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Fri, 18 Aug 2017
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A major blind spot in animal testing is endangering the lives of women

© AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
We need to incorporate biological sex into testing on animals as well as humans.
Animal studies are the backbone of medical and scientific research. Because of animal testing, humans have developed vaccinations for smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, discovered chemotherapy, and made countless other innovations across the medical spectrum. But there's a major flaw in the way we conduct these experiments: Far too many animal tests ignore biological sex entirely.

A new study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in Nature Communications, argues that too many animal experiments have failed to take into account sexual dimorphism-the traits that differ between sexes in a species, from size to bone density to coloring. This blind spot may be skewing the results of animal testing. And that could have big consequences for the conclusions that we take from animal studies and apply to humans.

Comment: Listen to the The Health & Wellness Show: The Quackery and Cruelty of Animal Medical Research to learn more about the controversy surrounding animal medical research or vivisection.

Blue Planet

Scientists predict 100ft asteroid slated to pass by Earth will burn up in the atmosphere - They hope

On October 12, the 2012 TC4 asteroid will be just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012. NASA is using the opportunity to test its 'planetary defense system'.
On October 12, a 10-30 meter (32-98 foot) asteroid is set to make a 'close' flyby of Earth.

The asteroid, named 2012 TC4, will pass just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012.

Although NASA researchers are certain that it will not come any closer than this, if the asteroid did hit Earth, it could lead to a much more devastating level of impact than the 18-meter asteroid that hit the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013.

That particular blast injured about 1,500 people, and damaged over 7,000 buildings, and experts now say 2012 TC4 is 'something to keep an eye on.'

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the asteroid's next 'close-approach' to Earth will take place on December 29, 2019 - although at a much further distance of more than 21 million miles (34 million kilometers).

If it were to make impact with Earth's atmosphere, scientists predict the space rock would burn up before hitting the surface.

Comment: Don't worry, NASA has the situation well in hand. Planetary defense system: Asteroid flyby will test NASA's ability to locate space threats


NASA-funded scientists to study changes in the ionosphere during total solar eclipse

According to NASA, the ionosphere is split into three distinct regions based on what wavelength of solar radiation is absorbed. These are the D, E and F, with D being the lowermost region and F, the uppermost.
When the moon passes in front of the sun on August 21 for the historic total solar eclipse, day will briefly become night, before returning to brightness moments later.

According to NASA, this will effectively turn off the source of high-energy radiation in the ionosphere, a layer that extends from about 50 to 400 miles above Earth's surface.

The ionosphere is constantly changing in response to the sun's activity, and the upcoming eclipse will give scientists an unprecedented opportunity to study the mechanisms behind these changes.

The ionosphere is an electrified layer of Earth's atmosphere, NASA explains.

It's in constant flux, growing and shrinking based on solar activity and space weather.

This, in turn, can cause disruptions to communication and navigation signals.

The three research teams backed by NASA will investigate this layer to find out more about the sun's role in its behaviour.


Ocean noise pollution makes fish more vulnerable to predators: Sounds from offshore drilling cause stress and confusion, study finds

European sea bass (pictured) experience higher stress levels when exposed to the types of piling - a mechanical device used to drive poles into the ground - and drilling sounds made during the construction of offshore structures, researchers have found.
If you think noise pollution only stresses city slickers - think again.

European sea bass experience higher stress levels when exposed to the types of piling - a mechanical device used to drive poles into the ground - and drilling sounds made during the construction of offshore structures, researchers have found.

These fish also show signs of being confused when they encountered a potential predators while exposed to these underwater noises.

When researchers played recordings of piling sounds and mimicked an approaching predator, the sea bass made more turns and weren't able to move away from the predator.

The study, conducted by researchers based at Newcastle University, found that when exposed to drilling sounds, the sea bass actively avoided these areas, spending more time in an area that the researchers called the 'safe zone.'

Comment: See also: Lone Whales Shout To Overcome Noise

Microscope 1

Portable laboratory: $550 smartphone device can detect diseases as reliably as clinic-based instruments

The spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-Analyzer attaches to a smartphone and analyzes patient blood, urine, or saliva samples as reliably as clinic-based instruments that cost thousands of dollars.
Researchers have developed technology that enables a smartphone to perform lab-grade medical diagnostics.

The new spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI) analyzer costs only $550 and can perform the same tests as the large, expensive medical equipment doctors have relied on.

Once attached to a smartphone, it can analyze blood, urine, and saliva samples as reliably as clinic-based instruments that cost thousands of dollars

'Our TRI Analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing,' said Brian Cunningham, director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who worked on the study.

'It's capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it.'


Major step towards growing human organs in pigs: Scientists use advanced gene editing to eliminate viruses in the animals' DNA

Porcine endogenous retroviruses are embedded in the pig genome but research has shown they can infect human cells. Now, US scientists have successfully removed it.
Growing human transplant organs in pigs has become a more realistic prospect after scientists used advanced gene editing to remove threatening viruses from the animals' DNA.

Porcine endogenous retroviruses are permanently embedded in the pig genome but research has shown they can infect human cells, posing a potential hazard.

The existence of the virus has been a major stumbling block preventing the development of genetically engineered pigs to provide kidneys and other organs for transplant into human patients.

That hurdle may now have been cleared away, according to new research reported in the journal Science.

Comment: See also: Ancient virus DNA gives stem cells the power to transform


Uncertain future: Newest map of universe suggests that dark energy may one day tear us apart

© Reidar Hahn, Fermilab
The best cosmic map yet of the universe's make-up finds 24 per cent less dark matter than we thought and could call for a rewrite of physics
The fate of the universe has never been certain, but it just became even less so. That's due to a disagreement between a new map of today's universe and an existing map of the early universe. The mismatch either means one of the measurements is wrong or, disturbingly, that we need to rewrite physics.

The results, which are part of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), charted the distribution of matter across 26 million galaxies in a large swathe of the southern sky.

"This is one of the most powerful pictures of the universe today that we've ever had," says Daniel Scolnic at the University of Chicago, who is a part of the 400-person DES collaboration but wasn't involved in this work.

It is so powerful because knowing this distribution helps us understand the cosmic game of tug of war between dark energy, the mysterious force accelerating the universe's expansion, and dark matter, the hidden extra mass in the universe. Dark energy tends to pull each galaxy apart, while dark matter's gravity brings each galaxy together. From the relative strengths of these effects, we can predict how the cosmos will change in the future.


Indian scientists devise a way to extract silver from rice bran

© AP Photo/ Anupam Nath
Researchers claim that as much as 15 mg of silver can be extracted from a kilogram of the Garib-sal variety of rice which accumulates an unusual quantity of the noble metal in its aleurone layer.

Indian scientists have rediscovered a rice variety that accumulates an unusually high quantity of silver in the grains. The test conducted by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) could become a novel method of bio-extraction of silver metal.

"Our study of 505 native rice landraces showed that nine of them accumulate silver at a high concentration when grown in the same soil. Among these, a medicinal rice landrace from West Bengal, Garib-sal was found to accumulate silver at an especially high concentration in the grains. Cultivation of Garib-sal rice in three successive years in Basudha farm in the rice growing period of June-October confirmed that for the same concentration of silver in the soil (∼0.15 mg/kg), Garib-sal accumulates it in the grains to the extent of ∼15 mg/kg," reads the report published in science journal - ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

"The rice variety has the ability to accumulate silver about 100 times more than any other rice. It is possible to extract 14.60 mg per kg of silver from the rice using a cheap and simple chemical method. This is a unique way of extracting silver through agriculture. With further research, it may be possible to find better ways of enhancing the bioaccumulation of silver," Prof. T. Pradeep told The Hindu.


Inner ear disturbances give clues to out-of-body experiences

© Mangojuicy/Dreamstime
About 10 percent of the general population has had an out-of-body experience at some point in their lives.
While driving and accelerating in his car, a man in France suddenly had a bizarre sensation: He felt like he was outside his car, looking in at his physical self, which was still at the wheel.

The man was part of a new study that links problems of the inner ear with eerie "out-of-body" experiences. These experiences are curious, usually brief sensations in which a person's consciousness seems to exit the body and then view the body from the outside.

The study analyzed 210 patients who had visited their doctors with so-called vestibular disorders. The vestibular system, which is made up of several structures in the inner ear, provides the body with a sense of balance and spatial orientation. Problems with this system can cause dizziness or a floating sensation, among other symptoms.

Comment: See also:


Star Trek's tricorder coming to the market soon

Handheld devices similar to the tricorders used by Dr. McCoy to diagnose and treat diseases in the Star Trek movie franchise since the 1960s may soon become an essential part of every astronaut's tool kit.

© Creative Commons
Screen grab from accompanying video shows the winning entry in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition - DxtER.
The winner of the four-year Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition, held in April this year, Final Frontier Medical Devices, walked away with a $2.5 million prize with their entry of a device that can monitor five real-time health vital signs and diagnose 34 diseases without a clinician, using artificial intelligence (AI).