Solar storage plant Gemasolar sets 36-day record for 24/7 output.


The ground-breaking Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant with storage near Seville, Spain, has marked its second anniversary with another breakthrough – producing round the clock power for a record breaking 36 consecutive days.

The power plant, owned by Torresol Energy, has been producing energy for two years since its official opening on October 4, 2011.  It was the first large scale solar tower power plant to use molten salt, which captures heat during the day so that the plant can still produce energy at night.

Torresol said in a statement marking the anniversary that the plant has exceeded the expected results and has demonstrated the sturdiness of the design. Producing energy 24/7 for 36 consecutive days from solar energy “is something that no other plant has performed so far.”

Gemasolar

Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it provides a low-cost medium to store thermal energy and operates at temperatures that are compatible with steam turbines as well as being non-toxic and non-flammable.

According to Torresol, the Gemasolar 19.9 MW plant is capable of producing more than 110 GWh per year as well as being able to run for up to 15 hours without any solar feed.

The power plant continuously supplies power to around 27,000 homes, avoiding the release of 30,000 tones of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Torresol says the notable increase in the plant’s power efficiency guarantees electrical production for 6,500 hours a year, 1.5 to 3 times more than other renewable energies.

This breakthrough in CSP technology comes just after the announcement of that the 375MW Ivanpah CSP solar power plant has synced its first energy to the local grid.

The Ivanpah plant is set to be the biggest solar thermal plant in the world, although it will not have storage. However, another solar tower plant is being built with molten salt storage.

The 110MW Crescent Dunes project being constructed by Solar Reserve in Nevada will provide a block of electricity between the hours of midday and midnight for the Las Vegas utility.

These developments will come as good news for CSP as recent reports have stated that the market has grown slower than expected – due to the rapid decline of PV prices.

Artificial blood created.


A team of researchers of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, a city in NW Romania, has created a recipe for artificial blood whose preliminary tests have proven encouraging.

The team led by professor Radu Silaghi-Dumitrescu, who is only 39 years old, has been doing research to create the artificial blood for six years and their discovery could prove crucial given the lack of blood doctors need in cases of severe accidents and major surgeries. The blood is made of water, salt, albumin and a protein – hemerythrin -extracted from marine worms which makes the artificial blood stress resistant.

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The researchers said the results of the first tests performed on mice are encouraging. „The mice treated with this type of blood ‘made in Cluj’ have remained indifferent and this is what we want, not to display signs of inflammation or disease. The ultimate goal is we don’t get rejection reactions of the artificial blood by the human body which we have for some of the current products” professor Silaghi-Dumitrescu said, as quoted by Mediafax.

He said all the previous attempts to create artificial blood have failed because researchers couldn’t find the right protein to keep the substance immune to stress factors. So far the tests on animals didn’t generate the toxicity other types of protein used so far produced.

The lead researcher pointed out the tests on mice will continue until proven there is not toxicity at all, before any attempt to use it on human beings. Silaghi-Dumitrescu said he expected concluding results in at most two years before any further tests. “Tests on humans are a very delicate topic, we need some very serious licenses and they represent an enormous risk” he underlined.

Ovarian Cancer Screen Shows promise.


Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a highly specific screening procedure for ovarian cancer, the fifth-most common form of cancer among women. The screen includes a blood test, followed by a vaginal ultrasound for high-risk individuals. The findings were published Monday (August 26) in Cancer.

The symptoms of early-stage ovarian cancer—bloating and abdominal pain—are common to many ailments. If caught early, women with the disease have a 90 percent survival rate. Late detection decreases survival to 30 percent, making early detection critical.

For the current study, the researchers first assessed baseline levels of the carbohydrate antigen (CA)-125 protein. Women with low levels were retested yearly, whereas intermediate-risk women were tested again every three months. High-risk women were screened with a vaginal ultrasound and referred to a gynecologist. The team tested the procedure on 4,051 post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 and 74 during an 11-year period. Only 10 women were recommended for surgery. Of those, four were found to have invasive ovarian cancer. Overall, the new test showed 99.9 percent specificity, meaning there was a very low risk of false-positive results.

“The results from our study are not practice-changing at this time,” Karen Lu, lead author of the study and an oncologist at MD Anderson, said in a statement. “However, our findings suggest that using a longitudinal (or change over time) screening strategy may be beneficial in post-menopausal women with an average risk of developing ovarian cancer.”

Sarah Blagden, an oncology consultant at Imperial College London, told The Guardian that there is a risk that such a test would give women a false sense of security and make them less likely to report symptoms to their doctor. “If you have a screening program that tests people once a year, it might have a dangerous effect,” she said.

Meanwhile, the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening, a randomized trial studying 300,000 women using the same two-stage procedure, is slated for completion in 2015.

Internet chat ‘has a positive side’


Internet forums and chatrooms can have positive effects that should be more widely acknowledged, experts say.

The call comes after Oxford University researchers carried out an analysis of 14 different studies looking at how young people use the internet.

A young girl browses the internet

The review – published in the Plos One journal – said a number of studies had found a link between internet use and self-harm and suicide.

But it said others had found the internet could be a positive influence.

The dangers of internet use have received widespread coverage this year. In one case, in August, 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Leicestershire was found hanged after she had been sent abusive messages on a social networking site.

Since then research by the NSPCC has suggested a fifth of 11 to 16-year-olds have had negative experiences using the internet.

‘Socially isolated’

The Oxford University research highlighted a number of dangers from internet use, including the normalising of self-harm and the risk of bullying.

It also said there was a “strong link” between internet forums and an increased risk of suicide in particular.

“Start Quote

Rather than concentrating primarily on ways of blocking and censoring such sites, we should think about online opportunities to reach out to people in emotional distress”

Joe Ferns Samaritans

But the researchers said some studies had shown that internet forums could support and connect socially isolated people.

There were also examples where forum users encouraged positive behaviour, advised others to seek help and congratulated each other for not harming themselves.

Report author Prof Keith Hawton said: “Communication via the internet and other electronic means has potential roles in both contributing to and preventing suicidal behaviour in young people.

“The next step is going to be development of therapeutic interventions using these channels of communication, especially to access those who do not seek help from clinical services.”

Joe Ferns of the Samaritans added: “We should acknowledge that many people are using suicide forums and chatrooms to anonymously discuss their feelings of distress and despair, including suicidal thoughts, which may have a positive impact on the individual. They may be expressing feelings that they have never disclosed to anyone in their offline lives.

“Rather than concentrating primarily on ways of blocking and censoring such sites, we should think about online opportunities to reach out to people in emotional distress.”

Bivalirudin During Transport for PCI in STEMI Lowers Bleeding, But Increases Stent Thrombi.


The direct thrombin inhibitor bivalirudin — when given to patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) during transport for percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) — is associated with lower rates of major bleeding after PCI. However, risks for early stent thrombosis are increased sixfold, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. The drug’s maker participated in the study.

 Some 2200 patients with STEMI being transported to facilities for PCI were randomized en route to begin antithrombotic treatment with either bivalirudin or with heparin and optional glycoprotein inhibitors. By 30 days, the composite outcome of death or major bleeding was lower with bivalirudin (5.1% vs. 8.5%). However, the risk for stent thrombosis within 24 hours was higher with bivalirudin (1.1% vs. 0.2%).

An editorialist observes that the “clearest findings” after two bivalirudin trials are that the drug increases stent thrombosis while reducing bleeding complications. He writes that it’s “critical that clinicians weigh the relative importance of these events before selecting an antithrombotic strategy for their patients.”

Source: NEJM

Childhood Poverty Linked to Poor Brain Development.


Exposure to poverty in early childhood negatively affects brain development, but good-quality caregiving may help offset this effect, new research suggests.

A longitudinal imaging study shows that young children exposed to poverty have smaller white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes, as measured during school age and early adolescence.

“These findings extend the substantial body of behavioral data demonstrating the deleterious effects of poverty on child developmental outcomes into the neurodevelopmental domain and are consistent with prior results,” the investigators, with lead author Joan Luby, MD, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, write.

However, the investigators also found that the effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were influenced by caregiving and stressful life events.

The study was published online October 28 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Powerful Risk Factor

Poverty is one of the most powerful risk factors for poor developmental outcomes; a large body of research shows that children exposed to poverty have poorer cognitive outcomes and school performance and are at greater risk for antisocial behaviors and mental disorders.

However, the researchers note, there are few neurobiological data in humans to inform the mechanism of these relationships.

“This represents a critical gap in the literature and an urgent national and global public health problem based on statistics that more than 1 in 5 children are now living below the poverty line in the United States alone,” the authors write.

To examine the effects of poverty on childhood brain development and to understand what factors might mediate its negative impact, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine total white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes in 145 children aged 6 to 12 years who had been followed since preschool.

The researchers looked at caregiver support/hostility, measured observationally during the preschool period, and stressful life events, measured prospectively.

The children underwent annual behavioral assessments for 3 to 6 years prior to MRI scanning and were annually assessed for 5 to 10 years following brain imaging.

Household poverty was measured using the federal income-to-needs ratio.

“Toxic” Effect

The researchers found that poverty was associated with lower hippocampal volumes, but they also found that caregiving behaviors and stressful life events could fully mediate this negative effect.

“The finding that the effects of poverty on hippocampal development are mediated through caregiving and stressful life events further underscores the importance of high-quality early childhood caregiving, a task that can be achieved through parenting education and support, as well as through preschool programs that provide high-quality supplementary caregiving and safe haven to vulnerable young children,” the investigators write.

In an accompanying editorial, Charles A. Nelson, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts, notes that the findings show that early experience “weaves its way into the neural and biological infrastructure of the child in such a way as to impact development trajectories and outcomes.”

“Exposure to early life adversity should be considered no less toxic than exposure to lead, alcohol or cocaine, and, as such it merits similar attention from health authorities,” Dr. Nelson writes.

Vitamin D3 Supplements Do Not Lessen Cold, Influenza Risk.


Supplementation with vitamin D3 does not reduce the incidence or risk for upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in adults, according to a new randomized controlled trial published onlineSeptember 6 and in the November 15 print issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Judy R. Rees, MPH, PhD, from the Department of Community and Family Medicine, Section of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, and colleagues enrolled 2259 participants (age, 45 – 75 years) who were also taking part in a colorectal adenoma chemoprevention trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive 1000 IU/day of vitamin D3, 1200 mg elemental calcium/day, both, or placebo. All participants were in good health and had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 2 ng/mL or higher.

Among the 759 participants who completed the study, the researchers found no significant decrease in the rate ratio (RR) of URTI episodes between the treatment groups (RR, 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79 – 1.09) or winter days of illness (RR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.90 – 1.43). There was also no decrease noted in composite syndromes of influenza-like illness (ILI; RR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.62 – 1.46) or colds (RR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.78 – 1.10).

“Vitamin D supplementation conferred no significant protection against colds, ILI, or any URTI overall, nor among those with the lowest baseline serum 25(OH) vitamin D, although participants whose baseline concentration was <12 ng/mL were specifically excluded from our trial,” note Dr. Rees and colleagues.

Participants were recruited from 11 clinical centers, and the study was conducted November 2009 through March 2011. URTI was defined as either ILI (fever and 2 or more of the following: sore throat, cough, muscle aches, or headache) or a cold (absence of ILI, 2 or more of the following on a single day: runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and swollen or tender neck glands).

Throughout the study period, researchers administered semiannual telephone surveys to 2228 participants and found no decrease in the odds ratio (OR) of ILI (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.84 – 1.54) or colds (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.87 – 1.23) among patients receiving vitamin D3 supplementation. Baseline vitamin D status, body mass index, adherence, or influenza vaccination also provided no significant benefit.

The researchers acknowledge that self-selection of the 759 participants from the parent trial may have influenced results if participants dropped out early because of a lack of treatment effect. The study authors also note that self-reported adherence to study protocol and lack of laboratory conformation of URTI may also have affected the results.

Michael Gleeson, PhD, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leucestershire, United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News, “Although participant numbers were large, I suspect that this dose of vitamin D3 is insufficient to affect respiratory illness incidence in individuals who are not vitamin D deficient,” and that “an effect might be seen in a more illness-prone population such as athletes.” Dr. Gleeson was not affiliated with the study.

“The effects on URTI of supplementation in adults with vitamin D deficiency (<12 ng/mL) should be addressed in future trials,” conclude the study authors. Studies should also address at what dose of vitamin D3 affects “markers of immune function that are important in defense against respiratory infections,” added Dr. Gleeson.

Morbidity and mortality in children with obstructive sleep apnoea: a controlled national study.


Abstract

Background Little is known about the diagnostic patterns of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in children. A study was undertaken to evaluate morbidity and mortality in childhood OSA.

Methods 2998 patients aged 0–19 years with a diagnosis of OSA were identified from the Danish National Patient Registry. For each patient we randomly selected four citizens matched for age, sex and socioeconomic status, thus providing 11 974 controls.

Results Patients with OSA had greater morbidity at least 3 years before their diagnosis. The most common contacts with the health system arose from infections (OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.40); endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (OR 1.30, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.80); nervous conditions (OR 2.12, 95% CI 1.65 to 2.73); eye conditions (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.90); ear, nose and throat (ENT) diseases (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.33 to 1.94); respiratory system diseases (OR 1.78, 95% CI 1.60 to 1.98); gastrointestinal diseases (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.66); skin conditions (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.71); congenital malformations (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.31 to 1.85); abnormal clinical or laboratory findings (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.39); and other factors influencing health status (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.43). After diagnosis, OSA was associated with incidences of endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (OR 1.78, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.45), nervous conditions (OR 3.16, 95% CI 2.58 to 3.89), ENT diseases (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.84), respiratory system diseases (OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.70 to 2.22), skin conditions (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.89), musculoskeletal diseases (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.64), congenital malformations (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.51 to 2.22), abnormal clinical or laboratory findings (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.27) and other factors influencing health status (OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.51). The 5-year death rate was 70 per 10 000 for patients and 11 per 10 000 for controls. The HR for cases compared with controls was 6.58 (95% CI 3.39 to 12.79; p<0.001).

Conclusions Children with OSA have significant morbidities several years before and after their diagnosis.

Source: Thorax

Azithromycin for prevention of exacerbations in severe asthma (AZISAST): a multicentre randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial.


Abstract

Background Patients with severe asthma are at increased risk of exacerbations and lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI). Severe asthma is heterogeneous, encompassing eosinophilic and non-eosinophilic (mainly neutrophilic) phenotypes. Patients with neutropilic airway diseases may benefit from macrolides.

Methods We performed a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial in subjects with exacerbation-prone severe asthma. Subjects received low-dose azithromycin (n=55) or placebo (n=54) as add-on treatment to combination therapy of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting β2agonists for 6 months. The primary outcome was the rate of severe exacerbations and LRTI requiring treatment with antibiotics during the 26-week treatment phase. Secondary efficacy outcomes included lung function and scores on the Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) and Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ).

Results The rate of primary endpoints (PEPs) during 6 months was not significantly different between the two treatment groups: 0.75 PEPs (95% CI 0.55 to 1.01) per subject in the azithromycin group versus 0.81 PEPs (95% CI 0.61 to 1.09) in the placebo group (p=0.682). In a predefined subgroup analysis according to the inflammatory phenotype, azithromycin was associated with a significantly lower PEP rate than placebo in subjects with non-eosinophilic severe asthma (blood eosinophilia ≤200/µl): 0.44 PEPs (95% CI 0.25 to 0.78) versus 1.03 PEPs (95% CI 0.72 to 1.48) (p=0.013). Azithromycin significantly improved the AQLQ score but there were no significant between-group differences in the ACQ score or lung function. Azithromycin was well tolerated, but was associated with increased oropharyngeal carriage of macrolide-resistant streptococci.

Conclusions Azithromycin did not reduce the rate of severe exacerbations and LRTI in patients with severe asthma. However, the significant reduction in the PEP rate in azithromycin-treated patients with non-eosinophilic severe asthma warrants further study.

 

Source: Thorax