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New wood-based technology removes 80% of dye pollutants in wastewater

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a new biobased material, a form of powder based on cellulose nanocrystals to purify water from pollutants, including textile dyes. Image courtesy: Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, David Ljungberg.

GOTHENBURG.- Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a new method that can easily purify contaminated water using a cellulose-based material. This discovery could have implications for countries with poor water treatment technologies and combat the widespread problem of toxic dye discharge from the textile industry. Clean water is a prerequisite for our health and living environment, but far from a given for everyone. According to the World Health Organization, WHO, there are currently over two billion people living with limited or no access to clean water. This global challenge is at the center of a research group at Chalmers University of Technology, which has developed a method to easily remove pollutants from water. The group, led by Gunnar Westman, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry focuses on new uses for cellulose and wood-based products and is part of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. The rese ... More





How Antarctica's tiny non-ice-dwelling species survived the ice age   Was Venus ever habitable? New UChicago study casts doubt   Virginia Tech geoscientists shed a light on life's evolution 800 million years ago


Springtails from Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica. Image courtesy: Cyrille D’Haese.

MELBOURNE.- New research published in Biology Letters on March 22 shows how tiny Antarctic life, which have lived on the continent since it was part of a forested Gondwana, have been able to survive as ice sheets have expanded and contracted over their ice-free homes for millennia. The research reveals that like moving livestock to higher ground during a flood, these animals survived in ice-free refuges, such as rocky outcrops protruding from ice-covered mountains. They have then expanded their range to their present-day habitats as the ice has retreated. Senior Research Scientist Dr. Mark Stevens from the South Australian Museum explains that this has long been theorized by scientists, but until now they had no evidence to prove it. "Using the distribution data of Antarctic springtails, tiny animals found in almost every ecosystem on Earth, and 'cosmogenic nuclide dating,' a method to tell when a rock was last covered in ice, this research reveals where Antarctica's tiniest life was able to survi ... More
 

A new study from the University of Chicago analyzes the chances that Venus was once habitable long ago. Image courtesy: NASA/JPL.

CHICAGO, IL.- For centuries, humans have been wondering whether anyone lived on Venus. In the 1960s, telescopes delivered bad news: Modern-day Venus is thoroughly hostile to life, shrouded in thick acidic clouds and sweltering at 900F. However, the question remained whether Venus started its life as a more habitable planet before a runaway greenhouse gas effect baked it dry. But a new study from the University of Chicago argues there is little chance the planet was ever habitable. By examining the composition of Venus’ atmosphere today and running simulations of its past to recreate those conditions, the researchers found very few scenarios in which the planet could have sustained liquid water and moderate temperatures for long. “Our results suggest that Venus has been uninhabitable for at least 70% of its history—four times longer than some previous estimates,” said geophysical scientist Sasha Warren, a University of Chica ... More
 

Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences doctoral student Junyao Kang holds a carbonate rock sample from the North China Craton. Image courtesy: Christina Franusich, Virginia Tech.

BLACKSBURG, VA.- Is nitrate responsible for algae, flowers, and even your neighbors? A team of Virginia Tech geoscientists have unearthed evidence that may indicate yes. The team's findings, recently published in Science Advances, reveal an increase in biologically available nitrogen during the time that marine eukaryotes — organisms whose cells have a nucleus — became dominate. Complex eukaryotic cells evolved into multicellular organisms and are credited for ushering in a whole new era for life on Earth, including animals, plants, and fungi. “Where we sit today, with life as it is on the planet, is the sum total of all the events that happened in the past,” said Ben Gill, an associate professor of sedimentary geochemistry and co-author on the paper. “And this is a key event where we shift from dominantly prokaryotic ecosystems — cells that are much simpler than the ones in our bodies — to eukaryotes. If that did not ... More



Deceptive daisy's ability to create fake flies explained   Artificial intelligence predicts genetics of cancerous brain tumors in under 90 seconds   CUHK develops an efficient approach to estimate the risk of heart disease in people living with HIV


Researcher shows the fake lady fly. Image courtesy: Jacqueline Garget/University of Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE.- A male fly approaches a flower, lands on top of what he thinks is a female fly, and jiggles around. He's trying to mate, but it isn't quite working. He has another go. Eventually he gives up and buzzes off, unsuccessful. The plant, meanwhile, has got what it wanted: pollen. A South African daisy, Gorteria diffusa, is the only daisy known to make such a complicated structure resembling a female fly on its petals. The mechanism behind this convincing three-dimensional deception, complete with hairy bumps and white highlights, has intrigued scientists for decades. Now researchers have identified three sets of genes involved in building the fake fly on the daisy's petals. The big surprise is that all three sets already have other functions in the plant: one moves iron around, one makes root hairs grow, and one controls when flowers are made. The study found that the three sets of genes have been brought together in the daisy petals in a new way to build fake lady flies. The "iron moving" g ... More
 

Image courtesy: Jacob Dwyer, Justine Ross, Michigan Medicine.

ANN ARBOR, MI.- Using artificial intelligence, researchers have discovered how to screen for genetic mutations in cancerous brain tumors in under 90 seconds—and possibly streamline the diagnosis and treatment of gliomas, a study suggests. A team of neurosurgeons and engineers at Michigan Medicine, in collaboration with investigators from New York University, University of California, San Francisco and others, developed an AI-based diagnostic screening system called DeepGlioma that uses rapid imaging to analyze tumor specimens taken during an operation and detect genetic mutations more rapidly. In a study of more than 150 patients with diffuse glioma, the most common and deadly primary brain tumor, the newly developed system identified mutations used by the World Health Organization to define molecular subgroups of the condition with an average accuracy over 90%. The results are published in Nature Medicine. "This AI-based tool has the pote ... More
 

CU Medicine has evaluated the effectiveness of a simple tool – Automatic Retinal Image Analysis (ARIA) technology – for assessing cardiovascular risk in people living with HIV. Image courtesy: CUHK.

HONG KONG.- Although there are existing calculators for predicting the risk of coronary artery disease in an individual, they are often inaccurate, as they fail to take into account many host characteristics, including ethnicity and underlying medical conditions such as HIV. The Centre for Clinical Research and Biostatistics, the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, and the Department of Imaging and Interventional Radiology from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) have evaluated the effectiveness of a simple tool – Automatic Retinal Image Analysis (ARIA) technology – for assessing cardiovascular risk in people living with HIV. Results showed the model, which incorporates both retinal characteristics and traditional cardiovascular risk factors, has both a sensitivity and a specificity of over 90% in assessing the presence of coronary atherosclerosis and obstructive ... More



Robotic system offers hidden window into collective bee behavior   The 'Stonehenge calendar' shown to be a modern construct   Climate change threatens global fisheries


The robotic system is shown in an experimental hive. Image courtesy: MOBOTS / EPFL / Hiveopolis.

LAUSANNE.- EPFL researchers have developed a temperature-modulating robotic system that can be seamlessly integrated into notoriously sensitive honeybee hives, providing both a never-before-seen view of honeybee behavior and a means to influence it. Honeybees are famously finicky when it comes to being studied. Research instruments and conditions and even unfamiliar smells can disrupt a colony’s behavior. Now, a joint research team from the Mobile Robotic Systems Group in EPFL’s School of Engineering and School of Computer and Communication Sciences and the Hiveopolis project at Austria’s University of Graz have developed a robotic system that can be unobtrusively built into the frame of a standard honeybee hive. Composed of an array of thermal sensors and actuators, the system measures and modulates honeybee behavior through localized temperature variations. “Many rules of bee society – from collective and individual ... More
 

Stonehenge (view from the NW). Image courtesy: Juan Belmonte.

MILAN.- Stonehenge is an astonishingly complex monument, which attracts attention mostly for its spectacular megalithic circle and "horseshoe," built around 2600 BC. Over the years, several theories have been put forward about Stonehenge's meaning and function. Today, however, archaeologists have a rather clear picture of this monument as a "place for the ancestors," located within a complex ancient landscape which included several other elements. Archaeoastronomy has a key role in this interpretation since Stonehenge exhibits an astronomical alignment to the sun which, due to the flatness of the horizon, refers both to the summer solstice sunrise and to the winter solstice sunset. This accounts for a symbolic interest of the builders in the solar cycle, most probably related to the connections between the afterlife and winter solstice in Neolithic societies. This is, of course, very far from saying that the monument was used as a giant calendrical device, as instead has been proposed in a new ... More
 

Euchaeta marina (Calanoid Copepod). Image courtesy: Julian Uribe-Palomino IMOS-CSIRO.

BRISBANE.- The diet quality of fish across large parts of the world's oceans could decline by up to 10% as climate change impacts an integral part of marine food chains, a major study has found. QUT School of Mathematical Sciences researcher Dr. Ryan Heneghan led the study published in Nature Climate Change, which included researchers from the University of Queensland, University of Tasmania, University of NSW and CSIRO. They modeled the impact of climate change on zooplankton, an abundant and extremely diverse group of microscopic animals accounting for about 40% of the world's marine biomass. Zooplankton are the primary link between phytoplankton—which convert sunlight and nutrients into energy like plants do on land—and fish. Zooplankton include groups such as Antarctic krill—a major food source for whales—and even jellyfish. "Despite their abundance, diversity and critical importance in transferring energy from phytopla ... More



Habitat will dictate whether ground beetles win or lose against climate change, finds study   Doubling a qubit's life, researchers prove a key theory of quantum physics   Wastewater could be the key to tracking more viruses than just COVID-19


A six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). Image courtesy: James Reben.

STATE COLLEGE, PA.- The success of North American crops from corn to Christmas trees partly depends on a relatively invisible component of the food web—ground beetles. Nearly 2,000 species of ground beetle live in North America. New research led by Pennsylvania State University shows that some of these insects could thrive while others could decline as the climate changes. The team found that the response will largely depend on the species' traits and habitats, and could have significant implications for conservation efforts. The research is published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. "We know that climate change influences everything from coral reefs in the ocean to trees on land, but there's less information available on how it affects insects," said Tong Qiu, assistant professor of multifunctional landscapes at Penn State. "Ground beetles are everywhere—in your backyard, in your garden. They eat the pests and weed seeds that dam ... More
 

In quantum computing, information is stored in special devices with quantum properties that are known as quantum bits, or "qubits." Image courtesy: Yale University.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- Researchers at Yale have for the first time, using a process known as quantum error correction, substantially extended the lifetime of a quantum bit—a long-sought-after goal and one of the trickiest challenges in the field of quantum physics. Led by Yale's Michael Devoret, the experiment proves—decades after its theoretical foundations were proposed—that quantum error correction works in practice. Quantum error correction is a process designed to keep quantum information intact for a period of time longer than if the same information were stored in hardware components without any correction. The results were published March 22 in Nature. Information in classical computing comes in the form of bits corresponding to ones or zeros. In quantum computing, information is stored in special devices with quantum properties that are known as quantum bits, or "qubits." In the lab of Devoret, the Frederick W. Beinecke Professor of ... More
 

Boehm lab graduate student Winnie Zambrana showing how wastewater samples are processed to test for evidence of viruses. Image courtesy: Harry Gregory.

STANFORD, CA.- Public health experts commonly track spikes in flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rhinovirus circulating in a population through weekly reports from sentinel laboratories. These laboratories process samples from only severely ill patients, and it can take weeks for the results to get into the database. Now, for the first time, researchers at Stanford University, in collaboration with Emory University and Verily Life Sciences, have collected fast and accurate readings of a whole suite of respiratory viruses in their local Santa Clara sewer system. Wastewater is currently the only source for accurate information about COVID-19 rates in communities. PCR testing is no longer widely available, and most people swab themselves at home where their results never reach public health agencies. Prior to COVID-19, respiratory viruses had not been tracked through wastewater. Most of the viruses the scientists tested for in this study h ... More



More News
Team develops 2D ultrasound-responsive antibacterial nano-sheets to effectively address bone tissue infection
HONG KONG.- A research team led by Professor Kelvin Yeung Wai-kwok from the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, School of Clinical Medicine, LKS Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) has invented a non-invasive and non-antibiotics technology to effectively reduce methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in bony tissue. The novel antibacterial nano-sheets can release a substantial amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) subject to ultrasound stimulation. With the engulfment of neutrophil membrane (NM), the nano-sheets are able to actively capture the MRSA bacteria deeply seated in bony tissue and effectively eliminate ... More

Artificial intelligence discovers secret equation for 'weighing' galaxy clusters
NEW YORK, NY.- Astrophysicists at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Flatiron Institute and their colleagues have leveraged artificial intelligence to uncover a better way to estimate the mass of colossal clusters of galaxies. The AI discovered that by just adding a simple term to an existing equation, scientists can produce far better mass estimates than they previously had. The improved estimates will enable scientists to calculate the fundamental properties of the universe more accurately, the astrophysicists reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "It's such a simple thing; that's the beauty of this," says study co-author Francisco Villaescusa-Navarro, a research scientist at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics (CCA) in New York City. "Even though it's ... More

A portable instrument to measure indoor air pollution
TORONTO.- Most people know air pollution exists outside from cars, trucks and industry, but many are unaware their indoor air quality could be worse than that of a big city. Until now, there has been no easy way to measure indoor air quality given the size and complexity of the equipment—it would likely fill a single car garage and need several scientists to operate it—but researchers at York University have designed an instrument that could assess pollution levels inside homes and businesses. The total reactive nitrogen (tNr) instrument, developed by York University Assistant Professor Trevor VandenBoer of the Faculty of Science along with former York Postdoctoral researcher Leigh Crilley, uses an oven to measure a variety of chemicals that make up indoor air pollution and is the size of a small bookcase on w ... More

New study uncovers unprecedented declines in iconic kelp forests along Monterey Peninsula
FALMOUTH, MA.- A new study published in PLOS ONE provides novel documentation of kelp forest decline along the west coast of the U.S. and Mexico in response to the 2014–2016 record-breaking marine heatwave, along with evidence of regional recovery. Using Kelpwatch.org, an open-source web tool used to visualize and analyze nearly 40 years of kelp canopy dynamics data derived from satellite imagery, the study uncovers a north-to-south pattern in kelp decline and recovery from the marine heatwave, for both giant kelp and bull kelp canopies. The study, a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of California Los Angeles, documents an unprecedented and sustained decline in canopy-forming kelps along the Monterey Peninsula, as well as rea ... More

Can insights from the soapbark tree change the way we make vaccines?
NORWICH.- The medicinal secrets of the Chilean soapbark tree have been laid bare, unlocking a future of more potent, affordable, and sustainably sought vaccines. The evergreen species Quillaja saponaria has, for decades, been highly prized for producing molecules called QS saponins, which are used in the food and drinks industry as foaming agents. More recently an important new function has emerged with saponins obtained from the tree's bark used as potent adjuvants in the production of vaccines. Adjuvants play a critical role in some vaccines, working to boost the potency of a vaccine by enhancing the host immune response. Molecules extracted from soapbark tree are used as adjuvants in vaccines protecting people against COVID-19, shingles, and malaria. QS saponins are sourced directly from th ... More



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Flashback
On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Christian B. Anfinsen was born
April 26, 1916. Christian Boehmer Anfinsen Jr. (March 26, 1916 - May 14, 1995) was an American biochemist. He shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Stanford Moore and William Howard Stein for work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation. He was also a pioneer of ideas in the area of nucleic acid compaction. In 1961, he showed that ribonuclease could be refolded after denaturation while preserving enzyme activity, thereby suggesting that all the information required by protein to adopt its final conformation is encoded in its amino-acid sequence. He belonged to the National Academy of Sciences (USA), the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the American Philosophical Society. Anfinsen published more than 200 original articles, mostly in the area of the relationships between structure and function in proteins, as well as a book, The Molecular Basis of Evolution (1959).



 


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