, which could be one of the first times that strain has been identified in South Florida. This comes amidst an overall decline in cases of COVID-19 across the Sunshine State that began the second week of January and has slowly decreased since then. Dr. David Andrews, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Miller School of Medicine, is leading the University’s variant tracking initiative. So far, his team has tested nearly 500 COVID-19 positive samples from pa ... More

Statins don't cause muscle pain after all: study
PARIS (AFP).- Cholesterol-lowering statins do not in fact cause muscle pain, despite a long-standing reputation that has discouraged many from taking the life-saving medication, researchers reported Thursday. Statins are prescribed to prevent heart attack or stroke, but fears that they cause muscle symptoms have caused patients to abandon their treatment, potentially exposing them to greater risk of cardiovascular problems. The issue remains contentious, with multiple studies and official health services giving sometimes confusing advice. In the latest paper on the topic, researchers studied some 200 people across England and Wales who had recently stopped taking their medication because of muscle symptoms. Each person was randomly assigned to six, two-month treatment periods, when they were either given statins or a ... More

Trial for Moderna's Covid variant vaccine begins in March: Fauci
WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- The US will begin in mid-March a clinical trial of a version of Moderna's Covid vaccine specific to the South Africa variant, Anthony Fauci, the top advisor to the White House on the pandemic, said Friday. The Phase 1 trial will involve 210 people to study both the immune response generated by the vaccine and its safety, he said. Unlike previous trials there will be no placebo, and instead the experiment will look at various combinations of the new vaccine and the old, both in people who were previously vaccinated and in people who have never before been vaccinated. The goal is to determine how well the different strategies compare in their ability to neutralize the B.1.351 strain, which has been shown to partly reduce the effectiveness of the current generation of vaccines. Carrying out the ea ... More

Giant iceberg breaks off near UK Antarctic base
LONDON (AFP).- A vast iceberg almost the size of Greater London has broken away from the Antarctic ice shelf near a British research station, the British Antarctic Survey said Friday. The research body said the iceberg measuring 1,270 square kilometres (490 square miles) had broken off from the 150-metre-thick Brunt Ice Shelf in a process called "calving". This came almost a decade after scientists first saw massive cracks had formed in the shelf. A crack in the ice widened by several hundred metres on Friday morning before the iceberg broke off completely. Britain's Halley VI Research Station monitors the state of the vast floating ice shelf daily. "Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years," said BAS director Jane Francis. The mobile research base relocated inland for safety rea ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Giulio Natta was born
February 26, 1903. Giulio Natta (26 February 1903 - 2 May 1979) was an Italian chemist and Nobel laureate. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 with Karl Ziegler for work on high polymers. He was also a recipient of Lomonosov Gold Medal in 1969. Natta was born in Imperia, Italy. He earned his degree in chemical engineering from the Politecnico di Milano university in Milan in 1924. In 1927 he passed the exams for becoming a professor there. In 1933 he became a full professor and the director of the Institute of General Chemistry of Pavia University, where he stayed until 1935. In that year he was appointed full professor in physical chemistry at the University of Rome. From 1936 to 1938 he moved as a full professor and director of the Institute of Industrial Chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin.

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