Monthly Archives: August 2018
British scientists have unraveled how a non-intoxicating component of cannabis acts in key brain areas to reduce abnormal activity in patients at risk of psychosis, suggesting the ingredient could become a novel anti-psychotic medicine. While regular use of potent forms CBD is the same cannabis compound that has also shown benefits in epilepsy, leading in June to the first U.S. approval of a cannabis-based drug, a purified form of CBD from GW Pharmaceuticals.
Previous research at King’s College London had shown that CBD seemed to counter the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the substance in cannabis that makes people high. But how this happened was a mystery.
Now, by scanning the brains of 33 young people who were experiencing distressing psychotic symptoms but had not been diagnosed with full-blown psychosis, Sagnik Bhattacharyya and colleagues showed that giving CBD capsules reduced abnormal activity in the striatum, medial temporal cortex and midbrain.
Abnormalities in all three of these brain regions have been linked to the onset of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Most current anti-psychotic drugs target the dopamine chemical signaling system in the brain, while CBD works in a different way. Significantly, the compound is very well tolerated, avoiding the adverse side effects such as weight gain and other metabolic problems associated with existing medicines.
The Israelian company ElectReon Wireless Ltd., which develops smart road technology that wirelessly charges electric cars, has signed a cooperation agreement with French-Japanese auto manufacturer Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi (The Alliance). The Alliance is the largest auto maker in the world, and in the same time has sold the greatest number of electric cars. ElectReon will receive an electric car from Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, install its system in the car, and adapt it to smart road technology, thereby facilitating travel through wireless energy transfer. ElectReon was founded in late 2013 by chairperson and CEO Oren Ezer and CTO Hanan Rumbak.
“Smart road technology is the next stage in the evolution of global public transportation. It is designed to cut operating costs, completely halt dependence on oil and gasoline, and make the public space cleaner and cheaper. I am confident that this cooperation and other such agreements will make Israel a pioneer in technology-based transportation solutions,” stated Ezer.
ElectReon plans to first use its technology on buses traveling in designated lanes and later in private vehicles. Implementation of the technology also depends on cooperation from regulators (e.g. infrastructure and transportation ministries in Israel and European countries). Last month, ElectReon signed a cooperation agreement with Dan in which an initial public transportation route will be established powered by wireless energy charging. The company has also signed a memorandum of understanding with French company Hutchinson, which is to design and develop a mass production line for the coils infrastructure developed by ElectReon for installation beneath the road surface.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has a vision for renewed and “sustainable” human exploration of the moon, and he cites the existence of water on the lunar surface as a key to chances for success.
“We know that there’s hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine said in a Reuters TV interview in Washington on Tuesday, a day after NASA unveiled its analysis of data collected from lunar orbit by a spacecraft from India.
The findings, mark the first time scientists have confirmed by direct observation the presence of water on the moon’s surface – in hundreds of patches of ice deposited in the darkest and coldest reaches of its polar regions. The discovery holds tantalizing implications for efforts to return humans to the moon for the first time in half a century. The presence of water offers a potentially valuable resource not only for drinking but for producing more rocket fuel and oxygen to breathe.
Bridenstine, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and Oklahoma congressman tapped by President Donald Trump in April as NASA chief, spoke about “hundreds of billions of tons” of water ice that he said were now known to be available on the lunar surface. NASA lunar scientist Sarah Noble told separately by phone that it is still unknown how much ice is actually present on the moon and how easy it would be to extract in sufficient quantities to be of practical use. “We have lots of models that give us different answers. We can’t know how much water there is,” she said, adding that it will ultimately take surface exploration by robotic landers or rovers, in more than one place, to find out.
Most of the newly confirmed frozen water is concentrated in the shadows of craters at both poles, where the temperature never rises higher than minus-250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chronic exposure to air pollution can cause harm to cognitive performance, a new study reveals. Researchers believe that the negative impact increases with age, and affects men with less education the worst. Over four years, the maths and verbal skills of some 20,000 people in China were monitored by the US-Chinese study. Scientists believe the results have global relevance, with more than 80% of the world’s urban population breathing unsafe levels of air pollution.
The study was based on measurements of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter where participants lived. It is not clear how much each of these three pollutants is to blame. Carbon monoxide, ozone and larger particulates were not included in the study. Described as an invisible killer, air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
“We provide evidence that the effect of air pollution on verbal tests becomes more pronounced as people age, especially for men and the less educated,” the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said.
Pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the study suggests. Exposure to high levels of polluted air “can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year…, which is huge,” one of the co-authors, Xi Chen of the Yale School of Public Health, told.
Previous studies found air pollution had a negative impact on students’ cognitive abilities. In this study, researchers tested people of both sexes aged 10 and above between 2010 and 2014, with 24 standardised maths questions and 34 word-recognition questions.
Europe is launching a satellite this week that will use new laser technology to measure the winds sweeping across Earth and help scientists forecast changes in weather more accurately.
The Aeolus mission will provide scientists with data on winds in remote areas, such as over oceans, that they have not been able to get from weather balloons, ground stations and airplanes but which are crucial to predicting changes in weather.
“Forecasting is of course still limited, but then we will certainly be able to understand the processes better that lead to extreme weather phenomena,” Paolo Ferri, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) head of mission operations, told ahead of the launch.
Many scientists warn that global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms, causing billions of euros in damage and costing thousands of human lives every year.
Better weather forecasts will allow scientists to warn the population when hurricanes are heading their way and predict weather patterns such as El Niño, which can cause crop damage, fires and flash floods.
The Aeolus mission – named after a character of Greek mythology who was appointed keeper of the winds – is scheduled to blast off from Europe’s space port in Kourou, French Guiana
A swarm of autonomous robots that can swim across bodies of water to collect garbage might be the key to saving the oceans. A few years ago, RanMarine Technology, a company from the Netherlands, has introduced WasteShark, an aquadrone that works like a smart vacuum cleaner (essentially, a Roomba for the seas) to gather wastes that end up in waterways before they accumulate into a great big patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
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“The operational cost of the vehicle… will be almost nothing. You are basically using compressed air. You are not paying for fuel and also you do not need cooling,” said Mahmoud Yasser, a student who helped design it. The team is now looking to raise funding to expand the project and mass produce the vehicles. They believe they can eventually get the vehicles to top 100 kilometers an hour and run for 100 kilometers before needing to come up for air.
Every year, about 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in the ocean. Plastics, styrofoam, and other nonbiodegradable materials get dumped into the waters, eaten by fishes and birds or collect into what has become the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a gyre of debris between California and Hawaii bigger than Alaska. Trash in seas and oceans have become a huge problem, but the WasteShark might be able to help.
RanMarine said that its aquadrones are inspired by whale sharks, “nature’s most efficient harvesters of marine biomass.” The company claims that the vessels can collect up to 200 liters of waste before it needs to be emptied and swim across the water for 16 hours. The WasteShark are autonomous as it can intelligently wade through water and collect trash using sensors. It is equipped with a GPS to track its movements.
The critical, structural changes that enveloped viruses, such as HIV, Ebola and influenza, undergo before invading host cells have been revealed by scientists using nano-infrared spectroscopic imaging, according to a study led by Georgia State University and the University of Georgia. The researchers found that an antiviral compound was effective in stopping the influenza virus from entering host cells during lower pH exposure, the optimal condition for the virus to cause infection.
Enveloped viruses are among the most deadly known viruses. These viruses have an outer membrane covering their genetic material, and to invade host cells enveloped viruses must first attach to a cell and then open their membrane to release genetic material. Originally, scientists believed this mechanism was controlled by the host cell. In this study, which focused on influenza virus, the researchers examined the structural changes that occur for the virus to open and release its genetic material. They conducted the experiment in the absence of cells and instead simulated the cell environment. When influenza virus infects a person’s body, it goes from a neutral environment outside the cell to a more acidic environment (a lower pH) inside the cell. To simulate the cell environment for this study, the researchers made the environment more acidic. The researchers exposed influenza virus particles to the lower pH and monitored structural changes in the virus.
“What we saw is that even without the cell, if we change the environment, the virus particle will break and release the genetic material,” said Dr. Ming Luo, a senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Chemistry at Georgia State. “So it has a proactive mechanism built into the virus particle. Once the virus particle finds that the environment has changed, it will itself release the material. It doesn’t need the help of the cell membrane. It has to find a sweet spot to release the genetic material, and that sweet spot happens to have a low pH.”
The researchers used nano-infrared spectroscopy, a microscopic imaging system, to observe how influenza virus particles change when their environment changes. During his work at Georgia State, Dr. Yohannes Abate, now at the University of Georgia, adapted the imaging technology to have a new, unique function that allowed them to study virus particles in more detail.
The findings are published in the journal PLoS One.
Driven by the scarcity of supply, climate change and ground watershed depletion, scientists present a design for a first of its kind portable harvester that mines freshwater from the atmosphere. For thousands of years, people in the Middle East and South America have extracted water from the air to help sustain their populations. Researchers and students from the University of Akron drew inspiration from those examples to develop a lightweight, battery-powered freshwater harvester that could someday take as much as 10 gallons (37,8 liters) per hour from the air, even in arid locations.
“I was visiting China, which has a freshwater scarcity problem. There’s investment in wastewater treatment, but I thought that effort alone was inadequate,” University of Akron professor Shing-Chung (Josh) Wong said.
Instead of relying on treated wastewater, Wong explained, it might be more prudent to develop a new type of water harvester that takes advantage of abundant water particles in the atmosphere. Freshwater makes up less than 3 percent of the earth’s water sources, and three quarters of that is locked up as ice in the north and south poles. Most water sustainability research is directed toward water supply, purification, wastewater treatment and desalination. Little attention has been paid to water harvesting from atmospheric particles.
Harvesting water from the air has a long history. Thousands of years ago, the Incas of the Andean region collected dew and channeled it into cisterns. More recently, some research groups have been developing massive mist and fog catchers in the Andean mountains and in Africa. Wong’s harvester is directed towards the most abundant atmospheric water sources and uses ground-breaking nanotechnology. If successful, it will produce an agile, lightweight, portable, freshwater harvester powered by a lithium-ion battery.
By experimenting with different combinations of polymers that were hydrophilic — which attracts water — and hydrophobic — which discharges water, the team concluded that a water harvesting system could indeed be fabricated using nanofiber technology. Unlike existing methods, Wong’s harvester could work in arid desert environments because of the membrane’s high surface-area-to-volume ratio. It also would have a minimal energy requirement. “We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device,” Wong said.
Nanoparticles, which are found in thousands of everyday products due to their unique properties, can form toxic cocktails harmful to our cells, a study has found. In a study published in the journal Nanotoxicology, scientists showed that 72 per cent of cells died after exposure to a cocktail of nano-silver and cadmium ions. Nanoparticles are becoming increasingly widespread in our environment. For example, silver nanoparticles have an effective antibacterial effect and can be found in refrigerators, sports clothes, cosmetics, tooth brushes, and water filters.
There is a significant difference between how the cells react when exposed to nanosilver alone and when they are exposed to a cocktail of nanosilver and cadmium ions, which are naturally found everywhere around us on Earth, according to the researchers from University of Southern Denmark (SDU). In the study, 72 per cent of the cells died, when exposed to both nanosilver and cadmiun ions. When exposed to nanosilver only, 25 per cent died. When exposed to cadmium ions only, 12 per cent died researchers said.
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The study was conducted on human liver cancer cells. The study indicates, that we need to take cocktail effects into account when trying to ascertain their effect on our health, said Frank Kjeldsen, a professor at SDU.
“Products with nano particles are being developed and manufactured every day, but in most countries there are no regulations, so there is no way of knowing what and how many nanoparticles are being released into the environment,” said Kjeldsen.
The southern Dutch city of Eindhoven plans to unveil the world’s first 3-D-printed housing complex next year, which its inventors believe could revolutionise the building industry by speeding up and customising construction. Printed in concrete by a robotic arm, the project backed by the city council, Eindhoven Technical University and several construction companies aims to see its first three-bedroomed home go up by June 2019. Known as Project Milestone, a housing complex of five homes of various shapes and sizes will be built over the next three to five years, financed by private investors, said Rudy van Gurp, one of the project’s managers.
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“This is just the beginning. It’s revolutionary technology and a new way of building that will develop over time,” he told AFP.
One of the great advantages of 3-D-printing is that the pod-like homes can be completely customised—and even built around natural objects, said Van Gurp. “Everything is possible, we can exactly fit the design to the area. We are guests in nature.”
Apart from speeding up the building process—from months to weeks—3-D-printing also solves another pressing issue: the scarcity of skilled artisans in the Netherlands, which drives up prices. “In a few years we will not have enough craftsmen like masons for example. By introducing robotisation into the construction industry we can make homes more affordable in the future,” commented Van Gurp. Currently the technique is still more expensive than traditional methods, prices are set to come down as 3-D technology improved, he added. Hundreds of potential tenants have already expressed interest in the housing project, with monthly rental set to be between 900 to 1,200 euros ($1,053 to $1,400).