Science News

Robotic worm can creep into the vascular pathways of the brain

A new kind of robotic worm was developed by a research group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study was published in Science Robotics.

This small robotic “worm” is structured to be able to slide through narrow and tortuous paths and the first thought goes right to the labyrinthine structure of the brain. According to the intentions of the same researchers, in fact, this microrobot, together with the already existing endovascular technologies, could be remotely guided to cross the brain vessels and to perform various medical actions, in particular for conditions such as those related to aneurysms and strokes.

As Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical and civil engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the research, explains, stroke is one of the most common diseases and one of the most deadly. It should be treated and treated immediately, possibly within the first 90 or 60 minutes from the appearance of the first symptoms, a stretch of time that Zhao himself defines as the so-called golden hour: “If we could design a device to reverse the blockage of blood vessels in this ‘golden hour’, we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. This is our hope,” reveals the researcher.

Currently, to eliminate blood clots in brain pathways, a complicated endovascular procedure is carried out accompanied by a surgical procedure that sees the insertion of a thin wire in the main artery, usually the one in the leg or groin.

These are naturally “passive” wires, to be handled manually and which can lead to various problems even during the operation itself, for example those procured by the material of which they are made, polymer-coated metal alloys that can damage body coatings.

The new robotic wire instead boasts a nickel-titanium alloy core, or “nitinol,” a material that can resume its original shape and is more flexible when it is wound through the narrow vascular pathways.

The robotic wire is coated with a particular hydrogel which, although it does not affect the reactivity of the magnetic particles it contains, allows the wire to take advantage of a smooth and friction-free surface as well as being biocompatible.

Furthermore, the same robotic wire can be modified so that it can supply drugs, for example those to reduce the clot, or it can be equipped with laser light.

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Fusion of the Siberian permafrost will accelerate global warming

There is another environmental effect in progress will accelerate the greenhouse effect caused by humans: the release of organic matter from the Siberian permafrost.

This is the result of a team of Russian and US scientists who analyzed the composition of different layers of permafrost in eastern Siberia and published the results in a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Permafrost is a soil covered with a layer of ice that can be of varying thickness but never seen. More and more research in recent years is linking this specific type of land to ongoing global warming, as well as the melting of Arctic ice.

Unlike the ice in the Arctic, however, the consequences of the melting of permafrost, in particular the Siberian one which represents the largest example, are not yet completely clear. This research seeks to fill this void by realizing what can be considered the first ever study on organic matter that is contained in the deeper layers of permafrost. They analyzed the terrain of the Kolyma river basin, eastern Siberia, to understand what happened in the distant past during the thawing periods to then relate this information to today’s events. Analyzing soil samples at various depths and belonging to different geological ages, they examined various deposits, from the Pleistocene to the Holocene, relatively well-preserved samples.

The results are explained by Alexander Zherebker, a scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SKOLTECH) and one of the authors of the study together with other colleagues from Lomonosov State University in Moscow: “We have identified the components that have undergone the greatest change and those that are the most sensitive to the action of microorganisms. It emerged that the biodegradable components are present both at great depth and very close to the permafrost surface. According to our projections, the Arctic region will have a strong impact on global warming very soon.”

Science News

Shocking satellite image shows melting ice in Greenland

A satellite image shows us the dramatic level of Greenland ice melting. This time there is no need even to use data to get an idea.

The new image, published on the NASA website, shows how the branched network of glaciers around Greenland’s Sermilik fjord has changed over the past 47 years.

Comparing the image taken by the Landsat 8 satellite on 3 October 2019 with an image of the same area taken in 1972, the changes, in terms of melting ice and the emergence of the underlying soil are more than clear, shocking in some ways.

The surface of fusion, which in the images appears darker than the surface covered with ice, is much more extensive in 2019 than in 1972.

The phenomenon of ice melting has left only an intricate tangle of sea ice that will probably soon melt too.

“Now there is much more bare rock visible, which was previously covered in ice,” reports Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist at the University of Maryland, who also adds that there are dozens of examples like this only in this area.

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Scientists consider the ramifications of a nuclear war between the US and Russia

In the event of a nuclear war between the two superpowers, the United States and Russia, would the nuclear winter that would follow involve the whole globe or just part of it? 

This question has never been answered by scientists because there are so many factors and variables but researchers from the Department of Environmental Sciences of the University of Rutgers-New Brunswick seem to have found the definitive answer.

According to the researchers, who published their own study in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, the nuclear winter that would follow an atomic war between the two nations would involve the entire globe and substantially no region would be saved from indirect effects.

Furthermore, during the summer, most of the mainland in the northern hemisphere would be characterized by temperature below zero and the reduced growth of cultivated fields would involve 90% of the land in various areas of the globe.

This would lead to very serious famines that would threaten all the 7.7 billion people who currently inhabit the planet, also because most of them rely on the globalized trade in food in order to survive.

According to Joshua Coupe, a student at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study together with Professor Alan Robock, a war between the United States and Russia would cause the release of 150 million tons of black smoke, resulting from fires in cities and industrial areas, in the lower and upper atmosphere.

In these two layers, this mass of material could stop for months or years blocking most or a good amount of sunlight. Compared to other similar calculations made in other research, this time the scientists used a new climate model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research that boasts better simulations.

This new model can characterize the Earth in many positions and also includes other factors not previously taken into consideration such as smoke particle growth and ozone distribution after atmospheric warming.

“There really would be a nuclear winter with catastrophic consequences,” said Coupe himself, suggesting that the dystopian and apocalyptic visions that have often been seen in science fiction would actually become reality.

Science News

The most detailed genetic map of the human retina has been created

A team of scientists from Australian institutes has produced the most detailed genetic map ever performed of the human retina. The same researchers hope that this study will help the area of ​​prevention and treatment of blindness.

According to Raymond Wong of the Center for Eye Research Australia and the University of Melbourne, one of the authors of the study, the study “provides unprecedented insights into genetic signals of retinal cells.” This is the first part of the eye that has been mapped in the context of the Human Cell Atlas Project, a project that aims to map all types of human cells to help the world of research in general.

In this case, the researchers developed a profile of all the main types of cells present in the retina and the genes they “express.” We speak, for example, of photoreceptors that detect light, of ganglion cells and of other types of cells with different functions.

“By creating a genetic map of the human retina, we are able to understand the factors that allow cells to continue functioning and contribute to healthy vision,” Wong said, stressing the importance of this result.