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Sep 17, 2023

NIAID Researchers Study Causes of Brain Swelling in Cerebral Malaria

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Malaria is one of the most widespread and devastating infectious diseases across the globe. This mosquito-borne parasitic disease killed approximately 619,000 people in 2021 alone, many of them children in Africa. In one of the deadliest forms of malaria, known as cerebral malaria, the patient experiences severe neurological symptoms, such as seizures and coma. Although only a small fraction of people who fall ill with malaria also experience cerebral malaria, the condition is lethal without treatment. Among hospitalized patients with the condition, death rates range between 15 and 20%. In a new paper, recently published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, and their colleagues studied children with cerebral malaria in Malawi to better understand the underlying causes of these devastating symptoms in the hope of developing improved treatments.

Researchers know that the symptoms of cerebral malaria are caused when the brain swells within the confines of the skull, eventually impinging upon the brainstem, which causes breathing to stop. However, researchers have been unsure how malaria infection leads to brain swelling. Some researchers hypothesized that the main cause was a weakening of the blood-brain barrier, which would allow fluid to seep into the brain and cause it to swell. Others speculated that the primary driver behind the swelling was inside the blood vessels themselves. Red blood cells infected with P. falciparum, the parasite which causes malaria, can become “sticky,” adhering to the walls of blood vessels. Partial blockages inside the cerebral veins could slow the flow of blood leaving the brain, causing the blood vessels themselves to become engorged and expand the brain from within.

To distinguish between these two hypotheses, NIAID researchers and their collaborators used non-invasive imaging techniques to study the flow of blood within the brains of 46 children who had been hospitalized for cerebral malaria at the Pediatric Research Ward of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. As a comparison, they also studied 33 children with uncomplicated malaria and 26 healthy children from the local region. By using a light-based external monitoring tool (called near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS) the researchers were able to measure the amount of hemoglobin in the children’s brains. They reasoned that if excess fluid was the cause of brain swelling, then the hemoglobin concentration would be low, due to dilution. Alternatively, if the blood vessels were engorged with blood, then the hemoglobin concentration would be high.

Sep 17, 2023

Noncanonical Amino Acids Inspire the Development of Novel Drugs

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

Commercial platforms for protein therapeutics are being built on academic research that has expanded the genetic code behind cell-based translation.

Sep 17, 2023

Resistance-resistant antibacterial treatment strategies

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, health, robotics/AI

Antibiotic resistance is a major danger to public health that threatens to claim the lives of millions of people per year within the next few decades. Years of necessary administration and excessive application of antibiotics have selected for strains that are resistant to many of our currently available treatments. Due to the high costs and difficulty of developing new antibiotics, the emergence of resistant bacteria is outpacing the introduction of new drugs to fight them. To overcome this problem, many researchers are focusing on developing antibacterial therapeutic strategies that are “resistance-resistant”—regimens that slow or stall resistance development in the targeted pathogens. In this mini review, we outline major examples of novel resistance-resistant therapeutic strategies. We discuss the use of compounds that reduce mutagenesis and thereby decrease the likelihood of resistance emergence. Then, we examine the effectiveness of antibiotic cycling and evolutionary steering, in which a bacterial population is forced by one antibiotic toward susceptibility to another antibiotic. We also consider combination therapies that aim to sabotage defensive mechanisms and eliminate potentially resistant pathogens by combining two antibiotics or combining an antibiotic with other therapeutics, such as antibodies or phages. Finally, we highlight promising future directions in this field, including the potential of applying machine learning and personalized medicine to fight antibiotic resistance emergence and out-maneuver adaptive pathogens.

The use of antibiotics is central to the practice of modern medicine but is threatened by widespread antibiotic resistance (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), 2019). Antibiotics are a selective evolutionary pressure—they inhibit bacterial growth and viability, and antibiotic-treated bacteria are forced to either adapt and survive or succumb to treatment. The stress of antibiotic treatment can enhance bacterial mutagenesis leading to de novo resistance mutations (Figure 1A), promote the acquisition of horizontally transferred genetic elements that confer resistance, or trigger phenotypic responses that increase tolerance to drugs (Davies and Davies, 2010; Levin-Reisman et al., 2017; Bakkeren et al., 2019; Darby et al., 2022;). Additionally, antibiotic treatment can select for the proliferation of pre-existing mutants already in the population (Figure 1B).

Sep 17, 2023

Scientists suggest use of data-driven approach to look for life on other planets

Posted by in category: alien life

A large team of scientists with a wide variety of backgrounds has joined together to suggest that a data-driven approach to search for life elsewhere in the universe should replace methods now in use. In their paper posted on the arXiv preprint server, the group explains how a data-driven approach could help prevent human-centered biases from overlooking potential signs of life.

Over the past few decades, scientists have become much more open to the possibility of discovering life in places other than on Earth. And because of that, more work has been done to find life—or at least signs of it. But, as the group on this new effort points out, most such approaches tend to expect that other forms of life will resemble those found on Earth. And that could be blinding scientists to signs of life that might be there but are being missed.

To overcome such a problem, the researchers suggest a more data-driven approach be used. They note that a lot of data have been obtained regarding various parts of the night sky. They also note that the data are in different formats. Some are radio wave graphs, while others describe the attributes of light emitted by a section of the sky, or even a given planet.

Sep 17, 2023

ATLAS experiment places some of the tightest limits yet on magnetic monopoles

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

Magnets, those everyday objects we stick to our fridges, all share a unique characteristic: they always have both a north and a south pole. Even if you tried breaking a magnet in half, the poles would not separate—you would only get two smaller dipole magnets. But what if a particle could have a single pole with a magnetic charge?

For over a century, physicists have been searching for such . A new study on the preprint server arXiv from the ATLAS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) places new limits on these hypothetical particles, adding new clues for the continuing search.

In 1931, physicist Paul Dirac proved that the existence of magnetic monopoles would be consistent with quantum mechanics and require—as has been observed—the quantization of the electric charge. In the 1970s, magnetic monopoles were also predicted by new theories attempting to unify all the fundamental forces of nature, inspiring physicist Joseph Polchinski to claim that their existence was “one of the safest bets that one can make about physics not yet seen.” Magnetic monopoles might have been present in the but diluted to an unnoticeably tiny density during the early exponential expansion phase known as cosmic inflation.

Sep 17, 2023

Overeating and addiction may have roots in early human brain evolution and prosocial behaviors

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, food, health, neuroscience

Research led by the Department of Anthropology and School of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Ohio, has investigated neuropeptide Y innervation in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens of various primate species, including humans. The research was focused on understanding its role in brain evolution and any implications for human health, particularly regarding addiction and eating disorders.

In a paper, “Hedonic eating, obesity, and addiction result from increased neuropeptide Y in the nucleus accumbens during human ,” published in PNAS, the researchers suggest that the combination of increased neuropeptide Y (NPY) and dopamine (DA) within the human nucleus accumbens (NAc) may have allowed for enhanced . This same configuration may have also made humans exceptionally vulnerable to eating disorders and , hinting at addictive traits having a deep evolutionary origin.

NPY plays a role in the reward system, emotional behavior and is associated with increased alcohol use, drug addiction and . The NAc brain region is central to motivation and action, exhibiting one of the highest densities of NPY in the brain and is of great interest to researchers investigating brain-related promoters of addiction.

Sep 17, 2023

The “Unknome”: A Database of Human Genes We Know Almost Nothing About

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

UK researchers have developed a new publicly accessible database, and they hope to see it shrink over time. That’s because it is a compendium of the thousands of understudied proteins encoded by genes in the human genome, whose existence is known but whose functions are mostly not.

The database, dubbed the “unknome,” is the work of Matthew Freeman of the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford.

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England that is made up of 39 constituent colleges, and a range of academic departments, which are organized into four divisions. It was established circa 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna.

Sep 17, 2023

Study estimates the energy costs of information processing in biological systems

Posted by in category: biological

The behaviors, physiology and existence of living organisms is supported by countless biological processes, which entail the communication between cells and other molecular components. These molecular components are known to transmit information to each other in various ways, for instance via processes know as diffusion and electrical depolarization or by exchanging mechanical waves.

Researchers at Yale University recently carried out a study aimed at calculating the energetic cost of this transfer of information between cells and molecular components. Their paper, published in Physical Review Letters, introduces a new tool that could be used to study cellular networks and better understand their function.

“We have been thinking about this project for a while now in one form or another,” Benjamin B. Machta, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told

Sep 17, 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education: Impact & Examples

Posted by in categories: augmented reality, education, robotics/AI

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in higher education to incorporate modern technologies and practices in order to improve the overall educational experience. Learning management systems, gamification, video assisted learning, virtual and augmented reality, are some examples of how technology has improved student engagement and education planning. Let’s talk about AI in education. The classroom response system allowed students to answer multiple-choice questions and engage in real-time discussions instantly.

Despite the many benefits that technology has brought to education, there are also concerns about its impact on higher education institutions. With the rise of online education and the growing availability of educational resources on the internet, many traditional universities and colleges are worried about the future of their institutions. As a result, many higher education institutions need help to keep pace with the rapid technological changes and are looking for ways to adapt and stay relevant in the digital age.

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Sep 17, 2023

As artificial intelligence goes multimodal, medical applications multiply

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, robotics/AI

Machines don’t have eyes, but you wouldn’t know that if you followed the progression of deep learning models for accurate interpretation of medical images, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, pathology…

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