ANZAC Day – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

About the Anzac Day The Catafalque Party made up of members from Australia’s Federation Guard, mount the Catafalque at the beginning of the Lone Pine Service at Gallipoli.When is Anzac Day? Anzac Day falls on the 25th of April each year. The 25th of April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916.What does ‘ANZAC’ stand for? ‘ANZAC’ stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. These became know as Anzacs and the pride they took in that name continues to this day.Why is this day special to Australians? On the morning of 25 April 1915, the Anzacs set out to capture the Gallipoli …

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Humans and saber-toothed tiger met in Germany 300,000 years ago

Scientists of the Lower Saxony Heritage Authority and of the University of Tbingen excavating at the Schningen open-cast coal mine in north-central Germany have discovered the remains of a saber-toothed cat preserved in a layer some 300,000 years old — the same stratum in which wooden spears were found, indicating that early humans also inhabited the area, which at that time was the bank of a shallow lake.The discovery sheds new light on the relationship between early humans and beasts of prey. It is highly likely that humans were confronted by saber-toothed cats at the Schningen lakeside. In that case, all the human could do was grab his up to 2.3m long spear and defend himself. In this context, the Schningen spears must be regarded as weapons for defense as well as hunting — a vital tool for human survival in Europe 300,000 years ago.Officials from the Lower Saxony heritage authority and archaeologists from the Universities of Tbingen and Leiden uncovered a first tooth of a young adult Homotherium latidens in October 2012. Measuring more than a meter at the shoulder and weighing some 200kg, the saber-tooth was no pussycat. It had razor-sharp claws and deadly jaws with upper-jaw canines more than 10cm long.The find shows that the saber-toothed cat died out later in central Europe than previously believed. Along with the sensational wooden spears, the same level has yielded bones and stone tools indicating that early humans — probably Homo heidelbergenis — hunted horses and camped along a 100m stretch of the lakeside.The new finds demonstrate that a long time before anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens have reached Europe some 40,000 years ago, early man was able to defend himself against highly dangerous animals with his weapon technology. The results of the researchers’ study have just been published in a report by the Lower Saxony heritage authority, the Niederschsisches Landesamt fr Denkmalpflege.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Tbingen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Detecting tumor markers easily

Blood is just teeming with proteins. It’s not easy there to identify specialized tumor markers indicating the presence of cancer. A new method now enables diagnostics to be carried out in a single step. Scientists will present the analysis equipment at analytica, the international trade fair in Munich April 1-4.Benign growth, or cancer?Tumor markers in the blood help determine whether the patient is afflicted with a malign tumor and whether it is excreting markers more vigorously — involving highly specific proteins. An increased concentration in the blood provides one indication of the disease for physicians. However, it has been quite expensive in time and effort to detect the markers thus far. This is because all kinds of molecules and proteins are teeming in the blood. To be able to detect a single specific one, doctors must first separate and purify the blood in several steps, and then isolate the marker they are searching for from the rest of the molecules.This will go faster in future. Researchers in the Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology PAMB of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Mannheim, Germany, have developed a one-step analysis. “Our goal is to detect biological molecules in blood, or in other kinds of samples from the patient such as urine, that indicate diseases,” explains Caroline Siegert, a scientist at IPA, “and do so without having to laboriously process the blood, but in one single step instead.”Lower noise, higher signalThe difficulty in detecting specific molecules in the blood or urine lies in the enormous number of substances that are mixed in the liquid. …

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Atomically thick metal membranes

For the first time researchers have shown that freestanding metal membranes consisting of a single layer of atoms can be stable under ambient conditions. This result of an international research team from Germany, Poland and Korea is published in Science on March 14, 2014.The success and promise of atomically thin carbon, in which carbon atoms are arranged in a honeycomb lattice, also known as graphene has triggered enormous enthusiasm for other two dimensional materials, for example, hexagonal boron nitride and molybdenum sulphide. These materials share a common structural aspect, namely, they are layered materials that one can think of as individual atomic planes that can be pulled away from their bulk 3D structure. This is because the layers are held together through so called van der Waals interactions which are relatively weak forces as compared to other bonding configurations such as covalent bonds. Once isolated these atomically thin layers maintain mechanical integrity (i.e. they are stable) under ambient conditions.In the case of bulk metals, their crystalline structure is three dimensional, and is thus not a layered structure and moreover metallic atom bonds are relatively strong. These structural aspects of metals would seem to imply the existence of metal atoms as a freestanding 2D material is unlikely. The formation of 2D atomically thin metallic layers over other surfaces has previously been demonstrated, however in this case the metal atoms interact with the underlying substrate. On the other hand, metallic bonding is non-directional and this fact along with the excellent plasticity of metals at the nanoscale suggest atomically thin 2D freestanding membranes composed of metal atoms might just be possible. Indeed, this is what an international group of researchers based in Germany, Poland and South Korea have now demonstrated is possible using iron atoms. …

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New fossil find: Precursor of European rhinos found in Vietnam

A team of scientists from the University of Tbingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tbingen was able to recover fossils of two previously unknown mammal species that lived about 37 million years ago. The newly described mammals show a surprisingly close relationship to prehistoric species known from fossil sites in Europe. The location: The open lignite-mining Na Duong in Vietnam. Here, the team of scientists was also able to make a series of further discoveries, including three species of fossilized crocodiles and several new turtles.Southeast Asia is considered a particularly species-rich region, even in prehistoric times — a so-called hotspot of biodiversity. For several decades now, scientists have postulated close relationships that existed in the late Eocene (ca. 38-34 million years ago) between the faunas of that region and Europe. The recent findings by the research team under leadership of Prof. Dr. Madelaine Bhme serve as proof that some European species originated in Southeast Asia.Rhinoceros and Coal beastOne of the newly described mammals is a rhinoceros, Epiaceratherium naduongense. The anatomy of the fossil teeth allows identifying this rhinoceros as a potential forest dweller. …

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Banana plant fights off crop’s invisible nemesis: Roundworms

The banana variety Yangambi km5 produces toxic substances that kill the nematode Radopholus similis, a roundworm that infects the root tissue of banana plants — to the frustration of farmers worldwide. The finding by an international team of researchers that includes professors Rony Swennen and Dirk De Waele (Laboratory for Tropical Crop Improvement) bodes well for the Grande Naine, the export banana par excellence, which is very susceptible to the roundworms.The parasitic nematode Radopholus similis is the invisible nemesis of the banana plant, says Professor Dirk De Waele: “This roundworm infects banana crops worldwide. The nematodes are invisible to the naked eye, but they can penetrate the roots of banana plants by the thousands. Once infected, these plants absorb less water and nutrients, resulting in yield losses of up to 75 percent. Lesions in the roots also make the plant more susceptible to other diseases. Eventually, the roots begin to rot. In the final stage of the disease, the plant topples over, its fruit bunch inexorably lost.”Combating nematodes isn’t easy, adds Professor Swennen: “Synthetic pesticides are toxic and expensive. Moreover, pesticides usually do not actually kill the nematodes, they just temporarily paralyze them. Nematodes can also build up resistance to pesticides.””We have always wondered how the Yangambi km5 fights off roundworms. This study offers an answer.”While the Grande Naine is very susceptible to nematodes, other varieties are known to be resistant to them. …

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Mixed genes: Interactive world map of human genetic history reveals likely genetic impacts of historical events

When individuals from different groups interbreed, their offspring’s DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group. Pieces of this DNA are then passed along through subsequent generations, carrying on all the way to the present day. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Oxford University and University College London (UCL) have now produced a global map detailing the genetic histories of 95 different populations across the world, spanning the last four millennia.The interactive world map that is accessible via the internet, details the histories of genetic mixing between each of the 95 populations across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. It shows likely genetic impacts of historical events including European colonialism, the Mongol Empire, the Arab slave trade and European traders near the Silk Road mixing with people in China.The study, published this week in Science, is the first to simultaneously identify, date and characterise genetic mixing between populations. To do this, the researchers developed sophisticated statistical methods to analyse the DNA of 1490 individuals in 95 populations around the world. “DNA really has the power to tell stories and uncover details of humanity’s past,” said Simon Myers of Oxford University’s Department of Statistics and Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, co-senior author of the study. “Because our approach uses only genetic data, it provides information independent from other sources. Many of our genetic observations match historical events, and we also see evidence of previously unrecorded genetic mixing. For example, the DNA of the Tu people in modern China suggests that in around 1200CE, Europeans similar to modern Greeks mixed with an otherwise Chinese-like population. Plausibly, the source of this European-like DNA might be merchants travelling the nearby Silk Road.”The powerful technique, christened ‘Globetrotter’, provides insight into past events such as the genetic legacy of the Mongol Empire. …

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Ballistic transport in graphene suggests new type of electronic device

Using electrons more like photons could provide the foundation for a new type of electronic device that would capitalize on the ability of graphene to carry electrons with almost no resistance even at room temperature — a property known as ballistic transport.Research reported this week shows that electrical resistance in nanoribbons of epitaxial graphene changes in discrete steps following quantum mechanical principles. The research shows that the graphene nanoribbons act more like optical waveguides or quantum dots, allowing electrons to flow smoothly along the edges of the material. In ordinary conductors such as copper, resistance increases in proportion to the length as electrons encounter more and more impurities while moving through the conductor.The ballistic transport properties, similar to those observed in cylindrical carbon nanotubes, exceed theoretical conductance predictions for graphene by a factor of 10. The properties were measured in graphene nanoribbons approximately 40 nanometers wide that had been grown on the edges of three-dimensional structures etched into silicon carbide wafers.”This work shows that we can control graphene electrons in very different ways because the properties are really exceptional,” said Walt de Heer, a Regent’s professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This could result in a new class of coherent electronic devices based on room temperature ballistic transport in graphene. Such devices would be very different from what we make today in silicon.”The research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the W.M. Keck Foundation, was reported February 5 in the journal Nature. The research was done through a collaboration of scientists from Georgia Tech in the United States, Leibniz Universitt Hannover in Germany, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France and Oak Ridge National Laboratory — supported by the Department of Energy — in the United States.For nearly a decade, researchers have been trying to use the unique properties of graphene to create electronic devices that operate much like existing silicon semiconductor chips. But those efforts have met with limited success because graphene — a lattice of carbon atoms that can be made as little as one layer thick — cannot be easily given the electronic bandgap that such devices need to operate.De Heer argues that researchers should stop trying to use graphene like silicon, and instead use its unique electron transport properties to design new types of electronic devices that could allow ultra-fast computing — based on a new approach to switching. Electrons in the graphene nanoribbons can move tens or hundreds of microns without scattering.”This constant resistance is related to one of the fundamental constants of physics, the conductance quantum,” de Heer said. …

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We recognize less attractive faces best: How attractiveness interferes with recognition of faces

Psychologists at the University of Jena (Germany) have demonstrated that we tend to remember unattractive faces more than attractive ones. In the journal Neuropsychologia the psychologists write that attractive faces without particularly remarkable features leave a much less distinctive impression.Great eyes, full lips and harmonious features: actress Angelina Jolie is in possession of all of these. That she is regarded as the epitome of female attractiveness doesn’t come as a surprise for Dr. Holger Wiese of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). “Her features combine many factors which contribute to the attractiveness of a face,” the psychologist says. In his research, he mostly deals with the perception of faces. ”On the one hand we find very symmetrical and rather average faces appealing,” he explains. “On the other hand, people who are perceived as being particularly attractive stand out by additional traits, which distinguish them from the average.” Apart from being attractive, features like big eyes or a distinctively shaped mouth ensure a high recognition value. “We tend to remember those faces well,” according to Wiese.But this isn’t generally true for all attractive people – as Wiese and his colleagues, Carolin Altmann and Professor Dr. Stefan Schweinberger have shown in the new study. …

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Are you political on Facebook?

Social media and networks are ripe for politicization, for movement publicity, advocacy group awareness, not-for-profit fund-raising campaigns and perhaps even e-government. However, the majority of users perhaps see these tools as being useful for entertainment, interpersonal connections and sharing rather than politics. A research paper to be published in the Electronic Government, An International Journal reinforces this notion. The results suggest that the potential for political activism must overcome the intrinsic user perception that online social networks are for enjoyment rather than utility, political or otherwise.Tobias Kollmann and Christoph Stckmann of the E-Business and E-Entrepreneurship Research Group, at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Ina Kayser of VDI — The Association of German Engineers, in Dsseldorf, Germany, explain that while social networks have become increasingly important as discussion forums, users are not at present motivated to accept political decisions that emerge from such discussions. As such, Facebook is yet to properly break through as the innovative means of political participation that it might become.The team roots this disjuncture in the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance where two opposing concepts cannot be rationalized simultaneously and an individual discards one as invalid in favour of the other to avoid the feeling of psychological discomfort. For example, users enjoy logging on to a social network, such as Facebook, so that they can share photos, play games and chat online with friends. This is inherently at odds, it does not resonate, with the idea of Facebook being useful as a tool for discussing and implementing the perhaps more important realm of human endeavour we know as politics.However, the team says, the advent of politically oriented Facebook games, such as “Campaigns” and “America 2049” blur the lines between the area of enjoyment and political discussion. Moreover, they point out that the boundaries were already blurred in terms of interpersonal discussions among some users where political discussion is facilitated by the network and also perceived as an enjoyable part of participation despite it falling in the “useful” camp. Indeed, the team’s data from several hundred randomly selected Facebook users would support the notion that the perception of mutual benefit arising from political participation on Facebook positively adds to the perception of usefulness as well as being enjoyable. They allude to the fact that the findings might apply equally well to other so-called “Web 2.0” tools on the Internet.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Inderscience. …

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Geranium extracts inhibit HIV-1

Extracts of the geranium plant Pelargonium sidoides inactivate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and prevent the virus from invading human cells. In the current issue of “PLOS ONE,” scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen report that these extracts represent a potential new class of anti-HIV-1 agents for the treatment of AIDS.Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen demonstrate that root extracts of the medicinal plant Pelargonium sidoides (PS) contain compounds that attack HIV-1 particles and prevent virus replication. A team spearheaded by Dr. Markus Helfer and Prof. Dr. Ruth Brack-Werner from the Institute of Virology and Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin from the Analytical BioGeoChemistry research unit (BGC) performed a detailed investigation of the effects of PS extracts on HIV-1 infection of cultured cells. They demonstrated that PS extracts protect blood and immune cells from infection by HIV-1, the most widespread type of HIV. PS extracts block attachment of virus particles to host cells and thus effectively prevent the virus from invading cells. …

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Model plant misled scientists about multicellular growth

Oct. 22, 2013 — Scientists have misunderstood one of the most fundamental processes in the life of plants because they have been looking at the wrong flower, according to University of Leeds researchers.Arabidopsis thaliana — also known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress — grows abundantly in cracks in pavements all over Europe and Asia, but the small white flower leads a second life as the lab rat of the plant world.It has become the dominant “model plant” in genetics research because of its simple genetics and ease of use in a research environment. Thousands of trays of the humble weed are cultivated in laboratories across the world, but it turns out they may actually contain a rather oddball plant.A study by researchers at the University of Leeds found that Arabidopsis thaliana was exceptional in not having a “censorship” protein called SMG1.SMG1 was known to play a vital role in the growth of animals as multicellular organisms, but scientists thought that plants built their complex life fundamentally differently. That conclusion, it turns out, was built on a dummy sold by Arabidopsis thaliana.Professor Brendan Davies from the University of Leeds’ School of Biology, who led the study, said: “Everybody thought that this protein was only in animals. They thought that because, basically, most of the world studies one plant: Arabidopsis thaliana.”Gene expression — the process by which the information from a genome is converted into the differentiated cells that make up complex life — relies on processes that turn genes on, when their genetic messages are required, and off when they are not.”Switching genes on and off is really what life is about. If you can’t do that, you can’t have life,” said Professor Davies. “There are various ways this is done, but one way in more complex life such as animals and plants is through a sort of ‘censorship’ process. The system looks at the messages that come out of the nucleus and effectively makes a judgement on them. It says ‘I am going to destroy that message now’ and intervenes to destroy it before it takes effect.”Scientists know that this “censorship” process — called Nonsense Mediated mRNA Decay (NMD) — is used by both plants and animals, but thought the two types of organism did it in different ways.Because Arabidopsis thaliana does not have SMG1, which plays a key role in triggering the censorship system in animals, scientists had concluded that SMG1 was not present in any plant.However, the Leeds researchers discovered that the plant that has established itself as the standard reference plant for all of biology is in fact an anomaly.”We have found that SMG1 is in every plant for which we have the genome apart from Arabidopsis and we have established that it is being used in NMD. Rather than being just in animals, we are suggesting that the last common ancestor of animals and plants had SMG1,” Professor Davies said.The study also found SMG1 in Arabidopsis lyrata, a close relative of Arabidopsis thaliana, which suggests that the missing protein has been lost relatively recently in evolutionary time, perhaps in the last 5-10 million years.The next key question for researchers is to explain how organisms without SMG1, such has funghi and Arabiposis thaliana, work without the protein.As for Arabidopsis thaliana, it may not have met its Waterloo just yet. …

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Small bits of genetic material fight cancer’s spread

Oct. 15, 2013 — A class of molecules called microRNAs may offer cancer patients two ways to combat their disease.Researchers at Princeton University have found that microRNAs — small bits of genetic material capable of repressing the expression of certain genes — may serve as both therapeutic targets and predictors of metastasis, or a cancer’s spread from its initial site to other parts of the body. The research was published in the journal Cancer Cell.MicroRNAs are specifically useful for tackling bone metastasis, which occurs in about 70 percent of patients with late-stage cancer, said senior author Yibin Kang, Princeton’s Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology. During bone metastasis, tumors invade the bone and take over the cells known as osteoclasts that normally break down old bone material as new material grows. These cells then go into overdrive and dissolve the bone far more quickly than they would during normal bone turnover, which leads to bone lesions, bone fracture, nerve compression and extreme pain.”The tumor uses the osteoclasts as forced labor,” explained Kang, who is a member of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and adviser to Brian Ell, a graduate student in the Princeton Department of Molecular Biology and first author on the study. Kang and Ell worked with scientists at the IRCCS Scientific Institute of Romagna for the Study and Treatment of Cancer in Meldola, Italy, and the University Cancer Center in Hamburg, Germany. In this video, Ell describes his research on using small RNAs for treating and monitoring bone metastasis.MicroRNAs can reduce that forced labor by inhibiting osteoclast proteins and thus limiting the number of osteoclasts present. Ell and his colleagues observed that bones exhibiting metastasis developed significantly fewer lesions when injected with microRNAs. Their findings suggest that microRNAs could be effective treatment targets for tackling bone metastasis — and also may help doctors detect the cancer’s spread to the bone, Kang said. Samples collected from human patients revealed a strong correlation between elevated levels of another group of microRNAs and the occurrence of bone metastasis, the researchers found.In a commentary accompanying the study in Cancer Cell, researchers who were not associated with the work wrote, “This [study] represents significant insight into our understanding of the organ-specific function and pathological activity of miRNAs, which could lead to improvements in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of bone metastases and elucidates a unique aspect of the bone microenvironment to support tumor growth in bone.” The commentary was authored by David Waning, Khalid Mohammad and Theresa Guise of Indiana University in Indianapolis.Kang said he ultimately hopes to extend mice experimentation to clinical trials. …

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Scientists help identify possible botulism blocker

Oct. 11, 2013 — U.S. and German scientists have decoded a key molecular gateway for the toxin that causes botulism, pointing the way to treatments that can keep the food-borne poison out of the bloodstream.Study leaders Rongsheng Jin, associate professor of physiology & biophysics at UC Irvine, and Andreas Rummel of the Institute for Toxicology at Germany’s Hannover Medical School created a three-dimensional crystal model of a complex protein compound in the botulinum neurotoxin. This compound binds to the inner lining of the small intestine and allows passage of the toxin into the bloodstream.The 3-D structure — shaped much like the Apollo lunar landing module — let the researchers identify places on the surface of the complex protein that enable it to dock with carbohydrates located on the small intestine’s interior wall. In tests on mice, they found that certain inhibitor molecules blocked the botulism compound from connecting to these sites, which prevented the toxin from entering the bloodstream.Botulinum neurotoxins are produced by Clostridium botulinum and cause the possibly fatal disease botulism, which impedes nerve cells’ ability to communicate with muscles and can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure. The botulinum toxin has also been identified as a potential biological weapon against a civilian population.”Currently, there is no efficient countermeasure for this toxin in case of a large outbreak of botulism,” Jin said. “Our discovery provides a vital first step toward a pharmaceutical intervention at an early point that can limit the toxin’s fatal attack on the human body.”Study results appear online in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens.Jin added that his work opens the door to further development of preventive treatments for botulism. At the same time, the molecular gateway for the lethal toxin could be exploited for alternative applications, such as the oral delivery of protein-based therapeutics.

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How a ubiquitous herpesvirus sometimes leads to cancer

Oct. 10, 2013 — You might not know it, but most of us are infected with the herpesvirus known as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). For most of us, the virus will lead at worst to a case of infectious mononucleosis, but sometimes, and especially in some parts of the world, those viruses are found in association with cancer. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on October 10 have found that the difference between a relatively harmless infection and a cancer-causing one lies at least partly in the viral strain itself.Share This:The results offer some of the first evidence for the existence of distinct EBV subtypes with very different public health risks. The researchers say that vaccination or other strategies for preventing EBV infection will need to be designed with these most pathogenic, cancer-causing strains in mind.”EBV is an important but neglected pathogen,” said Henri-Jacques Delecluse of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany. “We have made an important step in recognizing that EBV is actually a family of viruses that have different properties, some of which are very likely to cause disease. So, the consequences of being infected with EBV might be different, depending on the strain one carries.”Delecluse and his colleagues made the discovery by sequencing the DNA of a viral strain dubbed M81 isolated from a Chinese patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Their analyses revealed that M81 is highly similar to other viruses isolated from NPCs and profoundly different from Western strains in terms of its ability to infect and replicate within cells.The M81 strain can infect epithelial cells and multiply spontaneously at a very high level in all cells it infects, including B lymphocytes, the cells in which the viruses hide, the researchers report. It remains to be seen exactly how infected epithelial cells become cancerous.”Our results have made me radically change my strategy to address the problem of EBV-associated diseases,” Delecluse said. “The current view is that the virus is essentially the same all over the world and that local conditions explain the different consequences of EBV infection. …

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Hottest days in some parts of Europe have warmed four times more than the global average

Sep. 11, 2013 — Some of the hottest days and coldest nights in parts of Europe have warmed more than four times the global average change since 1950, according to a new paper by researchers from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Warwick, which is published today (11 September 2013) in the journal Environmental Research Letters.The researchers translated observations of weather into observations of climate change using a gridded dataset of observations stretching back to 1950. The hottest 5 per cent of days in summer have warmed fastest in a band from southern England and northern France to Denmark. By contrast, the average and slightly hotter than average days have warmed most in regions further south in France and Germany. In eastern Spain and central Italy there has been broad warming across all types of days, but in most places those days which are cooler than average have not warmed so much.The paper points out that some locations and temperature thresholds have seen little change since 1950. The authors suggest that the results highlight the scale of the difference between global change and the local climate changes felt by individuals.Dr. David Stainforth, the lead author on the paper, said: “Climate is fundamentally the distributions of weather. As climate changes, the distributions change. But they don’t just shift, they change shape. How they change shape depends on where you are. …

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Genome of elastomeric materials creates novel materials

Sep. 9, 2013 — A wide range of biologically inspired materials may now be possible by combining protein studies, materials science and RNA sequencing, according to an international team of researchers.”Biological methods of synthesizing materials are not new,” said Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. “What is new is the application of these principles to produce unique materials.”The researchers looked at proteins because they are the building blocks of biological materials and also often control sequencing, growth and self-assembly. RNA produced from the DNA in the cells is the template for biological proteins. Materials science practices allow researchers to characterize all aspects of how a material functions. Combining these three approaches allows rapid characterization of natural materials and the translation of their molecular designs into useable, unique materials.”One problem with finding suitable biomimetic materials is that most of the genomes of model organisms have not yet been sequenced,” said Demirel who is also a member of the Materials Research Institute and Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, Penn State. “Also, the proteins that characterize these materials are notoriously difficult to solubilize and characterize.”The team, lead by Ali Miserez, assistant professor, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, looked at mollusk-derived tissues that had a wide range of high-performance properties including self-healing elastomeric membranes and protein-based polymers. They combined a variety of approaches including protein sequencing, amino acid composition and a complete RNA reference database for mass spectrometry analysis. They present their results in a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology.The researchers looked at three model systems. …

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Cause of cystic kidneys explained: Novel gene responsible for cystic kidney disease in children identified

Sep. 5, 2013 — Sylvia Hoff, a graduate student from the Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM), has identified a new gene that causes cystic kidneys in children and young adults. The work by the PhD student Sylvia Hoff and her international collaboration partners was published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics. The research group’s results lead to the identification of novel insights into the molecular mechanism underlying NPH, which is a prerequisite for developing pharmacological targets and new therapies for children with nephronophthisis.Share This:Nephronophthisis (NPH) is the most common inherited kidney disease that leads to renal failure in children. The kidneys of affected children develop cysts, and as there is no approved therapy yet, patients need dialysis and renal transplantation. In addition, NPH often affects other organs apart from the kidney, such as the eyes, the liver, or the brain.The PhD student Sylvia Hoff, together with Dr. Soeren Lienkamp of the Nephrology Department at the Freiburg University Medical Center headed by Prof. Gerd Walz, analyzed the function of NPH proteins during early developmental processes. They found that the ANKS6 protein has functions similar to those of some of the known NPH proteins. In collaboration with research groups in France, USA, Denmark, Switzerland, Egypt, the Netherlands, and Germany, they succeeded in identifying mutations in the ANKS6 gene of children with NPH. …

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New therapeutic approach to fight cancer: Inhibiting cancer cells’ energy metabolism

Sep. 3, 2013 — Resting cancer cells can be selectively destroyed by inhibiting their energy metabolism. This is the recent discovery by researchers at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, together with other cooperation partners from Germany.The findings of their study have been published in the scientific journal Nature.Chemotherapy does not kill all cancer cells, but instead, some cells enter a state known as senescence (programmed growth arrest). While in this state, the tumor cells are inactive and no longer divide. Nevertheless, senescence comes with hidden dangers. For instance, senescent cells produce protein messenger substances that can cause harmful inflammatory reactions. Moreover, senescent cells may pose a risk of cancer recurrence. Researchers working around Prof. Dr. Clemens Schmitt, Director of the Center for Molecular Cancer Research and Executive Supervising Medical Doctor at the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology at the Charité, have now discovered a way to target senescent cancer cells for destruction.”We have demonstrated a major increase in energy metabolism in senescent tumor cells after chemotherapy, and that the cells truly crave for sugar,” explains Prof. …

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Giant Triassic amphibian was a burrowing youngster

Sep. 2, 2013 — Krasiejów, Poland was a vastly different place 230 million years ago during the Triassic Period. It was part of a giant continent called Pangea, had a warm climate throughout the year, and was populated by giant amphibians that weighed half a ton and were 10 feet long. Metoposaurus diagnosticus was one of these giant amphibians, and its environment had only two seasons: wet and dry. Like modern amphibians, Metoposaurus needed water for its lifestyle, but the extremely long dry season in Triassic Krasiejów drove this species to burrow underground and go dormant when water was scarce.The burrowing behavior of Metoposaurus was recently discovered by Dorota Konietzko-Meier of the University of Opole, Poland and the University of Bonn, Germany, and P. Martin Sander also of the University of Bonn and was recently published in a study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. This study examined both the overall structure of the skeleton of Metoposaurus as well as the microscopic structure of its bones.The broad, flat head, broad flat arm bones, wide hands, and large tail of Metaposaurus diagnosticus led the investigators to conclude that this species swam in ephemeral lakes during the wet season and used its broad, flat head and forearms to burrow under the ground when the dry season began. The authors also examined cross-sections of the bones of Metoposaurus looking for growth rings, called annuli. These annuli are similar to tree rings, where a band of light and a band of dark indicate one year of growth. In other early amphibians one annulus usually consists of a broad zone of rapid growth (wet season) followed by a thin band of slow growth (dry season), but in Metoposaurus, a period of prolonged slow growth was followed by a cessation of growth during the dry season. …

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