Science News

New drug successfully tested for experimental stuttering

A drug that reduces the symptoms of stuttering has been successfully tested by a group of doctors from the University of California at Riverside. During the experiments, the researchers noticed that the patients showed a reduction of the communicative defects caused by the stuttering after eight weeks of administration of the drug, the ecopipam.

Among the results that the researchers obtained there was a greater fluidity of speech, a faster reading and in general shorter duration stuttering events. Moreover, as specified by Gerald Maguire, president of the School of Medicine of the aforementioned university who led the study, the participants in the experiment did not show serious side effects so that none of them had to stop treatment.

Furthermore, no weight gain or movement disturbances were recorded, which were other side effects that have characterized other drugs for stuttering used in the past. A larger clinical study will be conducted early next year when experiments with more than 100 adults will be performed.

“If the ecopipam at the end of this study was considered a potentially safe and effective treatment for stuttering, it would be a big step towards finding the FDA approval for the first ever drug for stuttering treatment,” Maguire says.

The ecopipam drug works by selectively blocking dopamine in its D1 receptors, unlike other commercially available drugs that cannot block dopamine in such a selective manner.

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The world’s first floating nuclear power plant starts traveling to the Arctic

The first floating nuclear reactor in the world, built by Russia, began its journey in the Arctic Sea on Friday amid the growing concern of environmentalists who have already called this sort of floating nuclear power plant the “Chernobyl on the ice” or the “Titanic nuclear.”

This floating nuclear power plant, named Akademik Lomonosov, began its journey through the Arctic with its cargo of nuclear fuel. It left the port of Murmansk and made his way into the sea, among the ice, starting a journey of more than 3000 miles to reach Pevek, a city located in the Siberian region of Chukotka.

Here it should replace a fixed nuclear power plant that will soon be closed down and a coal-fired power plant that has been closed for some time. Its job will mainly be to supply energy to the oil platforms in the Arctic. According to the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, this is the best solution to build a nuclear power plant in the Arctic area of ​​the country.

In this region, in fact, consisting essentially of isolated places with almost always frozen ground, a “classic” power plant would not be very simple to build. The new nuclear power plant will help Russia in “carrying out large infrastructure projects,” as declared by the agency itself.

Statements that have certainly not dampened the complaints launched by environmental groups that fear for the Arctic environment, already put to the test in recent years due to the melting of ice and global warming. A nuclear accident on this floating platform would cause a radioactive wave and according to environmentalists themselves, such a power plant would be more vulnerable to atmospheric agents, particularly storms.

“A floating nuclear power plant is too risky and too expensive to produce electricity,” Rashid Alimov, a Greenpeace representative in Russia, told AFP.

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Three deformed skulls from 1500 years ago found in Croatia

New and more in-depth analyses of three deformed human skulls, whose discovery had been made in a sepulchral trench at an archaeological site in Croatia in 2013, were carried out by a group of scholars.

The finding had occurred at Hermanov’s site; the researchers had found deformed skulls, most likely the result of a tribal or social practice as found for other similar findings, in other parts of the world. These findings testify that different populations of the past used to modify the skulls of certain people, for example by using narrow headgear or more rigid wooden instruments worn for a long time, for various reasons, for example to show their status to other members of the group.

Returning to the skulls found in Croatia, the new analyzes showed that these were boys who died when they were between 12 and 16 years, probably due to an illness, perhaps the plague, as Mario Novak, a bioarchaeologist of the Institute of Anthropological Research points out.

No objects were found near the burial site, but DNA analysis showed that these three boys lived between 415 and 560 d. C., a period that according to Novak himself defines as “very turbulent” following the strong migration of different populations also facilitated by the dissolution of the Roman Empire.

The same DNA analysis also showed that these boys were of Eastern origin. The skulls have a particularly pronounced height while the frontal bone of the forehead is flattened.

One of the boys, showing a lineage from Western Eurasia, shows instead an “oblique” deformation with the skull that seems to stretch diagonally towards the other.

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Laser scarecrows developed to scare birds and keep them away from the fields

Laser scarecrows to prevent birds from eating crops have been developed by a researcher from the University of Rhode Island. The same researcher has already tested it in various cultivated fields of the state and has ascertained the good level of yield compared to the classic scarecrows and above all compared to the propane cannons.

The laser emits green light, a color for which the birds are very sensitive, which automatically moves back and forth across the field scaring the birds even before they can reach the plants. It is made with relatively inexpensive LED lights and can also work with batteries. The latter can also be charged by solar panels.

Propane guns are effective but noisy, which, when cultivated fields are close to homes, can create problems. The laser scarecrows are instead completely silent while the beam they emit is not visible to humans in the light of the sun, as specified by Rebecca Brown, professor of plant sciences at the aforementioned university that invented the device.

This is not an absolute novelty: it is already for several years that lasers are used precisely to scare the birds but they are hardly used in agriculture as they are considered unsuitable, at least until the presentation of this new device; they are for example used in closed or partially closed environments such as stadiums or warehouses.

According to the researcher, the success of the device lies in the fact that the birds perceive the laser beam as a solid object from which it is necessary to stay away even if it has noticed that if the laser is fixed and does not move constantly, the birds tend to ignore it in the end. There are evidently biological-cerebral mechanisms that the researcher has not however analyzed given the fact that the device seems to work.

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Submerged shipyard of 8000 years ago found in England

A wooden structure dating back to the Stone Age has been analyzed by researchers from an English institute. The structure, almost intact, is 11 meters below the sea near the Isle of Wight, England, and had already been discovered in 2005.

However, several mysteries have enveloped this structure as the researchers, during the first years of analysis, failed to interpret the meaning of the platforms, walkways and various carved wooden structures found on the site, also because they were completely submerged.

The researchers of the Maritime Archaeological Trust have re-analyzed, also performing a 3D modeling, this 8000-year-old structure, the oldest stone-age wooden structure ever found in the United Kingdom, obtaining new interesting results.

8000 years ago, the area was dry land with lush vegetation. The researchers found that it is a platform composed of various wooden structures, often of different layers, resting on round wooden foundations arranged horizontally.

It is a wood processing so advanced that it was not thought to be connected to this era. The researchers believe it was a small shipyard for the construction of boats, certainly the oldest shipyard in the world ever identified.