. Scientific Frontline: Science News
Showing posts with label Science News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science News. Show all posts

Friday, May 12, 2023

New therapy helps immune system eradicate brain tumors

Professor Anna Dimberg.
Photo Credit: Mikael Wallerstedt

Researchers from Uppsala University have developed a method that helps immune cells exit from blood vessels into the tumor and kill cancer cells. The aim is to improve the treatment of aggressive brain tumors. The study has been published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain tumor that lacks efficient treatment. This is in part due to the ability of the tumor to suppress or evade the body´s natural anti-cancer immune response. Immunotherapy, using checkpoint inhibitors, aims to reactivate our immune system against cancer. However, for this type of treatment to be effective, specific immune cells known as killer T cells are required to be present within the tumor.

Unfortunately, blood vessels in brain cancer are dysfunctional and act as a barrier, preventing killer T cells from reaching the tumor. As a result, this form of immunotherapy, which is effective against many forms of cancer, is ineffective against brain cancers.

Help the killer T cells

In the new study, the Uppsala researchers have developed a method to help the killer T cells reach the tumors and fight cancer cells. They used a viral vector that specifically infected the blood vessels in the brain and enabled them to produce a factor called LIGHT. This altered the function of the tumor vessels, increasing their ability to transport T cells from the blood into the tumor tissue.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Australian fruit holds the key to citrus disease resistance

Upuli Nakandala and Prof Robert Henry with a native Finger lime.
Photo Credit: Megan Pope

A comprehensive map of the genome of a native lime species that is resistant to a devastating citrus disease could be the key to preventing that disease entering Australia.

Researchers from The University of Queensland have sequenced the genome of the Australian round lime, also known as the Gympie lime, and are now looking at five other native citrus species including the finger lime.

PhD candidate Upuli Nakandala said the work aimed to identify a gene which provides resistance to Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as 'citrus greening', that could be incorporated into commercial citrus varieties.

“The species citrus australis is recognized as HLB-resistant so we put it first on our list,” Ms. Nakandala said.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

How hallucinogenic substance in psilocybin mushrooms works on the molecular level

Once it was hot research. Then it was banned. Now, research on psychedelic substances is both hot and legal. There is a revival in psilocybin research in labs and clinics all over the world, including at SDU.
Photo Credit: Artur Kornakov

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in about 200 mushroom species, including the liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata). For millennia, our ancestors have known and used this substance, and in recent years, it has received renewed interest from scientific researchers and therapists.

The substance has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat conditions such as severe depression and substance addiction, according to many. This is also the opinion of SDU researchers Himanshu Khandelia and Ali Asghar Hakami Zanjani from the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy.

The two researchers have recently published the scientific paper The Molecular Basis of the Antidepressant Action of the Magic Mushroom extract, Psilocin. The article is the third in a series on the same topic from the two researchers (Interaction of psychedelic tryptamine derivatives with a lipid bilayer and Magic mushroom extracts in lipid membranes). The newest study's co-authors are Teresa Quynh Tram Nguyen and Luise Jacobsen. 

Exercise Increases the Number of Cancer-Destroying Immune Cells in Cancer Patients

Two new Finnish studies show that short bouts of light or moderate exercise can increase the number of immune cells in the bloodstream of cancer patients.
Photo Credit: Zen Chung

Exercise decreases the risk of cancer and reduces side effects of cancer treatments. In addition, it improves patients’ quality of life and the prognosis of cancer patients.

 “It was previously thought that cancer patients should just rest after a cancer diagnosis. Today, we have more and more researched information that exercise can even improve the prognosis of cancer. However, it is not yet fully known how exercise controls cancer,” explains Research Assistant Tiia Koivula.

Previous preclinical studies have found that exercise affects the functioning of the immune system so that more immune cells are transferred to the tumor site and they become more active in destroying cancer cells. Two studies conducted at the Turku PET Centre of the University of Turku in Finland aimed to find out whether a short exercise bout affects the mobilization of immune cells in cancer patients.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Genetically Modified Plants Grow Better in Arid and Saline Conditions

Tobacco is one of the most well-studied plants by scientists.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

Russian scientists have modified tobacco. They added the AtGSTF11 gene and improved the plant's resistance to adverse conditions. These adverse conditions include low temperatures, drought and salty soil. Model plants with the new gene used in the experiments showed increased vitality. The scientists have published a description of their experiments in the Russian Journal of Plant Physiology.

Plant stress (caused by a variety of factors - drought, temperature, contaminated soil, etc.) ends at the cellular level with oxidative stress: reactive oxygen species are formed in the cell. They destroy proteins, disrupt the structure of DNA and lead to cell death or interfere with vital functions, the scientists add. There are cellular mechanisms that prevent the development of oxidative stress - low-molecular antioxidant compounds, proteins (antioxidant enzymes), glutathione.

"Glutathione is a short sulfur-containing peptide that plays an important role in protecting plants from stress. It is formed, then cycled into oxidized and reduced forms, and so on. This is the glutathione cycle. In this process, reactive oxygen species are eliminated and plant cells do not die. A number of genes are involved in this cycle. We added another gene, glutathione S-transferase, and got a more viable plant," says Bulat Kuluev, Head of the Plant Genomics Laboratory at the Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics (Subdivision of the Ufa Federal Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences).

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Even as temperatures rise, this hydrogel material keeps absorbing moisture

MIT engineers have found that a common hydrogel has unique, super-soaking abilities. Even as temperatures climb, the transparent material continues to absorb moisture, and could serve to harvest water in desert regions, and passively regulate humidity in tropical climates.
Photo Credit: Felice Frankel

The vast majority of absorbent materials will lose their ability to retain water as temperatures rise. This is why our skin starts to sweat and why plants dry out in the heat. Even materials that are designed to soak up moisture, such as the silica gel packs in consumer packaging, will lose their sponge-like properties as their environment heats up.

But one material appears to uniquely resist heat’s drying effects. MIT engineers have now found that polyethylene glycol (PEG) — a hydrogel commonly used in cosmetic creams, industrial coatings, and pharmaceutical capsules — can absorb moisture from the atmosphere even as temperatures climb.

The material doubles its water absorption as temperatures climb from 25 to 50 degrees Celsius (77 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit), the team reports.

PEG’s resilience stems from a heat-triggering transformation. As its surroundings heat up, the hydrogel’s microstructure morphs from a crystal to a less organized “amorphous” phase, which enhances the material’s ability to capture water.

Researchers develop carbon-negative concrete

Graduate student Zhipeng Li and Professor Xianming Shi.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Washington State University

A viable formula for a carbon-negative, environmentally friendly concrete that is nearly as strong as regular concrete has been developed at Washington State University.  

In a proof-of-concept work, the researchers infused regular cement with environmentally friendly biochar, a type of charcoal made from organic waste, that had been strengthened beforehand with concrete wastewater. The biochar was able to suck up to 23% of its weight in carbon dioxide from the air while still reaching a strength comparable to ordinary cement.   

The research could significantly reduce carbon emissions of the concrete industry, which is one of the most energy- and carbon-intensive of all manufacturing industries. The work, led by doctoral student Zhipeng Li, is reported in the journal Materials Letters.

“We’re very excited that this will contribute to the mission of zero-carbon built environment,” said Xianming Shi, professor in the WSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the corresponding author on the paper.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Testing coatings to conserve canisters against corrosion

Video Credit: Ruth Frank

As anyone who has lived near the ocean can attest, metal and sea mist are a recipe for corrosion. A nuisance of coastal life, the consequences of these common chemical reactions become far more serious when it is taking aim at the stainless-steel canisters that contain spent nuclear fuel.

To shield steel from the corrosive threats posed by sea air, Sandia National Laboratories researchers tested a variety of nickel mixtures as protective coatings on stainless steel. The researchers found that the specific material applied, and the specific application process used, impacted the properties of the coating, including how protective it was against corrosion. Their results were published recently in the scientific journal Frontiers in Metals and Alloys.

Spent nuclear fuel is stored in quite a few coastal areas, where sea breezes can buffet canisters and deposit corrosive chloride salts such as sodium chloride, or more commonly known as table salt. Given enough time, the brine formed by these salts can corrode and pit stainless-steel canisters.

“Through our research, it became clear that it would not be easy to completely eliminate the possibility of a type of corrosion known as stress corrosion cracking,” said Charles Bryan, an expert on the storage of spent nuclear fuel and co-lead on the project. “Stress corrosion cracking is likely to eventually occur at some interim storage sites. It might take hundreds of years, but it could happen, so people started thinking about mitigation and repair technologies. We started looking at cold spray, which is a technique industry is very interested in, and at corrosion-resistant polymer coatings.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Neutrons for better vaccines against multidrug resistant germs

Dr. Jia-Jheng Kang prepares measurements for the vaccines at the KWS-2 sample site.
Photo Credit: Bernhard Ludewig, FRM II / TUM

Neutrons from the Research Neutron Source Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II) can be used to explore the structure of biomolecules. The most recent success: the precise analysis of a promising vaccine against multidrug resistant germs.

Bacteria which are resistant to all conventional antibiotics cause more than a million deaths each year. Consequently, researchers around the world are searching for new therapeutic approaches to combat these pathogens. Two years ago, an international team in Grenoble identified an active ingredient suitable for the production of a vaccine against multidrug resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The vaccine has in the meantime been successfully tested on mice.

"As with many new vaccines, in this case the active ingredient is embedded in liposomes. The exact characterization and understanding of these nanoscopic biomolecules is a key factor in the development and optimization of future vaccines," says Dr. Marco Maccarini, biophysicist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Together with experts at the TIMC laboratory of the Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA) and at the FRM II he has successfully analyzed the structure of the candidate vaccine against Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Monday, March 27, 2023

How football-shaped molecules occur in the universe

Graphic Credit: Shane Goettl/Ralf I. Kaiser

For a long time, it has been suspected that fullerene and its derivatives could form naturally in the universe. These are large carbon molecules shaped like a football, salad bowl or nanotube. An international team of researchers using the Swiss SLS synchrotron light source at PSI has shown how this reaction works. The results have just been published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion-year-old carbon.” In the song they performed at Woodstock, the US group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young summarized what humans are essentially made of: star dust. Anyone with a little knowledge of astronomy can confirm the words of the cult American band – both the planets and we humans are actually made up of dust from burnt-out supernovae and carbon compounds billions of years old. The universe is a giant reactor and understanding these reactions means understanding the origins and development of the universe – and where humans come from.

In the past, the formation of fullerenes and their derivatives in the universe has been a puzzle. These carbon molecules, in the shape of a football, bowl or small tube, were first created in the laboratory in the 1980s. In 2010 the infrared space telescope Spitzer discovered the C60 molecules with the characteristic shape of a soccer ball, known as buckyballs, in the planetary nebula Tc 1. They are therefore the biggest molecules to have been discovered to date known to exist in the universe beyond our solar system.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Purifying water with the power of the sun

A Notre Dame researcher’s invention could improve access to clean water for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

 “Today, the big challenges are information technology and energy,” says László Forró, the Aurora and Thomas Marquez Professor of Physics of Complex Quantum Matter in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Physics and Astronomy. “But tomorrow, the big challenge will be water.”

The World Health Organization reports that today nearly 2 billion people regularly consume contaminated water. It estimates that by 2025 half of the world’s population could be facing water scarcity. Many of those affected are in rural areas that lack the infrastructure required to run modern water purifiers, while many others are in areas affected by war, natural disasters or pollution. There is a greater need than ever for innovative ways to extend water access to those living without power, sanitation and transportation networks.

Recently, Forró's lab developed just such a solution. They created a water purifier, described in the Nature partner journal Clean Water, that is powered by a resource nearly all of the world’s most vulnerable people have access to: the sun.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Forensic Study Sheds Light on the Remains of Infants, Children

Photo Credit: Kat Wilcox

A new forensic science study sheds light on how the bones of infants and juveniles decay. The findings will help forensic scientists determine how long a young person’s remains were at a particular location, as well as which bones are best suited for collecting DNA and other tissue samples that can help identify the deceased.

“Crimes against children are truly awful, and all too common,” says Ann Ross, co-author of the study and a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University. “It is important to be able to identify their remains and, when possible, understand what happened to them. However, there is not much research on how the bones of infants and children break down over time. Our work here is a significant contribution that will help the medical legal community bring some closure to these young people and, hopefully, a measure of justice.”

For this study, the researchers used the remains of domestic pigs, which are widely used as an analogue for human remains in forensic research. Specifically, the researchers used the remains of 31 pigs, ranging in size from 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds) to 22.7 kilograms (50 pounds). The smaller remains served as surrogates for infant humans, up to one year old. The larger remains served as surrogates for children between the ages of one and nine.

Ural Scientists Design Plastics That Resist Radiation from Technology

Aleksey Korotkov tests the material for electrodynamic properties in an anechoic chamber.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

The team of scientists from the Institute of Technical Chemistry of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (branch of the Perm Federal Research Centre of UB RAS) and the Ural Federal University created a composite polymer material. The new composite is made from recycled materials and has unique properties. It reflects electromagnetic waves. It is suitable for wireless systems, including radar and satellite communications systems. Such a composite (actually a plastic) can be used to make housing for devices such as smartphones. It will allow them to reduce their electromagnetic radiation. The description of the new material is published in the journal Diamond and Related Materials.

"It is extremely important that we have been able to create a new composite material from virtually recycled raw materials. The basis of the material is chopped carbon fibers, which we extracted from carbon plastics. In addition, the composition of the composite includes magnetite (it is the magnetic nanoparticles) synthesized in our laboratory. Our work can increase the attractiveness of carbon plastics processing due to the use of secondary extracted carbon fibers in the expensive technologies," says Svetlana Astafieva, the co-author of the development, the Head of the Laboratory of Structural-Chemical Modification of Polymers of the Institute of Technical Chemistry of UB RAS.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Flamingos form cliques with like-minded pals

The partner of one Caribbean flamingo helps it out in an argument with another pair.
Photo Credit Paul Rose

Flamingos form cliques of like-minded individuals within their flocks, new research shows.

Scientists analyzed the personalities and social behavior of Caribbean and Chilean flamingos.

Birds of both species tended to spend time with others whose personality was similar to their own.  

The study, by the University of Exeter and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), reveals the complex nature of flamingo societies and could help in the management of captive flocks.

“Our previous research has shown that individual flamingos have particular ‘friends’ within the flock,” said Dr Paul Rose, from WWT and Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behavior.

“In this study, we wanted to find out whether individual character traits explain why these friendships form.

“The answer is yes – birds of a feather flock together.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

New antioxidants found in beef, chicken, and pork!

Establishment of a highly sensitive detection method for imidazole dipeptide oxidation derivatives
Illustration Credit: Hideshi Ihara, Osaka Metropolitan University

Antioxidants discovered in meat! Osaka Metropolitan University researchers developed a new protocol for selective and highly sensitive detection, discovering five types of 2-oxo-imidazole-containing dipeptides(2-oxo-IDPs) using mass spectrometry. The 2-oxo-IDPs, present in living organisms, exhibit very high antioxidant activity, and were found to be abundant in meat including beef, pork, and chicken.

Osaka, Japan – Imidazole dipeptides (IDPs), which are abundant in meat and fish, are substances produced in the bodies of various animals, including humans, and have been reported to be effective in relieving fatigue and preventing dementia. However, the physiological mechanism by which IDPs exhibit these activities had not been determined previously.

A research team, led by Professor Hideshi Ihara from the Osaka Metropolitan University Graduate School of Science, was the first to discover 2-oxo-imidazole-containing dipeptides (2-oxo-IDPs)—which have one more oxygen atom than normal IDPs—and found that they are the most common variety of IDPs derivatives in the body. The researchers also found that they have remarkably high antioxidant activity.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Less is more

The ability to genetically change bacteria is the key to researching the microbial world.
Image Credit: Braňo

Scientists from Würzburg and Braunschweig have developed a new approach that enables more efficient processing of bacterial genomes.

The ability to genetically change bacteria is the key to researching the microbial world. Genome editing - i.e. processing the genome such as DNA - is essential in order to develop new antibiotics and to use bacteria as miniature factories for the sustainable production of chemicals, materials and therapeutics. Tools based on the CRISPR gene scissors have proven helpful here because they make it possible to change different bacteria quickly, easily and reliably.

The underlying technology requires CRISPR ribonucleic acid (crRNA), which serves as a "lead RNA". It helps to control certain regions of a genome for targeted DNA cleavage. Proteins involved in homologous recombination - a natural process of exchanging genetic material between chromosomes - then insert the designed "repair template" to create a processed sequence of the DNA strand.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Reading out RNA structures in real time

The fluorescent blinking of cyanine dye (Alexa Fluor 647, pink star) bound to RNA changes depending on the structure of the RNA. When the RNA is folded like a hairpin, the fluorescent blinking is fast, and when the RNA switches to a G-quadruplex, the blinking is slow
Illustration Credit: Akira Kitamura

A new microscopic technique allows for the real-time study of RNA G-quadruplexes in living cells, with implications for the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and Stephen Hawking’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the gradual loss of control over the muscles in the body. It is currently incurable and the cause of the disease is unknown in over 90% of all cases — although both genetic and environmental factors are believed to be involved.

The research groups of Dr. Akira Kitamura at the Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University, and Prof. Jerker Widengren at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, have developed a novel technique that is able to detect a characteristic structure of RNA in real time in live cells. The technique, which is based on fluorescence-microscopic spectroscopy, was published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

New, safe, and biodegradable compound blocks radiation

Hesham Zakali: The material developed by an international group of scientists could become an alternative to toxic lead, for example.
Photo Credit: Anastasia Kurshpel

Polylactic acid combined with tungsten trioxide effectively blocks gamma radiation, an international group of scientists including specialists from Russia (Ural Federal University), Saudi Arabia and Egypt has found. In the future, it will be possible to create safe and biodegradable screens for protection against low-energy radiation on the basis of the new material, the researchers believe. Such screens are used in medicine, agriculture and the food industry. A description of the material has been published in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry.

"Polylactic acid is a non-toxic polymer of natural origin. It is inexpensive and, importantly, can be broken down by microbes when placed in an industrial plant at high temperatures. Since lactic acid is regularly produced as a byproduct of metabolism in both plants and animals, polylactic acid and its degradation products are non-toxic and safe for the environment," explains Hesham Zakali, co-author of the development and Researcher at the Department of Experimental Physics at UrFU.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Cyborg Cells Could Be Tools for Health and Environment

UC Davis biomedical engineers have created semi-living “cyborg cells” that have many of the capabilities of living cells but are unable to divide and grow. The cells could have applications in medicine and environmental cleanup.
Illustration Credit: Cheemeng Tan, UC Davis.

Biomedical engineers at the University of California, Davis, have created semi-living “cyborg cells.” Retaining the capabilities of living cells, but unable to replicate, the cyborg cells could have a wide range of applications, from producing therapeutic drugs to cleaning up pollution. The work was published in Advanced Science.

Synthetic biology aims to engineer cells that can carry out novel functions. There are essentially two approaches in use, said Cheemeng Tan, associate professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis and senior author on the paper. One is to take a living bacterial cell and remodel its DNA with new genes that give it new functions. The other is to create an artificial cell from scratch, with a synthetic membrane and biomolecules.

The first approach, an engineered living cell, has great flexibility but is also able to reproduce itself, which may not be desirable. A completely artificial cell cannot reproduce but is less complex and only capable of a limited range of tasks.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Tens of thousands of possible catalysts on the diameter of a hair

The results of the sputtering process can be seen under the light microscope.
Image Credit: © Lars Banko

New methods make it possible to produce countless new materials in one step and to examine them quickly.

When looking for catalysts for the energy transition, materials made from at least five elements are particularly promising. Only there are theoretically millions of them - how do you find the most powerful? A Bochum research team led by Prof. Dr. Alfred Ludwig, head of the Materials Discovery and Interfaces chair, MDI, managed to accommodate all possible combinations of five elements on one carrier in a single step. In addition, the researchers developed a method to analyze the electrocatalytic potential of each of the combinations in this micromaterial library in high throughput. In this way, they want to speed up the search for potential catalysts many times over. The team at the Ruhr University Bochum reports in the journal Advanced Materials.

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