Category Archives: Science Research

A Quick Profile Of AMEYAWDEBRAH.COM

Based in Ghana, AmeyawDebrah.com is an entertainment website that talks about Ghanaian celebrities (one of the few reputable websites that does so). This website has been around for quite some time, and its editor (Ameyaw Debrah) is well qualified to publish on news within Ghana. The site has been around for a while, having launched its iPhone app in 2010 and growing significantly since then.

While the focus of the website is on Ghana, there is also a world news section (https://ameyawdebrah.com/category/world-stars) maintained by different writers.

Electricity can be used to heal bacterial wound infections

Fight bacterial infections using electricity? It is possible according to a group of researchers at the Indiana Center for Regenerative and Engineering who have developed a type of dressing that uses an electric field to stop the infection on bacterial biofilms.

The study, published in Annals of Surgery, describes the system based on an electric field that directly treats bacterial biofilms. The latter are thin and slimy films made by bacteria that form on wounds, in particular burns or surgical infections.

It happens that these bacteria generate a small amount of electricity through which they basically communicate and multiply, which naturally makes treatment more difficult.

The new dressing, on contact with the body fluids that come out of the wounds, is able to generate a volt of electricity independently, a very low amount that does not create any problem for the patient but instead counteracts the bacteria.

This is the first study to show that “the bacterial biofilm can be destroyed using an electroceutical dressing”, as Chandan Sen, one of the actors involved in the study, points out. This new dressing has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Plants produce less potatoes when it’s warmer: researchers find out why

Potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) are usually very sensitive to temperature: when it is too hot, a small number of tubers form or not at all. A group of biochemists from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has understood why and now hopes that this discovery will be useful to make potato crops more efficient, especially in relation to temperature.

In the study published in Current Biology, it is reported that when the temperature increases a small RNA (a small molecule of ribonucleic acid) triggers the blockage of tuber formation. This is due to the fact that at higher temperatures the plant tries to form more green shoots and leaves and fewer tubers.

Researchers have successfully “shut down” this molecule so that the plants are more resistant to high temperatures and continue to grow tubers. This means that higher yields can be achieved even if temperatures are higher than those considered optimal for potato plants (i.e. 21°C during the day and 18°C at night).

During the experiments, researchers were able to produce good quality tubers even at temperatures of over 29° during the day and 27° at night.

Uwe Sonnewald, a professor of biochemistry at the FAU, who is involved in the study, says: “Our results give us the means to be able to continue growing potatoes in the future at increasing temperatures,” which suggests that even better results can be achieved.

Malnourished flies preserve genital size to ensure mating

In the vast majority of animals, when food is scarce, the first effects are on the body, which shrinks more and more to run out of fat until it wrinkles. However, there are some parts of the body that are preserved from this “shrinkage,” parts usually considered essential for life. For example, in humans, the head is always the same size because it contains the brain, the primary organ for our survival.

In other animals, this part may be different. In fruit flies, for example, whose life span is only about 45 days and whose purpose of existence is only to reproduce in order to keep the species going, it is the genitals that are considered as the primary organ, one of those that should not be affected by the lack of food and nutrients. When the availability of food is low, in fact, fruit flies keep the size of their genitals constant in order to be more likely to reproduce. Never as in this case, does size really matter.

This is what researchers at the University of Illinois and Loyola University in Chicago have discovered. In fact, scientists have discovered lower levels of a protein in the genitals of these small insects that act as a negative growth factor, called FOXO, a clear sign of maintaining reproductive success. The study, published in Biology Letters, describes how this negative growth factor, which counteracts the growth of other parts of the body due to lack of nutrients and food, acts much less in the genital area.

By artificially increasing the activity of the FOXO protein in the genitals of these malnourished gnats, the genitals themselves began to decrease in size, up to 29%, like other parts of the body.

“Our results suggest that there was significant selective pressure to limit the amount of FOXO in the genitals of the fruit flies, a way to ensure reproductive success, given the female’s preference for mating with males with larger genitalia,” reports Alexander Shingleton, professor of biological sciences and author of the study together with colleague Austin Dreyer.

Humans were already cooking and eating starch 120,000 years ago according to new findings.

Humans cooked and ate vegetable starches, such as those of tubers and rhizomes, already 120,000 years ago according to research in the Journal of Human Evolution. The evidence came by analyzing the remains found in the cave of the Klasies River in South Africa. Remains of charred food were found in this cave after cooking on fireplaces.

This is the first research showing that the first humans used to consume starch, as reported by lead author Cynthia Larbey, a researcher at the University of Cambridge: “Our results showed that these small hearths were used to cook food and the starch and tuber roots were clearly part of their diet.”

It was a fairly healthy diet, as reported by Professor Sarah Wurz, of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg: by combining cooked roots and tubers with protein and fat from shellfish, fish and other animals, these human communities have adapted optimally to their environment and have also shown considerable ecological intelligence in the exploitation of food resources already 120,000 years ago.

Furthermore, this research confirms that starches have become an important food for humans long before the beginning of agriculture (it is believed that agriculture started only about 10,000 years ago); indeed, starch consumption can be considered almost as old as modern humans themselves.

Artificial intelligence can detect depression in children by talking about it

Artificial intelligence, thanks above all to algorithms that learn automatically (machine learning), is also increasingly entering the medical sector dedicated to mental disorders thanks mainly to the fact that human speech can offer a considerable level of detail and data that can be analyzed. This is the case of new research published in the Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics according to which, with a machine learning algorithm, it is also possible to detect the signs of depression in children by analyzing speech patterns.

About one in five children suffer from anxiety and depression, disorders also known as “internalizing disorders.” However, unlike adults, it is more difficult for doctors to diagnose a disorder such as depression because children cannot reliably articulate their emotional suffering. This difficulty then gives rise to a series of problems that can lead some parents to give up treatments that could be very important.

It is thought that for most depressed children this state is not diagnosed or treated, as reported by Ellen McGinnis, a psychologist at the University of Vermont and one of the authors of the study. This study has seen the researchers use an automatic learning algorithm to analyze the main characteristics, also on a statistical level, inherent in the speech of various audio recordings of speeches and words uttered by dozens of children who took several tests.

The researchers found that the algorithm was effective in diagnosing internalizing disorders in children with 80% accuracy. In addition, the algorithm took only a few seconds to process the piece of speech that was fed to them and make the diagnosis. In particular, the algorithm identified several unique characteristics that stood out for being highly indicative of internalizing disorders and among these there was a voice with a low frequency, with repeated inflections and content in speech.

Individually manipulable atoms with electron beam with new system

Very often in science fiction films set in the future, particularly those about spaceships, you can see machines that produce everything, especially food, with a simple command. To do this you need to manipulate atoms at the basic level, something we are not yet able to do, in order to build everything molecule by molecule. However, manufacturing atomic devices atom by atom with precise control is the goal of many scientists and research institutes.

This is also demonstrated by a new study conducted by a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Vienna and other international institutes who have taken a good step in this direction, which is still “futuristic” at the moment. The scientists have succeeded in developing a method by which atoms can be repositioned with a highly focused electron beam. With this beam, it is then possible to control the exact position of the atom and its orientation. This discovery could be the basic approach for humanity to truly enter a new era of “atomic engineering.”

Published in Science Advances, the study aims to “control from one to a few hundred atoms, check their positions, check their state of charge and control their electronic and nuclear spin states,” as Ju Li, one of the researchers involved in the study, says.

While previous research was based on the use of microscopic needles and tunnel effect microscopes to manipulate atoms at this level, this new process manipulates atoms using a beam of relativistic electrons with a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM).

With this system, the atom can be electronically controlled with magnetic lenses which, among other things, do not require moving mechanical parts. The process therefore becomes faster and more practical. It is “an exciting new paradigm for the manipulation of atoms,” as Toma Susi, professor at the University of Vienna who is involved in the study, says.

Children who watch TV sleep less

Pre-school children who are used to spending more hours in front of the TV sleep less than those who sleep less or don’t watch it at all. The study, which appeared in Sleep Health, was carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and thus confirms the negative impact of being in front of a screen on the quality of children’s sleep.

The study’s lead researcher, neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer, helped by student Abigail Helm, analyzed a diverse group of 470 preschoolers from Western Massachusetts. During several sessions, these children wore, for a maximum of 16 days, a special instrument called an actigraph, a sort of wristwatch capable of measuring the quality of sleep duration. Other data came from questionnaires sent to parents or guardians concerning the child’s behavior.

According to the results, pre-school children who watch less than one hour of TV per day sleep 22 minutes more at night, almost 2.5 hours per week, than those who watch more than one hour of TV per day. In addition, small children without a TV in their room show that they sleep 30 minutes more at night than those with a TV in their room.

The research also disproved the myth that TV is a good companion that helps children fall asleep better.

The study focused only on the impact of TVs, but the same researcher promises to perform the same experiments with portable digital devices, primarily smartphones and tablets, which are increasingly used by children before falling asleep.

Immune cells engineered with CRISPR to fight viruses

The experiment has already been conducted on mice: researchers have genetically engineered the immune cells to make the antibodies more efficient. Specifically, they helped the mice to fight a powerful lung virus, a strategy that could perhaps also help humans in all those diseases and illnesses for which no vaccine exists.

The study, conducted by immunologist Justin Taylor of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is based on the use of the CRISPR system to engineer B cells to create an antibody known to be efficient against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

B lymphocytes are immune cells that release antibodies to the pathogen. Using CRISPR, researchers cut one of the antibody genes in the mouse’s B cells and transported them through a virus into the DNA. The genes then began to “churn out” antibodies to counteract RSV.

The same way could also be used for humans: stimulating B cells to create antibodies against particular viruses for which no vaccines exist, in particular HIV and certain types of influenza viruses.

“We hope that one day children will go to their pediatrician’s office to receive engineered B cells that emit the best-known antibodies to protect against most strains of certain viruses,” says Michael Goldberg, CEO of the STIMIT biotech startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ultrasound to produce insulin to the pancreas seems to be working

A new technology that uses ultrasound to stimulate the release of insulin into the body of mice was developed by a group of researchers at George Washington University in Washington. The technique involves exposure of the pancreas to ultrasound from outside the body, a technique that stimulates the production of insulin that then circulates in the bloodstream.

This technique, presented at the 177th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Louisville, USA, was defined as “an important first step in stimulating endocrine tissue” by Tania Singh, lead author of the study.

Until now ultrasound has been used more as a diagnostic tool, for example during pregnancy, but significant technical advances in the field have also led to possible use in the therapeutic field, for example for the treatment of kidney stones or for in-depth analysis of Parkinson’s disease.

However, this is the first time that ultrasound has been proposed to treat diabetes. Early experiments in mice have shown significant increases in insulin levels after ultrasound therapy that mimic those drugs that help beta cells, i.e. cells specializing in the pancreas for insulin production, to produce insulin.

However, since the pancreas has other properties and also plays other roles in the human body, researchers hope to use this technique for other purposes, such as the release of antagonist hormones and digestive enzymes, as Singh herself points out.