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Merging stars produce glowing Blue Ring Nebula

GALEX imaged the star Mira, and its glowing ultraviolet tail, in 2007. The process that creates the glowing ultraviolet light around Mira, in which a shock wave heats up hydrogen gas, is similar to what is happening in the Blue Ring Nebula. Image courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/C. Martin (Caltech)/M. Seibert(OCIW).

PASADENA, CA.- Sixteen years ago, a team of astronomers working for NASA's now-defunct Galaxy Evolution Explorer mission, known as GALEX, spotted a star with an unusual ultraviolet ring around it in images obtained by the space telescope. The object, which was unlike anything the astronomers had seen before, was nicknamed the Blue Ring Nebula because of its appearance (though its blue color actually represents invisible ultraviolet light that has been intentionally color-coded blue in images). The astronomers spent years scrutinizing the object with other telescopes, both on the ground and in space, and slowly a picture of the star's hidden past began to emerge. In a new Nature study published online November 18, a team of scientists, including several from the original GALEX team, now offer an explanation for the formation of the blue ring around the star, named TYC 2597-735-1. They make the case that the ring is actually the base of a cone-shaped cloud of fluorescing debris formed after a sun-like ... More





World-first skin cancer treatment aims to help transplant patients   Study reveals how smoking worsens COVID-19 infection in the airways   Prehistoric shark hid its largest teeth


Associate Professor James Wells. The world-first treatment being developed at The University of Queensland is the only drug of its type that could prevent the incidence of skin cancers for transplant patients. Image: The University of Queensland.

BRISBANE.- A new medication which can be applied to the skin could help prevent organ transplant recipients from developing harmful skin cancers. The world-first treatment being developed at The University of Queensland is the only drug of its type that could prevent the incidence of skin cancers for transplant patients. Lead researcher from UQ’s Diamantina Institute Dr James Wells said the treatment was shown in models to clear skin tumours that grow as a consequence of taking tacrolimus – a drug that transplant patients must take to suppress their immune systems to avoid organ rejection. “It’s first-in-class, meaning there is no other drug that has been developed targeting the same mechanism,” Dr Wells said. Organ transplant recipients are 100 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) than the general population, with patients developing multiple SCC’s. The current treatment includes invasive su ... More
 

COVID-19-infected cells. Image courtesy: UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center/Cell Stem Cell.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- UCLA researchers using a model of airway tissue created from human stem cells have pinpointed how smoking cigarettes causes more severe infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the airways of the lungs. The study, led by scientists at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and published in Cell Stem Cell, will help researchers better understand COVID-19 risks for smokers and could inform the development of new therapeutic strategies to help reduce smokers’ chances of developing severe disease. Cigarette smoking is one of the most common causes of lung diseases, including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and most demographic studies of COVID-19 patients have indicated that current smokers are at increased risk of severe infection and death. But the reasons why have not been entirely clear. To help understand how smoking affects SARS-CoV-2 inf ... More
 

Illustration of the prehistoric shark "Ferromirum oukherbouchi". Image courtesy: Christian Klug, UZH.

ZURICH.- Many modern sharks have row upon row of formidable sharp teeth that constantly regrow and can easily be seen if their mouths are just slightly opened. But this was not always the case. The teeth in the ancestors of today’s cartilaginous fish (chondrichthyan), which include sharks, rays and chimaeras, were replaced more slowly. With mouths closed, the older, smaller and worn out teeth of sharks stood upright on the jaw, while the younger and larger teeth pointed towards the tongue and were thus invisible when the mouth was closed. Paleontologists at the University of Zurich, the University of Chicago and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden (Netherlands) have now examined the structure and function of this peculiar jaw construction based on a 370-million-year-old chondrichthyan from Morocco. Using computed tomography scans, the researchers were able not only to reconstruct the jaw, but also print it out as a 3D model. ... More



Scientists defy nature to make insta-bling at room temperature   Will small rockets finally lift off?   3D-printed, lifelike heart models could help train tomorrow's surgeons


ANU PhD scholar Xingshuo Huang hold the diamond anvil that the team used to make the diamonds in the lab. Image courtesy: Jamie Kidston, ANU.

CANBERRA.- An international team of scientists has defied nature to make diamonds in minutes in a laboratory at room temperature – a process that normally requires billions of years, huge amounts of pressure and super-hot temperatures. The team, led by The Australian National University and RMIT University, made two types of diamonds: the kind found on an engagement ring and another type of diamond called Lonsdaleite, which is found in nature at the site of meteorite impacts such as Canyon Diablo in the US. One of the lead researchers, ANU Professor Jodie Bradby, said their breakthrough shows that Superman may have had a similar trick up his sleeve when he crushed coal into diamond, without using his heat ray. “Natural diamonds are usually formed over billions of years, about 150 kilometres deep in the Earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius,” said Professor Bradby from the ANU Research ... More
 

A National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload was successfully launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex-1.

PARIS (AFP).- The boom in demand for placing small satellites into orbit has boosted interest in small rockets, but industry players do not think the niche will become a business segment of its own. "This time last year, we were able to count over 120 startups for microlaunchers, small rockets that would carry a single small satellite. As we look today, there is a significantly smaller number of those," said Tory Bruno, CEO of Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), said at a recent industry gathering. The frenzy of proposals for small rockets, or microlaunchers, comes as new satellite-based phone and internet networks are shifting away from a few satellites in high, geostationary orbits. Instead they use constellations of many, small satellites placed in low earth orbits (LEO). In the past decade 1,805 small satellites have been placed in orbit and the advisory firm Euroconsult expects that number to rise to 10,000 by 2030. This year, 95 of the 1,079 satellites launched a ... More
 

Researchers have developed a way to 3D print a full-size model of a patient's own heart. Image courtesy: Screenshot of American Chemical Society video.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Full-size, realistic models of human organs could help surgeons train and practice before they cut into a patient. However, it’s been challenging to make inexpensive models of a size, complexity and material that simulates human organs. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering have developed a way to 3D print a full-size model of a patient’s own heart. For complex heart surgeries, having a chance to plan and practice on a realistic model could help surgeons anticipate problems, leading to more successful outcomes. Current 3D printing techniques have been used to make full-size organ models, but the materials generally don’t replicate the feel or mechanical properties of natural tissue. And soft, tissue-like materials, such as silicone rubbers, often collapse when 3D printed in air, making it difficult to reproduce large, complex structures. Eman Mirdamadi, Adam Feinberg and ... More



Children produce different antibodies in response to new coronavirus   A DNA-based nanogel for targeted chemotherapy   Wild animal populations not declining as feared: study


A health worker collect a swab sample for a COVID-19 test from a child at the Jose Marti International Airport as commercial flights resume in Havana on November 15, 2020. Yamil Lage / AFP.

NEW YORK, NY.- Children and adults produce different types and amounts of antibodies in response to infection with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, a new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has found. The differences in antibodies suggest the course of the infection and immune response is distinct in children and most children easily clear the virus from their bodies. “Our study provides an in-depth examination of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in kids, revealing a stark contrast with adults,” says Columbia University immunologist Donna Farber, PhD, the George H. Humphreys II Professor of Surgical Sciences in the Department of Surgery, who led the study with Matteo Porotto, PhD, associate professor of viral molecular pathogenesis in Columbia’s Department of Pediatrics. The first authors, Stuart Weisberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology & cell biology, and Thomas Connors, MD, as ... More
 

A DNA-based nanogel is broken down in cancer cells to release chemotherapy drugs. Image: Adapted from Nano Letters 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolet.0c03671.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Current chemotherapy regimens slow cancer progression and save lives, but these powerful drugs affect both healthy and cancerous cells. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Nano Letters have designed DNA-based nanogels that only break down and release their chemotherapeutic contents within cancer cells, minimizing the impacts on normal ones and potentially eliminating painful and uncomfortable side effects. Once ingested or injected, chemotherapy medications move throughout the body, indiscriminately affecting healthy cells along with those that are responsible for disease. Since many of these drugs are toxic to all cells, the desired tumor shrinkage can be accompanied by undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue. Nanogels made of DNA are one way that these drugs could be delivered, but they would still enter all cells. Tianhu Li, Teck-Peng Loh and colleagues reasoned that bi ... More
 

Image: Andre Ouellet, Unsplash.

by Marlowe Hood


PARIS (AFP).- The population of most wild animals with a backbone -- mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles and fish -- is stable, scientists said Wednesday in a finding sharply at odds with a benchmark report issued every two years by environmental group WWF. Looking at 14,000 vertebrate populations monitored by WWF since 1970, researchers found that if the one percent suffering the worst declines are removed from the equation, the remaining populations, grouped together, are holding steady in terms of overall numbers. In September, the WWF's Living Planet Index reported an average 68 percent fall in the populations of all animals monitored, a grim figure that made headlines worldwide. "Collapsing all population trends into a single value can give the impression that everything is declining," Brian Leung, senior author of the new study and a professor at McGill University in Canada, told AFP. "However, the image of a global 'biodiversity desert' is not supported by the evidence." There are in fact re ... More



Gene signature predicts whether localized prostate cancer is likely to spread   Study: Solar geoengineering may not be a long-term solution for climate change   Alzheimer's disease drug may help fight against antibiotic resistance


If already having grown large, a prostate cancer may first be detected on CT scan. Image courtesy: Mads Ryø Jochumsen, Bjørn Agerbo Sahlholdt and Jørgen Bjerggaard Jensen - (2017).

NEW YORK, NY.- Researchers have identified a genetic signature in localized prostate cancer that can predict whether the cancer is likely to spread, or metastasize, early in the course of the disease and whether it will respond to anti-androgen therapy, a common treatment for advanced disease. The new gene signature may also be useful for evaluating responses to treatment and for developing new therapies to prevent or treat advanced prostate cancer. “If we could know in advance which patients will develop metastases, we could start treatments earlier and treat the cancer more aggressively,” says the study’s senior author, Cory Abate-Shen, PhD, chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the Michael and Stella Chernow Professor of Urologic Sciences (in Urology), and professor of pathology & cell biology (in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center) at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians a ... More
 

Seeding the atmosphere with aerosols would not prevent high atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from destabilizing low-lying clouds, opening the door to extreme warming. Image courtesy: Caltech.

PASADENA, CA.- Seeding the atmosphere with aerosols would not prevent high atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from destabilizing low-lying clouds, opening the door to extreme warming. Pumping aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight, thus cooling Earth, is one last-ditch method for dealing with climate change. According to new research from Caltech, however, such solar geoengineering may fail to prevent catastrophic warming in the long run. Solar geoengineering has received attention because it is doable with existing technology, says Tapio Schneider, Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and a senior research scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. "Obviously, there are governance and ethical questions about who controls Earth's thermostat," Schneider says, but "beyond that, our research shows that solar geoengineering ultimately may not fix the problem if high greenhouse gas emissions continu ... More
 

UQ’s Dr David Oliveira analysing samples in the lab.​ Image courtesy: The University of Queensland.

BRISBANE.- An experimental Alzheimer's disease treatment is proving effective at treating some of the most persistent, life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers from The University of Queensland, The University of Melbourne and Griffith University have discovered that the drug called PBT2 is effective at disrupting and killing a class of bacteria – known as Gram-negative bacteria – that cause infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections and meningitis. UQ’s Professor Mark Walker said the metal transport drug may offer a last line of defence against some of the world’s most difficult to treat superbugs. “The emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is an urgent threat to human health, undermining the capacity to treat patients with serious infection,” Professor Walker said. “Alternative strategies to treat such multi-drug resistant bacteria are urgently needed. “Led by UQ’ ... More



More News
Gut microbiome manipulation could result from virus discovery
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ.- Scientists have discovered how a common virus in the human gut infects and takes over bacterial cells – a finding that could be used to control the composition of the gut microbiome, which is important for human health. The Rutgers co-authored research, which could aid efforts to engineer beneficial bacteria that produce medicines and fuels and clean up pollutants, is published in the journal Nature. “CrAssphages are the most abundant viruses infecting bacteria in the human gut. As such, they likely control our intestinal community of microbes (the microbiome),” said co-author Konstantin Severinov, a principal investigator at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University ... More

Antibiotic resistance genes in three Puerto Rican watersheds after Hurricane Maria
WASHINGTON, DC.- In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane that made landfall in September 2017, flooding and power outages caused some wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to discharge raw sewage into waterways in Puerto Rico. Six months later, researchers monitored antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in three Puerto Rican watersheds, finding that the abundance and diversity of ARGs were highest downstream of WWTPs. They report their results in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology. Flooding can result in contamination of waterways with untreated human waste, and in turn, fecal and pathogenic bacteria. Previous research has linked this contamination to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To help monitor the spread of these potentially harmful ... More

Scientists identify brain cells that drive wakefulness and resist general anesthetics
PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Neuroscientists don’t know precisely what brain circuits control wakefulness and sleep, nor exactly how drugs for general anesthesia affect those circuits. But a new study from Penn Medicine researchers brings neuroscience a step closer to solving that important conundrum. A team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in a study published online Nov. 13 in Current Biology, identified a population of neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain that keeps mice from sleeping when they normally would when they are activated. Activating these neurons also “wakes” them from ongoing exposure to inhaled anesthetics like isoflurane or sevoflurane, and even helps maintain the alert state when animals are dosed with anes ... More

For neural research, wireless chip shines light on the brain
RALEIGH, NC.- Researchers have developed a chip that is powered wirelessly and can be surgically implanted to read neural signals and stimulate the brain with both light and electrical current. The technology has been demonstrated successfully in rats and is designed for use as a research tool. “Our goal was to create a research tool that can be used to help us better understand the behavior of different regions of the brain, particularly in response to various forms of neural stimulation,” says Yaoyao Jia, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. “This tool will help us answer fundamental questions that could then pave the way for advances in addressing neurological disorders ... More

Stanford researchers combine Zillow and census data to determine residential water needs
STANFORD, CA.- The gateway to more informed water use and better urban planning in your city could already be bookmarked on your computer. A new Stanford University study identifies residential water use and conservation trends by analyzing housing information available from the prominent real estate website Zillow. The research, published Nov. 18 in Environmental Research Letters, is the first to demonstrate how new real estate data platforms can be used to provide valuable water use insights for city housing and infrastructure planning, drought management and sustainability. “Evolving development patterns can hold the key to our success in becoming more water-wise and building long-term water security,” said study senior author Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy ... More



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Russian physicist and astronomer Mikhail Lomonosov was born



Flashback
On a day like today, Russian physicist and astronomer Mikhail Lomonosov was born
November 19, 1711. Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (November 19 [O.S. November 8] 1711 - April 15 1765) was a Russian polymath, scientist and writer, who made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the law of conservation of mass in chemical reactions. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and others. Lomonosov was also a poet and influenced the formation of the modern Russian literary language. In 1756, Lomonosov tried to replicate Robert Boyle's experiment of 1673. He concluded that the commonly accepted phlogiston theory was false. Anticipating the discoveries of Antoine Lavoisier, he wrote in his diary: "Today I made an experiment in hermetic glass vessels in order to determine whether the mass of metals increases from the action of pure heat.



 


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