Month: December, 2017

Could This Man Hold the Secret To Human Regeneration?

Modern medicine clutches at a number of dreams. Some, like developing an AIDS vaccine, can seem tantalizingly close.

Others, like curing cancer, have frustrated so many minds for so many years that we’ve learned to temper our expectations.

Then there’s regeneration.

A future in which humans regrow lost or diseased body parts feels like a mirage. But why? After all, many species can accomplish the task with ease.

A decapitated flatworm, for example, will grow a new head, replete with a new brain. For the first week of their lives, tadpoles can replace lost tails.




And the axolotl, or Mexican salamander, has the ability to regenerate everything from its limbs and tail to its spinal cord and skin, all without any evidence of scarring.

Even some mammals have limited regenerative abilities: every year, reindeer regrow their shredded antlers. And, in some circumstances, young rats that lose a leg can grow it back.

Humans have a sliver of regenerative capacity, too. If a child experiences a neat slice through the end of his fingertip, that tip will grow back — although the ability disappears sometime around the age of 12.

The Greek legend of Prometheus, the god who was cursed to have an eagle peck out his liver each day, only to grow it back overnight, actually contains a grain of physiological truth.

If you were to lose part of your liver, it would, in fact, repair itself. With the exception of our skin, it’s the only human organ that can do this.

Regenerating a small body part under special circumstances is one thing, but what if we could regrow entire lost limbs?

What if we could signal to our bodies to regrow damaged retinal tissue — or even to regrow an entire eye? Michael Levin doesn’t think this is an outlandish fantasy.

In fact, he thinks he may be on the path to figuring out how to do precisely that.

Levin is director of Tufts University’s Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology in Medford, near Boston.

He’s a 43-year-old Russian émigré who looks like a geeked-out Gen Xer: His smooth hair is parted far to the side; a neat geometric beard frames his face; and he’s most comfortable in a college uniform of T-shirts over long sleeves.

Levin thinks that the key to regeneration — the key to pattern, to shape — may be found in the electrical signals that are transmitted among all our cells, much like the ones and zeros that zip around in a computer’s hard drive.

Manipulating these signals has already allowed Levin to produce results more suited to an X-Men comic than a scientific journal, including the creation of four-headed flatworms.

Over the course of the next year, he will begin experiments that could make human regeneration a reality.

Levin’s work is little known, perhaps because so many scientists believe that the key to human regeneration — if such a thing exists — lies in studies of genetics and stem cells.

Such studies have produced incredible results: a patient’s windpipe, repaired in a lab; a segment of functional bladder, fashioned on an artificial lattice.

These achievements offer the hope that a patient will one day be able to grow a new organ from her own cells, instead of waiting for someone else misfortune to be her good luck.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Exercise For Preventing Falls In Older People Living In The Community

Falls can happen to anyone, but, unfortunately, as you grow older falls can become more common and you are more likely to injure yourself.

Most elderly people fall in and around the home. Falls are also common in aged care homes. If you have a serious injury it can lead to a change in where you live.

The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimize your injuries if you do fall. Knowing your risk factors and taking a few precautions is a good start.




Exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive and aims to improve or maintain physical fitness.

There is a wide range of possible types of exercise such as strengthening exercise, balance and co-ordination exercise and aerobic exercise.

Exercise programs often include one or more types of exercise. The Prevention of Falls Network Europe, balance, and functional strength/resistance, three-dimensional exercise and general physical activity.

Formal exercise programs are delivered by a wide range of individuals ranging from health professionals and exercise professionals to trained volunteers.

Exercise programs may be supervised, unsupervised or involve a mixture of both.

This review will consider all types of exercise and all delivery methods.

Exercise can also be delivered as part of a multiple component intervention, where people also receive one or more other fall or fracture prevention intervention, such as home-hazard modification and vitamin D supplementation.

If you’ve had a fall, or you often feel like you’re at risk of falling, don’t just dismiss it as part of getting older, lack of concentration or clumsiness. Talk to a health professional and ask about different options that may help you.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA To Send Probe To Titan Or A Comet By 2025

NASA has picked two concepts for a solar system mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s — a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotor-craft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Which of these two mission will finally make it will be known only in 2019.

Both missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts.

NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases,” the US space agency said on Wednesday.

These are tantalising investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.




The Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR) mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history.

The other selected mission, Dragonfly, is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system.

NASA announced the concepts following an extensive and competitive peer review process.

The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers programme announcement of opportunity.

The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million, NASA said.

Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.

The concepts selected for technology development are – Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH) and Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)

The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions.

The VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus.

The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How SpaceX’s 2018 Moon Flight Will Work

Nearly 45 years after NASA astronauts last embarked on a lunar mission, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced his company’s plans to send two private citizens on a flight around the moon in 2018.

The weeklong trip will look a lot like NASA’s historic Apollo 8 mission, the first and only purely circumlunar, crewed mission in history.

Sut SpaceX’s mission will fly with two crewmembers instead of three, and will use a fresh new spacecraft and launch vehicle.




SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the crewed Dragon 2 spacecraft to the moon. The rocket and crew capsule have not flown on any missions yet.

But the Falcon Heavy is slated to blast off for its first test launch this summer, and the Dragon 2 will make its first test flight in November.

The Falcon Heavy is a variation of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which was made to carry the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

With two extra boosters strapped to its sides, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket to blast off since NASA’s Saturn rockets, which were retired in the early 1970s.

Musk said the crewed Dragon spacecraft “would skim the surface of the moon” before heading “further out into deep space.” The spacecraft won’t literally touch the lunar surface, though.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

No Metal Plates Needed: A New 3D-Printed Ceramic Implant Mends Broken Legs

Most people in the 3D printing community will have heard about the many and exciting new medical applications of 3D printing technology that have been implemented recently.

Heard about the curious case of the Chinese man who had part of his skull repaired with a 3D printed mesh?

But now a team of Australian scientists from the University of Sydney are taking 3D printing to a whole new level of medical usefulness.

For the past few years this team, led by professor Hala Zreiqat, have been working on a 3D printed substitute for bones, whose exact characteristics have so far been impossible to reproduce synthetically.




Bone is hard to replicate. As she explained at a recent TEDx in Sydney.

This has been a dilemma faced every synthetic material in the market.

While metal implants and small quantities of synthetic material have been used to mimic bone structure, none of these are capable of replacing large sections of bone.

As professor Zreiqat said, “if you have a defect in your leg, and you put a material in there, it will actually crush because it’s so brittle.”

“So we decided to look at the bone and ask ‘what can we learn from our skeleton?

By studying from the properties of the skeleton, such as collagen and calcium, Professor Zreiqat and her research team have developed a new ceramic material that copies all the structural and functional aspects of human bones.

Its strength and porosity are very similar to natural bone. This means it is strong enough to withstand the pressure of use, but porous enough to allow blood and cells to pass through it.

In addition, it will even be capable of encouraging the regeneration of new bone cells in the correct position.

Because the ceramic is bioactive and contains seed cells, the ceramic resembling natural bone can eventually be replaced by natural bone in the body.

This synthetic material, with all its unique properties, is produced using 3D printing technology.

It enables researchers to develop a 3D scaffold with the correct shape and size needed for implanting.

Professor Zreiqat and her team is currently working on experiments for maxillofacial regeneration, which is very difficult to regenerate compared to the repairing of smaller defects.

This bone-like material will really have the potential to positively affect the quality of life of millions of people.

At a recent Tissue Engineering Symposium, professor Zreiqat expressed the hope of seeing “it in use clinically within the next 10 years.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

People With Egg Allergies Shouldn’t Worry About The Flu Shot

If you’re allergic to eggs, you’re all clear to get a flu shot this year, according to new guidelines published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Most live influenza vaccines contain trace amounts of egg protein, because of the way they’re manufactured.

In the past, most of the relatively few people who suffer from egg allergies—roughly 1% of children and 0.2% of adults, according to the CDC—could get a shot, but were encouraged to take a few extra precautions.

That’s no longer necessary, the guidelines say.




The updated practice parameters are based on dozens of studies that suggest the tiny amounts of egg protein found in a flu shot are not enough to trigger a dangerous reaction, even in people with a severe allergy.

People do not need to see an allergist before getting a flu shot, seek out egg-free formulas or submit to longer-than-normal observation periods after vaccination, the guidelines say.

Doctors don’t even need to ask about an egg allergy before giving the injection, the paper adds.

Last year, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both relaxed their flu shot guidelines for patients with egg allergies.

The CDC now recommends that nearly all Americans older than six months get a flu shot, with an emphasis on young children, elderly adults and those with chronic illnesses.

Vaccines are ideally administered before flu season begins in October, but you can get one at any point during the virus’ circulation to reduce your risk of transmission.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Smith & Nephew Launches Digital Scanner To Diagnose If A Wound Is Infected

FTSE 100 medical products firm Smith & Nephew has launched a digital scanner that enables nurses to make an on-the-spot diagnosis as to whether a wound is infected.

The handheld device, called MolecuLight, instantly determines whether harmful bacteria are present in a wound.

Currently nurses have to send a swab off to a lab for analysis, causing delay in treatment.

In clinical trials Smith & Nephew found using the scanner led to 54pc more accurate diagnoses and wounds healing up to nine times faster.

Smith & Nephew hopes sales of the device will boost its wound care division, which accounts for around a quarter of its $4.7bn (£3.5bn) annual revenues.




The firm came under pressure last month to improve performance after it emerged activist investor Elliott Advisors had built up a stake and was pushing for the company to be broken up.

Smith & Nephew believes the MolecuLight product will make inroads in the treatment of chronic wounds, which impact an estimated two million people across Europe.

Around 16pc of all chronic wounds remain unresolved after a year or longer.

Smith & Nephew has launched the product in Europe this month and hopes to attract customers including NHS hospitals.

Smith & Nephew struck a worldwide distribution agreement with the scanner’s manufacturer, also called MolecuLight, last May this year

The product already had a CE mark, paving the way for this month’s European launch.

Paolo Di Vicenzo, a senior vice president at Smith & Nephew, said: “We believe this product will start a revolution in wound care clinical practice.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The 500-Page Proof That Only One Mathematician Can Understand

Nearly four years after Shinichi Mochizuki unveiled an imposing set of papers that could revolutionize the theory of numbers, other mathematicians have yet to understand his work or agree on its validity.

Although they have made modest progress.

Some four dozen mathematicians converged last week for a rare opportunity to hear Mochizuki present his own work at a conference on his home turf, Kyoto University’s Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences (RIMS).

Mochizuki is “less isolated than he was before the process got started”, says Kiran Kedlaya, a number theorist at the University of California, San Diego.

Although at first Mochizuki’s papers, which stretch over more than 500 pages, seemed like an impenetrable jungle of formulae.




Experts have slowly discerned a strategy in the proof that the papers describe, and have been able to zero in on particular passages that seem crucial, he says.

Mochizuki’s theorem aims to prove the important abc conjecture, which dates back to 1985 and relates to prime numbers — whole numbers that cannot be evenly divided by any smaller number except by 1.

The conjecture comes in a number of different forms, but explains how the primes that divide two numbers, a and b, are related to those that divide their sum, c.

If Mochizuki’s proof is correct, it would have repercussions across the entire field, says Dimitrov.

When you work in number theory, you cannot ignore the abc conjecture,” he says.

This is why all number theorists eagerly wanted to know about Mochizuki’s approach.”

For example, Dimitrov showed in January how, assuming the correctness of Mochizuki’s proof, one might be able to derive many other important results, including a completely independent proof of the celebrated Fermat’s last theorem.

But the purported proof, which Mochizuki first posted on his webpage in August 2012, builds on more than a decade of previous work in which Mochizuki worked in virtual isolation and developed a novel and extremely abstract branch of mathematics.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

California’s Wildfires Reaches The Pacific Ocean

Firefighters tackling a fast-moving wildfire in southern California have said the blaze has jumped the main coastal highway and reached the Pacific Ocean, US media report.

The fire, which ripped through Ventura County north of Los Angeles, triggered evacuation orders for some 150,000 people and has damaged 150 buildings.

Authorities say some 12,000 structures remain threatened by the fire.

Strong winds are expected to further hinder efforts to contain the blaze.

We are still in the middle of an aggressive and active firefight on the ground,” a spokesman for the Ventura fire department, Robert Welsbie, said.




If the winds pick up, we will face quite a challenge.”

Fire officials said a quarter of a million homes were without power and they feared many more buildings would be destroyed.

It was revealed on Wednesday that the fire had crossed Highway 101, reaching the Solimar Beach area.

The road remains open but local officials have told motorists to take care.

More than 1,000 firefighters have been battling the fires in the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula, some 70 miles (115km) north of Los Angeles.

Residents of Santa Paula and Ventura received mandatory evacuation notices on their phones and from emergency workers going house to house.

The blaze, which has devastated more than 55,000 acres (22,000 ha), continues to be fanned by ferocious Santa Ana winds – which blow in from the California desert – and low humidity.

Winds are forecast reach up to 70mph (115km/h) on Wednesday and remain strong throughout the week.

The Ventura County fire is believed to have broken out close to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula at some time after 18:00 on Monday (02:00 GMT Tuesday).

The authorities have warned of widespread smoke and advised people with health conditions, the elderly and children to stay indoors in affected areas.

A separate fire broke out early on Tuesday closer to Los Angeles, in Sylmar.

California has been hit hard by wildfires in recent months. At least 40 people were killed when fires ripped through parts of northern California’s wine region in October.

Some 10,000 structures were destroyed.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Blockchain: Way More Than Just Cryptocurrency

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You’ve heard of Blockchain, mostly in reference to Cryptocurrencies. But the potential of blockchain goes way beyond that.

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