Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for November 5th, 2011

Senescent Cells Are Linked to Diseases of Aging, Study Finds

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

In a potentially fundamental advance, researchers have opened up a novel approach to combating the effects of aging with the discovery that a special category of cells, known as senescent cells, are bad actors that promote the aging of the tissues. Cleansing the body of the cells, they hope, could postpone many of the diseases of aging.

The findings raise the prospect that any therapy that rids the body of senescent cells would protect it from the ravages of aging. But many more tests will be needed before scientists know if drugs can be developed to help people live longer.

Senescent cells accumulate in aging tissues, like arthritic knees, cataracts and the plaque that may line elderly arteries. The cells secrete agents that stimulate the immune system and cause low-level inflammation. Until now, there has been no way to tell if the presence of the cells is good, bad or indifferent.

The answer turns out to be that the cells hasten aging in the tissues in which they accumulate. In a delicate feat of genetic engineering, a research team led by Darren J. Baker and Jan M. van Deursen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has generated a strain of mouse in which all the senescent cells can be purged by giving the mice a drug that forces the cells to self-destruct.

Rid of the senescent cells, the Mayo Clinic researchers reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, the mice’s tissues showed a major improvement in the usual burden of age-related disorders. They did not develop cataracts, avoided the usual wasting of muscle with age, and could exercise much longer on a mouse treadmill. They retained the fat layers in the skin that usually thin out with age and, in people, cause wrinkling.

“I am very excited by the results,” said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, an expert on aging at the University of North Carolina. “It suggests therapies that might work in real patients,” he said.

Dr. van Deursen’s work is the first to show that removing senescent cells is beneficial. If confirmed, it “will be considered a fundamental advance by our field,” Dr. Sharpless said.

Aging research is a relatively young field because until 20 or so years ago the prospect of defeating age seemed hopeless. Then researchers found that the lifespan of laboratory animals could be extended by manipulating certain genes, setting off a hunt for drugs that might influence the corresponding genes in people. This line of research remains promising but has produced few tangible results so far. The discovery that senescent cells seem to be the cause of tissue degeneration opens out a new direction for researchers on aging to explore. …

via Senescent Cells Are Linked to Diseases of Aging, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.

Posted in Biology, Survival | Leave a Comment »

Great lines from “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney, Dead at 92

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

Andrew Aitken Andy Rooney (January 14, 1919 – November 4, 2011) was an American radio and television writer. He was most notable for his weekly broadcast “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”, a part of the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011. His final regular appearance on 60 Minutes aired October 2, 2011. He died a month later, on November 4, at age 92. – wiki


Andy Rooney, who died Saturday at the age of 92, had the last word each week on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes.” Here are some of his great lines from those essays, along with a few others, that reveal his talent as a writer and the dry wit that made him famous.

“I try to look nice. I comb my hair, I tie my tie, I put on a jacket, but I draw the line when it comes to trimming my eyebrows. You work with what you got.” — from an essay on his eyebrows, Nov. 24, 1996

“We need people who can actually do things. We have too many bosses and too few workers. More college graduates ought to become plumbers or electricians, then go home at night and read Shakespeare.” — from an essay on finding a good job, March 21, 2010

“We didn’t shock them, and we didn’t awe them in Baghdad. The phrase makes us look like foolish braggarts. The president ought to fire whoever wrote that for him.” — on the start of the war in Iraq in 2003

“I recently bought this new laptop to use when I travel. Look at that. Fits right into my briefcase. It weighs less than three pounds. I lose that much getting mad, waiting to get on the plane through security at the airport.” — from an essay on computers, Feb. 11, 2009 …

“I don’t know anything offhand that mystifies Americans more than the cotton they put in pill bottles. Why do they do it? Are you supposed to put the cotton back in once you’ve taken a pill out?” — from an essay on pill bottles, Oct. 12, 1986

“I understand shipping — you have to expect to pay for the stamps or for the freight company — but what’s this handling they always have? How much does handling cost, anyway? I don’t want a lot of people handling something I’m going to buy before I get it. How much would it cost if you didn’t handle it before you sent it to me?” — from an essay on fine print, March 12, 1989 …

via Great lines from “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney – CNN.com.

I didn’t always agree with him, but he had a wry Mark Twain humor that I often found charming. Rest in peace.

Posted in Humor, Popular Culture | 2 Comments »

Skin ‘sees’ the light to protect against sunshine

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

 Step into the sun and it’s not just your eyes that sense the light. Your skin contains photoreceptors like those in the retina, allowing it to mount an immediate defence against damaging ultraviolet radiation.

The skin tans by producing melanin, a pigment that protects DNA from dangerous UV rays. We already know that one component of the UV rays – called UVB – ramps up melanin production a few days after sun exposure in response to DNA damage in the skin. But another component of the radiation – UVA – encourages pigment production within minutes.

Elena Oancea and colleagues at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, think they know why. They analysed the genes expressed in melanocytes, the cells responsible for melanin production, and discovered that the cells also make rhodopsin, a light-sensitive chemical found in the retina.

When the team shone UVA light on melanocytes, they saw melanin production rise. Within 24 hours there was a five-fold increase in the production of the pigment. Knocking out the gene responsible for making rhodopsin in melanocytes blocked this immediate response to UVA.

According to Oancea, the immediate tanning, although modest, may help to protect the skin against early DNA damage.

Rick Sturm at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, isn’t convinced that “seeing” the light offers the skin much protection against damage, though. “Immediate tanning does not protect against UV-induced sunburn or DNA damage,” he says.

via Skin ‘sees’ the light to protect against sunshine – health – 04 November 2011 – New Scientist.

Ah, but does skin detection of light get transmitted to the brain to regulate sleep patterns?

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

When Black Holes Collide: Solving Einstein’s theory

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

A team of University researchers will get their hands on some of Europe’s fastest supercomputers in a bid to crack Einstein’s theory of relativity and help describe what happens when two black holes collide.

Experts in gravitational waves from the School of Physics and Astronomy have secured almost 16.7 million hours worth of supercomputer time to simulate and map the most violent events in the universe since the big bang – namely, collisions of black holes.

The team will use more than 1,900 computer processors over the next year to try and solve the equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The ultimate goal of the simulations is the direct observation of black-hole collisions through the gravitational waves they emit.

“Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time – predicted by Einstein almost 100 years ago,” according to Mark Hannam, School of Physics and Astronomy, who will lead the Cardiff research team.

“However, despite Einstein’s predictions – they have not yet been directly detected. Gravitational waves are generated by accelerating masses, such as orbiting black holes, similar to the way accelerating electrical charges emit electromagnetic waves, like light, infra-red and radio waves – with the important difference that gravitational waves are far weaker.

“For this reason it is electromagnetic waves that have told us everything we have learnt about the cosmos since ancient times. If we could also detect gravitational waves, that would push open a new window on the universe, and tell us about its `dark side’,” he added.

Over the past decade a network of gravitational wave detectors has been built, including the US Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European GEO600 and Virgo detectors, with the ambitious goal of not only making the first direct detection of the gravitational waves, but also to observe the entire Universe through gravitational radiation. …

via Solving Einstein’s theory.

Posted in Physics | Leave a Comment »

Aircraft Carrier Sized Asteroid 2005 YU55 zips by Earth, closer than moon, Tue, Nov 8, 2011

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

A close encounter of the harmless kind comes next Tuesday when an aircraft-carrier-size asteroid races past Earth.

The asteroid, dubbed 2005 YU55, will come within 202,000 miles of Earth, closer than the moon, before zipping farther into space. Carbon-colored and dark, the asteroid measures some 1,300 feet wide. It will be the closest visit by a space rock this size in more than three decades.

“This is not a potentially hazardous asteroid, just a good opportunity to study one,” National Science Foundation astronomer Thomas Statler says. NASA and the NSF plan a series of radar telescope and other observations starting Friday, aimed at mapping the asteroid’s surface and chemistry.

“The radar measurements should be pretty spectacular,” Statler says.

“A lot of asteroids are out there, so the more we know about them, the better,” says astronomer Phil Plait of Discover Magazine’s BadAstronomer blog. “This one is a clean miss, but we are going to learn a lot of science from it passing by.”

In July, NASA’s Dawn mission went into orbit around the 330-mile-wide asteroid Vesta in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. “Right now is a pretty good time to be an asteroid scientist,” Plait says.

An asteroid similar in size to 2005 YU55 won’t come this close to Earth again until 2028. Some 1,262 “potentially hazardous” asteroids, ones larger than 500 feet across, circle the sun in Earth’s neighborhood, according to NASA. Asteroid 2005 YU55 (the name indicates it was found in late December of 2005) is one of them, but it stands no chance of hitting Earth, at least for this century. It comes closest, within about 167,000 miles, in 2094, based on where it’s likely to cross Earth’s path on its elongated, 446-day orbit around the sun.

“We want to study these asteroids so if one does look like it may hit us someday, we’ll know what to do about it,” Statler says.

An asteroid of 2005 YU55’s size landing in the ocean would trigger a magnitude-7.0 earthquake and 70-foot-high tsunami waves some 60 miles away, says Jay Melosh of Purdue University in Indiana. Such impacts are thought to come about once every 100,000 years.

via Asteroid 2005 YU55 will zip by Earth next week – USATODAY.com.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Collision course: the space rocks that threaten our lives

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

A 20 million ton asteroid is currently hurtling through space at 23,000 miles per hour, on a collision course with Earth. But fear not – Nasa has 25 years to stop it There are two scenarios: the first, and thankfully most likely, is that Apophis will fly by in April 2029, the year it is due to make its first “close approach”, and that’s the last we’ll see or hear of it. The second is that during that approach, it’ll pass through what scientists refer to as a “keyhole” – a small area of space that can alter the asteroid’s course due to Earth’s gravity. If this happens, it’ll be on a massive collision course with us seven years later, likely to be April 13 2036 — Easter Sunday.

via Collision course: the space rocks that threaten our lives – Telegraph.

Posted in Earth, Space, Survival | Leave a Comment »

‘Hot springs’ under the surface of Mars most likely place for life to have flourished

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

Mars, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2006: Early images showing clays led scientists to believe life may have lurked in muddy basins on the surface - but now underground water seems more likelyIt might seem a tall order to work out what’s beneath the surface of Mars – but impact craters and erosion have revealed the ‘insides’ of the Red Planet.

Now scientists believe that warm water mingled with rocks rocks beneath the surface of Mars in ‘hot springs’ for hundreds of millions of years – and that this may have been longer-lived than Mars’s surface water.

Scientists now believe these are the most likely place for there to have been life on Mars.

‘If surface habitats were short-term, that doesn’t mean we should be glum about prospects for life on Mars – but it says something about what type of environment we might want to look in,’ said Bethany Ehlmann, scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

‘The most stable Mars habitats over long durations appear to have been in the subsurface.’

The NASA scientists point out that ‘geothermal’ areas on Earth – hot springs – play host to life.

‘The types of clay minerals that formed in the shallow subsurface are all over Mars,” said John Mustard, professor at Brown University in Providence.

Mustard is a co-author of the study in the journal Nature. ‘The types that formed on the surface are found at very limited locations and are quite rare.’

Differences in the mineral composition of clays on Mars let scientists see clearly which clays were formed on the surface, and which below.

One of the warmest, wettest – and most habitable – of the areas with surface clay is next on the list for Man to visit, in the form of the car-sized Curiosity rover.

Launching this year, the Curiosity rover will land and investigate layers that contain clay and sulfate minerals. …

via ‘Hot springs’ under the surface of Mars most likely place for life to have flourished | Mail Online.

Posted in Biology, Space | 1 Comment »

Brain cells responsible for keeping us awake identified

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

Bright light arouses us. Bright light makes it easier to stay awake. Very bright light not only arouses us but is known to have antidepressant effects. Conversely, dark rooms can make us sleepy. It’s the reason some people use masks to make sure light doesn’t wake them while they sleep.

Now researchers at UCLA have identified the group of neurons that mediates whether light arouses us — or not. Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and colleagues report in the current online edition of the Journal of Neuroscience that the cells necessary for a light-induced arousal response are located in the hypothalamus, an area at the base of the brain responsible for, among other things, control of the autonomic nervous system, body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue — and sleep.

These cells release a neurotransmitter called hypocretin, Siegel said. The researchers compared mice with and without hypocretin and found that those who didn’t have it were unable to stay awake in the light, while those who had it showed intense activation of these cells in the light but not while they were awake in the dark.

This same UCLA research group earlier determined that the loss of hypocretin was responsible for narcolepsy and the sleepiness associated with Parkinson’s disease. But the neurotransmitter’s role in normal behavior was, until now, unclear.

“This current finding explains prior work in humans that found that narcoleptics lack the arousing response to light, unlike other equally sleepy individuals, and that both narcoleptics and Parkinson’s patients have an increased tendency to be depressed compared to others with chronic illnesses,” said Siegel, who is also a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute and chief of neurobiology research at the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Mission Hills, Calif.

Prior studies of the behavioral role of hypocretin in rodents had examined the neurotransmitter’s function during only light phases (normal sleep time for mice) or dark phases (their normal wake time), but not both. And the studies only examined the rodents when they were performing a single task.

In the current study, researchers examined the behavioral capabilities of mice that had their hypocretin genetically “knocked-out” (KO mice) and compared them with the activities of normal, wild-type mice (WT) that still had their hypocretin neurons. The researchers tested the two groups while they performed a variety of tasks during both light and dark phases.

Surprisingly, they found that the KO mice were only deficient at working for positive rewards during the light phase. During the dark phase, however, these mice learned at the same rate as their WT littermates and were completely unimpaired in working for the same rewards.

Consistent with the data in the KO mice, the activity of hypocretin neurons in their WT littermates was maximized when working for positive rewards during the light phase, but the cells were not activated when performing the same tasks in the dark phase.

“The findings suggest that administering hypocretin and boosting the function of hypocretin cells will increase the light-induced arousal response,” Siegel said. “Conversely, blocking their function by administering hypocretin receptor blockers will reduce this response and thereby induce sleep.”

Further, Siegel noted, “The administration of hypocretin may also have antidepressant properties, and blocking it may increase tendencies toward depression. So we feel this work has implications for treating sleep disorders as well as depression.” …

via Brain cells responsible for keeping us awake identified.

Posted in Biology, Mind | Leave a Comment »

Youngest millisecond pulsar shines in gamma rays

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

Globular cluster 47 TucanaeThe Fermi space telescope has spotted the youngest-ever millisecond pulsar – a fast-spinning cosmic “lighthouse” that is the leftovers from a supernova.

It is the first pulsar from a globular cluster seen to shine in the highest-energy light we know of: gamma rays.

The pulsar’s gamma-ray brightness and evident youth challenge our notions of how such millisecond pulsars form.

The paper in Science suggests such gamma-ray pulsars may be forming as often as “normal” millisecond pulsars.

Pulsars are what remains after a supernova collapses a burnt-out star to a dense, highly magnetised ball of neutrons – a neutron star.

The star rotates, emitting beams of electromagnetic radiation from its magnetic poles; when those poles point toward our telescopes, we see the lighthouse-like flashes.

Millisecond pulsars are a bit more mysterious; they spin faster than they should if they are formed in the normal way, so it has been assumed that they are old, spent neutron stars that gather up material from a nearby star, spinning them back up to even greater speeds than when they formed – “recycled pulsars”. …

via BBC News – Youngest millisecond pulsar shines in gamma rays.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Scottish millionaires arrested in Orlando nightclub bathroom sex act

Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011

Mary and Chris Gorman were arrested after an incident at Roxy nightclub in Orlando in August, police reports state.Husband and wife millionaires from Scotland face several charges in an August incident that stemmed from a sex act in the bathroom of an Orlando nightclub, police reports state.

A pair of off-duty Orlando officers were working at Roxy night club on Bennett Road about 1:45 a.m. Aug. 13, reports state, when an employee reported three people having sex in a men’s room.

One of the officers knocked on a locked stall and identified himself as police. The stall door opened, police say, and the officers found two men and a woman inside, two engaged in a sex act.

Officers would later identify the woman as 43-year-old Mary Gorman. Reports state she was performing a sexual act on an unnamed man as her husband, 44-year-old Chris Gorman, watched.

Media reports identify the Gormans as among Scotland’s richest couples, worth more than $70 million. Chris Gorman is reportedly a digital industries mogul, and his wife a wealthy entrepreneur.

Chris Gorman and the other man left the bathroom, police said, but Mary Gorman didn’t and became argumentative. At one point, police said, she shoved an officer in the chest with an open hand.

Mary Gorman was placed into custody. Officers searched her purse, reports state, and said they found one gram of a white, powdery substance which tested positive for cocaine.

Gorman was arrested on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and possession of cocaine. She was jailed on $1,650 bail, and has since bonded out, according to court records.

Chris Gorman was also arrested, reports state, charged with interfering with police while they were arresting his wife. He was jailed on $500 bail, and has also since bonded out.

Reports state that Chris Gorman made his millions from digital companies The Reality Group and The Gadget Shop. The couple live in a multi-million dollar mansion in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

A local attorney representing the Gormans could not immediately be reached. However, in a statement to the (U.K.) Daily Mail, the couple said they deny doing anything to merit their charges.

“We are obviously horrified by this as, although the arrest did happen, we firmly do not believe that we have done anything to merit the charges or treatment we received,” the Gormans said.

via Scottish millionaires arrested Roxy Orlando: Scottish millionaires arrested after sex act in Orlando nightclub bathroom, reports state – Orlando Sentinel.

I’m sure there is a perfectly good explanation. The women’s room was full, see, and the husband went in and the men’s room was empty, so he went out to bring her in to a men’s room stall. But a guy went in to that same stall in the mean time, when the husband went out to get his wife. The millionaires both backed in to the stall they thought was empty, not knowing the guy was in there, and then… their clothes got caught on the hooks and on the door. Just as they were trying to get untangled, the cop came in and … it was all a big misunderstanding. And that white powder was, uh, cocaine, sure, but they had purchased it on the street thinking it was Serbian sea salt, you know, for ironing clothes.

Posted in Crime, Money, Strange | 1 Comment »


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