Researchers Find New Strategy for Preventing Clogged Arteries:
Scientists have successfully minimized artery-narrowing plaque in mice and published their findings this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine did so by boosting chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), a cellular housekeeping process discovered in 1993 and named in 2000. CMA keeps cells functioning normally by selectively degrading the many proteins that cells contain. Dr. And Maria Cuervo has deciphered many of the molecular players involved in CMA and shown that, through its timely degradation of key proteins, it regulates numerous intracellular processes including glucose and lipid metabolism, circadian rhythms, and DNA repair. She also found that disrupted CMA allows damaged proteins to accumulate to toxic levels, contributing to aging and when the toxic buildup occurs in nerve cells to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease. The study, published in PNAS, is the first to show that turning up CMA could be an effective way to prevent atherosclerosis from becoming severe or progressing. The CMA-boosted mice used in the experiments had greatly improved blood lipid profiles, with markedly reduced levels of cholesterol compared with the control mice.
Quantum innovation advances low-cost alternative solar technology:
Post-doctoral researcher Hao Chen shows off a prototype inverted perovskite solar cell. The team leveraged quantum mechanics to improve both the stability and efficiency of this alternative solar technology. Credit: Bin Chen
A team of researchers from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has leveraged quantum mechanics to create an optimal active layer in a device called an inverted perovskite solar cell. This new technological development is one step closer to the mass production of solar cells for a lower price on the market. At present, virtually all commercial solar cells are made from high-purity silicon, which takes significant energy to produce. However, a discovery made by the Sargent Group Lab has found an alternative called perovskite, which can absorb sunlight more efficiently while using less material than silicon. Through prototype development using the material has been used in the design of solar cells in a very thin layer, only three crystals high in length, to retain efficiency while reducing the cost of manufacturing. When testing the prototype, the material was able to retain 23.9% of sunlight energy at room temperature (the thin layer lasting 1,000 hours without a drop in efficiency) and was able to perform at around half capacity at high temperatures (around 500 hours at 65 degrees Celsius with a lower-level efficient output). Although there are currently limitations to the amount of heat the material can withstand research is being done to optimize the stability of the new active layer in solar cells.
Leeches expose wildlife’s whereabouts and may aid conservation efforts:
Ecologists are using bloodthirsty leeches to evaluate the success of wildlife conservation efforts in China.
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Leeches suck. Most people try to avoid them. However, in the summer of 2016 park rangers in China’s Ailaoshan Nature Reserve went hunting for the little blood gluttons. For months, the rangers searched through the reserve’s evergreen forest, gathering tens of thousands of leeches by hand and sometimes plucking the slimy parasites from the rangers’ own skin. Each time the rangers found a leech, they would place it into a little, preservative-filled tube, tuck the tube into a hip pack and carry on. The work could help aid conservation efforts, at Ailaoshan and elsewhere. These bloodthirsty worms though it seems odd, are actually incredibly helpful for conservation efforts. Leeches aren’t picky eaters they’ll feast on the blood of many different creatures, from amphibians to mammals to fish. Scientists have shown they can extract animal DNA from the blood that leeches and other bloodsucking creatures have ingested, what’s known as invertebrate-derived DNA, or iDNA, and identify the source animal. What’s more, the iDNA gave clues to where the animals preferred to roam, the researchers report March 23 in Nature Communications. This has allowed scientists to find unusual behaviors in nature preserves and will allow more accurate remedies to allow habitats to grow and thrive.