New discovery could make rice more resistant to serious illness

The discovery made by a group of researchers from Japan and the United Kingdom could prove to be an advantage for rice crops. In their study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, genetic techniques are described to counteract Magnaporthe oryzae, a species of fungus that makes the rice plant sick.

This is a very serious disease that can cause serious losses in terms of rice harvesting (it is believed that one-third of the total rice harvest is currently lost due to this fungus). The various strategies used to counteract this parasitic fungus have not proved to be very sustainable in terms of costs and the environment.

Even attempts to produce new varieties of rice to withstand this fungus more have led to undesirable genetic effects. Today’s new genetic modification technologies can be used “to accurately insert genes into rice plants,” a technique that could overcome the problem of binding drag, a phenomenon during which unwanted genes are transferred along with those desired during the production of other plant varieties.

However, we must first identify the most effective genes that increase the immunity of rice to this disease. This is what the researchers did behind this study: according to them a particular immune receptor in rice could improve resistance to fungal disease in rice by triggering important monetary reactions in response to two distinct fungus proteins. The genes encoding this receptor could then be used to design new rice plants that more effectively counteract fungal proteins.

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.

Ever warmer winters are changing the structure of the Black Sea

According to a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the climate changes that are leading to global warming are changing the structure of the Black Sea. The research is important because it could be useful to understand what could happen to the oceans of the world in the future if global warming continues at today’s pace.

Specifically, researcher Emil Stanev, an oceanographer at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Center for Materials and Coastal Research in Geesthacht, Germany, found that the warmest winters are heating the middle layer of the Black Sea, an area known as the layer intermediate cold. This is leading to a mixing of the same cold intermediate layer with the other two layers of water, the upper one oxygenated and the lower one devoid of oxygen.

According to the study, the temperature of this layer has warmed by 0.7 ° C over the past 14 years. The infiltration of the central layer in the two neighboring layers could lead to potentially unpredictable impacts on all life forms present in the Black Sea. In particular, this “restructuring” could lead to various corrosive or harmful chemicals, such as sulphides, to move from the bottom of the sea to the surface, which would affect not only marine life but also tourism.

The study could be important to understand how the same changes are occurring in the oceans: studying the latter, which are huge bodies of water without interruption, can sometimes be difficult for scientists who often prefer to study limited regional water masses, as can be that of the Black Sea.

New gas giant planet discovered around the star Beta Pictoris

A second exoplanet has been discovered around the star β Pictoris, a fairly young star given that it is only 23 million years old and can also be considered fairly close since it is “only” 63.4 light years away.

Precisely because it is a young star, Beta Pictoris is still surrounded by the disk of dust and various materials which, according to the most accredited theory concerning the formation of planets, represents the “source” of the material which then goes to form the same planets. For this reason, the β Pictoris system has fascinated astronomers in recent years as it is allowing them to observe a planetary system being formed.

The first planet around this star, β Pictoris b, was discovered as early as 2009. Ten years later, analyzing the data obtained with the HARPS tool of the ESO Observatory of La Silla in Chile, the researchers discovered a second planet, β Pictoris c. In both cases, these are two giant gas planets.

β Pictoris c has a mass nine times that of Jupiter and orbits around its star in about 1200 days. It is located relatively close to its star, if we consider the distance between the Sun and Jupiter.

β Pictoris c is in fact separated from the star by a distance that is similar to the one that separates the Sun from the belt of asteroids, which is a little beyond Mars. β Pictoris c is instead 3.3 times more distant from its star than β Pictoris b.

Astronomers hope to find out more information about this young and interesting planetary system by analyzing the data that will be acquired by the GAIA spacecraft and those of another much larger telescope still under construction in Chile.

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.

Supernova that completely destroys the star discovered by astronomers

A type of supernova that can completely annihilate the star without leaving any traces was discovered by a group of researchers who used data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

They studied a supernova, first discovered 14 November 2016 and called SN 2016iet. They first discovered that the star that caused the explosion lived in an isolated region, a region where few stars formed. As evidence of this, there was the weak emission of hydrogen coming from the same supernova position — an unusual thing for such a massive star.

They then discovered other strange characteristics: the long duration of the explosion, the great energy emitted and the unusual chemical traces emitted by the explosion relatively poor of heavier elements, things for which there are no similar sightings in the astronomical literature. In the study, published in the Astrophysical Journal, other features of the star that exploded and gave birth to the supernova are described.

It had 200 times the mass of our Sun. These are very large and massive stars that live little (life can be estimated in millions of years) and that usually die emitting large amounts of heavy metals into the surrounding space. The core, however, collapses and becomes a neutron star or black hole.

In these supernovae, the core that collapses produces large amounts of gamma rays. This, in turn, causes a large production of particle pairs and antiparticles on the run, and this leads to a catastrophic thermonuclear explosion that practically annihilates the entire star, including the nucleus.

The theory concerning supernovae with couple instability predicted that these explosions could only occur in environments that were poor in metal, such as dwarf galaxies or the primordial universe. And this discovery confirms it: the supernova SN 2016iet has, in fact, occurred in a metal-dwarf galaxy at a billion light-years away from us.

“This is the first supernova in which the mass and metal content of the exploding star falls within the range predicted by theoretical models,” reports Sebastian Gomez, a researcher at the Center for Astrophysics and one of the authors of the study.

Very thin thermal nanoscale made with graphene to counteract heat in electrical devices

One of the main problems with electrical devices is that they generate a lot of heat. This defect also involves electric devices equipped with batteries, in fact in these cases it is perhaps even more serious given that a higher level of heat can contribute not only to malfunctions of the device but also to damage the battery, leading in some cases, as in the batteries to lithium, at an explosion risk.

Precisely for this reason, various materials are used, such as glass or plastic, to isolate the electrical components that generate more heat, first of all microprocessors.

A group of Stanford researchers has created a new insulating barrier made from very thin materials that can be stacked like sheets of paper right at the hottest points of electronic devices and that provide the same type of insulation as a 100 times thicker glass plate.

The study, published in Science Advances, describes these thermal nanoscale made of materials as thin as an atom. They are made from a layer of graphene and three other materials structured to resemble very thin sheets, each with a thickness of three atoms. A four-layer insulating barrier is thus created that is only 10 atoms deep and is able to dampen the heat vibrations at the atomic level. The same heat loses most of its energy as it passes through each layer.

“We adapted this idea by creating an insulator that uses several layers of atomically thin materials instead of a thick mass of glass,” says Sam Vaziri, lead author of the study. Now the same researchers are looking for a method to deposit these very thin layers on electronic components during the production of the latter.

In any case, as reported in the press release, the long-term goal of the scientists themselves is to be able to one day control the vibrational energy within the materials as electricity or light is now controlled, something that seems increasingly possible given the great advances in heat-related research in solid objects made in recent years.