Friday, March 24, 2017

Science X Newsletter Friday, Mar 24

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 24, 2017:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Controlling ice formation

Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf

Renewable energy initiative moving to turn wastewater into fuel

Insights may lead to design and development of superior metallic alloys

Andromeda's bright X-ray mystery solved by NuSTAR

Designing lunar equipment to survive long periods of sunless cold

Heavy metal binding domain in a cysteine-rich protein may be sea snail adaptation to metal stress

Kaikoura quake may prompt rethink of earthquake hazard models internationally

Inventing a new kind of matter

Researchers gain insight into breast cancer drug resistance

'Virtual batteries' could lead to cheaper, cleaner power

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new parking spot

Electrodeposition and annealing used to allow for adjusting hardness in nanograined metals

A fluorogenic probe can detect the activity of multidrug-resistant pathogens in an assay system

Satellite imaging breakthrough improves ability to measure plant growth

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf

An international team of astronomers has identified a record breaking brown dwarf (a star too small for nuclear fusion) with the 'purest' composition and the highest mass yet known. The object, known as SDSS J0104+1535, is a member of the so-called halo – the outermost reaches - of our Galaxy, made up of the most ancient stars. The scientists report the discovery in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Andromeda's bright X-ray mystery solved by NuSTAR

The Milky Way's close neighbor, Andromeda, features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation.

Designing lunar equipment to survive long periods of sunless cold

Designers of future moon missions and bases have to contend with a chilling challenge: how might their creations endure the fortnight-long lunar night? ESA has arrived at a low-cost way of surviving.

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new parking spot

Spacewalking astronauts prepped the International Space Station on Friday for a new parking spot reserved for commercial crew capsules.

The surprising discovery of a new class of pulsating X-ray stars

A surprising new class of X-ray pulsating variable stars has been discovered by a team of American and Canadian astronomers led by Villanova University's Scott Engle and Edward Guinan. Part of the Villanova Secret Lives of Cepheids program, the new X-ray observations, obtained by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and published Thursday, March 23rd in the Astrophysical Journal, reveal that the bright prototype of Classical Cepheids, d Cephei, is a periodic pulsed X-ray source.

OSIRIS-REx asteroid search tests instruments, science team

During an almost two-week search, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission team activated the spacecraft's MapCam imager and scanned part of the surrounding space for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids—objects that scientists believe may exist in one of the stable regions that co-orbits the sun with Earth. Although no Earth-Trojans were discovered, the spacecraft's camera operated flawlessly and demonstrated that it could image objects two magnitudes dimmer than originally expected.

Spacewalk a success for French, US astronauts

A French and an American astronaut floated outside the International Space Station Friday on a successful spacewalk to upgrade the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews.

Spacewalking French, US astronauts to upgrade orbiting lab

A French and an American astronaut are scheduled to float outside the International Space Station Friday for a spacewalk aimed at upgrading the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews.

Game-changing balloon technology enables near-global flight

After over 20 years of tests and development, NASA's Balloon Program team is on the cusp of expanding the envelope in high-altitude, heavylift ballooning with its super pressure balloon (SPB) technology. SMD technology investments that enabled development of SPB, the first totally new balloon design in more than 60 years, include improved film and evolution in the balloon design and fabrication. The pumpkin-shaped, football stadium-size balloon is made from 22-acres of polyethylene film—a material that is similar to a sandwich bag, but is stronger and more durable. The SPB is capable of ascending to a nearly constant float altitude of about 35 km for flights lasting up to 100 days, given the right stratospheric conditions. Flying at mid-latitudes, the balloon must be able to endure the pressure changes that result from the heating and cooling of the day-night cycle. NASA expects the SPB to be capable of circumnavigating the globe once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds in the stratosphere.

Extreme space weather: Protecting our critical infrastructure

Extreme space weather has a global footprint and the potential to damage critical infrastructure on the ground and in space. A new report from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) calls for bridging knowledge gaps and for better coordination at EU level to reduce the potential impact of space weather events.

Curiosity captures gravity wave shaped clouds on Mars

This week, from March 20th to 24th, the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference will be taking place in The Woodlands, Texas. Every year, this conference brings together international specialists in the fields of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and astronomy to present the latest findings in planetary science. One of the highlights of the conference so far has been a presentation about Mars' weather patterns.

Technology news

Renewable energy initiative moving to turn wastewater into fuel

(Tech Xplore)—Environment watchers in Europe are looking at activities surrounding the LIFE+ Methamorphosis project funded by the European Commission.

'Virtual batteries' could lead to cheaper, cleaner power

In the power grid, supply and demand need to match exactly. If consumers demand more power than producers can supply, or if producers provide more power than consumers need, the result can be rolling blackouts.

Twitter eyes paid 'premium' service for power users

Twitter confirmed Friday it is considering a paid subscription service that would give frequent users more tools to use the social network for marketing, journalism and other fields.

Apple: Software flaws in latest WikiLeaks docs are all fixed

Apple said purported hacking vulnerabilities disclosed by WikiLeaks this week have all been fixed in recent iPhones and Mac computers.

Google ad boycott could aim ire at ad-serving software

Google's money-making foundation is strong enough to endure a current boycott by advertisers, but the movement could rattle the practice of software "programmed" ad placement, analysts said on Thursday.

California fuel standards to get critical review

A state review has found California is on track to meet its tougher car-emission standards and urges regulators to draft more ambitious environmental targets for the future.

IT researchers break anonymity of gene databases

DNA profiles can reveal a number of details about individuals, and even about their family members. There are laws in place that regulate the trade of gene data, which has become much simpler and cheaper to analyze today. However, these laws do not apply to an equally relevant type of genetic data, so-called microRNAs, even though these can also point to serious diseases. This means that anonymity needs to be strictly maintained in microRNA studies as well. Researchers from the Research Center for IT Security, CISPA, have now been able to show that a few microRNA molecules are sufficient to draw conclusions about study participants. The computer scientists will be presenting their means of attack, and appropriate countermeasures, at the Cebit computer fair in Hannover (Hall 6, Stand C47).

Opinion: Banning laptops at secure airports won't keep aircraft safe from terror attacks

Introducing new security measures for the airline industry is rarely done lightly by governments. Certainly it's underpinned by the responsibility to ensure passenger safety. But it's not clear how effective the recent ban on laptops and large electronic devices in aircraft cabin baggage on flights from certain Middle Eastern airports to the US and UK will be.

Medicine & Health news

Researchers gain insight into breast cancer drug resistance

Breast cancer's ability to develop resistance to treatment has frustrated researchers and physicians and has thwarted even the latest and greatest targeted therapies. For example, after researchers identified a disease pathway integral to many breast cancers called PI3K, they began testing experimental drugs that block this pathway—only to see the tumors then activate another pathway to fuel their growth.

In a sample of blood, researchers probe for cancer clues

One day, patients may be able to monitor their body's response to cancer therapy just by having their blood drawn. A new study, led by bioengineers at UC Berkeley, has taken an important step in that direction by measuring a panel of cancer proteins in rare, individual tumor cells that float in the blood.

Custom-built microscope reveals details of how neurons communicate

The brain hosts an extraordinarily complex network of interconnected nerve cells that are constantly exchanging electrical and chemical signals at speeds difficult to comprehend. Now, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report they have been able to achieve—with a custom-built microscope—the closest view yet of living nerve synapses.

Astrocytes found to keep time for brain, behavior

Until recently, work on biological clocks that dictate daily fluctuations in most body functions, including core body temperature and alertness, focused on neurons, those electrically excitable cells that are the divas of the central nervous system.

Tiny eye movements reveal if suspect is lying about recognition

Researchers may soon be able to tell whether a suspect is lying about recognising someone they know, according to a study from the University of Portsmouth.

'Jumonji' protein key to Ewing's sarcoma rampage

By the time Ewing's Sarcoma is diagnosed, primarily in teens and young adults, it has often spread from its primary site to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Oncogene pinpoints a protein that may be essential to this spread - when researchers knocked down the protein KDM3A in Ewing's Sarcoma tumor cells, one of a family known as Jumonji proteins, they also inhibited the cancer's metastatic ability.

Gene discovered associated with Tau pathology

Investigators at Rush University Medical Center and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reported the discovery of a new gene that is associated with susceptibility to a common form of brain pathology called Tau that accumulates in several different conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, certain forms of dementia and Parkinsonian syndromes as well as chronic traumatic encephalopathy that occurs with repeated head injuries.

Dogs detect breast cancer from bandage: researchers

Dogs can sniff out cancer from a piece of cloth which had touched the breast of a woman with a tumour, researchers said Friday, announcing the results of an unusual, but promising, diagnostic trial.

Electrical 'switch' in brain's capillary network monitors activity and controls blood flow

All it takes is the flip of a protein "switch" within the tiny wire-like capillaries of the brain to increase the blood flow that ensures optimal brain function. New research has uncovered that capillaries have the capacity to both sense brain activity and generate an electrical vasodilatory signal to evoke blood flow and direct nutrients to nourish hard-working neurons.

Brain scans may help clinicians choose talk therapy or medication treatment for depression

Researchers from Emory University have found that specific patterns of activity on brain scans may help clinicians identify whether psychotherapy or antidepressant medication is more likely to help individual patients recover from depression.

Computer program developed to diagnose and locate cancer from a blood sample

Researchers in the United States have developed a computer program that can simultaneously detect cancer and identify where in the body the cancer is located, from a patient's blood sample. The program is described in research published this week in the open access journal Genome Biology.

Passive smoking—acrolein inhibits immune response, hence accelerating tumour growth

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year 600,000 deaths are caused by passive smoking worldwide and, in Austria alone, two or three people a day die as a result of passive smoking. In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers from MedUni Vienna and the Messerli Research Institute have, for the first time, identified the organic compound acrolein (acrylic aldehyde) as one of the main causes of failure of the immune defence to tumours due to passive smoking.

Seven months after Rio Olympics, Zika continues to plague babies in urban slums

Many international travelers to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, openly considered skipping the games to avoid the threat of Zika. Despite the fears, not a single case of Zika or its major neurological complication, microcephaly, was reported by foreign visitors. The near-paranoia—and the diversion of scarce resources to protect a low-risk population—could have been avoided by heeding the lessons of previous epidemics, argues a new study from public health researchers at UC Berkeley.

Allergy sufferers can expect a bumper crop of weeds and pollen

California experienced record rainfall this year and may have even made headway against the state's historic drought. Now that lush landscapes abound and spring is upon us, what does this mean for allergy sufferers?

New prosthetic invention lets users reclaim their sense of touch

Two years ago, Melissa Loomis, age 43, was in her house in Ohio when she heard her two dogs barking and scuffling outside. She discovered her pets in a tussle with a raccoon and ran to intercede. The wild animal bit her right forearm. Twenty-nine days and 13 surgeries later, Loomis lost her limb above the elbow to a septic infection. Suddenly, everyday activities such as brushing her teeth, buttoning a blouse, or lifting a pot while making dinner became a challenge. At the suggestion of her surgeon, Loomis came to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory to test a breakthrough in prosthetics. Today she is one of the world's first amputees to regain a sense of touch through a mind-controlled prosthetic robotic arm.

Colonoscopy just the start in preventing colorectal cancer

When it comes to preventing colorectal cancer, there's a whole lot more to it than colonoscopy.

Improve access, uptake and use of services for people at risk of tuberculosis in vulnerable populations

A researcher from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, Dr Ruaraidh Hill, working closely with a pan-European team, conducted two reviews to improve access, uptake and use of services for people at risk of tuberculosis (TB) in vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations.

Cross-cell transport bears unexpected responsibility for sealing blood-retinal barrier

A cellular trafficking system called transcytosis may actually do most of the work in controlling the permeability of the barrier between the blood and the central nervous system, according to new research conducted in mice by neurobiologists at Harvard Medical School.

Key tool in DNA repair kit found

Breaks in DNA can cause chromosome rearrangements, abnormalities linked to cancer. Now Yale scientists have identified how the molecule DNA2 helps begin the complex process of repairing these breaks.

Use food subsidies as carrot to encourage healthier eating habits for obese

Subsidising healthy foods by up to 10 per cent would do more to shift the eating habits of overweight and obese people than a tax on unhealthy products, and could be cost effective in the long-run, according to the findings of a new study published by economists at the University.

Fainting disorder mechanism figured out

Monash University researchers have discovered the mechanism underlying the fainting disorder, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), the condition famously affecting the former lead singer of The Wiggles.

Simulations predict swelling of 'underfed' brain cells new method ut shows critical tipping point

When brain cells don't get enough energy, caused by a stroke or trauma, they can start swelling rapidly. New mathematical models of this mechanism, developed by Koen Dijkstra of the University of Twente in The Netherlands, show a critical tipping point: at lower energy levels, there is no way back.

Shedding light on children's physical activity

A new study highlights some of the barriers children face in being more physically active in their local neighbourhoods.

Possible new view of diabetes

It's hard to change entrenched ideas in science.

Why opposites rarely attract

If you were brought up on a diet of Disney fairy tales, you might be forgiven for thinking that opposites attract. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid all perpetuate the idea that the ideal partner is someone who has the opposite qualities to ourselves.

Want to end TB? Diagnose and treat all forms of the disease

Tuberculosis should be a specter of the past, something only our great-grandparents feared and died of. Alas, although almost all cases of TB today are both preventable and treatable, several different strains and manifestations of the disease still sicken and kill millions of people every year.

New research shows how metabolism and epigenetics play a role in cancer development

A study published in Briefings in Functional Genomics investigated how epigenetics can modulate human's genetic program—it can emphasize or silence genes. The new research shows that if epigenetics is disrupted, it might switch on oncogenes (genes that in certain circumstances transform cells into tumor cells) or shut down tumor suppressors. Both events will transform cells into tumor cells and cause cancer.

Most remaining smokers in US have low socioeconomic status

After decades of declining US smoking rates overall, most remaining smokers have low income, no college education, no health insurance or a disability, according to research from the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz.

On the trail of Parkinson's disease

The molecular causes of diseases such as Parkinson's need to be understood as a first step towards combating them. University of Konstanz chemists working alongside Professor Malte Drescher recently succeeded in analysing what happens when selective mutations of the alpha-synuclein protein occur—a protein that is closely linked to Parkinson's disease.

Scientists discover shared genetic origin for ALS/MND and schizophrenia

Researchers have shown for the first time that Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and schizophrenia have a shared genetic origin, indicating that the causes of these diverse conditions are biologically linked. The work has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

New study identifies successful method to reduce dental implant failure

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 15 million Americans have crown or bridge replacements and three million have dental implants—with this latter number rising by 500,000 a year. The AAID estimates that the value of the American and European market for dental implants will rise to $4.2 billion by 2022.

Severe psoriasis predominantly affects men

The fact that men are overrepresented in psoriasis registers and consume more psoriasis care have long led researchers to believe that the common skin disease disproportionally affects men. A unique study with 5,438 Swedish psoriasis patients now reveals that women have a statistically significant lower incidence of severe psoriasis compared to men. The study, conducted by researchers at Umeå University and Karolinska Institutet, is published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.

Survivors of childhood brain tumors have increased body fat

McMaster University researchers have discovered that while survivors of childhood brain tumours have a similar Body Mass Index (BMI) to healthy children with no cancer, they have more fat tissue overall, and especially around the abdomen.

116 million African children to get polio vaccines: WHO

The World Health Organization said Friday 116 million children are to receive polio vaccines in 13 countries in west and central Africa as part of efforts to eradicate the disease on the continent.

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and institutions across the U.S. declare in a Leading Edge commentary in Cell.

Study confirms prescription weight-loss medication helps with opiate addiction recovery

Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have confirmed that a prescription weight-loss pill decreases the urge to use opiates such as oxycodone.

A little vigorous exercise may help boost kids' cardiometabolic health

As little as 10 minutes a day of high-intensity physical activity could help some children reduce their risk of developing heart problems and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, according to an international study led by a researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

In Trump land, painful choices await if Obamacare goes

Maribeth Coote says she hates Obamacare, but it's the only health coverage option she can afford in this remote, hardscrabble corner of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mice offer a window into sleep's role in memory

Sleep provides essential support for learning and memory, but scientists do not fully understand how that process works on a molecular level. What happens to synapses, the connections between neurons, during sleep that helps us remember what we learned when awake?

Cholesterol drug shown to reduce inflammation, other factors in patients

Statin drugs are widely used to manage high cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But in a new review of more than 50 studies, researchers cite reductions in liver inflammation and improvements in other related factors as reasons why statins make good candidates for treating chronic liver disease. The article is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

Breakdown of ages in a population is key to impact of disease

How a disease outbreak affects a group of animals depends on the breakdown of ages in the population, an animal study has shown. The findings could help scientists better understand how events such as disease outbreaks may affect certain groups in a population.

The need to reinvent primary care

Primary care is "first-contact, continuous, comprehensive, and coordinated care provided to populations undifferentiated by gender, disease, or organ system." High-quality primary care has been associated with improved population health, lower costs, and greater equity. Despite this evidence, primary care has been consistently under-resourced, accounting for just six to eight percent of US health care expenditures. Newer payment models introduced under the Affordable Care Act raised expectations, but even those modest gains appear threatened under the new administration in Washington. It is unrealistic to anticipate a significant influx of resources into primary care anytime soon. A special issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, just published, takes a look at primary care today.

Neurosurgical practices must evolve and transform to adapt to rapidly changing healthcare industry

Neurosurgeons hoping to successfully navigate the rapidly changing healthcare industry must advance their strategies and adapt new ways of thinking in order to continue to thrive in an evolving environment.

Biology news

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution.

Bad breath: Study find array of bacteria when orcas exhale

When the mighty orca breaks to the surface and exhales, the whale sprays an array of bacteria and fungi in its his breath, scientists said, some good, and some bad such as salmonella.

New tools to spy on raiding baboons in suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa

Scientists from Swansea University's College of Science are part of an international team attempting to better understand the human-baboon conflict in Cape Town, South Africa.

Planting native vegetation for productive crops

The University of Adelaide, working with South Australian industry groups, is helping farmers and growers design and implement native plantings to support bee and other insect populations needed to pollinate their crops and orchards.

The development of amphibians and reptiles through twelve million years of geological history

Together with an international team, Senckenberg scientist Professor Dr. Madelaine Böhme studied the development of the amphibian and reptile fauna in Western Siberia during the past twelve million years. In their study, published today in the scientific journal Peer J, the scientists demonstrate that the species diversity of both groups of animals was noticeably higher in the past than it is today. Among others, for the first time the researchers discovered an Asiatic representative of the extinct frog family Palaeobatrachidae as well as evidence of a giant salamander with a length of up to 1.80 meters.

Scientists pinpoint critical step in DNA repair, cellular aging

DNA repair is essential for cell vitality, cell survival, and cancer prevention, yet cells' ability to patch up damaged DNA declines with age for reasons not fully understood.

Using the placenta to understand how complex organs evolve

Considering how different they look from the outside, it might be surprising that all vertebrates – animals with a backbone – share the same, conserved set of organs. Chickens, fish, human beings – all have hearts, livers, brains, kidneys and so on. Each of these organs performs a specialized set of functions.

Manipulating plant enzymes could protect crops from flooding

Scientists have long understood how oxygen deprivation can affect animals and even bacteria, but until recently very little was known about how plants react to hypoxia (low oxygen). A new research collaboration between Oxford University and the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry, published this week in Nature Communications, has answered some of these questions and shed light on how understanding these reactions could improve food security. Dr Emily Flashman, the lead author of the study and a research lecturer at Oxford's Chemistry Department, breaks down the key findings:

Big data approach to predict protein structure

Nothing works without proteins in the body, they are the molecular all-rounders in our cells. If they do not work properly, severe diseases, such as Alzheimer's, may result. To develop methods to repair malfunctioning proteins, their structure has to be known. Using a big data approach, researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now developed a method to predict protein structures.

Why do guillemot chicks leap from the nest before they can fly?

It looks like a spooky suicide when small, fluffy guillemot chicks leap from the cliffs and fall several hundred metres towards the sea - long before they are fully fledged. But researchers have now discovered that there is good reason behind this seeming madness.

Japan culls 280,000 more birds for avian flu

Japan deployed hundreds of soldiers to help cull more than 280,000 chickens on Friday, officials said as they try to contain further outbreaks of a highly contagious strain of avian flu.

Researchers address disease deadly to bats

The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in hibernating bats has been detected on three species in the Texas counties of Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Hardeman, King and Scurry.

Predatory lizard enters Brazil clandestinely

It all began with a photograph of a lizard posted on Facebook in August 2015 by the Brazilian Herpetology group. It was a strange lizard that had been observed in a residential area near the Port of Santos, São Paulo State, by Ricardo Samelo, a biology student at the Santos Coast campus of the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).

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