Photo caption: The Nereis virens worm inspired new research out of the MIT Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics. Its jaw is made of soft organic material, but is as strong as harder materials such as human dentin. / Alexander Semenov / Wikimedia Commons
The gelatinous jaw of a sea worm, which becomes hard or flexible depending on the environment around it, has inspired researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a new material that can be applied to soft robotics. Despite having the texture of a gel, this compound is endowed with great mechanical resistance and consistency, and is able to adapt to changing environments. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have looked at a sea worm called Nereis virens in order to create a changing material, which has the ability to be flexible or rigid at convenience. The jaw of this worm has a texture similar to gelatin, but if the environment varies, the material may adopt the hardness of dentin or human bones.
A study recently published in PLOS Biology provides information that substantially changes the prevailing idea about the brain formation process in vertebrates and sheds some light on how it might have evolved. The findings show that the interpretation maintained hitherto regarding the principal regions formed at the beginning of vertebrate brain development is not correct. This research was led jointly by the researchers José Luis Ferran and Luis Puelles of the Department of Human Anatomy and Psychobiology of the UMU; Manuel Irimia of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), and Jordi García Fernández of the Genetics Department of the University of Barcelona. The brain of an invertebrate organism, amphioxus (a fish-like marine chordate), whose place in the evolutionary tree is very close to the origin of the vertebrates, was used for the research.
Some cows are more at risk for SARA than others
Cattle with subacute ruminal acidosis suffer from a number of low-level ailments that affect productivity. A research team led by University of Illinois scientists has documented changes in pH, microbiome, and rumen epithelial cells in SARA-affected cows. Results indicate that some animals may be predisposed to SARA because of an overabundance of certain bacteria. Scientists are not sure why some cows develop the condition known as subacute ruminal acidosis, or SARA, but producers know it causes a number of minor symptoms that add up to major problems over time. “Subacute ruminal acidosis is what happens when the pH of the rumen – the large compartment of a cow’s stomach – gets too low. It’s not severe, but it’s lower than ideal. It’s difficult to detect. Because of that, we don’t have a great understanding of how it happens and what are the contributing factors,” says assistant professor of animal sciences Josh McCann.
Excessive lead concentration: nearly 5x the levels found in newborns in Austria
Up to 80% of people in Africa, especially women, regularly eat clayey soil – this habit is known as geophagy. A previous study conducted at MedUni Vienna has already shown that it is a form of craving. Now researchers from the Center for Public Health and the Institute of Medical Genetics at MedUni Vienna have shown that this practice can also be detrimental to health: pregnant women who consume particular types of soil display higher levels of lead contamination – as do their babies. That is the finding of a study that was produced for the dissertations of two students (Rosina Glaunach and Coloman Deweis) of MedUni Vienna and that has now been published in "Environmental Research".
The subjects’ brain areas functioned more smoothly when they watched the films in longer segments. Image: Juha Lahnakoski
The brain works most efficiently when it can focus on a single task for a longer period of time. Previous research shows that multitasking, which means performing several tasks at the same time, reduces productivity by as much as 40%. Now a group of researchers specialising in brain imaging has found that changing tasks too frequently interferes with brain activity. This may explain why the end result is worse than when a person focuses on one task at a time. ‘We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure different brain areas of our research subjects while they watched short segments of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond movies,’ explains Aalto University Associate Professor Iiro Jääskeläinen.
Le tre drosofile rappresentate nella figura hanno la stessa sequenza di DNA ma i loro occhi sono di colore differente a causa di une perturbazione transitoria del loro stato epigenetico che si traduce in una modificazione del livello di repressione, dipendente dai geni Polycomb, di un gene responsabile del colore degli occhi.
Il laboratorio di Giacomo Cavalli, all’Istituto di Genetica Umana di Montpellier (Università di Montpellier e CNRS), in collaborazione con l’INRA, ha dimostrato utilizzando la drosofila l’esistenza di un’eredità epigenetica transgenerazionale. Modificando in maniera transitoria la funzione delle proteine del gruppo Polycomb, la cui funzione è essenziale nello sviluppo, i ricercatori hanno ottenuto delle linee caratterizzate da occhi di colore differente in presenza della stessa sequenza di DNA. Queste differenze dipendono da un grado variabile di repressione genica dipendente dalle proteine Polycomb, che può essere ereditato in modo stabile ma reversibile. Questa eredità epigenetica si applica a linee transgeniche ma anche naturali e può essere modificata dalle condizioni ambientali come la temperatura di crescita. Questi risultati sono pubblicati nella rivista Nature Genetics il 24 Aprile 2017.
Researchers at LSTM have found that mosquitoes that lose multiple legs after contact with insecticide may still be able to spread malaria and lay eggs.
WHO guidelines for testing of long-lasting insecticidal nets are widely used by scientists when comparing the efficacy of different bed nets or measuring the susceptibility of different mosquito populations. Leg loss is a common outcome of insecticide exposure, and these guidelines dictate that mosquitoes that survive insecticide exposure with fewer than three legs should be considered dead. The implicit assumption is that these mosquitoes are unable to bite humans, and therefore do not contribute to malaria transmission. However, a study, published today in Scientific Reports, examined whether leg loss inhibits mosquito biting, revealing that one and two legged mosquitoes can both bite a human hand and lay eggs thereafter.
A diagram of the “unroofing” technique, which is one of the recommended surgical interventions discussed in the guidelines.
Researchers are still trying to fully understand anomalous aortic origin of a coronary artery (AAOCA) and its relationship to adverse health outcomes in humans, especially children. Using the most up-to-date literature, as well as the input of leading experts in the field, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) has released practical guidelines for the identification and treatment of AAOCA, including an overview of the latest data surrounding population-based risk. Targeting young athletes, new recommendations for testing and treatment of anomalous aortic origin of a coronary artery published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
A study on mice has yielded promising results about the potential benefits of strawberries in preventing or treating breast cancer.
A study by European and Latin American researchers has shown that strawberry extract can inhibit the spread of laboratory-grown breast cancer cells, even when they are inoculated in female mice to induce tumours. However, the scientists do point out that these results from animal testing can not be extrapolated to humans. Past investigations have shown that the ingestion of 500 g of strawberries (between 10 and 15 strawberries) per day offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and reduces blood cholesterol levels. Now, a new study published in the open-access journal 'Scientific Reports' presents promising results on the potential positive effects of the fruit to prevent or treat breast cancer.
The Empa skin model: gelatine on a cotton substrate
The characteristics of human skin are heavily dependent on the hydration of the tissue - in simple terms, the water content. This also changes its interaction with textiles. Up to now, it has only been possible to determine the interaction between human skin and textiles by means of clinical trials on human subjects. Now, EMPA researchers have developed an artificial gelatine-based skin model that simulates human skin almost perfectly. The moisture content of the human skin influences its characteristics. The addition of moisture softens the skin and changes its appearance. This can be seen in DIY work for example: a thin film of perspiration helps to provide better grip when using a hammer or screwdriver; however, excessive perspiration can make the tools slip. The moisture causes the upper layer of the skin (the Stratum corneum) to swell. It becomes softer and smoother and this provides a larger contact area that increases friction. However, too high friction can have a negative effect. The result: blisters on your feet or hands, irritation or rashes. Particularly in connection with textiles that cover our skin, such reactions are frequent and, accordingly, undesirable.