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Restoring heart elasticity in a heart failure model

Victor Badillo Lisakowski grew heart muscle cells from human stem cells and used them to grow artificial heart tissue. Image courtesy: M. Gotthardt, MDC.

BERLIN.- Patients with heart failure often have shortness of breath and become fatigued quickly. They frequently suffer from water retention, heart palpitations, and dizziness. The condition can be triggered by a combination of elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease, or by acute events such as heart attacks or infections. As people age, the number of adverse factors increase, so heart failure primarily affects older people, especially women. Although the symptoms are similar, there are various causes. In one form of the condition, the pumping function of the heart is impaired. This can, however, be improved with widely available medication. In the other form, the heart pumps with adequate force, but the chambers of the heart—the ventricles—fail to fill properly because the ventricular walls become thickened or stiff. There is currently no effective therapy for this form of heart failure. Together with colleagues from Heidelberg University and the California-based compan ... More





Rapid test identifies antibody effectiveness against COVID-19 variants   Molecular device turns infrared into visible light   Mystery solved: Footprints from site at Laetoli, Tanzania, are from early humans, not bears


A new test can quickly test the ability of antibodies to neutralize spike proteins from different variants of COVID-19 simultaneously. The D4 assay shown here is the Teflon-like technology that makes the test possible. Image: Duke University.

DURHAM, NC.- Biomedical engineers at Duke University have devised a test to quickly and easily assess how well a person's neutralizing antibodies fight infection from multiple variants of COVID-19 such as Delta and the newly discovered Omicron variant. This test could potentially tell doctors how protected a patient is from new variants and those currently circulating in a community or, conversely, which monoclonal antibodies to treat a COVID-19 patient. The test was described in the journal Science Advances. "We currently really have no rapid way of assessing variants, neither their presence in an individual, nor the ability of antibodies we possess to make a difference," said Cameron Wolfe, associate professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. "It's one of the lingering fears that, as we successfully vaccinate more and more people, a variant may emerge that more radically evades vaccine-induced antibody neutralization. And if th ... More
 

Artistic view of the nanoparticle-in-groove plasmonic cavities. Image courtesy: Nicolas Antille (http://www.nicolasantille.com).

LAUSANNE.- Light is an electromagnetic wave: it consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields propagating through space. Every wave is characterized by its frequency, which refers to the number of oscillations per second, measured in Hertz (Hz). Our eyes can detect frequencies between 400 and 750 trillion Hz (or terahertz, THz), which define the visible spectrum. Light sensors in cell phone cameras can detect frequencies down to 300 THz, while detectors used for internet connections through optical fibers are sensitive to around 200 THz. At lower frequencies, the energy transported by light isn’t enough to trigger photoreceptors in our eyes and in many other sensors, which is a problem given that there is rich information available at frequencies below 100 THz, the mid- and far-infrared spectrum. For example, a body with surface temperature of 20°C emits infrared light up to 10 THz, which can be “seen” with thermal imaging. Also, chemical and biological substances feature di ... More
 

Left footprint from one of the juvenile male black bears. Credit: Image on left by Jeremy DeSilva. Image courtesy: Ellison McNutt.

HANOVER, NH.- The oldest unequivocal evidence of upright walking in the human lineage are footprints discovered at Laetoli, Tanzania in 1978, by paleontologist Mary Leakey and her team. The bipedal trackways date to 3.7 million years ago. Another set of mysterious footprints was partially excavated at nearby Site A in 1976 but dismissed as possibly being made by a bear. A recent re-excavation of the Site A footprints at Laetoli and a detailed comparative analysis reveal that the footprints were made by an early human— a bipedal hominin, according to a new study reported in Nature. "Given the increasing evidence for locomotor and species diversity in the hominin fossil record over the past 30 years, these unusual prints deserved another look," says lead author Ellison McNutt, an assistant professor of instruction at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University. She started the work as a graduate student in Ecology, Evolution, Environment, and Society at ... More



The Norwegian wolf is extinct   Scientists solve an important part of the mystery of ultra-rare blood clots linked to adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccines   Artificial material protects light states on smallest length scales


Norway’s wolves are at least real wolves. They have barely any dog genes. Image courtesy: Kjetil Kolbjĝrnsrud.

TRONDHEIM.- There' s no longer any doubt—the wolves found in Norway and Sweden today are actually Finnish, according to extensive studies done on their genetic makeup. Humans wiped out Norway's original wolf population in the wild around 1970. "The original Norwegian-Swedish wolves probably didn't share their genetics with the wolves in Norway and Sweden today," says Hans Stenĝien, director of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum. Stenĝien is the first author of a new report that addresses the genetic composition of the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population in much greater detail than has been done previously. "We've carried out the largest genetic study of wolves in the world," says Stenĝien. This is the final part of a large report on the wolf in Norway that the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) commissioned in 2016. But by then the real Norwegian-Swedish wolves had been gone for many years. "Admittedly, ... More
 

A cloud of platelet factor 4 proteins interacting with the electrostatic surface of the Oxford vaccine, as seen through the computational microscope. Image courtesy: Chun Kit Chan, Arizona State University.

TEMPE, AZ.- An international team of scientists believe they may have found a molecular mechanism behind the extremely rare blood clots linked to adenovirus COVID-19 vaccines. Scientists led by a team from Arizona State University, Cardiff University and others worked with AstraZeneca to investigate vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), also known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a life-threatening condition seen in a very small number of people after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. "The mechanism which results in this condition, termed vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), was unknown," said Abhishek Singharoy, an Arizona State University scientist and corresponding author of the study who teamed up to lead an international effort to tease out the details. So, a team quickly assembled to try to understand the problem more clearly. Together, they worked to ... More
 

Jinlong Lu taking measurements in the optics lab. Image courtesy: Paderborn University, Thomas Zentgraf.

PADERBORN.- Light not only plays a key role as an information carrier for optical computer chips, particularly for the next generation of quantum computers. Its lossless guidance around sharp corners on tiny chips and the precise control of its interaction with other light are the focus of research worldwide. Scientists at Paderborn University have now demonstrated the spatial confinement of a light wave to a point smaller than the wavelength in a topological photonic crystal. These are artificial electromagnetic materials that facilitate robust manipulation of light. The state is protected by special properties and is important for quantum chips, for example. The findings have now been published in Science Advances. Topological crystals function on the basis of specific structures, the properties of which remain largely unaffected by disturbances and deviations. While in normal photonic crystals the effects needed for light ... More



Gene-editing used to create single sex mice litters   Studying our solar system's protective bubble   COVID-19 boosters are safe and increase immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer, trial shows


The black coat of the mouse refers to the genetically modified cells, the white is the non-modified cells. Image courtesy: The Francis Crick Institute.

LONDON.- Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, in collaboration with University of Kent, have used gene editing technology to create female-only and male-only mice litters with 100% efficiency. This proof of principle study, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates how the technology could be used to improve animal welfare in scientific research and perhaps also agriculture. In scientific research and also farming, there is often a need for either male or female animals. For example, laboratory research into male or female reproduction requires only animals of the sex being studied. And in farming, only female animals are required for egg production and in dairy herds. This means it is common practice for animals of the unrequired sex to be culled after birth. The researchers' new method uses a two-part genetic system to inactivate embryos shortly after fertilisation, allowing only the desired sex to develop. Such a genetically ... More
 

Is this what the heliosphere looks like? BU-led research suggests so. The size and shape of the magnetic “force field” that protects our solar system from deadly cosmic rays has long been debated by astrophysicists. Image: Merav Opher, et. al.

BOSTON, MASS.- A multi-institutional team of astrophysicists headquartered at Boston University, led by BU astrophysicist Merav Opher, has made a breakthrough discovery in our understanding of the cosmic forces that shape the protective bubble surrounding our solar system—a bubble that shelters life on Earth and is known by space researchers as the heliosphere. Astrophysicists believe the heliosphere protects the planets within our solar system from powerful radiation emanating from supernovas, the final explosions of dying stars throughout the universe. They believe the heliosphere extends far beyond our solar system, but despite the massive buffer against cosmic radiation that the heliosphere provides Earth's life-forms, no one really knows the shape of the heliosphere—or, for that matter, the size of it. "How is this relevant for society? The bubble that surrounds us, produced by the sun, offers protection from galactic cosmic rays, and t ... More
 

The COV-BOOST study looked at safety, immune response (immunogenicity) and side-effects (reactogenicity) of seven vaccines when used as a third booster jab. Image: Unsplash.

LONDON.- Six different COVID-19 boosters are safe and provoke strong immune responses in people who have previously received a two-dose course of ChAdOx1-nCov19 (Oxford–AstraZeneca [ChAd]) or BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech [BNT]), according to the first randomised trial of boosters given after two doses of either vaccine, published in The Lancet. ChAd has now been deployed in more than 180 countries and BNT in more than 145 countries. Two doses of ChAd and BNT have shown 79% and 90% protection, respectively, against hospitalisation and death after six months in several studies. However, protection against COVID-19 infection wanes over time. That has driven consideration of boosters to protect the most vulnerable, lessen pressure on health services, and mitigate economic impacts. However, little data exist on the comparative safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and the immune responses they stimulate, when given as a third dose. The COV-BOOST stud ... More



Where did western honey bees come from? New research finds the sweet spot   Microplastic pollution aids antibiotic resistance   How well masks protect


The study also highlights that the bee genome has several "hot spots" that allowed honey bees to adapt to new geographic areas. Image: sebastien rosset, Unsplash.

TORONTO.- For decades, scientists have hotly debated the origin of the western honey bee. Now, new research led by York University has discovered these popular honey-producing bees most likely originated in Asia. From there, the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) expanded independently into Africa and Europe creating seven separate geographically and genetically distinct evolutionary lineages traceable back to Western Asia. The western honey bee is used for crop pollination and honey production throughout most of the world, and has a remarkable capacity for surviving in vastly different environments—from tropical rainforest, to arid environments, to temperate regions with cold winters. It is native to Africa, Europe and Asia, and was recently believed to have originated in Africa. The research team sequenced 251 genomes from 18 subspecies from the honey bee's native range and used this data to reconstruct the origin and pattern of dispersa ... More
 

A fluorescent microscopy image shows phages adsorbed by microplastics. Image courtesy: Alvarez Research Lab/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- The Styrofoam container that holds your takeout cheeseburger may contribute to the population’s growing resistance to antibiotics. According to scientists at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, discarded polystyrene broken down into microplastics provides a cozy home not only for microbes and chemical contaminants but also for the free-floating genetic materials that deliver to bacteria the gift of resistance. A study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials describes how the ultraviolet aging of microplastics in the environment make them apt platforms for antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs). These genes are armored by bacterial chromosomes, phages and plasmids, all biological vectors that can spread antibiotic resistance to people, lowering their ability to fight infections. The study led by Rice civil and environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez in collaboration with researchers in China and at the Univ ... More
 

Moving safely: tight-fitting FFP2 and KN95 masks drastically reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, even during prolonged encounters at close range, as is inevitable on public transport. Image: Pixabay.

GÖTTINGEN.- Three metres are not enough to ensure protection. Even at that distance, it takes less than five minutes for an unvaccinated person standing in the breath of a person with Covid-19 to become infected with almost 100 percent certainty. That's the bad news. The good news is that if both are wearing well-fitting medical or, even better, FFP2 masks, the risk drops dramatically. In a comprehensive study, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation in Göttingen has investigated to what extent masks protect under which wearing conditions. In the process, the researchers determined the maximum risk of infection for numerous situations and considered several factors that have not been included in similar studies to date. The Göttingen team was surprised at how great the risk of infection with the coronavirus is. "We would not have thought that at a distance of several metres it would take so little time for the i ... More



More News
2021 Animal Welfare Research Prize for Max Planck researchers
MÜNSTER.- Without animal experiments, it is nearly impossible to gain new insight into the brain’s inner workings. The development of new pharmaceuticals necessitates testing in laboratory animals. Jan Bruder and Henrik Renner at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster developed a method which could reduce the number of required animal experiments. The researchers generated three-dimensional tissue cultures from precursors of human brain cells. Over the course of a few weeks in the lab, these develop into pinhead-sized organ-like tissues called organoids. The two scientists have also designed an automated manufacturing process that allows them to produce and analyse the organoids in a standardized manner and in high numbers. These organoids can provide the raw human material ... More

The core of powerful, power-efficient processors
SAN DIEGO, CA.- The high-performance yet low-power processors running billions of today’s laptops and mobile devices come thanks to research by computer scientists at the University of California San Diego and HP Labs. Their work, which began nearly two decades ago, has influenced the design of many modern processors such as ARM’s big.Little, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Intel’s Alder Lake and Apple’s flagship Apple M1, including the recently announced M1Pro and M1 Max. “Nearly everyone probably has one running something in their lives,” said Dean Tullsen, a UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering professor who was part of the team who set the foundation for a new way of thinking about processors. Now, the paper that led to a novel processor architecture that would provide significant energy benefits h ... More

Lightweight space robot with precise control developed
HARBIN.- Robots are already in space. From landers on the moon to rovers on Mars and more, robots are the perfect candidates for space exploration: they can bear extreme environments while consistently repeating the same tasks in exactly the same way without tiring. Like robots on Earth, they can accomplish both dangerous and mundane jobs, from space walks to polishing a spacecraft's surface. With space missions increasing in number and expanding in scientific scope, requiring more equipment, there's a need for a lightweight robotic arm that can manipulate in environments difficult for humans. However, the control schemes that can move such arms on Earth, where the planes of operation are flat, do not translate to space, where the environment is unpredictable and changeable. To address this issue, researchers in ... More

Astronomers discover hot, dense planet with eight-hour year
DORKING.- In a new study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers show that the planet, which is 31 light years from Earth, is one of the lightest among the nearly 5,000 exoplanets (planets outside our own solar system) that are known today, with half the mass of Earth. It has a diameter of just over 9,000 kilometers—slightly larger than Mars. The team say the research represents a step forward in the search for a "second Earth" as it shows astronomers can determine the properties of even very small planets. Co-author Dr. Vincent Van Eylen (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) said: "In this new study, the size and mass of the planet were calculated using two methods, both of which involved analyzing the light of the planet's star. One was to measure the minute dip in emitted light from the star as the planet passed in ... More

Tropical forests recover after deforestation
WAGENINGEN.- Tropical forests are disappearing at an alarming rate through deforestation, but they also have the potential to regrow naturally on abandoned lands. This has been shown by an international study led by scientists from Wageningen University. How a forest recovers, depends on the amount of rainfall, the age of the forest, and the functional characteristics of the tree species. Tropical forests are very diverse. According to the new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., differences in tropical forests appear to determine how a forest naturally recovers from abandoned fields and cattle pastures. Young dry and wet forests, for example, differ greatly in their characteristics. They recover in different ways, but these differences diminish as forests age. The study prov ... More



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Supercomputer Simulations Test Star-destroying Black Holes



Flashback
On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Alfred Hershey was born
December 04, 1908. Alfred Day Hershey (December 4, 1908 - May 22, 1997) was an American Nobel Prize–winning bacteriologist and geneticist. He began performing experiments with bacteriophages with Italian-American Salvador Luria, German Max Delbrück, and observed that when two different strains of bacteriophage have infected the same bacteria, the two viruses may exchange genetic information. He moved with his research partner Martha Chase to Laurel Hollow, New York, in 1950 to join the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Genetics, where he and Martha Chase performed the famous Hershey–Chase experiment in 1952. This experiment provided additional evidence that DNA, not protein, was the genetic material of life. Notable post-doctoral fellows in Hershey's lab include Anna Marie Skalka.



 


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