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Molecule shown to repair damaged axons
A foray into plant biology led one researcher to discover that a natural molecule can repair axons, the thread-like projections that carry electrical signals between cells. Axonal damage is the major culprit underlying disability in conditions such as spinal cord injury and stroke.

Andrew Kaplan, a PhD candidate at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University, was looking for a pharmacological approach to axon regeneration, with a focus on 14-3-3, a family of proteins with neuroprotective functions that have been under investigation in the laboratory of Dr. Alyson Fournier, professor of neurology and neurosurgery and senior author on the study.

During his search, he found research describing how plants respond to a specific type of fungal infection. When plants are exposed to fusicoccin-A, a small molecule produced by a certain strain of fungus, the leaves of the plant wilt but the roots grow longer. Fusicoccin-A affects 14-3-3 activity by stabilizing its interactions with other proteins.

“While 14-3-3 is the common denominator in this phenomenon, the identity of the other proteins involved and the resulting biological activities differ between plants and animals,” says Kaplan.

Kaplan theorized that fusicoccin-A could be an effective way of harnessing 14-3-3 to repair axons. To test this theory, he and his fellow researchers treated mechanically damaged neurons in culture with the molecule and observed the results.

“When I looked under the microscope the following day the axons were growing like weeds, an exciting result that led us to determine that fusicoccin-A can stimulate axon repair in the injured nervous system,” says Kaplan

Source and further reading:
http://www.mcgill.ca/neuro/channels/news/molecule-shown-repair-damaged-axons-266571

Journal article:
http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30102-2

#neuroscience #axonrepair #research #medicine
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Controversial New Theory Suggests Life Wasn't a Fluke of Biology—It Was Physics

The biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal of energy and the rise of “entropy” or disorder in the universe. England said this restructuring effect, which he calls dissipation-driven adaptation, fosters the growth of complex structures, including living things. The existence of life is no mystery or lucky break, he told Quanta in 2014, but rather follows from general physical principles and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.” Since then, England, a 35-year-old associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been testing aspects of his idea in computer simulations. The two most significant of these studies were published this month—the more striking result in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the other in Physical Review Letters. The outcomes of both computer experiments appear to back England’s general thesis about dissipation-driven adaptation, though the implications for real life remain speculative.

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A Ghostly Trio from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
 
In the spirit of Halloween, scientists are releasing a trio of stellar ghosts caught in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. All three spooky structures, called planetary nebulas, are in fact material ejected from dying stars. As death beckoned, the stars' wispy bits and pieces were blown into outer space.
 
"Some might call the images haunting," said Joseph Hora of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass., principal investigator of the Spitzer observing program. "We look to the pictures for a sense of the history of the stars’ mass loss, and to learn how they evolved over time."
 
All stars about the mass of our sun will die similarly ethereal deaths. As sun-like stars grow old, billions of years after their inception, they run out of fuel in their cores and puff up into red, giant stars, aptly named "red giants." The stars eventually cast off their outer layers, which expand away from the star. When ultraviolet light from the core of a dying star energizes the ejected layers, the billowy material glows, bringing their beautiful shapes to light.
 
These objects in their final death throes, the planetary nebulas, were named erroneously after their resemblance to planets by William Herschel in 1785. They come in an array of shapes, as illustrated by the three highlighted here in infrared images from Spitzer. The ghostly material will linger for only a few thousand years before ultimately fading into the dark night.
 
Exposed Cranium Nebula
 
The brain-like orb called PMR 1 has been nicknamed the "Exposed Cranium" nebula by Spitzer scientists. This planetary nebula, located roughly 5,000 light-years away in the Vela constellation, is host to a hot, massive dying star that is rapidly disintegrating, losing its mass. The nebula's insides, which appear mushy and red in this view, are made up primarily of ionized gas, while the outer green shell is cooler, consisting of glowing hydrogen molecules.
 
Ghost of Jupiter Nebula
 
The Ghost of Jupiter, also known as NGC 3242, is located roughly 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Spitzer's infrared view shows off the cooler outer halo of the dying star, colored here in red. Also evident are concentric rings around the object, the result of material being tossed out periodically during the star's fitful death.
 
Little Dumbbell Nebula
 
This planetary nebula, known as NGC 650, or the Little Dumbbell, is about 2,500 light-years from Earth in the Perseus constellation. Unlike the other spherical nebulas, it has a bipolar or butterfly shape due to a "waist," or disk, of thick material, running from lower left to upper right. Fast winds blow material away from the star, above and below this dusty disk. The ghoulish green and red clouds are from glowing hydrogen molecules. The green area is hotter than the red.
 
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. For more information about Spitzer, visit http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer .
 
 
Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
>whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov
 
2013-312
 
#Nebulea #Universe #NASA
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True fact

Brainstorm time!

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Do you think we can do it?

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Well, what are we waiting for?

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Whelp there you go

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Don't get bamboozled you silly bastards!!
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Not a good day for humanity.
Let us brainstorm ideas and solutions to these problems.
I think I'm going to be sick.

If you want to really scare an engineer, have one of the last-line backups -- the ones that nobody normal even thinks about, the ones that are meant to make sure the system fails safe if something unimaginably apocalyptic happens -- fail.

The seed vault isn't the best backup against a global apocalypse; honestly, if that happens, then the odds of us being able to use this effectively aren't great either. But it is a backup against, for example, some rapidly-spreading plant disease causing a collapse of a major food crop. These backups are what we'd need to start engineering resistant strains if contamination happened globally faster than we could catch it. That's a nontrivial failure mode of our food system, and that's why this vault is really important to have.

It was designed to be self-operating, maintained at the required -18C primarily by the cold temperatures of Svalbard. An isolated station that would let the people who worry about our food supply sleep at night. But the system never expected this scale of climate change; and with the permafrost melting, water flooded in and froze in the entryway. Thank all the gods, the vault itself remained unbreached, but the system can no longer be considered to be stable in its own right; it's being manned 24/7 until we can figure out how to stabilize it.

h/t Ursula Vernon.
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