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sexta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2014

The Biotech Company Mapp May Hold the Key to Fighting Ebola


The Ebola Virus - Handout/Getty Images News/Getty

The Ebola Virus.  Handout/Getty Images News/Getty

Amazingly, a nine-person San Diego company called Mapp may have the best shot yet at ending the deadly Ebola epidemic. They've developed an experimental drug called ZMAPP that has been rushed into use as the virus spreads. Their extraordinary story reveals opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotechnology sector. 

Fact #1: They are a tiny company

Possibly the most amazing thing about the ZMAPP story is that it was developed by a completely obscure and tiny company and not a pharmaceutical giant like Merck or GlaxoSmithKline. The New York Times reports that the firm was started in 2003 by Dr. Larry Zeitlin and Kevin J. Whaley, two researchers who had begun working together at Johns Hopkins University many years ago on ways of using crops to produce immune system proteins to treat diseases in people.

Fact #2: The experimental drug is not approved for human use

ZMAPP was still in development, slated for human trials in 2015, when the Ebola crisis hit. Until that point, it had only been tested in monkeys and showed some promise there. In August, it was used to treat Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, two doctors who had been infected with Ebola while treating patients in West Africa. Both doctors recovered.

The Morning Consult, a website that covers questions pertaining to regulation and industry, questions how the doctors got the drug, looking askance at the stated private deal brokered by Samaritan's Purse, the nonprofit employing Dr. Brantley and Mapp. Were other forces at play, the author wonders?

Fact #3: The FDA's "animal rule" may provide a regulatory fast-track for ZMAPP

While drug regulation in the United States is quite labyrinthine, characterized by a series of clinical trials that can take years, the FDA did create an "animal efficacy rule" in 2002 in part to help speed the development and testing of drugs to reduce or prevent life-threatening conditions caused by exposure to lethal toxic agent (bioterrorism). It's possible that this rule may help a drug like ZMAPP get to market more quickly.

Fact #4: Mapp produces this drug with the help of tobacco plants

An article in the New York Times explains that ZMAPP is the result of a long process of developing and engineering antibodies that start in mice exposed to a key Ebola protein. The antibodies that the mice produce against the virus are genetically modified to better resemble human antibodies. Interestingly enough, as part of the production process, the gene for each antibody produced is introduced into the leaves of a tobacco plant.

While "monoclonal antibodies" like these, typically used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases, are normally grown in animal cells, the tobacco plants are used in this process because they are cheaper and will potentially allow more of the antibody to be produced in less time.

Fact #5: It's actually quite something to produce drugs with genetically engineered crops

The Times notes that this type of plant modification is not practiced at large scale, because of the worry of cross-contamination. Instead, these plants are grow inside of buildings and their cultivation is funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Defense.

If the Ebola crisis worsens, Mapp may turn to other production facilities to ramp up their production of ZMAPP.

Opportunities in Biotechnology

Mapp's story highlights the exploding opportunities in the emergent field of biotechnology, or the use of living systems or organism to make useful products. In this case, the product is a theraputic treatment for Ebola, but the biotechnology sector comprises solutions in a number of sectors including agriculture, biofuels and even industrial chemical production.

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Snap 2014-10-31 at 05.22.04

9 Futuristic Inventions You Won't Believe Actually Exist!


Tiny computers, smartphones, instant messaging and videoconferencing were all fanciful science fiction inventions up until about twenty years ago. Now they are so ubiquitous, we hardly give them a second thought.

But what about all of those cool inventions that movies, TV and science fiction promised us like flying cars, robot fighters and bionic body parts? Believe or not, some are actually real, and poised to shape markets of tomorrow. 

Here are 9 science-fiction like technologies and inventions and the companies working to bring them to life.

The Hendo Hoverboard - Photo: Hendo

The Hendo Hoverboard. Photo: Hendo

1. Hoverboards

Hoverboards were a key component of the film Back to the Future, and they are one of the first things most people think about when they wonder about all of the futuristic ideas we were promised.

Lucky for us, the hoverboard is about to be real, and for just $10,000, it can be yours, through this Kickstarter from Hendo Hoverboards.

Hendo was founded by Greg Henderson, who patented a technology called Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA™) to make hoverboards a reality. But unlike Marty McFly's version, these boards are for more than just tooling around town. They may one day be employed to help prop up precarious buildings in disaster zones. Check out this video of a Verge writer actually testing one out! The future is definitely here!

Related: Intro to Crowdfunding

tfx-v03-cityliftoff-WM.jpg - Photo: Terrafugia

Photo: Terrafugia

2. Flying Cars

The automobile industry has remained largely static since the days of the model T. Sure, new features are added all the time, but the basic idea of wheels on the ground has remained the same with little disruption to the basic model.

That may all change with flying car company Terrafugia. They have produced the Transition®, a two-place, fixed wing, street legal airplane. Imagine flying into your next meeting, and parking your flying car in the garage later! 

133499076.jpg - Coneyl Jay/Stone/Getty Images

Coneyl Jay/Stone/Getty Images

3. Tiny and Powerful Products

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale, and the field has plenty of possibilities in a number of areas, including medicine and energy production. At GE, scientists have worked to create polymer-based nanoparticles that can target and kill MRSA.

Related: 5 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Tiny Company that Might Hold the Key to Stopping Ebola

Soylent - Photo: Soylent

Would you eat this instead of a delicious hamburger?. Photo: Soylent

4. Food pills

Soylent is a company with a simple proposition: "What if you never had to worry about food again?" While Soylent is a nutrition shake and not a pill, it still promises complete nutrition in powdered form. Founder Robert Rhinehart developed Soylent after realizing how much time he could save if he didn't have to prepare food.

But will Soylent catch on with a public hungry for delectable treats? Time will tell. 

Air touch technology from ITRI - Photo: Industrial Technology Research Institute

Air touch technology from ITRI. Photo: Industrial Technology Research Institute

5. Air Touch Technology

One of the coolest sci-fi technologies in the film Minority Report were the air-touch screens, liberating computing from the desk and even the hand-held device. Thanks to the Taiwanese company Industrial Technology Research Institute, the possibility of computing with an air-touch screen is becoming closer than ever. 

Lockheed Martin's exosuit - Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin's exosuit. Photo: Lockheed Martin

6. Military Exoskeleton

An Iron Man-like "smart suit" that confers upon its wearer extra protection and super human strength? Lockheed Martin is working on just that in the HULC exoskeleton, "a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 pounds for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting." The HULC is being developed for use in military conflicts. 

186073131.jpg - Miguel Navarro/Stone/Getty Images

Miguel Navarro/Stone/Getty Images

7. 3-D Printers

Remember the replicator from Star Trek? The explosion of 3-D printing over the past few years has produced innovations just as dazzling, from rapid prototyping to medical applications. Right at the forefront of this trend are companies like Makerbot, which put powerful 3D printing power right in the hands of consumers. 

166273335.jpg - Martin Barraud/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Double trouble?. Martin Barraud/Caiaimage/Getty Images

8. Cloning

We all know about Dolly the sheep, the first successful mammalian clone. But did you know there's a South Korean company that for a hefty fee (around $100,000 to be exact) will clone your beloved dog? It's true -- Sooam Biotech will supply you with an exact genetic replica of your beloved pooch, treats, training and TLC not included.

Related: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Business

Bionic Eye - Bernhard Lang/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Bernhard Lang/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

9. Bionic Eye

Helping the blind to see via technology -- surely one of the most laudable goals that an entrepreneur can dream up. And thankfully, it's now possible via the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System ("Argus II"). This "bionic eye" from the company Second Sight provides electrical stimulation of the retina to induce visual perception in blind individuals. Pretty cool! 

source of this post:

Snap 2014-10-31 at 05.22.04

quinta-feira, 30 de outubro de 2014

Northrop Grumman to build first new aircraft carrier class in 40 years


The Gerald R Ford class carriers will have a larger flight deck, improved weapons handling...

The Gerald R Ford class carriers will have a larger flight deck, improved weapons handling and a new A1B nuclear propulsion and electricity generation system

Image Gallery (2 images)

September 17, 2008 The tenth and final nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarrier, George H. W. Bush, enters service in 2009, but the next-generation is on its way. The Gerald R. Ford CVN 78 is the first ship in the first new carrier class in over 40 years. Northrop Grumman has received a $5.1 billion, seven-year contract for construction of the CVN 78, which is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2015.

Northrop Grumman began advance construction of the Gerald R Ford in 2005, under a separate $2.7 billion contract. Roughly one third of the ship’s 1,200 structural units are currently under construction, with the keel scheduled to be laid in 2009. The Navy is expected to build 11 of the carriers, each worth approximately $8 billion, continuing construction into 2058.

The Gerald R Ford class carriers will have a larger flight deck, improved weapons handling, a smaller island, a new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System, an Advanced Arresting Gear, and a new A1B nuclear propulsion and electricity generation system. The technological advancements in the Ford design result in a 25% increase in sortie generation, a 25% reduction in necessary manpower, a threefold increase in electrical generating capacity, improved self defense capability, increased launch/recovery capability, increased ability to incorporate future upgrades, and increased operational availability.

By changing the layout of the flight deck, and pushing back the island, the carrier minimizes aircraft movements and decreases the workload for personnel. The centralized re-arming location, and the use of robots to move ordnance, also boosts efficiency and allows aircraft to re-arm in “minutes instead of hours.”

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) has a higher level of control than the steam-powered catapults employed by Nimitz-class carriers. EMALS can launch heavier and lighter craft, making it compatible with UAVs. EMALS is more efficient, smaller lighter, more powerful, easier to control, and places less stress on airframes by gradually increasing the aircraft’s speed. UAV integration is also made possible by the Advanced Arresting Gear System, which uses electromagnetism, rather than hydraulics, to capture aircraft.

The inability of current aircraft carriers to effectively handle UAVs is a reminder of the need to plan for technological advancement. While the USS Enterprise, (the ship being replaced by the Ford), is still serving 50 years after it was laid down, it is increasingly unable to adapt to upgraded systems. With currently planned systems on the CVN 78 consuming only half of its generated power, the ship is well prepared to incorporate future energy-hungry systems such laser guns, dynamic armor, and new tracking devices.


Microsoft’s Band is a competitive, feature-packed fitness tracker


The Microsoft Band takes the same approach as the Samsung Gear Fit, blending fitness track...

The Microsoft Band takes the same approach as the Samsung Gear Fit, blending fitness tracking and smartwatch functionality

Image Gallery (4 images)

Microsoft’s new wearable, known as the Band, is a sensor-packed, understated wearable that provides both solid fitness tracking and limited smartwatch functionality. It might be a little late to the wearable tech party, but it looks to be a good option whether you’re a Windows Phone user or not.

In terms of aesthetics, the Microsoft Band looks similar to Samsung’s Gear Fit, with a 1.4-inch, 320 x 106 display and fairly low-key looks. The device is fitted with dual 100 mAh batteries that the company claims can be fully charged in less than an hour and a half. Once fully juiced, the band will reportedly run for 48 hours before it needs plugging in again.

The device packs a total of 10 sensors including built-in GPS. It’s capable of tracking steps, distance traveled, calories burned, as well as duration and quality of sleep, and users can set themselves daily step and calorie goals. One other interesting feature comes in the form of a UV monitor, which provides a quick read of the UV index, helping the user decide whether they need to apply sunscreen.

The product will work with a new cloud-based Microsoft Health service that uses the company’s Intelligence Engine to provide users with personalized fitness information and advice. The company has partnered with RunKeeper, Gold’s Gym and MyFitnessPal, allowing users to sync their accounts and access stats through their preferred service.

Users can view text messages on the device, replying with pre-set responses

While we’ve seen recent fitness trackers take notable steps towards smartwatch functionality, the Band goes a little further than most. Microsoft’s wearable isn’t too picky about its owner’s choice of smartphone, connecting to Windows Phone 8.1 handsets, as well as those running iOS 7.1 and later, or Android 4.3/4.4. Once the Bluetooth connection is established, it will show email previews, calendar alerts, incoming calls, real-time weather and other notifications.

Users can view text messages on the device, replying with pre-set responses. Windows 8.1 users will also get access the company’s Cortana personal digital assistant right on their wrist, providing information on driving directions, stocks and more. There’s more good news if you’re a coffee-lover, with the device acting as a scannable Starbucks card.

All things considered, Microsoft’s new wearable appears to be pretty well equipped to deal with user’s fitness tracking needs, while providing some significant smartwatch functionality. It’s available in three sizes for US$200 online and in Microsoft stores starting today.

Source: Microsoft


HP is looking to blend physical and digital reality with Sprout AIO


HP's new all-in-one Sprout PC

HP's new all-in-one Sprout PC

Image Gallery (6 images)

HP has revealed a new all-in-one computer named Sprout which pushes the everything-you-need-in-one-place envelope to both vertical and horizontal workspaces. Users are able to grab an icon or digital object on the computer's touchscreen display and drag it down to a projected second screen on a touch-enabled pad below for precision tweaking with fingers or a stylus. Overhead scanning technology can digitize physical objects too, which the user can manipulate and move between both display areas.

Sitting above Sprout's 23-inch LED backlit touchscreen HD display is a combined four camera sensor system (which includes Intel's RealSense 3D camera and a 14.6 MP camera), a DLP projector and LED desk lamp known as the Illuminator. This unit points down towards a 20-inch, 20-point capacitive touch mat that has the look of a rather large mouse pad and the HP Workspace platform brings the dual display 3D workspace to life, effectively giving users two touchscreens to work with.

The overhead scanning technology can create 3D-like images of objects placed on the mat, which then appear on the vertical display. These digital clones can be flicked down to the mat onto a work area thrown down from above by the projection unit. The scanned image can be cropped, resized, moved around and otherwise interfered with, text can be added using a virtual keyboard and then the whole shebang returned to the main screen for fine tuning, saving or sending on. Collaborative tools allow operators in multiple locations to simultaneously manipulate the same digital content.

Overhead scanning technology can create 3D-like images of objects placed on the mat, which...

Chugging away behind the impressive-looking blended reality user interface is a high end all-in-one Windows 8.1 PC powered by a 4th gen Intel Core i7-4790S processor with integrated HD4600 graphics and Nvidia GeForce DT 745A GPU (with 2 GB of dedicated video memory). 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM can be expanded to 16 GB, and there's 1 TB of SSD/HDD hybrid storage built in. The AIO also features integrated speakers with DTS Sound+, two digital microphones and a 720p webcam out front.

Connectivity comes in the shape of 802.11a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports (including one that's capable of charging mobile devices), HDMI and a mini PCIe expansion slot.

The company has also launched an application store to support the new immersive computing platform called the Sprout Marketplace, which currently includes uniquely-designed Windows-based apps such as the Martha Stewart CraftStudio, DreamWorks Animation Story Producer, Crayola's Draw & Sing and GestureWorks Gameplay as well as HP's own Create, Collaborate and Capture software.

The HP Spout is set for release on November 9, but is up for pre-order now for US$1,900.

You can see potential applications for the technology in the video below, including scanning a real world building block and adding the digitized version to a child's photo, creating a try before you buy remote sales experience by adding virtual trinkets to the image of a customer and making the most of extra screen real estate to produce popping presentations.

Source: HP


In autoimmune diseases affecting millions, researchers pinpoint genetic risks, cellular culprits


A team of scientists from UC San Francisco, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Yale School of Medicine developed a new mathematical tool to more deeply probe existing DNA databases. In so doing they discovered how certain DNA variations, when inherited, are likely to contribute to disease.

By applying their method to analyzing data from previous studies of 21 different autoimmune diseases, the research team has deepened scientific understanding of the genetic underpinnings of a wide range of these disorders. They also found the specific immune cells most responsible for the diseases. Their study is published online on October 29, 2014 in Nature.

The researchers examined a wealth of data from 39 large-scale studies called genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Teams of scientists in recent years have conducted GWAS -- typically enlisting thousands of study participants -- to identify large blocks of DNA within the human genome within which genetic variants are implicated as risk factors for common diseases. But examination of GWAS data to date has seldom pointed to altered proteins, as surprisingly few protein-encoding gene variants within these broad swaths of DNA have been associated with the diseases under investigation.

Instead, the genetic risks identified through GWAS more often appear to be associated with DNA variations that do not reside within genes. The nature of this risk has defied understanding until now, fueling a perception that few medical benefits have thus far emerged from large-scale studies of human genetic variation being conducted in the wake of the initial Human Genome Project.

In the new study the researchers found that the presence of specific genetic variants in different autoimmune diseases can alter patterns of activity of genes in particular ways that affect functions of the immune system. This was true despite the fact that the genetic variants are not within genes.

To make their discoveries, the researchers developed software and used next-generation sequencing techniques to probe "epigenetic" characteristics of specialized immune cells, in which gene activity is affected without changes to the DNA sequence itself within the affected genes.

The team discovered that a majority of key DNA changes associated with autoimmune diseases occur in functional bits of DNA known as "enhancers."

Although DNA exists within cells as long, stringy molecules, DNA can bend back upon itself with the support of the chromosome's structural proteins, so that one piece of DNA may interact with another. Enhancers fold in this way to bind to DNA switches that turn genes on. In general the enhancers identified in the Nature study as playing a role in autoimmune disease were DNA sequences that did not match DNA-sequence motifs previously thought to be essential to enhancers, and had not previously been seen as having any functional role.

"Once again, research is revealing new meaning in the world of DNA once thought of as junk -- short, seemingly random DNA sequences that in fact serve meaningful roles in human physiology," said Alex Marson, MD, PhD, UCSF Sandler Faculty Fellow and the corresponding author for the study.

By painstakingly mapping enhancers in specialized immune cells, and by tracking down patterns of altered gene activation that resulted from the presence of variants found in GWAS studies, the researchers identified patterns of activity within the genome and cell types associated with the autoimmune diseases. Many autoimmune diseases were associated with immune cells known as T helpers. The authors suggest that genetic variation may be tuning the response of these key immune cells to stimuli within their surroundings to increase the risk of autoimmunity.

Marson initiated the scientific collaboration while he was an MD/PhD student at Harvard and MIT and a medical resident at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, joining together with the senior scientists for the study: Bradley Bernstein, MD, PhD, associate member of Broad Institute and professor of pathology at Harvard, and David A. Hafler, MD, professor of neurology and immunobiology, and chair of the Department of Neurology at Yale. Marson and Kyle Kai-How Farh, MD, PhD, a clinical geneticist and postdoctoral fellow with the Broad Institute, are co-first authors of the Nature article.

Among other revelations, the new study strongly links the cause of MS to the immune system, not to genetic variants associated with the nervous system. According to Hafler, the results provide definitive evidence that MS is an autoimmune disease, and that the immune system plays the primary role. "This is highly consistent with the new multiple sclerosis treatments that work on the immune system, suggesting that we finally have a good handle as to the underlying causes of MS," Hafler said.

The new ability to associate specific genetic variants on one hand with cell circuits that control gene activity and alter the physiology of specific immune cell types on the other will enable medical researchers to more precisely target therapeutic interventions in autoimmune diseases in order to dampen aberrantly fired-up immune responses, according to Marson.

In his UCSF lab, Marson intends to probe more deeply how these newly identified DNA variants in enhancers affect cells, and how their disease-causing effects might be mitigated by DNA manipulations carried out using gene-editing technologies known as CRISPR.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society provided major funding for the study.

Clean smell doesn't always mean clean air


Some of the same chemical reactions that occur in the atmosphere as a result of smog and ozone are actually taking place in your house while you are cleaning. A researcher in Drexel's College of Engineering is taking a closer look at these reactions, which involve an organic compound -called limonene- that provides the pleasant smell of cleaning products and air fresheners. His research will help to determine what byproducts these sweet-smelling compounds are adding to the air while we are using them to remove germs and odors.

Secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) are microscopic particles created when ozone reacts with volatile organic gases such as limonene -the chemical name for the smell of oranges- or its cousin α-pinene, which is part of the smell of pine trees. Outdoors, this reaction happens all the time. It drives the formation of much of the atmospheric organic aerosol present in our environment. And in, population-dense urban areas -where enough suspended particles can be amassed- it contributes to the formation of the visible haze called smog.

While a large amount of aerosols that exist in the Earth's atmosphere are naturally occurring -- created by processes such as mechanical suspension by wind or sea spray -- much is produced as a result of industrialization. And while researchers are still striving to fully understand the health and environmental impact of increased levels of secondary organic aerosols in the atmosphere, studies have linked exposure to outdoor aerosols generally to morbidity and mortality outcomes.

Few researchers, however, have considered the formation of SOAs in our indoor environments. Michael Waring, PhD, an assistant professor in Drexel University's College of Engineering, is taking the deepest look yet at the formation and behavior of these particles indoors.

"SOAs can come from ozone reactions with numerous sources, especially with compounds called terpenes that produce the scents we associate with cleaners, pine, lavender, and oranges," Waring said. "Limonene is the terpene that makes an orange's smell. It's a very popular scent for cleaning products, so we're taking a closer look at how it reacts indoors -where people are using it in high concentrations."

The first step toward understanding the health implications is finding how many of these microscopic SOA particles are created when household cleaning products and air fresheners react with ozone indoors. In research recently published in Environmental Science & Technology, Waring describes the role of limonene, the organic compound that gives cleaners and air fresheners an orange scent and acts as a solvent, in the formation of secondary organic aerosols.

For the research, Waring and his team used an air testing chamber that they specifically designed to study the reactive behavior of air in an indoor environment. With it, they were able to simulate limonene being added to the environment in pulses -- the way it would be introduced indoors when spraying a limonene-containing cleaning product. They are also able to control the amount of ozone in the chamber -- an aspect of indoor environments that can vary with outdoor ozone concentrations and the opening of windows and doors or the use of a few certain household appliances.

By adjusting elements of the test, such as the air exchange rate, which is the number of times per hour indoor air is replaced by outdoor air, as well as the concentrations of terpene and ozone in the chamber, the group was able to ascertain how those variables each affected the formation of secondary organic aerosols.

This process is unique to Waring's research. Other labs have undertaken this sort of examination, but almost always using a constant flow of terpene and ozone into the environment. But by pulsing limonene into the chamber operated at different air exchange rates, the Drexel researchers are more closely recreating actual usage scenarios in hopes of generating more representative results.

"We found that one of the biggest factors contributing to SOA formation by limonene ozonolysis was the air exchange rate," Waring said. "This is because certain chemical reactions that form SOAs take longer than others. If the air is exchanged before these reactions can take place then the SOA production is weaker indoors."

With 18 different scenarios tested, the team calculated a range of peak formation of secondary organic aerosols when typical concentrations of limonene were introduced to ozone-rich environments with a range of air exchange rates. The resulting mass concentration of secondary organic aerosols was roughly between five and 100 μg/m3.

"For reference, the EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine aerosol is an annual average of 12 μg/m3. Our findings show a significant enough range of SOA formation to warrant more in depth public health studies," Waring said. "This research is particularly necessary in order to understand health impacts on people who use significant amounts of cleaning products such as housecleaners or custodians. The goal of our work is to help that process by providing accurate numbers for researchers to use in risk calculation models. It is the most robust work of its kind thus far and has generated quite a bit of useful data."

While the next step in this line of research would be to examine the health impacts of indoor SOA, a few ways to reduce indoor aerosols would be to use unscented cleaners and open windows while cleaning. Even though open windows bring in more ozone from outside, the reduction in the indoor limonene concentration and SOA formation strength more than make up for it, as less secondary organic aerosol is formed inside.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Drexel University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Somayeh Youssefi, Michael S. Waring. Transient Secondary Organic Aerosol Formation from Limonene Ozonolysis in Indoor Environments: Impacts of Air Exchange Rates and Initial Concentration Ratios. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 48 (14): 7899 DOI: 10.1021/es5009906


Scientists generate first human stomach tissue in lab with stem cells


October 29, 2014

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells to generate functional, three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory -- creating an unprecedented tool for researching the development and diseases of an organ central to several public health crises, ranging from cancer to diabetes. Scientists used human pluripotent stem cells -- which can become any cell type in the body -- to grow a miniature version of the stomach.

Jim Wells, PhD, Divisions of Developmental Biology and Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s, explains how the first-time molecular generation of 3D human gastric organoids (hGOs) presents new opportunities for drug discovery, modeling early stages of stomach cancer, studying the underpinnings of obesity related diabetes, and potential tissue regeneration for therapy.

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells to generate functional, three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory -- creating an unprecedented tool for researching the development and diseases of an organ central to several public health crises, ranging from cancer to diabetes.

Scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center report Oct. 29 in Nature they used human pluripotent stem cells -- which can become any cell type in the body -- to grow a miniature version of the stomach. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, they used laboratory generated mini-stomachs (called gastric organoids) to study infection by H. pylori bacteria, a major cause of peptic ulcer disease and stomach cancer.

This first-time molecular generation of 3D human gastric organoids (hGOs) presents new opportunities for drug discovery, modeling early stages of stomach cancer and studying some of the underpinnings of obesity related diabetes, according to Jim Wells, PhD, principal investigator and a scientist in the divisions of Developmental Biology and Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children's.

It also is the first time researchers have produced 3D human embryonic foregut -- a promising starting point for generating other foregut organ tissues like the lungs and pancreas, he said.

"Until this study, no one had generated gastric cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs)," Wells said. "In addition, we discovered how to promote formation of three-dimensional gastric tissue with complex architecture and cellular composition."

This is important because differences between species in the embryonic development and architecture of the adult stomach make mouse models less than optimal for studying human stomach development and disease, Wells added.

Researchers can use human gastric organoids as a new discovery tool to help unlock other secrets of the stomach, such as identifying biochemical processes in the gut that allow gastric-bypass patients to become diabetes-free soon after surgery before losing significant weight. Obesity fueled diabetes and metabolic syndrome are an exploding public health epidemic. Until now, a major challenge to addressing these and other medical conditions involving the stomach has been a relative lack of reliable laboratory modeling systems to accurately simulate human biology, Wells explained.

The key to growing human gastric organoids was to identify the steps involved in normal stomach formation during embryonic development. By manipulating these normal processes in a petri dish, the scientists were able to coax pluripotent stem cells toward becoming stomach. Over the course of a month, these steps resulted in the formation of 3D human gastric organoids that were about 3mm (1/10th of an inch) in diameter. Wells and his colleagues also used this approach to identify what drives normal stomach formation in humans with the goal of understanding what goes wrong when the stomach does not form correctly.

Along with study first author Kyle McCracken, an MD/PhD graduate student working in Wells' laboratory, and Yana Zavros, PhD, a researcher at UC's Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, the authors report they were impressed by how rapidly H. pylori bacteria infected stomach epithelial tissues.

Within 24 hours, the bacteria had triggered biochemical changes to the organ, according to McCracken. The human gastric organoids faithfully mimicked the early stages of gastric disease caused by the bacteria, including the activation of a cancer gene called c-Met and the rapid spread of infection in epithelial tissues.

Another significant part of the team's challenge has been the relative lack of previous research literature on how the human stomach develops, the authors said. Wells said the scientists had to use a combination of published work, as well as studies from his own lab, to answer a number of basic developmental questions about how the stomach forms. Over the course of two years, this approach of experimenting with different factors to drive the formation of the stomach eventually resulted in the formation of 3D human gastric tissues in the petri dish.

Wells emphasized importance of basic research for the eventual success of this project, adding, "This milestone would not have been possible if it hadn't been for previous studies from many other basic researchers on understanding embryonic organ development."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kyle W. McCracken, Emily M. Catá, Calyn M. Crawford, Katie L. Sinagoga, Michael Schumacher, Briana E. Rockich, Yu-Hwai Tsai, Christopher N. Mayhew, Jason R. Spence, Yana Zavros, James M. Wells. Modelling human development and disease in pluripotent stem-cell-derived gastric organoids. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13863


Low carb, high fat diets may reduce seizures in tough-to-treat epilepsy


Diets high in fat and low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic or modified Atkins diet, may reduce seizures in adults with tough-to-treat epilepsy, according to a review of the research published in the October 29, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder in which the nerve cells in the brain work abnormally, causing seizures. About 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

"We need new treatments for the 35 percent of people with epilepsy whose seizures are not stopped by medications," said study author Pavel Klein, M.B.,B. Chir., of the Mid-Atlantic Epilepsy and Sleep Center in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "The ketogenic diet is often used in children, but little research has been done on how effective it is in adults."

The ketogenic and modified Atkins diets include items such as bacon, eggs, heavy cream, butter, leafy green vegetables and fish. The ketogenic diet consists of a ratio of fat to protein/carbohydrates of three or four to one by weight. The modified Atkins diet has a one-to-one fat to carbohydrate/protein ratio by weight.

Scientists reviewed five studies on the ketogenic diet with a total of 47 people included in the analysis and five studies on the modified Atkins diet with 85 people included.

Researchers found that across all studies, 32 percent of people treated with the ketogenic diet and 29 percent of those treated with the modified Atkins diet experienced a 50 percent or better reduction in their seizures. Nine percent in the ketogenic treatment group and 5 percent in the modified Atkins group had a greater than 90 percent reduction in seizures.

The positive results occurred quickly with both diets, within days to weeks. The effect persisted long-term, but, unlike in children, the results did not continue after participants stopped following the diet. Side effects of both diets were similar and not serious, with weight loss the most common side effect.

Fifty-one percent of the ketogenic diet group and 42 percent of the modified Atkins group stopped the diet before the study was completed.

"Unfortunately, long-term use of these diets is low because they are so limited and complicated. Most people eventually stop the diet because of the culinary and social restrictions," said Klein. "However, these studies show the diets are moderately to very effective as another option for people with epilepsy."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Pavel Klein, Ivana Tyrlikova, and Gregory C. Mathews. Dietary treatment in adults with refractory epilepsy: A review. Neurology, October 2014 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001004


The science of charismatic voices: How one man was viewed as authoritarian, then benevolent


When a right-wing Italian politician named Umberto Bossi suffered a severe stroke in 2004, his speech became permanently impaired. Strangely, this change impacted Bossi's perception among his party's followers -- from appearing authoritarian to benevolent.

Now researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles think they know why. Probing the vocal presence of charisma across cultural divides, the scientists found speakers with a wide range of frequency variation in their voices were more likely to be perceived as dominant. They also found that speakers with a low fundamental rate of vocal fold vibration, called fundamental frequency or F0, are perceived as more dominant than speakers with a high fundamental frequency.

Charismatic voices are made up of two fundamental components, said Rosario Signorello: one biological and one based on language and culture. Signorello is a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA's Bureau of Glottal Affairs who will be speaking on Thursday about his current research at the 168th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), which will be held October 27-31, 2014, at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Hotel.

The biological component of charismatic voice is innate, Signorello said, and consists of a speaker's manipulation of changes in fundamental frequency to be recognized as a group leader. By using a process of speech synthesis called 'delexicalization,' it is possible to remove the subjective influence of a speech's content, allowing a researcher to study the biological component in a controlled fashion.

"You get rid of the words and try to keep the acoustic parameters," Signorello said. "You keep the F0 frequency, the intensity and the duration, with no alteration to the other spectral and acoustic parameters." The F0, or fundamental frequency, is the rate of vocal fold vibration as measured in Hertz. These parameters can then be individually modified to gauge, which has the largest impact on a listener's willingness to agree with a speaker or charismatic leader.

Signorello became interested in the role of voice quality in charismatic speech while working on his thesis. To better understand the impact of vocal frequencies on charismatic perception, he turned his eyes on the case of Umberto Bossi.

"I collected speeches of him before and after the stroke," Signorello said, "and I discovered that before the accident, he was perceived as an authoritarian leader, because his voice was characterized by low average of fundamental frequency, normal modulation of the pitch contour, a wide pitch range, a lot of perturbation in voice and a lot of creakiness and harshness." Signorello believes that the stroke caused a hemiparesis, or asymmetrical muscle weakness, of Bossi's vocal fold -- thus impacting his speech capabilities.

"The stroke caused him to have a very flat pitch contour, so even if he had the harshness, even if he had the creakiness -- his pitch contour was very flat." Pitch contour is the entire range of modulation of the fundamental frequency during a given window. "I submitted his voice to the listeners and he was perceived as a benevolent and competent leader, which is very different from the authoritarian perception. In that case, the pitch contour played a very important role."

Signorello's current research involves a cross-cultural comparison of charismatic voice perception in Italian, French and Portuguese politicians -- Luigi de Magistris, François Hollande and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, respectively. By analyzing speeches from these politicians through delexicalization and native-speaker assessment, Signorello asserts that a listener's perception of a speaker as dominant and threatening can be attributed to their use of an average low F0 voice and wide pitch range. Conversely, their use of an average higher F0 and narrow pitch range conveys sincere and reassuring leadership. While these perceptions have been exhibited as existing cross-culturally, however, a listener's preference for a leadership type remains also dictated by specific cultural norms.

"The Italians seem to need a low pitched voice, and the French a high pitched one, because of cultural reasons," Signorello said. "The Italians seem to want a more dominant leader, and the French a more competent leader."

Future research for Signorello and his colleagues involves studying the voice of leadership in non-human primates.

"What we want to do is understand how the use of the F0 helps the nonhuman primate individuals to emerge and be recognized by the group and understand how these individuals use their voice behavior to create different patterns and convey leadership," Signorello said.

"The hypothesis is that the biological function of charismatic voice is also cross-species."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


A Turma da Maré Mansa


Snap 2014-10-30 at 19.48.50

No início dos anos 80 eu me diverti muito com um programa de rádio, transmitido pela Rádio Tupi do Rio de Janeiro chamado “A turma da maré mansa”. O pequeno texto acima refere-se ao diálogo entre o “Seu Concordino”, que como o nome indica, concordava com tudo.

Estava ele conversando com sua amiga, a madame Júlia, sobre um fotógrafo novo na cidade, o “Seu Gumercindo”. E o diálogo acima representa a parte final.  Cada vez que sua interlocutora falava bem ou mal do fotógrafo, ele concordava, como em todas as suas conversas.  Os personagens do programa eram vários, e o Brasil inteiro se divertia muito com a “Turma da Maré Mansa”…

José S de Melo

Depende do contexto…


Snap 2014-10-30 at 16.52.23

“Matar o tempo” tem um sentido duplo. O mais usado é no sentido de fazer alguma coisa prazeirosa, porém sem objetivo definido, e “matar o tempo” tem uma conotação um tanto negativa, o de fazer algo sem sentido,   e sendo assim não vale para a citação de Henfil acima. O outro sentido que se encaixa no texto é o de não fazer nada, ou de fazer algo inútil, simplesmente deixar o tempo passar…. É bem o contrário do título do livro que um cidadão estadunidense escreveu assim que descobriu que tinha um câncer incurável, (pelo menos na época), e resolveu aproveitar os seus últimos seis meses de vida brincando com seus netos e escrevendo esse livro. O título do livro “Make your today count”. (Faça valer o seu dia)…. Então podemos dizer, não mate o tempo, em vez disso dê-lhe sentido, aproveite-o da melhor maneira possível.  O autor da citação acima foi Henfil, um cartunista famoso, já falecido.

José S de Melo

É mentira, Terta?


Snap 2014-10-30 at 13.09.09

O “É mentira,Terta?” era uma frase dita pelo Coronel Pantaleão, protagonizado pelo insuperável Chico Anísio pela Televisão, no seu programa humorístico “Chico City” nos anos 70 e talvez início dos anos 80. Ele contava uma história absurda, e sua mulher, Terta, ouvia atentamente e no final ele perguntava a ela : “É mentira, Terta?”…E ela não iria contradizer o austero Coronel Pantaleão, e concordava prontamente… “Verdadeeeeeeee….”  (Terta é um diminutivo para o nome “Tertuliana”)

O texto que inseri no trabalho que fiz com o Draw Plus da Serif, é uma brincadeira para dar um sentido de que podemos dizer alguma coisa verdadeira, incontestável. Evidentemente, a cada décimo de segundo alguém no mundo estará fazendo alguma coisa, ou até podemos dizer, tudo que se possa imaginar pode estar acontecendo a cada momento.

Névo watch combines stylish looks with fitness functionality


The Névo watch is a fashion-first fitness tracker with stylish looks and vibration alerts

The Névo watch is a fashion-first fitness tracker with stylish looks and vibration alerts

Image Gallery (4 images)

While recent wearable releases like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R have successfully blurred the line between smartwatch and fashion accessory, they’re still more tech product than jewelery piece. At first glance, the Névo looks like a straightforward analogue watch, but it’s actually packing some reasonable fitness tracking tech under the hood.

The French designed product is a collaboration between iMaze and EMIE, and features a Swiss movement, stylish looks and a 3 ATM water and shock resistant stainless steel construction. It’s capable of tracking the wearer’s steps, distance traveled, sleep quality and duration, and calories burned – considering its looks-first mentality, that’s not bad going. However, unlike some smartwatches such as the Moto 360, there’s no heart rate monitor included here.

The Névo adopts a similar idea to the Withings Activité announced earlier this year, which uses a small secondary dial to display the user’s progress towards fitness goals. Unlike that product, the Névo uses a ring of eleven embedded bright white LEDs around the watch face to display the information, rather than a physical dial.

Like the Withings Activité, the Névo is designed to provide the user with an undercover fi...

The watch connects to iOS and Android smartphones via a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, and uses a standard watch battery. According to the company, users can expect a full six months of battery life before having to swap in a new battery.

While the product’s limited technology places it firmly in the fitness tracker category, it does pack one feature we’ve become used to with smartwatches. The wearable won’t display notifications like full blown smartwatches would, but it will vibrate when one is received. So you’ll still have to take your phone out of your pocket to view the alert, but you’ll be less likely to miss messages because of your handset’s weedy vibration motor.

The Névo activity tracking app is set to be compatible with both Apple HealthKit and Google Fit, and the watch will ship with both leather and silicone bands. If you’re interested in the fashion-first wearable, then you’ll have to wait a little while to get your hands on it, with the product set to land in early 2015 for US$200. It will be available for pre-order in mid-December.

Source: Névo


Ford ruggedizes its Troller 4x4 for the Sao Paulo Motor Show


Troller T4 off-road edition

Troller T4 off-road edition

Image Gallery (15 images)

Following up on the 2012 Troller TR-X concept, Ford has designed a pair of custom Troller T4 off-road special editions. The specialized versions of its Jeep-like, Brazil-market 4x4 are built to go deeper and include a variety of upgrades, such as snorkels and winches. They are appearing alongside other production and special edition T4 models at this week's São Paulo Motor Show.

Back in June, we looked at the all-new Troller T4, a utility vehicle with strong resemblance to off-road legends like Willys jeeps and Toyota Land/FJ Cruisers. While an intriguing, little 4x4, the production T4 does lack some of the rough-and-ready off-road style of the TR-X concept that previewed it.

The new T4 off-road special edition brings that style back. The show car gets a two-toned, bronzed-over look that's as earthy as its tires. It also brings back the passenger-side snorkel seen on the TR-X, gets a set of BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires and packs a Warn winch up front. Its suspension has been upgraded for trail use, as have the bumpers.

Ford's press materials don't mention any engine tuning, so the T4 special edition must rely on the same 200-hp 3.2-liter turbo diesel engine as the production model. That engine offers up to 347 lb-ft (470 Nm) of torque.


Next to the T4 special edition, Ford is also showing the T4-based Off-Road Rescue concept. That version appears even more closely related to the TR-X concept, perhaps even that very same concept dressed in orange. Designed with emergency rescue in mind, the model includes blue exterior accents, LED lighting, 17-in wheels with Mud Terrain tires, and a rescue canoe working like the cherry on top.

Take a closer look at these two T4 special editions, along with the other T4s of São Paulo, in the photo gallery. Since a utility vehicle just doesn't have the same appeal when sparkling and pristine, we've also mixed in a few photos of Copa rally Trollers disrupting sand, dirt and water.

Source: Troller/Ford