Scientists study testicles of gnats to understand production of particular genes

Analyzing the testicles of fruit flies, a group of researchers at Rockefeller University confirmed that the testicles themselves are not only “sperm factories” but can also be used to create new genes.

In their research, published in eLife, the researchers studied a number of genes originated in the testicles discovered by other research in recent years. They identified and decoded the RNA sequences contained in individual cells within the testicles and eventually marked them to follow their development.

They analyzed particular types of young genes that are born from scratch rather than duplicating existing genes. About 15% of these new genes appeared at the beginning of cell development, even in stem cells, which surprised the researchers themselves. The most active period for genes born from scratch occurred at mid-flow, in the so-called spermatocyte phase, i.e. the development of sperm.

Gold scientists also want to understand what these new genes are for because some of them seem to appear by chance and make no contribution to development even though Li Zhao, the scientist who led the research, thinks that they play a role in the maturation of sperm cells.

New research will be needed to understand what these genes are used for and what precisely their role is.

Dinosaurs proliferated thanks to a sudden increase in oxygen 215 million years ago

According to a study presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Barcelona, the increase in oxygen levels that occurred 215 million years ago would be linked to the rise of dinosaurs in the area of present-day North America.

Researchers measured oxygen levels in some ancient rocks in North America and saw a peak in oxygen levels with the latter increasing by almost a third in just three million years. This increased availability of oxygen, according to the researchers, would be linked to an expansion of dinosaurs, and not only in North America.

The researchers used a new technique to measure the gases trapped inside the rocks. The method involves the use of a mass spectrometer that measures the composition of the gases. The researchers analyzed the rocks of the Colorado plateau and the Newark basin, two conglomerates that formed more or less at the same time and were separated by about 600 miles away in the supercontinent of Pangea.

Analysis has shown that in about 3 million years, just over the blink of an eye in geological terms, oxygen levels have increased from about 15% to about 19% (today we are at 21%). Schaller still does not know what may have caused this “sudden” increase, probably there is a global climate change that has also seen a drop in carbon dioxide levels.

However, he has discovered that it was dinosaurs in particular that took advantage of it: during the oxygen peak, the first dinosaurs appeared in the North American tropics, areas that at the time of the supercontinent Pangaea were located near the equator, particularly those of the genus Chindesaurus.

These last ones were then followed by the sauropods and by a wide evolutionary diversification. Oxygen levels may not have been the only determining factor, according to Schaller himself.

Nanoparticles in the eyes allow mice infrared night vision

A nanoparticle-based technology that could perhaps one day allow humans an integrated night vision within their visual system has been developed by a group of researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts. Gang Han, the main author of the research, is in fact performing several experiments on mice by injecting into their eyes a special nanomaterial made from nanoparticle conversion (upconversion nanoparticles, UCNP).

These are organic particles that contain traces of rare earths, erbium and ytterbium that can convert the photons of infrared light into high-energy green light, i.e. light that mammals’ eyes can intercept.

The special nanoparticles have been attached to the photoreceptors of mice’s eyes with a protein bound in turn to a sugar molecule on the surface of the photoreceptors. After this first stage, they injected them behind the retinas.

They then started to test to see if the eyes could see infrared light. In the first phase, the mice were trained to swim towards a visible light that signaled the escape route. In a second phase, the visible light was replaced by infrared light.

Mice with special nanoparticles in their eyes could also see the escape route signal, unlike other mice that had not been injected.

After 10 weeks, the nanoparticles had not yet caused any obvious side effects, although Han himself admits that the level of biocompatibility is not yet completely clear at this stage and that further research will also have to be done to consider possible use in humans.

Breathalyzer invented that detects marijuana in the breath

Marijuana is becoming increasingly legal in the United States, but there are limits on its use, just as there are limits on alcohol when driving, for example.

Unlike marijuana, however, there is no quick device for marijuana to check, for example by breathing, the amount taken, as is done with a breathalyzer for alcohol. This is a real problem for the police force and for those in charge of controls in general.

A team of researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh has therefore built one. It is a device that can measure the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound present in marijuana itself, by breath alone.

Currently, to check the presence of this compound in the body, analyses of blood, urine or hair samples must be carried out, processes that cannot be carried out naturally, for example, at a checkpoint or at a checkpoint.

The device is constructed with carbon nanotubes capable of capturing the THC molecules present in the breath. Once captured, the surface of the nanotubes changes its electrical properties, which signals the presence of the compound.

These nanotechnological sensors detect THC with a degree of accuracy comparable or even better than mass spectrometers.

In addition, as Sean Hwang, one of the authors of the study as well as the manufacturers of the device, explains, automatic learning technique was also used to “teach” the device to recognize the presence of THC even when there are other imperceptible substances in the breath.

Externally it is similar to a classic breathalyzer: it boasts a plastic casing and mouthpiece plus a small digital display indicating the measurement.

Seagulls carry infectious bacteria for humans according to a new study

According to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, seagulls could represent one of the main vehicles of infectious bacteria for humans in the future, in particular those bacteria resistant to drugs and antibiotics.

The research, carried out by scientists at the Murdoch University in Perth, found that 20% of the 550 Australian gulls analyzed were carriers of infectious bacteria for humans. The seagulls themselves would become infected by coming into contact with excrement or human organic waste. Seagulls are in fact used to frequent landfills and sewer spill points and the like in search of food or nutrients.

In particular, gulls carried specimens of Escherichia coli, something that the researchers themselves found unusual. Other bacteria that seagulls carried could also cause urinary tract infections and sepsis.

The risk of a seagull transmitting an infection to a human being is still unlikely according to Mark O’Dea, a researcher who carried out the study and made some statements to the AFP.

However, the increase in these birds in the inhabited areas and the increasingly frequent contacts they have with our organic waste do not bode well in this regard.

New satellite system identifies the smallest deformations to prevent bridge collapses

A new satellite system will help to identify bridges that could collapse. Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA and the University of Bath have in fact developed a new pre-alarm system that uses satellite images to identify even the smallest deformations or small movements in bridge structures in order to identify the risk of collapse.

The idea came when scientists verified 15 years of satellite images of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, of which a large section collapsed in August last year causing the death of 43 people. In the study, published in Remote Sensing, it is shown how the bridge, in these satellite images, already showed signs of deformation in the months that preceded the collapse. The system, in fact, is able to intercept the deformations of the structures with a millimetric precision.

“We have shown that it is possible to use this tool, in particular the combination of different data from satellites, with a mathematical model, to detect the first signs of collapse or deformation,” says Giorgia Giardina, a researcher at the University of Bath and one of the authors of the study.

The system would be better able to detect signs of deformation or structural movement in bridges, but also in other buildings or structures, compared to today’s monitoring systems that substantially detect these modifications only at specific points, ie those in which they are positioned sensors.

Instead, this new technique involves an almost real-time monitoring of the entire structure with unprecedented frequency and accuracy, as also emphasized by Pietro Milillo, researcher of the JPL and another author of the study. Combining this technique with other more “classic” techniques, the potential for bridge collapse prevention activities would become even higher.

This is a system whose conception has been made possible thanks to the major advances in satellite technology that have taken place in recent years.

In this case, the researchers combined the radar satellites of the COSMO-SkyMed constellation of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Sentinel-1a and 1b satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Thanks to the radar data of these satellites, it is possible to construct a very detailed and specific 3D image of a bridge or any building on the earth’s surface.

Kratom herb supplements are dangerous according to a new study

A study confirms the danger of the kratom herb used for pain relief or even to treat opioid addiction. This herb comes from a plant native to Southeast Asia. It has been reported that the chemicals that this herb contains can have a positive effect on the body’s opioid receptors but other studies have also pointed to its degree of toxicity to the human body.

The degree of toxicity or in any case the very negative side effects are now underlined by another study, published in Pharmacotherapy and conducted by William Eggleston, a researcher at the University of Binghamton, who wanted to understand the toxicity levels of a herb-based supplement kratom. To do this he examined various databases of New York State medical examiners to understand all the deaths associated with this herb.

The researcher worked on 2312 cases of exposure to kratom grass of which 935 saw the compounds of this herb as the only assimilated substance.

Among the negative side effects that the researcher found were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness, vomiting and confusional states. To a lesser extent, the researcher also found cases of convulsion, abstinence, hallucinations, respiratory depression, coma and cardiac or respiratory arrest.

The death of four of the people analyzed could be traced back to kratom, which could be considered a cause or a trigger for death.

According to Eggleston, in too high doses the kratom can cause effects that see sedation and slowing of the breath as well as convulsions and liver toxicity.

According to the same researcher, further research is needed to understand more about the safety of its use and its effectiveness, but these results show that “it should not be available as an herbal supplement.”

Carbon dioxide used to create graphene by imitating plant enzyme

A team of researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) published a new study in the journal ChemSusChem which considers the possibility of using carbon dioxide to produce graphene.

According to the researchers, in fact, the carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere following the combustion of raw materials such as coal and oil can be used to synthesize precious materials. And it is not just about reducing air pollution: the process could lead to a new profitable sector.

Among other things, we already have an example in nature: chlorophyll photosynthesis made by plants combines carbon dioxide with water and light to create biomass, a cycle that researchers have been trying to reproduce for years. However, in this study, the researchers of the German institute have analyzed above all the enzyme based on metal RuBisCo.

This enzyme absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and makes it reusable for other chemical reactions in the plant. The researchers, trying to mimic the process carried out by this enzyme, are therefore trying to convert carbon dioxide into graphene.

The process involves temperatures up to 1000 ° F and particular catalytic preparations.

As Mario Ruben, professor at Molekulare Materialien explains, and one of the authors of the study, “if the metal surface shows the correct relationship between copper and palladium, the conversion of carbon dioxide into graphene will take place directly in a simple one-step process.”