New soil bacterium discovered that degrades organic compounds including carbon

A team of researchers has discovered a new species of soil bacteria that is particularly adept at breaking down organic matter, including chemicals released from gas, coal, oil and many wastes when burned.
The discovery was made by Cornell University’s professor of microbial ecology Dan Buckley, who together with several colleagues from Lycoming College published a new study in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The new bacterium, named by researchers Paraburkholderia madseniana, was isolated from forest soil and is named after Gene Madsen, a professor of microbiology who had participated in the research without being able to conclude it since he died in 2017.
The genus to which the new bacterium, Paraburkholderia, belongs is related to bacteria that are already known for their ability to degrade organic compounds.

Precisely for this reason these bacteria are interesting because they can also degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a peculiarity that was also the subject of research by Buckley and colleagues.
These bacteria, therefore, could be used for the biodegradation of the carbon cycle, a cycle disrupted in recent decades precisely because of human carbon emissions.

“Soils, each year, treat about seven times more carbon than all human emissions from cars, power plants and heating systems worldwide in their natural work of decomposing plant material. Because the amount of carbon that passes through the soil is so large, small changes in the way we manage the soil could have a big impact on climate change,” explains Buckley, who wants to fully understand with his team how this bacteria breaks down soil carbon, which could be important for the sustainability of the soil itself and the future of the world’s climate in general.

Syndactyly: scientists discover that skin cells play a role

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California focused on syndactyly, a congenital malformation that sees children born with two or more fused fingers, both in the hands and feet.
The malformation is due to insufficient removal of connective tissue when the embryo is developing.

The new study, published in Developmental Cell, shows that the skin also plays an active role. Explaining the results of the study is Ghaidaa Kashgari, researcher at the Department of Biological Chemistry of the UCI School of Medicine: “Our study identifies the epidermal development processes necessary for the separation of fingers that expand beyond the insufficient removal of connective tissue. These additional factors play a key role in syndactyly and may be implicated in other complex syndromes, including Van der Woude syndrome. Epithelial migration and non-adhesive peridermis are necessary for the separation of digits during mammalian development”.

As Bogi Andersen, professor of medicine and biological chemistry and other author of the study, explains, the GRHL3 gene is responsible for normal finger separation. If there is a mutation affecting this gene, the function of cells on the surface of the skin can be impaired causing conditions such as Van der Woude syndrome related to syndactyly.

Robotic arm inspired by octopus tentacles can grab everything

A robotic arm inspired by octopus tentacles was developed by a team of researchers from Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University in Beijing.
It is a robotic arm that is able to grab, move and manipulate many types of objects thanks to its suction cups and the fact that it can flex, almost twist, on itself, just like real octopus tentacles do.

The flexible tapered design means that the “arm” can have a solid grip on objects of various shapes and textures, so much so that it can also grab eggs or objects with a very delicate texture.

As August Domel, one of the authors of the robotic arm study, published in Soft Robotics, explains: “Our research is the first to quantify the tapering angles of the arms and the combined functions of bending and suction, which allows you to use a single small grip for a wide range of objects that would otherwise require the use of multiple grips”.

The secret of the robotic arm, inspired by the octopus tentacle, lies in its suction cups, true vacuum-based biomimetic vacuum cleaners that can basically stick to any surface.
The robotic arm, called the Festo Tentacle Gripper, represents the first integrated implementation of such a technology, based on suction cups inspired by octopus suction cups, in a commercial prototype.

Sounds and visual effects of slot machines increase desire to play

A study carried out by researchers at the University of Alberta focused on how the various sound or visual modes of slot machines can increase the appeal of these games and substantially induce gambling.
The result was perhaps predictable: all those little lights and sounds that these machines emit only increase the desire to play again.

For games like this, and especially LED screens, it’s been said that blue light blocking glasses can have an adverse effect on health.

The study was conducted by Marcia Spetch, a researcher at the Department of Psychology, who immediately makes it clear that this also applies to virtual slot machines, those that can be found on the Internet and which have become very popular in recent years.
Among the most “attractive” or “bewitching” sounds there are those of coins and among the images that of the dollar symbol.

All these features also make the winnings, when they happen, more “memorable”, as the researcher herself explains: “Such signals are prevalent in casinos and probably increase the appeal of slot machine gambling”.
In addition, the same researchers found that the subjects they experimented on preferred to play on slot machines that were richer in these signals and sounds, regardless of the machine’s risk level and when these sounds or visual effects appeared.

“People should be aware that their attraction and sense of victory can be biased,” explains Christopher Madan, researcher at the University of Nottingham and other author of the study, published in the journal Addiction .


Blue light blocking glasses

Data centers consume less energy than thought according to new models

Very often when we talk about electricity consumption we mention the data centers, essential centers for the functioning of the Internet itself. According to a new study produced by researchers from various institutes, however, data centers can no longer be cited as one of the main causes of the growing consumption of electricity in the world because in recent years there have been very important improvements in the efficiency of these systems.

The models that researchers have calculated, in fact, reveal that, although the data centers themselves have increased in number in the world, in the last 10 years the power consumption would have remained almost unchanged.
This can be explained by the continuous improvements in the efficiency of the data centres themselves, both as regards the computers themselves and the cooling systems.

Of course, this does not mean that the information technology industry and policy makers can “rest on their laurels”, as Eric Masanet, one of the authors of the study, explains: “We believe that the remaining efficiency potential is sufficient to last several more years. But the growing demand for data means that everyone, including policy makers, data center operators, equipment manufacturers and data consumers, must step up their efforts to avoid a possible increase in power consumption at the end of this decade.

The study, published in Science , made use of various data from various sources, including data on market developments in the data centre and server sector.
The researchers concluded that the efficiency gains in recent years are much greater than those observed in other sectors of the global economy.

An aphid-eating beetle could save the North American spruce

The Tsuga canadensis, also known as North American spruce or Canadian Hemlock or Eastern Hemlock, is a native tree of North America, widespread in the northern United States and especially in Canada. It is a giant evergreen tree which, with its numerous foliage and branches, makes, among other things, a habitat for many species of birds, insects and many other animals.

Unfortunately, since the 1980s, these trees have been under attack from the woolly adelgida of hemlock (Adelges tsugae), a small aphid native to Japan, which does nothing but suck sugar from the needles of this tree. They can be so numerous that they can cause the death of a massive tree tens of meters high. To fight these aphids, researchers have thought well to use one of its predators, a beetle that they first bred and then released in the forests.

During a five-year study, the results of which were published in Biological Control, researchers monitored the effects of this predator on the aphids that are decimating the population of Tsuga canadensis in Canada and obtained positive results. It is mainly the beetle of the Laricobius nigrinus species, an insect the size of a grain of rice, that is crucial: it hunts adelgid eggs as well as its larvae for food.

Researchers have released several hundred thousand of these beetles at certain sites where Tsuga canadensis trees are present and have noticed that the tree populations themselves are starting to take hold again. Of course, when using techniques like this, which see the large-scale use of predators to supplant a species, there is always the risk of obtaining undesirable results, especially in cases like this where a species that is considered alien and could eventually become invasive is used.

And that’s exactly what the researchers are evaluating before starting a real mass release. The same researchers are also thinking of producing “hybrids” by making these beetles be combined with other endemic beetles from the forests where the Tsuga canadensis are present.

In 2083, a star will become the brightest star in the sky, almost like a supernova

According to a forecast made by a team of astronomers announced at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, the star V Sagittae (V Sge) located in the constellation of the Arrow (Sagitta) should “explode” around the year 2083, during which time it will become brighter than Sirius, currently the brightest star in our skies, and one of the brightest stars in the entire Milky Way.

V Sge is actually a binary system consisting of an ordinary star that orbits around a white dwarf and gives its material to the latter. Astronomers predict that during the next decades the system will start to light up more and more and more quickly until, just around the year 2083, the rate of growth of the white dwarf will reach a limit point. The ordinary star will pour more and more material on the white dwarf until all its mass will fall on it creating a sort of huge wind that will spread outwards and that will increase the brightness of the system by a lot.

The system will become brighter than Sirius and perhaps even more than Venus, as Bradley E. Schaefer, professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University and one of the authors of the study, explains. V Sge is part of a class of binary stars called “variable cataclysmic stars” or “cataclysmic variables.” These binary systems consist of an ordinary star orbiting a white dwarf. Usually, the white dwarf is more massive than the ordinary star but in the case of V Sge we are faced with a system where the orbiting star is at least 3.9 times more massive than the white dwarf.

The system is getting brighter and brighter: since 1907 the brightness has multiplied by a factor of 10x. The brightness rate is parallel to the amount of material that the star is giving to the white dwarf but of course all this will come to an end, in 2083 according to astronomers’ calculations, the point of final fusion during which the mass of the star will release a huge amount of gravitational energy emitting a stellar wind like never seen before and raising the brightness of the system to a level slightly smaller than that of a supernova.

This very bright star can be seen in the sky for about a month, an event that will be historic at an astronomical level since something so bright in the sky was last seen only in 1604 with Kepler’s supernova (SN 1604), the explosion of a star located in the constellation Ophiuchus and 20,000 light years away from us that was visible to the naked eye for 18 months.

Hydrogen bubbles from the primordial universe confirm the era of reionization

Using the infrared device called NEWFIRM on the four-meter Mayall telescope located in the Kitt Peak National Observatory of Infrared Astronomy Research (OIR Lab), a team of researchers discovered a group of galaxies, called EGS77, which contains what can be considered the first generation of stars that formed in the universe.

The researchers identified some overlapping bubbles of hydrogen gas ionized in primordial galaxies formed only 680 million years after the big bang. The light from the galaxies can in fact ionize the surrounding hydrogen gas and this causes the formation of bubbles which in turn allow the light from the galaxies to travel towards us without the attenuation that the hydrogen gas alone, without bubbles, would have caused.

This discovery represents the first direct evidence of a period, called the “reionization era”, during which the first generation of stars began to reionize the hydrogen gas that permeated the universe allowing the same light to begin to be visible through the “fog” of gas. The reionization put an end to the so-called “dark age” of the primordial universe.

This period, which began more or less half a million years after the big bang, ended with the formation of the first stars. The same period was deduced only through computer simulations and there was no direct evidence, at least until this study.

The group of primordial galaxies identified by the researchers corresponds to a thin strip of sky about one finger wide held at arm’s length. Within this strip would be at least 50,000 galaxies.
“The young universe was full of hydrogen atoms, which attenuated the ultraviolet light so much that it blocked our view of the first galaxies,” James Rhoads reported at a press conference representing research findings. “EGS77 is the first group of galaxies captured in the act of eliminating this cosmic fog.”

The study would confirm, therefore, the existence of a sort of “conical dawn,” which marks the boundary between a neutral and an ionized universe, something that had been predicted by the computer. The study is currently under review and should be close to publication.

Shell fossils show that acidification of the seas already existed before the impact of the asteroid 66 million years ago

According to new studies based on the analysis of shell fossils off the island of Seymour in Antarctica, the Earth was already unstable in terms of environment and climate even before the impact of the asteroid that led to mass extinctions, including that of dinosaurs occurred about 66 million years ago.

Researchers at Northwestern University, funded by the National Science Foundation, have in fact measured the isotopic composition of calcium inside the shells of various fossilized molluscs and snails dating back to the period of mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Paleocene. The chemistry of these shells seems to have changed in response to an increased presence of carbon in the oceans, even before the impact of the asteroid off the coast of Mexico.

Most likely, as researchers report, this increased influx of carbon into the oceans was caused by the eruptions of a long-term phenomenon such as the Deccan traps, a very large volcanic province covering more than 200,000 square miles, located in areas of modern India. These repeated eruptions released enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which led to the acidification of the oceans, an acidification that researchers then “measured” through chemical analysis of these fossils.

According to Andrew Jacobson, senior author of the study, these results show that the Earth was already clearly under stress before the great mass extinction event and that the impact of the asteroid does not coincide with the instability of the carbon cycle that already existed. This raises further doubts that only the impact of the asteroid could have caused the extinction.

The study was published in Geology.

New test detects Escherichia coli infection in urine with a smartphone

A new test for urinary tract infections that is much more practical and faster, so much so that results could be obtained in as little as 25 minutes, was developed by a group of biological engineers at the University of Bath. According to the researchers, the new test can analyze urine and identify the presence of pathogenic bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, in just 25 minutes, a time that is faster than any other test, of the same level of accuracy, ever created.

Such a test could be very useful especially in developing countries and in remote regions where other types of tests are not possible and where the only method is to send the urine sample to distant structures, with a lengthening of time. The test was created mainly to verify the presence of Escherichia coli in urine, a bacterium that can lead to urinary tract infections and is usually treated with antibiotics.

The study, published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, describes how the test uses antibodies to identify bacterial cells. The test involves placing a small urine sample on a plastic strip that contains an immobilizing antibody to recognize the cells of Escherichia coli bacteria. Thanks to a special enzyme added to the strip, a colour change takes place which can be detected by a smartphone camera.

This is a faster method than the microbiological ones that are currently used. The device that allows you to perform the test is also very small, and therefore almost portable, something that could allow rapid diagnosis of urinary tract infections, in turn something that would be very important and that would allow prescriptions much more proven than antibiotics.

Australia’s marine ecosystems absorb 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year

The amount of greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by Australia’s marine ecosystems has been studied and quantified in a new study published by Nature Communications.

According to researchers at Edith Cowan University, Australia’s marine plant ecosystems, consisting mainly of algae, mangroves and salt marshes, absorb 20 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. That is why they play an important role in the presence of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

According to the same study, this amount of absorbed fuel is estimated to be equivalent to the emissions of more than 4 million cars per year. However, the same study also notes that human damage to these particular ecosystems results in more than 3 million tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere annually.

In addition to the direct human-induced cause, adverse weather conditions, which resemble climate change itself, also reduce the carrying capacity of these ecosystems. These ecosystems may be damaged by, inter alia, dredging and other actions that limit their scale, or they may be damaged by heatwaves.

The same principal author of the study, Oscar Serrano of the Marine Ecosystem Research Centre at the University of Australia, adds that these coastal plant ecosystems are reduced in terms of distribution twice as fast as tropical rainforests, despite the fact that the latter play a much greater role in the same world of information when it comes to damaging nature.


A bacterial strain was found which caused a plague epidemic in Europe in the 14th century

A group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human History Science conducted various analyses of the genomes of the remains of people who lived from the 14th to the 17th century to find out where the strain of Yersinia pestis appeared, which caused a severe and widespread plague epidemic that shook Europe in the 14th century, an epidemic nicknamed Black Death.

The epidemic killed more than 60% of Europe’s population and spread very widely from the Black Sea to Central Europe. According to historians, the first traces of the first symptoms of the disease can be found in time in 1346 and geographically in the territory connected with the Volga region in Russia.

However, it has not been possible to understand whether the pandemic was caused by a single bacterial source or was introduced into Europe from several sources, such as travelers. After a genomic analysis of 34 human remains buried in 10 different places in Europe, from Russia to France, researchers found that the first traces of the pandemic appeared in the city of Laishevo, Volga region of Russia.

The remains found in this area indicate the presence of a “generic” strain of Yersinia pestis compared to all other analyzed genomes, which differed only by a single mutation, allowing plague to spread throughout Europe.

It is not yet possible to understand whether this strain can be considered “zero” in absolute terms, since the same strain can be obtained from other regions, such as Asia.

However, once the plague had begun to spread in Europe, it was one strain that caused it to spread, and researchers believe that this was what was found in Laishevo, which then probably spread through rodents.

The researchers noted a certain lack of genetic diversity in the timing of plague spread and the low diversity of the epidemic itself after the first appearance of bacteria from Eastern Europe.


Pregnancy hyperemesis associated with increased risk of autism in children, according to a new study

According to a study by the American Journal of Perinatology, pregnant women with hyperemia during pregnancy may have a 53% higher risk of having a child with an acoustic spectrum disorder.

The study, funded by the American institute Kaiser Permanente, is important, according to the principal author, Darius Getaun, because through this association we can better diagnose children at risk of autism and conduct early interventions.

Hyperthermia during pregnancy is a severe form of morning sickness that occurs in about 5% of pregnancies. Usually, women suffering from it cannot contain any food or liquid, which can cause severe dehydration, as well as insufficient or insufficient nutrition during the same pregnancy.

Researchers have found this link by analyzing the health records of nearly 500,000 pregnant women and their babies born between 1991 and 2014. They focused in particular on women suffering from hyperemia during pregnancy and compared their children’s pathologies with those that did not cause such severe nausea in mothers.

Researchers noted that children of mothers with hyperemia during pregnancy were at greater risk of autism when the same hyperemia was diagnosed in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, but not when it was diagnosed in the third trimester.

Researchers also noted that the association is stronger in female daughters than in male sons and stronger in whites and Hispanics than in blacks. The same researchers, as indicated in the press release (see first link below), exclude links between drugs used to control hyperemia during pregnancy and the same risk of autism.

This is an observational study that cannot identify the immediate cause, and therefore other studies should be conducted to examine the causes of this association. There may be other explanations, even if the researchers themselves suspect that women who suffer from hyperemia during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition, which in turn may harm the neurological development of children.


Irrigating agricultural land with saltwater is possible thanks to mushrooms

The ability to irrigate your fields with saltwater would mean a major revolution for all those arid areas of the world that are unable to grow real crops because of the climate. It never happened because salt causes irreparable damage to plants.

But new research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) shows that there is hope. According to the researchers who worked with Egyptian scientists, it is possible to water tomato fields with saltwater thanks to the desert mushroom.

Mohamed Abd al-Aziz also participated in the study, working on the project with Heribert Hirt. The same researcher acknowledges that increasing the salt tolerance of plants can be a very important discovery, but we must also achieve this goal in a sustainable and economical way.

The researchers used Piriformospora, a species that establishes a symbiotic relationship with plants, contributing to their growth under salt stress conditions. Studies conducted by researchers show that this fungus can improve the growth of tomato plants treated with long-lasting salt irrigation.

The researchers conducted experiments in tomato greenhouses for four months, studying the genetic and enzymatic features of two groups of plants, one of which was colonized by Piriformospora and the other not. The researchers found that the fungus enhances the expression of a certain gene in the leaves called LeNHX1.

This gene, along with other members of the same family, is responsible for the removal of sodium from the cells. Sodium accumulation can have a negative effect on plant metabolism when they deal with salt water. In addition, the researchers also found that plants treated with fungus showed higher levels of potassium in leaves, shoots and roots, indicating a higher level of activity of antioxidant enzymes.

Finally, fungus treatment increased yields by 22% under normal conditions and by 65% under salt watering.

According to the same researchers, this is a relatively simple and economical method, which can also be used for large-scale agriculture.

According to a new study, even fathers must give up alcohol at least six months before conception

According to a new study by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, men who want to have a child should avoid drinking alcohol at least six months before conception.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is highly undesirable for women, and numerous studies have been conducted to this end. However, the same has never been analyzed in detail for men because any consequences for the child are objectively less obvious and clear.

However, as Jiabi Qin, a researcher at Changsha Central South University in China, points out, drinking alcohol before conception, even a few months earlier, represents a “high risk and dangerous behavior.” In the researcher’s view, alcohol can actually increase the risk of heart defects in an unborn child, apart from the harm that the same alcohol can cause to the health of the father.

In the researcher’s opinion, men should not drink alcohol at least six months before conception, and women should refrain from drinking it for a year before conception and during pregnancy.
Alcohol is considered teratogenic; it may cause abnormalities or deformations in the human embryo. For example, it is associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which can lead to congenital heart disease.

This study used data from 55 other studies concerning 41,747 children with congenital heart disease and 297,587 children without it. The researchers noted a gradual increase in the risk of congenital heart disease in children associated with increased alcohol consumption by parents.

Qin himself acknowledges that further research is needed to better understand the relationship between parental alcohol and heart disease in children, but in any case, the advice to stop drinking alcohol before conception remains valid.

Lead levels in the blood during pregnancy that are too high can cause obesity in the child

Lead levels that are too high in the blood may be associated with increased chances of pregnant women having children who may be overweight or obese in childhood, according to a study published in the public domain of the JAMA network.

A team of researchers led by Xiaobin Wang, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Baltimore School of Public Health, used data from 1,442 women and their children. Blood was taken from these women and lead levels were analyzed 24-72 hours after birth.

The children are then periodically analyzed for weight in childhood. When they were 8.1 years old on average, children born to mothers with higher levels of lead in their blood were four times more likely to be overweight or obese.

This risk was reduced if the same women with high levels of lead in their blood showed sufficient folic acid, again for the blood taken 24-72 hours after birth. According to researchers, folic acid can be useful for pregnant women who have too high levels of lead in their blood.


According to a new study, blocking the hormone in immune cells can reduce the risk of heart disease

According to a new study presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) conference in Estes Park, Colorado, blocking the action of a certain hormone in human immune cells can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers, as explained in the press release, in fact, found that blocking mineralocorticoid (MR) receptors, a protein involved in maintaining salt and water levels in the body and present in immune cells, can reduce the risk of pathologies such as heart attacks and strokes.

Higher levels of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates water balance, are actually associated with an increased risk of these diseases. This hormone is directly related to the mineralocorticoid receptor as it can activate or deactivate it. With age, the level of this receptor increases, which contributes to the growth of heart disease.

Researchers have experimented on mice and found that rats without MRI are characterized by lower levels of vascular inflammation and fewer plaques (fatty substances that accumulate on the walls of the arteries).

According to the researchers, these results indicate that “a reduction in plaque inflammation due to MRI blockage can improve clinical outcomes with MRI antagonists.

Therefore, mineral corticoid receptors can be an excellent therapeutic target for treating atherosclerotic diseases, heart attacks and strokes, says one of the authors of the study, Joshua Man, a researcher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Cannabidiol gel reduces seizures in children

Cannabidiol gel can be useful as a contrast weapon to reduce the incidence of seizures in children with severe epilepsy, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and the University of Melbourne, Australia.

This gel can be applied to the skin as a transdermal agent and can reduce seizures in children with severe epilepsy. This is what the researchers saw during the trials, when they noticed a 58% reduction in the number of seizures between the second and sixth month of treatment.

These experiments were conducted in Wellington and Melbourne in 48 children suffering from development and epileptic encephalopathy. Lynette Sadler, one of the researchers involved in these studies, clearly recognizes that this new product “gives new hope” to all children and adolescents suffering from severe seizures.

According to the researcher, treatment with cannabidiol gel not only reduced the number of epileptic seizures, but also improved behavioral and cognitive symptoms in children. This is also well-tolerated.


Peru’s tropical glaciers are melting at an alarming rate

A new alarming alarm about melting ice is also coming from the tropical glaciers of the Peruvian Andes, which, according to new research in the cryosphere, are melting very quickly. A study group from Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) estimated that glaciers in the area would shrink by almost 30% between 2000 and 2016.

Almost all tropical glaciers are concentrated in Peru, where 92% of its territory is covered by ice in all tropics of the country. Glaciers in these regions form at altitudes greater than 4,000 meters, but are very sensitive to climate variability and change, even more so than Arctic glaciers.

For example, since the 1980s, the Andean glaciers that make up the so-called Cordillera Blanca have melted at a faster rate. Researcher Thorsten Zehaus of the FAU Institute of Geography analyzed various satellite data from Landsat missions and found that 29% of glaciers retreated from 2000 to 2016. Since 1973, even 170 glaciers have disappeared, an area roughly comparable to that of 80,000 football fields.

Moreover, the rate of glacier melting between 2013 and 2016 is four times faster than in previous years, indicating that this melting is increasing in recent years. In particular, there has been a high level of activity in recent years in the El Niño phenomenon, where water currents in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have led to higher temperatures and reduced precipitation in Peruvian Andean regions.

The retreat of glaciers of this magnitude may also increase the risk of the destruction of natural dams and, consequently, flooding. In the Cordillera Blanca region alone, 25,000 people have already died as a result of such disasters between 1941 and 2003, and more are expected to occur in the coming years.

Compound found in breast milk that helps children to defeat pathogenic bacteria

A new research paper on the positive aspects of breastfeeding has been published in scientific reports. This study has shown that breast milk can help the baby to resist the infectious effects of bacteria and can contribute to the reproduction and flourishing of beneficial bacteria.

According to researchers, it is the high level of glycerol monolaurate (GML), more than 200 times higher than that found in cow’s milk, that can provide such benefits, explains Donald Lung, a professor of pediatrics and senior author of the study. This is what can be called the “perfect antibiotic”: it is a compound that, unlike antibiotics, can strongly fight bacterial infections but does not kill useful bacteria, as explained by Patrick Schlivert, professor of microbiology and immunology and the first author of the study.

GML in this sense is very selective: it only fights harmful and pathogenic bacteria and at the same time allows others, especially the intestine and body, to thrive. In addition, the same compound can reduce inflammation of epithelial cells, which are the basis of the lining of the intestine and mucous membrane. It is this inflammation that can give freedom to both bacterial and viral infections.

In order to use these properties, this compound can be produced in the laboratory and added to cow’s milk so that it can be enjoyed even by newborns who are not breastfed.

Schlivert himself talks about the big and potential benefits that such a “supplement” could bring to the health of children around the world, including because it would be relatively easy and cheap to produce the same “artificial” GML.

According to new experiments, polystyrene can decompose over centuries, not millennia

We have always heard that polystyrene, one of the world’s most widely used plastics, has not been decomposed for thousands of years and may, therefore, be a major pollutant.

However, a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters shows that if polystyrene is exposed to sunlight, it can “confuse” it in shorter time frames, from decades to centuries.

Polystyrene or polystyrene is now used in many areas, in expanded forms, especially in packaging, but also in non-foam form for the construction of many facilities, from disposable razors to CD cases.

It cannot be degraded by any microbe and, above all, this aspect has forced scientists to evaluate, if not conservatively, its duration over millennia. It seems that a new study by Colin Ward and his colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has reduced this limit.

The researchers conducted an experiment by placing five samples of polystyrene in water, which is widely available on the market. They then subjected these parts of the modeling of sunlight three times brighter than the same sunlight that beats at the equator to speed up the simulation time.

The researchers found that this simulated light partially oxidized all the samples, turning some of them into organic carbon. According to researchers, the same process could take decades in the natural environment and at latitudes ranging from 0° to 50°N (mainly from the equator to the upper boundary of the United States).

Therefore, scientists are estimating a period of time that will take centuries, not millennia, for complete degradation.

Researchers believe that this limit can be further reduced by playing with the amount and quality of additives commonly found in polystyrene. With new technologies, these additives can be easily controlled in the future.

Epilepsy: new test reveals “dishonest brain waves”

A new test, which detects “unauthorized brain waves,” can help people with epilepsy to better understand which area of the patient’s brain they need surgery in.

The test was developed by a team of researchers from the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies), a department of Aston University. The test can help to determine in advance and with a certain degree of precision which brain area is the epileptogenic zone, i.e. one that causes an epileptic attack.

The special technique used by Aston researchers uses magnetoencephalograms to study brain waves to intercept abnormal electrical discharges in patients with epilepsy and to determine the areas of the brain that cause seizures.

Among the convulsions, there are actually short episodes of brain activity in the form of electrical discharges or “peaks”. A better understanding of these “peaks” can help surgeons understand where to operate better.

The results have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.


A new drug to prevent heart damage after a stroke has been developed by researchers

In a press release from the University of Guelph, a drug developed by a team of researchers led by Professor Tami Martino and student Christine Reitz was defined as a “potential drug for the treatment of heart attacks” and as a weapon to combat heart failure.

The researchers have actually discovered a possible new pharmacological target, which underlies the recovery processes carried out by the body after a heart attack. Heart attacks can, in fact, cause an inflammatory reaction that can lead to heart damage. This damage can lead to the development of heart failure, for which there is currently no cure.

The drug, called SR9009, targets a key component of the circadian cellular mechanism, interrupting the expression of those genes that trigger an immune response after a heart attack that may be negative in the long term.

The potential drug already tested on mice should be taken a few hours after the attack. Once this is done, patients can avoid taking heart medication for the rest of their lives, which can be exhausting in many cases.

Martino speaks for herself about “exciting” research and a drug that does not seem to be able to harm the heart as a result of a heart attack: “People can survive a heart attack because the heart won’t even be damaged,” says Martino in a press release.


Does the 3D printer damage the indoor air quality?

According to a new study, consumer-quality 3D printers emit particles into the atmosphere that can adversely affect air quality. This is mainly due to indoor pollution, such as in offices.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, was based on the results of several tests conducted using 3D printers to measure the effects on the respiratory system of humans. As one of the authors of the study, Professor Rodney Weber of Earth School of Technology, Georgia State Institute of Technology, notes, the tests “have shown that there is a toxic reaction to particles of different types of fibers used by these 3D printers.”

The researchers analyzed the chemical composition of these particles, as well as their toxic potential. These emissions are due to the peculiarities of 3D-printers. These devices apply and melt layers on layers to create an object, and it is the heating of plastic that causes the emission of ultrafine particles into the air around the printer.

The warmer the temperature used by the printer to melt the fibers, the higher the emission level. The largest source of radiation is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which requires a higher melting point to be reached. Polymalic lactic acid (PLA), which requires a lower temperature, produces the least emissions.

Tests for toxicity have shown that PLA particles are more toxic than ABS particles. However, more ABS particles were emitted by printers during the tests, so Weber himself explains that these emissions are ultimately of greater concern.

There are also concerns about the “additives” added to fibers by manufacturers to achieve certain characteristics that are largely hidden. According to Weber, these additives can affect the amount of emissions for ABS. This means that ABS yarns purchased from one manufacturer can produce more harmful emissions than one from another.


Artificial bowel for human microbial testing created by MIT researchers

As proof that intestinal microbiomes are becoming increasingly important in the scientific and biomedical fields, a team of researchers at the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is implementing a new project to create what the press release calls the “ideal artificial intestine.”

Today, in fact, many studies of the intestine, and especially the trillion bacteria in it, cannot be done because it is impossible to test on a model that looks like a real analogue. Artificial platforms, which today imitate the human intestines, are not actually accurate and are not cheap at all. This means that many laboratories cannot afford it.

MIT researchers are trying a new way: they will try to mimic, at least in part, the great complexity of the human intestines, including all those conditions that must be present to survive and test bacterial samples. Growing a microbiomal sample and keeping it alive in a laboratory is a feat that no one has yet been able to accomplish, reminds David Walsh of the Group of Biological and Chemical Technologies, one of the scientists who led this group.

They have already built a platform of permeable silicone rubber with various parts made of other plastics, including polystyrene, all relatively inexpensive and easily manufactured.
The platform is based on oxygen and other slime control components, another important element that allows bacteria to reproduce in the intestine.

“The final system will allow us to face real-world problems,” says Walsh himself, who suggests that this new system will allow us to take new steps forward and to understand the strong connection between the intestine itself and the brain.


The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to William Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter Ratcliffe.

This morning the names of the Nobel Prize winners in medicine were revealed. This was the first announcements of the new season of 2019 and one of the most interesting, as many people believe that Greta Tunberg could become one of the most serious candidates for the prestigious world prize, which will be awarded on Friday.

The Medicine Prize will be awarded to two American researchers, William Cailin and Gregg Semyonza, and one British researcher, Peter Ratcliffe.

The reasons for this lie in the research that the three researchers conducted on how oxygen levels can affect cellular metabolism and physiological functions, and which “paved the way for new promising strategies to combat anemia, cancer and many other diseases,” as noted by the same jury.

This discovery may indeed make it possible to create new drugs that, for example, regulate our body’s cells in such a way that they adapt to changes in oxygen levels, such as excessive oxygen depletion.

William Cailin, 61, is currently a research fellow at Howard Hughes Medical School in the states, and Gregg L. Semenza works at the Johns Hopkins University Institute of Cellular Engineering.

Peter Ratcliffe, 65, works at the Francis Crick Institute in London and heads the Target Discovery Institute in Oxford.


12,800 years ago, an asteroid could have hit Earth

New evidence of an asteroid or meteorite collision that could have occurred on Earth 12,800 years ago was found by a team from the Institute of Evolutionary Research at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Researchers led by Francis Tackeray discovered a significant “peak” of platinum in one of the deposits in the province of Limpopo (South Africa). This peak is observed in a peat deposit, in a sample estimated to be 12,800 years old.

The study, published in Palaeontologia Africana, takes into account the idea of asteroid impact that will take place in an era called the recent Dryas era, which will lead to global consequences, especially climate change, which caused the extinction of several species.

Platinum may, in fact, be linked to meteorites or asteroids, which are notoriously known for their wealth of this element, as stated by Tekkerei himself, who suggests that this is certainly not conclusive evidence, but additional evidence that confirms the hypothesis of the impact of recent droughts.

In any case, platinum peaks such as in South Africa have already been found in the past in Greenland, Eurasia, Mexico in North America and recently in the Pylauco region of Chile. These abnormal amounts of platinum would have fallen to the soil of half the world after the asteroid fell and scattered in the atmosphere.

This hypothetical impact should have led to a near-global extinction of species, which has occurred in regions such as North America, South America and Europe, as well as Africa. Among the animals that died out in those years were some giant mammals, including African buffalo, larger zebras and wildlife than we know today.

In addition, this global climate change is also affecting populations. In North America, for example, researchers have noticed an unusual interruption in the production of stone artefacts, especially in the case of Clovis’ culture. And in South Africa, archaeologists have discovered a similar phenomenon, dating back to the same period, affecting the different cultures of the area, which now belongs to southern South Africa.

In fact, a significant impact could have a strong impact on the environment of human communities, especially with regard to the availability of food resources. According to Tekkerei, the asteroid could have affected an area of northern Greenland. A crater with a diameter of 31 km was found under the ice in the area.


New contact lenses give medication for days, even at the back of the retina.

A new step forward has been taken with regard to contact lenses that can release medication, which is a very promising alternative that can replace the discomfort of daily eye drops.

A team of researchers from Massachusetts Children’s Eye and Ear Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital have developed contact lenses that can vaccinate medications even in the back of the retina, which is the most difficult to access but still needs treatment in the context of various retinal diseases.

Currently, eye injections or implants are used to treat this internal area of the retina – two methods which, unfortunately, have side effects. Furthermore, the patient’s fear of the needle should never be underestimated.

The new contact lenses presented in the biomaterials study have already been tested by researchers who used them to deliver the dexamethasone steroid used in inflammation to the back of some animals.

In these tests, the lenses showed that they could safely ensure prolonged retinal administration for a week with the same degree of efficacy as eye injections. Now the researchers hope to conduct the first tests in humans.