#NewYork; #SeaTurtles; #ColdStunnedSeaTurtles; #STARCentre; #NEST;
New York, Jan 31 (Canadian-Media): When 178 cold-stunned sea turtles needing rescue and treatment in North Carolina due to recent weather and cold temperatures, had been transported to the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center, veterinary staff at the North Carolina (NC) Museum of Natural Sciences offered to help, media reports said.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Image credit: website
“We’re happy to have this opportunity to assist the aquarium with this conservation action effort,” said head veterinarian Dr. Dan Dombrowski and the museum’s Living Collections staff.
“Sea turtles are such an important species to help rehabilitate. They are able to live so long, if we can help these juvenile turtles today, they may be around for another 100 years and produce thousands of offspring for the future.”
Image Courtesy of N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources
The recovery process for Cold-stunning, a condition which is similar to hypothermia caused by dropping water temperatures and disabling it to swim properly, begins by gradually warming the turtles back up over the course of a few days.
The turtles will occasionally be seen to visitors while receiving veterinary care at the museum’s “Window on Animal Health.”
Once the turtles are thought to be healthy enough to release, they will be taken offshore and released into warmer waters. The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is just one of many institutions across the state assisting in this crucial effort to aid cold-stunned sea turtles. The effort to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles is led by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, with collaboration with many federal, state and private organizations aided by many volunteers and groups such as Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) aided in the rescue of these turtles.
#Coronavirus; #RobotUsedToTreatCoronavirusPatients; #RoboticQuarantine System
United States, Jan 27 (Canadian-Media): To take extra precautions while monitoring or treating patients with 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus and to prevent its spreading, a robot is being used he staff at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington that can measure the patient’s vitals and act as a platform for video conferencing, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
The hospital's robotic quarantine system was updated in response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.
The robot a platform on wheels with a built-in screen and is armed with a stethoscope, like a real doctor with a technology that illustrates the extent to which medical officials are trying to isolate 2019-nCoV cases.
But nurses still needed to enter the room to reposition its camera.
George Diaz, chief of the hospital’s infectious disease division said in spite of protocols being set by the staff to treat patients to facilitate their isolation without spreading the virus to anyone, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have requested that the hospital conduct additional tests
“They’re looking for ongoing presence of the virus,” Diaz told CNN. “They’re looking to see when the patient is no longer contagious.”
#TechnologyAndInnovation; #KrogerTechnology&DigitalInnovationLabs, #Kruger, #FosuingOnNutritionHealth&WellnessAndVideoAnalytics; #Partnership;
Kentucky (U.S.), Jan 18 (Canadian-Media): The Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Labs was officially unveiled by the partners, Kroger (NYSC: KR) and Northern Kentucky University (NKU) with a ribbon-cutting event on Friday in NKU's Griffin Hall, media reports said.
The new Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab is the most significant addition to Griffin Hall since the JRG Cyber Threat Intelligence Lab in 2018.
Hands on experience would be provided to NKU students alongside associates from Kroger’s Research & Development group and 84.51⁰ with focus on initiatives that directly impact Kroger customers across the nation, including nutrition, health and wellness and video analytics.
“This reinforces our outstanding and rich partnership with Kroger. The KT & Digital Innovation Lab directly aligns with Success by Design’s goal of increasing applied learning opportunities for NKU students,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “Our students are gaining valuable skills and competencies, with support from faculty and business leaders right here on NKU’s campus. I’m excited to see the results of our talented students and faculty working together to address unique challenges with Kroger Tech.”
Kroger’s partnership with NKU deepens with the opening of innovation lab coming less than one year after the opening of the Zero Hunger/Zero Waste FUEL NKU student food pantry.
Company’s commitment to developing future talent in the region is exemplified by the lab and pantry. Financial awards to four NKU students were presented by Kroger as part of the celebration.
“Our partnership with Northern Kentucky University provides the opportunity for our associates to work with NKU faculty and students on projects aimed at solving real, innovative business challenges,” said Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer of Kroger Technology & Digital.
#Robotics, #FirstLivingRobert; #DeadCellsRepurposed; #livingTechnologies
Vermont (U.S.A.), Jan 13 (Canadian-Media): A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need, techxplore.com/news reports said.
Robotics expert Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist at the University of Vermont, co-led new research that led to the creation of a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism a called xenobot. Credit: Joshua Brown, UVM
A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need.
Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells—scraped from frog embryos—and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "xenobots" can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient)—and heal themselves after being cut.
"These are novel living machines," says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism."
The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM—and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. "We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can't do," says co-leader Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, "like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque."
The results of the new research were published January 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bespoke living systems
People have been manipulating organisms for human benefit since at least the dawn of agriculture, genetic editing is becoming widespread, and a few artificial organisms have been manually assembled in the past few years—copying the body forms of known animals.
But this research, for the first time ever, "designs completely biological machines from the ground up," the team writes in their new study.
With months of processing time on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM's Vermont Advanced Computing Core, the team—including lead author and doctoral student Sam Kriegman—used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for the new life-forms. Attempting to achieve a task assigned by the scientists—like locomotion in one direction—the computer would, over and over, reassemble a few hundred simulated cells into myriad forms and body shapes. As the programs ran—driven by basic rules about the biophysics of what single frog skin and cardiac cells can do—the more successful simulated organisms were kept and refined, while failed designs were tossed out. After a hundred independent runs of the algorithm, the most promising designs were selected for testing.
A team of scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University designed living robots on a UVM supercomputer. Then, at Tufts, they re-purposed living frog cells -- and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These tiny 'xenobots' can move on their own, circle a target and heal themselves after being cut. These novel living machines are neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. They're a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism. They could, one day, be used for tasks as varied as searching out radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, or traveling in human arteries to scrape out plaque. Credit: Sam Kriegman, Josh Bongard, UVM
Then the team at Tufts, led by Levin and with key work by microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston—transferred the in silico designs into life. First they gathered stem cells, harvested from the embryos of African frogs, the species Xenopus laevis. (Hence the name "xenobots.") These were separated into single cells and left to incubate. Then, using tiny forceps and an even tinier electrode, the cells were cut and joined under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer.Assembled into body forms never seen in nature, the cells began to work together. The skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while the once-random contractions of heart muscle cells were put to work creating ordered forward motion as guided by the computer's design, and aided by spontaneous self-organizing patterns—allowing the robots to move on their own.
These reconfigurable organisms were shown to be able move in a coherent fashion—and explore their watery environment for days or weeks, powered by embryonic energy stores. Turned over, however, they failed, like beetles flipped on their backs.
Later tests showed that groups of xenobots would move around in circles, pushing pellets into a central location—spontaneously and collectively. Others were built with a hole through the center to reduce drag. In simulated versions of these, the scientists were able to repurpose this hole as a pouch to successfully carry an object. "It's a step toward using computer-designed organisms for intelligent drug delivery," says Bongard, a professor in UVM's Department of Computer Science and Complex Systems Center.
Many technologies are made of steel, concrete or plastic. That can make them strong or flexible. But they also can create ecological and human health problems, like the growing scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans and the toxicity of many synthetic materials and electronics. "The downside of living tissue is that it's weak and it degrades," say Bongard. "That's why we use steel. But organisms have 4.5 billion years of practice at regenerating themselves and going on for decades." And when they stop working—death—they usually fall apart harmlessly. "These xenobots are fully biodegradable," say Bongard, "when they're done with their job after seven days, they're just dead skin cells."
Your laptop is a powerful technology. But try cutting it in half. Doesn't work so well. In the new experiments, the scientists cut the xenobots and watched what happened. "We sliced the robot almost in half and it stitches itself back up and keeps going," says Bongard. "And this is something you can't do with typical machines."
Cracking the code
Both Levin and Bongard say the potential of what they've been learning about how cells communicate and connect extends deep into both computational science and our understanding of life. "The big question in biology is to understand the algorithms that determine form and function," says Levin. "The genome encodes proteins, but transformative applications await our discovery of how that hardware enables cells to cooperate toward making functional anatomies under very different conditions."
A time-lapse recording of cells being manipulated and assembled, using in silico designs to create in vivo living machines, called xenobots. These novel living robots were created by a team from Tufts University and the University of Vermont. Credit: Douglas Blackiston, Tufts UniversityTo make an organism develop and function, there is a lot of information sharing and cooperation—organic computation—going on in and between cells all the time, not just within neurons. These emergent and geometric properties are shaped by bioelectric, biochemical, and biomechanical processes, "that run on DNA-specified hardware," Levin says, "and these processes are reconfigurable, enabling novel living forms."
The scientists see the work presented in their new PNAS study—"A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms,"—as one step in applying insights about this bioelectric code to both biology and computer science. "What actually determines the anatomy towards which cells cooperate?" Levin asks. "You look at the cells we've been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they're frogs. It's 100% frog DNA—but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?"
"As we've shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be," says Levin. He and the other scientists in the UVM and Tufts team—with support from DARPA's Lifelong Learning Machines program and the National Science Foundation— believe that building the xenobots is a small step toward cracking what he calls the "morphogenetic code," providing a deeper view of the overall way organisms are organized—and how they compute and store information based on their histories and environment.
Many people worry about the implications of rapid technological change and complex biological manipulations. "That fear is not unreasonable," Levin says. "When we start to mess around with complex systems that we don't understand, we're going to get unintended consequences." A lot of complex systems, like an ant colony, begin with a simple unit—an ant—from which it would be impossible to predict the shape of their colony or how they can build bridges over water with their interlinked bodies.
"If humanity is going to survive into the future, we need to better understand how complex properties, somehow, emerge from simple rules," says Levin. Much of science is focused on "controlling the low-level rules. We also need to understand the high-level rules," he says. "If you wanted an anthill with two chimneys instead of one, how do you modify the ants? We'd have no idea."
"I think it's an absolute necessity for society going forward to get a better handle on systems where the outcome is very complex," Levin says. "A first step towards doing that is to explore: how do living systems decide what an overall behavior should be and how do we manipulate the pieces to get the behaviors we want?"
In other words, "this study is a direct contribution to getting a handle on what people are afraid of, which is unintended consequences," Levin says—whether in the rapid arrival of self-driving cars, changing gene drives to wipe out whole lineages of viruses, or the many other complex and autonomous systems that will increasingly shape the human experience.
"There's all of this innate creativity in life," says UVM's Josh Bongard. "We want to understand that more deeply—and how we can direct and push it toward new forms."
#BBQLighter; #HighTechLabDevice; #ElectroPens
United States, Jan 11 (Canadian-Media): Researchers have devised a straightforward technique for building a laboratory device known as an electroporator — which applies a jolt of electricity to temporarily open cell walls — from inexpensive components, including a piezoelectric crystal taken from a butane lighter, phys.org/news reports said.
This image shows a common butane lighter (left) from which the researchers obtained a piezoelectric component used in the ElectroPen (right), an inexpensive electroporator which has a 3D-printed case. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
searchers have devised a straightforward technique for building a laboratory device known as an electroporator—which applies a jolt of electricity to temporarily open cell walls—from inexpensive components, including a piezoelectric crystal taken from a butane lighter.
The goal would be to make the low-cost device available to high schools, budget-pressed laboratories and other organizations whose research might otherwise be limited by access to conventional lab-grade electroporators. Plans for the device, known as the ElectroPen, are being made available, along with the files necessary for creating a 3-D-printed casing.
"Our goal with the ElectroPen was to make it possible for high schools, budget-conscious laboratories and even those working in remote locations without access to electricity to perform experiments or processes involving electroporation," said M. Saad Bhamla, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "This is another example of looking for ways to bypass economic limitations to advance scientific research by putting this capability into the hands of many more scientists and aspiring scientists."
In a study to be reported January 9 in the journal PLOS Biology and sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the researchers detail the method for constructing the ElectroPen, which is capable of generating short bursts of more than 2,000 volts needed for a wide range of laboratory tasks.
One of the primary jobs of a cell membrane is to serve as a protective border, sheltering the inner workings of a living cell from the outside environment.
Georgia Tech undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli and assistant professor Saad Bhamla are shown with examples of butane lighters they used to create the inexpensive ElectroPen - an electroporator device useful in life sciences research. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
But all it takes is a brief jolt of electricity for that membrane to temporarily open and allow foreign molecules to flow in—a process called electroporation, which has been used for decades in molecular biology labs for tasks ranging from bacterial detection to genetic engineering.
Despite how commonplace the practice has become, the high cost of electroporators and their reliance on a source of electricity has kept the technique mostly within the confines of academic or professional labs. Bhamla and undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli set out to change that, with help from collaborators Soham Sinha, Yan Zhang, Assistant Professor Mark Styczynski and Lambert High School teacher Janet Standeven.
"Once we decided to tackle this issue, we began to explore the inner workings of electroporators to understand why they are so bulky and expensive," said Byagathvalli. "Since their conception in the early 1980s, electroporators have not had significant changes in design, sparking the question of whether we could achieve the same output at a fraction of the cost. When we identified a lighter that could produce these high voltages through piezoelectricity, we were excited to uncover new mysteries behind this common tool."
In addition to the piezoelectric lighter crystal—which generates current when pressure is applied to it—the other parts in the device include copper-plated wire, heat-shrinking wire insulator and aluminum tape. To hold it all together, the researchers designed a 3-D-printed casing that also serves as its activator. With all the parts on hand, the device can be assembled in 15 minutes, the researchers reported.
While the ElectroPen is not designed to replace a lab-grade electroporator, which costs thousands of dollars and is capable of processing a broad range of cell mixtures, the device is still highly capable of performing tasks when high volumes are not required.
Georgia Tech undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli and assistant professor Saad Bhamla are shown with examples of the inexpensive ElectroPen — an electroporator device useful in life sciences research. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
The researchers tested several different lighter crystals to find ones that produced a consistent voltage using a spring-based mechanism. To understand more about how the lighters function, the team used a high-speed camera at 1,057 frames-per-second to view their mechanics in slow motion.
"One of the fundamental reasons this device works is that the piezoelectric crystal produces a consistently-high voltage, independent of the amount of force applied by the user," Bhamla said. "Our experiments showed that the hammer in these lighters is able to achieve acceleration of 3,000 Gs, which explains why it is capable of generating such a high burst of voltage."
To test its capabilities, the researchers used the device on samples of E. coli to add a chemical that makes the bacterial cells fluorescent under special lights, illuminating the cell parts and making them easier to identify. Similar techniques could be used in a lab or in remote field operations to detect the presence of bacteria or other cells.
The team also evaluated whether the device was easy to use, shipping the assembled ElectroPens to students at other universities and high schools.
"The research teams were able to successfully obtain the same fluorescence expression, which I think validates how easily these devices can be disseminated and adopted by students across the globe," Bhamla said.
To that end, the researchers have made available the plans for how to build the device, along with digital files to be used by a 3-D printer to fabricate the casing and actuator. Next steps of the research include testing a broader range of lighters looking for consistent voltages across a wider range, with the goal of creating ElectroPens of varying voltages.
#NASA; #NASAAnimation; #Smoke&Aerosol; #AustralianFires; #pyrCbs; #NASA-NOAA; #NPP; #BUV; OMPS-NM
Washington, Jan 10 (Canadian-Media): The fires in Australia are not just causing devastation locally. The unprecedented conditions that include searing heat combined with historic dryness, have led to the formation of an unusually large number of pyrocumulonimbus (pyrCbs) events, NASA reports said.
VIIIRS Red-Green-Blue imagery provides a “true-color” view of the smoke. (Note that these images do not represent what a human would see from orbit. In these images, the effect of Rayleigh scattering, which would add “blue haze,” has been taken out.) While useful, it is often hard to distinguish smoke over clouds and, sometimes, over dark ocean surfaces.
Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
PyroCbs are essentially fire-induced thunderstorms. They are triggered by the uplift of ash, smoke, and burning material via super-heated updrafts. As these materials cool, clouds are formed that behave like traditional thunderstorms but without the accompanying precipitation.
PyroCb events provide a pathway for smoke to reach the stratosphere more than 10 miles (16 km) in altitude. Once in the stratosphere, the smoke can travel thousands of miles from its source, affecting atmospheric conditions globally. The effects of those events -- whether the smoke provides a net atmospheric cooling or warming, what happens to underlying clouds, etc.) -- is currently the subject of intense study.
NASA is tracking the movement of smoke from the Australian fires lofted, via pyroCbs events, more than 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) high. The smoke is having a dramatic impact on New Zealand, causing severe air quality issues across the county and visibly darkening mountaintop snow.
Two instruments aboard NASA-NOAA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite -- VIIRS and OMPS-NM -- provide unique information to characterize and track this smoke cloud. The VIIRS instruments provided a “true-color” view of the smoke with visible imagery. The OMPS series of instruments comprise the next generation of back-scattered UltraViolet (BUV) radiation sensors. OMPS-NM provides unique detection capabilities in cloudy conditions (very common in the South Pacific) that VIIRS does not, so together both instruments track the event globally.
The UV aerosol index is a qualitative product that can easily detect smoke (and dust) over all types of land surfaces. It also has characteristic that is particularly well suited for identifying and tracking smoke from pyroCb events: the higher the smoke plume, the larger the aerosol index value. Values over 10 are often associated with such events. The aerosol index values produced by some of the Australian pyroCb events have rivaled that larges ever recorded. .
Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
At NASA Goddard, satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. The UV index is a qualitative product that can easily detect smoke (and dust) over all types of land surfaces. To enhance and more easily identify the smoke and aerosols, scientists combine the UV aerosol index with RGB information.
Colin Seftor, research scientist at Goddard said, “The UV index has a characteristic that is particularly well suited for identifying and tracking smoke from pyroCb events: the higher the smoke plume, the larger the aerosol index value. Values over 10 are often associated with such events. The aerosol index values produced by some of the Australian pyroCb events have rivaled that largest values ever recorded.”
Beyond New Zealand, by Jan. 8, the smoke had travelled halfway around Earth, crossing South America, turning the skies hazy and causing colorful sunrises and sunsets.
The smoke is expected to make at least one full circuit around the globe, returning once again to the skies over Australia.
NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass. Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars. NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our understanding of fire in the Earth system. Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet several times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit provide coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke and clouds every five to 15 minutes.
#OriginOfComplexMalariaInfection; #SingleCellSequencing; #TexasBiomedicalResInstitute;
Texas (U.S.), Jan 10 (Canadian-Media): New technology employing single cell genome sequencing of the parasite that causes malaria has yielded some surprising results and helps pave the way for possible new intervention strategies for this deadly infectious disease, according to Texas Biomedical Research Institute Assistant Professor Ian Cheeseman, Ph.D. Dr. Cheeseman was Principal Investigator of a three-year study published in the January 2020 edition of Cell Host & Microbe, a high-impact peer-reviewed publication, phys.org news reports said.
A chart of single cell sequencing on malaria parasites. Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites spread to people by the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.
"We don't know what is inside malaria infections," Dr. Cheeseman said. "We don't know how many different genetically distinct strains of parasites there are. We don't know how related they are to each other. We don't know how many mosquitoes they came from."
To help answer these questions, Dr. Cheeseman and his collaborators turned to single cell genome sequencing. Using this technology, individual malaria parasite cells are isolated and their genome amplified before being analyzed by a genome sequencer. Single cell sequencing allows researchers to capture the genetic mutations present in a single cell, and has been adopted by cancer researchers to understand how tumors evolve. This is the first time the technology was used to study malaria transmission.
Dr. Cheeseman and his international team studied single malaria-infected cells from malaria patients in Malawi, a country heavily burdened by this infectious disease. Malaria patients, who donated malaria-infected blood samples used in this study reside in Chikhwawa, a region with a large mosquito population. In this region, people may be bitten by a malaria-infected mosquito every 48 hours.
Assistant Professor Ian Cheeseman, Ph.D.Texas Biomedical Research Institute Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute
The single cell sequencing approach applied in this study provides a fresh picture of how often bites from an infected mosquito lead to a malaria infection. What researchers discovered went against conventional wisdom. Nearly all the infections they studied likely came from one mosquito bite.
"We found that complex malaria infections are predominantly caused by a single mosquito bite transmitting many genetically diverse but related parasites into the blood stream of a patient," , lead author on the study and a Malawian national, stated.
Knowing this enables scientists to design more effective interventions to block mosquitoes from spreading malaria and build more sophisticated models to predict the spread of antimalarial drug resistance and malaria transmission patterns. The rise of antimalarial drug resistance is a major threat to malaria control globally as resistance to the antimalarial drugs artemisinin and piperaquine continue to spread.
Malaria infects an estimated 200 million people worldwide each year and kills more than 400,000 people, most of them children, according to the World Health Organization. "Any strides we can make in understanding this disease will make an enormous impact," Dr. Cheeseman concluded.