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New quasi-particle bridges microwave and optical domains

New quasi-particle bridges microwave and optical domains. Image courtesy: Paul Drude Institute.

BERLIN.- In a paper published in Nature Communications, researchers from the Paul-Drude-Institut in Berlin, Germany, and the Instituto Balseiro in Bariloche, Argentina, demonstrated that the mixing of confined quantum fluids of light and GHz sound leads to the emergence of an elusive phonoriton quasi-particle—in part a quantum of light (photon), a quantum of sound (phonon) and a semiconductor exciton. This discovery opens a novel way to coherently convert information between optical and microwave domains, bringing potential benefits to the fields of photonics, optomechanics and optical communication technologies. The research team's work draws inspiration from an everyday phenomenon: the transfer of energy between two coupled oscillators, such as, for instance, two pendulums connected by a spring. Under specific coupling conditions, known as the strong-coupling (SC) regime, energy continuously oscillates between the two pendulums, wh ... More

Developing 'kinder' treatments for a devastating childhood cancer   Tiny sea creatures reveal the ancient origins of neurons   Researchers uncover 'circular logic' of RNAs in Parkinson's disease

PhD student Lidiya Mykhaylechko looking at neuroblastoma cells. Image courtesy: Kirsty Ferguson.

CAMBRIDGE.- Neuroblastomas can be devastating to children and their families and the treatments can be harsh. But thanks to scientists, some tadpoles and a little poetry, improved treatments could soon be on their way. Children with neuroblastoma – responsible for 15% of cancer deaths in this age group – could in future be given treatments with fewer side-effects than those associated with the current chemotherapy, thanks to a discovery by researchers at the University of Cambridge. The approach involves the use of a ‘differentiation therapy’, a type of treatment that does not involve killing cancer cells, but instead involves encouraging cells to become normal non-dividing cells. While this new research is still at an early stage and has yet to be trialled in patients, it involves a combination of two drugs already approved for use – palbociclib, a treatment used for certain types of breast cancers, and retinoic acid, u ... More

Confocal microscopy image of nuclei, colored by depth, of Trichoplax sp. H2, one of the four species of placozoan for which the authors of the study created a cell atlas for. Image courtesy: Sebastian R. Najle/Centro de Regulación Genómica.

BARCELONA.- A study in the journal Cell sheds new light on the evolution of neurons, focusing on the placozoans, a millimeter-sized marine animal. Researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona find evidence that specialized secretory cells found in these unique and ancient creatures may have given rise to neurons in more complex animals. Placozoans are tiny animals, around the size of a large grain of sand, which graze on algae and microbes living on the surface of rocks and other substrates found in shallow, warm seas. The blob-like and pancake-shaped creatures are so simple that they live without any body parts or organs. These animals, thought to have first appeared on Earth around 800 million years ago, are one of the five main lineages of animals alongside Ctenophora ... More

Scherzer and colleagues laser-captured neurons from 190 frozen postmortem human brain samples, including some non-neuronal cells for comparison. Image courtesy: Clemens Scherzer, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

BOSTON, MA.- Researchers are gaining new insights into neurological diseases by studying circular RNAs (circRNAs) in brain cells. A new study by investigators from the Brigham and Women's Hospital identified over 11,000 distinct RNA circles that characterized brain cells implicated in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Their results were published in Nature Communications. "Circular RNA has long been cast aside as junk, but we believe it has an important role in programming human brain cells and synapses," said corresponding author Clemens Scherzer, MD, of the Department of Neurology and the American Parkinson Disease Association Center for Advanced Parkinson Research at Brigham. "We found that these circular RNAs were produced in large quantities by brain cells ... More

Genetically modifying individual cells in animals   Global guidelines to improve the quality of microscopy images in scientific publications   Drug delivery platform uses sound for targeting

With the new method, the cells in individual organs of animals can be genetically modified in a mosaic-​like manner (symbol image created with Midjourney). Image courtesy: ETH Zurich.

ZURICH.- Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a method that lets them genetically modify each cell differently in animals. This allows them to study in a single experiment what used to require many animal experiments. Using the new method, the researchers have discovered genes that are relevant for a severe rare genetic disorder. One proven method for tracking down the genetic causes of diseases is to knock out a single gene in animals and study the consequences this has for the organism. The problem is that for many diseases, the pathology is determined by multiple genes. This makes it extremely difficult for scientists to determine the extent to which any one of the genes is involved in the disease. To do this, they would have to perform many animal experiments – one for each desired gene modification. Researchers ... More

The group’s checklists offer some very specific guidance, some which addresses image focusing, cropping, and resizing to put data being represented in clearer context. Image courtesy: Helena Jambor and Christopher Schmied.

HEIDELBERG.- As part of a global initiative, researchers have drawn up guidelines for the publication of microscopy images in scientific outlets. The criteria, summarized in the form of checklists, form the basis for ensuring that published bioimaging data in the field of life sciences and medicine are intelligible and that the corresponding research is reproducible. This is the only way to unlock their full potential for research. These results, achieved by 54 researchers from more than 48 institutes around the world and published in Nature Methods, are likely to influence global publication practices regarding microscopy images. The researchers make up a working group in a global initiative on Quality Assessment and Reproducibility for Instruments and Images in Light Microscopy (QUAREP-LiMi ... More

Molly McFadden. Image courtesy: Molly McFadden.

PASADENA, CA.- Chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer is one of the major medical success stories of the 20th century, but it's far from perfect. Anyone who has been through chemotherapy or who has had a friend or loved one go through it will be familiar with its many side effects: hair loss, nausea, weakened immune system, and even infertility and nerve damage. This is because chemotherapy drugs are toxic. They're meant to kill cancer cells by poisoning them, but since cancer cells derive from healthy cells and are substantially similar to them, it is difficult to create a drug that kills them without also harming healthy tissue. But now a pair of Caltech research teams have created an entirely new kind of drug-delivery system, one that they say may finally give doctors the ability to treat cancer in a more targeted way. The system employs drugs that are activated by ultrasound—and only right where they are needed in the body. The system wa ... More

Scientists show how the signaling molecules BMP and FGF guide cell differentiation during embryonic development   Researchers discover how a gene only some of us have may protect against neurodegeneration   Placenta holds answers to many unexplained pregnancy losses, study finds

Stem cells are instructed to form certain cell types by the release of various signaling molecules during gastrulation. Image courtesy: MPI of Molecular Physiology.

DORTMUND.- Bricklayer, banker, teacher—choosing a career is one of the most exciting and important decisions in our lives. At the beginning of embryonic development, our cells are also faced with this decision. Some of them become blood cells, others muscle cells and still others become nerve cells. A team led by Christian Schröter at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund has now unveiled how the antagonism between the two signaling molecules FGF and BMP influences the stem cells' career choice. Particularly interesting is the fact that stem cells can also direct their own fate. The findings are published in the journal Biology Open. These findings help to better understand cell differentiation and could thus be a basis for future developments in the field of targeted culturing of tissue in cell replacement therapies. People usually make their career choice in their teens. In the growing embryo, however, ... More

Fluorescent confocal images of neuronal cells differentiated from the iPSC model were stained with actin (green) and VASP (red). Image courtesy: University at Buffalo.

BUFFALO, NY.- University at Buffalo researchers have discovered how an active form of a gene present in 75% of the human population works to protect the brain against neurodegeneration. Published online in July in eBiomedicine and highlighted online this week, the findings provide insight into how the active form of CHRFAM7A helps strengthen brain structure in a way that is neuroprotective against diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The study found that the active form of the CHRFAM7A gene activates the actin cytoskeleton, which provides structural support to cells, thus helping to make brain cells more resistant to stiffness, essentially becoming more flexible. "Actin acts like beams in a house. It provides support for the cells in the cytoskeleton, which is the frame of the cell," says Kinga Szigeti, MD, Ph.D., corresponding author, professor of neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and ... More

Yale researchers show that placental examination could help determine the cause of more than 90% of previously unexplained pregnancy losses. Illustration created with generative AI (Michael S. Helfenbein).

NEW HAVEN, CT.- Yale researchers have shown that placental examination resulted in the accurate pathologic determination of more than 90% of previously unexplained pregnancy losses, a discovery that they say may inform pregnancy care going forward. The findings were reported Sept. 19 in the journal Reproductive Sciences. There are approximately 5 million pregnancies per year in the United States, with 1 million ending in miscarriage (a loss occurring prior to 20 weeks of gestation) and over 20,000 ending in stillbirth at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation. As many as 50% of these losses are categorized as “unspecified.” Patients who suffer such pregnancy outcomes are often told that their loss is unexplained and that they should simply try again, contributing to patients’ feeling of responsibility for the loss, said senior author Dr. Harvey Kliman, a research scientist in the Department of Obstetrics ... More

New center will lay groundwork for better space weather forecasts   Fungal nutrient sensing could shed light on obesity, cancer   AI helps bring clarity to LASIK patients facing cataract surgery

A scientist monitors space weather from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder. Image courtesy: NOAA.

BOULDER, CO.- A new center led by CU Boulder will undertake research to make the region of space between Earth and the moon a little safer—potentially helping satellites navigate through this tumultuous and sometimes hazardous environment. This summer, NASA announced that it had selected four Space Weather Centers of Excellence, including the Space Weather Operational Readiness Development (SWORD) center at CU Boulder. As its name suggests, the nearly $10 million center will offer some powerful protection for the planet: SWORD research will seek to help scientists develop more accurate and timely conditions of the “space weather” hundreds of miles above the surface of Earth—where impacts from solar storms can increase the risk of satellite collisions and interfere with communications and navigation. SWORD emerged from the Space Weather Technology, Research and Education ... More

The fungus Neurospora crassa. Image courtesy: Vincent W. Wu.

ITHACA, NY.- Lori Huberman, assistant professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science’s Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section, has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how fungi sense and use nutrients, basic research with potential applications for treatment of cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and fungal infections. Humans, plants, animals and fungi are all eukaryotes (organisms made up of cells with distinct nuclei), and past research in fungi has led to breakthroughs in treatment and prevention of myriad human illnesses. The majority of fungal research has been done with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as nutritional yeast; roughly 20% of all biopharmaceuticals are derived from S. cerevisiae, including insulin and the vaccines for hepatitis and Human papillomavirus. S. cerevisiae is relatively affordable and easy to manipulate, but it has a very narrow diet, only eating simple sugars, which limits its usefulness in underst ... More

Susana Marcos, the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science and the Nicholas George Professor of Optics and of Ophthalmology, Image courtesy: University of Rochester / J. Adam Fenster.

ROCHESTER, NY.- Scientists develop computer models of patients’ eyes to identify the ideal intraocular lenses and visual simulators for patients to experience how they will see with them.
While millions of people have undergone LASIK eye surgery since it became commercially available in 1989, patients sometimes develop cataracts later in life and require new corrective lenses to be implanted in their eyes. With an increasing number of intraocular lens options becoming available, scientists have developed computational simulations to help patients and surgeons see the best options. In a study in the Journal of Cataracts & Refractive Surgery, researchers from the University of Rochester created computational eye models that included the corneas of post-LASIK surgery patients and studied how standard intraocular lenses and lenses designed to increase depth of focus performed in operated eyes ... More

More News
Research finds ponds release more greenhouse gas than they store
ITHACA, NY.- Though human-made ponds both sequester and release greenhouse gases, when added up, they may be net emitters, according to two related studies by Cornell researchers. The studies begin to quantify the significant effects that both human-made and natural ponds have on the global greenhouse gas budget, measurements that aren't well understood. "Global climate models and predictions rely on accurate accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage," said Meredith Holgerson, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and senior author of the studies. Nicholas Ray, a postdoctoral researcher in Holgerson's lab, is a co-author of both papers. Holgerson and colleagues have previously estimated that ponds ... More

New model to help valorize lignin for bio-based applications
EINDHOVEN.- Woody biomass and wheat straw are all sources of the natural polymer lignin with more than 50 megatons of lignin produced annually at commercial scale. However, most is burned to produce energy, which alternatively could be used to make useful chemicals. A major issue with producing chemicals from lignin is that the properties of lignin vary from source to source and from season to season. Such variability can affect the yield and quality of the chemicals produced from lignin. In a TU/e-led study, researchers have developed and tested a new and efficient model to predict the yield of lignin with specific chemical properties that are important for the production of biobased chemicals, materials, or fuels. The new study is published in Green Chemistry. To date, most lignin derived fro ... More

3D insights into an innovative manufacturing process
VILLIGEN.- 3D printing can produce highly complex shapes. But printing ceramic objects with the help of a laser is a more difficult challenge. Now researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have for the first time taken tomograms revealing what happens at microscopic level during this fabrication process. The findings will help improve this very promising technology. 3D printing is already being used to produce many objects. Additive manufacturing is increasingly being used in the aerospace and automotive industry, for example, as well as in medicine. The method commonly used for metals and plastics is known as laser-based powder bed fusion (LPBF). In LPBF, the material is applied as a fine powder layer on a substrate and then the laser passes over the powder and melts it to form it into the desire ... More

Weather observations from bombed battleships' logbooks help scientists understand climate change
READING.- Weather data from several ships bombed by Japanese pilots at Pearl Harbor has been recovered in a rescue mission that will help scientists understand how the global climate is changing. Crew members aboard various vessels—such as the USS Pennsylvania and the USS Tennessee—died when their battleships were targeted in December 1941. Despite these losses, many boats returned to service during the Second World War and US naval servicemen continued their daily duties, which included recording weather data. A research paper, published in Geoscience Data Journal, tells the story of the recovery of World War II weather data that comes from 19 US Navy ships. Its rescue was made possible thanks to the hard work of over 4,000 volunteers who transcribed more than 28 ... More

Cancer drug shows promise in limiting COVID-19 inflammation
CLAYTON.- A cancer drug could play an important role in limiting the damaging effects of lung disease in COVID-19 patients, thanks to new research at Hudson Institute of Medical Research. The body's inflammatory response to infection is important in controlling viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but when inflammation gets out of control the effects can be lethal. Now a team led by Associate Professor Michael Gantier has established that idronoxil, which was originally designed to treat cancers, could reduce the inflammation that occurs in response to COVID-19. His research is published in Nature Communications. "Early in the COVID-19 pandemic we realized that uncontrolled inflammation was one of the major life-threatening aspects of the infection, but we didn't know exactly ho ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Charles Nicolle was born
September 21, 1866. Charles Jules Henri Nicolle (21 September 1866 - 28 February 1936) was a French bacteriologist who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his identification of lice as the transmitter of epidemic typhus. Nicolle's discovery came about first from his observation that, while epidemic typhus patients were able to infect other patients inside and outside the hospital, and their very clothes seemed to spread the disease, they were no longer infectious when they had had a hot bath and a change of clothes. Once he realized this, he reasoned that it was most likely that lice were the vector for epidemic typhus. An important finding from further research showed that the major transmission method was not louse bites but excrement: lice infected with typhus turn red and die after a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, they excrete a large number of microbes. When a small quantity of this is rubbed on the skin or eye, an infection occurs. Nicolle’s work was not only influential in containing the typhus epidemics that occurred in the region but also helped scientists distinguish the typhus fever caused by lice from murine typhus, which is transmitted by fleas.


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