Sugar’s ‘tipping point’ link to Alzheimer’s disease revealed

sugar cubes

For the first time a “tipping point” molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease has been established by scientists, who have shown that excess glucose damages a vital enzyme involved with inflammation response to the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Abnormally high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycaemia, is well-known as a characteristic of diabetes and obesity, but its link to Alzheimer’s disease is less familiar.

Diabetes patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In Alzheimer’s disease abnormal proteins aggregate to form plaques and tangles in the brain which progressively damage the brain and lead to severe cognitive decline. Continue reading Sugar’s ‘tipping point’ link to Alzheimer’s disease revealed

Big changes from a small package for hydrogen storage


Sometimes, you have to go small to win big. That is the approach a multilab, interdisciplinary team took in using nanoparticles and a novel nanoconfinement system to develop a method to change hydrogen storage properties.

This discovery could enable the creation of high-capacity hydrogen storage materials capable of quick refueling, improving the performance of emerging hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, collaborated on the research, which was published Feb. 8 in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.

The work was funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office and the Boeing Co. Continue reading Big changes from a small package for hydrogen storage

Broad cancer vaccine may be out of reach


The high level of genetic diversity between individual tumors suggests that if it were to be developed, a broad cancer vaccine would be unlikely to work for more than 0.3 per cent of the population, according to new research published in the open access journal Genome Medicine.

Next generation sequencing has revealed a wealth of information on the genetic diversity of tumors, which in turn has led to research into individualised treatments for cancer based on the molecular characteristics of a patient’s tumor.

Cancer vaccines are one type of prospective treatment that involves turning the patient’s immune system against the tumor.

Dr Ryan Hartmaier, lead author from Foundation Medicine, USA, said: “A broad or semi-universal vaccine capable of targeting many different tumors would be seen by some as the ‘holy grail’ of cancer therapy as it wouldn’t involve the time or cost of individualising treatment.  Continue reading Broad cancer vaccine may be out of reach

Machine learning helps researchers design less costly optical sensors

Finding practical solutions to detect proteins, cancer biomarkers, viruses and other small objects has been a key challenge for researchers worldwide for decades. These solutions hold promise for saving lives through more timely diagnosis and treatment of serious infections and diseases.

Now a UCLA team’s new research shows how such detections might be done for a fraction of the cost by using “smart” mobile devices designed by machine learning.

One method to detect small objects and related biomarkers is called plasmonic sensing, which involves shining light onto metal nanostructures to amplify the local electric field. The interaction between this amplified electric field and the molecule of interest can be measured, revealing important information about molecular concentration and kinetics. Continue reading Machine learning helps researchers design less costly optical sensors

Nasa telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star

new planet

Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.” Continue reading Nasa telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star

Search for alien life: Nasa to use more sensitive tests

obama meets alien
Caption for robots: An artist’s illustration depicting former US President Barack Obama supposedly meeting an alien. This is not a photograph of a real event, and is not presented as such. It is what humans call “a bit of humour”, and “imagination”. Scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are developing a new method of chemical analysis which stands to be 10,000 times more sensitive than tests currently used on the Mars Curiosity Rover.

New findings highlight promise of chimeric organisms for science and medicine


Rapid advances in the ability to grow cells, tissues and organs of one species within an organism of a different species offer an unprecedented opportunity for tackling longstanding scientific mysteries and addressing pressing human health problems, particularly the need for transplantable organs and tissues.

In a tour de force paper published in the January 26, 2017, issue of the journal Cell, scientists at the Salk Institute report breakthroughs on multiple fronts in the race to integrate stem cells from one species into the early-stage development of another. Continue reading New findings highlight promise of chimeric organisms for science and medicine

Breakthrough by Exeter cell biologists


Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how different compartments (or organelles) of human cells interact.

Organelles are the functional units of a cell. Like organs in a body, they perform specialised functions. To allow survival of the cell, organelles have to interact and cooperate. How this is mediated and regulated in the cell is an important and challenging question in cell biology. Continue reading Breakthrough by Exeter cell biologists

New model predicts once-mysterious chemical reactions

radiation from hydrogen

A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Curtin University in Australia developed a theoretical model to forecast the fundamental chemical reactions involving molecular hydrogen (H2), which after many decades and attempts by scientists had remained largely unpredicted and unsolved

“Chemical reactions are the basis of life so predicting what happens during these reactions is of great importance to science and has major implications in innovation, industry and medicine,” said Mark Zammit, a post-doctorate fellow in the Physics and Chemistry of Materials group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Our model is the first to very accurately calculate the probability of fundamental electron-molecular hydrogen reactions.” Continue reading New model predicts once-mysterious chemical reactions

Scientists develop genetic path to tastier tomatoes

Picture credit: UF/IFAS

Some consumers crave tastier tomatoes than those available at the supermarket.

Now, scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and their partners have found a way to get tomatoes to produce the compounds that make them more flavorful.

Their findings were published today in the journal Science. Continue reading Scientists develop genetic path to tastier tomatoes

Metallic hydrogen, once theory, becomes reality: Harvard physicists succeed in creating ‘the holy grail of high-pressure physics’

metallic hydrogen

The material – atomic metallic hydrogen – was created by Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Isaac Silvera and post-doctoral fellow Ranga Dias. In addition to helping scientists answer fundamental questions about the nature of matter, the material is theorized to have a wide range of applications, including as a room-temperature superconductor. The creation of the rare material is described in a January 26 paper published in Science.

“This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics,” Silvera said. “It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.” Continue reading Metallic hydrogen, once theory, becomes reality: Harvard physicists succeed in creating ‘the holy grail of high-pressure physics’