Category Archives: Science News

Poorer people have a greater risk of heart disease due to worse sleep

Insufficient sleep would be one of the reasons why economically disadvantaged people are more likely to suffer from heart disease and this seems to affect women more. A study published in Cardiovascular Research has come to this conclusion.

As explained by Dusan Petrovic, a researcher at the University Center for General Medicine and Public Health in Lausanne, “women with low socioeconomic status often combine the physical and psychosocial tension of manual and poorly paid jobs with family responsibilities and stress, which negatively affects on sleep and its effects on restoring health compared to men.”

The same researcher believes that structural reforms must be carried out, at all levels of society, to ensure that women can sleep more. One could think, for example, of reducing noise, one of the fundamental reasons for insufficient sleep, facilitating the purchase and installation of double-glazed windows or limiting traffic or prohibiting the construction of houses near highways to airports.

The researchers analyzed data from 111,205 people from four European countries. The same people were divided into three groups according to socioeconomic status (low, medium or high). Coronary heart disease or stroke were then considered based on medical records while sleep quality was established based on what the participants themselves declared.

Climate change on Mars may be understood soon thanks to InSight rover

The climatic changes in the history of Mars can be analyzed by measuring the temperatures of the subsoil: it is to this result that some researchers of the University of Stirling have arrived who have relied on the technology related to the probe of the heat flows that is on board of one NASA rover present on Mars arrived in the context of the InSight mission, NASA’s latest on Mars.

The researchers, who have worked on hypothetical models, have discovered that the planet’s climate changes, such as those that occurred on Earth, can therefore be effectively detected by this particular tool. The research was carried out by Nicholas Attree, who led the research team, who together with his colleague Axel Hagermann is working on the NASA InSight mission which saw the landing of the rover on Mars in November last year.

Researchers are working on the particular tool Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), provided by the German planetary research institute in Berlin, which will excavate Mars to record its temperatures and measure heat flow. Depending on the amount of heat the probe will measure and the quality of the measurements, it will be possible to create Martian climate evolution models.

The team could therefore also identify past climate changes in Mars as long as they are very large changes: “We have found that it is unlikely that small changes caused by climate change will be detected by HP3,” said Attree. “However, it may be possible to detect very large changes, and this is important because we might be able to perform similar measurements on other planets.”

The work was published in Planetary and Space Science.

Green spaces in the city decrease premature deaths

Green spaces in cities are important and can prevent premature deaths for any cause according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health. The analysis was based on new longitudinal studies concerning seven different countries for a total of 8 million inhabitants and, as specified in the press release, “provides strong evidence of the impact of the increase in green areas on mortality.”

Considering that almost half of the world’s population lives in urban contexts and considering that in many of these areas green spaces are lacking or not enough, this research reveals once again how much this is not just “urban decoration” but a method direct and effective to improve the health of citizens. In particular, green spaces, according to researchers, reduce stress, improving mental health, and are a weapon of contrast for cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and in general for premature deaths.

Similar studies have been carried out in the past but have focused on specific areas or have used different methods to measure citizens’ exposure to plants and general greenery. Precisely for this reason, researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), who collaborated with the Colorado State University and the world health organization, decided to focus on longitudinal studies carried out in different areas.

The researchers used a particular methodology to measure exposure to green called the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) also based on satellite images. They then compared these data with those related to statistics for premature mortality for all causes. The study considered the inhabitants of areas of Canada, the United States, Italy, Spain, Australia, Switzerland and China.

The researchers discovered a link between the amount of greenery around homes with a significantly reduced amount of premature mortality. Deaths decreased by an average of 4% for each 0.1 increase in vegetation score when it was present within 500 meters of the houses.

As David Rojas, a researcher at ISGlobal and first author of the study, says, these results “support interventions and policies to increase green spaces as a strategy to improve public health.”

Food packaging compounds detected in breast milk

Compounds that are used in ink that are in turn used in many types of food packaging, the so-called photoinitiators, have been identified by a research group in human breastmilk after past research had already detected it in human blood serum. The same researchers, who published their own study in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, however, ensure that these levels do not seem to be of concern to the health of either the mother or the infants.

These substances are mainly used in the photopolymerization process, a technology which is considered more environmentally friendly than others, and which is used to synthesize light-sensitive materials such as ink, coatings and UV-curable resins.

In the press release that presents the research, it is explained that evidently not all these substances are exhausted during the reaction process and that several of them therefore tend to end up in food. Only at high levels do these substances have toxic or carcinogenic effects. The maximum amount ingested calculated by the researchers was still four times lower than the safety level set by the European food safety authorities.

To carry out the research, the researchers analyzed the mother’s milk of 60 US women by detecting 15 different types of photoinitiators, the most common of which was benzophenone which was detected in 97% of the samples and which represented 79% of the total photoinitiator substances.

Parkinson’s new molecular drivers discovered by researchers

New molecular drivers associated with Parkinson’s disease have been discovered by the Mount Sinai group of researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine. The researchers used a special technique called multiscale gene network analysis (MGNA), developed by the researchers themselves, to identify some molecular drivers that underlie various functions of genes that are themselves involved in Parkinson’s disease.

In fact, about 80% of Parkinson’s cases cannot be linked to a known cause: while 20% can be referred to as genetic mutations, for the remaining cases, the majority, the impact of the same genes or in any case the same causes that lead to the disease are not clear.

As explained by Bin Zhang, professor of genetics and geochemical sciences of the American institute, this study not only revealed the new molecular drivers “but also clarifies the functional context of the known genes of the Parkinson’s disease risk factor.”

The analysis of the multiscale genetic network uses genetic, epigenetic, clinical, transcriptomic and pathological data in tissue analysis to identify possible links. It is an effective method to analyze those very complex mechanisms that are the basis not only of Parkinson’s but also of other neurobiological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The same method can provide “new mechanistic knowledge about Parkinson’s disease that could lead to new therapeutic opportunities,” explains Suzana Petanceska, director of the AMP-AD Target Discovery program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Very thin organic films could be used for the electronics of the future

The shrinking of electronic devices is one of the greatest technological advances of human beings. This type of progress is made possible through the use or discovery of new materials that allow the construction of electrical circuits in ever-smaller spaces.

It is precisely in this context that we introduce the discovery made by a group of scientists from the University of Chicago who collaborated with Cornell University and the Argonne National Laboratory to develop extremely thin films made of organic materials which, as explained in the study published in Science, could represent a new springboard towards even smaller electronics with new capabilities.

The film is much more efficient at the extremely high temperatures that are usually needed to produce inorganic films. Researchers have already tested this film as an electric capacitor, achieving good results, which inspires some confidence in any use in electronics. However, the same researchers think of other possible uses: nanorobots, fabrics that bend or take on a certain shape when exposed to water or light, membranes to filter water or to make batteries more efficient, sensors to detect toxins and even possible uses in the field of quantum computing.

“If you can transform materials into atomically thin layers, you can stack them into sequences and get new features, and there are some very good reasons to think that organic films can be really useful,” said Yu Zhong, one of the authors of the study. “But up to now, it has been very difficult to check the thickness of the film and make it in large quantities.”

“Intelligent” magnetic asphalt developed for electric scooters

“Intelligent” asphalt with particular magnetic properties that could be particularly useful for so-called “electric scooters” was created by a group of scientists from the University of Granada. These new materials, used as street coverings, can change their properties depending on the presence of external magnetic fields.

According to the researchers who created them, they can signal to these small electric vehicles when they have to slow down and, in a more advanced view, they could even turn off the electric motor of the vehicle in case of danger. This new asphalt could help as regards the growing use of kinetic scooters and in cities, a use that is not yet regulated also because these vehicles are not very fast so they are not compared either to classic scooters, or to bicycles.

Moreover, the city infrastructure itself does not seem to be equipped to handle “vehicles” like these. The engineers of the University of Granada have developed “coded” asphalt which contains different amounts of metallic material. This metal material is composed of magnetic particles and can be incorporated into sensitive points such as the edges of sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.

Devices grafted under the asphalt can “be coded using metallic particles” and can send a code to the electric scooters. They can, for example, warn users to reduce speed or they can even trigger the engine to stop.

The project was presented at the EATA (European Asphalt Technology Association) eighth conference in Granada.

“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

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.