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Extra Brain Cells May Explain Autism

Posted: November 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Medicated, Michael Courtenay, Science, Science News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Extra Brain Cells May Explain Autism

A new study suggests that Autism starts in the womb, researchers have found a remarkable 67 per cent increase in the total number of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex of new born babies with ASD.

Extra Brain Cells May Explain AutismChildren with autism appear to have too many cells in a key area of the brain needed for communication and emotional development, say US researchers. Their findings help explain why young children with autism often develop brains that are larger or heavier than normal. Dr Eric Courchesne says the finding of excess brain cells in the prefrontal cortex explains brain overgrowth in autism, and hints at why brain function in this area is disrupted. Courchesne, of the University of California San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, and colleagues, have also found dozens of genes that may raise the risk of autism. But genetic causes only explain 10 per cent to 20 per cent of cases, and recent studies have pointed to environmental factors, possibly in the womb, as a potential trigger. The team found excess brain cells in each child with autism they studied, says Courchesne. And the brains of the autistic children also weighed more than those of typically developing children of the same age.

Researchers searching for an early indicator of autism say they’ve discovered a promising possibility, an impairment in the ability of the brain’s right and left hemispheres to communicate with each other. The researchers did brain imaging scans – fMRIs – on 29 sleeping toddlers with autism, 30 typically developing kids and 13 children with significant language delays, but not autism. All were between 1 and 4 years old. The scans showed that the language areas of the left and right hemispheres of the autistic toddlers’ brains were less “in sync” than the hemispheres of the typical kids and the children with other language delays. The weaker the synchronization, the more severe the autistic child’s communication difficulties :: Read the full article »»»»


Saturns Überstorm

Posted: July 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Astronomy, Cankler, Michael Courtenay, Physics, Science | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Saturns Überstorm

Imagine getting caught in a thunderstorm that’s 8 times wider than Earth, with discharges of lightning 10,000 times more powerful than normal, flashing 10 times per second at its peak. Now imagine that this storm is just getting warmed up. One of the most violent weather events we’ve ever witnessed in the Solar System began to erupt on Saturn last December and is still enthralling astronomers, the British journal Nature reports. According to Nature, Lightning discharges in Saturn’s atmosphere emit radio waves with intensities about 10,000 times stronger than those of their terrestrial counterparts. These radio waves are the characteristic features of lightning from thunderstorms on Saturn, which last for days to months. Convective storms about 2,000 kilometres in size have been observed in recent years at planetocentric latitude 35° south (corresponding to a planetographic latitude of 41° south). Here we report observations of a giant thunderstorm at planetocentric latitude 35° north that reached a latitudinal extension of 10,000 kilometres—comparable in size to a ‘Great White Spot about three weeks after it started in early December 2010. The visible plume consists of high-altitude clouds that overshoot the outermost ammonia cloud layer owing to strong vertical convection, as is typical for thunderstorms. The flash rates of this storm are about an order of magnitude higher than previous ones, and peak rates larger than ten per second were recorded. This main storm developed an elongated eastward tail with additional but weaker storm cells that wrapped around the whole planet by February 2011. Unlike storms on Earth, the total power of this storm is comparable to Saturn’s total emitted power. The appearance of such storms in the northern hemisphere could be related to the change of seasons, given that Saturn experienced vernal equinox in August 2009. Read the full article »»»»


MIT’s Printable Paper Solar Cell

Posted: July 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Cankler, Chemically Engineered, Engineered Life, Michael Courtenay, Science, Science of Green, Solar Stars | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on MIT’s Printable Paper Solar Cell

Clearly always inovating,  MIT has developed materials that make it possible to produce photovoltaic cells on paper, nearly as simply as printing a document.

Almost as cheaply and easily as printing a photo on your inkjet, an inexpensive, simple solar cell has been created on that flimsy sheet, formed from special “inks” deposited on the paper. You can even fold it up to slip into a pocket, then unfold it and watch it generating electricity again in the sunlight. The new technology, developed by a team of researchers at MIT, is reported in a paperin the journal Advanced Materials, published online July 8. The paper is co-authored by Karen Gleason, the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser Professor of Chemical Engineering; Professor of Electrical Engineering Vladimir Bulović; graduate student Miles Barr; and six other students and postdocs. The work was supported by the Eni-MIT Alliance Solar Frontiers Program and the National Science Foundation.

The technique represents a major departure from the systems used until now to create most solar cells, which require exposing the substrates to potentially damaging conditions, either in the form of liquids or high temperatures. The new printing process uses vapors, not liquids, and temperatures less than 120 degrees Celsius. These “gentle” conditions make it possible to use ordinary untreated paper, cloth or plastic as the substrate on which the solar cells can be printed.The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane. In their paper, the MIT researchers also describe printing a solar cell on a sheet of PET plastic (a thinner version of the material used for soda bottles) and then folding and unfolding it 1,000 times, with no significant loss of performance. By contrast, a commercially produced solar cell on the same material failed after a single folding. Read the full article »»»»


A Long Way To Friday: Neptunes 165 Year Solar Rotation

Posted: July 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Astronomy, Blip, Cankler, Michael Courtenay, Protoscience | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Long Way To Friday: Neptunes 165 Year Solar Rotation

For some of us the working week is a real hardship, Mondayitis, 8 hour days and a fatiguing stretch to Friday. Spare a thought for those poor Neptunian workers, where Monday to Friday takes a little over 2 Earth years to get through. On the upside a long weekend would stretch to 18 months!? Next week, Neptune will complete its very first full orbit of the Sun since it’s discovery in 1846. 165 years to make a complete orbit, now that puts a whole new spin on leap years.

Astronomers had pegged Neptune days – the farthest planet in our solar system – at 16 hours and 6 minutes. A in a new paper published in Icarus, Erich Karkoschka, a planetary scientist with the University of Arizona, now predicts a Neptune day at 15 hours, 57 minutes and 59 seconds. Calculating day lengths for neighboring planets like Mars is an ease, scientists simply look at their surfaces, in photos or radar images, and track the motion of identifiable geographic features. Unfortunately Neptune is made up mostly of dense gas cloud, there is no visible surface. The only visible features are storms. Until now, the best estimate of the planet’s day length came from radio signals measured during a 1989 passing of NASA’s Voyager 2. This method has proven to be almost completely inaccurate and intil recently was observed as a best guestimation.

The best analogue is clouds moving over a mountain, each cloud moves, so if you track them you don’t get the rotation. But the feature as a whole remains stable” Karkoschka. Calculating a planetary rotation-rate to such precision isn’t just interesting information, there are definite practical applications. “It constrains models of Neptune’s interior,if you know how fast the planet rotates, you can determine the mass distribution insideRead the full article »»»»


Grow Your Own Organs

Posted: July 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Cankler, Engineered Life, Medicated, Michael Courtenay, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Grow Your Own Organs

In a ‘milestone’ of medical advance, doctors have taken a bladder biopsy from the patients, isolated muscle and urothelial cells and grew them in the lab. They were then moved onto a scaffold, shaped like a bladder. Over a period of eight weeks they grew into bladders. Complex bladder problems can occur as a result of injury, disease, or congenital defects and treatment options are often limited. Urethras, similar to other long tubularised tissues, can stricture after reconstruction. The researchers from Wake Forest University, North Carolina, implanted bladders grown from patients own cells in a study to determine the viability of  engineered tubularised urethra.  The five patients had myelomeningocele, a congenital condition which causes a weak bladder. The study commenced in 2004, 7 years on the patients bladder functions have significantly improved.

“We aimed to assess the effectiveness of tissue-engineered urethras using patients’ own cells in patients who needed urethral reconstruction. This is one small step in our ability to replace damaged tissues and organs, we wanted to proceed slowly, carefully and make sure we did it correctly. This is a small, limited experience, but it has enough follow-up to show us that tissue engineering is a viable tool that will allow us to tackle problems of similar magnitude.” said researcher Professor Anthony Atala

Five boys who had urethral defects were included in the study. A tissue biopsy was taken from each patient, and the muscle and epithelial cells were expanded and seeded onto tubularised polyglycolic acid:poly(lactide-co-glycolide acid) scaffolds. Patients then underwent urethral reconstruction with the tissue-engineered tubularised urethra. Patients had surgery between March 19, 2004, and July 20, 2007. Follow-up was completed by July 31, 2010. Median age was 11 years (range 10—14) at time of surgery and median follow-up was 71 month. The subjects – five boys, ages 10 to 14 – were treated at the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital in Mexico City. Three of the boys had experienced major pelvic injury, while two had previous urethra repairs that had failed.

“The failure rate is 50 percent for traditional treatments, such as using a graft from skin or from the lining of the cheek” said Atala Read the full article »»»»