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Ancient DNA rewrites early Japanese history-modern day populations have tripartite genetic origin

Skull from which ancient DNA was extracted. Image courtesy: Shigeki Nakagome, Lead researcher, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.

DUBLIN .- Ancient DNA extracted from human bones has rewritten early Japanese history by underlining that modern day populations in Japan have a tripartite genetic origin—a finding that refines previously accepted views of a dual genomic ancestry. Twelve newly sequenced ancient Japanese genomes show that modern day populations do indeed show the genetic signatures of early indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer-fishers and immigrant Yayoi farmers—but also add a third genetic component that is linked to the Kofun peoples, whose culture spread in Japan between the 3rd and 7th centuries. The Japanese archipelago has been occupied by humans for at least 38,000 years but Japan underwent rapid transformations only in the last 3,000 years, first from foraging to wet-rice farming, and then to a technologically advanced imperial state. The previous, long-standing hypothesis suggested that mainland Japanese populations derive dual-ancestry from the indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer-fishers, who inhabit ... More

Moderna Covid vaccine edges Pfizer in new US research   Effect of electrons with negative mass in novel semiconductor nanostructures   AugLimb: A compact robotic limb to support humans during everyday activities

A nurse holds a vial of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Oltepesi Dispensary in Kajiado, Kenya, on September 9, 2021. Patrick Meinhardt / AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC (AFP).- A new study released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday is the latest to suggest the Moderna Covid vaccine confers better long-term protection against hospitalization than Pfizer. CDC researchers conducted an analysis of nearly 3,689 adults who were hospitalized with severe Covid from March 11 to August 15, 2021 -- a period that precedes and includes the dominance of the Delta variant. Overall, 12.9 percent were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, 20.0 percent were vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech, and 3.1 percent were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson. Over the entire period, the Moderna vaccine was 93 percent effective against hospitalization, Pfizer was 88 percent effective, and J&J was 68 percent effective. The loss of efficacy against hospitalization for Pfizer was particularly pronounced: it fell from 91 percent in 14-120 days after vaccination to 77 percent more than 120 days after vaccination. By contrast, Moderna fell from 93 percent to ... More

A red laser beam impinges on the atomically thin crystal WSe2, which converts the red light of the laser into a blue glow. Image courtesy: Felix Hofmann.

REGENSBURG.- A large international research collaboration led by Dr. Kai-Qiang Lin and Professor John Lupton from the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics at the University of Regensburg has been able to measure the effect of electrons with negative mass in novel semiconductor nanostructures. The international team includes scientists from Berkeley and Yale (U.S.), Cambridge (England) and Tsukuba (Japan). Many things in everyday life ring familiar only as positive quantities, the weight of an object, for example. Why matter always seems to have positive mass is one of the unsolved mysteries of physics. We may nowadays have almost become accustomed to the concept of negative interest rates, but what would happen if mass could turn negative? Newtonian mechanics describes the consequences with the well-known equation Force=Mass Acceleration, oder F=m a. If a force acts on an object, it is accelerated. But watch out—if you try ... More

This new limb, presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv, can extend up to 250 mm and grasp different objects in a user's vicinity. Image courtesy: Ding et al.

TOKYO.- Researchers at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and University of Tokyo recently developed AugLimb, a compact robotic limb that could support humans as they complete a variety of tasks. This new limb, presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv, can extend up to 250 mm and grasp different objects in a user's vicinity. "We are interested in human augmentation technologies, which aim to enhance human capabilities with information and robotics approaches," Haoran Xie, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told Tech Xplore. "We particularly focus on the physical augmentation of human bodies." Most existing wearable robotic arms are designed to be mounted on a human user's upper body (e.g., on the upper arm, waist or shoulders). While some of these systems have achieved promising results, they are typically based on bulky hardware and wearing them can be uncomfortable for users. "Most previously develo ... More

Lessons from how bats resist COVID could inform new treatments in humans   This is what it looks like when a black hole snacks on a star   What if just one airborne particle was enough to infect you?

While bats can infect each other with SARS-CoV-2 they show no clinical effects nor show the same issues in the lungs that impact humans so badly. Image: Todd Cravens, Unsplash.

MELBOURNE.- A paper published in the prestigious journal, Science Immunology, explores the idea that studying bats’ responses to SARS-CoV-2 may provide key insights into how and when to best use existing therapies for COVID-19, and to develop new treatments. The review, led by Professor Marcel Nold and Associate Professor Claudia Nold, from Monash University’s Department of Paediatrics and Hudson Institute of Medical Research, written in collaboration with colleagues in Australia and China, is a major review of how the virus that has caused the current pandemic wreaks havoc on the human immune system. Since first identified in December 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has mutated, and the variant strains Alpha, Beta and Delta are more infectious than the original strain. Specifically, the Delta strain is 60-79 per cent more transmissible again than the Alpha mutant, and presumably more deadly, according to Professor Nold. He says there remains an urg ... More

When a star ventures too close to a black hole, gravitational forces create intense tides that break the star apart into a stream of gas. Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA/GESTAR).

TUCSON, AZ.- While black holes and toddlers don't seem to have much in common, they are remarkably similar in one aspect: Both are messy eaters, generating ample evidence that a meal has taken place. But whereas one might leave behind droppings of pasta or splatters of yogurt, the other creates an aftermath of mind-boggling proportions. When a black hole gobbles up a star, it produces what astronomers call a "tidal disruption event." The shredding of the hapless star is accompanied by an outburst of radiation that can outshine the combined light of every star in the black hole's host galaxy for months, even years. In a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astronomers led by Sixiang Wen, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, use the X-rays emitted by a tidal disruption event known as J2150 to make the first measurements of both the black hole's mass and spin. This black hole is of ... More

A customer wearing a protective face mask carries a bunch of flowers at Columbia Road flower market in east London on September 12, 2021. Justin Tallis / AFP.

LIVERMORE, CA.- For some diseases, exposure to just a single airborne particle containing virus, bacteria or fungi can be infectious. When this happens, understanding and predicting airborne disease spread can be a whole lot easier. That's the result of a new study by a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist who developed a new theory of airborne infectious disease spread. This research, which appears in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, demonstrated good agreement with data from Q fever, Legionnaire's disease and Valley fever outbreaks. The authors hope to use it to understand and mitigate COVID-19 spread. Some diseases spread when you breathe in infectious airborne particles. These airborne diseases are a major world health problem. According to the World Health Organization, lung infections are the fourth-leading cause of death worldwide and tuberculosis is a leading cause of death in lower-income countries. As scientif ... More

Convalescent plasma doesn't help severely ill COVID-19 patients, Canadian study shows   Treating infertility with drug-delivering microspheres   How climate change could impact algae in the global ocean

A patient experiencing a COVID-19 emergency speaks with a member of Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services in an ambulance outside of the patient's home on September 13, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images/AFP.

EDMONTON.- Giving severely ill COVID-19 patients a transfusion of blood from donors who have already recovered from the virus did not help them improve — and in some cases made them sicker, according to a major Canadian-led clinical trial reporting results in Nature Medicine. “Convalescent plasma had been found to boost immunity in patients infected with some other viral entities, including SARS, in the past,” said local principal investigator Susan Nahirniak, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and medical/scientific lead for the Alberta Precision Laboratories transfusion and transplantation medicine program. “But this trial did not demonstrate any benefit in terms of changing the course for patients who were admitted to hospital needing oxygen for SARS-CoV-2,” Nahirniak said. “It did not prevent intubation or death.” T ... More

Tiny, droplet-like packages can deliver drugs that thicken the lining of the uterus to treat infertility. Image courtesy: Adapted from ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.1c00615.

WASHINGTON, DC.- For an embryo to survive, it must attach to the lining of the uterus within days of conception. However, if this lining, called the endometrium, is too thin, the embryo can’t latch on. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering have developed a new system intended to treat infertility in women with thin endometria. Their tiny, micro-scale particles stimulated blood vessel growth, producing promising results in preliminary experiments in cells and mice. Poor blood flow within the endometrium limits its thickness, and researchers have struggled to find an effective way to encourage the formation of new blood vessels. Some have begun exploring the use of microspheres to deliver treatment. However, current methods for making these tiny particles face challenges, including the need for complex, demanding production methods and too much variation in the sizes of the spheres. So, Xiangguo Wang ... More

Scientists sample a brown mat of aggregated phytoplankton. Image courtesy: Katrin Schmidt.

NORWICH.- Global warming is likely to cause abrupt changes to important algal communities because of shifting biodiversity 'break point' boundaries in the oceans—according to research from the University of East Anglia and the Earlham Institute. A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, finds that as climate change extends the warm hemisphere, these boundaries are predicted to shift pole-wards over the next 100 years. Instead of a gradual change in microbial diversity due to warming, the researchers suggest it will happen more abruptly at what they call 'break points' - wherever the upper ocean temperature is around 15 degrees on an annual average, separating cold and warm waters. The UK is one of the areas most likely to be severely affected, and more suddenly than previously thought. But the team say that the changes could be stopped if we act swiftly to halt climate change. Prof Thomas Mock, from UEA's School of Envi ... More

Animals died in 'toxic soup' during Earth's worst mass extinction: A warning for today   Plants evolved complexity in two bursts-with a 250-million-year hiatus   Iceland's volcanic eruption the longest in half a century

Toxic microbial blooms lead to fish die-off events, and are becoming increasingly common in freshwater lakes. Image courtesy: Christian Fischer/Wikimedia Commons.

STORRS, CT.- The end-Permian mass extinction event of roughly 252 million years ago—the worst such event in earth's history—has been linked to vast volcanic emissions of greenhouse gases, a major temperature increase, and the loss of almost every species in the oceans and on land. Now, it seems that even the lakes and rivers were no safe havens. A recent study published by an international team of researchers including Professor and Head of the Department of Geosciences Tracy Frank and Professor Chris Fielding, both newly arrived at UConn, has identified a new cause of extinction during extreme warming events: toxic microbial blooms. In a healthy ecosystem, microscopic algae and cyanobacteria provide oxygen to aquatic animals as a waste product of their photosynthesis. But when their numbers get out of control, these microbes deplete free oxygen, and even release toxins into the water. By studying the fossil, sediment, and chemical records ... More

An African lily (Agapanthus africanus) flower is broken into component parts. Image courtesy: Andrew Leslie.

STANFORD, CA.- A Stanford-led study reveals that rather than evolving gradually over hundreds of millions of years, land plants underwent major diversification in two dramatic bursts, 250 million years apart. The first occurred early in plant history, giving rise to the development of seeds, and the second took place during the diversification of flowering plants. The research uses a novel but simple metric to classify plant complexity based on the arrangement and number of basic parts in their reproductive structures. While scientists have long assumed that plants became more complex with the advent of seeds and flowers, the new findings, published Sept. 17 in Science, offer insight to the timing and magnitude of those changes. "The most surprising thing is this kind of stasis, this plateau in complexity after the initial evolution of seeds and then the total change that happened when flowering plants started diversifying," said lead study auth ... More

Lava flows from a volcano near Mount Fagradalsfjall, Iceland on August 26, 2021. Jeremie Richard / AFP.

ICELAND (AFP).- It will be six months on Sunday that the volcanic eruption currently mesmerising spectators near Reykjavik first began, making it the longest Iceland has witnessed in more than 50 years. The first lava began spewing out of a fissure close to Mount Fagradalsfjall on the evening of March 19 on the Reykjanes peninsula to the southwest of Reykjavik. And the ensuing spectacle -- ranging from just a slow trickle of lava at times to more dramatic geyser-like spurts of rocks and stones at others -- has become a major tourist attraction, drawing 300,000 visitors so far, according to the Iceland Tourist Board. Iceland's sixth volcanic eruption in 20 years is already longer than the preceding one in Holuhraun, in the centre-east of the island, which lasted from the end of August 2014 until the end of February 2015. "Six months is a reasonably long eruption," volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson told AFP. The lava field that has formed this time has been christened "Fagradalshraun" -- which can be ... More

More News
Australian wildfires triggered massive algal blooms in southern ocean
DURHAM, NC.- Clouds of smoke and ash from wildfires that ravaged Australia in 2019 and 2020 triggered widespread algal blooms in the Southern Ocean thousands of miles downwind to the east, a new Duke University-led study by an international team of scientists finds. The peer-reviewed study, published in Nature, is the first to conclusively link a large-scale response in marine life to fertilization by pyrogenic – or fire-made -- iron aerosols from a wildfire. It shows that tiny aerosol particles of iron in the windborne smoke and ash fertilized the water as they fell into it, providing nutrients to fuel blooms at a scale unprecedented in that region. The discovery raises intriguing new questions about the role wildfires may play in spurring the growth of microscopic marine algae known as phytoplankton, which absorb large quantities of climate-warming ... More

The dynamic tracking of tissue-specific secretory proteins
DAEJEON.- Researchers have presented a method for profiling tissue-specific secretory proteins in live mice. This method is expected to be applicable to various tissues or disease models for investigating biomarkers or therapeutic targets involved in disease progression. This research was published in Nature Communications. Secretory proteins released into the blood play essential roles in physiological systems. They are core mediators of interorgan communication, while serving as biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Previous studies have analyzed conditioned media from culture models to identify cell type-specific secretory proteins, but these models often fail to fully recapitulate the intricacies of multi-organ systems and thus do not sufficiently reflect biological realities. These limitations provided compelling motivation for the research team led b ... More

Yeast and bacteria together biosynthesize plant hormones for weed control
RIVERSIDE, CA.- Plants regulate their growth and development using hormones, including a group called strigolactones that prevent excessive budding and branching. For the first time, scientists led by UC Riverside have synthesized strigolactones from microbes. The work was published in the open-access journal, Science Advances. Strigolactones also help plant roots form symbiotic relationships with microorganisms that allow the plant to absorb nutrients from the soil. These two factors have led to agricultural interest in using strigolactones to control the growth of weeds and root parasites, as well as improving nutrient uptake. These root-extruding compounds don't come without risks. They also stimulate germination of witchweeds and broomrapes, which can cause entire crops of grain to fail, making thorough research essential prior to ... More

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Dutch Neanderthal now has a face

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Masatoshi Koshiba was born
September 19, 1926. Masatoshi Koshiba (Koshiba Masatoshi, 19 September 1926 - 12 November 2020) was a Japanese physicist and one of the founders of neutrino astronomy. His work with the neutrino detectors Kamiokande and Super-Kamiokande was instrumental in detecting solar neutrinos, providing experimental evidence for the solar neutrino problem. Koshiba won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 (jointly with Raymond Davis Jr.) "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos" He was a senior counselor at the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics (ICEPP) and professor at the University of Tokyo. Koshiba's initial research was in cosmic rays. In 1969, he shifted into electron-positron collider physics, and was involved with the JADE detector in Germany, which helped confirm the Standard Model.


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