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International researchers confirm museum shrunken head as human remains

Micro-CT scan of tsantsa. Image courtesy: Andrew Nelson.

LONDON, ON.- Researchers from Western University have verified the authenticity of a South American tsantsa (shrunken head) as human remains, an important step in the global effort toward decolonization and preserving and understanding Indigenous history. The findings were published in the high impact journal PLOS One. Using clinical computed tomography (CT) and high-resolution micro-CT scans, researchers were able to determine the tsantsa currently held in the collection at Chatham-Kent Museum in Chatham, Ont., is in fact real human remains and not a counterfeit made from animal body parts or other alternatives often used in commercial reproductions. This is the initial step in determining of the authenticity of this subject. CT scans produce two-dimensional images of a "slice" of a body or body part, which are then collected and layered to construct three-dimensional images. "This technique really redefines archaeology because traditionally, archa ... More

Bacteria-busting proteins offer potential for smarter drugs   Researchers create flow-driven rotors at the nanoscale   Similarity between schizophrenia and dementia

PhD scholar Shouya Feng (left) and Professor Si Ming Man. Image courtesy: Dr Chinh Ngo/ANU.

CANBERRA.- A specific group of bacteria-killing proteins inside the immune system could hold the key to developing smarter and more effective drugs capable of eliminating certain infectious diseases including meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, according to scientists from The Australian National University. In a new study published in Nature Communications, the ANU researchers demonstrate the potential of these immune proteins, known as guanylate-binding proteins (GBPs), to directly bind to and kill specific types of bacteria. In addition to laying the foundation for new treatments, these killer proteins can also be used in combination with existing antibiotics to give doctors more options when treating certain types of infectious diseases. Lead author and Ph.D. scholar Shouya Feng, from The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) said this specific type of protein works by "busting open" bacteria—similar to an ax splitting wood in ... More

Artist impression of the flow-driven DNA rotor. Image courtesy: Cees Dekker Lab / SciXel.

DELFT.- Researchers from TU Delft have constructed the smallest flow-driven motors in the world. Inspired by iconic Dutch windmills and biological motor proteins, they created a self-configuring, flow-driven rotor from DNA that converts energy from an electrical or salt gradient into useful mechanical work. The results open new perspectives for engineering active robotics at the nanoscale. The article is now published in Nature Physics. Rotary motors have been the powerhouses of human societies for millennia, from the windmills and waterwheels to today's most advanced offshore wind turbines driving the green-energy future. "These rotary motors, driven by a flow, also feature prominently in biological cells. An example is the FoF1-ATP synthase, which produces the fuel that cells need to operate. But the synthetic construction at the nanoscale has thus far remained elusive," says Dr. Xin Shi, postdoc in the lab of prof. Cees Dekker in the ... More

German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin founded both the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and the Psychiatric Hospital of Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. Image courtesy: MPI of Psychiatry.

MUNICH.- Researchers for the first time compared schizophrenia and frontotemporal dementia, disorders that are both located in the frontal and temporal lobe regions of the brain. The idea can be traced back to Emil Kraepelin, who coined the term "dementia praecox" in 1899 to describe the progressive mental and emotional decline of young patients. His approach was quickly challenged, as only about 25 percent of those affected showed this form of disease progression. But now, with the help of imaging and machine learning, scientists have actually found the first valid indications of neuroanatomical patterns in the brain that resemble the signature of patients with frontotemporal dementia. Kraepelin was probably right in parts after all. It is rare that scientists in basic research go back to seemingly obsolete findings that are more than 120 years old. In the case of Nikolaos Koutsouleris and Matthias Schroeter, who are researchers and physicians, this was even a drive. Its about Emil Kraepelin, ... More

Team troubleshoots asteroid-bound Lucy spacecraft across millions of miles   How microglia contribute to Alzheimer's disease   As reflective satellites fill the skies, UArizona students are making sure astronomers can adapt

Lucy’s massive solar arrays completed their first set of deployment tests in January 2021 inside a thermal vacuum chamber at Lockheed Martin Space. Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin Space.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Following the successful launch of NASA's Lucy spacecraft on Oct. 16, 2021, a group of engineers huddled around a long conference table in Titusville, Florida. Lucy was mere hours into its 12-year flight, but an unexpected challenge had surfaced for the first-ever Trojan asteroids mission. Data indicated that one of Lucy's solar arrays powering the spacecraft's systems—designed to unfurl like a hand fan—hadn't fully opened and latched, and the team was figuring out what to do next. Teams from NASA and Lucy mission partners quickly came together to troubleshoot. On the phone were team members at Lockheed Martin's Mission Support Area outside of Denver, who were in direct contact with the spacecraft. The conversation was quiet, yet intense. At one end of the room, an engineer sat with furrowed brow, folding and unfolding a paper plate in the same manner that Lucy's huge circular solar arrays operate. There were so many questio ... More

The researchers also used induced pluripotent stem cells to generate forebrain spheroids, which contain neurons and astrocytes. The spheroids grow to two to three millimeters in diameter. Image courtesy of the researchers.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is a reduction in the firing of some neurons in the brain, which contributes to the cognitive decline that patients experience. A new study from MIT shows how a type of cells called microglia contribute to this slowdown of neuron activity. The study found that microglia that express the APOE4 gene, one of the strongest genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, cannot metabolize lipids normally. This leads to a buildup of excess lipids that interferes with nearby neurons’ ability to communicate with each other. “APOE4 is a major genetic risk factor, and many people carry it, so the hope is that by studying APOE4, that will also provide a bigger picture of the fundamental pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease and what fundamental cell processes have to go wrong to result in Alzheimer's disease,” says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MI ... More

Grace Halferty, a senior graduating this summer with a bachelor's degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering and the paper's lead author. Image courtesy: Kyle Mittan/University Communications.

TUCSON, AZ.- As satellites crawl across the sky, they reflect light from the sun back down to Earth, especially during the first few hours after sunset and the first few hours before sunrise. As more companies launch networks of satellites into low-Earth orbit, a clear view of the night sky is becoming rarer. Astronomers, in particular, are trying to find ways to adapt. With that in mind, a team of University of Arizona students and faculty completed a comprehensive study to track and characterize the brightness of satellites, using a ground-based sensor they developed to measure satellites' brightness, speed and paths through the sky. Their work could be helpful for astronomers, who, if notified of incoming bright satellites, could close the shutters of their telescope-mounted cameras to prevent light trails from tainting their long-exposure astronomical images. The research team was led by professor of planetary sciences Vishnu Reddy, who als ... More

Mitochondrial DNA mutations linked to heart disease risk   Wide view of early universe hints at galaxy among earliest ever detected   CUHK's study sees a rising trend of multiple myeloma incidence, particularly in older males from high-income countries

Christopher Glass, MD, PhD, is professor in the departments of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Image courtesy: UC San Diego.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- Mitochondria are organelles found within most cells, best known for generating the chemical energy required to power cellular functions. Increasingly, however, researchers are discovering how mitochondrial function — and dysfunction — play critical roles in numerous diseases, and even aging. In a new study published in the August 4, 2022 online issue of Immunity, scientists at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Salk Institute for Biological Studies report a surprising link between mitochondria, inflammation and DNMT3A and TET2, a pair of genes that normally help regulate blood cell growth, but when mutated, are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis. “We found that the genes DNMT3A and TET2, in addition to their normal job of altering chemical tags to regulate DNA, directly activate expression of a gene involved in mitochondrial inflammatory pathways, which hi ... More

An image taken with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the James Webb Space Telescope from a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper. Image courtesy: NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/G. Yang./C. Papovich/Z. Levay.

AUSTIN, TX.- Two new images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope show what may be among the earliest galaxies ever observed. Both images include objects from more than 13 billion years ago, and one offers a much wider field of view than Webb’s First Deep Field image, which was released amid great fanfare July 12. The images represent some of the first out of a major collaboration of astronomers and other academic researchers teaming with NASA and global partners to uncover new insights about the universe. The team has identified one particularly exciting object—dubbed Maisie’s galaxy in honor of project head Steven Finkelstein’s daughter—that they estimate is being observed as it was just 290 million years after the Big Bang (astronomers refer to this as a redshift of z=14). The finding has been published on the preprint server arXiv and is awaiting publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If the finding is confirmed, it would be one of the earliest galaxies ever obse ... More

Professor Martin Wong and Dr. Huang Jun Jie from The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at CU Medicine. Image courtesy: CUHK.

HONG KONG.- Multiple myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia are the three major types of haematological malignancies. In Hong Kong, multiple myeloma is the third most common among them. According to Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, there were 320 new cases of multiple myeloma in 2019, an increase of about 40% compared with a decade ago. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine has conducted a study with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) to investigate the global distribution, risk factors and epidemiological trends of multiple myeloma. The results showed that the incidence of multiple myeloma was higher in high-income jurisdictions, and was closely related to the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita levels, the human development index (HDI) as well as the prevalence of physical inactivity, overweight and obesity rates, and diabetes. The global incidence of multiple myeloma has also shown an obvious rising tr ... More

New study reveals that climate change will severely impact bird species by 2080   Engineering the microbiome to potentially cure disease   Baboons borrowed a third of their genes from a closely related species

The team looked not only at changes in numbers of species in areas but also at the types of species that would occur. Image: Pixabay.

DURHAM.- Bioscientists from Durham University, UK and Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany have predicted in their latest research that bird communities will change worldwide in 2080 due to climate change, largely as result of shifting their ranges. For the projections of the bird communities to the year 2080, the team of scientists related past bird distributions to climate data and then applied these relationships to two future climate scenarios—based on low and medium greenhouse gas emissions—to predict changes in species distributions. The team looked not only at changes in numbers of species in areas but also at the types of species that would occur. To summarize changes in species types they calculated something called phylogenetic diversity that summarizes how many different types of birds would occur. For example, a community that had a lot of closely-related species, such as insect-eatin ... More

An artist’s rendering of the concept of re-engineered native bacteria that serve as chassis to introduce therapeutics into the gut microbiome to treat or cure disease. Image courtesy: Thom Leach, Amoeba Studios.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- Residing within the human gut are trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that can impact a variety of chronic human ailments, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Numerous diseases are associated with imbalance or dysfunction in gut microbiome. Even in diseases that don’t involve the microbiome, gut microflora provide an important point of access that allows modification of many physiological systems. Modifying to remedy, perhaps even cure these conditions, has generated substantial interest, leading to the development of live bacterial therapeutics (LBTs). One idea behind LBTs is to engineer bacterial hosts, or chassis, to produce therapeutics able to repair or restore healthy microbial function and diversity. Existing efforts have primarily focused on using probiotic bacterial strains from the Bacteroides or Lactobacillus families or Escherichia coli that have been used for decades ... More

In the region around the Amboseli basin of southern Kenya, where two species of baboons have met and intermixed not just once, but multiple times since the species diverged 1.4 million years ago. Image courtesy: Arielle Fogel, Duke University.

LEIPZIG.- New genetic analyses of wild baboons in southern Kenya reveals that most of them carry traces of hybridization in their DNA. As a result of interbreeding, about a third of their genetic makeup consists of genes from another, closely-related species. The researchers led by Jenny Tung from Duke University and now at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, measured genetic variation and gene activity to understand the possible costs and benefits of genetic mixing in primates, including humans. The study took place in a region near Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, where yellow baboons occasionally meet and intermix with their anubis baboon neighbors that live to the northwest. Researchers have monitored these animals on a near-daily basis since 1971, noting when they mated with outsiders and how the resulting offspring fared over their lifetimes as part of the Amboseli Baboon Research Project, one of the longes ... More

More News
New Stanford animation simulator focuses on finding interesting outcomes
STANFORD, CA.- Computer-based animators who are tasked with bringing to life imaginary worlds and characters are aided by simulators that can model the many possible ways an object or fluid might move through a physical space. Known as “solvers,” these simulators provide a significant head start on the work of animation. But there’s a catch. As computers have gotten faster, these solvers often create too many options for the animator to effectively sort through looking for just the right one. “A simulator can return thousands of options. It’s so time consuming to sort through them that these helpful solvers can’t be used to their full potential,” said Purvi Goel, a doctoral candidate in computer science at Stanford, who with her mentor, professor Doug James, has created a new approach to refine the search and ... More

Water can't touch this sanded, powdered surface
HOUSTON, TX.- Want a surface that won’t get wet? Grab some sandpaper. Rice University researchers have developed a simple method to make surfaces superhydrophobic — that is, very water-repellant — without the chemicals often used in such processes. Their technique involves sandpaper, a selection of powders and some elbow grease. The labs of Rice professors C. Fred Higgs III and James Tour, co-corresponding authors of a paper in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, showed that sanding a surface increases its ability to shed water without getting wet. But grinding in a powder at the same time gives it hydrophobic superpowers. Better yet, their superhydrophobic surfaces also have excellent anti-icing properties. They found it took water 2.6 times longer ... More

Giant viruses build a cell nucleus surprisingly like our own
SAN DIEGO, CA.- Humans aren’t the only targets for viruses. Like us, bacteria become infected by many types of viruses. In fact, across billions of years, bacteria and viruses have engaged in a non-stop evolutionary arms race for survival that includes countless innovations and counter-adaptations. Recently, biomedical scientists have ramped up interest in viruses known as bacteriophages, or phages, which can infect and kill dangerous bacteria. Phages, the most abundant organisms on the planet, are now recognized as a promising tool for combating bacterial infection as science seeks new therapies for rising waves of antibiotic resistance. Scientists would like to unlock the secrets of phages’ evolutionary strategies in their ongoing conflict with bacteria. A group of researchers with various specialties across the ... More

New method enables efficient sample preparation for single-cell proteomics
KUMAMOTO.- The proteins that make up our cells hold within an entire world of information, which, when unlocked, can give us insights into the origins of many essential biological phenomena. This information is gathered using an analytical technique known as "single-cell proteomics," in which a single-cell analysis is performed to observe the characteristics of individual cells at their protein level. Over the years, scientists have used single-cell proteomics in the fields of cancer genomics, cell differentiation, and tissue development. However, current proteomics techniques suffer from low recovery rate of protein samples, low throughput, and lack of versatility. Fortunately, a team of researchers from Japan and U.S. led by Assistant Professor Takeshi Masuda from Kumamoto University in Japan have found a solu ... More

A new approach for detecting tumor heterogeneity to assess breast cancer patient outcomes
LEBANON, NH.- Tumor heterogeneity refers to the presence of a variety of distinct cell types within a tumor. High tumor heterogeneity is thought to contribute to breast cancer progression and metastasis, or spreading to other parts of the body. Researchers at Dartmouth Cancer Center have developed a new approach for detecting and quantifying tumor heterogeneity to assess patient outcomes in breast cancer. The approach will pave the way to utilizing the extent of tumor heterogeneity as a factor in therapeutic decision-making. The study finds that high levels of heterogeneity in a patient's tumor are typically associated with poor prognosis. However, they were also able to identify specific proteins that regulate the extent of heterogeneity in a tumor and its potential to spread. These findings wer ... More

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A green light treatment for whiter teeth, fewer cavities

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Alexander Fleming was born
August 06, 1881. Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881 - 11 March 1955) was a Scottish physician and microbiologist, best known for discovering the world's first broadly effective antibiotic substance, which he named penicillin. His discovery in 1928 of what was later named benzylpenicillin (or penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium rubens is described as the "single greatest victory ever achieved over disease." For this discovery, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. He also discovered the enzyme lysozyme from his nasal discharge in 1922, and along with it a bacterium he named Micrococcus Lysodeikticus, later renamed Micrococcus luteus. Fleming was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944. In his Nobel lecture on 11 December 1945 he briefly mentioned lysozyme, saying, "Penicillin was not the first antibiotic I happened to discover."


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