Gain Knowledge Through Scientific Research

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Archive 2011-2013


Opening date : July 13, 2013

Even Bacteria Use Social Networks

Berkeley Lab scientists image cell-to-cell connections between soil microbes

JULY 18, 2013 | Dan Krotz | Berkeley Lab


Research published today in Nature journal, Scientific Reports, reveals that not only do some species of whales get darker with sun exposure, incurring DNA damage in their skin just like us, they also accumulate damage to the cells in the skin as they get older.

Experts in the response of skin to UV radiation at Newcastle University were called in after marine biologists in Mexico noticed an increasing number of whales in the area had blistered skin. Analysing samples from three types of whales – blue, sperm and fin – they worked together to study the changes in the whale skin after their annual migration to sunnier climes.

Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University and joint senior author of the paper said: “Whales can be thought of as the UV barometers of the sea. It’s important that we study them as they are some of the longest living sea creatures and are sensitive to changes in their environment so they reflect the health of the ocean.”

Reference article : Whales get a tan too | Newcastle University ,
Tracing Knowledge’s  featured article : Whales Use Distinct Strategies to Counteract Solar Ultraviolet Radiation

“Dr. Dorn’s insight into the fundamental process whereby fullerenes are formed is a major contribution to the field,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “Understanding the molecular steps in their formation is key to realizing fully the potential of this versatile and potentially potent family of chemicals in medicine. Dr. Dorn’s contributions to understanding these molecules are paving the way for the formulation of targeted novel diagnostics, therapeutics, and the combination of both — theranostics. This approach will provide an important component for tomorrow’s arsenal of precision medicine.”

Reference article :

Researchers discover first evidence to support controversial theory of ‘buckyball’ formation

September 16, 2013 | by Ken Kingery | Original online publication : The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute

TK link | pdf : Researchers discover first evidence to support controversial theory of ‘buckyball’ formation _ research.vtc.vt

Reference paper

Reward-based hypertension control by a synthetic brain–dopamine interface

October 14, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1312414110 

Essential activities such as feeding and reproduction as well as social, emotional, and mental behavior are reinforced by the brain’s reward system. Pleasure status directly correlates with dopamine levels released in the brain. Because dopamine leaks into the bloodstream via the sympathetic nervous system, brain and blood dopamine levels are interrelated. We designed asynthetic dopamine sensor-effector device that enables engineered human cells, insulated byimmunoprotective microcontainers and implanted into the abdomen of mice, to monitor blood-dopamine levels and drive dopamine-dependent secretion of product proteins in pleasure situationsassociated with palatable food, drugs, or sexual arousal. Hypertensive animals treated with this device, which produces a clinically licensed antihypertensive peptide, had their high blood pressure corrected when exposed to sexual arousal.

  • Neutrinos interact with other building blocks of matter only via the weak force, mediated by two types of particles: the charged W boson and the electrically neutral Z boson. Each type of boson weighs almost 100 times more than a proton, and the origin of their masses is closely connected to the existence of the famous Higgs boson [article]
  • The last century has seen enormous progress in our understanding of the Universe. We know the life cycles of stars, the structure of galaxies, the remnants of the big bang, and have a general understanding of how the Universe evolved. We have come remarkably far using electromagnetic radiation as our tool for observing the Universe. However, gravity is the engine behind many of the processes in the Universe, and much of its action is dark – it emits no electromagnetic radiation at all. Opening a gravitational window on the Universe will let us go further than any alternative. Gravity has its own messenger: Gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time. They travel essentially undisturbed and let us peer deep into the formation of the first seed black holes, exploring redshifts as large as z ~ 20, prior to the epoch of cosmic re-ionisation. Exquisite and unprecedented measurements of black hole masses and spins will make it possible to trace the history of black holes across all stages of galaxy evolution, and at the same time constrain any deviation from the Kerr metric of General Relativity. eLISA will be the first ever mission to study the entire Universe with gravitational waves. eLISA is an all-sky monitor and will offer a wide view of a dynamic cosmos using gravitational waves as new and unique messengers to unveil The Gravitational Universe. It provides the closest ever view of the early processes at TeV energies, has guaranteed sources in the form of verification binaries in the Milky Way, and can probe the entire Universe, from its smallest scales around singularities and black holes, all the way to cosmological dimensions [article]
  • Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 as part of the theory of general relativity. He described space and time as different aspects of reality in which matter and energy are ultimately the same. Space-time can be thought of as a “fabric” defined by the measuring of distances by rulers and the measuring of time by clocks. The presence of large amounts of mass or energy distorts space-time — in essence causing the fabric to “warp” — and we observe this as gravity. Freely falling objects — whether a soccer ball, a satellite, or a beam of starlight — simply follow the most direct path in this curved space-time. When large masses move suddenly, some of this space-time curvature ripples outward, spreading in much the way ripples do the surface of an agitated pond. Imagine two neutron stars orbiting each other. A neutron star is the burned-out core often left behind after a star explodes. It is an incredibly dense object that can carry as much mass as a star like our sun, in a sphere only a few miles wide. When two such dense objects orbit each other, space-time is stirred by their motion, and gravitational energy ripples throughout the universe. In 1974 Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse found such a pair of neutron stars in our own galaxy. One of the stars is a pulsar, meaning it beams regular pulses of radio waves toward Earth. Taylor and his colleagues were able to use these radio pulses, like the ticks of a very precise clock, to study the orbiting of neutron stars. Over two decades, these scientists watched for and found the tell-tale shift in timing of these pulses, which indicated a loss of energy from the orbiting stars — energy that had been carried away as gravitational waves. The result was just as Einstein’s theory predicted  [article]
  • When high-energy radiation from space enters Earth’s upper atmosphere, it interacts with naturally occurring atmospheric molecules to produce the isotope carbon-14. As trees are firmly plugged into the earth’s carbon cycle by photosynthesis, the carbon-14 ends up in each tree ring, creating an annual record etched into the flesh of the tree of the average carbon-14 level in Earth’s atmosphere [article]
  • Overweight people are at an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, the latter being the most common cause of death in western industrialised nations. Not only is high-calorie and fatty food a lifetime on the hips, backside and stomach; it also leaves traces in the blood, where various fats ingested via food circulate. Increased blood-fat values are also regarded as a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes [article]
  • Some theories make a particularly intriguing prediction: that protons, building blocks at the heart of every atom, eventually will decay. Not to worry; this catastrophic process would take at least a billion trillion trillion years to destroy our atoms. However, that doesn’t mean scientists will need to wait so long to catch one decaying. Measuring a particle’s half-life is all about probability. For instance, if you have 10 atoms with a half-life of 24 hours, you’ll likely be down to five atoms at the end of the day. But the five atoms you lost would not have decayed all at once. One might have decayed after just a second, and another after 23 hours. So it is with protons. A few might be decaying as you read this, but we just don’t have the tools yet to observe it. Current and planned experiments will examine more than a billion trillion trillion protons in detectors deep underground to attempt to catch the extremely rare decay of this particle with a half-life of at least 1034 years—that’s the number 1 with 34 zeros after it. Discovering proton decay would be a strong sign that theories about the unification of forces and the asymmetry of matter and antimatter are correct [article]
  • Grapes are transformed into wine by an entire ecosystem of yeasts and bacteria, whose composition has a huge impact on the quality of the final product. In many cases these microbes are ‘wild’, coming from the local environment and appearing naturally in the fermentation once the grapes are crushed. However, like any wild organism, their appearance and behaviour can be erratic, and their overall role in defining regional character of wine largely remains a mystery [article]
  • Liquid crystals are a state of matter which possess properties both of liquids (ability to flow) and of solid crystals (order and anisotropy).  Because of their unique physical properties liquid crystals are used in the electronic displays of computers, televisions, cell phones and portable gaming devices that have led the ICT revolution [article]
  • Neurons in the brain communicate with each other using chemicals called neurotransmitters. This release of neurotransmitter from neurons is tightly controlled by many different proteins inside the neuron. These proteins interact with each other to ensure that neurotransmitter is only released when necessary. Although the mechanisms that control this release have been extensively studied, the processes that co-ordinate how and when the component proteins interact is not fully understood [article]
  • How does the developing brain establish the correct connections?Matsui et al. , discovered an activity-dependent transcription mechanism during mouse and ferret visual cortex development that controls the direction of dendrite orientation, allowing dendrites to steer toward active axons and away from inactive axons. This mechanism enables the construction of polarized neuronal shapes for integration into neural circuits with the required finescale architecture to process subtle activity patterns, a property underlying complex behavior [article]
  • Earth’s history is divided into different chunks of geologic time, going all the way back to the formation of our planet. Unlike calendars or clocks, which divide time into units of equal length (e.g., days or seconds), the divisions of geologic time aren’t the same length.  For example, the Mesozoic Era was ~186 million years long, whereas the preceding Paleozoic Era lasted ~289 million years. At 2.6 million years, the Pleistocene Epoch was much shorter than the Miocene Epoch (20.4 million years long).  These divisions may seem arbitrary at first, but they’re not; geologic time is based on the succession of rock layers. Geologic time was the first method scientists used to understand the sequence of events in Earth’s history. More recently, we’ve used other methods to associate actual dates with different rock layers, thus linking geologic time (a relative method) with absolute time (= numbers of years old). This merger of geologic time and absolute time is the geologic time scale [article]
  • The Burmese python’s phenotype, or physical characteristics, represents one of the most extreme examples of evolutionary adaptation, the authors said. Like all snakes, its evolutionary origin included reduction in function of one lung and the elongation of its mid-section, skeleton and organs. It also has an extraordinary ability for what researchers call “physiological remodeling.” Physiological remodeling refers to the process by which pythons are able to digest meals much larger than their size, such as chickens or piglets, by ramping up their metabolism and increasing the mass of their heart, liver, small intestine and kidneys 35 percent to 150 percent in only 24 to 48 hours. As the digestion is completed, the organs return to their original size within a matter of days. The authors suggest that understanding how snakes accomplish these tremendous feats could hold vital clues for the development of treatments for many different types of human diseases. “The Burmese python has an amazing physiology. With its genome in hand, we can now explore the many untapped molecular mechanisms it uses to dramatically increase metabolic rate, to shut down acid production, to improve intestinal function, and to rapidly increase the size of its heart, intestine, pancreas, liver and kidneys,” said Stephen Secor, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama and a co-author on the paper. “The benefits of these discoveries transcends to the treatment of metabolic diseases, ulcers, intestinal malabsorption, Crohn’s disease, cardiac hypertrophy and the loss of organ performance.” [article]
  • Your intestines are home to about 100 trillion bacteria. That’s more than the number of cells that comprise the entire human body. Armies of bacteria sneak into our bodies the moment we are born, uninvited but necessary guests. For the most part, these bacteria are industrious and friendly. Some of them are even beneficial, helping with digestion and producing vitamins. A few miscreants, though, will kill us if we let them stay. Sometimes the difference between harmless and harmful is miniscule. Take E. coli, for instance. Billions of E. coli organisms live in the average person’s intestines. They go about their business causing no trouble whatsoever. However, one particular strain of E. coli, O157:H7, causes about 2,000 hospitalizations and 60 deaths in the United States every year. The differences between this strain and others are detectable only at the molecular level [article]
  • Nanoparticles assemble at the interface between two fluids into disordered, liquid-like arrays where the nanoparticles can diffuse laterally at the interface. Using nanoparticles dispersed in water and amine end-capped polymers in oil, nanoparticle surfactants are generated in situ at the interface overcoming the inherent weak forces governing the interfacial adsorption of nanoparticles. When the shape of the liquid domain is deformed by an external field, the surface area increases and more nanoparticles adsorb to the interface. Upon releasing the field, the interfacial area decreases, jamming the nanoparticle surfactants and arresting further shape change. The jammed nanoparticles remain disordered and liquid-like, enabling multiple, consecutive deformation and jamming events. Further stabilization is realized by replacing monofunctional ligands with difunctional versions that cross-link the assemblies. The ability to generate and stabilize liquids with a prescribed shape poses opportunities for reactive liquid systems, packaging, delivery, and storage [article]
  • To date, cancer cells and their primary site of origin in the body were identified in extracted biopsy samples that were stained using specific antibodies and biomarkers. However, there are drawbacks to this method of staining: It requires numerous individual steps with expensive antibodies, rendering it costly and time-consuming. Moreover, the stains predominantly used make it more difficult to distinguish the tiny differences in cells. As a consequence, cancer is only correctly diagnosed in 85 per cent of samples. Using fractal geometry, Joachim Spatz’ team is able to identify cancer cells more reliably and much faster. With this method, cells can be studied under a microscope without requiring special preparation. In a reflection interference contrast microscope (RICM), the team is able to study the details of the cell contours. Whereas a conventional bright-field microscope illuminates the sample from below, the microscope used by the Stuttgart-based scientists measures the reflection of light on the cell surface. This differs according to whether the light falls directly on a cell or first hits an aqueous cell culture medium and then a cell. The reflected light permits the study of even minute structures on the cell surface. [ article ]


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