AMHERST, Mass. – An international team of about 100 scientists of the Borexino Collaboration, including particle physicist Andrea Pocar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, report in Nature this week detection of neutrinos from the sun, directly revealing for the first time that the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) fusion-cycle is at work in our sun.
The CNO cycle is the dominant energy source powering stars heavier than the sun, but it had so far never been directly detected in any star, Pocar explains.
For much of their life, stars get energy by fusing hydrogen into helium, he adds. In stars like our sun or lighter, this mostly happens through the ‘proton-proton’ chains. However, many stars are heavier and hotter than our sun, and include elements heavier than helium in their composition, a quality known as metallicity. The prediction since the 1930’s is that the CNO-cycle will be dominant in heavy stars.
Neutrinos emitted as part of these processes provide a spectral signature allowing scientists to distinguish those from the ‘proton-proton chain’ from those from the ‘CNO-cycle.’ Pocar points out, “Confirmation of CNO burning in our sun, where it operates at only one percent, reinforces our confidence that we understand how stars work.”
Beyond this, CNO neutrinos can help resolve an important open question in stellar physics, he adds. That is, how the sun’s central metallicity, as can only be determined by the CNO neutrino rate from the core, is related to metallicity elsewhere in a star. Traditional models have run into a difficulty – surface metallicity measures by spectroscopy do not agree with the sub-surface metallicity measurements inferred from a different method, helioseismology observations.
Pocar says neutrinos are really the only direct probe science has for the core of stars, including the sun, but they are exceedingly difficult to measure. As many as 420 billion of them hit every square inch of the earth’s surface per second, yet virtually all pass through without interacting. Scientists can only detect them using very large detectors with exceptionally low background radiation levels.
The Borexino detector lies deep under the Apennine Mountains in central Italy at the INFN’s Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso. It detects neutrinos as flashes of light produced when neutrinos collide with electrons in 300-tons of ultra-pure organic scintillator. Its great depth, size and purity make Borexino a unique detector for this type of science, alone in its class for low-background radiation, Pocar says. The project was initiated in the early 1990s by a group of physicists led by Gianpaolo Bellini at the University of Milan, Frank Calaprice at Princeton and the late Raju Raghavan at Bell Labs.
Until its latest detections, the Borexino collaboration had successfully measured components of the ‘proton-proton’ solar neutrino fluxes, helped refine neutrino flavor-oscillation parameters, and most impressively, even measured the first step in the cycle: the very low-energy ‘pp’ neutrinos, Pocar recalls.
Its researchers dreamed of expanding the science scope to also look for the CNO neutrinos – in a narrow spectral region with particularly low background – but that prize seemed out of reach. However, research groups at Princeton, Virginia Tech and UMass Amherst believed CNO neutrinos might yet be revealed using the additional purification steps and methods they had developed to realize the exquisite detector stability required.
Over the years and thanks to a sequence of moves to identify and stabilize the backgrounds, the U.S. scientists and the entire collaboration were successful. “Beyond revealing the CNO neutrinos which is the subject of this week’s Nature article, there is now even a potential to help resolve the metallicity problem as well,” Pocar says.
Before the CNO neutrino discovery, the lab had scheduled Borexino to end operations at the close of 2020. But because the data used in the analysis for the Nature paper was frozen, scientists have continued collecting data, as the central purity has continued to improve, making a new result focused on the metallicity a real possibility, Pocar says. Data collection could extend into 2021 since the logistics and permitting required, while underway, are non-trivial and time-consuming. “Every extra day helps,” he remarks.
Pocar has been with the project since his graduate school days at Princeton in the group led by Frank Calaprice, where he worked on the design, construction of the nylon vessel and the commissioning of the fluid handling system. He later worked with his students at UMass Amherst on data analysis and, most recently, on techniques to characterize the backgrounds for the CNO neutrino measurement.
This work was supported in the U.S. by the National Science Foundation. Borexino is an international collaboration also funded by the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), and funding agencies in Germany, Russia and Poland.
Better diet and glucose uptake in the brain lead to longer life in fruit flies
Improved neuronal glucose uptake plus healthier eating might have anti-aging effects
Tokyo, Japan – Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have discovered that fruit flies with genetic modifications to enhance glucose uptake have significantly longer lifespans. Looking at the brain cells of aging flies, they found that better glucose uptake compensates for age-related deterioration in motor functions, and led to longer life. The effect was more pronounced when coupled with dietary restrictions. This suggests healthier eating plus improved glucose uptake in the brain might lead to enhanced lifespans.
The brain is a particularly power-hungry part of our bodies, consuming 20% of the oxygen we take in and 25% of the glucose. That’s why it’s so important that it can stay powered, using the glucose to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy courier” of the body. This chemical process, known as glycolysis, happens in both the intracellular fluid and a part of cells known as the mitochondria. But as we get older, our brain cells become less adept at making ATP, something that broadly correlates with less glucose availability. That might suggest that more food for more glucose might actually be a good thing. On the other hand, it is known that a healthier diet actually leads to longer life. Unravelling the mystery surrounding these two contradictory pieces of knowledge might lead to a better understanding of healthier, longer lifespans.
A team led by Associate Professor Kanae Ando studied this problem using Drosophila fruit flies. Firstly, they confirmed that brain cells in older flies tended to have lower levels of ATP, and lower uptake of glucose. They specifically tied this down to lower amounts of the enzymes needed for glycolysis. To counteract this effect, they genetically modified flies to produce more of a glucose-transporting protein called hGut3. Amazingly, this increase in glucose uptake was all that was required to significantly improve the amount of ATP in cells. More specifically, they found that more hGut3 led to less decrease in the production of the enzymes, counteracting the decline with age. Though this did not lead to an improvement in age-related damage to mitochondria, they also suffered less deterioration in locomotor functions.
But that’s not all. In a further twist, the team put the flies with enhanced glucose uptake under dietary restrictions, to see how the effects interact. Now, the flies had even longer lifespans. Curiously, the increased glucose uptake did not actually improve the levels of glucose in brain cells. The results point to the importance of not just how much glucose there is, but how efficiently it is used once taken into cells to make the energy the brain needs.
Though the anti-aging benefits of a restricted diet have been shown in many species, the team were able to combine this with improved glucose uptake to leverage the benefits of both for even longer lifespans in a model organism. Further study may provide vital clues to how we might keep our brains healthier for longer.
This work was supported by a research award from the Japan Foundation for Aging and Health, a JSPS KAKENHI Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Challenging Research (Exploratory) (19K21593), NIG-JOINT (71A2018, 25A2019), a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellows (18J21936) and Research Funding for Longevity Science (19-7) from the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, Japan.
Rapid blood test identifies COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe disease
One of the most vexing aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is doctors’ inability to predict which newly hospitalized patients will go on to develop severe disease, including complications that require the insertion of a breathing tube, kidney dialysis or other intensive care. Knowledge of a patient’s age and underlying medical conditions can help predict such outcomes, but there are still surprises when younger, seemingly healthier patients suffer severe complications that can lead to death.
Now, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a relatively simple and rapid blood test can predict — within a day of a hospital admission — which patients with COVID-19 are at highest risk of severe complications or death.
The study, published Jan. 14 in JCI Insight, involved nearly 100 patients newly admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
The blood test measures levels of mitochondrial DNA, a unique type of DNA molecule that normally resides inside the energy factories of cells. Mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream is a sign that a particular type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.
“Doctors need better tools to evaluate the status of COVID-19 patients as early as possible because many of the treatments — such as monoclonal antibodies — are in short supply, and we know that some patients will get better without intensive treatments,” said co-senior author Andrew E. Gelman, PhD, the Jacqueline G. and William E. Maritz Endowed Chair in Immunology and Oncology in the Department of Surgery.
“There’s so much we still don’t understand about this disease,” he added. “In particular, we need to understand why some patients, irrespective of their ages or underlying health in some cases, go into this hyperinflammatory death spiral. Our study suggests that tissue damage may be one cause of this spiral, since the mitochondrial DNA that is released is itself an inflammatory molecule.”
The researchers said the test could serve as a way to predict disease severity as well as a tool to better design clinical trials, identifying patients who might, for example, benefit from specific investigational treatments. They also said they would like to evaluate whether the test could serve as a way to monitor the effectiveness of new therapies. Presumably, effective treatments would lower mitochondrial DNA levels.
“We will need larger trials to verify what we found in this study, but if we could determine in the first 24 hours of admission whether a patient is likely to need dialysis or intubation or medication to keep their blood pressure from dropping too low, that would change how we triage the patient, and it might change how we manage them much earlier in the disease course,” said co-senior author Hrishikesh S. Kulkarni, MD, an assistant professor of medicine.
The researchers, including co-first authors Davide Scozzi, MD, PhD, a staff scientist, and Marlene Cano, PhD, a postdoctoral research scholar, evaluated 97 patients with COVID-19 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, measuring their mitochondrial DNA levels on the first day of their hospital stays. They found that mitochondrial DNA levels were much higher in patients who eventually were admitted to the ICU, intubated or died. The researchers found this association held independently of a patient’s age, sex and underlying health conditions.
On average, mitochondrial DNA levels were about tenfold higher in patients with COVID-19 who developed severe lung dysfunction or eventually died. Those with elevated levels were almost six times more likely to be intubated, three times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and almost twice as likely to die compared with those with lower levels.
Further, the test predicted outcomes as well as or better than existing markers of inflammation currently measured in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Most other markers of inflammation measured in patients with COVID-19, including those still under investigation, are general markers of systemic inflammation, rather than inflammation specific to cell death, according to the researchers.
“Viruses can cause a type of tissue damage called necrosis that is a violent, inflammatory response to the infection,” Gelman said. “The cell breaks open, releasing the contents, including mitochondrial DNA, which itself drives inflammation. In COVID-19 patients, there has been anecdotal evidence of this type of cell and tissue damage in the lung, heart and kidney. We think it’s possible that measures of mitochondrial DNA in the blood may be an early sign of this type of cell death in vital organs.”
The researchers also emphasized that the test is quick and straightforward to perform in most hospital settings because it uses the same machinery that processes the standard PCR test for COVID-19. The method they developed allows mitochondrial DNA levels to be quantified directly in the blood. Without requiring intermediate steps to extract the DNA from the blood, the technique returned results in less than an hour.
Before they can apply for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the scientists will need to verify that the test is accurate in a larger multi-center trial. They have plans to expand the research to more sites.
The study utilized samples obtained from the School of Medicine’s COVID-19 biorepository, which was developed by co-authors Jane O’Halloran, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine; Charles Goss, PhD, an instructor in biostatistics; and Phillip Mudd, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine.
This work was supported by the Barnes Jewish Hospital Foundation; the Children’s Discovery Institute; the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers, R01HL094601, P01AI116501 and K08HL148510; and the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) COVID-19 Research Program, which is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the NIH, grant number UL1TR002345.
Scozzi D, Cano M, et al. Circulating mitochondrial DNA is an early indicator of severe illness and mortality from COVID-19. JCI Insight. Jan. 14, 2021.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Howard University professor to receive first Joseph A. Johnson Award
Thomas A. Searles honored for inspiring young Black physicists to pursue cutting-edge optics and quantum research
WASHINGTON, January 15, 2021 — The American Institute of Physics and the National Society of Black Physicists congratulate physicist Thomas A. Searles as the winner of the inaugural Joseph A. Johnson III Award for Excellence.
Named to honor the legacy of the renowned experimental physicist and founder of NSBP, the Joseph A. Johnson III Award will be given by AIP and NSBP annually to recognize an early career NSBP physicist who exemplifies Johnson’s ingenuity as a scientist and passion for mentorship and service.
In selecting Searles, the selection committee cited him “for his leadership in growing the participation levels of rising HBCU scholars in cutting-edge quantum research and for establishing a new experimental research program in asymmetric metamaterials at the juxtaposition of physics and materials science.”
“We are very excited to present the first Joseph A. Johnson Award to Thomas Searles,” said AIP CEO Michael Moloney. “His passion for the physical sciences and hard work elevating young Black scholars reflects on Dr. Johnson’s passion to help address underrepresentation in physics.”
“Professor Searles is a gifted and promising experimentalist and mentor. He is an inspirational member of NSBP and exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Joseph Johnson’s legacy,” said NSBP president Stephon Alexander. “NSBP is proud to partner with AIP in this well-deserved and prestigious award.”
Growing up in Albany, Georgia, Searles began cultivating an interest in physics in first grade, when he did a book report about Black astronauts. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Morehouse College, he went on to receive his doctorate from Rice University in applied physics.
During this time, Searles took frequent research trips to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which neighbors the Center for Plasma Science and Technology at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, where Johnson was the director.
“It was kind of like a beacon of ‘This is what you’re doing here. You could be this one day,’” he said. “It’s not full circle, but it’s cool that I’m the first person that gets this award.”
Searles, who is currently an associate professor in physics at Howard University, emphasizes the important role mentorship has played throughout his career, particularly through NSBP.
“There’s definitely a two-way street on mentoring, and there’s things I learn from my students all the time,” he said. “One person can make a huge, huge change, and hopefully, the people they affect can then keep it going.”
Seeing his students succeed is the biggest reward to Searles. A few of his most memorable experiences include finding out one of his students won an award for young Black astrophysicists and reconnecting with a particularly impressive former student, now a National Science Foundation fellow.
He said he is continuously working on becoming the best mentor he can be, especially when it comes to encouraging young Black women to see themselves as physicists.
“People identify with who they want to for various reasons. Just getting the word out that this is an option, if we can do that in the next 10 years, I know that will be an extreme change,” said Searles. “I’m always making a point to try to help graduate students, undergrads, high school students, random 8-year-olds on the street with a physics T-shirt on. If I can help anybody to get engaged, I think that’s what I’d like to do.”
From improving representation in the physical sciences to researching quantum computing, Searles is always looking for ways to address challenges that help make the world a better place. Inspiring his students to seek out opportunities is just one way to do that, and Searles is thankful for the recognition he has received.
“It’s a huge honor to be the inaugural Joseph A. Johnson Award winner. It’s extremely special to me,” said Searles. “People like Joseph Johnson were in spaces where they could never imagine the things that I’m able to do because of the things they were able to do.”
“I think it’s a very interesting time to be a young Black physicist.”
Searles considers Johnson to be synonymous with FAMU’s success in physics and hopes he can make a similar mark on Howard. The award money will help his research group publish their most recent paper.
ABOUT THE JOSEPH A. JOHNSON III AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Joseph A. Johnson III, of Florida A&M University, was a pioneering and renowned experimental physicist, mentor to many Black doctoral students and a founder of the National Society of Black Physicists. In honor of his iconic legacy, the American Institute of Physics and NSBP have partnered to recognize an NSBP physicist who exemplifies Johnson’s ingenuity as a scientist and passion for mentorship and service. This honor comes with a $5,000 award along with an invitation to give physics department colloquia at partner universities.
Founded in 1977 at Morgan State University, the mission of the National Society of Black Physicists is to promote the professional well-being of African American physicists and physics students within the international scientific community and within society at large. The organization seeks to develop and support efforts to increase opportunities for African Americans in physics and to increase their numbers and visibility of their scientific work. It also seeks to develop activities and programs that highlight and enhance the benefits of the scientific contributions that African American physicists provide for the international community. The society seeks to raise the general knowledge and appreciation of physics in the African American community.
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a 501(c)(3) membership corporation of scientific societies. AIP pursues its mission–to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity–with a unifying voice of strength from diversity. In its role as a federation, AIP advances the success of its Member Societies by providing the means to pool, coordinate, and leverage their diverse expertise and contributions in pursuit of a shared goal of advancing the physical sciences in the research enterprise, in the economy, in education, and in society. In its role as an institute, AIP operates as a center of excellence using policy analysis, social science, and historical research to promote future progress in the physical sciences. See http://www.
Nanodiamonds feel the heat
An international team of researchers created nanodiamond sensors that can act as both heat sources and thermometers, and is using them to measure the thermal conductivity inside living cells, which may lead to new diagnostics tools and cancer therapies
Osaka, Japan – A team of scientists from Osaka University, The University of Queensland, and the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Engineering used tiny nanodiamonds coated with a heat-releasing polymer to probe the thermal properties of cells. When irradiated with light from a laser, the sensors acted both as heaters and thermometers, allowing the thermal conductivity of the interior of a cell to be calculated. This work may lead to a new set of heat-based treatments for killing bacteria or cancer cells.
Even though the cell is the fundamental unit of all living organisms, some physical properties have remained difficult to study in vivo. For example, a cell’s thermal conductivity, as well as the rate that heat can flow through an object if one side is hot while the other side is cold, remained mysterious. This gap in our knowledge is important for applications such as developing thermal therapies that target cancer cells, and for answering fundamental questions about cell operation.
Now, the team has developed a technique that can determine the thermal conductivity inside living cells with a spatial resolution of about 200 nm. They created tiny diamonds coated with a polymer, polydopamine, that emit both fluorescent light as well as heat when illuminated by a laser. Experiments showed that such particles are non-toxic and can be used in living cells. When inside a liquid or a cell, the heat raises the temperature of the nanodiamond. In media with high thermal conductivities, the nanodiamond did not get very hot because heat escaped quickly, but in an environment of low thermal conductivity, the nanodiamonds became hotter. Crucially, the properties of the emitted light depend on the temperature, so the research team could calculate the rate of heat flow from the sensor to the surroundings.
Having good spatial resolution allowed measurements in different locations inside the cells. “We found that the rate of heat diffusion in cells, as measured by the hybrid nanosensors, was several times slower than in pure water, a fascinating result which still waits for a comprehensive theoretical explanation and was dependent on the location,” senior author Taras Plakhotnik says.
“In addition to improving heat-based treatments for cancer, we think potential applications for this work will result in a better understanding of metabolic disorders, such as obesity,” senior author Madoka Suzuki says. This tool may also be used for basic cell research, for example, to monitor biochemical reactions in real time.
The article, “In situ measurements of intracellular thermal conductivity using heater thermometer hybrid diamond nanosensors,” is published in Science Advances at DOI: https:/
About Osaka University
Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan’s leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world, being named Japan’s most innovative university in 2015 (Reuters 2015 Top 100) and one of the most innovative institutions in the world in 2017 (Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017). Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.
About The University of Queensland
For more than a century, The University of Queensland (UQ) has maintained a global reputation for delivering knowledge leadership for a better world.
The most prestigious and widely recognised rankings of world universities consistently place UQ among the world’s top universities.
UQ has also won more national teaching awards than any other Australian university. This commitment to quality teaching empowers our 53,600 current students, who study across UQ’s three campuses, to create positive change for society.
Our research has global impact, delivered by an interdisciplinary research community of more than 1500 researchers at our six faculties, eight research institutes and more than 100 research centres.
About the National University of Singapore (NUS)
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education, research and entrepreneurship, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. We have 17 faculties across three campuses in Singapore, with more than 40,000 students from 100 countries enriching our vibrant and diverse campus community. We have also established our NUS Overseas Colleges programme in more than 15 cities around the world.
Our multidisciplinary and real-world approach to education, research and entrepreneurship enables us to work closely with industry, governments and academia to address crucial and complex issues relevant to Asia and the world. Researchers in our faculties, 31 university-level research institutes, research centres of excellence and corporate labs focus on themes that include energy; environmental and urban sustainability; treatment and prevention of diseases; active ageing; advanced materials; risk management and resilience of financial systems; Asian studies; and Smart Nation capabilities such as artificial intelligence, data science, operations research and cybersecurity.
For more information on NUS, please visit http://www.
Ethereum, Dogecoin, Maker Price Analysis: 15 January
How are Chainlink’s whales propping up its price?
NavCoin releases its new privacy protocol, one day after Binance adds NAV to its staking program
Bitcoin Cloud Mining With Shamining: Is it Worth it? [Review]
Litecoin Regains Footing After Being Knocked Back by Resistance
Warp Finance Relaunches With ‘Additional Security’ from Chainlink
Hackers Leak Stolen Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Data
Ghana fintech startup secures $700k investment
Sophisticated Hacks Against Android, Windows Reveal Zero-Day Trove
Crypto Games May Substitute Regular Video Games in 2021
Nokian One All-Season Tire Has Life Expectancy Of 80,000 Miles
Amundi and BNY Mellon form strategic alliance
High-Severity Cisco Flaw Found in CMX Software For Retailers
The Cannabis Craze is Back in Gear (NASDAQ: SNDL) (NASDAQ: GRWG) (OTC US: MEDH) (OTC US: CRLBF)
Affinity Gaming’s SPAC Gaming & Hospitality Acquisition files for a $150 million IPO
Is Gold Still Worth Buying in the Bitcoin Age?
CISOs Prep For COVID-19 Exposure Notification in the Workplace
The Countdown is on: Bitcoin has 3 Days Before It Reaches Apex of Key Formation
Schroders appoints Global Head of Infrastructure in Private Assets
Biden to Pick Former CFTC Chair Gary Gensler as SEC Chairman: Report
Blockchain1 week ago
Is it late to have no account Cryptocurrency payment and online payment
Amb Crypto1 week ago
Cardano, Cosmos, FTX Token Price Analysis: 09 January
Amb Crypto1 week ago
Bitcoin futures volume hits an ATH of $100 billion
PR Newswire1 week ago
Kintor’s Proxalutamide (GT0918) COVID-19 Clinical Trial Shows Positive Preliminary Results in Treatment of Female Patients
Covid191 week ago
Mapped: Drone Privacy Laws Around the World
Blockchain7 days ago
Bitcoin, Altcoins Dip. Are Crypto Entering Bear Territory?
Blockchain1 week ago
Norwegian Block Exchange secures large private investment
NEWATLAS1 week ago
Lenovo AR glasses let you multi-screen virtually anywhere
Amb Crypto1 week ago
Stellar Lumens, Tron, Algorand Price Analysis: 09 January
NEWATLAS1 week ago
Externally powered implant designed to treat obesity
Amb Crypto3 days ago
Ethereum, Dogecoin, Maker Price Analysis: 15 January
SPAC Insiders1 week ago
LightJump Acquisition Corporation (LJAQU) Prices Upsized $120M IPO