Categories
NONE

Hades, the centipede from hell, found deep below the Earth’s surface

Named after the Greek god of the underworld for its ability to live at astonishing depths underground, Geophilus hadesi is one of the creepiest centipedes discovered to date. According to a report from Phys.org, the centipede can live at depths of up to 1100 meters below the surface of the Earth.

The centipede was discovered by an international team of scientists who were examining three different caves in the Velebit mountains in Croatia. Their findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.

Hades was also named to complement one of its underground cousins, a similar centipede named after Persephone, the queen of the underworld. The two centipedes are some of the few members of the order geophilomorphs that venture underground.

The centipedes feed on other invertebrates, and exhibit elongated antennae, trunk segments, and claws at the ends of their legs. They have powerful jaws equipped with poisonous glands and long, curved claws that allow them to grasp and incapacitate their prey with ease. The Hades centipede is easily one of the most effective predators dwelling in cavernous underground world.

The Velebit mountain ranges over 145 kilometers across the Croatian Dinaric Karst, and is home to a surprising level of underground biodiversity. The deepest cave, from the Lukina jama – Trojama cave system is a whopping 1431 meters deep, ranked the 15th deepest cave on the planet.

Lead author Pavel Stoev says he was sure that nobody had discovered the Hades centipede when he first saw one dwelling in the depths of the cave. Scientists predict that there are still many more species that have yet to be discovered, and they plan on continuing the search.

Categories
NONE

Alzheimer’s risk lowered by high blood pressure

Having abnormally high blood pressure is still not good for your heart, but a new study suggest that there may be a link between a genetic tendency for high blood pressure and a decreased for Alzheimer’s disease. According to a report from the Economic Times, however, the connection may have more to do with the medication used to keep high blood pressure in check.

A study published in the journal Plos Medicine analyzed genetic information from 17,008 patients with Alzheimer’s, and 37,154 people who didn’t suffer from the disease. Researchers looked for links between Alzheimer’s disease and a wide range of different health conditions including diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol in an effort to gain insight into factors that could influence the onset of the disease.

Despite the wide scope of the study, the team only discovered a significant connection between high systolic blood pressure and lower instances of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to one of the study’s co-authors, Paul Crane from the University of Washington, the results contradict what most people might imagine when they think about Alzheimer’s and blood pressure.

“It may be that high blood pressure is protective or it may be that something that people with high blood pressure are exposed to more often, such as antihypertensive medication, is protecting them from Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Crane said.

This is one of the first papers to look for a link between Alzheimer’s disease and potentially modifiable factors. There will need to be further studies to confirm or refute the findings, but the researchers believe they may have discovered an important clue in the fight against a terrible degenerative disease.

Categories
NONE

Prehistoric armored monster worm discovered in southern China

A bizarre, spike-covered “super-armored” species of worm that likely ate by filtering particulates from the seawater has been discovered by paleontologists in China. According to a report from Phys.org, Collinsium ciliosum lived about 500 million years ago, and was one of the first known animals on the planet that used body armor to protect itself from predators.

The worm belongs to a group of early invertebrates that is poorly understood at this time. It embodies the huge variety in physical appearances of animals in early evolutionary history – its descendants today lack much variation at all.

The findings were published in the journal PNAS by a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and Yunnan University in China on June 29. Informally known as the Hairy Collins Monster, named after the paleontologist Desmond Collins, who discovered a strikingly similar fossil in the 80’s in Canada. The new species lived during the Cambrian explosion, a time period when life flourished and most major animal groups first showed up in the fossil record.

According to an analysis of the fossil’s form and early evolutionary relationships, the Chinese Collins Monster is a distant ancestor of the modern velvet worm. Velvet worms, or onychophorans, are a tiny group of soft-bodied worms that reside in tropical forests worldwide.

Dr. Javier Ortega-Hernandez of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences marveled at the well-preserved fossil discovered in rural southern China, which includes an intact body complete with a digestive tract and miniscule hair-like structures covering the worm’s front end.

The Chinese Collins Monster was likely a sedentary animal, clinging onto stationary objects on the seafloor and filter feeding from the ocean. Because it was a sitting duck for predators, its spiky outer shell was likely its best form of protection. The worm had as many as 72 pointy spikes of different sizes across its body, and is a wonderful example of the ever-fascinating power of natural selection.

Categories
NONE

Novartis demonstrates new drug’s many uses in recent trials

Swiss drug company Novartis has finished a series of trials for its new meidcation Cosentyx, and is growing increasingly confident in the drug’s capabilities to great a wide range of conditions. According to a report from Reuters,  data from recent clinical trials shows that the drug is especially effective at treating psoriatic arthritis over an extended time frame.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug this January as a remedy for the skin disease called plaque psoriasis, but Novartis believed that the drug would be effective at treating other related diseases as well.

Data from clinical trials that tested the drug’s efficacy in treating psoriatic arthritis were published in the journal The Lancet this Monday, and they reveal that the drug was able to rapidly provide relief from the condition, with results lasting over a year-long period. Patients were injected with a dose of the drug once a month.

Cosentyx has fascinated researchers with its ability to stay effective over time – most other biotech drugs classified as anti-TNFs fizzle out after a month, and patients looking to treat their arthritis need to continuously switch medications to stay ahead of the disease.

Cosentyx was shown top have two-year benefits in most trials, and lasted for a year when treating people suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a similar inflammatory disease.

According to Vas Narasimhan, the global head of development for Novartis, the trials’ results are significant. The global market for drugs to treat these illnesses averaged about $13 billion this year and is currently expanding at a double-digit rate.

Novartis filed for American and European approval of Cosentyx to treat psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, which could begin as soon as this year.

Categories
NONE

Regulators cut off San Francisco’s river water supply as drought worsens

As the drought in California rages on, it is becoming increasingly difficult for water rights holders to continue diverting supplies as they used to.

The massive drought currently affecting the West Coast has regulators turning to extreme measures in a bid to save water. According to a report from the LA Times, state officials told several more water rights holders that they had to stop diverting water from certain rivers and streams at once.

The State Water Resources Control Board will restrict access to 16 rights holders on the upper San Joaquin River and the Merced River, as well as some of the city of San Francisco’s rights on the Tuolumne River.

The new restrictions won’t affect San Francisco’s water supply drastically, as most of the city’s water is taken from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. After a wet spring season, the reservoir is filled to about 95 percent of its capacity.

Steve Ritchie, the assistant general manager at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission isn’t concerned about San Francisco’s ability to supply water to its citizens. Even if regulators order the city to stop diverting water from the Tuolumne River watershed completely, San Francisco will still have plenty of water to use.

The new regulations affect some water rights on the Merced River dating back to the nineteenth century. On the San Joaquin River, all rights except riparian rights, which allow landowners to divert water from a flowing river onto their land, will be restricted.

Diverters who will see the biggest change include several irrigation districts, a ranch, a dairy farm, and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The electric company can use the river’s water for hydroelectric generation as long as the water is returned to the river. Overall, the rules won’t affect more than a few specific enterprises in the northern part of the state.

Senior water diverters, those who have held rights to the water sources in the state since the early 20th century, however, are not happy with the regulations. Several authorities are preparing to sue the state board that instated the rules, citing the state’s lack of authority to manage water rights that have been in place for more than a century. They fear that if the state begins to clamp down on water sources without challenge, then water rights around the state will be jeopardized.

While the state continues to grapple with an ever-worsening drought, the battle over water rights will undoubtedly continue.

Categories
NONE

FCC pushes for more regulation to increase wireless competition

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, has said that the upcoming wireless spectrum auction is a perfect opportunity for regulators to promote further broadband competition. According to a report from CNET, however, Mr. Wheeler’s comments are still leaving some small wireless providers worried.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC this Friday, Wheeler said that taking measures to protect and encourage competition is one of the most essential duties of the modern FCC. He noted that there would be an upcoming wireless auction early next year, where TV broadcasters will be selling an unused spectrum. Wheeler says this will serve as an opportunity for the FCC to make sure that all Americans have equal access to broadband internet.

Underlining the importance of competition repeatedly throughout the speech, Wheeler said that the FCC-organized auction will give existing spectrum licensees an incentive to sell their rights back to the government so they can be put to use expanding access to high-speed internet across the country. Wireless carriers need to access airwaves so they can deliver streaming videos and other services to mobile devices connected to the web. The low-frequency spectrum can travel great distances and penetrate walls to deliver information to devices around the country, and it is essential that the FCC regulate this access fairly.

Smaller wireless carriers say the focus on competition in Wheeler’s speech doesn’t line up with his actions. On Tuesday, wheeler said that he would vote against a proposal from T-Mobile that would open up the spectrum to the government to set aside for smaller players to bid on. Without this proposal, near-monopoly-sized carriers would be able to buy up the spectrum for themselves.

Wheeler didn’t address these concerns about the amount of spectrum that will be made available to smaller customers, but the possibility of being shut out by giant competitors remains a serious concern for smaller providers.

Categories
NONE

New camera helps police see around corners in dangerous situations

A police officer jokingly yells, “Camera in the hole!” as he tosses a peculiar looking orb through a doorway before entering. According to a report from Popular Science, an MIT alumnus at Bounce Imaging has unveiled the Explorer, a small, grenade-sized ball covered in cameras. The Explorer is intended to help first responders assess the danger of a situation before jumping right in.

The cameras on the orb can be remotely activated to assemble a panoramic image of its surroundings once it’s been tossed into action. The cameras inside the rubber-coated balls each contain six lenses, allowing them to capture the scene inside of a room and transmit the images to a tablet or smartphone in a safe location.

The ball sells for about $1,500 and is illuminated by a series of LEDs attached to the outside. A more advanced “tactical” version is available only to police departments, and its LEDs can capture images even in dark areas. The tactical camera creates a 360-degree panorama every second for the entire 30 minutes it can run.

The Explorer is the latest in a growing series of scouting robots. Its technological cousin, the “throwbot,” was designed for military customers and can drive around on remote-controlled wheels. The throwbot is also equipped with a tiny microphone for listening in on conversations inside of the room being spied on.

The Explorer is better suited for rescue missions and high-stakes situations where an image is needed immediately to determine the best course of action. The camera is a welcome alternative to flash grenades, which reveal the identity of the people inside a room by causing them to run out screaming.

 

Categories
NONE

Rheumatoid arthritis drug shown to restore pigment in patients suffering from vitiligo

In an exceptional case study, researchers have found a new use for an existing arthritis and hair loss drug. According to a report from Time, scientists were able to restore the pigment to the skin of a woman suffering from a rare disease known as vitiligo.

Vitiligo causes the skin to lose its pigment, and is the very same disorder that late singer Michael Jackson suffered from. Until recently, dermatologists had little idea about how to treat it.

A study published this week in the journal JAMA Dermatology has revealed a new possible treatment for patients affected by vitiligo, using a medication initially intended for a different use. Researchers gave a 53-year-old woman suffering from the disorder a drug called tofacitinib, typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

After two months of treatment, the patient’s face, arms and hands started to show signs of pigment returning. After five months, the white spots covering her face were almost entirely gone. Just a few scattered spots remained on various body parts.

Although the study is a case trial involving just a single patient, scientists are hopeful that the findings can be reproduced in future trials.

According to Dr. Brett King, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, the scientists expected the outcome based on the way the drug works and the characteristics of the diseas. It was the first time the medication had been tested for this purpose, but the scientists are confident that they can prove the drug’s efficacy in treating complications caused by vitiligo.

 

Categories
NONE

Sleeping rats dream about the future, study shows

We already have enough trouble understanding our own dreams. A new study has tried to explain how rats’ brains go through similar processes as they sleep by monitoring specific neurons located in the hippocampus. According to a report from the New Scientist, the brain of a sleeping rat bears many similarities to that of a human.

Rats in the study were shown a piece of food at the end of a path that they were unable to access. When some of the rats got frustrated and decided to take a nap, their brains danced with a flurry of activity, as if they were actually dreaming about the snack they had just seen.

Hugo Spiers, one of the lead researchers from the University College of London, explains “It’s like looking at a holiday brochure for Greece the day before you go – that night you might dream about the pictures.”

Rats store mental maps of their surroundings in the hippocampus, one of two curved structures on the sides of the brain. Electrodes were attached to the rats’ hippocampi, which demonstrated how different locations are recorded and remembered by different neuron-pairs firing. These “place cells” fire not only when a rat is in a specific location, but also when it sleeps.

To test the hypothesis that the rats in the study were in fact dreaming about the food that they were unable to reach, Spiers and his team placed four rats at the bottom of a T-shaped pathway. The top of the “T” was blocked by a grill, and there was a piece of food visibly placed at one end of the arm.

Once the rats had been frustrated by their failure to reach the food, the scientists removed them from the maze and placed them in a cozy nest, where they soon fell asleep and began to demonstrate a heightened level of activity in the same neuron pairs in the hippocampus. When the rats were set back in the maze with the barrier to the food removed, they wasted no time going right for the treat.

We don’t know for sure whether the rats in the experiment experienced dreams in the same way that we do, but it demonstrated that the knowledge that food was present was processed while the rats were both awake and asleep. The study offers new insights into the science of sleep, and what actually happens in our brains as we dream.

Categories
NONE

Are e-cigarettes really that dangerous?

Over the past few years, e-cigarettes have burst onto the scene, marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking actual cigarettes. But does this mean that you can puff away on vaporized tobacco every day without worrying about your health?

According to a report from Vox, the answer is probably no. There is an abundance of conflicting research on the topic, but the overwhelming conclusion is that the health benefits lie in their ability to help smokers quit their habit.

As a nonsmoker, however, there are very few apparent benefits to using electronic cigarettes. There are no long-term studies available on the impacts of e-cigarettes on nonsmokers, and the overall effect on the body is still virtually unknown.

There are currently about 500 brands of e-cigarettes offering over 7,000 flavors. These brands deliver varying mixtures of nicotine, carcinogens, and other toxins. It’s difficult to make a blanket assessment of the technology when there is so much variation in the products available.

Many of the studies that have been done already have been found to be written by authors with a declared conflict of interest, which raises questions about their scientific credibility. The health community is still largely divided over the benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes.

On one hand, people who are well versed in the harmful effects tobacco can have on the body welcome any method that decreases the overall amount of smoking. They believe that the potential for harm-reduction outweighs the risks of people continuing to smoke traditional cigarettes.

On the other hand, replacing a known unhealthy habit with something that has not been thoroughly tested for safety seems foolish to many.

E-cigarettes use battery powered heating elements to vaporize a solution of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin with nicotine and flavoring added. In light of their growing popularity, it is essential that large-scale, long-term studies are carried out to properly assess the risks associated with their use.