Silica nanospheres used to deliver drugs in a targeted manner in the body

Small “bottles” of silica glass on a nanometric scale could allow targeted delivery of drugs into the body: this is what a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has come to.

These are hollow spheres made of very small silica with a diameter of about 200 nanometers. These small containers have a hole on their surface that could allow the filling and release of drugs only at certain temperatures. The researchers tested these small spheres in the laboratory with a mixture of fatty acids, a dye and an anticancer drug.

Fatty acids remained solid at the temperature of the human body but nevertheless melted as soon as this temperature rose a few degrees. The increase occurred through the projection of an infrared laser that was absorbed by the dye. The heat of the laser caused fatty acids to dissolve and release the drug.

This is a method that could allow the release of drugs in a very targeted manner in specific areas of the body, which could, in specific cases, cancel serious side effects, as specified by Younan Xia, a researcher at Georgia Tech and Emory University and one of the authors of the study adds: “The rest of the drug remains encapsulated by solid fatty acids inside the ‘bottles’, which are biocompatible and biodegradable.”

To change the speed of drug release, it is enough to change the size of the hole on the surface of the nanospheres, an approach defined as “very promising” by Xia himself.

Viviparous lizards at great risk of extinction due to global warming

The effects of global warming underway over the next few decades will be most affected by lizards, according to a new study conducted by Nottingham Trent University and the University of Lincoln.

In particular, it will be the lizards that produce live offspring compared to those that lay their eggs to suffer even more these effects over the next sixty years. Scientists have in fact studied the effects of temperature rises on various species of viviparous or oviparous lizards.

The results obtained, among other things, confirm the emerging theory regarding the fact that viviparous reproduction, which involves giving birth to live offspring, has evolved in lizards to colonize colder climates, such as those at altitudes or higher latitudes. Evolution allowed the mother lizards to “hold” the eggs in their bodies so that it was the mother’s own body that acted as an incubator.

This same adaptation, which allowed a greater diffusion of the population, is dragging it towards extinction according to Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, one of the authors of the study. The reproduction of live offspring is not very effective in warmer environments and if the reptiles develop at an evolutionary level this ability then remains “trapped” in the coldest places and can no longer easily adapt to the heat.

Among other things, the same scholars have ascertained that the species of viviparous lizards are moving towards the tops of the mountains or however at higher altitudes at speeds significantly greater than the species that lay eggs, another confirmation of this interesting theory.

Sensor attaches to the skin and analyzes sweat

Sensors that can be attached to the skin and can detect what is in the sweat were developed by a research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

These skin sensors could be very useful in the future to monitor health or facilitate diagnosis without resorting to invasive methods, such as blood sampling, especially in real-time. The study, published in Science Advances, describes how these sensors can monitor the speed of sweat as well as the electrolytes and metabolites it contains.

The new sensor was or was already tested on volunteers while they were doing physical exercises and in others where the sweating was chemically induced. The sensor counts on a microscopic spiral tube that absorbs sweat from the skin and is able to trace, through microfluidics, the speed with which sweat moves as well as other information such as its quantity and in general the sweating rate of the subject.

The hope is that sweat sensors like these can replace the analysis by taking blood to keep different pathologies under control even if as regards diabetes, as reported by Mallika Bariya, a student at UC Berkeley and another author of the study, it has not yet been shown that there is a universal correlation between sweat levels and blood glucose levels.

Traces of supernova found in the snow of the south pole

Analyzing half a ton of fresh snow taken from Antarctica, a group of scientists discovered traces of a particular form of iron that is not naturally produced in nature and that most likely comes from space.

Dominik Koll, a physicist at the Australian National University of Canberra and lead author of the study, discovered the rare iron-60 isotope in the ice and snow of the Antarctic. This isotope boasts four more neutrons than the common form and is thought to have settled on the earth’s surface millions of years ago.

However, what has been found in the snow in Antarctica seems to have accumulated over the last two decades. According to the researchers, these particles come from outside the solar system since all the objects that are in the solar system are made more or less from the same materials since they were formed from the same huge cloud of gas and matter.

It could have been the impact of an interstellar meteor, a space body coming from outside the solar system, an event that is very rare. The researchers also ruled out that it could have come from nuclear reactors, tests or accidents. They also excluded that it could prevent from cosmic rays that generate iron-60 when they interact with space dust and meteorites.

The most probable hypothesis, according to Koll himself, is that these particles come from a supernova, “not so close to kill us but not too far away to be diluted in space.” The Earth must have captured these particles as it traveled through the so-called Local Interstellar Cloud, a thirty-year-old light region that the solar system is currently passing through and is expected to continue to traverse for the next 10,000-20,000 years.

Probiotics with lactobacilli are beneficial to vaginal health according to study

Lactobacillus-based probiotics can be beneficial to vaginal health: this result is a research group led by Harold Marcotte who published the study on Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

According to the researchers, three particular genes of a probiotic species of Lactobacillus, used in appropriate probiotic vaginal capsules of those on the market, are involved “in the mediation of adhesion to the vaginal epithelium.” As Marcotte explains, some particular female urogenital infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, can be caused by an imbalance in the vaginal microbiome, in particular by a decrease in lactobacilli.

It is precisely in this case that an additional administration of lactobacilli can counteract this disease by helping to restore a healthy microbiome. By adhering to the vaginal walls, lactobacilli can make life more difficult for pathogens with regard to their attempts to infect tissues.

The importance of this research, according to Marcotte himself, also lies in the method used. To date, there has been some difficulty in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying probiotic activity. Marcotte and his team have therefore developed a new tool that, following the deactivation of particular genes, allows the genome of the lactobacilli to be modified and to detect the function of the genes with extreme precision.

It was with this method that they discovered a particular positive action of a Lactobacillus gasseri gene that allows the bacterium to adhere strongly to vaginal epithelial cells.

“This is clear evidence that the proteins encoded by these genes, which include a new adhesion factor, are all involved in adhesion to vaginal epithelial cells,” says Marcotte himself.

Global warming: sea waves will change coast structure

Among the various effects of climate change that are now underway, a new study notes one that could involve ocean waves and their approach to the coasts, as well as the consequences on the latter.

According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, if the global climate warms up more than 3 ° Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, the sea off South Australia could be characterized by higher waves that could alter the stability of the coast itself.

Sea waves are in fact the main ones responsible for the modeling of the coasts: they form beaches, lagoons, caves, cliffs and so on, and therefore we must not think of them as a subject separate from the mainland. It is expected that the waves will change because surface winds will change , something that has already been emphasized in several previous studies.

However, the scientists behind this study calculate that less than 5% of the global coasts will see an increase in wave height, and this will mainly affect the southern coasts of Australia and some segments of the Central American Pacific coast.

Another 15% of the world’s coasts will instead see a decrease in wave height, another factor that could alter, although in a different way, coastal systems. And again, other areas will be the height of the waves to remain unchanged but should change their length or frequency. Also, in this case, there will be repercussions on the structure of the coasts.

In total, the researchers calculate that 40% of the world’s coasts will see substantial changes regarding the structure and frequency of the waves and this will involve changes regarding the structure of the coasts. And this without counting the rise in sea level, another major problem.

Scientists discover the brain cells involved in stuttering

It is believed that stuttering results from defects in brain circuits in those areas that regulate language but the precise areas where these disorders occur or which cells are actually involved are not yet well known. Now, a new step has been taken by a group of researchers.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) announce that they have discovered which brain cells are linked to stuttering in mice. In the laboratory experiments, the same rodents had undergone a modification of the GNPTAB gene so that they acquired the mutation of the human gene linked to stuttering.

Mice with this modified gene showed pauses in the flow of vocalizations, similar to those that characterize stuttering in people. They also showed no other defects other than language-related, just like in humans.

The researchers found that in the brains of these rodents there was a decrease in astrocytes, a support cell present in the brain, in the corpus callosum, an area of ​​the brain tissue that connects the two hemispheres.

Dennis Drayna, a researcher with the NIDCD who led the study, states: “By adopting a genetic approach, we were able to begin to decipher the neuropathology of stuttering, first at the molecular level by identifying genetic mutations and now at the cellular level,” underlining how much this study is even more important than the studies carried out with brain imaging on people who stutter.

In the same vein it is also the intervention of Andrew Griffith, scientific director of the NIDCD: “Perhaps more importantly, to identify the region of the brain and the cells involved opens up opportunities for new interventions for stuttering and possibly other language disorders.”

The same team had previously identified certain genes associated with stuttering.