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Wed, 24 Aug 2016
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Science & Technology


Drug that "melts away" cancer cells approved by FDA for use in US

A tablet developed in Melbourne that "melts away" cancer cells has been approved for use in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that venetoclax was approved for prescription outside of human trials for patients with chronic lymphotic leukemia (CLL).

Venetoclax, which overwhelms the BCL-2 protein that is vital to cancer cell survival, was developed in Melbourne in the 1980s after researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) discovered the importance of BCL-2.

WEHI's head of clinical translation, Professor Andrew Roberts, said that 80 of 116 participants in a human trial of the drug in Melbourne have displayed a positive response.

Comment: It is worth those suffering from cancer to try and beat the disease by changing to a ketogenic diet instead of investing in costly prescription medication which can terrible side effects. Many sufferers of cancer have reported drastic changes after changing to a keto lifestyle:


Study suggests humans didn't evolve for lifelong monogamy - back-up plans, trial and error instead

© Getty
"But Gene! My genes made me do it, I swear!"
Women are predisposed by their genetics to have affairs as "back-up plans'" if their relationships fail, according to a research paper.

Scientists at the University of Texas say they are challenging the assumption that humans have evolved to have monogamous relationships.

The team's research has put forward the "mate-switching-hypothesis" which says humans have evolved to keep testing their relationships and looking for better long-term options.

The senior author of the research, Dr David Buss, told the Sunday Times: "Lifelong monogamy does not characterise the primary mating patterns of humans.

"Breaking up with one partner and mating with another may more accurately characterise the common, perhaps the primary, mating strategy of humans."

Comment: Original headline: "Women are 'genetically programmed to have affairs'". Who writes these things? If this statement were true, all women would have affairs. They all don't, obviously. As usual, mainstream science gives us some interesting data, but leaves out all the actual humanity. 'Evolved for' doesn't imply that it we should behave in certain ways, nor does it mean we cannot do otherwise. After all, we also 'evolved for' the ability to choose our own behavior based on considerations other than what our gonads tell us to do.


Revolution in computing: Russian physicists create non-linear optical antenna to process data at previously unattainable speed

© Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
A team of Russian physicists has found a way to tune silicon nanoparticles so they can process optical data at previously unattainable speed, paving the way for the creation of "ultracompact and ultrafast" processing devices.

The findings of the experiment-based survey conducted by scientists from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and ITMO University were published in the ACS Photonics journal in late July.

The scientists have performed a series of experiments, studying the response of nanoparticles, made of conventional silicone, to the intense and short laser pulse. They found that if affected by the laser the plasma inside the particles displays an ultrafast reaction.

The silicon particle, thereby, acts as an nonlinear antenna at the speed of about 250 Gb/s processing optical data at the speed far exceeding the one that could be achieved by the means of conventional silicon electronics.

Microscope 1

Brave new world: Scientists now able to encode 'memories' in human DNA

© mit.edu
Scientists have managed to record histories in the DNA of human cells, allowing them to recall past "memories." The advancement could prove vital for researchers studying how cells undergo genetic changes that lead to disease.

The advancement was made by biological engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), using the genome-editing system CRISPR. The system consists of a DNA-cutting enzyme called Cas9 and a short RNA strand. The strand guides the enzyme to a specific area of the genome, directing Cas9 where to make its cut.

Although CRISPR is well known for its gene editing capabilities, the MIT team managed to use it for memory storage - the first that can record the duration and intensity of events in human cells. Such memories include events such as inflammation.

To encode the memories, the scientists designed guide strands that recognize the DNA that encodes the very same guide strand. It's a concept they refer to as "self-targeting guide RNA."


Researchers create see-through wood stronger than glass

© University of Maryland Energy Research Center
Wood is a strong and versatile building material, but it rots, gets eaten by bugs, and blocks light.

Plain sheets of glass aren't much better. They shatter easily and let a lot of energy leak into or out of a building.

But engineers have recently figured out how to find the best of both worlds by making see-through wood.

The team, led by materials scientist Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland, developed a patented process to turn wood translucent, make it more durable, and lend it incredible strength.

Cell Phone

New technology could link smartphones to contact lenses, brain implants and credit cards

© Shutterstock
"Eye" phone?
Apps allow you to link your smartphone to anything from your shoes, to your jewelry, to your doorbell — and soon, you may be able to add your contact lenses to that list.

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed an innovative way of communicating that would allow medical aids such as contact lenses and brain implants to send signals to smartphones.

The new tech, called "interscatter communication," works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi signals, the engineers wrote in a paper that will be presented Aug. 22 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communication conference in Brazil.

"Instead of generating Wi-Fi signals on your own, our technology creates Wi-Fi by using Bluetooth transmissions from nearby mobile devices such as smartwatches," study co-author Vamsi Talla, a research associate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, said in a statement.

Interscatter communication is based on an existing method of communication called backscatter, which lets devices exchange information by reflecting back existing signals. "Interscatter" works essentially the same way, but the difference is that it allows for inter-technology communication — in other words, it allows Bluetooth signals and Wi-Fi signals to talk to each other.

Comment: See also:

Bizarro Earth

Discovery of 'live' iron-60 in Pacific ocean sediment linked with 2.7 million year old Type II supernova event

The Crab Nebula, shown here in this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is the expanding cloud of gas and dust left after a massive star exploded as a supernova in 1054. Supernovae propel a star’s innards back into space while creating new radioactive isotopes such as iron-60. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll
Outer space touches us in so many ways. Meteors from ancient asteroid collisions and dust spalled from comets slam into our atmosphere every day, most of it unseen. Cosmic rays ionize the atoms in our upper air, while the solar wind finds crafty ways to invade the planetary magnetosphere and set the sky afire with aurora. We can't even walk outside on a sunny summer day without concern for the Sun's ultraviolet light burning out skin.

So perhaps you wouldn't be surprised that over the course of Earth's history, our planet has also been affected by one of the most cataclysmic events the universe has to offer: the explosion of a supergiant star in a Type II supernova event. After the collapse of the star's core, the outgoing shock wave blows the star to pieces, both releasing and creating a host of elements. One of those is iron-60. While most of the iron in the universe is iron-56, a stable atom made up of 26 protons and 30 neutrons, iron-60 has four additional neutrons that make it an unstable radioactive isotope.

If a supernova occurs sufficiently close to our Solar System, it's possible for some of the ejecta to make its way all the way to Earth. How might we detect these stellar shards? One way would be to look for traces of unique isotopes that could only have been produced by the explosion. A team of German scientists did just that. In a paper published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report the detection of iron-60 in biologically produced nanocrystals of magnetite in two sediment cores drilled from the Pacific Ocean.



Star wars: US 'anti-space mine' launch signals new phase in celestial arms race

© NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center
International law dictates that countries should engage in the peaceful exploration of space, but the second launch of specialized US satellites last week has all but confirmed that an arms race is brewing outside earth's atmosphere.

The Outer Space Treaty is the product of mankind's bid to reach the stars. Enacted in 1967, the UN resolution set the standard for conduct in space, essentially warning nations to never claim sovereignty over the Moon or stockpile nuclear weapons on future space stations.

"States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner," Article IV of the treaty reads.


Maternal language influences the tone of babies' cries

© Kenishirotie / Fotolia
The crying of neonates exhibits characteristic melodic patterns influenced typically by their mothers' language.
The very first cry of neonates is marked by their maternal language. This seems to be especially apparent in tonal languages, where pitch and pitch fluctuation determine the meaning of words. Chinese and German scientists under leadership of the University of Würzburg have demonstrated this phenomenon for the first time by with newborn babies from China and Cameroon.

Tonal languages sound rather strange to European ears: in contrast to German, French or English, their meaning is also determined by the pitch at which syllables or words are pronounced. A seemingly identical sound can mean completely different things -- depending on whether it is pronounced with high pitch, low pitch or a specific pitch fluctuation.


Researchers find identical twins, especially males, live longer

© tverdohlib / Fotolia
Twins live longer than singletons. The results suggest a significant health benefit for close social connections.
Twins not only have a bestie from birth -- they also live longer than singletons. And those two factors may be related, according to new University of Washington research.

While twins have been subjects in countless studies that try to separate the effects of nature from nurture, a recent study in PLOS ONE is the first to actually look at what being a twin means for life expectancy. Analysis shows that twins have lower mortality rates for both sexes throughout their lifetimes.

"We find that at nearly every age, identical twins survive at higher proportions than fraternal twins, and fraternal twins are a little higher than the general population," said lead author David Sharrow, a UW postdoctoral researcher in aquatic and fishery sciences.

The results suggest a significant health benefit for close social connections.