In October 2015, the Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge was launched to tackle seven of the toughest challenges in understanding and managing cancer. The second challenge in the series posed the question: is it possible to wipe out the cancers caused by an infection due to Epstein Barr Virus?
The Epstein-Barr virus is a very common viral infection affecting humans. Approximately 19 adults in every 20 carry this virus. However, in most cases, it does not cause any harm to the human body. But, in some people, it can cause cancer.
In fact, it was the first virus that was found to be responsible for causing cancer in humans. Every year, 200,000 new cases of cancer associated with EBV infections are detected.
The most common forms of cancer caused by EBV include lymphoma, cancers affecting the tissue at the back of the throat and nose, and stomach cancer.
The molecules synthesized by EBV can stimulate an uncontrolled division of the infected cells resulting in the development of cancer. However, researchers have found that diet and genetics also play a role in the development of cancer.
During the research, it was found that the incidence of EBV-linked cancers was higher in the China, sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of South-East Asia.
Professor Sir David Lane, the Scientific Director at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, believes that understanding the main trigger behind cancer can help in tackling them in a more efficient ways.
Since some cancers have a known cause, which is EB virus, in this case, they can be prevented by treating the infections successfully before it causes damage to the cells.
The scientists hope that a way to avoid EBV infection would help prevent cancers caused byEpstein-Barr virus and save many lives.
Also, since the virus is known to target the immune cells like lymphocytes, the research is also directed at finding a prevention strategy against EBV-linked cancer by modifying the immune response of the body.
Research related to EBV-linked cancer has been ongoing since more than 50 years. However, Lane believes that the research conducted till now lacked the momentum needed to turn the studies into effective ways to tackle the challenge.
The Grand Challenge might prove to be a significant boost for the efforts in reducing the risk of cancer through the use of immunotherapy.
Last year, NASA announced its three-step plan to land humans on Mars by the 2030s, and as you might expect, it was pretty ambitious. But now an annual report from the US Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) has cast doubt over whether the US space agency will actually be capable of pulling the mission off with an acceptable level of risk.
The main issues centre around NASA’s limited budget, the amount of technology it needs to develop to get to Mars, as well as the tight deadline the space agency has set for itself. More broadly, the ASAP expressed concern over a lack of detail laid out in the agency’s Journey to Mars report, released in October last year.
“Unfortunately, the level of detail in the report … does not really validate whether NASA would be capable of achieving such an ambitious objective in a reasonable time period, with realistically attainable technologies, and with budgetary requirements that are consistent with the current economic environment,” the report explains.
So what is the ASAP? The panel was established in 1968, and its role is to make yearly safety recommendations to the NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden. This year, a large part of that involved looking into the Journey to Mars, which currently is made up of three key stages: Earth Reliant, Proving Ground, and Earth Independent.
The Earth Reliant phase involves a lot of longer missions on board the ISS, “and we’re already well into it,” we reported last year. The second stage involves NASA putting humans into deep space environments that will allow crews to return to Earth in a matter of days, such as the area around the Moon. And, finally, the Earth Independent stage will see humans reach the vicinity of Mars, including the planet’s moons, and will involve missions that last two to three years.
“Although the document does identify a few specific technologies that will be needed to accomplish the overall mission, including Solar Electric Propulsion and a Deep Space Habitat, it lacks a top-level architecture and/or design reference missions,” the report states. “Without these elements, it will be difficult to properly scope and sequence the needed technology development efforts to ensure that they will be available at the appropriate time.”
The report also questions NASA’s reluctance to lead further human missions to the Moon. “It is unclear how NASA will develop low-gravity surface experience and technology without lunar surface experience,” the panel writes.
When asked to go into more detail, ASAP says NASA has replied that it’s too early to set the plans in stone given today’s limited technologies – the hope is that within the next two decades, improvements will be made that will radically change the way we build these types of systems. “They may also be concerned that spelling out a particular plan for reaching Mars today would somehow subject it to criticism by future administrations,” says the report.
But the ASAP questions that logic. “The ASAP believes that a well-designed mission, with anticipated rewards that are expected to outweigh the risks, would go a long way toward gaining the needed support from future administrations, the Congress, and the general public,” they conclude. “If not, then perhaps NASA should be working on a different mission, or at least using a different approach for the current mission … The NASA ‘can-do’ attitude, while commendable, must be guarded against so as not to compromise safety in this case.”
Many negative consequences are linked to growing up poor, and researchers at Washington University St. Louis have identified one more: altered brain connectivity.
Analyzing brain scans of 105 children ages 7 to 12, the researchers found that key structures in the brain are connected differently in poor children than in kids raised in more affluent settings. In particular, the brain’s hippocampus—a structure key to learning, memory and regulation of stress—and the amygdala—which is linked to stress and emotion—connect to other areas of the brain differently in poor children than in kids whose families had higher incomes.
Those connections, viewed using functional MRI scans, were weaker, depending on the degree of poverty to which a child was exposed. The poorer the family, the more likely the hippocampus and amygdala would connect to other brain structures in ways the researchers characterized as weaker. In addition, poorer preschoolers were much more likely to have symptoms of clinical depression when they reached school age.
The study is available online Friday, Jan. 15, in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Our past research has shown that the brain’s anatomy can look different in poor children, with the size of the hippocampus and amygdala frequently altered in kids raised in poverty,” said first author Deanna M. Barch, PhD, chair of Washington University’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine. “In this study, we found that the way those structures connect with the rest of the brain changes in ways we would consider to be less helpful in regulating emotion and stress.”
Those changes in connectivity also are related to a risk of clinical depression. Those in the study who were poor as preschoolers were more likely to be depressed at age 9 or 10.
Previous research from the same group of investigators had identified differences in the volume of gray matter and white matter, and the size and volume of the hippocampus and amygdala. But they also found that many of those changes could be overcome through nurturing from parents. That wasn’t true, however, regarding changes in connectivity identified in the new study.
“Poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children,” said co-investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry and director of Washington University’s Early Emotional Development Program. “Previously, we’ve seen that there may be ways to overcome some brain changes linked to poverty, but we didn’t see anything that reversed the negative changes in connectivity present in poor kids.”
The researchers measured poverty using what’s called an income-to-needs ratio that takes into account a family’s size and annual income. The current federal poverty level is $24,250 for a family of four.
Children raised in poverty tend to have poorer cognitive and educational outcomes and are at higher risk for psychiatric illnesses, including depression and antisocial behaviors. Researchers hypothesize that factors such as stress, adverse environmental exposures—including lead, cigarette smoke and poor nutrition—along with limited educational opportunities, can contribute to problems later in life.
But Barch emphasized that the link between poverty and poor outcomes doesn’t necessarily lock a child into a difficult life.
“Many things can be done to foster brain development and positive emotional development,” she said. “Poverty doesn’t put a child on a predetermined trajectory, but it behooves us to remember that adverse experiences early in life are influencing the development and function of the brain. And if we hope to intervene, we need to do it early so that we can help shift children onto the best possible developmental trajectories.”
Astronaut Scott Kelly has achieved a significant milestone by successfully growing the first flower in space. The orange zinnia, which can be found in the south west of the US, could be seen in full bloom aboard the International Space Station.
Kelly proudly took to Twitter to share his achievement, where he released pictures of the zinnia, along with the captions: “Yes, there are other life forms in space!” and “First ever flower grown in space makes its debut!”
The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) has already managed to grow and eat lettuce. However, this is the first time a flower has been grown and has bloomed and this could have important consequences for the future of space travel.
“The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist for Veggie in May, 2014. “I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario.”
Veggie is a system, which was installed in the ISS in May, which helps the astronauts and cosmonauts to grow plants on board. It uses a system of red, blue and green LED lights to help the flowers to grow.
“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” Massa added. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”
Although the zinnia plant is inedible, it was chosen specifically by the crew because of its properties. It could eventually lead to fruits and vegetables being grown in space to provide some welcomed fresh produce on the ISS.
“Growing zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” Trent Smith, program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said last year.
A developer named Evan Cohen built his own smart mirror in just one weekend, and it looks incredibly futuristic. It displays maps, searches images, and it can even control the lights in your house. He was inspired by two other smart mirror creators named Michael Teeuw and Hannah Mitt. You can check out all of the open source documentation on GitHub.
Has man’s relationship with Earth and all her natural resources fallen out of balance? There are sustainable paths toward abundance on Earth, but has modern man sabotaged this quest by reaching for more power, by falling under the spell of greed?
In a society where attaining more physical stuff and gaining more power is sought after, there will never be enough, and there will always be suffering. In a society where love is a sign of weakness and war machines are a sign of power, there will always be grief, strife and hatred.
Destroying species’ biodiversity and habitats may start with something as simple as pesticides
Harvard University Professor Ed Wilson is deeply concerned that the world’s rich biodiversity is depleting faster than it can be recovered, as modern man turns the earth into a commercial playground. In his studies, he sees that, in mere decades, the world may enter into a time of mass species extinction. He has already documented that the current extinction rate is occurring at least 100 times faster than pre-human times. He believes that more than half of all animals and plants will disappear into oblivion by the end of the century, leading humans down a perpetual spiral of limited resources and massive die-off. One of the ways this is occurring is from corporate monoculture that uses pesticides as a massive band-aid to deal with pest takeover of crops that’s actually caused by ignored nutrient deficiencies in crops. The more the pesticides are applied year after year, the more the ecosystem suffers. For examples, look at recent years’ honey bee colony collapse disorder and the decline in monarch butterfly populations. Both pollinators are needed to ensure the survival of biodiversity of wildflowers and vegetable crops. When these insect decline, so do the plants which they pollinate, and so do the herbivores that depend on the plants for survival.
Professor constructing observatory in commemoration of the 460 most recent species gone extinct
In a recent trip to Britain, professor Wilson said, “We’re making a lonely planet. More than that, if we continue to destroy the biosphere it becomes a very dangerous planet.”
“If you wiped out enough species, all of those say in South America, then that may be a tipping point where you get enough changes globally to begin a downward spiral,” he warned.
He cautions that “A tipping point will come,” pointing to massive loss of habitat for species around the world. “You can rehabilitate a damaged habitat to some extent, but you can’t do that if you have gotten rid of species. We would lose them forever, and I think that would be a tipping point in human existence,” he cautioned.
The 85-year-old Professor Wilson recently broke ground in England, constructing a large Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory for the 460 species of plants and animals that have gone extinct in the past 500 years. These include the dodo and the Tasmanian devil. The commemoration project is being built on the Isle of Portland, England, to foster awareness for a mass “transcendent moral decision to stop species extinction,” as Wilson put it.
Dependence on oil in general is destroying the biosphere, while polluting the quality of Earth’s air, soil and water
What are the most unsustainable practices human engage in today? How can we preserve the dissipating biodiversity on Earth while also thriving as a population going forward into the future?
Should humans be solely focused on advancing economies, or should they look further into how some industries affect the soil, microbes, insects, aquatic life, habitats and entire ecosystems? Ultimately, what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves. Driving fracking chemicals into the ground to extract oil more efficiently may produce harmful effects later. Running hundreds of miles of pipe across the US that leaks oil on a daily basis may have more harmful effects on water and plant life than one would suspect.
From heavy metal pollution of water ways to degradation of soil by pesticides to deforestation, humans may very well be heading toward the tipping point of survival as the biosphere is gutted.
Scientists have found some perfumed products in the home can create unhealthy levels of formaldehyde
The study, which did not mention any specific brands, said some scented candles contained the chemical limonene, which could lead to high levels of formaldehyde in the home.
With the winter winds howling at the door, the thought of battening the hatches and lighting a scented candle is understandably appealing.
But new research suggests scented candles could actually be far more harmful than previously thought, giving off potentially dangerous levels of the toxic substance formaldehyde.
A study carried out by Professor Alastair Lewis of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of York found that an ingredient commonly used to give candles their scent mutates into formaldehyde upon contact with the air.
The ingredient in question is limonene, which is used to give citric-scented candles their aroma. In its unaltered state limonene is considered so safe that it is used to flavour food, as well to give cleaning products and air fresheners a lemony scent.
But limonene also reacts with naturally occurring ozone when released into the air, causing one in every two limonene molecules to mutate into formaldehyde.
While it is already well known that limonene, which occurs naturally in plants, can degrade into formaldehyde, almost every test into its harmful impacts was carried out decades ago.
Professor Lewis’ concerns are therefore two-fold. Firstly the concentrations of limonene he found in scented candles were up to 100 times higher than previously thought.
Secondly homes now let so little energy and air escape that these high concentrations of formaldehyde linger longer and can cause long term harm.
Speaking to the Telegraph he said: “The really surprising thing is just how high the concentrations of some fragrances are now in people’s homes…Fragrance chemicals now completely dominate the inside of most homes.”
“The issue is we don’t really know what the consequences of long-term exposure to formaldehyde are. It is a chemical that is known to harm you long-term,” he added.
The Health Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a possible human carcinogen, as well as being toxic and corrosive. It can also cause nosebleeds, sore throats, coughs and stinging eyes.
Professor Lewis described limonene as a bulk chemical that is commonly found in higher concentrations in cheaper products such as floor cleaners and air fresheners as well as candles.
He said it is most commonly found in offices where cleaning products tend to be “sloshed around” with less care than in the home.
Professor Lewis said the best way to combat the presence of formaldehyde in the home is to open doors and windows after using a scented candle or spraying air freshener.
There is another possible solution, however. Professor Lewis, aided by experts from the BBC, found that household plants could also reduce the amount of formaldehyde in the air, with English ivy, geraniums, lavender and many ferns found to be the best plants to absorb the toxic chemical.
US firm claims its small ‘holistic’ herb packages ‘aid to correct’ endometriosis
Women are being warned about the dangers of a “womb detox” product after health experts said it could cause irritation and even toxic shock syndrome.
US firm called Embrace Pangaea is selling “Herbal Womb Detox Pearls” online, claiming the products “aids to correct” conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts and thrush.
The pearls – small balls of perfumed herbs – are sold in one or two-month packages, with packages on sale for between $85 (£59) and $480 (£335).
Another package – claims to promote “vaginal tightening”, which it says works by “tightening the womb” so the “vaginal canal will shrink”.
The company says the herb pearls are designed to “cleanse the womb and return it to a balance state” by flushing out “toxins”.
In a blogpost, the company said the pearls could be issued in the same way natural solutions like oranges and lemons can be used to counteract a cold.
But a sexual health expert insisted that not only were the “pearls” ineffective, but they could be dangerous.
The ‘herb pearls’ could cause infection as a breeding ground for bacteria
Dr Jen Gunter, a US gynaecologist, wrote a blog post debunking the company’s claims and saying these types of products – and the herbs used in them – have not been tested for vaginal use.
She wrote: “Your uterus isn’t tired or depressed or dirty and your vagina has not misplaced its chakra.
“They want no real help from you unless there is something wrong and they will tell you there is something wrong by bleeding profusely or itching or cramping badly or producing an odour.”
She explained that the vagina was like “a self-cleaning oven” and putting anything like this in the vagina for long periods of time will increase the likelihood of bad bacteria growing and causing infection.
She also said it would increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome – a potentially fatal syndrome caused by bacteria.
It is not possible to reach the womb from the vagina without using force. The cervix (or neck of the womb) is designed to only open during ovulation and childbirth.
Tamieka Atkinson, the owner of Embrace Pangaea, told theIndependent: “Our product is not a drug by any means, and we make no claims of curing, diagnosing, or treating disease.
“Embrace Pangaea is a holistic company that provides high-quality herbal detoxes and information to educate clients about natural living.
“Our Herbal Womb Detox Pearls is simply a natural herbal alternative that women can make a conscious and informed decision in using. With all our clients, we do advise them that we are not medical professionals, and that they should seek assistance from their doctor.
Vagina facials on This Morning
“As for our products doing more harm than good, there are various women that received positive benefits from using our product.”
She said it was “absolutely correct” that the vagina is self-cleaning but said “this self-cleaning ability can get reduced due to a person’s lifestyle”.
Beetroots have been reported to be even more health beneficial than we thought! Namely, these fantastic vegetables can provide numerous health benefits, as they contain highly nutritive contents.
Nutritionists recommend beetroots because they helps in the process of processing the toxins. Therefore, they are extremely useful in the case of digestive issues, as well as some minor liver issues.
Furthermore, beetroots are incredibly high in nitrites. According to numerous studies, nitrites successfully reduce blood pressure. Hence, scientists concluded that the deaths caused by cardiovascular disease would be significantly reduced if people often consume beetroots.
Also, a research made in London found that only a glass of beetroot juice a day dramatically reduces blood pressure. Another research done in Melbourne discovered that the blood pressure is reduced only six hours after you drink half a liter of beet juice.
The endurance of the whole organism is boosted by the consumption of beetroots, as it can reduce the progression of dementia and the growth of tumors – the growth of tumors of the prostate and breast up to 12.5 percent.
By 2050, either fusion or solar energy will begin to entirely replace fossil fuels, Ian Pearson, a futurologist, tells Tech Insider.
“On the other side of 2050 I don’t see why you would need them (fossil fuels),” Pearson, who is also a fellow at the World Academy for Arts and Science, said.
“If you go 100 years from now I think the energy we use will come from either fusion or solar.”
Recent breakthroughs have Pearson especially bullish on nuclear fusion.
Pearson said fusion could become a viable solution as soon as 2035. However, he said it will be a few more decades after that before it becomes a mainstream source of energy.
To support his prediction, Pearson points to progress made by groups like the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, which recently completed theworld’s largest, nuclear fusion machine — the W7-X.
It works by heating a blog of gas, called a plasma, to more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit — resulting in the formation of ions. When the ions collide and fuse together, it creates nuclear fusion energy.
It’s the very same process that’s been fueling our sun for 4.5 billion years, which brings Pearson to his next prediction for future energy sources — solar.
By 2045, it’ll be possible to transmit solar energy from places like the Sahara desert to fuel Europe, Pearson predicts.
What has stopped us so far is not having cables capable of transmitting that energy. By 2045, supercables will run underground and use superconductivity to transmit solar energy to different parts of the world, Pearson said, which will be more effective than putting solar panels in nearby areas.
“It’s stupid using a field in Britain when you can use the same solar panels in the middle of the Sahara and get the same kind of energy — more energy, since it’s sunnier,” he said.
Pearson said he thinks solar energy will be a main kind of energy. He does not see wind energy becoming a big source.
“I think it’s already disappearing quite quickly as an idea,” he said of energy generated by turbines.
Not everyone is betting against wind energy, though.