New hope for powdery mildew resistant barley

New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes a year. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist.”Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.”In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore even more important.”The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.”Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material — a papillae — around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.”It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.”It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.”We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Ban asbestos! It kills! 5 more sleeps until I fly to Washington for ADAO’s 10th annual Asbestos Conference!

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is proud to announce that Janelle Bedel, Heather Von St James, and Lou Williams will be recognized with the 2014 Alan Reinstein award on April 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C. ADAO is deeply grateful to each of these women for their dedication and commitment to education, advocacy, and support to patients and families around the world.The above picture is of Heather and myself who will be both attending this conference.Sadly our brave and young warrior Janelle lost her battle with mesothelioma. She was a true fighter to the end and dearly loved by all. Her father will attending the conference to receive her well deserved award. Janelle was an inspiration to all – her courage and determination to make a difference will…

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Oncology results and a day in the city of Melbourne

Last Friday I had my blood tests and saw my oncologist Dr Allan Zimet on Tuesday 25 March 2014 for results and the okay to fly to Washington for the annual ADAO Asbestos Conference.Allan gave me the green light to fly with a letter to show Qantas airlines just in case they were to question my flying given that I have advanced mesothelioma.My bloods were fine and I am to have a scan upon my return from America, then see Allan end of April for results.I remember last year when I flew to the ADAO Asbestos Conference in Washington with Bernie Banton Foundation as I had to have a scan prior to going. It was very much touch and go as to whether I would be …

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Regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk irrespective of age

Practising sport for more than an hour day reduces the risk of contracting breast cancer, and this applies to women of any age and any weight, and also unaffected by geographical location, according to research presented to the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9). Compared with the least active women, those with the highest level of physical activity reduced their risk of breast cancer by 12%, researchers say.Professor Mathieu Boniol, Research Director at the International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, recently reported the results of a meta-analysis of 37 studies published between 1987 and 2013, representing over four million women. “These are all the studies looking at the relationship between physical exercise and breast cancer risk that have been published to date, so we are confident that the results of our analysis are robust,” he said.Although the results varied according to tumour type, the overall message was encouraging, the researchers say. However, in women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the protective effect of exercise seemed to be cancelled out. But increased awareness of the side effects of HRT means that its use is decreasing in a number of countries, and this means that the beneficial effects of activity will most likely grow in the years to come. “Whether or not this will be the case is an interesting question and deserves to be followed up at a later date,” Prof Boniol said.Physical activity is known to have a protective role in other cancers, as well as in disorders such as cardiovascular disease. Although the mechanisms for its effect are unclear, the results are largely independent of body mass index (BMI), so the effect must be due to more than weight control. And the age at which sporting activity starts also appears to be immaterial; the researchers found no indication that breast cancer risk would decrease only when physical activity started at a young age.”Adding breast cancer, including its aggressive types, to the list of diseases that can be prevented by physical activity should encourage the development of cities that foster sport by becoming bike and walk-friendly, the creation of new sports facilities, and the promotion of exercise through education campaigns,” said Prof Boniol. “This is a low cost, simple strategy to reduce the risk of a disease that currently has a very high cost, both to healthcare systems and to patients and their families. It is good news both for individuals and for policy makers.”Dr Hilary Dobson, chair of EBCC-9’s national organising committee and who is Clinical Lead of the West of Scotland Breast Screening Service and the Lead Clinician of the West of Scotland Cancer Advisory Network (WoSCAN), commented: “These findings are important for all women, irrespective of their age and weight. …

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Meet your match: Using algorithms to spark collaboration between scientists

Speed dating, in which potential lovers size each other up in brief 10 minute encounters before moving on to the next person, can be an awkward and time-wasting affair. Finding the perfect research partnership is often just as tough. Speed dating-style techniques are increasingly used at academics conferences, but can be equally frustrating — with busy academics being pushed into too many pointless encounters.But now a group of scientists led by geneticist Rafael Carazo Salas have constructed a system that could revolutionise conference speed dating — by treating scientists like genes.Using mathematical algorithms, the team created a method of matching conference-goers according to pre-set criteria, bringing about unforeseen collaboration opportunities while also enabling “would-like-to-meet” match-ups across disciplines and knowledge areas. The results have been recently published in the open-access journal eLife.Funded by the Royal Society to run a small-scale satellite conference on cell polarity, the researchers wanted to find a way to not only break the ice between scientists who did not know each other, but also to “break the heat” — to encourage big name scientists to step outside of their usual small circle, and mix with up-and-coming scientists.”We wanted to avoid the usual pattern that happens at conferences, especially at interdisciplinary meetings, of like sticking with like. Then we came up with an idea — what if we treated the delegates like we treat genes, and used mathematical algorithms to build a connectivity picture that could enable new links to be made?” said Carazo Salas, from the Gurdon Institute and Genetics Department of Cambridge University, who co-developed the technique with colleagues Federico Vaggi and Attila Csikasz-Nagy from Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy.In the lead-up to the conference, delegates were asked to submit information about their research areas and disciplines and also to come up with a ‘wish list’ of specialist areas that they would like to know more about.”The conference started in a predictable way. After the first couple of talks, questions came entirely from people in the first few rows. We then did a brief presentation about the “speed dating” session that was about to happen. People’s eyes lit up when they got the game — the notion of being treated like genes seemed to appeal.”In the first speed-dating round, the 40 delegates were each paired up with someone who was not known to them and who had a very different knowledge base — so someone specialising in X technique might be paired with a specialist in Y. Pairs were given around 10 minutes to talk and then moved on to new pairs, so that each person met a total of four other people they knew very little about.”The atmosphere in the room after the first round of speed dating was entirely different. There was a buzz, and at the next set of talks questions came from all over the room, not just the usual couple of rows at the front.”In the second round, the pairings made use of the wish lists the delegates had created. …

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Stroke survivors often return to driving without being evaluated for ability

Date:February 13, 2014Source:American Heart AssociationSummary:Stroke survivors often resume driving without being formally evaluated for ability — though stroke can cause deficits that can impair driving, according to researchers.Stroke survivors often resume driving without being formally evaluated for ability — though stroke can cause deficits that can impair driving, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2014.Researchers surveyed 162 stroke survivors a year after their strokes and found:More than 51 percent returned to driving — many a month after suffering a stroke. Only 5.6 percent received a formal driving evaluation. Eleven percent of those who returned to driving reported their strokes had greatly impacted their abilities to perform important life activities. Among those who returned to driving and reported no effect on their abilities to perform important life activities, more than 45 percent limited their driving. Researchers suggest stroke survivors may benefit from formal evaluation before resuming driving.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Heart Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Cite This Page:MLA APA Chicago American Heart Association. “Stroke survivors often return to driving without being evaluated for ability.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2014. .American Heart Association. (2014, February 13). …

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Women, The Priesthood, & The Mormon Church

Photo courtesy of LDS.org. I was talking once with a male friend (who was of another faith than I) about a woman we both knew mutually. This woman was one I went to church with. She had a large family with many children. She had stayed home to raise them. I was talking about how talented she was. My male friend said to me, “Too bad she hasn’t used her talents to do something outside of her home. I wouldn’t want my wife to waste herself like that.”This woman had raised a large family, had a home business in which her children participated (and learned how to work), did an incredible job serving those in her community and church and was happy; she brought joy…

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New antibiotic shows promise for treating MRSA pneumonia

Sep. 11, 2013 — A drug approved just two years ago for treating bacterial infections may hold promise for treating the potentially fatal MRSA pneumonia, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study.Researchers found that patients treated with the antibiotic ceftaroline fosamil, or CPT-F, had a lower mortality rate after 28 days than the mortality rate seen in patients treated with vancomycin, the most common drug therapy for MRSA pneumonia.In the retrospective study, 33 of 38 patients responded well to treatments of CPT-F and were discharged from the hospital after the infection cleared. Of the five patients who died, three were attributed to other serious medical conditions.The mortality rate for patients treated with vancomycin has been reported to be as high as 32 percent after 28 days. In the Henry Ford study, the mortality rate for the CPT-F treated population was 13 percent.The study is being presented Wednesday at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy meeting in Denver.”Many things fall under the umbrella of proper and appropriate MRSA pneumonia treatment, and these results present a possible benefit with the use of CPT-F,” says Samia Arshad, a Henry Ford Infectious Diseases epidemiologist and the study’s lead author. “It is critical for us to find alternative drug therapies to improve patient outcomes. Further research is needed to test the efficacy of CPT-F on a larger patient population as CPT-F offers doctors another viable option for treating patients with MRSA pneumonia.”In 2010 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved CPT-F, an injectable antibiotic, for treating patients with bacterial infections like community-acquired bacterial pneumonia and skin infections. Henry Ford’s study is the first to evaluate the efficacy of MRSA pneumonia patients treated with CPT-F. MRSA pneumonia is highly antibiotic resistant and most common in patients 65 years or older.Researchers evaluated 38 patients treated with CPT-F. Twenty of these patients were failing standard treatment with either vancomycin and/or cefepime, and were switched to CPT-F. …

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Mindfulness training improves attention in children

Sep. 5, 2013 — A short training course in mindfulness improves children’s ability to ignore distractions and concentrate better.These are the findings of a study carried out by Dominic Crehan and Dr Michelle Ellefson at the University of Cambridge being presented today, 6 September 2013, at the British Psychological Society’s Cognitive Developmental Psychology Annual Conference at the University of Reading.Dominic explained: “Mindfulness involves paying attention in a particular way — on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. It has been shown to reduce levels of stress and depression, and to improve feelings of well-being, but to date researchers have not established a link between mindfulness and attention skills in children.”The researchers recruited thirty children (girls and boys aged 10 to 11 years old) to take part in a mindfulness course as part of their school curriculum. The children took part in the mindfulness course in two groups at different times, and so the researchers were able to compare the groups and see the effects of the course. To do this, they measured the children’s levels of mindfulness using a questionnaire. They also measured their attention skills, using a computer game designed specifically for this purpose. They made these measurements on three occasions, at three month intervals, so that they could measure changes in attention skills over time as a result of the mindfulness course.The results indicated that an improvement in the children’s ability to focus and deal with distractions was associated with the mindfulness course.Dominic said: “The ability to pay attention in class is crucial for success at school. Mindfulness appears to have an effect after only a short training course, which the children thoroughly enjoyed! Through their training, the children actually learn to watch their minds working and learn to control their attention. These findings could be particularly important for helping children with attention difficulties such as ADHD. …

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Conspiracy theories may put children’s health at risk

Aug. 27, 2013 — A belief in conspiracy theories may influence parents’ intentions to have their children vaccinated against diseases such as measles. That is the conclusion of research being presented today, 28 August 2013, by Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Social Psychology Section in Exeter.Share This:Jolley and Douglas asked a sample of 89 parents about their views on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and then asked participants to indicate their intention to have a fictional child vaccinated. They found that stronger belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories was associated with less intention to have the child vaccinated.In a second study of 188 participants, Jolley and Douglas exposed participants to information concerning anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It was found that reading this material reduced participants’ intention to have a fictional child vaccinated, relative to participants who were given refuting information, or those in a control condition.Daniel Jolley said: “The recent outbreak of measles in the UK illustrates the importance of vaccination. Our studies demonstrate that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may present a barrier to vaccine uptake.”Dr Douglas added: “Our findings point to the potentially detrimental consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It is easy to treat belief in conspiracy theories lightly, but our studies show that wariness about conspiracy theories may be warranted.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS), via AlphaGalileo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? …

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Equipping a construction helmet with a sensor can detect the onset of carbon monoxide poisoning

Aug. 17, 2013 — Researchers have urged the use of a wearable computing system installed in a helmet to protect construction workers from carbon monoxide poisoning, a serious lethal threat in this industry.This award will be presented at the August 17-21, 2013 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Automation Science and Engineering .Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant problem for construction workers in both residential and industrial settings. The danger exists because the exhaust from gasoline-powered hand tools can quickly build up in enclosed spaces and easily overcome the tool’s users and nearby co-workers.In the paper, the researchers explained how they integrated a pulse oximetry sensor into a typical construction helmet to allow continuous and noninvasive monitoring of workers’ blood gas saturation levels. The results of their study showed that a user of this helmet would be warned of impending carbon monoxide poisoning with a probability of greater than 99 percent.The award-winning research and resulting paper was written by Jason B. Forsyth of Durham, N.C., and a Ph.D. candidate in computer engineering, his adviser Thomas L. Martin, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Deborah Young-Corbett, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a member of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and Ed Dorsa, associate professor of industrial design.Ten Virginia Tech students participated in the study conducted on the university campus. They mimicked simple tasks of construction workers.To show the feasibility of monitoring for carbon monoxide poisoning without subjecting the users to dangerous conditions, the researchers used a prototype for monitoring the blood oxygen saturation. The difference for monitoring for oxygen and for carbon monoxide differs only in the number of wavelengths of light employed, so if this monitoring proved feasible, then the monitoring for carbon monoxide would be feasible as well.They selected a helmet for the installation of a wearable computer because they needed a design that could be worn year round which ruled out seasonal clothing such as overalls or coats. They also wanted a design that was socially acceptable, and one that struck a balance between comfort, usability, and feasibility.”This helmet is only a first step toward our long-term vision of having a network of wearable and environmental sensors and intelligent personal protective gear on construction sites that will improve safety for workers,” according to their report. …

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Early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease prevents psychological and behavioural symptoms

July 18, 2013 — Persons with Alzheimer’s disease are able to manage their everyday activities longer and they suffer from less psychological and behavioural symptoms if the diagnosis is made and treatment begun at a very early phase of the disease, indicates a recent study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland.Share This:The study followed persons with Alzheimer’s disease over a course of three years. The study participants were diagnosed either at the very mild or mild phase of the disease and treated within the standard healthcare system.According to the study, persons with a very mild Alzheimer’s disease at the time of the diagnosis and start of the Alzheimer’s disease targeted therapy are better able to manage their everyday activities than persons diagnosed at a more advanced phase of the disease. In addition, in relation to the stage of the disease, they also had less psychological and behavioural symptoms during the follow-up.According to the researchers, Psychologist Ilona Hallikainen and Adjunct Professor, Psychologist Tuomo Hänninen, the results show that an early detection of the disease is important. Persons with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to live at home longer if they are able to manage their daily activities and have less psychological and behavioural symptoms.In addition, the study enhanced knowledge about the use of common diagnostic tests during a follow-up. The results have been accepted for publication in the journal International Psychogeriatrics. Ms. Hallikainen presented the results at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Boston on 17 July.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Eastern Finland, via AlphaGalileo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:Ilona Hallikainen, Tuomo Hänninen, Mikael Fraunberg, Kristiina Hongisto, Tarja Välimäki, Asta Hiltunen, Pertti Karppi, Juhani Sivenius, Hilkka Soininen, Anne M. …

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Computer as smart as a 4-year-old? Researchers IQ test new artificial intelligence system

July 15, 2013 — Artificial and natural knowledge researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have IQ-tested one of the best available artificial intelligence systems to see how intelligent it really is.Turns out it’s about as smart as the average 4-year-old, they will report July 17 at the U.S. Artificial Intelligence Conference in Bellevue, Wash.The UIC team put ConceptNet 4, an artificial intelligence system developed at M.I.T., through the verbal portions of the Weschsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Test, a standard IQ assessment for young children.They found ConceptNet 4 has the average IQ of a young child. But unlike most children, the machine’s scores were very uneven across different portions of the test.”If a child had scores that varied this much, it might be a symptom that something was wrong,” said Robert Sloan, professor and head of computer science at UIC, and lead author on the study.Sloan said ConceptNet 4 did very well on a test of vocabulary and on a test of its ability to recognize similarities.”But ConceptNet 4 did dramatically worse than average on comprehension­the ‘why’ questions,” he said.One of the hardest problems in building an artificial intelligence, Sloan said, is devising a computer program that can make sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts-the dictionary definition of commonsense.Commonsense has eluded AI engineers because it requires both a very large collection of facts and what Sloan calls implicit facts-things so obvious that we don’t know we know them. A computer may know the temperature at which water freezes, but we know that ice is cold.”All of us know a huge number of things,” said Sloan. “As babies, we crawled around and yanked on things and learned that things fall. We yanked on other things and learned that dogs and cats don’t appreciate having their tails pulled.” Life is a rich learning environment.”We’re still very far from programs with commonsense-AI that can answer comprehension questions with the skill of a child of 8,” said Sloan. He and his colleagues hope the study will help to focus attention on the “hard spots” in AI research.Study coauthors are UIC professors Stellan Ohlsson of psychology and Gyorgy Turan of mathematics, statistics and computer science; and UIC mathematical computer science undergraduate student Aaron Urasky.The study was supported by award N00014-09-1-0125 from the Office of Naval Research and grant CCF-0916708 from the National Science Foundation.

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How to keep kids engaged with educational games

July 15, 2013 — If you want teams of students to stay engaged while playing educational games, you might want them to switch seats pretty often. That’s one finding from a pilot study that evaluated how well middle school students were able to pay attention to game-based learning tasks.Students at a Raleigh, N.C., middle school were divided into two-person teams for the pilot study. Researchers from North Carolina State University then had each team test gaming concepts for an educational game called “Engage,” which allows only one student at a time to control gameplay. The researchers were trying to determine how effective educational gaming tasks were at teaching computer science concepts, but were also monitoring how engaged each student was.The researchers found that, for each team, the student actively performing the game tasks was much more likely to stay engaged — but that the second student would often lose focus.”This is a very useful finding, because we can use it to improve game design to better keep the attention of the ‘navigator,’ or second student,” says Dr. Kristy Boyer, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “For example, we could assign tasks to the navigator that are critical to team success and make sure that each student has an opportunity to take the controls during each gameplay session.”The pilot study is part of a larger effort by the researchers to develop a game-based curriculum that teaches middle school students about computer science principles ranging from programming and big data to encryption and security.”We are doing this work to help ensure that Engage is a fun, effective learning environment, and to ensure that we can keep kids focused on the game itself,” says Fernando Rodríguez, a Ph.D. student at NC State who is lead author of the paper. “Keeping kids’ attention is essential if we want them to learn.”The paper, “Informing the Design of a Game-Based Learning Environment for Computer Science: A Pilot Study on Engagement and Collaborative Dialogue,” will be presented July 13 at the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education in Memphis, Tenn. The paper was co-authored by Natalie Kerby, an undergraduate at NC State. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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5-D optical memory in glass could record the last evidence of civilization

July 9, 2013 — Using nanostructured glass, scientists at the University of Southampton have, for the first time, experimentally demonstrated the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional digital data by femtosecond laser writing. The storage allows unprecedented parameters including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1000°C and practically unlimited lifetime.Coined as the ‘Superman’ memory crystal, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz, which is able to store vast quantities of data for over a million years. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.A 300 kb digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D using ultrafast laser, producing extremely short and intense pulses of light. The file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres (one millionth of a metre).The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polariser, similar to that found in Polaroid sunglasses.The research is led by the ORC researcher Jingyu Zhang and conducted under a joint project with Eindhoven University of Technology.”We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organisations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan,” says Jingyu.”Museums who want to preserve information or places like the national archives where they have huge numbers of documents, would really benefit.”The Physical Optics group from the ORC presented their ground-breaking paper at the photonics industry’s renowned Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO’13) in San Jose. The paper, ‘5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass’ was presented by the during CLEO’s prestigious post deadline session.This work was done in the framework of EU project FemtoprintProfessor Peter Kazansky, the ORC’s group supervisor, adds: “It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”The team are now looking for industry partners to commercialise this ground-breaking new technology.Share This:Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Southampton, via AlphaGalileo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? …

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Bringing cheaper, ‘greener’ lighting to market with inkjet-printed hybrid quantum dot LEDs

June 4, 2013 — It’s not easy going green. For home lighting applications, organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) hold the promise of being both environmentally friendly and versatile. Though not as efficient as regular light-emitting diodes (LEDs), they offer a wider range of material choices and are more energy efficient than traditional lights. OLEDs can also be applied to flexible surfaces, which may lead to lights or television displays that can be rolled up and stowed in a pocket.A promising line of research involves combining the OLEDs with inorganic quantum dots, tiny semiconductor crystals that emit different colors of light depending on their size. These “hybrid” OLEDs, also called quantum dot LEDs (QD-LEDs), increase the efficiency of the light-emitting devices and also increase the range of colors that can be produced. But commercially manufacturing this promising green technology is still difficult and costly.To make OLEDs more cheaply and easily, researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky are developing new materials and production methods using modified quantum dots and inkjet printing. The team will discuss its work developing more commercially feasible QD-LED devices at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO: 2013) June 9-14 in San Jose, Calif.According to Delaina Amos, professor at the University of Louisville and principal investigator of the team’s efforts, expense of materials and manufacturing processes has been a major barrier to using OLEDs in everyday lighting devices.To inexpensively apply the quantum dots to their hybrid devices, the Louisville researchers use inkjet printing, popular in recent years as a way to spray quantum dots and OLED materials onto a surface with great precision. But unlike other groups experimenting with this method, Amos’ team has focused on adapting the inkjet printing technique for use in a commercial setting, in which mass production minimizes expense and translates to affordable off-the-shelf products. “We are currently working at small scale, typically 1 inch by 1 inch for the OLEDs,” Amos says. “The process can be scaled up from here, probably to 6 inches by 6 inches and larger.””There’s a reason you don’t see OLED lights on sale at the hardware store,” says Amos, though she adds that they do find uses in small devices such as cameras, photo frames, and cell phone displays. …

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Are smartphones disrupting your sleep?

June 3, 2013 — Smartphones and tablets can make for sleep-disrupting bedfellows. One cause is believed to be the bright light-emitting diodes that allow the use of mobile devices in dimly lit rooms; the light exposure can interfere with melatonin, a hormone that helps control the natural sleep-wake cycle. But there may be a way to check your mobile device in bed and still get a good night’s sleep. A Mayo Clinic study suggests dimming the smartphone or tablet brightness settings and holding the device at least 14 inches from your face while using it will reduce its potential to interfere with melatonin and impede sleep.The research was among Mayo Clinic studies being presented at SLEEP 2013, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Baltimore.”In the old days people would go to bed and read a book. Well, much more commonly people go to bed and they have their tablet on which they read a book or they read a newspaper or they’re looking at material. The problem is it’s a lit device, and how problematic is the light source from the mobile device?” says co-author Lois Krahn, M.D., a psychiatrist and sleep expert at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.”There’s a lot of concern about using mobile devices and that prompted me to wonder, are they always a negative factor for sleep?” Dr. Krahn says. “We found that only at the highest setting was the light over a conservative threshold that might affect melatonin levels. If it’s at the mid setting or at a low setting it’s bright enough to use.”In the study, researchers experimented with two tablets and a smartphone in a dark room, using a meter on its most sensitive setting to measure the light the devices emitted at various settings when held various distances from a person’s face. They discovered that when brightness settings were lowered and the devices were held just over a foot from a user’s face, it reduced the risk that the light would be bright enough to suppress melatonin secretion and disrupt sleep.Other Mayo research presented at the conference includes the finding that some sleep apnea patients may not need annual follow-up visits. …

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Procedures saving limbs of more peripheral arterial disease patients

June 1, 2013 — Peripheral arterial disease is a common circulation problem in which reduced blood flow can lead to complications that jeopardize the limbs, possibly even requiring amputation. Procedures known as revascularization have reduced the need for amputations 40 percent over two decades, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were among several studies presented at the Society for Vascular Surgery annual meeting in San Francisco.In the amputation study, Mayo researchers analyzed patients in the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a National Institutes of Health-funded medical records pool that makes Olmsted County, Minn., the home of Mayo Clinic, one of the few places worldwide where scientists can study virtually an entire geographic population to identify health trends. They found that as use of revascularization to improve circulation rose, the amputation rate dropped. The study covered 1990-2009.”This is an important study because frequently patients who have peripheral arterial disease — and there are about 12 million Americans who have some leg pain that can be connected to it — may progress to amputation. They may develop rest pain, gangrene, and if an intervention is not performed, they may lose the limb,” says senior author Peter Gloviczki, M.D., a Mayo Clinic vascular surgeon and president of the Society for Vascular Surgery. “This study shows that the use of endovascular interventions — stents, balloons or other catheter-based interventions — or open surgical bypass effectively reduced the amputation rate.”Patients with leg pain should report it to their physicians, and people with risk factors for peripheral arterial disease, such as smoking, high cholesterol, male gender, hypertension or diabetes, should take care of the medical conditions that may lead to or complicate peripheral arterial disease, he says.”In addition, patients who have leg pain and peripheral arterial disease frequently have silent heart disease, so the patient and primary care doctor should evaluate, and if the condition is significant, if the pain is something that interferes with the quality of life, then they should consult with a vascular surgeon,” says Dr. Gloviczki, the Joe M. and Ruth Roberts Professor of Surgery at Mayo Clinic.Other Mayo studies presented at the conference found that:There are very few deaths in the initial weeks after open-abdomen surgery or the minimally invasive endovascular stent repair of life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysms. Patients who get stent grafts have shorter hospitalizations and fewer early complications, but the procedure was associated with a slightly higher rate of late death from all causes, the need for a repeat procedure at some point and a small but definite risk of eventual rupture, the researchers found.”The trend is that we do more and more stent procedures because it is easier for the patient, it can be performed in very high-risk patients and there is less early complication. …

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Tai Chi exercise may reduce falls in adult stroke survivors

Feb. 6, 2013 — Tai Chi may reduce falls among adult stroke survivors, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013.

Compared to survivors receiving usual care or participating in a national fitness program for Medicare-eligible adults called SilverSneakers®, those practicing Tai Chi had the fewest falls.

Tai Chi is a martial art dating back to ancient China. It includes physical movements, mental concentration and relaxed breathing.

“Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge,” said Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., R.N., the study’s principal investigator and assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, Ariz. “Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls. Tai Chi is readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive.”

Stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls each year than healthy adults, Taylor-Piliae said. These falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility and increase fear of falling that can result in social isolation or dependence. Tai Chi has significantly reduced falls in healthy older adults.

Researchers recruited 89 stroke survivors — most of whom had ischemic strokes — for a randomized prospective study outside of a hospital setting. Participants were an average 70 years old, 46 percent were women and most Caucasian, college educated and living in the Tucson area, and suffered a stroke on average three years prior to beginning the study.

Among the participants, 30 practiced Tai Chi, 28 took part in usual care and 31 participated in SilverSneakers®. The Tai Chi and SilverSneakers® groups participated in a one-hour exercise class three times each week for 12 weeks. The usual care group received a weekly phone call and written material about participating in community-based physical activity.

During the 12-week trial, there were a total of 34 reported falls in participants’ homes mainly from slipping or tripping: five falls in the Tai Chi group; 15 falls in the usual care group; and 14 falls in the Silver Sneakers group. Only four people sought medical treatment.

Yang-style Tai Chi, as practiced in the study, is the most popular of five styles used in the United States because of its emphasis on health benefits, both physical and psychosocial benefits, researchers said.

“The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance,” Taylor-Piliae said. “Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life.”

Co-authors are: Tiffany Hoke, R.N.; Bijan, Najafi, Ph.D.; and Bruce Coull, M.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract.

An American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars Grant funded the study.

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