Science Reporting

Ammonia found on a surface of Pluto

Evidence of the presence of ammonia on the surface of Pluto was found by a French and US research group. The article, published in Science Advances, talks about how researchers analyzed the various data sent to Earth by the probe New Horizons, launched by NASA in 2006 and arrived near Pluto in 2015.

In particular, the researchers focused on the data of a particular area of the Virgil Fossae, an area of the surface of the dwarf planet that has large cracks on its surface, cracks that according to the researchers should be the result of volcanic activity. This is an important discovery for two reasons: first, because ammonia is not easy to detect on the planets, especially on their surface, because it does not last long since it is easily destroyed by cosmic rays and light in general.

Furthermore, the discovery would suggest that Pluto has liquid water under the surface. Because of the phenomenon of cryovolcanism, in fact, water mixed with ammonia could have been pushed from the inner parts of the planet until it escaped from these cracks. And precisely because of the nature of ammonia, the very beginning of the presence of this substance on the surface of the dwarf planet should not be sought too far back in time, perhaps until a few million years ago.

Science Reporting

A new way to cultivate rare bone marrow stem cells has been discovered

Hematopoietic stem cells are rare bone marrow cells that perform important functions in the blood and immune system. In the context of the strong technological advances in laboratory stem cell growth achieved in recent years, hematopoietic cells are an exception as they are very difficult to grow in the laboratory and this has limited several research efforts related to stem cell transplantation or gene therapy for various diseases, such as cancer or blood disorders.

However, a group of researchers from Stanford and the University of Tokyo, who are unique in their field, now state that they have found a way to grow these cells very efficiently in the laboratory. Their research would show for the first time that it is possible to “persuade the hematopoietic stem of cells from mice to renew themselves hundreds or even thousands of times in a period of only 28 days.” The study was published in Nature.

Hiromitsu Nakauchi, one of the researchers involved in the project and professor of genetics at Stanford, describes the results as follows: “For 50 years, researchers in laboratories around the world have been looking for ways to grow these cells in large quantities. We have now identified a number of conditions that allow these cells to expand 900 times in a single month. We believe this approach could transform the way hematopoietic stem cell transplants and gene therapy are performed in humans.”

In addition, the researchers also found that, in the course of culture, it is possible “to use CRISPR technology to correct any genetic defects in the original hematopoietic cells. These genetically corrected cells can then be expanded for transplantation, which should allow us to use a patient’s cells as gene therapy.”

Science Reporting

Blue light of screens causes sleep problems in adolescents according to study

Restricting the use of the screen before going to sleep can limit adolescents’ sleep problems according to research presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Endocrinology, ECE 2019. Specifically limiting exposure to the blue light emission of these screens during the evening can help teenagers improve the quality of sleep and generally reduce fatigue and lack of concentration, as well as bad mood, during the day.

And this after only one week of treatment according to the study carried out by the Dutch Institute of Neuroscience, the UMC in Amsterdam and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. The researchers studied the effects of exposure to screens, particularly the blue light they emit, by adolescents and found that those who spent more than four hours a day in front of a screen fell asleep on average 30 minutes later in the evening compared to children who stood in front of a screen for less than an hour a day.

By performing the same experiments but blocking the blue light emitted by the screens with special glasses, the researchers realized that the kids could fall asleep more easily.

According to Dirk Jan Stenvers, one of the researchers involved in the study, “Teenagers spend more and more time on devices with screens and sleep disturbances are frequent in this age group. Here we simply show that these sleep disorders can be easily reversed by minimizing the use of the evening screen or exposure to blue light. According to our data, it is likely that adolescent sleep disturbances and delayed onset of sleep are at least partly mediated by the blue light of the screens.”

Science Reporting

Ultra-processed foods make you fatten up more according to a new study

Highly processed foods, those that are heavily treated during processing, cooking and preparation in general, can contribute to the obesity study that appeared in the journal Cell Metabolism, a study that was later taken up by the Los Angeles Times.

The results were obtained through a four-week trial that saw 20 healthy volunteers eating different dishes, some simpler, others much more tempting and ultra elaborate, from toasted French bread with cinnamon to quesadillas of turkey and scampi.

Analyzing the volunteers’ caloric intake and several other factors, primarily weight gain, the researchers found that there were clear differences when patients consumed unprocessed ingredients or meals dominated by ultra-processed foods.

The “epidemic” of obesity that is spreading in the United States is increasingly worrying: almost 40% of U.S. adults are now obese, double the numbers of the early 80s according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this without mentioning the rate of obesity among children, which is even higher. It is clear that there is something wrong with the American way of eating and the doctors who carried out this research believe that processed foods can be considered among the main negative factors along with others such as sugars and fats.

On the other hand, the American diet itself has changed a great deal in recent decades: from more “natural” foods with little chemical or industrial processing, in the space of a few years we have moved on to meals made only from increasingly processed foods, such as canned foods, not only meat but also vegetables, which see an industrial preparation process that obviously has a heavy impact.

Science Reporting

1800 new supernovae discovered

If until a few years ago supernovae could be considered rare and difficult to detect events, today things have changed thanks to the technological advances of modern ground telescopes that make it possible to avoid the use of expensive space telescopes, not always available to all research groups.

An example is the case of a group of Japanese researchers from various universities and institutions who used the Hyper Suprime-Cam, an 870-megapixel digital camera fixed on top of the Subaru telescope. With this camera, they have been able to shoot a large area of the night sky repeatedly for a period of six months and have been able to identify many new supernovae (1800 in total) of which 58 were of type Ia placed more than 8 billion light-years away from us (out of a total of 400 type Ia supernovae discovered).

To understand the efficiency behind this research, it is enough to say that to discover a total of 50 supernovae located more than 8 billion light-years away from Earth, previous researchers had to use the same telescope for 10 years. Supernovae classified as type Ia are very useful in astronomy because they allow you to calculate more efficiently how far they are from Earth and in general, can also help to measure the expansion of the universe.

According to Naoki Yasuda, professor of physics and mathematics of the universe at Kavli and one of the authors of the research, “The Subaru telescope and the Hyper Suprime-Cam have already helped researchers to create a 3D map of dark matter and for the observation of primordial black holes, but now this result shows that this instrument has a very high capacity to find even supernovae far from Earth.”