Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2020)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2020.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2020

Diet modifications - including more wine and cheese - may help reduce cognitive decline
The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years, according to new Iowa State University research. The study is the first of its kind to connect specific foods with cognitive decline. The findings show cheese protected against age-related cognitive problems and red wine was related to improvements in cognitive function.

Artificial intelligence classifies supernova explosions with unprecedented accuracy
Scientists from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have trained machine learning software to classify supernovae without the traditional use of spectra. The project--the first to use real supernovae data to inform its artificial intelligence--is 82% accurate. Currently, scientists take spectra of 10-percent of the ~10,000 supernovae discovered each year. When the Rubin Observatory goes online, only 0.1-percent of the expected supernovae discoveries will be further studied without the new software.

Battling COVID-19 using UV light
Some University of New Mexico researchers have found a possible breakthrough in how to manage COVID-19, as well as future viruses. It involves using polymer and oligomer materials activated with UV light in order to kill microbes on surfaces.

Artificial intelligence finds surprising patterns in Earth's biological mass extinctions
Scientists have long believed that mass extinctions create productive periods of species evolution, or ''radiations,'' a model called ''creative destruction.'' However, new analysis provide evidence for different outcome. A new study led by scientists affiliated with the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology used machine learning to examine the co-occurrence of fossil species and found that radiations and extinctions are rarely connected, and thus mass extinctions generally don't cause mass radiations.

AI-designed serotonin sensor may help scientists study sleep and mental health
In an article in Cell, National Institutes of Health-funded researchers described how they used advanced genetic engineering techniques to transform a bacterial protein into a new research tool that may help monitor serotonin transmission with greater fidelity than current methods. Preclinical experiments, primarily in mice, showed that the sensor could detect subtle, real-time changes in brain serotonin levels during sleep, fear, and social interactions, as well as test the effectiveness of new psychoactive drugs.

Artificial intelligence improves control of powerful plasma accelerators
Researchers have used AI to control beams for the next generation of smaller, cheaper accelerators for research, medical and industrial applications.

LSU Health conducts first study on neighborhood deprivation and COVID in Louisiana
A study by researchers at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, believed to be the first study to investigate the role of neighborhood deprivation on COVID-19 in Louisiana, found that the more a neighborhood is deprived, the higher the risk for cases of COVID-19. They report that people living in the most deprived neighborhoods had an almost 40% higher risk of COVID-19 compared to those residing in the least deprived neighborhoods.

Vitamin D the clue to more Autism spectrum disorder in boys
Professor Darryl Eyles and Dr Asad Ali from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute found vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy caused an increase in testosterone in the developing brain of male rats. Low vitamin D in mothers is one of the risk factors for Autism spectrum disorder, which is three times as common in boys.

Artificial visual system of record-low energy consumption for the next generation of AI
A joint research led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has built an ultralow-power consumption artificial visual system to mimic the human brain, which successfully performed data-intensive cognitive tasks. Their experiment results could provide a promising device system for the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Vanderbilt researchers discover strong correlation between partisanship and social mobility during COVID-19 pandemic
According to many medical experts, reduced social mobility - defined here as social contact and travel within and among communities - is a necessary factor to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Genes could be key to new COVID-19 treatments, study finds
Potential treatments for Covid-19 have been identified after the discovery of five genes associated with the most severe form of the disease.

Gene could help predict response to cervical cancer treatment
UCLA researchers have identified a potential diagnostic marker that could help predict how likely someone with cervical cancer is to respond to the standard treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.

Automatic deep-learning AI tool measures volume of cerebral ventricles on MRIs in children
Researchers from multiple institutions in North America have developed a fully automated, deep-learning (DL), artificial-intelligence clinical tool that can measure the volume of cerebral ventricles on magnetic resonance images (MRIs) in children within about 25 minutes.

Majority of pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic, study finds
Illustrates how pandemic disproportionally impacted vulnerable populations and underserved communities

Screening for endocrine disruption in artificial zebrafish for long-term risk assessment
the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) announced that the collaborative research team led by Dr. Young Jun Kim, leader of environmental safety at KIST Europe, and Professor Hyunjoon Kong from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tried to develop the long-term toxicity and risks by cultivating organoids that mimic the liver of zebrafish.

A protein has been identified as a potential therapeutic target for leishmaniasis vaccines
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), leishmaniasis causes between 20,000 and 30,000 deaths a year, and there is currently no vaccine for humans. A research team led by the Complutense University of Madrid has described the mechanism by which the Leishmania parasite avoids detection: through the SHP-1 protein, which is responsible for basic cellular functions. The finding positions this protein as a potential therapeutic target for the development of vaccines against the disease.

Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults
Early adulthood, a transitional life stage marked by major changes in social roles and responsibilities, can bring with it an increase of mental health problems.

New tool for watching and controlling neural activity
An interdisciplinary team of scientists has created a new molecular tool to help us better understand the cellular basis of behavior.

Adaptive Image Receive (AIR) coil from GE shows promise for whole-brain imaging
According to an article in ARRS' American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), a prototype 16-channel head Adaptive Image Receive (AIR) radiofrequency coil from GE Healthcare outperformed a conventional 8-channel head coil for in vivo whole-brain imaging, though it did not perform as well as a conventional 32-channel head coil.

Mass extinctions of land-dwelling animals occur in 27-million-year cycle
Mass extinctions of land-dwelling animals--including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds--follow a cycle of about 27 million years, coinciding with previously reported mass extinctions of ocean life, according to a new analysis published in the journal Historical Biology.

Flavors added to vaping devices can damage the heart
The appealing array of fruit and candy flavors that entice millions of young people take up vaping can harm their hearts, a preclinical study by University of South Florida Health (USF Health) researchers found. The team investigated in cardiac cells and in young mice the potential cardiotoxic effects of the many flavoring chemicals added to the e-liquids in electronic nicotine delivery systems.

New online COVID-19 mortality risk calculator could help determine who should get vaccines first
A new online calculator for estimating individual and community-level risk of dying from COVID-19 has been developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Financial distress negatively impacts well-being, satisfaction of breast cancer patients
Financial toxicity among breast cancer patients is independently associated with worse psychological well-being following a mastectomy or lumpectomy operation. However, even small improvements in financial pressure associated with treatment-related costs can lead to better mental well-being and higher patient satisfaction with breast reconstruction.

Tweaking carotenoid genes helps tomatoes bring their a-game
Researchers led by the University of Tsukuba demonstrated that Target-AID gene editing technology can be used to simultaneously introduce single-base changes into multiple genes in tomatoes. Using this technique, the researchers altered three genes associated with carotenoid accumulation, resulting in elevated levels of carotenoids, particularly lycopene, in the resulting tomato lines. This technology will allow tomato breeders to introduce multiple advantageous gene changes into elite commercial cultivars, bypassing lengthy back-crossing steps between generations.

Low blood pressure during hemodialysis may indicate peripheral vascular disease
Using a large nationwide registry of patients receiving maintenance hemodialysis, this study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases found that higher frequency of low blood pressure episodes during hemodialysis was associated with a higher incidence of diagnosed peripheral arterial disease.

Baricitinib plus Remdesivir shows promise for treating COVID-19
The combination of baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory drug, and remdesivir, an antiviral, reduced time to recovery for people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to clinical trial results published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers find a better way to design metal alloys
A system developed by MIT researchers uses machine learning to analyze boundaries between crystal grains, allowing for the selection of desired properties in a new metal alloy.

How AI could make therapeutic decision-making for breast cancer more accurate, affordable
Deep learning-enabled breast cancer technology could make breast cancer therapy decisions more accurate, affordable and accessible. For newly diagnosed breast cancer, estrogen receptor status (ERS) is a key molecular marker used for prognosis and treatment decisions. This is an expensive, time-consuming process. Here we show that machine learning can determine molecular marker status. Our approach could augment clinicians' capabilities in cancer prognosis and theragnosis by harnessing biological signals imperceptible to the human eye.

Safe space: improving the "clean" methanol fuel cells using a protective carbon shell
Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), which produce electricity using methanol, will be an alternative solution in the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a ''hydrogen'' economy. However, undesired methanol oxidation on the cathode side in DMFCs degrades the essential platinum catalyst, causing performance and stability problems. Now, scientists from Korea have found a simple method to coat platinum nanoparticles with a protective carbon shell. This selectively excludes methanol from reaching the catalyst's core on the cathode, solving a long-standing problem in DMFCs.

Scientists build whole functioning thymus from human cells
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London have rebuilt a human thymus, an essential organ in the immune system, using human stem cells and a bioengineered scaffold. Their work is an important step towards being able to build artificial thymi which could be used as transplants.

From publication bias to lost in information
From publication bias to lost in information In BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, IQWiG researchers call for a central, public and worldwide portal for clinical trials

Scientists publish open resource to help design 'greener' energy systems
Researchers have created a database of measurements from existing global power grid systems that will help develop new power systems capable of meeting changing demands, such as the move towards renewable energy sources.

New report finds global health research infrastructure imperiled by COVID-19
A new report released today from the non-profit Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) finds that The strong foundation of global health research and development (R&D) that greatly accelerated the development of COVID-19 innovations is now being weakened by pandemic pressures that are diverting funding and expertise away from other dangerous diseases and putting clinical trials and scientific endeavors around the world on indefinite hold.

Assessment of racial/ethnic disparities in hospitalization, mortality in patients with COVID-19 in New York City
COVID-19 outcomes based on race and ethnicity were compared in this observational study of patients in a large health system in New York City, and the association of any disparities with coexisting medical conditions and neighborhood characteristics also was assessed.

New insights about age-related macular degeneration could spur better treatments
Experiments in a mouse model have uncovered mechanisms involved in abnormal blood vessel formation in ''wet'' age-related macular degeneration. Certain inflammatory pathways and proteins may be attractive therapeutic targets for the disease.

Test your heart health by climbing stairs
Climbing four flights of stairs in less than a minute indicates good heart health, according to research presented at EACVI - Best of Imaging 2020, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). 'The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health,' said study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña, Spain.

Access to nature important for mental health during Covid lockdowns
People in European countries with the strictest COVID-19 lockdown policies were more likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to an international study investigating the impact of disconnecting from nature.

Researchers find why 'lab-made' proteins have unusually high temperature stability
Efforts to enhance the ability of proteins to resist breaking down, or 'denaturing', at high temperatures is one of the hottest topics in biotech. Researchers have now identified some of the principles behind how this works, potentially opening up a raft of industrial applications for designer proteins.

A matter of balance: asymmetric divisions are crucial to form a functional retina
Researchers at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, have discovered that in the developing retina, and important part of the central nervous system, the divisions leading to the first differentiating neurons are asymmetric and that this asymmetry is necessary to generate the correct types of neurons in the right numbers and proportions.

The (un)social network: The emergence of digital thought clones and what to do about them
A groundbreaking study published in Information & Communications Technology Law by experts at the Centre for Law and Development at Qatar University discusses the legal and ethical implications of Big Tech's development of ''digital thought clones.'' Digital thought clones can allow technology companies to accurately predict and influence people's behavior according to their digital habits. The authors call for legislation to protect people from technology companies' malicious use of their digital footprint.

Potential extreme condition history detector - recoverable PL achieved in pyrochlore
Photoluminescence (PL) is light emission from a substance after the absorption of photons stimulated by temperature, electricity, pressure, or chemistry doping. An international team of scientists led by Dr. Wenge Yang from Center for High Pressure Science &Technology Advanced Research (HPSTAR) presents a strong tricolor PL achieved in non-PL pyrochlore Ho2Sn2O7 through high pressure treatment. Interestingly the PL can be much enhanced after pressure release and recovered to ambient conditions. Their study is published in the recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

VRK1: a protein that reduces the survival of patients with neuroblastoma
Researchers have characterised the function of VRK1 in neuroblastoma tumour cells and have determined that this protein is essential for tumour cell growth and proliferation. ''By studying the expression of this protein in tumours, we were able to identify a priori patients where tumour progression is going to be worse, even in groups where current tools do not predict that behaviour,'' notes Francisco M. Vega.

Multi-population risk scores could improve risk prediction for inflammatory bowel diseases, study finds
New study illustrates how studying diverse populations can help predict patient outcomes and reduce health disparities

New analysis method for predicting the risks and effects of immunotherapy
In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University have been able to show differences in how Rituximab, a monoclonal antibody drug, interacts with the blood of healthy individuals compared to patients with chronic lymphatic leukaemia. This has awakened hopes that this analysis method could pave the way for important breakthroughs in immunotherapy research and treatment.

Gut microbiota plays a role in brain function and mood regulation
Depression is a mental disorder that affects more than 264 million people of all ages worldwide. Understanding its mechanisms is vital for the development of effective therapeutic strategies. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur, Inserm and the CNRS recently conducted a study showing that an imbalance in the gut bacterial community can cause a reduction in some metabolites, resulting in depressive-like behaviors. These findings, which show that a healthy gut microbiota contributes to normal brain function, were published in Nature Communications on December 11, 2020.

The pressure sensor of the venus flytrap
The display of a smartphone reacts to finger pressure. The carnivorous Venus flytrap, on the other hand, even notices when a lightweight like a fly lands on it. Special genes make this possible.

Using water fleas, UTA researchers investigate adaptive evolution
Researchers from The University of Texas at Arlington resurrected the preserved eggs of a shrimp-like crustacean to examine long-standing questions about adaptive evolution, reporting the results in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Novel cathode design significantly improves performance of next-generation battery
A research team at HKUST has proposed a novel cathode design concept for lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery that substantially improves the performance of this kind of promising next-generation battery.

A new TanSat XCO2 global product for climate studies
The 1st Chinese carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring satellite mission, TanSat, was launched in 2016. The 1st TanSat global map of CO2 dry-air mixing ratio (XCO2) measurements over land was released as version 1 data product with an accuracy of 2.11 ppmv (parts per million by volume) in 2017. A new (version 2) TanSat global XCO2 product is now released.

The Protein Society announces 2022 appointment of Protein Science Editor-in-chief
The Protein Society is thrilled to announce the appointment of John Kuriyan, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley as Editor-in-Chief of Protein Science, effective January 1, 2022. He will succeed outgoing editor Dr. Brian Matthews, who has served in this role since 2005 and provided continuous outstanding service to our society and the broader community.

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