Ultrafast X-ray laser sheds new light on fundamental ultrafast dynamics


Ultrafast X-ray laser research led by Kansas State University has provided scientists with a snapshot of a fundamental molecular phenomenon. The finding sheds new light on microscopic electron motion in molecules.

 

Artem Rudenko, assistant professor of physics and a member of the university’s James R. Macdonald Laboratory; Daniel Rolles, currently a junior research group leader at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany, who will be joining the university’s physics department in January 2015; and an international group of collaborators studied how an electron moves between different atoms in an exploding molecule.

Researchers measured at which distances between the two atoms the electron transfer can occur. Charge transfer processes—particularly —are important for photosynthesis in solar cells, and drive many other important reactions in physics, chemistry and biology.

Their observation, “Imaging charge transfer in iodomethane upon x-ray photoabsorption,” appears in the journal Science.

“There is a very fundamental question about how far an electron can go to reach the nearby atom in a molecule, and how probable that transition is,” Rudenko said. “It has been difficult to capture images of this motion because of the very short times and very small distances that need to be measured.”

To find the answer, scientists shot an ultrafast optical laser at iodomethane —molecules made of an iodine atom and a —to break the bond of these two partners.

The molecules were hit with an intense, ultrashort X-ray pulse to strip the electrons from the inner shells of the iodine atom as well as to study the charge transfer between the fragments. The experiment was performed using the Linac Coherent Light Source, the world’s most powerful X-ray laser. The laser is at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California and delivers femtosecond X-ray pulses. One femtosecond is one-millionth of a billionth of a second.

Researchers were able to see electrons jumping over surprisingly long distances—up to 10 times the length of the original, intact molecule.

“Conceptually the study was pretty simple,” Rudenko said. “We break up the molecule with the optical laser, use the X-rays to knock a few electrons from the iodine atom, and control the distance to the neighboring methyl group by tuning the timing between the  and the X-rays. Then we watch how many electrons move from the methyl side to the iodine side to fill the created holes.”

The study recently became possible because of the unique combination of ultrafast optical and X-ray pulses, and researchers’ expertise in particle detection.

“In the near future we will be able to perform similar experiments with improved time resolution using ultrafast lasers and tabletop soft X-ray sources at the J.R. Macdonald Lab at Kansas State University,” Rudenko said.

Physicists reveal random nature of metastasis


The spreading of a cancerous tumour from one part of the body to another may occur through pure chance instead of key genetic mutations, a new study has shown.

 

Physicists from the University of Dundee and Arizona State University have used a statistical model to show that the formation of a new secondary tumour—commonly known as a —could just as likely derive from “common” cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream, as from “specialist” cancer cells.

Their results, which have been published today, 18 July, in IOP Publishing’s journal Physical Biology, could spur new ways of thinking about cancer research, demonstrating that statistical physics may be as fundamental as complex genetics when studying the occurrence and treatment of metastatic disease.

In the conventional view of metastasis, only certain “specialist” cancer cells from the primary tumour can successfully metastasise. These cells have been compared to decathletes due to their ability to perform a number of different tasks, such as invade local tissue, enter, survive in, and leave the bloodstream, and colonise new tissue environments.

This view explains the inefficiency of metastasis and why it often takes years to cause death in most patients—it is highly improbable that a cell would possess all of the genetic mutations required to carry out all of the above functions.

In their study, the researchers also considered the possibility that a large number of “common” cancer cells that are free flowing in the bloodstream may, on very rare occasions, cause metastasis by pure chance.

The co-author of the study, Professor Timothy Newman from the University of Dundee, said: “If we use a military metaphor, a key mission can be accomplished using either a handful of highly trained special forces—in this case the specialist cells—or a huge number of untrained infantry—the common cancer cells—in which case a handful of ordinary soldiers will, by sheer luck, be successful.”

The researchers used methods from  and probability theory to calculate the probability of such rare events caused by common cancer cells and the timescales of how fast these events could occur. They found that successful metastatic growth from common cells, although rare, would proceed extremely rapidly, and appear deterministic.

In particular, their results showed that in the early stages of metastatic growth, the growth of a new colony of  formed by a specialist cell with just the right amount of mutations was statistically indistinguishable from a colony that formed from a common cell which happened to “get lucky”.

“If one could magically observe the early growth of a metastasis, we show there would be no way of telling from the growth dynamics whether the tumour was seeded by a special forces cell or a lucky infantryman,” continued Professor Newman.

Co-author Dr Luis Cisneros added: “If we allow ourselves to consider the role of randomness then we open the door to perceiving surprising effects of the statistical fluctuations that may not be expected by naïve reasoning.”

The researchers also used very crude physiological data to estimate that the rare events caused by common cells would lead to semi-stable metastases in the size range of about 50 cells, which was striking as metastases of this size have been previously observed in experiments on mice and zebrafish.

Such tiny metastases would be too small to observe using medical imaging in human patients, but could possibly be found through fine examination of biopsied tissue, which the researchers are looking to investigate in future studies.

Professor Newman concluded: “Our research is an example to the cancer research community that sometimes one needs to pause and step back from the genetic details of cancer and carefully consider in parallel other approaches and paradigms.”

“Genetics is undoubtedly important in cancer, but not exclusively so, and there are equally fundamental concepts at higher levels which underpin cancer progression. Perhaps physicists, and others from outside the cancer research area, can help provide more insights along these lines, which may be game-changing.”

Ultrafast X-ray laser sheds new light on fundamental ultrafast dynamics


http://m.phys.org/_news324824029.html

From the desk of Zedie.

New Study Links GMOs To Cancer, Liver/Kidney Damage & Severe Hormonal Disruption.


In November 2012, the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a paper titled Long Term Toxicity of Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant genetically modified maize by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University.(source) It was a very significant study that made a lot of noise worldwide, the first of its kind under controlled conditions that examined the possible effects of a GMO maize diet treated with Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide.

gmo

After the research was completed, it went through rigorous reviews, as well as a four month review process by scientists and researchers. It was eventually approved and published, only to be retracted by request of the Journal. Although hundreds of scientists around the world condemned the retraction, and the researchers addressed the criticisms, it was to no avail.

There is great news to report however, as this major GMO study has now been republished following its controversial retraction (under strong commercial pressure), with even more up to date information and a response to previous criticisms. You can read more about that here.

The study has now been published by Environmental Sciences Europe. (source)

The chronic toxicity study examined the health impacts on rats of eating  commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, alongside Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

The study found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.

The republished study also has a section describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the retraction of the original publication. This is scientific fraud at its best. The authors express how the previous retraction was “a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide.”

“We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science, thus, we republish our paper.” –  Seralini

“Censorship on research into the risks of a technology so critically entwined with global food safety undermines the value and the credibility of science.” – Seralini

This study has now successfully passed through multiple rounds of rigorous peer review. Again, the study shows that Roundup-treated GM corn as well as the herbicide used on it increases cancer in rats. There are a number of studies that demonstrate the potential health risks of GM plants, this one in particular drew heavy criticism from industry scientists.

“The major criticisms of the Seralini manuscript were that the proper strain of rats was not used and their numbers were too small. Neither criticism is valid. The strain of rat is that which is required by the FDA for drug toxicology, and the toxic effects were unambiguously significant. In fact, Monsanto published a similar study in the same journal eight years before using the same number and strain of rats. Their study was for 90 days and claimed no harm. In contrast, the Seralini study was for two years and did not see any tumors until after nine months. Therefore, it is clear that the short 90-day feeding paradigm is not sufficiently long to detect the carcinogenic effects of GM products. It takes a long time before low-level exposure to environmental toxins affect health. For example, a recent associated press report documented the dramatic increase in birth defects and cancer in areas  of Argentina that have grown GM soy for a decade. Given these facts, what was the justification of the editorial decision to retract the Seralini Manuscript?”  (source)

Other Studies Regarding GMOs and Herbicides

There is a reason that multiple countries all over the world have been banning GMOs and the pesticides that go with them. More information is emerging everyday from scientists and researchers all over the world that clearly points to the fact that we just don’t know enough about GM’s to deem them totally safe for human consumption.

By slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment.The FDA has said that genetically modified organisms are not much different from regular food, so they’ll be treated in the same way. The problem is this, geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into a totally unrelated species. Now David Suzuki doesn’t normally mate with a carrot and exchange genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other without regard to the biological constraints. It’s very very bad science, we assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion – Geneticist David Suzuki (source)

Below is an excerpt from a previous article I wrote. For more information on this subject you can use the search bar on our website to find what you are looking for.

1. Multiple Toxins From GMOs Detected In Maternal and Fetal Blood

Research from Canada (the first of its kind) has successfully identified the presence of pesticides -associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal and non-pregnant women’s blood. They also found the presence of Monsanto’s Bt toxin. The study was published in the Journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2011.(1) You can read the FULL study here.

“Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed, particularly those using the placental transfer approach. Thus, our present results will provide baseline data for future studies exploring a new area of research relating to nutrition, toxicology and reproduction in women. Today, obstetric-gynecological disorders that are associated with environmental chemicals are not known.  Thus, knowing the actual concentration of genetically modified foods in humans constitutes a cornerstone in the advancement of research in this area.” (1)

The study used blood samples from thirty pregnant women and thirty non-pregnant women. The study also pointed out that the fetus is considered to be highly susceptible to the adverse affects of xenobiotics (foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not naturally produced.)  This is why the study emphasizes that knowing more about GMOs is crucial, because environmental agents could disrupt the biological events that are required to ensure normal growth and development.

2. DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them

In a new study published in the peer reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers emphasize that there is sufficient evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments carry complete genes that can enter into the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism.(2)

In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA.  The study was based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies. PLOS is an open access, well respected peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers primary research from disciplines within science and medicine. It’s great to see this study published in it, confirming what many have been suspected for years.

“Our bloodstream is considered to be an environment well separated from the outside world and the digestive tract. According to the standard paradigm large macromolecules consumed with food cannot pass directly to the circulatory system. During digestion proteins and DNA are thought to be degraded into small constituents, amino acids and nucleic acids, respectively, and then absorbed by a complex active process and distributed to various parts of the body through the circulation system. Here, based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system. In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The plant DNA concentration shows a surprisingly precise log-normal distribution in the plasma samples while non-plasma (cord blood) control sample was found to be free of plant DNA.” (2)

This still doesn’t mean that GMOs can enter into our cells, but given the fact GMOs have been linked to cancer (later in this article) it is safe to assume it is indeed a possibility. The bottom line is that we don’t know, and this study demonstrates another cause for concern.

3. New Study Links GMOs To Gluten Disorders That Affect 18 Million Americans

This study was recently released by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), and uses data from the US department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, medical journal reviews as well as other independent research. (3)(4) The authors relate GM foods to five conditions that may either trigger or exacerbate gluten-related disorders, including the autoimmune disorder, Celiac Disease:

  • Intestinal permeability
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria
  • Immune activation and allergic response
  • Impaired digestion
  • Damage to the intestinal wall

The Institute for Responsible technology is a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about GMO foods and crops. The institute reports and investigates on the impact GM foods can have on health, environment, agriculture and more.

4. Study Links Genetically Modified Corn to Rat Tumors

In November 2012, The Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a paper titled ‘Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize’ by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University. (5)

It was a very significant study, which obviously looks bad for the big bio tech companies like Monsanto, being the first and only long term study under controlled conditions examining the possible effects of a diet of GMO maize treated with Monsanto roundup herbicide.

This study has since been retracted, which is odd, because the journal it was published in is a very well known, reputable peer reviewed scientific journal. In order for a study to be published here it has to go through a rigorous review process.

It’s also important to note that hundreds of scientists from around the world have condemned the retraction of the study. This study was done by experts, and a correlation between GMOs and these tumors can’t be denied, something happened.

The multiple criticisms of the study have also been answered by the team of researchers that conducted the study. You can read them and find out more about the study here.

GM Crop Production is Lowering US Yields and Increasing Pesticide Use

5. Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth via Estrogen Receptors

A study is published in the US National Library of Medicine (4) and will soon be published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. Several recent studies showed glyphosate’s potential to be an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system in mammals. These disruptors can cause developmental disorders, birth defects and cancer tumors. (6)

Glyphosate exerted proliferative effects only in human hormone-dependent breast cancer. We found that glyphosate exhibited a weaker estrogenic activity than estradiol. Furthermore, this study demonstrated the additive estrogenic effects of glyphosate and genisein which implied that the use of contaminated soybean products as dietary supplements may pose a risk of breast cancer because of their potential additive estrogenicity. (6)

Researchers also determined that Monsanto’s roundup is considered an “xenoestrogen,” which is a foreign estrogen that mimics real estrogen in our bodies. This can cause a number of problems that include an increased risk of various cancers, early onset of puberty, thyroid issues, infertility and more.

6. Glyphosate Linked To Birth Defects

A group of scientists put together a comprehensive review of existing data that shows how European regulators have known that Monsanto’s glyphosate causes a number of birth malformations since at least 2002. Regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety, and in Germany the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the European Commission that there was no evidence to suggest that glyphosate causes birth defects. (7)

Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable. In this report, we examine the industry studies and regulatory documents that led to the approval of glyphosate. We show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s and 1990s that glyphosate causes malformation – but that this information was not made public. We demonstrate how EU regulators reasoned their way from clear evidence of glyphosate’s teratogenicity in industry’s own studies to a conclusion that minimized these findings in the EU Commission’s final review report (7)

Here is a summary of the report:

  • Multiple peer-reviewed scientific literature documenting serious health hazards posed by glyphosate
  • Industry (including Monsanto) has known since the 1980′s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses
  • Industry has known since 1993 that these effects could also occur at lower and mid doses
  • The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations
  • The EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations
  • The EU Commission has known since 2002 that glyphosate causes malformations. This was the year DG SANCO division published its final review report, laying out the basis for the current approval of glyphosate

Another study published by the American Chemical Society, from the university of Buenos Aires, Argentina also showed that Glyphosate can cause abnormalities.(8)

The direct effect of glyphosate on early mechanisms of morphogenesis in vertebrate embryos opens concerns about the clinical findings from human offspring in populations exposed to glyphosate in agricultural fields (8)

7. Study Links Glyphosate To Autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

When you ingest Glyphosate, you are in essence altering the chemistry of your body. It’s completely unnatural and the body doesn’t resonate with it. P450 (CYP) is the gene pathway disrupted when the body takes in Glyphosate. P450 creates enzymes that assist with the formation of molecules in cells, as well as breaking them down. CYP enzymes are abundant and have many important functions. They are responsible for detoxifying xenobiotics from the body, things like the various chemicals found in pesticides, drugs and carcinogens. Glyphosate inhibits the CYP enzymes. The CYP pathway is critical for normal, natural functioning of multiple biological systems within our bodies. Because humans that’ve been exposed to glyphosate have a drop in amino acid tryptophan levels, they do not have the necessary active signalling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. (9)

8. Chronically Ill Humans Have Higher Glyphosate Levels Than Healthy Humans

A new study out of Germany concludes that Glyphosate residue could reach humans and animals through feed and can be excreted in urine. It outlines how presence of glyphosate in urine and its accumulation in animal tissues is alarming even at low concentrations. (10)

To this day, Monsanto continues to advertise its Roundup products as environmentally friendly and claims that neither animals nor humans are affected by this toxin. Environmentalists, veterinarians, medical doctors and scientists however, have raised increasing alarms about the danger of glyphosate in the animal and human food chain as well as the environment. The fact that glyphosate has been found in animals and humans is of great concern. In search for the causes of serious diseases amongst entire herds of animals in northern Germany, especially cattle, glyphosate has repeatedly been detected in the urine, feces, milk and feed of the animals. Even more alarming, glyphosate was detected in the urine of the farmers.  (10)

9. Studies Link GMO Animal Feed to Severe Stomach Inflammation and Enlarged Uteri in Pigs

A study by scientist Judy Carman, PhD that was recently published in the peer reviewed journal Organic Systems outlines the effects of a diet mixed with GMO feed for pigs, and how it is a cause for concern when it comes to health. (11) Scientists randomized and fed isowean pigs either a mixed GM soy and GM corn (maize) diet for approximately 23 weeks (nothing out of the ordinary for most pigs in the United States), which is unfortunately the normal lifespan of a commercial pig from weaning to slaughter. Equal numbers of male and female pigs were present in each group. The GM diet was associated with gastric and uterine differences in pigs. GM pigs had uteri that were 25% heavier than non-GM fed pigs. GM-fed pigs had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation with a rate of 32% compared to 125 of non-GM fed pigs.

The study concluded that pigs fed a GMO diet exhibited a heavier uteri and a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than pigs who weren’t fed a GMO diet. Because the use of GMO feed for livestock and humans is so widespread, this is definitely another cause for concern when it comes to GMO consumption. Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these GM crops are consumed widely by people, especially in the United States.

10. GMO risk assessment is based on very little scientific evidence in the sense that the testing methods recommended are not adequate to ensure safety. (12)(13)(14)

Deficiencies have been revealed numerous times with regards to testing GM foods.

The first guidelines were originally designed to regulate the introduction of GM microbes and plants into the environment with no attention being paid to food safety concerns. However, they have been widely cited as adding authoritative scientific support to food safety assessment. Additionally, the Statement of Policy released by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, presumptively recognizing the GM foods as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), was prepared while there were critical guidelines prepared by the International Life Sciences Institute Europe and FAO/WHO recommend that safety evaluation should be based on the concept of substantial equivalence, considering parameters such as molecular characterization, phenotypic characteristics, key nutrients, toxicants and allergens. Since 2003, official standards for food safety assessment have been published by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of FAO/WHO. Published reviews with around 25 peer-reviewed studies have found that despite the guidelines, the risk assessment of GM foods has not followed a defined prototype.(12) (15)

“The risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops for human nutrition and health has not been systematic. Evaluations for each GM crop or trait have been conducted using different feeding periods, animal models and parameters. The most common results is that GM and conventional sources include similar nutritional performance and growth in animals. However, adverse microscopic and molecular effects of some GM foods in different organs or tissues have been reported. While there are currently no standardized methods to evaluate the safety of GM foods, attempts towards harmonization are on the way. More scientific effort is necessary in order to build confidence in the evaluation and acceptance of GM foods.” (12) (15)

Sources:

(All other sources not listen here are highlighted throughout the article)

http://www.enveurope.com/content/26/1/13

(1) https://www.uclm.es/Actividades/repositorio/pdf/doc_3721_4666.pdf

(2) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069805

(3) http://rt.com/usa/gmo-gluten-sensitivity-trigger-343/

(4) http://responsibletechnology.org/media/images/content/Press_Release_Gluten_11_25.pdf

(5) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170

(7) http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/Roundup-and-birth-defects/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5.pdf

(8) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749

(9) http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

(10) http://omicsonline.org/open-access/detection-of-glyphosate-residues-in-animals-and-humans-2161-0525.1000210.pdf

(11) http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf

(12) http://static.aboca.com/www.aboca.com/files/attach/news/risk_assessment_of_genetically_modified_crops_for_nutrition.pdf

(13) Reese W, Schubert D. Safety testing and regulation of genetically engineered foods. Biotechnol Genet Eng Rev. 2004;21:299–324

(14) Schubert D. A different perspective on GM food. Nat Biotechnol. 2002;20:969–969.

(15) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19146501

Experimental ‘pulse radiotherapy’ kills cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue


French researchers have developed a new radiation technique that appears to target tumour cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed, according to a new study in mice. 

 

The technique, known as ‘FLASH’, was developed by researchers at the Institut Curie in Paris and delivers short pulses of intense  to .

Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to permanently damage the DNA of , causing them to die by committing suicide.

Standard  treatment delivers a continuous beam of radiation to targeted areas. But this can also damage normal tissue surrounding tumours.

The latest study in mice, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that rapid pulses of high-dose radiation affected implanted  differently to healthy cells, killing off the tumour cells while leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact.

When analysed in the lab, the researchers found that the cancer cells given radiotherapy pulses were dying via a completely different molecular ‘suicide’ pathway to those given continuous treatment.

The sub-millisecond bursts of radiation were delivered using an experimental radiotherapy machine. And the next phase of the research will look into whether the approach can be replicated in other tissues.

Professor Gillies McKenna, director of the Cancer Research UK and Medical Research Council Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology, said the findings could be “game-changing”, but emphasised that the research is still at an early stage.

“Although this research was done in mice, it’s an impressive study and if it holds true in other tissues this could become a game-changing piece of research. It suggests that cancer cells die after rapid pulses of very high dose radiation exposure in an entirely different way to , and – if confirmed – this could lead to a radically different way of giving radiotherapy to patients,” he said.

One of the constraints of the FLASH treatment is that it relies on technology currently not found in radiotherapy facilities. And if it were to be developed further, a completely new generation of radiotherapy machinery will be required, Professor McKenna added.

Emlyn Samuel, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Research doesn’t stop, and this study is a great example of how developing new technology and lab research could combine to improve radiotherapy treatment for people with cancer. But it’s vital that the NHS is in a position to adopt any new, exciting technologies that are proven effective so that patients can benefit in the future.

“Planning for future innovations is why we jointly produced the 10-year Vision for Radiotherapy with NHS England. We now need to ensure that the Government sets out a clear plan to adopt this vision, and realise the benefits of research to give patients access to the best, evidence-based treatments.”

Scientists develop robotic fingers


MIT researcher with robotic hand
The extra fingers move in sync with the wearer’s hand, the developers said.

Researches said the extension – essentially, two extra “fingers” – could be used to grasp, leaving the hand free to do other tasks.

Worn around the wrist, it mimics the movement of the wearer’s hand.

The next step, they said, will be a less bulky version.

The extra fingers developed by the team at MIT work using sensors attached to the human hand to measure the position of the wearer’s fingers. An algorithm controls the output from the sensors to the robotic fingers, moving them in sync.

“Every day, we use various tools, say a knife and fork and we drive a car and, if we use these tools for a long time, you see that those tools are just an extension of your body,” said Harry Asada, the Ford Prof of Engineering in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“That is exactly what we would like to do with robotics, you have extra fingers and extra arms. If you have control and can communicate with them very well, you feel that they are just an extension of your body,” he added in a video posted on YouTube.

Robotic hand holding coffee cup
The device could leave the human hand free to perform other tasks, like stirring coffee, the researchers said.

The robotic fingers are at either side of the the hand – one outside the thumb, and the other outside the little finger.

“This is a completely intuitive and natural way to move your robotic fingers. You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers,” said Prof Asada.

The developers said their work up until this point was focused on perfecting the posture and movement of the robotic fingers.

“But it’s not the whole story,” said graduate student Faye Wu, who presented a paper on the fingers this week at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in California.

She said: “There are other things that make a good, stable grasp. With an object that looks small but is heavy, or is slippery, the posture would be the same, but the force would be different, so how would it adapt to that? That’s the next thing we’ll look at.”

‘Specialists’

One independent expert said that the device was most likely to appeal to specialists, rather than the mass market.

“Clearly, the military is interested in robotics, they are interested in building machines, like exoskeletons that allow people to run very fast for a long time,” said David Bourne, principal systems scientist at the robotics institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

“But those things are inherently very expensive,” he said, adding that devices need to have a “killer application” to work in the mass market.

However, Mr Bourne said that, after a lull, he has seen a resurgence in interest in robotics in recent years because of advances in the technology.

“You have better control and less awkward communication with the devices now,” he said.

MIT Professor Harry Asada
Professor Harry Asada said his team was working on making the device smaller and foldable

Prof Asada acknowledged the project had only yielded a prototype at this stage, but said he was optimistic about the possibilities it offers.

“We can shrink it down to one-third its size, and make it foldable,” he said.

“We could make this into a watch or a bracelet where the fingers pop up, and when the job is done, they come back into the watch.

“Wearable robots are a way to bring the robot closer to our daily life.”

Mild Brain Injury Leaves Lasting Scar – Scientific American


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mild-brain-injury-leaves-lasting-scar/?WT.mc_id=SA_Facebook

From the desk of Zedie.

Eye movements reveal difference between love and lust.


Soul singer Betty Everett once proclaimed, “If you want to know if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss.” But a new study by University of Chicago researchers suggests the difference between love and lust might be in the eyes after all.

Specifically, where your date looks at you could indicate whether love or lust is in the cards. The new study found that eye patterns concentrate on a stranger’s face if the viewer sees that person as a potential partner in romantic love, but the viewer gazes more at the other person’s body if he or she is feeling sexual desire. That automatic judgment can occur in as little as half a second, producing different gaze patterns.

“Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers,” noted lead author Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the UChicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory. Cacioppo co-authored the report, now published online in the journal Psychological Science, with colleagues from UChicago’s Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, and the University of Geneva.

Previous research by Cacioppo has shown that different networks of brain regions are activated by love and sexual desire. In this study, the team performed two experiments to test visual patterns in an effort to assess two different emotional and cognitive states that are often difficult to disentangle from one another—romantic love and sexual desire (lust).

Male and female students from the University of Geneva viewed a series of black-and-white photographs of persons they had never met. In part one of the study, participants viewed photos of young, adult heterosexual couples who were looking at or interacting with each other. In part two, participants viewed photographs of attractive individuals of the opposite sex who were looking directly at the camera/viewer. None of the photos contained nudity or erotic images.

In both experiments, participants were placed before a computer and asked to look at different blocks of photographs and decide as rapidly and precisely as possible whether they perceived each photograph or the persons in the photograph as eliciting feelings of sexual desire or romantic love. The study found no significant difference in the time it took subjects to identify romantic love versus sexual desire, which shows how quickly the brain can process both emotions, the researchers believe.

But analysis of the eye-tracking data from the two studies revealed marked differences in eye movement patterns, depending on whether the subjects reported feeling sexual desire or romantic love. People tended to visually fixate on the face, especially when they said an image elicited a feeling of romantic love. However, with images that evoked sexual desire, the subjects’ eyes moved from the face to fixate on the rest of the body. The effect was found for male and female participants.

“By identifying eye patterns that are specific to love-related stimuli, the study may contribute to the development of a biomarker that differentiates feelings of  versus ,” said co-author John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. “An eye-tracking paradigm may eventually offer a new avenue of diagnosis in clinicians’ daily practice or for routine clinical exams in psychiatry and/or couple therapy.”

The Effects Of Obesity You Can’t Always See: 5 Major Organs Damaged By Excess Body Fat.


Obesity doesn’t just add layers of fat around your thighs and torso. Some of the greatest consequences of poor diet and lack of exercise occur inside your body, out of sight and too often out of mind. We can’t see these health effects, we think, so they must not exist.

A word to the wise: They do. Your body’s biochemistry is complex, and given the relationship between many of your organs and those organs to your physical and mental health, not being able to fit into your jeans may be the least of your problems. Here are five organs that feel the brunt of your obesity.

1. Your Heart

A no-brainer. Excess fat tissue in the body requires oxygen to stay alive. This means your heart recruits more blood vessels to deliver oxygen-rich blood to that tissue. In addition, the more fat that accumulates inside your arteries, the harder those arteries get. Thicker walls allow a narrower space for blood to pass through, so to maintain the same pressure the heart must work harder. Atherosclerosis, the hardening of the artery walls, is 10 times more common in the obese than in healthy people.

There’s no two ways about it; the heart feels the greatest effect from obesity. The muscle itself works harder; the risk for blood clotsincreases; and the resulting blood circulation throughout the body suffers overall.

2. Your Colon

Researchers haven’t found the connection between obesity and most cancers to be all that strong — except for colon cancer. Among both men and women with obese classifications, colorectal cancers arise with startling frequency. This could be for two main reasons, experts suspect.

  

The first involves a diet high in processed meats and red meats, a common factor among patients suffering from colon polyps — an early potential sign of colon cancer. The other factor is an elevated level of insulin or insulin-related growth factor in the blood. Why, exactly, these factors influence cancer development remains a mystery. But given the intricate relationship between a person’s digestive system and immune-related disorders — 70 percent of the body’s bacteria live in the gut — the side effects of obesity may explain the link, at least in part.

3. Your Brain

The link between body and mind isn’t new, but the latest science is compelling. A 2010 study found cognitive function showed negative associations with obesity on measures. One hypothesis cites the deteriorating white matter that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain, which send signals around the organ. This white matter sheathing has been found more damaged in the brains of the obese.

“It’s not as though a cable has been cut,” John Gunstad, associate professor at Kent State University and author of the 2010 study, toldScience News. “It’s just that its integrity is diminished.” Along the cognitive highways, messages break down and fail to reach their intended targets.

4. Your Skin

It’s easy to forget how much obesity can damage the skin, and contrary to popular opinion, cosmetic blemishes like stretch marks aren’t the only consequence. Hormone changes can cause acanthosis nigricans, a thickening and darkening of the skin; swelling and stretching of the skin can cause redness and irritation, known as stasis dermatitis; and poor vein function can lead to ulcers, found most often in ankles as a result of lacking blood flow.

Maintaining healthy skin is also more than a cosmetic concern. The outer layers of your skin are the foremost barrier to your bloodstream, which means they also serve as the gatekeeper for infectious agents. What begins as a stretched layer of skin may turn into serious illness, all because the body’s mass outmatched the skin’s elasticity.

5. Your Lungs

Like the arteries surrounding your heart, your lungs face great risk in the presence of excess fat. A study published in 2010 showed large amounts of adipose tissue diminishes the organs’ overall capacity for air. This in itself poses significant risk for poor ventilation, which can both exacerbate existing respiratory diseases or produce the same side effects even in the absence of those diseases.

Poor lung function means blood vessels may not be getting enough oxygen. Similarly, obese people face a far greater risk for obstructive sleep apnea than non-obese people, further limiting the oxygen their bodies take in. Problematic enough during the daytime, a failure to breathe at night could turn fatal in a hurry. Researchers are working on a device that delivers tiny electric pulses into the tongue, to release the blockage without waking people up.

What is sapphire glass and why is it in the next iPhone?


It seems all but certain Apple will be making the switch tosapphire glass for the iPhone 6 screen, a radical departure from the hardened Gorilla Glass it has been getting from Corning since the first iPhone came out in 2007. Until now, sapphire glass was only used on the camera lens of Apple’s devices, but the technology now exists to make it a viable options for the entire front panel. It’s probably not going to be cheap, but sapphire glass could become the next must-have feature in smartphones.

sapphire

When you hear the word “sapphire,” you’re probably thinking about a shiny blue stone that costs a bundle of money, but that’s not quite what sapphire glass is. In other words, it’s going to be expensive but not that expensive. A stone can technically be a sapphire and have none of the characteristic blue coloring. As with most precious gems, the color is the result of impurities, in this case mostly chromium and titanium. The sapphire used for glass has none of that.

Of course, no one is digging stones out of the ground to make into phone screens. The glass on the upcoming iPhone 6 will be produced in a lab. A sapphire is just a crystallized form of aluminium oxide, which can be produced in an oven heated to 2000 degrees F using what’s known as the Verneuil process. This takes powdered aluminum and fuses it with oxygen such that it crystallizes in a solid block. The block is known as a boule, and it should be clear if no impurities were introduced. That’s not so good for gemstones, but great for glass.

sapphire boule

Because the process of making sapphire glass gives you a boule instead of a sheet like other substances, there’s a lot of extra manufacturing needed. Technicians have to but the block into thin slices that can be used for phones. Apple has patented a process of doing this with lasers instead of saws, so maybe that was the key to making sapphire glass cheap enough for the screen.

Sapphire is the third hardest mineral in existence — it scores a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale right behind diamond at 10 and moissanite at 9.25. The carbon atoms in diamond are extremely uniform and each have four bond attachments, which is why it’s so strong. The oxygen atoms in sapphire are also sturdy, but form fewer bonds in a crystal structure. Sapphire is still very durable compared to most materials you might use on a touch screen. Sapphire glass isn’t just hard to crack, it’s also very difficult to scratch. That’s probably a more common issue with phones than a completely shattered screen.

structure

Does that mean it’s all good news for sapphire glass phones? Well, there is the issue of mass. Sapphire glass has a density of 3.98 g/cm3, which is 67% higher than Gorilla Glass at 2.54 g/cm3. So for the same thickness of glass, the sapphire panel would weigh quite a bit more. Screens actually account for more of the weaight than you’d think — a sapphire screen could add over 100g to the mass of a larger iPhone. So users might be surprised by the heft when they pick up the iPhone 6. Cost might also be a concern, but Apple wouldn’t be going ahead if it didn’t have the supply chain sorted out.

Everyone (or almost everyone) seems happy with the resolution of screens these days, so maybe sapphire glass is the next step. After all, that screen won’t look pretty when it’s covered in a spiderweb of cracks.