Do You Gain Weight Really Quickly?

Excess flab or water?

I was in the gym with a client doing some squats the other morning. He was telling me how he was feeling a bit “bloated and wobbly” around the tummy area and had put on half a stone in a matter of days. He lifted up his shirt to prove it, and he looked to me, to be holding water.

Now this chap is quite slim, so I knew a diet is not what he needed. But as I said he was holding water – BIG TIME – he was like a pregnant woman. He knew why, he had been a naughty boy with his eating and drinking and he just wanted me to help him get it off as quickly as it had come on.

What causes water retention?

I’m going to try to explain a complicated process in PLAIN English for you to try and understand how your body works, and ONE of the reasons why carbohydrates affect your weight so much.

Do You Gain Weight Really Quickly?

Now we can hold water for a number of reasons but the main three are:

1. Too many carbs/sugars
2. Not enough water
3. Too much salt

Most people don’t know this but for every gram of carbohydrate or sugar you eat you will need to have 4 grams of water to process it. Biochemistry is my least favourite subject but I have learnt enough to know that every ONE molecule of carbohydrate has FOUR molecules of water attached to it.

So if you eat say, 100g of rice, you need 400g of water for it to “do its thing” within your body. 500g (100g rice + 400g of water) equates to about 1lb of weight. It’s not fat (yet) but it is weight on the scales and inches on your body. That’s why some people who eat carb heavy diets gain so much weight.

Simple weight loss program:

We needed to get rid of the water retention he had and get him back on track. This is what we did:

1. Drank more water, over 2 litres a day for this guy.

2. Reduced carbohydrate/sugar intake, which in this case was alcohol, bread and chocolate.

3. Cut out processed food, as it’s high in all the bad salts which make you hold water like a sponge.

So if you find you have put on a lot of weight quickly (like during the xmas holidays or a binge) this is what you need to do to get rid of the excess water you are holding. The weight you have put on will not be fat it’s carbs and water that are making you swell up like a balloon. If you are hydrated, in general, this doesn’t happen in such a pronounced way, you retain less water.

Your body holds onto water when there is not as much of it about, it’s a physiological response, it’s a protective thing the body does to look after you. In future, amongst other things, this guy could drink more water and try to stay hydrated while he is having his binge and it would not affect him as much.

Meteorite material born in molten spray as embryo planets collided

Asteroids may be a byproduct of planet formation rather than planetary building blocks, according to a recent paper in Nature.

Research done at Purdue University suggests collisions of planetary embryos – the seeds to the planets in our that existed 4 billion years ago – could be the origin of the material that formed asteroids.

When part of an asteroid falls onto the Earth it is called a . For more than a century scientists have studied the tiny bead-like grains of solidified melted rock called “chondrules” found in meteorites, but the origin of these grains remained a mystery, said Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue who was involved in the research.

“Understanding the origin of chondrules is like looking through the keyhole of a door; while we can’t see all that is happening behind the door, it gives us a clear view of one part of the room and a glimpse into the very beginnings of our solar system,” said Melosh, who also is a professor of physics and aerospace engineering. “We’ve found that an model fits extremely well with what we know about this unique material and the early solar system, and this suggests that, contrary to the current opinion among meteorite experts, asteroids are not leftover planet-building material and clumps of chondrules are not prerequisite to a planet.”

Some in the field may not warmly receive the study, said David Minton, an assistant professor of earth, atmospheric and at Purdue who also was involved in the research.

“Chondrule-bearing meteorites have long been thought to be similar to the building blocks of planets,” said Minton, who studies and migration and the dynamics and structure of small bodies. “This study suggests that instead chondrules might actually be byproducts of impacts between objects of an earlier generation, and meteorites may not be representative of the material that made planets.”

The impact model for chondrules also resolves striking similarities observed between chondrules and materials created by impacts on the Earth and the moon, Melosh said.

“Chondrules are identical in size, shape and texture to spherules on Earth and spherules found in the lunar soil,” Melosh said. “The only difference among chondrules, impact spherules and lunar soil particles is in their chemical composition, which fits because they are made of different starting materials from impacts on different bodies.”

Impact spherules are small droplets of solidified molten rock found embedded in rocks on Earth. It is widely accepted that impacts created the spherules, which formed from droplets of molten rock in the plume of debris ejected when large asteroids crashed into the Earth. The droplets condensed and solidified to form the spherules, which then fell back to the surface creating a distinct layer on the Earth, he said.

Melosh is an expert in impact cratering and has studied spherules and developed methods to infer the size and velocity of the responsible asteroid from characteristics of the spherules and the spherule layer.

The method of chondrule creation proposed by the team is slightly different and focuses on a small portion of debris ejected at the earliest moments of impact created by a process called “jetting.” Jetting occurs at the beginning of impact as the surfaces of the two objects meet. The rock caught in the pinch between the two colliding objects is compressed to high pressure and intensely heated, which is responsible for the initial bright flash seen in laboratory impacts. The heat created by jetting is enough to melt rock and create droplets in the ejected debris that could become chondrules, Melosh said.

Impact origin theories proposed in the past had been dismissed because they could not explain the melted material found in chondrules, he said.

In the early solar system, collision speeds were much lower than they are now. The planetary embryos were no larger than the Earth’s moon and their collisions were relatively gentle, occurring at a speed of a few kilometers per second. For the most part, impacts at this speed would blast rock into broken fragments, but not melt it, he said.

“Jetting allows a low-velocity impact to melt a small quantity of the target rock,” Melosh said. “The melted material, but not the broken rock, is then ejected at high speed, such that the molten droplets can escape their parent bodies and depart into space, to later loosely bunch together. Millions of years of additional impacts and other compression mechanisms then created the asteroids and meteorites we know today.”

The debris ejected at high speed escapes the gravitational pull of the planetary embryo, while the majority of the debris plume falls back to the surface. The dust and molten droplets quickly slow to relatively low velocities due to the nebular gas in the early solar system. The gas provides a “soft catch” for the chondrules that allows them to accumulate into smaller bodies that eventually become asteroids, he said.

Chondrules have long been a puzzling feature of meteorites and, if they weren’t observable in meteorites, scientists would likely never have predicted their existence, Minton said.

“Chondrules are incredibly abundant and so they must be telling us something important about what conditions were like in the early solar system when the planets were forming,” he said. “We think collisions were common in the early solar system and that planets are built out of the collisions between smaller bodies, so an impact theory for the origin of chondrules fits well with what we know of how planets formed.”

The study was led by Brandon Johnson, a graduate student under Melosh when the research began, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also is a co-author of the paper.

The NASA-funded research focused on chondrules found in most stony meteorites. Chondrite is the term for meteorites that contain chondrules, and encompasses 92 percent of all meteorites, according to statistics produced by Washington University in St. Louis based on data from the Meteoritical Bulletin Database.

The idea of impact jetting producing chondrules is not entirely new, and a study of the creation of chondrules from jetting of the impacts of centimeter-scale particles was published in 1975. However, this model failed to produce chondrules that would cool at the expected rate or have the correct volatile abundance, Johnson said.

The idea of chondrule formation by jetting during large-scale impacts wasn’t considered earlier because it was unknown if impacts could produce melt droplets that were millimeters in size and had cooling rates similar to the observed chondrules, he said. In addition, it was thought that because jetting only involves a small percentage of the mass of the impacting body it would not be able to produce the abundance of chondrules seen in meteorites.

“Chondrules are some of the earliest solar system solids and clearly contain important information about conditions in the nascent solar system,” Johnson said. “It is no surprise that these enigmatic particles have intrigued countless scientists over more than a century. What had been thought of as the missing pieces of an impact theory fall into place in this model.”

The team’s model builds on an earlier study of impact jetting by Johnson, Melosh and Timothy Bowling, a graduate student in , atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue.

Minton created a computer simulation based on accepted hypotheses of solar system development that follows the formation and growth of planets and estimates the location, timing, sizes and velocities of chondrule-forming impacts. He used the simulation to model the early stage of planetary formation through the accumulation of smaller bodies called planetesimals.

The team also calculated the cooling rates of chondrules produced by the impacts and found that they matched the slow cooling that has been determined from analysis of the textures of chondrules in meteorites, Melosh said.

A paper detailing their methods and results will be published in an upcoming issue of Nature and will be made available online Thursday (Jan. 15).

The next step in the research may be to explore how this chondrule formation mechanism fits into a new model for the early stages of planet formation called “pebble accretion,” in which the effect of gas drag from the protoplanetary nebula is important, Minton said.

A twist on planetary origins: Meteorites were byproducts of planetary formation, not building blocks .

Meteors that have crashed to Earth have long been regarded as relics of the early solar system. These craggy chunks of metal and rock are studded with chondrules — tiny, glassy, spherical grains that were once molten droplets. Scientists have thought that chondrules represent early kernels of terrestrial planets: As the solar system started to coalesce, these molten droplets collided with bits of gas and dust to form larger planetary precursors. However, researchers have now found that chondrules may have played less of a fundamental role. Based on computer simulations, the group concludes that chondrules were not building blocks, but rather byproducts of a violent and messy planetary process.
An artist’s rendering of a protoplanetary impact. Early in the impact, molten jetted material is ejected at a high velocity and breaks up to form chondrules, the millimeter-scale, formerly molten droplets found in most meteorites. These droplets cool and solidify over hours to days.

Meteors that have crashed to Earth have long been regarded as relics of the early solar system. These craggy chunks of metal and rock are studded with chondrules — tiny, glassy, spherical grains that were once molten droplets. Scientists have thought that chondrules represent early kernels of terrestrial planets: As the solar system started to coalesce, these molten droplets collided with bits of gas and dust to form larger planetary precursors.

However, researchers at MIT and Purdue University have now found that chondrules may have played less of a fundamental role. Based on computer simulations, the group concludes that chondrules were not building blocks, but rather byproducts of a violent and messy planetary process.

The team found that bodies as large as the moon likely existed well before chondrules came on the scene. In fact, the researchers found that chondrules were most likely created by the collision of such moon-sized planetary embryos: These bodies smashed together with such violent force that they melted a fraction of their material, and shot a molten plume out into the solar nebula. Residual droplets would eventually cool to form chondrules, which in turn attached to larger bodies — some of which would eventually impact Earth, to be preserved as meteorites.

Brandon Johnson, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says the findings revise one of the earliest chapters of the solar system.

“This tells us that meteorites aren’t actually representative of the material that formed planets — they’re these smaller fractions of material that are the byproduct of planet formation,” Johnson says. “But it also tells us the early solar system was more violent than we expected: You had these massive sprays of molten material getting ejected out from these really big impacts. It’s an extreme process.”

Johnson and his colleagues, including Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and MIT’s vice president for research, have published their results this week in the journal Nature.

High-velocity molten rock

To get a better sense of the role of chondrules in a fledgling solar system, the researchers first simulated collisions between protoplanets — rocky bodies between the size of an asteroid and the moon. The team modeled all the different types of impacts that might occur in an early solar system, including their location, timing, size, and velocity. They found that bodies the size of the moon formed relatively quickly, within the first 10,000 years, before chondrules were thought to have appeared.

Johnson then used another model to determine the type of collision that could melt and eject molten material. From these simulations, he determined that a collision at a velocity of 2.5 kilometers per second would be forceful enough to produce a plume of melt that is ejected out into space — a phenomenon known as impact jetting.

“Once the two bodies collide, a very small amount of material is shocked up to high temperature, to the point where it can melt,” Johnson says. “Then this really hot material shoots out from the collision point.”

The team then estimated the number of impact-jetting collisions that likely occurred in a solar system’s first 5 million years — the period of time during which it’s believed that chondrules first appeared. From these results, Johnson and his team found that such collisions would have produced enough chondrules in the asteroid belt region to explain the number that have been detected in meteorites today.

Falling into place

To go a step further, the researchers ran a third simulation to calculate chondrules’ cooling rate. Previous experiments in the lab have shown that chondrules cool down at a rate of 10 to 1,000 kelvins per hour — a rate that would produce the texture of chondrules seen in meteorites. Johnson and his colleagues used a radiative transfer model to simulate the impact conditions required to produce such a cooling rate. They found that bodies colliding at 2.5 kilometers per second would indeed produce molten droplets that, ejected into space, would cool at 10 to 1,000 kelvins per hour.

“Then I had this ‘Eureka!’ moment where I realized that jetting during these really big impacts could possibly explain the formation of chondrules,” Johnson says. “It all fell into place.”

Going forward, Johnson plans to look into the effects of other types of impacts. The group has so far modeled vertical impacts — bodies colliding straight-on. Johnson predicts that oblique impacts, or collisions occurring at an angle, may be even more efficient at producing molten plumes of chondrules. He also hopes to explore what happens to chondrules once they are launched into the solar nebula.

“Chondrules were long viewed as planetary building blocks,” Zuber notes. “It’s ironic that they now appear to be the remnants of early protoplanetary collisions.”

Fred Ciesla, associate professor of planetary science at the University of Chicago, says the findings may reclassify chondrites, a class of meteorites that are thought to be examples of the original material from which planets formed.

“This would be a major shift in how people think about our solar system,” says Ciesla, who did not contribute to the research. “If this finding is correct, then it would suggest that chondrites are not good analogs for the building blocks of the Earth and other planets. Meteorites as a whole are still important clues about what processes occurred during the formation of the Solar System, but which ones are the best analogs for what the planets were made out of would change.”

This research was funded in part by NASA.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Jennifer Chu. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Brandon C. Johnson, David A. Minton, H. J. Melosh & Maria T. Zuber. Impact jetting as the origin of chondrules. Nature, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nature14105

New research points way to less vulnerable computer memory

Have you ever been working on a document on your computer and it suddenly crashes? Maybe the power goes out or there’s a software glitch that causes it to freeze and you lose everything you’ve been working on for the past hour. New research published tomorrow in the journal Nature Communications might eventually lead to computers and other electronic devices that don’t have this vulnerability.

Computers have two basic ways of storing information: RAM, which can be written and read quickly, but is volatile (meaning when the power is off, the information is lost) and disc storage, which is slow to read and write, but is non-volatile. Your computer’s working memory has to be fast to process your typing or your Skype call in real time. But you pay a price in vulnerability to . For more than 20 years, scientists and engineers have sought to build a new type of electronic component, called a ferroelectric field effect transistor (FeFET), with the best properties of each type of data storage: quickly accessible and non-volatile.

Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Arizona State University have taken a big step closer to building a FeFET by creating one of its three components, called a gate. The gate is the part that is either open or closed, corresponding to the 0s and 1s in a computer’s binary language. Unlike a gate in the kinds of transistors currently used in RAM, this gate retains its state even when no power is applied.

Computers and other with memories built on FeFETs would not only be less vulnerable to power loss, they would no longer take a minute or two to boot up when you turn them on. They would be instantly ready for work. Other possible applications include ultrahigh density memory, photovoltaic cells and reconfigurable logic, in which an entire circuit can be reprogrammed for a different function without changing the hardware.

The researchers used a technology called , which involves heating up elements inside a vacuum chamber so that they condense onto a surface, to grow a layer of on a block of germanium. Barium titanate is ferroelectric, meaning that when it experiences an electric field, its atoms become orientated in a particular direction. In this case, the orientation of its atoms can be either up or down, a property that would make it useful for building transistor gates.

“This is the first time anyone has shown the ferroelectric field effect in a solid state device,” says Alexander Demkov, physics professor at UT Austin and co-author of the paper.

Before they built the structure, the team developed a computer model that ran on the supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to guide them in designing a crystal structure with the properties they wanted.

Patrick Ponath, a PhD candidate at UT Austin and first author of the paper, developed the technique for creating the new, layered structure.

What Ponath, Demkov and their colleagues have created is a two-dimensional layered structure. To be useful, they need to create an actual transistor with three-dimensional structure and not just a gate, but the other two components: a source and a drain. That will be a much more difficult engineering feat. So, for now, the race to build a true FeFET continues.

Adenocarcinoma of Lung May Spread Through Airways Interview with:
Joao R. Inacio, MD

Cardiothoracic Radiologist Director Visiting Professor Program
Assistant Professor of Radiology, University of Ottawa
Medical Imaging, The Ottawa Hospital Ottawa, ON

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Inacio: Lung cancer is the most common and most lethal cancer worldwide. Its prognosis remains poor with a 5-year survival rate of 6–18%. Adenocarcinoma has surpassed squamous cell carcinoma as the leading histologic type. The presence of metastases carries the worst prognosis in lung cancer and is the most important in determining staging and management. Hematogenous spread (i.e., carried by blood) is the most common mechanism of intrapulmonary metastasis. Cumulative evidence suggests that intrapulmonary aerogenous spread may exist and is under recognized.

Deriving from our clinical experience, we performed a literature review that supports the hypothesis that lung cancer, particularly adenocarcinoma, may spread through the airways. With aerogenous metastases, it has been postulated that cancer cells growing along the alveolar septa at the primary site detach from the basal membrane, spread through the airways and re-attach and grow along alveolar septa away from the primary focus.

Radiology-pathology correlation studies, using Chest Computed Tomography (CT), have documented the radiological evolution from focal adenocarcinoma to multifocal airspace disease and demonstrated cytologic and histologic findings supportive of aerogenous spread.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Inacio: The putative occurrence of intrapulmonary aerogenous metastasis of lung cancer has staging, management, and prognostic implications.

This phenomenon has been described in primary lung adenocarcinoma, particularly those with invasive mucinous, papillary and micro-papillary subtypes.

There are CT features that are suggestive of aerogenous spread, specifically persistent centrilobular nodules and branching opacities (tree-in-bud nodules). Nodules tend to be clustered and invariably grow on serial imaging, in some cases progressing to confluent airspace disease. When these features are found remote from a dominant lung lesion proven to be an adenocarcinoma, and/or in patients with a prior history of treated lung adenocarcinoma, intrapulmonary aerogenous spread should be suspected.

Importantly, aerogenous metastases must be distinguished from multiple synchronous lesions in the spectrum of lung adenocarcinoma. A multidisciplinary approach, including clinicians, radiologists, thoracic surgeons, pathologists and geneticists is required to guide diagnosis and treatment in these cases. Genomic profiling may be beneficial in the future to prove monoclonality when aerogenous metastases are suspected.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Inacio: There is a need for prospective studies combining imaging, pathology and molecular studies to confirm the presence of this phenomenon and elucidate its impact on the prognosis of lung cancer patients.

Future therapies might attempt to address some of the unique aspects of aerogenous dissemination. For instance, drugs targeting mechanisms involved in cancer cell shedding, anchorage-independent survival, and re-attachment in distant alveoli may hold promise. One could hypothesize inhalational therapy as a potential treatment to target the intra-alveolar nature of aerogenous metastases. K-Ras mutations and infiltration of tumor tissue by macrophages and neutrophils have been implicated in the pathogenesis of mucinous adenocarcinoma and aerogenous metastases. Pharmacologic agents modulating K-Ras activation and tumor-associated leukocyte interaction could prove beneficial in the prevention of aerogenous spread.

Man Awakens After 12 Years in a ‘Vegetative State,’ What He Says Will Blow Your Mind .


Martin Pistorious was just 12 years old when the doctors diagnosed him with what they believed was Cryptococci Meningitis. He eventually deteriorated into a vegetable-like state, losing his fine motor skills along with his “normal” life.

His parents were heartbroken after the doctors told them to bring him home to die. They brought him home, but he didn’t pass away. His parents cared for him without a single sign of improvement for over a decade.

Excerpts from Life News:

According to NPR news, his father would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, get him dressed, load him in the car, take him to the special care center where he’d leave him. Rodney said, “Eight hours later, I’d pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set my alarm for two hours so that I’d wake up to turn him so that he didn’t get bedsores.”

For twelve years, Martin’s family cared for him without any sign that he was improving. Joan started to despair and even told her son, “I hope you die.”

Today she acknowledges that was a horrible thing to say but says she just wanted some sort of relief. Remarkably, now Martin is 39-years-old and says he was totally aware of everything going on around him.

Today, Martin can talk about his experience, and he revealed something incredibly chilling. He wasn’t so vegetable like after all. He was trapped in a body that wouldn’t cooperate.

He said, “Yes, I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up. I was aware of everything, just like any normal person. Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that — totally alone.”

Unfortunately, Martin was even aware of his mother’s harsh words and began believing that no one would ever love him. He said, “You don’t really think about anything. You simply exist. It’s a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish.”

Martin spent most of those days at a care center where his caregivers played Barney reruns over and over again. They did this because they believed he was a vegetable too. He said, “I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney.”

But eventually, Martin became frustrated with being trapped in his own body and started to try and take control of his life. He learned to tell time by the rising and setting of the sun and would reframe even the ugliest of thoughts that haunted him like his mother’s wish for him to die. “As time passed, I gradually learned to understand my mother’s desperation. Every time she looked at me, she could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much,” said Martin.

Now Martin is married and has penned a memoire about his life. He has gained control of his body and in his book Ghost Boy, he writes, “My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible—the ghost boy.”

This story especially appealed to me because I grew up with a member of my family in a similar situation. My youngest sister was born with cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, talk or feed herself on her own. She’s trapped in a body that won’t work. While she’s far from a “vegetable-like” state, I know she has experienced the same things as Martin. When you can’t communicate or control your muscle movements to show people you are listening, you can feel totally alone. I’ve witnessed my sister’s own frustration. Sometimes the people that are thought to know you the best (family) have the hardest time communicating and connecting.

All life is precious. When I was a child, I was frustrated with people for the way they gawked at my sister. They’d stare at her like some kind of alien or worse, pretend she couldn’t hear or understand the hurtful things they were saying.

We should all be cognizant of the disabled children and adults in our community. No matter how bad they look, they might just be another lonely soul trapped inside a body that refuses to cooperate with their mind, will and emotions.

Martin’s life is a testament to that.

Understanding the personalities of bacteria

Bacteria are as individual as people, according to new research by Professor Peter Young and his team in the Department of Biology at the University of York. Bacteria are essential to health, agriculture and the environment, and new research tools are starting to shed more light on them.

The York team dug up a square metre of roadside verge on the University campus in search of a bacterium called Rhizobium leguminosarum. The name means “root dweller of the legumes”, and these bacteria are natural fertilizer factories that extract nitrogen from the air and make it available to peas, beans, clover and their wild relatives.

In the laboratory, the team extracted the bacteria from the plant roots and established 72 separate strains. They determined the DNA sequence of the genome of each strain. Their research, published today in Open Biology, shows that each of those 72 strains is unique – each has different and is capable of growing on different food sources.

People are unique because each of us inherits half our genes from our mother and half from our father, but bacteria reproduce by binary fission, making two identical daughters. What are good at, though, is passing packages of genes from one cell to another. It is this process of horizontal gene transfer that made every rhizobium unique.

“We can think of the as having two parts,” says Professor Young. “The core genome does the basic housekeeping and is much the same in all members of the species, while the accessory genome has packages of genes that are not essential to the operation of the cell, but can be very useful in coping with aspects of the real world.

“Bacteria are like smartphones. Each phone comes out of the factory with standard hardware and operating system (core genome), but gains a unique combination of capabilities through apps (accessory genes) downloaded through the internet (by ).”

We increasingly recognise the vital roles played by bacterial communities, such as those in our gut or on the roots of plants. Many researchers have used variation in a standard core gene to draw up lists of the species in a community, but the new research shows that a list of names is not sufficient.

“There may be 300 people called Baker in your city, but you can’t assume that there are 300 people baking bread,” explains Professor Young.

It is possible, with more sequencing effort, to look at all the genes in a bacterial community – an approach called “metagenomics” – but to understand how they are functioning we also need to know which genes occur together in the same bacterium. This new study helps us to understand the way in which bacterial genomes are assembled.

Read more at:

New AIDS Vaccine Comes in a Capsule

Wanted: Volunteers to test an experimental new AIDS vaccine that is needle-free. The catch? You have to be willing to stay locked up in your room for 12 days.

The new vaccine comes in a capsule and it’s made using a common cold virus called an adenovirus, genetically engineered with a tiny piece of the AIDS virus.

It’s only a very early stage experiment, meant to show the vaccine is safe. However, if it is, it could be a start not only towards a much-needed vaccine against the AIDS virus, but needle-free vaccines against many different infections.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center are testing it in their specially designed facility usually used to test live influenza vaccines. The trial, which started Tuesday, is being paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’ve had success doing this before. The facility is very nice,” says Dr. John Treanor, a vaccine expert at Rochester who’s helping lead the study.

“We try and make sure they eat well and they are entertained. But they do have to stay in there for the 12 days.”

“We have a strong suspicion that it is going to be safe.”

The reason is that the adenovirus used to make the vaccine is “alive” – it can replicate and presumably will spread in the digestive tract. Tests in monkeys show it should be safe, but the researchers are taking extra care because this particular strain, called adenovirus 26, only lives well in humans.

It’s been severely weakened, but so-called live vaccines tend to prompt a stronger immune response than “killed” vaccines.

“We have a strong suspicion that it is going to be safe. It is an attenuated virus,” said Dr. Dan Barouch of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who helped design the vaccine. A similar oral vaccinehas been given to hundreds of thousands of young military recruits to protect them against two other common old viruses – adenovirus 4 and 7 – that can cause severe outbreaks on bases.

And scientists hope that using the oral route will activate the immune system via the digestive tract – something that’s worked well before with, for instance, polio virus.

Making an AIDS vaccine has been one of the hardest problems facing medical science. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS has infected nearly 78 million people. About 39 million have died, according to the World Health Organization.

New Aids vaccine trial launched in UK, Africa

In the United States, more than 1.2 million people have HIV, and about 50,000 people are newly infected each year. Medications can keep infected people healthy, but there is no cure. Some of the same drugs can also protect people against infection but they must be taken daily, unlike a vaccine.

Doctors have been working to make a vaccine against HIV for decades, but while they’ve had partial successes, nothing has worked as well as vaccines against measles or smallpox.

 HIV-infected H9 T cell

It’s partly because HIV attacks the very immune cells that are usually mobilized by a vaccine, and partly because the virus cloaks itself in an ever-changing envelope.

The new vaccine was designed using a computer program that’s picked out a batch of these envelope protein disguises from HIV around the world. The hope is that it will help the immune system recognize and respond to a range of disguised HIV proteins.

As the harmless adenovirus spreads, it should activate an immune response. The immune system cells will also “see” the attached bit of HIV and, the researchers hope, react against any HIV virus should the vaccinated person ever be exposed.

“An oral vaccine would be highly desirable, particularly in the developing world.”

Other vaccines have been made against HIV using killed adenovirus. They haven’t worked too well. Barouch hopes that using a live one will work better.

Another reason vaccines made using adenoviruses have not always worked well is because the viruses are so common. People already often have an immune response to them, so the vaccines don’t have time to take hold in the body.

Adenovirus 26, however, is very rare, Treanor says. “It’s an unusual serotype of human adenovirus,” he told NBC News. It has only infected about 5 percent of the population, he said, and doesn’t make people sick. “It does not appear to be associated with any detectable symptoms,” he said.

That suggests the vaccine, if it protects against HIV, could be widely deployed.

And if the capsule form works, so much the better. “On a practical basis, an oral vaccine would be highly desirable, particularly in the developing world,” Treanor said.

And Barouch says there’s no reason a similar vaccine design couldn’t be used to make immunizations-in-a-pill against a range of bacteria and viruses.

Google’s Deep Mind Plans to Create a Computer Able to Program Itself

British startup artificial intelligence company Deep Mind, which was bought by Google for $400 million in January this year, is working on the development of a computer that will be so intelligent it will be capable of programming itself.

It seems that Google has been constantly accelerating its research efforts in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In September, the company teamed up with scientists of the University of California led by professor John Martinis to develop super-fast quantum computer chips based on the human brain. The aim is to make machines more ‘human’, as the chips would enhance their intuitive decision making skills and predictive ability.

As for implementing its ambitious plans for creating a self-programming computer, Google recently started partnership with two AI research teams of the Oxford University. The research will be aimed to help machines better understand their users by improving visual recognition systems and natural language processing.

The computer, called «Neural Turing Machine», is a combination of the way a conventional computer works with the way the human brain works. In particular, the computer mimics the short-time memory of the human brain, which allows it to learn when storing new memories and then use them to perform logical tasks other than those for which it has been initially programmed.

We have introduced the Neural Turing Machine, a neural network architecture that takes inspiration from both models of biological working memory and the design of digital computers,” the research team wrote.

According to the results of the first tests, the neural network computer can successfully create its own simple programming algorithms, such as copying, sorting, and recalling, and then use them to make classifications and data correlations. “The combined system is analogous to a Turing Machine or Von Neumann architecture but is differentiable end-toend, allowing it to be efficiently trained with gradient descent,” wrote the researchers.

However, some express their concerns about the accelerating progress in artificial intelligence. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX and TeslaMotors, believes that smart machines can be more dangerous than even nuclear weapons in case they become too autonomous. He referred to Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, known for his theory that we are living in a computer simulation, who wrote about the potential threats that the artificial intelligence may pose to humanity in his book «Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies».

Recognizing the potential dangers, Google says that they’ve set up a special ethics board to oversee all company’s research in the field of artificial intelligence, which will put a series of restrictive rules on the use of this technology.

What do you think?

They see flow signals: Researchers identify nature of ‘sixth sense’ in fish

A team of scientists has identified how a “sixth sense” in fish allows them to detect flows of water, which helps resolve a long-standing mystery about how these aquatic creatures respond to their environment.
It is well known that fish respond to changes in their fluid environment. These include avoiding obstacles, reducing swimming effort by slaloming between vortices, or whirlpools, and tracking changes in water flow left by prey — even without the aid of vision.

A team of scientists has identified how a “sixth sense” in fish allows them to detect flows of water, which helps resolve a long-standing mystery about how these aquatic creatures respond to their environment. Their findings, which appear in the journal Physical Review Letters, illustrate how sensory systems evolve in accordance with physical principles while also offering a framework for understanding how sensory networks are structured.

“We identified a unique layout of flow sensors on the surface of fish that is nearly universal across species, and our research asks why this is so,” explains Leif Ristroph, an assistant professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and one of the study’s authors. “The network of these sensors is like a ‘hydrodynamic antenna’ that allows them to retrieve signals about the flow of water and use this information in different behaviors.”

The study’s other authors were James Liao, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, and Jun Zhang, a professor of physics and mathematics at NYU and NYU Shanghai.

It is well known that fish respond to changes in their fluid environment. These include avoiding obstacles, reducing swimming effort by slaloming between vortices, or whirlpools, and tracking changes in water flow left by prey — even without the aid of vision.

To explore how fish exploit flow information, the research team focused on a fish’s “lateral line” — a system of sensory organs known to detect both movement and vibration in the water that surrounds them — with particular consideration to the line’s sensory-laden canals that open to the environment through a series of pores. They specifically focused on the placement of these canals along the body, noting that their location can help explain how a fish’s sixth sense functions. For instance, the concentration of these canals at the heads of blind cave fish seems well-suited for detecting obstacles.

To test their theory, the researchers created a plastic model of a rainbow trout that replicated the location of the fish’s canals and included illuminated markers used to detect the speed of surrounding water.

In their experiments, the model fish was put through a series of tests the replicated real- life aquatic conditions — changes in water flow that altered water pressure or mimicked the presence of “prey” — and examined where the canals were located in relation to strongest changes in water pressure.

Their results showed that, as predicted, the canal system is concentrated at locations on the body wherever strong variations in pressure occur. Just as the shape of a TV or radio antenna is designed to detect electromagnetic signals, the fish’s canal system is like an antenna laid out on the body surface and configured to be sensitive to pressure changes. The team’s use of finely detailed models — developed with the help of a taxidermist who made custom molds from real trout — made it possible to record this data for the first time.

“You can’t put pressure sensors on a live fish and have it behave normally,” Liao says. “This was a creative way to use engineering and physics techniques to answer biological questions you can’t answer otherwise.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Leif Ristroph, James C. Liao, Jun Zhang. Lateral Line Layout Correlates with the Differential Hydrodynamic Pressure on Swimming Fish. Physical Review Letters, 2015; 114 (1) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.018102