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Posts Tagged ‘Journal Science’

Yoghurt drinks could beat bugs that pile the weight on

The research could lead to the development of probiotic yoghurts, similar to Yakult, which would prevent weight gain

Bugs that live in our stomachs could be causing us to get fat, research suggests.

Scientists have shown that the type of bugs in our gut change depending on the food we eat. And bacteria that thrives on junk food may make it easier for us to pile on the pounds.

The discovery, by U.S. scientists, suggests that bugs found in the digestive tract are helping fuel the obesity epidemic.

The research could also open the way to designing probiotic yoghurts similar to Yakult (pictured) to combat weight gain.

The link between bugs and weight gain was discovered when the researchers gave mice ‘transplants’ of bugs among the trillions normally found in the human gut. A junk food binge rapidly altered the make-up of the bugs, with some types thriving and others struggling to survive.

To study the effect of the changes, the researchers from Washington University in Missouri, took stomach bugs from mice fed fatty food and injected them into lean mice.

These mice rapidly put on weight, despite being fed low-fat foods, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

It is thought that stomach bugs that thrive when we eat fatty foods affect metabolism, leading to more fat being stored.

In future, probiotic drinks or supplements designed to boost numbers of the bugs that prefer healthier foods could help keep us trim.

Harvard University obesity expert Jeffrey Flier said that many factors contribute to obesity and it is important to find new ways of combating them.

He wrote: ‘The gut microbiome (population of bacteria) seems poised to serve as such a promising new scientific platform. It is important, however, to keep this new knowledge in perspective.’

How Your Brain Tells Time

Researchers are building a mathematical model of how brains keep time, and finding some surprises.

In the middle of your brain, there’s a personal assistant the size of a grain of rice. It’s a group of about 20,000 brain cells that keeps your body’s daily schedule.

Partly in response to light signals from the retina, this group of neurons sends signals to other parts of the brain and the rest of the body to help control things like sleep, metabolism, immune system activity, body temperature and hormone production on a schedule slightly longer than 24 hours.

Daniel Forger, a mathematics professor at the University of Michigan who uses math to study biological processes, wants to understand this brain region, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in excruciating detail. He is building a mathematical model of the entire structure that he thinks will shed important light on our circadian rhythm, and perhaps lead to treatments for disorders like depression and insomnia, and even diseases influenced by the internal clock like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

“I think we’re going to be able to have a very accurate model of the circadian rhythm, all the key proteins, all the electric activity of all 20,000 neurons,” he says. “We’ll be able to track all of them for days on a timescale of milliseconds.”

Forger has already taken a few steps down this path and found some surprises. In a paper published in a recent issue of the journal Science, Forger, along with colleagues Mino Belle and Hugh Piggins of the University of Manchester in England and others, showed that the firing pattern of the time-keeping neurons in the SCN was not at all what researchers had long thought.

Researchers who studied the electrical activity of the SCN had believed that the neurons there helped the body keep time by sending lots of electrical signals during the day, and then falling silent at night. Makes sense. Lots of non-teenage creatures are active during the day and quiet at night.

But when Forger used experimental data to build a mathematical model of the electrical activity, he calculated that there should be lots of activity at dawn and dusk, and a state of “quiet alertness” during the day. That didn’t make much intuititve sense. Worse, the cellular chemistry during this quiet period that Forger’s model predicted would, in normal cells, lead quickly to cell death.

“Skepticism doesn’t begin to describe what I was met with,” says Forger. “Experimentalists told me, ‘That’s crazy.’”

Researchers in the field simply assumed Forger’s model was wrong. Forger refined it and reworked it, and got similar results. Meanwhile, his British colleagues began to probe the fact that there are two types of cells in the SCN, ones that have very strong molecular clocks and do the timekeeping, and others that behave more like normal brain cells.

While previous researchers had recorded the activity of all of the cells in the SCN, Belle and Piggins were able to set up an experiment using mice that would record only the activity of the clock cells. (Mammalian central clocks all seem to work the same way.) Their experimental results matched Forger’s predictions.

“When we got the results, they were shocking,” Forger says. “They were dead on.”

The cells in the SCN that don’t keep time followed the pattern researchers were familiar with, active during the day, quiet at night. The time-keeping cells went bananas in the morning and at night, but then during the day they stayed in a bizarre state of excitement during which they emitted very few impulses. Why these cells can stay alive in this state remains a mystery.

Forger has been down this path before. Another study of his, published in 2007, reversed the thinking on how gene mutations affect circadian rhythms within cells.

Scientists studying a hamster that had a malfunctioning internal clock (its daily rhythm lasted 20 hours instead of 24) found that it had a mutation in a gene called tau. The fuzzy rodent was given the extremely appropriate name “Tau Mutant Hamster.”

They thought Tau Mutant Hamster’s mutation caused an enzyme that helped cells keep time to be less active. Forger predicted that it would instead make the enzyme more active. Experiments later proved he was right.

Now Forger is turning his attention to the entire SCN. He thinks that math is the only way we can understand the sheer complexity of what is happening–neurotransmitters coming and going, protein clocks being built up and broken down, electricity bouncing around.

“To piece it all together, you need more than intuition,” he says. “You need math to see what’s going on.”

Explosive findings: Scientists discover the real reason why fizzy drinks tingle on the tongue

The mystery of how Champagne, cola and sparkling water create such an explosive tingle on the tongue has been solved by scientists.

They have discovered a chemical receptor hidden away in the taste buds that lights up in the presence of carbonated drinks.

The receptor is found on the taste cells that normally respond to sour food and drinks like lemon, vinegar and white wine.

Tasty tingle: A hidden taste bud receptor lights up in the presence of carbonated drinks, scientists have found

Food and drink experts used to think that the tingle from fizzy drinks came from the explosion of bubbles on the tongue.

But the new discovery – published today in the journal Science – reveals that the reason is more complicated.

Dr Nicholas Ryba, author of this study at the National Institutes of Health in the US, said: ‘When people drink soft drinks, they think that they are detecting the bubbles bursting on their tongue.

‘But if you drink a carbonated drink in a pressure chamber, which prevents the bubbles from bursting, it turns out the sensation is actually the same.’

Cheers! Research found the flavour of bubbles is triggered by an enzyme attached to the sour food taste bud

Research on mice found that the taste of carbonation is triggered by an enzyme attached like a small flag to the surface of taste buds that normally detect sour food.

The enzyme interacts with carbon dioxide to switch on the sour taste buds and send a message to the brain.

‘That’s what gives carbonation its characteristic sensation,’ Dr Ryba said.

It used to be thought that the tongue had just four types of taste buds that detect sour, salty, sweet and bitter.

But in the last 20 years, scientists have found evidence of a five taste bud for meaty flavours – and suspect there may be ones involved in metallic tastes too.

The finding comes 250 years after the chemist Joseph Priestly involved the first carbonated water.

The sparkling drink was designed to help English sailors stay healthy on long voyages.

The new study was carried out on experiments with animals.

The researchers gave mice genetically modified to lack sour-sensing taste cells a taste of club soda or exposed them to carbon dioxide gas.

The creatures’ nervous systems and brains failed to respond to the carbonated drink.

But mice with fully working sour-sensing cells were able to detect the fizz. 

Last month German scientists revealed how Champagne gets its distinctive flavour from its bubbles.

A study found there were up to 30 times more flavour-enhancing chemicals in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink.

Previously, many wine experts thought carbon dioxide in the bubbles gave the wine an acidic bite and tingle – but did not contribute to how it tasted.

Most Detailed Lunar Map Suggests Little Water Inside Moon

An international team of researchers has created the most detailed map of the Moon yet, using the laser altimeter (LALT) instrument on board the Japanese Selenological and Engineering Explorer satellite. C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, is a member of the LALT science team and a co-author of a paper appearing in the February 13 issue of the journal Science. (Credit: Image copyright Science/AAAS)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2009) — The most detailed map of the Moon ever created has revealed never-before-seen craters at the lunar poles.

The map is also revealing secrets about the Moon’s interior — and hinting about Mars’s interior as well.

C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, is part of the international research team that published the map in the February 13 issue of the journal Science.

“The surface can tell us a lot about what’s happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited,” Shum said. “For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars.”

Read more ….

Telescope Spies Cataclysmic Blast

Photo: Main facts of the Fermi Mission:
Spacecraft was launched in June 2008 on a five-year mission
It is looking at the Universe in the highest-energy form of light
Fermi is 2.8m (9.2ft) high and 2.4m (8.2ft) in diameter
The spacecraft orbits at an altitude of 565km (350 miles)
It could pick up about 200 cosmic explosions each year

From The BBC:

Astronomers have recorded the most powerful radiation blast from deep space yet detected.

The event was observed by Nasa’s recently launched Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and reported in the online edition of the journal Science.

The source of the blast is assumed to be the catastrophic implosion of a star, to create a black hole.

Scientists say the spectacle’s energy release was equivalent to thousands of ordinary exploding stars.

Read more ….

Key Insights Into How New Species Emerge

A female apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella, implants an egg into an apple. Wasps that attack the flies and eat their larvae appear to be changing on a genetic level in the same way that the flies themselves appear to be changing genetically. (Credit: Rob Oakleaf)

From Science Digest:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2009) — A team of researchers are reporting the ongoing emergence of a new species of fruit fly–and the sequential development of a new species of wasp–in the February 6 issue of the journal Science.

Jeff Feder, a University of Notre Dame biologist, and his colleagues say the introduction of apples to America almost 400 years ago ultimately may have changed the behavior of a fruit fly, leading to its modification and the subsequent modification of a parasitic wasp that feeds on it.

The result is a chain reaction of biodiversity where the modification of one species triggers the sequential modification of a second, dependent species.

“It’s a nice demonstration of how the initial speciation of one organism opens up an opportunity for another species in the ecosystem to speciate in kind,” said Feder. “Biodiversity in essence is the source for new biodiversity.”

Read more ….

Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jim DeLillo)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games. Her research was published this month in the journal Science.

Read more ….

Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jim DeLillo)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games. Her research was published this month in the journal Science.

Read more ….

Science Closing In On Cloak Of Invisibility

From Breitbart/AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) – They can’t match Harry Potter yet, but scientists are moving closer to creating a real cloak of invisibility.

Researchers at Duke University, who developed a material that can “cloak” an item from detection by microwaves, report that they have expanded the number of wavelengths they can block.

Last August the team reported they had developed so-called metamaterials that could deflect microwaves around a three-dimensional object, essentially making it invisible to the waves.

The system works like a mirage, where heat causes the bending of light rays and cloaks the road ahead behind an image of the sky.

The researchers report in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science that they have developed a series of mathematical commands to guide the development of more types of metamaterials to cloak objects from an increasing range of electromagnetic waves.

Read more ….

Discovery Indicates Mars Was Habitable


From Live Science:

Evidence of a key mineral on Mars has been found at several locations on the planet’s surface, suggesting that any microbial life that might have been there back when the planet was wetter could have lived comfortably.

The findings offer up intriguing new sites for future missions to probe, researchers said.

Observations NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which just completed its primary mission and started a second two-year shift, found evidence of carbonates, which don’t survive in conditions hostile to life, indicating that not all of the planet’s ancient watery environments were as harsh as previously thought.

The findings are detailed in a study in the Dec. 19 issue of the journal Science and will be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco

Read more ….