Author Archives: Science News Staff

Study: Chinese Scullcap Shows Promise for Relief from Chemotherapy-Induced Cardiotoxicity

Sara M. Woods Kender

A peer-reviewed study, published on May 14, 2022, reports that compounds extracted from a plan might provide relief to cancer patients suffering from cardiotoxicity induced by chemotherapy treatments. Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mansoura University in Egypt showed that the use of the flavonoid baicalin extracted from the Chinese Scullcap plant (Scutellariae baicalenses) and given to mice prior to and during dministering Doxorubicin (Dox: a chemotherapeutic agent) “ameliorated” Doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity, a common side-effect of using this drug. The mice were given 100 mg/kg/day of baicalin (BA) for four weeks and were challenged with Dox (6 i.p. doses, each 2.5 mg/kg), every other day with a final cumulative dose of 15 mg/kg.

Serum activities of cardiac biomarkers were assessed along with histopathological examination of the heart tissues. Pretreatment with BA significantly prevented Dox-induced elevation of serum activities of cardiac biomarkers and alterations to the heart. BA was also observed to suppress the gene over expression of cardiac TLR4 (toll-like receptor 4) subsequently reducing inflammation markers and inducers NF-kB and IL-1b. BA was also observed to reverse the
reduction in cardiac glutathione (another known side-effect of the chemo drug) as well as malondialdehyde (MDA) a known marker of oxidative stress.

This study shows promise in prevention of known cardiotoxicity induced by this chemo agent and is consistent with the use of Chinese Scullcap for overall inflammation in various herbal formulations. While this study uses the single constituent baicalin, this plant is known to contain many other flavonoids, including wogonin, neobaicalein, and skullcapflavone, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Note a study from 2005 reported that these constituents (including baicalin) were observed to inhibit prostate cancer tumors growth.

Some practitioners use Chinese Scullcap in various formulations, for example, a whole plant extract for overall inflammation useful for arthritis, circulatory inflammation, and those prone to allergic rhinitis, asthma, and Lyme-induced inflammation of the joints and circulatory system. I combine this root with Ginger root (Zingiber officinale), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum), Hawthorn (Cratagus spp), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), frankincense resin (Boswellia spp). Patients seeking relief have reported that this multiherb approach alleviates pain and inflammation and reduces over-all reactive states associated with allergies.

Scienceweekly.us

Citation

Promising Cardioprotective Effect of Baicalin in Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity through Targeting TLR4/NF-κB and Wnt/β-Catenin Pathways – ScienceDirect

For more information on herbs and their uwww.sarasherbs.com

New Scientific Study Finds Evidence of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Efficacy for Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

March 26, 2022

HBOT at 1.5 ATA oxygen Promotes Symptomatic and Cognitive Improvements for Patients with mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Persistent Postconcussion Syndrome in a Narrow Range of Pressure

New Orleans, LA — March 26, 2022: Today, IPAK announced the publication of a systematic review (latest study) on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) efficacy in mild traumatic brain injury Persistent Postconcussion Syndrome (PPCS).

Following multiple randomized and randomized controlled studies, the review found HBOT at 1.5 ATA oxygen to provide improvements in symptoms and cognition for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. These improvements — ranging from solely symptomatic to both cognitive and symptomatic — are significant enough to satisfy recommendations set in place for HBOT treatments by the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine and American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  The systematic review concludes that HBOT meets the highest level of scientific evidence and merits a Grade A Practice Recommendation, that HBOT should be delivered to patients with persistent postconcussion syndrome unless a “clear and compelling rationale for an alternative approach is present.”

Dr. Paul Harch, principal investigator for the study, says the contribution is reassuring to those questioning the efficacy of HBOT. “This scientific review brings clarity at last to the confusion and controversy surrounding traumatic brain injury and hyperbaric oxygen therapy,” he said. “The Level 1 Evidence and Grade A Practice Recommendation will allow this life and quality-of-life-saving therapy to give people back their lives.”

Patients undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy by breathing increased oxygen while under increased pressure. This allows the lungs to dissolve increased amounts of oxygen in blood that is delivered by the circulation to all areas of the body, especially those wounded tissues with less oxygen.  In conjunction with the increased amount of pressure the oxygen and pressure stimulate the body’s natural healing process to repair the wounds in traumatic brain injury.

Harch’s study reviewed how the intensity of oxygen dosage and pressure impacted treatment, finding that both positive and negative results occurred with high and low doses.  Surprisingly, the most influential effects occurred with increased pressure within a narrow range.  The elucidation of the independent and combined effects of oxygen and pressure for the first time in the 360-year history of hyperbaric medicine represents a key advance to the field of hyperbaric medicine, medicine, and neurorehabilitation.

More importantly, this is uplifting news for patients with PPCS, who can experience concussion-like symptoms even when at rest, as well as following physical and/or cognitive exertion. Over time, this may significantly impact their sleep, behavioral, cognitive, and physical performance.

PPCS is experienced by 10-15% of individuals who’ve experienced a concussion, including high school athletes, and as many as 44% of those with loss of consciousness.  Currently, there is no standard of care for the treatment of individuals with PPCS.  This systematic review now shows that there is more than hope, there is treatment.

About Paul G. Harch, M.D.: Paul G. Harch is a hyperbaric medicine clinician and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Section of Emergency Medicine, LSU School of Medicine, New Orleans. Two of the studies in the systematic review were published by Dr. Harch under LSU’s IRB approval.  Dr. Harch’s research with hyperbaric oxygen treatment has encompassed a wide range of neurological conditions, including decompression sickness, Alzheimer’s Disease, traumatic brain injury and childhood drowning.

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CONTACT INFORMATION:

Paul G. Harch, M.D. (LSU) or James Lyons-Weiler, PhD

Contact: info@ipaknowledge.org

    

Combination of Two Over-the-Counter Drugs Reduces COVID-19 Inpatient Death Rate

Birmingham, Ala. – Treating severe and critical hospitalized COVID-19 patients using two common over-the-counter (OTC) drugs reduced the inpatient death rates down to 15.5%, compared to published inpatient fatality rates of 21 to 25.7% in New York City, Louisiana, and the United Kingdom.  Thus, in essence the dual-drug treatment resulted in a one third reduction in the rate of death in hospitalized patients.  They also reduced the intubation rate down to only 16.4% in these high acuity inpatients. The clinical research findings were published in August 2020 in the journal – Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

The drug combination included an antihistamine and an antacid, commonly found on shelves and safely used for decades.  These two medications, cetirizine (e.g., Zyrtec(TM)) and famotidine (Pepcid(TM)), work to block H1 and H2 histamine receptors, producing a one-two punch against inflammation and presumably blocking the cytokine storm, according to Reed Hogan, II MD, of GI Associates in Jackson, Mississippi.  Hogan initiated this collaboration with pulmonologists from Jackson Pulmonary Associates, who were treating COVID-19 inpatients.  “I wanted to see if we blunt the cytokine storm with medications anyone in the world can find and afford,” said Hogan.

The physician-sponsored cohort study analyzed a group of 110 severe and critical inpatients with an average age of 63.7. Based in Mississippi, where general health is often compromised due to socio-economic issues, these very ill patients averaged a high 2.7 in co-morbidities, most notably hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Of those patients, 59 percent were African-American and 59 percent female.

While many of the other current medical treatments for COVID-19 require expensive drugs or biologics, this protocol uses affordable drugs already on pharmacy shelves. The savings potential could reduce treatment to less than $50 in drug costs, a boon for people without health insurance.

While other research since the initial study shows that famotidine alone may not effective in hospitalized patients, the original study provides evidence of the treatment effectiveness of famotidine in combination with cetirizine in hospitalized patients.

It also appears that H1 histamine receptor antagonists alone are effective in elderly patients, but not in hospitalized elderly patients.

“The two OTC drugs are historically safe, inexpensive, and are readily accessible within both affluent and impoverished countries across the globe.  Blocking histamine to reduce inflammation in COVID-19 patients is logical,” said Thomas P. Dooley, Ph.D. a Birmingham, Ala.-based drug developer, collaborator, and coauthor on the study. The two histamine-blocking drugs are already approved for other medical indications by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), therefore physicians may choose to use this new approach off-label. 

Testing on a larger scale in controlled randomized trials is warranted by these initial favorable results, according to Hogan.

SOURCE: Tom Dooley

Exposure to WIDESPREAD ENDOCRINE-DISRUPTING CHEMICAL during pregnancy may reduce protection against breast cancer

woman clinic doctor health

Propylparaben is widespread, authors fear no way to avoid exposure

Low doses of propylparaben – a chemical preservative found in food, drugs and cosmetics – can alter pregnancy-related changes in the breast in ways that may lessen the protection against breast cancer that pregnancy hormones normally convey, according to a new study published by researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The findings, published March 16 in the journal Endocrinology, suggest that propylparaben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that interferes with the actions of hormones, says environmental health scientist Laura Vandenberg, the study’s senior author. Endocrine disruptors can affect organs sensitive to hormones, including the mammary gland in the breast that produces milk.

woman clinic doctor health
Photo by Anna Shvets

“We found that propylparaben disrupts the mammary gland of mice at exposure levels that have previously been considered safe based on results from industry-sponsored studies. We also saw effects of propylparaben after doses many times lower, which are more reflective of human intake,” Vandenberg says. “Although our study did not evaluate breast cancer risk, these changes in the mammary tissue are involved in mitigating cancer risk in women.”

Hormones produced during pregnancy not only allow breast tissue to produce milk for the infant, but also are partly responsible for a reduced risk of breast cancer in women who give birth at a younger age.

The researchers, including co-lead author Joshua Mogus, a Ph.D. student in Vandenberg’s lab, tested whether propylparaben exposure during the vulnerable period of pregnancy and breastfeeding adversely alters the reorganization of the mammary gland. They examined the mothers’ mammary glands five weeks after they exposed the female mice to environmentally doses of propylparaben during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Compared with pregnant mice that had not received propylparaben, the exposed mice had mammary gland changes not typical of pregnancy, the researchers report. These mice had increased rates of cell proliferation, which Vandenberg says is a possible risk factor for breast cancer. They also had less-dense epithelial structures, fewer immune cell types and thinner periductal collagen, the connective tissue in the mammary gland.

“Some of these changes may be consistent with a loss of the protective effects that are typically associated with pregnancy,” says Mogus, who was chosen to present the research, deemed “particularly newsworthy” by the Endocrine Society, at the international group’s virtual annual meeting, ENDO 2021, beginning March 20.

Mogus says future studies should address whether pregnant females exposed to propylparaben are actually more susceptible to breast cancer. “Because pregnant women are exposed to propylparaben in many personal care products and foods, it is possible that they are at risk,” Mogus says, adding that pregnant and breastfeeding women should try to avoid using products containing propylparaben and other parabens.

“This chemical is so widely used, it may be impossible to avoid entirely,” Mogus adds. “It is critical that relevant public health agencies address endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a matter of policy.”

SOURCE: UMASS EDU Credit: Patty Shillington

MAJOR CLIMATE SHIFTS HURT BUTTERFLY POPULATIONS FOR YEARS, STUDY FINDS

Climate change is an important contributor to insect declines around the world, according to a new study published in the scientific journal PNAS that examined continuous long-term monitoring of butterfly and other insect populations.

“Specifically, we looked at long-term data sets from relatively protected areas – areas where the impacts of other stressors are weaker, such as in the mountains,” study lead author Chris Halsch, a doctoral candidate in the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program of the University of Nevada, Reno, said. “We specifically didn’t look at agriculture or urban areas for this study, for the most part, our sites are in undisturbed natural areas.”

Hesperia comma, a widespread skipper butterfly known for many local forms and ecological races, is among the top 50 most severely declining species in a recent study of western butterflies.  Photo credit: Jeffrey Glassberg, North American Butterfly Association 

Few insect monitoring programs encompass extensive elevational gradients, but one exception is the Shapiro Transect across Northern California with 10 sites and 163 species of butterflies from sea level to 8,200 feet of elevation. The sites have a wide variety of land use, from the intensely modified Central Valley of California to above tree line in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which this study encompasses. Observations at these sites have been taken every two weeks during the butterfly flight season for anywhere from 32 to 48 years, depending on the site.

“The issue is that there are multi-faceted reasons for these declines: agriculture, pesticides, urban growth causing habitat loss, pollution, forest fires and extreme weather events – and in most cases it is not just one thing,” Halsch said. “And none of these factors are as geographically pervasive or as likely to interact with all other factors as climate change.”

In the Donner Pass and Castle Peak areas of northern California’s Sierra Nevada, researchers (including Halsch) found butterfly populations that had been relatively stable until the 2000s. Then, the extreme drought from 2011 to 2015 hit and populations haven’t recovered.

Research team members from University of California, Davis, James Thorne and David Waetjen, provided climate modeling to go with the population data for the northern California transect. They found warming minimum temperatures and nights that are not cooling off as much, which all impacts biological processes.

The butterflies’ nectar sources are getting harder to find as plants wither in the heat, especially towards the end of summer and into early fall. Heat is responsible for dry vegetation, which was a catalyst for last year’s devastating wildfires, which have consumed butterfly habitat across the West.

“An important aspect of climate change impacting insects is extreme events,” Halsch said. “Six or so of the studies we reviewed looked at extreme events (flood, drought, etc.) and these events are more likely to be negative across the board. The negative impacts of extreme events are shown in mountain drought – the butterflies in the mountains did poorly; and the butterflies in California’s Central Valley did relatively well during the drought, but since the drought ended the declines are happening again, numbers have plummeted back down.”

Art Shapiro, who began the northern California butterfly research in the 1970s, said generalists – butterflies that can survive in a variety of environments – are in many cases doing poorly, relative to those that only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions. 

“Generalists tend to be upslope colonizers in the mountains,” Shapiro, a co-author in the study, said. “Their decline in the mountains probably reflects the fact that the main populations down here [in the Central Valley] are doing poorly.”

Halsch and his co-authors reviewed studies from around the world looking for relevant information about butterflies, moths, ants and flies. By far, butterflies are the most monitored across all insects, with the bulk of the studies from North American and northern Europe.

In all, for their research, the team used 60 studies from around the world, 11 studies that used the Shapiro Transect data, and 12 studies based on United Kingdom butterfly monitoring – monitoring programs that are known as some of the best in the world.

“Butterflies are, if anything, in worse trouble in Europe than here in North America,” Shapiro said. “The declines themselves are similar, but the reasons for the declines are different.”

Robust insect populations are vital for a variety of reasons, ranging from how they support the world’s food supply to how they support backyard flowers through pollination. Biologists are particularly interested to see how insects will respond to contemporary climate change because they are the most diverse lineage of multicellular organisms on the planet and are of fundamental importance to the functioning of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.

Colleague Lee Dyer in the College of Science’s biology department and EECB program at the University of Nevada, Reno, recently completed one of the few studies on insect populations in tropical forests and found strong signals of climate related to declines in population.

Matt Forister, Halsch’s graduate school advisor and co-author of the study that is a part of the published PNAS special issue about insect declines, is an expert in insect and butterfly populations. He has taken the lead on maintaining and expanding the Shapiro Transect monitoring in the Sierra Nevada. He said butterflies, like the rest of the natural world, are in decline, but they can rebound from their grim situation.

“We’re likely on the verge of losing some butterflies locally or regionally,” he said. “While those at-risk butterflies are not about to become extinct worldwide, that could change over the next 30 to 50 years. Insects really are survivors. We’ll lose some more, but if we can smarten up our agricultural practices and rein in climate change a bit, then there’s a lot of hope.”

Pre-term births in Tennessee decreased during pandemic

crop parents communicating with newborn baby in arms

First evidence that pre-term births decreased during lock-down. Researchers used Tennessee birth records from 2015 to 2020 to examine the odds of preterm birth in the state during the 2020 COVID-19 stay-at-home order compared with the same periods in 2015 to 2019.

Statewide stay-at-home orders put in place as Tennessee fought to control the spread of coronavirus last March were associated with a 14% lower rate of preterm birth, according to a research letter published today in JAMA Pediatrics.

Preterm infants have higher morbidity and mortality risks than babies born at term.

Senior author Stephen Patrick, MD, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy and a neonatologist at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and his colleagues had observed in March that there appeared to be fewer infants than usual in the NICU at the children’s hospital. Along with colleagues at Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team aimed to test if these anecdotal observations were related to the statewide lockdown order.

crop parents communicating with newborn baby in arms
Photo credit: Anna Shvets

The study is the first in the US to confirm the trend that more persons staying at home, essentially on forced bed rest, reduced the number of late pre-term infants (34-35 weeks).

“Preterm birth affects 1-in-10 infants nationwide, taking a substantial toll on children, families and communities,” Patrick said. “Our study, coupled with similar studies from Europe, provide initial evidence that COVID-19 stay at home orders were associated with reductions in spontaneous preterm birth. While encouraging, we need to ensure other pregnancy complications, like stillbirth, did not increase during this time period.”

Statewide stay-at-home orders in Tennessee were announced March 22 and expired on April 30. Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Tennessee Department of Health and the CDC collaborated to determine if the odds of pre-term birth during the stay-at-home orders in Tennessee were lower as compared with the same periods in 2015-2019 in Tennessee.

There were 49,845 births among Tennessee residents during the study period. The pre-term birth rate during the 2020 stay-at-home order was lower than rates in previous years (10.2% vs. 11.3%); late pre-term (35-36 weeks gestation) birth rates were also lower (5.8% vs. 6.5%).

“The overall decrease in preterm birth we saw during Tennessee COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order was driven by reductions among infants born late preterm, 35-36 weeks gestation,” said lead author Elizabeth Harvey, PhD, MPH, Maternal and Child Health Epidemiologist at CDC Division of Reproductive Health.

“Although we saw less infants born preterm, we also saw infants born during this time required more respiratory assistance at birth, which may suggest they were sicker and warrants further investigation,” she added.

Future research could explore whether other US states observed similar reductions, Patrick said, and how obstetric interventions for fetal and maternal complications, or lack thereof, may have contributed.

SOURCE: news.vumc.org CREDIT: Craig Boerner

Scientists describe earliest primate fossils

A new study published Feb. 24 in the journal Royal Society Open Science documents the earliest-known fossil evidence of primates.

A team of 10 researchers from across the U.S. analyzed several fossils of Purgatorius, the oldest genus in a group of the earliest-known primates called plesiadapiforms. These ancient mammals were small-bodied and ate specialized diets of insects and fruits that varied by species. These newly described specimens are central to understanding primate ancestry and paint a picture of how life on land recovered after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago that wiped out all dinosaurs — except for birds — and led to the rise of mammals.

Shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, the earliest known archaic primates, such as the newly described species Purgatorius mckeeveri shown in the foreground, quickly set themselves apart from their competition — like the archaic ungulate mammal on the forest floor — by specializing in an omnivorous diet including fruit found up in the trees.Andrey Atuchin

Gregory Wilson Mantilla, a University of Washington professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the UW’s Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture, co-led the study with Stephen Chester of Brooklyn College and the City University of New York. The team analyzed fossilized teeth found in the Hell Creek area of northeastern Montana. The fossils, which are now part of the collections at the University of California Museum of Paleontology, are estimated to be 65.9 million years old, about 105,000 to 139,000 years after the mass extinction event. Based on the age of the fossils, the team estimates that the ancestor of all primates —including plesiadapiforms and today’s primates such as lemurs, monkeys and apes — likely emerged by the Late Cretaceous and lived alongside large dinosaurs.

“It’s mind blowing to think of our earliest archaic primate ancestors,” said Wilson Mantilla. “They were some of the first mammals to diversify in this new post-mass extinction world, taking advantage of the fruits and insects up in the forest canopy.”

The fossils include two species of PurgatoriusPurgatorius janisae and a new species described by the team named Purgatorius mckeeveri. Three of the teeth found have distinct features compared to any previously known Purgatorius species and led to the description of the new species.

High resolution CT scans of an assortment of fossilized teeth and jaw bones of Purgatorius.Gregory Wilson Mantilla/Stephen Chester

Purgatorius mckeeveri is named after Frank McKeever, who was among the first residents of the area where the fossils were discovered, and also the family of John and Cathy McKeever, who have since supported the field work where the oldest specimen of this new species was discovered.

“This was a really cool study to be a part of, particularly because it provides further evidence that the earliest primates originated before the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs,” said co-author Brody Hovatter, a UW graduate student in Earth and space sciences. “They became highly abundant within a million years after that extinction.”

“This discovery is exciting because it represents the oldest dated occurrence of archaic primates in the fossil record,” said Chester. “It adds to our understanding of how the earliest primates separated themselves from their competitors following the demise of the dinosaurs.”

Source: WASHU News Credit: Andrea Godinez

Breaking the warp barrier for faster-than-light travel

Artistic impression of different spacecraft designs considering theoretical shapes of different kinds of “warp bubbles”.
CREDIT: E Lentz

Astrophysicist at Göttingen University discovers new theoretical hyper-fast soliton solutions

If travel to distant stars within an individual’s lifetime is going to be possible, a means of faster-than-light propulsion will have to be found. To date, even recent research about superluminal (faster-than-light) transport based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity would require vast amounts of hypothetical particles and states of matter that have “exotic” physical properties such as negative energy density. This type of matter either cannot currently be found or cannot be manufactured in viable quantities. In contrast, new research carried out at the University of Göttingen gets around this problem by constructing a new class of hyper-fast ‘solitons’ using sources with only positive energies that can enable travel at any speed. This reignites debate about the possibility of faster-than-light travel based on conventional physics. The research is published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The author of the paper, Dr Erik Lentz, analysed existing research and discovered gaps in previous ‘warp drive’ studies. Lentz noticed that there existed yet-to-be explored configurations of space-time curvature organized into ‘solitons’ that have the potential to solve the puzzle while being physically viable. A soliton – in this context also informally referred to as a ‘warp bubble’ – is a compact wave that maintains its shape and moves at constant velocity. Lentz derived the Einstein equations for unexplored soliton configurations (where the space-time metric’s shift vector components obey a hyperbolic relation), finding that the altered space-time geometries could be formed in a way that worked even with conventional energy sources. In essence, the new method uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel, which – unlike other research – would only need sources with positive energy densities. No “exotic” negative energy densities needed.

If sufficient energy could be generated, the equations used in this research would allow space travel to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, and back to Earth in years instead of decades or millennia. That means an individual could travel there and back within their lifetime. In comparison, the current rocket technology would take more than 50,000 years for a one-way journey. In addition, the solitons (warp bubbles) were configured to contain a region with minimal tidal forces such that the passing of time inside the soliton matches the time outside: an ideal environment for a spacecraft. This means there would not be the complications of the so-called “twin paradox” whereby one twin travelling near the speed of light would age much more slowly than the other twin who stayed on Earth: in fact, according to the recent equations both twins would be the same age when reunited.

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering. The next step is to figure out how to bring down the astronomical amount of energy needed to within the range of today’s technologies, such as a large modern nuclear fission power plant. Then we can talk about building the first prototypes,” says Lentz.

Currently, the amount of energy required for this new type of space propulsion drive is still immense. Lentz explains, “The energy required for this drive travelling at light speed encompassing a spacecraft of 100 meters in radius is on the order of hundreds of times of the mass of the planet Jupiter. The energy savings would need to be drastic, of approximately 30 orders of magnitude to be in range of modern nuclear fission reactors.” He goes on to say: “Fortunately, several energy-saving mechanisms have been proposed in earlier research that can potentially lower the energy required by nearly 60 orders of magnitude.” Lentz is currently in the early-stages of determining if these methods can be modified, or if new mechanisms are needed to bring the energy required down to what is currently possible.

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Original publication: Erik W Lentz, Breaking the Warp Barrier: Hyper-Fast Solitons in Einstein-Maxwell-Plasma Theory, Classical and Quantum Gravity, March 2021. DOI: 10.1088/1361-6382/abe692

SOURCE: EurekaAlert

Comet Catalina suggests comets delivered carbon to rocky planets

SW News Staff/Source

False color image of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) based on data taken at the Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, AZ with the Large Monolithic Imager on February 13, 2016. In this composite, stars show up as red, green, and blue artifacts, due to the comet’s motion on the sky during the image sequence. Credit: M.S.P. Kelley (University of Maryland)/S. Protopapa (Southwest Research Institute)/Lowell Discovery Telescope

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/05/2021) — In early 2016, an icy visitor from the edge of our solar system hurtled past Earth. It briefly became visible to stargazers as Comet Catalina before it slingshotted past the Sun to disappear forevermore out of the solar system.

Among the many observatories that captured a view of this comet, which appeared near the Big Dipper, was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), NASA’s telescope on an airplane. Using one of its unique infrared instruments, SOFIA was able to pick out a familiar fingerprint within the dusty glow of the comet’s tail—carbon. 

Now this one-time visitor to our inner solar system is helping explain more about our own origins as it becomes apparent that comets like Catalina could have been an essential source of carbon on planets like Earth and Mars during the early formation of the solar system. 

New results from SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, were published in the Planetary Science Journal

“Carbon is key to learning about the origins of life,” said the paper’s lead author, Charles “Chick” Woodward, an astrophysicist and professor in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Minnesota Institute of Astrophysics. “We’re still not sure if Earth could have trapped enough carbon on its own during its formation, so carbon-rich comets could have been an important source delivering this essential element that led to life as we know it.” 

Frozen in Time

Originating from the Oort Cloud at the farthest reaches of our solar system, Comet Catalina and others of its type have such long orbits that they arrive on our celestial doorstep relatively unaltered. This makes them effectively frozen in time, offering researchers rare opportunities to learn about the early solar system from which they come.

SOFIA’s infrared observations were able to capture the composition of the dust and gas as it evaporated off the comet, forming its tail. The observations showed that Comet Catalina is carbon-rich, suggesting that it formed in the outer regions of the primordial solar system, which held a reservoir of carbon that could have been important for seeding life. 

This illustration of a comet from the Oort Cloud as it passes through the inner solar system with dust and gas evaporating into its tail. SOFIA’s observations of Comet Catalina reveal that it’s carbon-rich, suggesting that comets delivered carbon to the terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars as they formed in the early solar system. Credit: NASA/SOFIA/ Lynette Cook

While carbon is a key ingredient of life, early Earth and other terrestrial planets of the inner solar system were so hot during their formation that elements like carbon were lost or depleted. While the cooler gas giants like Jupiter and Neptune could support carbon in the outer solar system, Jupiter’s jumbo size may have gravitationally blocked carbon from mixing back into the inner solar system. 

Primordial Mixing

So how did the inner rocky planets evolve into the carbon-rich worlds that they are today?

Researchers think that a slight change in Jupiter’s orbit allowed small, early precursors of comets to mix carbon from the outer regions into the inner regions, where it was incorporated into planets like Earth and Mars. 

Comet Catalina’s carbon-rich composition helps explain how planets that formed in the hot, carbon-poor regions of the early solar system evolved into planets with the life-supporting element.

“All terrestrial worlds are subject to impacts by comets and other small bodies, which carry carbon and other elements,” Woodward said. “We are getting closer to understanding exactly how these impacts on early planets may have catalyzed life.”

Observations of additional new comets are needed to learn if there are many other carbon-rich comets in the Oort Cloud, which would further support that comets delivered carbon and other life-supporting elements to the terrestrial planets. As the world’s largest airborne observatory, SOFIA’s mobility allows it to quickly observe newly discovered comets as they make a pass through the solar system. 

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

SOURCE: CSE.UMN.EDU

Individualized brain cell grafts reverse Parkinson’s symptoms in monkeys

Grafting neurons grown from monkeys’ own cells into their brains relieved the debilitating movement and depression symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison reported today.

In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, the UW team describes its success with neurons made from induced pluripotent stem cells from the monkeys’ own bodies. This approach avoided complications with the primates’ immune systems and takes an important step toward a treatment for millions of human Parkinson’s patients.

“This result in primates is extremely powerful, particularly for translating our discoveries to the clinic,” says UW–Madison neuroscientist Su-Chun Zhang, whose Waisman Center lab grew the brain cells.

Parkinson’s disease damages neurons in the brain that produce dopamine, a brain chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells. The disrupted signals make it progressively harder to coordinate muscles for even simple movements and cause rigidity, slowness and tremors that are the disease’s hallmark symptoms. Patients — especially those in earlier stages of Parkinson’s — are typically treated with drugs like L-DOPA to increase dopamine production.

Standing at center, Su-Chun Zhang, professor of neuroscience in the School of Medicine and Public Health, talks with postdoctoral student Lin Yao as she prepares stem-cell cultures in the Zhang’s research lab at the Waismam Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 8, 2013. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Su-Chun Zhang

Marina Emborg

“Those drugs work well for many patients, but the effect doesn’t last,” says Marina Emborg, a Parkinson’s researcher at UW–Madison’s Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. “Eventually, as the disease progresses and their motor symptoms get worse, they are back to not having enough dopamine, and side effects of the drugs appear.”

Scientists have tried with some success to treat later-stage Parkinson’s in patients by implanting cells from fetal tissue, but research and outcomes were limited by the availability of useful cells and interference from patients’ immune systems. Zhang’s lab has spent years learning how to dial donor cells from a patient back into a stem cell state, in which they have the power to grow into nearly any kind of cell in the body, and then redirect that development to create neurons.

“The idea is very simple,” Zhang says. “When you have stem cells, you can generate the right type of target cells in a consistent manner. And when they come from the individual you want to graft them into, the body recognizes and welcomes them as their own.”

The application was less simple. More than a decade in the works, the new study began in earnest with a dozen rhesus monkeys several years ago. A neurotoxin was administered — a common practice for inducing Parkinson’s-like damage for research — and Emborg’s lab evaluated the monkeys monthly to assess the progression of symptoms.

“We evaluated through observation and clinical tests how the animals walk, how they grab pieces of food, how they interact with people — and also with PET imaging we measured dopamine production,” Emborg says. (PET is positron emission tomography, a type of medical imaging.) “We wanted symptoms that resemble a mature stage of the disease.”

The neuron-grafting approach in monkeys takes an important step toward a treatment for millions of human Parkinson’s patients.

Guided by real-time MRI that can be used during procedures and was developed at UW–Madison by biomedical engineer Walter Block during the course of the Parkinson’s study, the researchers injected millions of dopamine-producing neurons and supporting cells into each monkey’s brain in an area called the striatum, which is depleted of dopamine as a consequence of the ravaging effects of Parkinson’s in neurons.

Half the monkeys received a graft made from their own induced pluripotent stem cells (called an autologous transplant). Half received cells from other monkeys (an allogenic transplant). And that made all the difference.

Within six months, the monkeys that got grafts of their own cells were making significant improvements. Within a year, their dopamine levels had doubled and tripled.

“The autologous animals started to move more,” Emborg says. “Where before they needed to grab the cage to stand up, they started moving much more fluidly and grabbing food much faster and easier.”

The monkeys who received allogenic cells showed no such lasting boost in dopamine or improvement in muscle strength or control, and the physical differences in the brains were stark. The axons — the extensions of nerve cells that reach out to carry electrical impulses to other cells — of the autologous grafts were long and intermingled with the surrounding tissue.

“They could grow freely and extend far out within the striatum,” says Yunlong Tao, a scientist in Zhang’s lab and first author of the study. “In the allogenic monkeys, where the grafts are treated as foreign cells by the immune system, they are attacked to stop the spread of the axons.”

The results are promising enough that Zhang hopes to begin work on applications for human patients soon.

The missing connections leave the allogenic graft walled off from the rest of the brain, denying them opportunities to renew contacts with systems beyond muscle management.

“Although Parkinson’s is typically classified as a movement disorder, anxiety and depression are typical, too,” Emborg says. “In the autologous animals, we saw extension of axons from the graft into areas that have to do with what’s called the emotional brain.”

Symptoms that resemble depression and anxiety — pacing, disinterest in others and even in favorite treats — abated after the autologous grafts grew in. The allogenic monkeys’ symptoms remained unchanged or worsened.

The results are promising enough that Zhang hopes to begin work on applications for human patients soon. In particular, Zhang says, the work Tao did in the new study to help measure the relationship between symptom improvement, graft size and resulting dopamine production gives the researchers a predictive tool for developing effective human grafts.

SOURCE: news.wisc.edu

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