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Submission Googling Air Pollution->

MTorrice writes: Aclima, a start-up company that develops sensor networks, has partnered with Google and EPA to roll out an unprecedented fleet of mobile air quality monitors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and California’s Central Valley.

Although these monitors boast some of the latest sensor technology, they’ll still be familiar to many: They’re the same vehicles Google uses to capture photos for its popular Street View feature in Google Maps.

“Our goal is to create a new class of data that will be made available to communities, scientists, and air quality experts—as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps,” says Aclima CEO and cofounder Davida Herzl.

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Submission Dormant Virus Wakes Up In Some Patients With Lou Gehrig's Disease->

MTorrice writes: Our chromosomes hold a partial record of prehistoric viral infections: About 8% of our genomes come from DNA that viruses incorporated into the cells of our ancestors. Over many millennia, these viral genes have accumulated mutations rendering them mostly dormant.

But one of these viruses can reawaken in some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive muscle wasting disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A new study demonstrates that this so-called endogenous retrovirus can damage neurons, possibly contributing to the neurodegeneration seen in the disease.

The findings raise the possibility that antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used to treat HIV, could slow the progression of ALS in some patients.

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Submission Nuclear Forensics Shows Nazis Were Nowhere Near Making Atomic Bomb->

MTorrice writes: Today’s nuclear forensic scientists are typically concerned with detecting radioactive materials being smuggled across borders or tracking down the facilities where those materials originated. But recently, nuclear scientists turned their investigative skills to a nagging question from the annals of science history: During World War II, were the Germans close to achieving a working nuclear reactor?

By analyzing a uranium cube uncovered in the 1960s that had been used in Germany’s nuclear program during the war, the scientists determined that the Germans weren’t even close

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Submission Potential Soft Drink Additives Could Protect Teeth->

MTorrice writes: Whether you call them bottles of pop or bottles of soda, regularly guzzling soft drinks can lead to tooth decay. Over time, the acidic beverages erode hydroxyapatite (HA), a major component of tooth enamel.

For those unwilling to give up the sugary drinks, help may be on the way: Researchers in Sweden have determined how potential soft drink additives could protect teeth.

In the past, food scientists and dentists have suggested adding food-safe, HA-preserving polyelectrolytes to beverages. But little was known about how these conductive polymers might provide protection. Javier Sortes of Malmö University and coworkers have now employed surface imaging techniques to better understand how the potential additives interact with saliva coatings on the surface of teeth.

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Submission Stem Cell-Derived Brain Mimics Predict Chemical Toxicity->

MTorrice writes: Scientists in Wisconsin have succeeded in growing three-dimensional brainlike tissue structures derived from human embryonic stem cells. Unlike previous miniature model brains, the new structures can be easily reproduced and they contain vascular cells and microglia, a type of immune cell.

These brain mimics may provide a fast, low cost way to screen drugs and chemicals for their ability to disrupt human brain development, the team reports. Current toxicity screening tests use multiple generations of rats and cost about $1 million to test one chemical.

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Comment Re:Are prions a life form? (Score 1) 53

But prions don't actually reproduce--they already exist in our brains. All mammals have prion proteins in their brain. The propagation starts when one of these normally folded one misfolds, or a misfolded one gets into the brain from some other source. Then it causes the existing proteins to misfold. No new molecules are created in this process. In fact, a disease form of a prion is the exact same molecule as a healthy form. It's just a change in shape. Viruses don't hit on all the hallmarks of life, and prions hit even fewer.

Comment Re:Don't Prions come from eating Meat? (Score 1) 53

Remember: We all have proteins that can act like prions. The prion protein responsible for mad cow disease is in the brains of all cows, and a version is in all people. It's a misfolded form of the protein that causes disease. And most people with prion diseases don't get it from eating meat. Only about 1% of prion diseases come from infections--eating animal meat with misfolded prions, for example. Up to 20% of people with diseases have genetic mutations that cause the misfolding. But about 80% of the cases are just sporadic misfolding of unknown cause. Also prion diseases are super rare--about 1 case in a million people. So prions in meat is a pretty low risk situation. What this study is showing is that classical prion proteins aren't the only ones that misfold and then get other proteins to misfold with them, causing disease in the process. Basically, what this group is saying is that "prion" is a much broader concept in biology--that many proteins beyond the mad cow ones can act like that.

Comment Re:Prions are for mad cows. (Score 1) 53

Right now there are no drugs that stop or even slow Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. And that's not for a lack of trying. There have been several notable failures recently--drugs that went to clinical trials and showed no effects in patients. These drugs were designed before this idea that all these diseases were due to prionlike mechanisms started to pick up steam in the field. So now that there have been some fairly big papers suggesting that prionlike proteins are the cause, people can start looking at new designs for drugs that would stop prionlike propagation. Basically, people have already been doing that for classical prion diseases--making molecules that stop those proteins from aggregating into fibrils. So now drug makers could take all that's been learned with those molecules and apply them to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Submission Another Neurodegenerative Disease Linked To A Prion->

MTorrice writes: A new study concludes that a brain protein causes the rare, Parkinson’s-like disease called multiple systems atrophy (MSA) by acting like a prion, the misbehaving type of protein infamously linked to mad cow disease. The researchers say the results are the most definitive demonstration to date that proteins involved in many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, exhibit prionlike behavior: They can misfold into shapes that then coax others to do the same, leading to protein aggregation that forms neurotoxic clumps. If these other diseases are caused by prionlike proteins, then scientists could develop treatments that slow or stop disease progression by designing molecules that block prion propagation.
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Submission "Brain-Eating Amoeba" Scoffs At Chlorine In Water Pipes

JMarshall writes: A new study shows that standard chlorination may not be enough to kill the “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri, in water pipes. N. fowleri is a rare but deadly pathogen that kills more than 97% of those it infects. The digestive system will kill it, but if a person inhales water, N. fowleri can penetrate nasal mucus and work its way to the brain where it causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. An increasing number of cases are linked to drinking water pipes. Chlorine disinfection ought to be killing N. fowleri, but the new work shows the amoeba can shelter, protected, in biofilms that line the pipes. Killing N. fowleri in the presence of biofilms takes up to 40 times the standard chlorine dose, the researchers found.

Submission Red Fireworks Go Green->

An anonymous reader writes: Makers of fireworks and flares have long believed that the beautiful red color in their explosions could be attained only with chlorine-based compounds. But after these ingredients combust, they can transform into cancer-causing chemicals that then fall to the ground. New chlorine-free pyrotechnics could pave the way for a generation of red fireworks and flares that are better for the environment and for people’s health.

Chemists formulated the new explosive by replacing polyvinyl chloride on the old ingredient list with either hexamine, a preservative in citrus washing solutions, or 5-amino-1H-tetrazole, an air-bag propellant.

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Submission Transparent Paper Produces Power With Just A Touch->

ckwu writes: A new transparent-paper device can generate electrical power from a user’s touch. The paper energy-harvester could be used to make disposable, self-powered touch screens that fold; interactive light-up books; touch-sensitive skin for prosthetics; and security systems for art and documents, according to the researchers. The device is made out of nanopaper, a tangled mat made of nanometers-wide cellulose fibers that is transparent and smooth like plastic. The researchers deposit carbon nanotubes on the nanopaper to make a pair of electrodes, and then sandwich a polyethylene film in between. The generator works via electrostatic induction. Pressing one side of the device causes a change in the charge balance between the nanotube electrodes, resulting in a flow of current through the device. Releasing the pressure causes electrons to flow back, so repeated pressing and releasing creates continuous current. The researchers demonstrated that the generator could produce enough power when pressed to light up a small liquid-crystal display.
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Submission Neuroscientists Find Difference In How Male And Feamle Mice Develop Pain->

MTorrice writes: Over the past 15 years, neuroscientists have pieced together a biological circuit that they think is involved in some chronic pain conditions. But work on this mechanism left out some important subjects: females.

A new study highlights the risk of ignoring sex in biomedical research. The researchers report that female mice develop a certain type of pain through a completely different mechanism than the one males use.

Researchers often avoid working with female animals because they worry that the hormonal changes in the female estrous cycle could add complicating variables. But this new study demonstrates how it's important to study both sexes to avoid getting an incomplete picture of biological phenomena.

It's possible that a similar sex difference exists in people, and, if it does, there could be significant implications for the development of new pain therapies.

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"Confound these ancestors.... They've stolen our best ideas!" - Ben Jonson