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Ancient DNA reveals entwined African and Asian ancestry along the Swahili coast of eastern Africa

One of the sites excavated along the coastline. Image courtesy: University of York.

HOUSTON, TX.- A new genetic study of medieval people who lived along the Indian Ocean coast of eastern Africa — an area often called the “Swahili coast” for its language and culture — revealed that they had both African and Persian ancestry. The results suggest that maritime trade connections long recognized by archaeologists based on imported goods and architectural influences fostered relationships between Asian merchants and African traders and their families. “Entwined African and Asian genetic roots of medieval peoples of the Swahili coast” was published in Nature. It examines genetic ancestry and cultural influences in eastern Africa by using DNA from the skeletal remains of 80 individuals who were buried in six medieval and early modern coastal towns in Kenya and Tanzania dating to the years 1250-1800 and an inland town in Kenya dating to after 1650. Analysis of the genetic data enabled scientists to estimate that people of African and Persian ancestry began to h ... More

Turbulence theory extended to complex atmospheric conditions   Scientists identify cellular signaling pathway as key player in metastasis   An archaeological rediscovery offers clues about distant human past

Ivana Stiperski and the students from the Field Course in Alpine Meteorology setting up the instruments at the "Hochhäuser" i-Box station in the Inn Valley. Image courtesy: Tobias Posch/University of Innsbruck.

INNSBRUCK.- Turbulence plays an essential role in weather and climate, and correctly representing its effects in numerical models is crucial for accurate weather forecasts and climate projections. However, the theory describing the effect of turbulence has not changed since its conception in 1950s, despite the fact that it is not representative for the majority of the Earth's land surface, especially over mountains and polar regions. The Innsbruck meteorologist Ivana Stiperski has now extended the turbulence theory to complex atmospheric conditions. The researcher thus paves the way for the first generalized turbulence theory over complex terrain. Turbulence is the most important exchange mechanism between the Earth's surface and the overlying atmosphere. However, this mechanism remains one of the last great puzzles of classical physics and mathematics. Ivana Stiperski, head of the research group "Atmospheric Turbulence" at the Department of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences at the ... More

A quiescent cluster of lung adenocarcinoma tumor cells from a patient's lymph node shows low STING expression. Image courtesy: Massagué Lab, Sloan Kettering Institute.

NEW YORK, NY.- A team of scientists at the Sloan Kettering Institute have identified the STING cellular signaling pathway as a key player in keeping dormant cancer cells from progressing into aggressive tumors months, or even years, after they've escaped from a primary tumor. The findings, which were published in Nature on March 29, suggest that drugs to activate STING could help prevent the spread of cancer to new sites throughout the body—a process known as metastasis. In mouse models of lung cancer, treatment that stimulated the STING pathway helped eliminate lingering cancer cells and prevent them from progressing to aggressive metastases. Known as micrometastases, these cells, which can be found individually and in small clusters, are too small to be detected with standard imaging tests. "The majority of cancer deaths are caused by metastasis," says Joan Massagué, Ph.D., the study's senior author and Director of the Sloan Kettering Instit ... More

UConn professor of anthropology Christian Tryon poses for a photo in his lab in Beach Hall on March 17, 2023. Image courtesy: Sydney Herdle/UConn.

STORRS, CT.- In their recent publication in the Journal of Human Evolution, UConn Department of Anthropology Professor Christian Tryon and Shara Bailey, Director of the Center for the Study of Human Origins at New York University, detail new findings about 40,000-year-old teeth unearthed in the 1930s from a site called Ksâr 'Akil in Lebanon. The tricky part is that these teeth are missing. The story of how Tryon and Bailey came to study these artifacts is fascinating and includes war, loss, and chance findings which saved this information from being lost to history. The fossils were found in a rock shelter just outside of modern-day Beirut, in a region that probably saw a lot of traffic when Homo sapiens left Africa. The evidence for this largely comes from the campsites, tools, food debris, and rare art that make up the archaeological record, but Tryon says there are very few sites where you can find a fossil and definitively say whether it was Homo ... More

Scientists discover hidden crab diversity among coral reefs   Astronomers witness the birth of a very distant cluster of galaxies from the early universe   A targeted method to combat cancer

Chlorodielline crabs are most diverse and abundant among coral reefs in the Indo-West Pacific, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

GAINESVILLE, FL.- The Indo-West Pacific is the largest, most biodiverse marine ecosystem on Earth, and many of the species it supports have comparably wide ranges. Writing in The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin noted that "… many fish range from the Pacific into the Indian Ocean, and many shells are common to the eastern islands of the Pacific and the eastern shores of Africa, on almost exactly opposite meridians of latitude." At first glance, the same pattern appears to be true for crabs. Chlorodielline crabs, common on coral reefs, look so similar that scientists have struggled to distinguish species in the group based solely on appearance. But a new study reveals a surprising exception to the rule of uniformity across the Indo-West Pacific. While chlorodielline crab species with non-overlapping ranges are often nearly identical, those that occupy the same region have a unique feature. "They all look the same, until you compare their gonopods, which are structurally complex and very species spe ... More

This image shows the protocluster around the Spiderweb galaxy (formally known as MRC 1138-262), seen at a time when the Universe was only 3 billion years old. Image courtesy: ESO/Di Mascolo et al.; HST: H. Ford.

PARIS.- Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), of which ESO is a partner, astronomers have discovered a large reservoir of hot gas in the still-forming galaxy cluster around the Spiderweb galaxy—the most distant detection of such hot gas yet. Galaxy clusters are some of the largest objects known in the universe and this result, published in Nature, further reveals just how early these structures begin to form. Galaxy clusters, as the name suggests, host a large number of galaxies—sometimes even thousands. They also contain a vast "intracluster medium" (ICM) of gas that permeates the space between the galaxies in the cluster. This gas in fact considerably outweighs the galaxies themselves. Much of the physics of galaxy clusters is well understood; however, observations of the earliest phases of formation of the ICM remain scarce. Previously, the ICM had only been studied in fully-formed nearby galaxy clu ... More

“What is new and revolutionary about our approach is our combination of analytical methods”: oncologist Andreas Wicki. Image courtesy: Ursula Meisser.

ZURICH.- By analyzing tumors in unprecedented depth, the Tumor Profiler project represents an important step along the road toward personalized cancer treatments. And the team have already recorded initial successes: in a study focusing on skin cancer, tumors shrank in about one third of patients. Heinrich B. was seriously ill. His diagnosis: melanoma. The 41-year-old accountant had already been told of multiple metastases in his skin when a computer tomography conducted in 2017 detected offshoots in his lungs too. Hopes were raised by a course of antibody-based immunotherapy, only to be dashed again by a relapse when new metastases appeared. The active cyclist suffered badly from his physical weakness. More sessions of chemotherapy and immunotherapy were unsuccessful. With all therapy options for Heinrich B. exhausted, his doctor no longer knew how to proceed. Melanoma is the most malignant form of all skin cancers and the fifth most common cancer in Switzerland. About 3,000 people are diagnos ... More

Climate change threatens lemurs on Madagascar   Cell mapping and 'mini placentas' give new insights into human pregnancy   New technology illuminates bladder cancer detection

Climate change also threatens mouse lemurs. Image courtesy: Uwe Zimmermann.

ZURICH.- Mouse lemurs give birth to their offspring during the five-month rainy season and build up fat reserves to survive the dry season when food is scarce. But what happens when the rainy season becomes drier and the dry season warmer? Researchers at the German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research and the University of Zurich show that climate changes destabilize mouse lemur populations and increase the risk of extinction. Effects of climate change have mostly been studied in large, long-lived species with low reproductive output. Small mammals with high reproductive rates can usually adapt well to changing environmental conditions, so they have been little studied in the context of climate change. Claudia Fichtel and Peter Kappeler from the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research (DPZ) have been researching lemurs on Madagascar for many years and have thus built up a unique data set to f ... More

Cells of the placenta. Image courtesy: Kenny Roberts, Wellcome Sanger Institute.

CAMBRIDGE.- Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI), Switzerland, EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), and collaborators, have created an in-depth picture of how the placenta develops and communicates with the uterus. The study, published in the journal Nature, is part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative to map every cell type in the human body. It informs and enables the development of experimental models of the human placenta. "For the first time, we have been able to draw the full picture of how the placenta develops and describe in detail the cells involved in each of the crucial steps. This new level of insight can help us improve laboratory models to continue investigating pregnancy disorders, which cause illness and death worldwide,” said Anna Arutyunyan, co-first author at the University of Cambridge and Wellcome S ... More

UC San Diego Health’s Aditya Bagrodia, MD, performs a flexible blue light cystoscopy procedure. Image courtesy: UC San Diego.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- UC San Diego Health is the first health system in San Diego County to offer a new technology that detects and monitors bladder cancer in both the clinic and operating room settings by using blue light, white light and an imaging dye that makes cancer cells glow florescent pink. “This new in-clinic component improves our ability to catch tumors earlier, identify tumors that might have been missed and help decrease the rates of recurrence and progression,” said Aditya Bagrodia, MD, urologic oncologist at UC San Diego Health. Called Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) with Cysview, the FDA-approved procedure allows urologists to pinpoint tumors. About an hour prior to the clinic procedure, the imaging dye is placed into the bladder using a catheter. During the cystoscopy, the urologist first looks inside the bladder using white light, then switches to blue light mode. In blue light, cancerous tumors that may not ha ... More

Radar, AI identify Alaska Native Spanish flu victims burial site   Team successfully tests, validates new method for measuring the precise dimensions and comparability of biomolecules   New algorithm keeps drones from colliding in midair

Thomas Urban, research scientist in the College of Arts and Sciences, uses ground-penetrating radar to search for communal graves at Pilgrim Hot Springs in Alaska, in collaboration with employees of the National Park Service and Kawerak, Inc.

ITHACA, NY.- A Cornell research scientist, working in partnership with an organization representing a consortium of 20 Native Alaska groups, used ground-penetrating radar and AI modeling to locate the communal graves of approximately 93 victims of the Spanish influenza at Pilgrim Hot Springs on the Seward Peninsula – a finding that helps clarify the historical record for the Indigenous communities devastated by the 1918-19 pandemic. The project is part of a larger interdisciplinary effort launched through a new five-year Cooperative Ecosystems Study Unit agreement between Cornell and the National Park Service in Alaska that will marshal university expertise to tackle archaeological and environmental issues in the region. Leading the effort is Thomas Urban, research scientist in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), who has been conducting archaeological and paleontological research across the national park system in Alaska for the last d ... More

Laser in the laboratory of Thorben Cordes. Image courtesy: Cordes / LMU.

MUNICH.- The precise measurement of biomolecules can play a critical role in improving our understanding of fundamental life processes. In a large-scale comparative study involving 19 laboratories around the globe, a team working with LMU scientists Professor Thorben Cordes and Professor Don C. Lamb, alongside Professor Claus Seidel of HHU in Düsseldorf and Dr. Anders Barth of Delft University of Technology, has now tested a method of measuring the precise dimensions and comparability of biomolecules. Their findings were published in Nature Methods. Proteins are the fundamental building blocks of life. Every animal, every plant and every microorganism is made up of proteins and only 'works' on the basis of countless complex processes that are controlled by the interplay of different proteins. It is therefore no wonder that science has a keen interest in a better understanding of these biochemical all-rounders. The problem is that we ... More

Researchers create a trajectory-planning system that enables drones working together in the same airspace to always choose a safe path forward. Image courtesy of the researchers.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- When multiple drones are working together in the same airspace, perhaps spraying pesticide over a field of corn, there’s a risk they might crash into each other. To help avoid these costly crashes, MIT researchers presented a system called MADER in 2020. This multiagent trajectory-planner enables a group of drones to formulate optimal, collision-free trajectories. Each agent broadcasts its trajectory so fellow drones know where it is planning to go. Agents then consider each other’s trajectories when optimizing their own to ensure they don’t collide. But when the team tested the system on real drones, they found that if a drone doesn’t have up-to-date information on the trajectories of its partners, it might inadvertently select a path that results in a collision. The researchers revamped their system and are now rolling out Robust MADER, a multiagent trajectory ... More

More News
Using natural catalysts to develop low-cost way of producing green hydrogen
SWANSEA.- Experts from Swansea and Grenoble have joined forces to develop a practical way to produce green hydrogen using sustainable catalysts. The researchers now hope their work will be a major step towards making green hydrogen production simpler, more affordable and more scalable. Dr. Moritz Kuehnel, senior lecturer in Swansea University's chemistry department, said, "In our work we use natural enzymes—hydrogenases—to generate green hydrogen using sunlight. Unlike synthetic catalysts which are based on precious metals like platinum, hydrogenases contain only earth-abundant elements such as iron and nickel. However, these enzymes are very sensitive and quickly deactivate when exposed to air, making their practical use near impossible." The team now has developed engineered ... More

Is it COVID-19 or the flu? New sensor could tell you in 10 seconds
WASHINGTON, DC.- Have a cough, sore throat and congestion? Any number of respiratory viruses could be responsible. Conventional tests can identify certain likely culprits by relying on chemical reactions, but some researchers want to swap chemistry for electrical changes sensed by nanomaterials. Today, scientists report using a single-atom-thick nanomaterial to build a device that can simultaneously detect the presence of the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu — at much lower levels and much more quickly than conventional tests for either. The researchers will present their results at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. ACS Spring 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 26–30, and features more than 10,000 presentations on a wide ran ... More

Scientists develop model for more efficient simulations of protein interactions linked to cancer
LIVERMORE, CA.- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have developed a theoretical model for more efficient molecular-level simulations of cell membranes and their lipid-protein interactions, part of a multi-institutional effort to better understand the behavior of cancer-causing membrane proteins. Developed under an ongoing collaboration by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) aimed at modeling cell membrane interactions with RAS—a protein whose mutations are tied to about 30% of human cancers—the new model addresses a major problem in simulating RAS behavior, where conventional methods come up well short of reaching the time- and length-scales needed to observe biological processes of RAS-related cancers. The work appears in the late ... More

Researchers propose a novel biomarker for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease
SOLNA.- Alzheimer's disease is the most prominent cause of dementia affecting millions of people worldwide. As the changes in the brain function starts 10–20 years before the clinical onset of Alzheimer's disease, there is a strong interest in the identification of early markers that can be predictive of future mental health/cognitive decline. This is something that we researchers at the Karolinska Institute are on the lookout for. Our latest study is now published in Nature Reviews Neurology. In this context, astrocytes are one of the promising targets due to their early and swift response to Alzheimer's disease progression. Astrocytes represent important homeostatic cells in the brain controlling a wide array of functions needed for an optimal brain functioning and homeostasis. Most importantly, they respond to b ... More

Redness of Neptunian asteroids sheds light on early solar system
LONDON.- Asteroids sharing their orbits with the planet Neptune have been observed to exist in a broad spectrum of red color, implying the existence of two populations of asteroids in the region, according to a new study by an international team of researchers. The research is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The team of scientists from the U.S., California, France, the Netherlands, Chile and Hawaii observed 18 asteroids sharing the orbit of Neptune, known as Neptunian Trojans. They are between 50 and 100 km in size and are located at a distance of around 4.5 billion kilometers from the sun. Asteroids orbiting this far away are faint and so are challenging for astronomers to study. Before the new work, only about a dozen Neptunian Trojans had been s ... More

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New Study Examines Oxygen Loss on Coral Reefs

On a day like today, German chemist and academic Robert Bunsen was born
April 30, 1811. Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen (30 March 1811 - 16 August 1899) was a German chemist. He investigated emission spectra of heated elements, and discovered caesium (in 1860) and rubidium (in 1861) with the physicist Gustav Kirchhoff. The Bunsen–Kirchhoff Award for spectroscopy is named after Bunsen and Kirchhoff. Bunsen also developed several gas-analytical methods, was a pioneer in photochemistry, and did early work in the field of organic arsenic chemistry. With his laboratory assistant Peter Desaga, he developed the Bunsen burner, an improvement on the laboratory burners then in use. In 1841, Bunsen created the Bunsen cell battery, using a carbon electrode instead of the expensive platinum electrode used in William Robert Grove's electrochemical cell. In 1860, Bunsen was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


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