Monthly Archives: October 2019

“Swimmers shoulder” much more widespread among boys than thought

The so-called “swimmer’s shoulder,” a painful condition often present in swimmers, even more in professional or competitive ones, was the subject of a new study presented at the conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The researchers analyzed 150 competitive young high school or youth club swimmers aged between 13 and 18 and discovered that there were many (76.7%) children suffering from shoulder pain, a condition that seems to be connected to the fact that they swam every day to train.

The swimmer’s shoulder is a condition that can be caused by excessive distances practiced by swimming every day and this can also be connected to a culture that is not exactly positive due to competitive swimming, which in part “sublimates” pain, as specified in the press release presents the research. Very often, especially the younger ones, they think that this pain is something that must be “tolerated” for having success in the activity.

“We found that almost half of the athletes in our study know peers who use drugs to deal with swimming-related injuries, so we worry about exposure to drugs especially in the context of the opioid epidemic,” says Eli Cahan, one of the authors of the study.

The same study shows a fairly clear connection from the distance traveled in swimming and the levels of pain. Those who did not report shoulder pain, in fact, reported covering shorter average distances than those reporting pain.

Nitrogen pollution considered even more devastating than carbon pollution

There is a type of pollution probably even more serious than that deriving from carbon according to a group made up of more than 150 important international scientists from more than 70 scientific institutes that have released a communiqué concerning nitrogen pollution, an open letter sent to the United Nations Secretary António Guterres.

This element is indeed causing many problems to the environment and therefore to the fauna and humans. So the same scientists ask the countries to “wake up” and reduce the waste that contains nitrogen and all its derivatives. In fact, nitrogen can be present in many forms, from ammonia to nitrogen dioxide to end up with the terrible nitrous oxide, a 300 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In all these versions, nitrogen poses a threat to human and animal health as well as to the diversity of the world.

According to the report, to date, 80% of the nitrogen that men use, mostly in the context of agriculture and breeding but also for the energy sector and for the industrial sector as well as for the purification of wastewater, is included in the environment in polluting form. For example, in the United Kingdom alone, 1.4 million tons of nitrogen per year are released into the environment and, globally, the total nitrogen entering the environment rises to 200 million tons per year.

“If we want to counteract climate change, air pollution, water pollution, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and stratospheric ozone depletion, then a new focus on nitrogen will be vital,” report the scientists in the release.

According to Sutton of the Center for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), UK, it is essential to increasingly exploit a circular economy especially with regard to nitrogen to prevent large-scale impacts that will involve the whole planet.

Study confirms that weather forecasts are getting better and better

Although many continue to complain about weather forecasts and make fun of meteorologists and various transmissions, the same weather forecasts are getting better and better and certifying it is also a study published in Science and taken up by phys.org.

According to the authors, the weather forecasts have become more accurate so that today a five-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast in 1980. And this also applies to hurricane forecasts: to date, a warning of a hurricane at 72 hours is more accurate than a warning of a hurricane similar to 24 hours of forty years ago.

And, importantly, the weather forecasts are now much more accessible than a few years ago. If up until 20 years ago we had to wait for the evening news to get the weather forecast for the next day, today we just need to access an app on our mobile to get up-to-date and always more accurate forecasts.

This is also due to the improvement of supercomputers and meteorological models, as well as technologies related to meteorology in general.

The study was conducted by three geoscientists from Pennsylvania State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Paralyzed patient walks with an exoskeleton controlled by the brain

A French man has returned to walking after having been paralyzed following an accident thanks to a brain-controlled exoskeleton according to the scientists who invented it.

The same doctors and engineers who created the device, while admitting that a possible use for the public is still many years away, believe that this device has “the potential to improve the quality of life and autonomy of patients.”

The patient in question had an accident four years ago when he fell from a height of 12 meters. The incident severed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from his shoulders down. Experts from the Grenoble Alpes hospital, from Clinatec, a company in the biomedical field, and from the CEA research center have first implanted two devices on the patient’s head connected to the brain.

These devices read the signals of the cortex motor sense and these same signals are then translated by an algorithm. The algorithm then sends the physical commands to the exoskeleton that executes them.

To “train the algorithm” the patient had to use, using the signals of his brain, a sort of avatar in a computer simulation to acquire the necessary skills.

This new system, beyond the exoskeleton, could also help to build a wheelchair controlled by the brains of paralyzed patients.

Scientists discover how skin fights bacterial infections

A new mechanism that allows the body tape, specifically to our skin, to fight wounds caused by bacterial infections has been discovered by a group of researchers from Charité -Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Researchers have discovered that it is a specific molecule, known as interleukin 6, that goes into action and it is this discovery that could be used in the future for new methods to fight infections of bacterial wounds. These wounds, in the worst cases, can in fact lead to serious consequences such as severe inflammation and septicemia.

The team of researchers led by Frank Siebenhaar, from the German Institute’s Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, analyzed how mast cells, cells of the immune system, are involved in the skin’s response to bacterial infection and in general in the healing process.

Observing the animals, the researchers realized that if the mast cells were absent at the point of the wound, the bacteria present on it were 20 times higher in number. This caused a much slower wound closure that took several days.

The researchers found that messaging interleukin 6 molecules made the beneficial action of mast cells possible. These molecules stimulate the cells of the superficial layer of the epidermis, prompting them to release antimicrobial peptides, protein chains that eliminate bacteria, as well as viruses and with mushrooms.

Researchers then replicated these processes also in human tissue in the laboratory. The same researchers believe that by artificially applying interleukin 6 to infected wounds a similar mechanism can be obtained even if this is for the moment only a hypothesis that must be demonstrated with possible experiments on human beings.

People with psychopathic traits can control themselves: scientists discover why

A group of researchers believes they have discovered how people with psychopathic traits manage to control their “dark impulses.” Many people with antisocial if not psychopathic tendencies, even strong enough, manage not to commit typical psychopathic acts and the researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Kentucky have decided to find out why. They then analyzed those mechanisms that could explain these trends using neuroimaging technologies. The same researchers confirmed that these people show greater development in those neural structures that promote self-regulation.

In particular, also performing structural magnetic resonances, they discovered that “successful” psychopaths, ie those who manage to control themselves, show a higher level of gray matter density in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

The latter is one of the brain areas that has, among its various tasks, those related to self-regulation. It includes the regulation of the most primitive instincts and reactive emotions such as anger or fear.

A denser region allows these people a greater capacity for self-control, as reported by Emily Lasko, a student at the VCU Department of Psychology who led the study: “This is important because it is one of the first evidence that indicates a biological mechanism that can potentially explain how some psychopathic people are able to ‘succeed’ while others cannot.”

Gut bacteria is also related to muscle mass in the elderly, according to a new study

The intestinal microbiome has quickly become one of the main topics of study in the biological field and not a day goes by that new research is not produced in this regard. A new study, published in Experimental Gerontology, indicates that bacteria that live in the intestine can also be involved in the mechanisms that regulate muscle strength in the elderly.

The relationship between the intestinal microbiome and muscle mass and in general with physical functions is gaining more and more importance in the last few years since it was discovered that bacteria in the intestine are much more influential than ever thought. The researchers behind this study compared the bacteria in the intestines of 18 elderly people with high physical function and low percentages of fat mass and 11 elderly people with less favorable body data.

They also colonized the intestines of various mice with fecal samples taken from these two groups of humans. Researchers first found higher levels of bacteria such as Prevotellaceae, Prevotella, Barnesiella and Barnesiella intestinihominis in the 18 elderly people with good levels of physical function and fat mass and in mice colonized with fecal samples taken from them.

“While we were surprised not to have identified a role for the intestinal microbiome in maintaining body composition, with these results we now begin to understand the role of intestinal bacteria in maintaining muscle strength in the elderly,” says Michael Lustgarten, a researcher at the HNRCA Institute of Tufts University.

Brain stem cells transplanted into the brain of mice successfully without anti-rejection drugs

A group of researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine states, in a work published in the journal Brain, that they succeeded in successfully transplanting brain stem cells into the brain of a mouse and without the use of anti-rejection drugs.

Just the lack of use of these drugs, if the same method can also be applied on humans, could advance the research field of brain stem cells, in particular for those therapies that are implemented on children who are born with a rare class of genetic diseases.

In these diseases, myelin, which is the protective coating of neurons, does not get to form normally. This is a rare condition that affects about one in 100,000 children in the United States. One of them is Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease.

To achieve this, Piotr Walczak, a professor of radiology and radiological sciences, injected, together with his team, into the brain of mice glial cells to independently produce the myelin sheath around neurons.

With a particular specialized camera to capture brain images of mice, the researchers found that one of the groups of rodents they treated showed that glial cells injected into the brain lasted for over 203 days, which showed that they had not been eliminated from the system immune of the mouse.

And not only were they not eliminated but they assumed their normal function of protecting neurons by populating the appropriate parts of the brain.

“We interpret this result as a success in selectively blocking immune system T cells from killing transplanted cells,” reports lead author Shen Li.

Researchers find why friction causes static electricity

A group of researchers believes that it has relatively precisely identified the ways in which friction leads to static electricity. This is a phenomenon that probably everyone knows and that leads us to have to deal, almost daily, with small sparks or electrical discharges, in the great majority of innocuous cases, which can be caused by frictions of various kinds or various objects. A known example is that of hair that can stand up on the head.

A team of researchers at Northwestern University has created a new model that explains why rubbing two objects can produce static electricity or a triboelectric effect. In the study, published in Physical Review Letters, it is explained that it is the small protrusions, almost identifiable only at the atomic level, on the surface of the materials that bend when they come into contact to produce this electricity.

If you look at the nanoscale, in fact, every material, even the smoothest, is characterized by rough surfaces with countless protrusions. When two objects or materials come into contact and begin to bend with one another, these protrusions begin to deform. And it is these deformations that proved the tensions which in the end cause a small electric discharge, an effect called the flexoelectric effect.

“Our discovery suggests that triboelectricity, flexo-electricity and friction are inextricably linked,” says Laurence Marks, professor of materials engineering sciences at Northwestern as well as lead author of the study. “This provides a lot of information on customizing triboelectric performance for current applications and expanding functionality to new technologies.”

Absorption of carbon dioxide in the Amazon is half of what was calculated

Disturbing news comes from the study conducted by an international team of scientists who have discovered that the absorption of carbon dioxide by the plants of the Amazon forest must be reduced by about 50% compared to what was previously calculated. The difference is that the previous climate models had not considered phosphorus deficiency.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows how these models can be considered “obsolete” because they are based on the belief that the amount of phosphorus, one of the main nutrients for plants, in the basement of the Amazon forest was more than sufficient.

In fact the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, as pointed out by Jennifer Holm, a researcher at the Berkeley Lab and one of the authors of the study, has been characterized by a great impoverishment of phosphorus over millions of years due above all to the different types of weather to which this same environment has been subjected.

The researchers came to this conclusion by monitoring tree growth and leaf development as well as root growth in a region north of Manaus, Brazil. The same researchers hope that these results can be used to more realistically represent how the Amazon can counter global climate changes underway caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a contrasting force much more dependent on the acquisition of phosphorus from part of the plants and evidently weaker than thought.