Science

New Rules Point Scientists To Next-Gen Pathogens

In the past, researchers have studied how a bacterium’s outer barrier — cell membrane — works, explains Kim Lewis.
The term for these little pores: Porins The Illinois scientists shared what they learned online May 10 in Nature.
However, Hergenrother’s team found, those porins also can allow drugs to enter the pathogens.
The Illinois researchers investigated what allows chemicals to enter cells through those porins.
From this, the researchers developed a set of rules on how compounds penetrate gram-negative bacteria.
To then test those rules, the researchers turned to a natural antibiotic.
This drug works on only the gram-positive bacteria.
By adding an amine group to the drug, the team thought it could make it kill gram-negative bacteria, too.
The researchers tested this new compound against gram-negative pathogens that are resistant to many germ-killing drugs.
These new findings could help researchers convert other antibiotics that work against gram-positive drugs into ones that also can quash gram-negative germs, Hergenrother predicts.

Jupiter gets Surprisingly Complex New Portrait

Scientists’ first close-up of the gas giant has unveiled several unexpected details about the planet’s gravity and powerful magnetic fields.
They also give a new view of the planet’s auroras and ammonia-rich weather systems.
Researchers need to revamp their view of Jupiter, these findings suggest.
They even challenge ideas about how solar systems form and evolve.
“Nobody anticipated that,” Bolton notes.
These data support the idea that this magnetic field originates from circulating electric currents.
Auroras are brilliant shows of colored light that appear at or near a planet’s poles.
So the upwelling likely works in a completely different way than on Earth.
The scientists hope to figure out how this works on Jupiter.
This could help scientists better understand the atmospheres of such huge gas planets.

The Milky Way Galaxy is in a Void

Milky Way’s loner status is upheld.
Observations of 120,000 galaxies bolstering the Milky Way’s loner status were presented by Benjamin Hoscheit June 7 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.
Building on earlier work by his adviser, University of Wisconsin‒Madison astronomer Amy Barger, Hoscheit and Barger measured how the density of galaxies changed with distance from the Milky Way.
In agreement with the earlier study, the pair found that the Milky Way has far fewer neighbors than it should.
There was a rise in density about 1 billion light-years out, suggesting the Milky Way resides in an abyss about 2 billion light-years wide.
If the Milky Way lives in such a void, it could help explain why the universe seems to be expanding at different rates depending on how it’s measured (SN: 8/6/16, p. 10).
Measurements based on the cosmic microwave background, the earliest light in the universe, suggest one rate of expansion, while measurements of nearby supernovas suggest a faster one.
Those supernovas could be feeling an extra gravitational pull from all the matter at the edges of the void, Hoscheit says.
The actual expansion rate is probably the slower one measured in the universe’s early light.
“If you don’t account for the void effects, you could mistake this relationship to indicate that there is too much expansion,” Hoscheit says.

50 years ago, Antibiotic Resistance Alarms Went Unheeded

50 years ago, antibiotic resistance alarms went unheeded.
Bacteria ganging up on drugs With the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics came man’s confidence in his ability to control infectious diseases.
But now, that confidence is being shaken by once defenseless germs that have learned to outwit man and thrive in the face of his wonder drugs.… One way to cut down on drug resistance transfer is to stop prescribing antibiotics almost indiscriminately, but that is not an altogether workable solution.
— Science News, June 10, 1967
In 1945, Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned that bacteria could become resistant to the wondrous antibiotic.
Yet our love affair with antibiotics is still going strong — with consequences.
In 2014, U.S. doctors prescribed close to 266 million outpatient courses of antibiotics — at least 30 percent of which were probably unnecessary.
In the United States, more than 2 million illnesses per year and at least 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant infections.
In 2016, E. coli in the United States showed new resistance to the last-resort antibiotic, colistin (SN Online: 5/27/16).
Antibiotic addicted In 2014, prescriptions of antibiotics in the United States ranged from as low as 500 people to more than 1,200 per 1,000 people — and 30 percent of those prescriptions were probably not needed.

Adding Ice to Medics’ Kits Could Help Patients Survive Blood Loss

A bag of it on the face could help to keep blood pressure up in those suffering severe blood loss.
But keeping patients cool might also help, a new study finds.
That can limit how much blood, and therefore oxygen, reaches the brain and other vital organs.
If deprived of enough oxygen, those tissues — and the patient — could die.
A physiologist, he studies body functions at a research institute of the U.S. Army in Houston, Texas.
Convertino thinks medics and others can save some lives if they can maintain adequate blood pressure — and thereby blood flow — to vital tissues until the victim reaches the hospital.
(Vital tissues include the heart and brain.)
But cooling just the face should be possible, says Convertino — even when dealing with injuries on the battlefield.
Placing the cold ice-water bag on the face of volunteers for 15 minutes increased blood pressure, the scientists found.
Placing a bag of only water on the face of volunteers, though, did not affect their blood pressure and heart rate.

Fidget Spinners: Tools or Toys?

Are fidget spinners tools or toys?.
“I’ll be holding it and spinning it on my pointer finger, then I try to balance it on my middle finger while it’s spinning.” Allie, who’s nine, has been trying to balance hers on her nose as it spins.
Silly tricks aside, all three siblings feel their spinners are more than mere toys.
But fidget spinners may be more than just a toy.
In 1993, Hettinger filed for a patent on the spinning toy and started selling it at craft fairs.
Though she continued to sell the spinners at craft fairs and online, the idea of a finger spinner no longer belonged to her alone.
Fidget to focus Garritano’s high-end collectibles, Hettinger’s classic spinner and the Boninis’ three-spoked fidget spinner are all part of a much broader category of toys that therapists sometimes use as tools for their patients.
The study didn’t explain why movement helps kids with ADHD focus.
Moreover, Schweitzer worries that the spinners may make it more difficult for some kids to focus.
If other kids have spinners out at their desks at school, the student with ADHD will likely be watching the spinner and not the teacher.

Needle-Free Blood Typing May Be On the Way

Particular proteins on red blood cells determines whether a person’s blood type hosts another type of antigen, known as Rh.
Today, most labs identify a person’s blood type by testing a sample of the red stuff.
But scientists also have shown that red blood cells of different blood types reflect light slightly differently.
With yet another test, she measured the angle at which light was scattered by red blood cells.
For example, the teen discovered that blood type O, which has no A or B antigens, scattered light less than other types.
Blood type AB, which has both antigens A and B, scattered light the most.
Zainab showcased her research last week, here, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
(The Society also publishes Science News for Students.)
But in the future, engineers could make a device that shines the proper wavelength of light into a person’s skin.
Such a test could be done on blood still inside a person’s body, the teen explains.

Obscure Brain Region Linked to Feeding Frenzy in Mice

“Being able to include the zona incerta in models of feeding is going to help us understand it better,” says study coauthor Anthony van den Pol, a neuroscientist at Yale University.
Those electrodes may be stimulating zona incerta nerve cells, van den Pol suspects.
When the stimulation stopped after two weeks, the mice’s weight began to drop.
Mice were engineered so that some nerve cells in the zona incerta fired off signals when hit with blue light.
When the light activated these cells, the mice immediately found the food and began eating, the researchers reported.
After just 10 minutes of stimulation, mice had consumed 35 percent of what they would normally eat in 24 hours.
These zona incerta nerve cells send lots of signals to nerve cells in a part of the thalamus called the PVT, a region thought to be involved with monitoring energy levels.
Other experiments described in the study suggest that changing the activity of PVT nerve cells directly also influences eating behavior, results that implicate the zona incerta–PVT connection in the powerful signal to eat.
“The zona incerta is not only little-studied but ill-defined,” he says, and it includes nerve cells with widely different jobs.
“The eating effect evoked by activating these cells is probably real and interesting,” Acsády says.

The Opioid Epidemic Spurs the Search for Safer Painkillers

Scientists are designing new, more targeted molecules that might kill pain as well as today’s opioids do — with fewer side effects.
The danger comes because opioid receptors scattered throughout the body and in crucial parts of the brain can cause far-reaching side effects when drugs latch on.
Long-term users of prescription opioids might be dependent on the drugs, but not necessarily addicted.
And in a follow-up study, negative effects were less likely.
Since that work, Bohn’s lab and many others have been trying to create molecules that bind to mu opioid receptors without triggering beta-arrestin 2 activity.
One, called PZM21, was described in Nature last year.
Over the short term, people taking a moderate dose of the drug got pain relief comparable to that of morphine, but reported fewer side effects, such as vomiting and breathing problems.
Both have a structure that’s very different from morphine, but they bind to opioid receptors.
There are plenty of cannabinoid receptors in parts of the brain that process pain messages.
There are plenty of cannabinoid receptors in parts of the brain that process pain messages.

Sea scorpions slashed victims with swordlike tails

Sea scorpions slashed victims with swordlike tails.
Ancient sea scorpions were hacks.
Some of the marine creatures had a thin, serrated spine on the tip of their tail — and that tail was surprisingly flexible, based on a 430-million-year-old fossil found in Scotland.
Slimonia acuminata may have had the range of motion to strike large predators and prey, researchers report online April 18 in American Naturalist.
Scientists had thought that the ancient animals largely used their tails for swimming, primarily flapping them up and down like today’s lobsters and shrimp do and, to a limited degree, side to side like a rudder.
But the tail on the new, well-preserved fossil curls dramatically to the side — a flexibility not seen in other sea scorpion specimens.
Story continues after image That bendiness suggests a purpose beyond propulsion, say study authors W. Scott Persons, a paleontologist, and John Acorn, an entomologist, both at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The tail could have twisted around horizontally to strike a victim or dispatch a foe with the pointy end, and the saw-edged weapon would have encountered little water resistance.
Sea scorpions may have even pinned down prey with their front limbs while delivering lethal blows with their tails.
Because S. acuminata appears quite early in sea scorpion evolution, slicing and dicing may have been the norm early on for the ancient critters, the researchers write.

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