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Thu, 04 Jun 2020
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Science & Technology


Tiny human livers grown in lab have been successfully transplanted into rats

lab grown liver
Mini liver made from human skin cells.
Scientists have successfully transplanted functional miniature livers into rats, after growing the bioengineered organs in the lab from reprogrammed human skin cells.

The experiment, which gave the animals working liver organs, could lay the groundwork for future treatments to address terminal liver failure - a disease that claims the lives of over 40,000 people in the US every year.

While there's still a lot of work to be done before the technique can directly aid human patients, the researchers say their proof of concept may help underpin a future alternative to liver transplants, which are often incredibly expensive procedures to perform, in addition to being strictly limited by donor supply.


Study: Children play little role in spreading coronavirus

coronavirus, children
© Getty Images / Coscaron
A study by the Netherlands' National Institute for Health (RIVM) published on Wednesday concluded that children under the age of 12 play little role in transmitting the new coronavirus.

The study in the country's leading medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde followed the progress of the disease in 54 families, including 227 people in all.

Studies in other countries have previously found that children are less often infected by the virus and, once infected, less often become seriously ill.

"Yes, children can become infected, but transmission takes place primarily between adults of similar age, and from adults to children," the study said in its conclusion.

Comment: Will school systems pay attention to news like this and stop their inhuman restrictions being placed on children? It's doubtful at this stage as hysteria has replaced even any semblance of reason.

Comet 2

New Comet C/2020 K7 (PANSTARRS)

CBET 4790 & MPEC 2020-L09, issued on 2020, June 02, announce the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~20) in four 45-s w-band CCD images obtained with the Pan-STARRS1 1.8-m Ritchey-Chretien reflector at Haleakala. The new comet has been designated C/2020 K7 (PANSTARRS).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object while it was still on the PCCP webpage.

Stacking of 8 unfiltered exposures, 180 seconds each, obtained remotely on 2020, June 02.2 from X02 (Telescope Live, Chile) through a 0.6-m f/6.5 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with a compact coma about 6" in diameter and a tail 3" long in PA 306 (Observers E. Guido, M. Rocchetto, E. Bryssinck, M. Fulle, G. Milani, C. Nassef, G. Savini).

Our confirmation image (click here for a bigger version)

Comet C/2020 K7
© Remanzacco Blogspot


Ancient Mars may have once had rings, then moons, then rings ...

© Ron Miller
For a long time after their discovery in 1877, scientists assumed Mars' two puny moons — Deimos and Phobos — were captured asteroids. This belief persisted until evidence revealed both moons formed at the same time as the Red Planet itself, and that the smaller one, Deimos, has a mysteriously tilted orbit. However, it wasn't until 2017 that researchers put forth a new idea that could explain why Deimos' orbit is slanted by 2 degrees.

"The fact that Deimos' orbit is not exactly in plane with Mars' equator was considered unimportant," said SETI Institute research scientist and lead author Matija Ćuk in a press release. "But once we had a big new idea and we looked at it with new eyes, Deimos' orbital tilt revealed a big secret."

Microscope 1

The invisible man? Scientists engineer human cells to become TRANSPARENT like squids

© Getty Images / Ortwin Khan
Octopuses, squids and other sea creatures can perform a disappearing act by using specialized tissues in their bodies to manipulate the transmission and reflection of light, and now researchers at the University of California, Irvine have engineered human cells to have similar transparent abilities.

In a paper published today in Nature Communications, the scientists described how they drew inspiration from cephalopod skin to endow mammalian cells with tunable transparency and light-scattering characteristics.

"For millennia, people have been fascinated by transparency and invisibility, which have inspired philosophical speculation, works of science fiction, and much academic research," said lead author Atrouli Chatterjee, a UCI doctoral student in chemical & biomolecular engineering. "Our project — which is decidedly in the realm of science — centers on designing and engineering cellular systems and tissues with controllable properties for transmitting, reflecting and absorbing light."


Patterns found in spiral galaxies indicate universe could be far more orderly than previously believed

© Pexels
The Universe is not a structureless mish-mash of space stuff, but there's still a lot we don't know about how it's put together.

Although we know that everything is connected by a vast, filamentary web, we tend to operate under the assumption that the distribution of galaxies among those filaments is somewhat random.

In other words, if you pick a patch of sky, scientists generally think that the spin directions of all the galaxies in that patch will be more or less evenly distributed.

Well, it turns out that that assumption may be incorrect.


Study suggests hundreds of land species near extinction

Vertebrates Extinction
© (a) Rhett A Butler (b) Claudio Contreras Koob (c) and (d) Gerardo Ceballos
Terrestrial vertebrates on the brink include (a) the Sumatran rhino (b) Clarion island wren (c) Española Giant Tortoise (d) Harlequin frog.
There's something sobering - terrifying is the more apt word - about a peer-reviewed paper that contains, under the heading "Significance", these words:
"The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilisation, because it is irreversible.

Thousands of populations of critically endangered vertebrate animal species have been lost in a century, indicating that the sixth mass extinction is human caused and accelerating. The acceleration of the extinction crisis is certain because of the still fast growth in human numbers and consumption rates.

In addition, species are links in ecosystems, and, as they fall out, the species they interact with are likely to go also. In the regions where disappearing species are concentrated, regional biodiversity collapses are likely occurring. Our results re-emphasise the extreme urgency of taking massive global actions to save humanity's crucial life-support systems."
The research article this statement precedes - just published in Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences - is titled "Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction". Biological annihilation - the authors' words.

More than 500 terrestrial vertebrate species, the study says, are on the brink of extinction. They include icons such as the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) and their decline is likely driven in large part by human activities in biodiversity hotspots.


Conventional theory of cosmic-ray origin and propagation challenged by new data

AMS Detector on ISS
The AMS detector on the International Space Station.
Ever since astronauts attached the 7.5 tonne AMS detector to the International Space Station in May 2011, the space-based magnetic spectrometer, which was assembled at CERN, has collected data on more than 150 billion cosmic rays - charged particles that travel through space with energies up to trillions of electron volts. It's an impressive amount of data, which has provided a wealth of information about these cosmic particles, but remarkably, as the spokesperson of the AMS team Sam Ting has previously noted, none of the AMS results were predicted. In a paper just published in Physical Review Letters, the AMS team reports measurements of heavy primary cosmic rays that, again, are unexpected.

Primary cosmic rays are produced in supernovae explosions in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and beyond. The most common are nuclei of hydrogen, that is, protons, but they can also take other forms, such as heavier nuclei and electrons or their antimatter counterparts. AMS and other experiments have previously measured the number, or more precisely the so-called flux, of several of these types of cosmic rays and how the flux varies with particle energy and rigidity - a measure of a charged particle's momentum in a magnetic field. But until now there have been no measurements of how the fluxes of the heavy nuclei of neon, magnesium and silicon change with rigidity. Such measurements would help shed new light on the exact nature of primary cosmic rays and how they journey through space.

In its latest paper, the AMS team describes flux measurements of these three cosmic nuclei in the rigidity range from 2.15 GV to 3.0 TV. These measurements are based on 1.8 million neon nuclei, 2.2 million magnesium nuclei and 1.6 million silicon nuclei, collected by AMS during its first 7 years of operation (19 May 2011 to 26 May 2018). The neon, magnesium and silicon fluxes display unexpectedly identical rigidity dependence above 86.5 GV, including an also unexpected deviation above 200 GV from the single-power-law dependence predicted by the conventional theory of cosmic-ray origin and propagation. What's more, the observed rigidity dependence is surprisingly different from that of the lighter primary helium, carbon and oxygen cosmic rays, which has been previously measured by AMS.

Better Earth

Cleanest air on Earth identified in first-of-its-kind study by atmospheric scientists

© Kathryn Moore/Colorado State University
Aerosol filter samplers probe the air over the Southern Ocean on the Australian Marine National Facility's R/V Investigator
Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Sonia Kreidenweis and her research group identified an atmospheric region unchanged by human-related activities in the first study to measure bioaerosol composition of the Southern Ocean south of 40 degrees south latitude.

Kreidenweis' group, based in the Department of Atmospheric Science, found the boundary layer air that feeds the lower clouds over the Southern Ocean to be pristine — free from particles, called aerosols, produced by anthropogenic activities or transported from distant lands. Their findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weather and climate are complex processes connecting each part of the world to every other region, and with climate changing rapidly as a result of human activity, it's difficult to find any area or process on Earth untouched by people. Kreidenweis and her team suspected the air directly over the remote Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica would be least affected by humans and dust from continents. They set out to discover what was in the air and where it came from.

Comment: See also:


New gut-brain link: How gut mucus could help treat brain disorders

brain scans
Mucus is the first line of defense against bad bacteria in our gut. But could it also be part of our defense against diseases of the brain?

Bacterial imbalance in the gut is linked with Alzheimer's disease, autism, and other brain disorders, yet the exact causes are unclear.

Now a new research review of 113 neurological, gut, and microbiology studies led by RMIT University suggests a common thread - changes in gut mucus.

Senior author Associate Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin said these changes could be contributing to bacterial imbalance and exacerbating the core symptoms of neurological diseases.

Comment: See also: