Common links between neurodegenerative diseases identified

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 4:42pm
The pattern of brain alterations may be similar in several different neurodegenerative diseases, which opens the door to alternative therapeutic strategies to tackle these diseases, experts say.
Categories: Science

20 years of data shows treatment technique improvement for advanced abdominal cancer

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 4:41pm
Analysis of 20 years’ worth of patient data shows that outcomes have clearly improved for patients suffering from advanced cancer of the abdomen when treated with cytoreductive surgery with Hyperthermic IntraPeritoneal Chemotherapy, or HIPEC. Cytoreductive surgery, or debulking, is removal of part of a malignant tumor which can't be completely excised and is done to enhance chemotherapy effectiveness. HIPEC is a perfusion technique in which heated chemotherapy is administered directly into the abdomen during the surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.
Categories: Science

Scientists Discover Bugs With Sex-Reversed Genitalia Doing It for 70 Hours

Wired News - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 4:37pm
Writing today in Current Biology, researchers for the first time describe a critter that has traded sex organs. Females are equipped with a penis-like structure called a gynosome, which “deeply penetrates” the duct leading to the male’s sperm storage organ.






Categories: Science

Tor Blacklisting Exit Nodes Vulnerable To Heartbleed

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 4:21pm
msm1267 (2804139) writes "The Tor Project has published a list of 380 exit relays vulnerable to the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability that it will reject. This comes on the heels of news that researcher Collin Mulliner of Northeastern University in Boston found more than 1,000 nodes vulnerable to Heartbleed where he was able to retrieve plaintext user traffic. Mulliner said he used a random list of 5,000 Tor nodes from the Dan.me.uk website for his research; of the 1,045 vulnerable nodes he discovered, he recovered plaintext traffic that included Tor plaintext announcements, but a significant number of nodes leaked user traffic in the clear."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Hubble Galactic Family Photo Captures Distant Kissing Cousins | Video

Space.com - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 3:56pm
This 14-hour exposure surfaces a wide range of galaxy types halfway across space-time to the beginning of the universe. Some are colliding and combining. The image depicts energy at visible and infrared wavelengths.
Categories: Science

Brain abnormalities linked to casual marijuana use

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 3:51pm

Cannabis leaf (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation, scientists report.

The study was a collaboration between Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

This is the first study to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes. It showed the degree of brain abnormalities in these regions is directly related to the number of joints a person smoked per week. The more joints a person smoked, the more abnormal the shape, volume and density of the brain regions.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said corresponding and co-senior study author Hans Breiter, MD. He is a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week,” Breiter said. “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.”

The study was published April 16 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

‘Abnormally altered’ brain regions

Scientists examined the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala — key regions for emotion and motivation, and associated with addiction — in the brains of casual marijuana users and non-users. Researchers analyzed three measures: volume, shape and density of gray matter (where most cells are located in brain tissue) to obtain a comprehensive view of how each region was affected.

Both these regions in recreational pot users were abnormally altered for at least two of these structural measures. The degree of those alterations was directly related to how much marijuana the subjects used.

Of particular note, the nucleus acccumbens was abnormally large, and its alteration in size, shape and density was directly related to how many joints an individual smoked.

“One unique strength of this study is that we looked at the nucleus accumbens in three different ways to get a detailed and consistent picture of the problem,” said lead author Jodi Gilman, a researcher in the Massachusetts General Center for Addiction Medicine and an instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. “It allows a more nuanced picture of the results.”

Examining the three different measures also was important because no single measure is the gold standard. Some abnormalities may be more detectable using one type of neuroimaging analysis method than another. Breiter said the three measures provide a multidimensional view when integrated together for evaluating the effects of marijuana on the brain.

“These are core, fundamental structures of the brain,” said co-senior study author Anne Blood, director of the Mood and Motor Control Laboratory at Massachusetts General and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them.”

Neuroimaging studies

Through different methods of neuroimaging, scientists examined the brains of young adults, ages 18 to 25, from Boston-area colleges; 20 who smoked marijuana and 20 who didn’t. Each group had nine males and 11 females. The users underwent a psychiatric interview to confirm they were not dependent on marijuana. They did not meet criteria for abuse of any other illegal drugs during their lifetime.

The changes in brain structures indicate the marijuana users’ brains are adapting to low-level exposure to marijuana, the scientists said.

The study results fit with animal studies that show when rats are given tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) their brains rewire and form many new connections. THC is the mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana.

“It may be that we’re seeing a type of drug learning in the brain,” Gilman said. “We think when people are in the process of becoming addicted, their brains form these new connections.”

In animals, these new connections indicate the brain is adapting to the unnatural level of reward and stimulation from marijuana. These connections make other natural rewards less satisfying.

“Drugs of abuse can cause more dopamine release than natural rewards like food, sex and social interaction,” Gilman said. “In those you also get a burst of dopamine, but not as much as in many drugs of abuse. That is why drugs take on so much salience, and everything else loses its importance.”

The brain changes suggest that structural changes to the brain are an important early result of casual drug use, Breiter said.

“Further work, including longitudinal studies, is needed to determine if these findings can be linked to animal studies showing marijuana can be a gateway drug for stronger substances,” he noted.

Because the study was retrospective, researchers did not know the THC content of the marijuana, which can range from 5 to 9 percent or even higher in the currently available drug. The THC content is much higher today than the marijuana during the 1960s and 1970s, which was often about 1 to 3 percent, Gilman said.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. with an estimated 15.2 million users, the study reports, based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2008. The drug’s use is increasing among adolescents and young adults, partially due to society’s changing beliefs about cannabis use and its legal status.

A recent Northwestern study showed chronic use of marijuana was linked to brain abnormalities.

“With the findings of these two papers,” Breiter said, “I’ve developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain.”

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, all of the National Institutes of Health. The Office of National Drug Control Policy and Northwestern Medicine’s Warren Wright Adolescent Center also supported the research.

Categories: Science

The Dismal State of SATCOM Security

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 3:40pm
An anonymous reader writes "Satellite Communications (SATCOM) play a vital role in the global telecommunications system, but the security of the devices used leaves much to be desired. The list of security weaknesses IOActive found while analyzing and reverse-engineering firmware used on the most widely deployed Inmarsat and Iridium SATCOM terminals does not include only design flaws but also features in the devices themselves that could be of use to attackers. The uncovered vulnerabilities include multiple backdoors, hardcoded credentials, undocumented and/or insecure protocols, and weak encryption algorithms. These vulnerabilities allow remote, unauthenticated attackers to compromise the affected products. In certain cases no user interaction is required to exploit the vulnerability; just sending a simple SMS or specially crafted message from one ship to another ship would be successful for some of the SATCOM systems."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Space History Photo: Right Side of Control Panel

Space.com - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 3:24pm
The close-up of the right side of the control panel in the Plum Brook Facility shows the controls for the manual operation of the shim rods.
Categories: Science

Functional brain imaging reliably predicts which vegetative patients have potential to recover consciousness

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:56pm

Statistical parametric mapping-analysis of fluorodeoxyglucose PET scans. Left: minimally conscious state; right: unresponsive wakefulness syndrome. Blue = areas with significantly lowered metabolism. Red = areas with preserved metabolism. (Credit: Johan Stender et al./The Lancet)

A functional brain imaging technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) is a promising tool for determining which severely brain damaged individuals in vegetative states have the potential to recover consciousness, according to new research published in The Lancet.

Surprisingly, this is the first time that researchers have tested the diagnostic accuracy of functional brain imaging techniques in clinical practice.

“Our findings suggest that PET imaging can reveal cognitive processes that aren’t visible through traditional bedside tests, and could substantially complement standard behavioral assessments to identify unresponsive or ‘vegetative’ patients who have the potential for long-term recovery,” says study leader Professor Steven Laureys from the University of Liége in Belgium.*

Misdiagnoses of level of consciousness

In severely brain-damaged individuals, judging the level of consciousness has proved challenging. Traditionally, bedside clinical examinations have been used to decide whether patients are in a minimally conscious state (MCS), in which there is some evidence of awareness and response to stimuli, or are in a vegetative state (VS) also known as unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, where there is neither, and the chance of recovery is much lower. But up to 40% of patients are misdiagnosed using these examinations.

Functional MRI scans. Top: healthy control; bottom: patient with severe traumatic brain injury. Yellow and red = activations associated with motor imagery compared with spatial imagery tasks; blue and green = spatial imagery compared with motor imagery tasks. (Credit: Johan Stender et al./The Lancet)

“In patients with substantial cerebral edema [swelling of the brain], prediction of outcome on the basis of standard clinical examination and structural brain imaging is probably little better than flipping a coin,” writes Jamie Sleigh from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and Catherine Warnaby from the University of Oxford, UK.

PET vs. fMRI

The study assessed whether two new functional brain imaging techniques — PET with the imaging agent fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and functional MRI (fMRI) during mental imagery tasks — could distinguish between vegetative and MCS in 126 patients with severe brain injury (81 in a MCS, 41 in a VS, and four with locked-in syndrome — a behaviorally unresponsive but conscious control group) referred to the University Hospital of Liége, in Belgium, from across Europe.

The researchers then compared their results with the well-established standardized Coma Recovery Scale–Revised (CSR-R) behavioural test, considered the most validated and sensitive method for discriminating very low awareness.

Overall, FDG-PET was better than fMRI in distinguishing conscious from unconscious patients. (Mental imagery fMRI was less sensitive at diagnosis of a MCS than FDG-PET (45% vs 93%), and had less agreement with behavioral CRS-R scores than FDG-PET (63% vs 85%). FDG-PET was about 74% accurate in predicting the extent of recovery within the next year, compared with 56% for fMRI.)

Importantly, a third of the 36 patients diagnosed as behaviorally unresponsive on the CSR-R test who were scanned with FDG-PET showed brain activity consistent with the presence of some consciousness. Nine patients in this group subsequently recovered a reasonable level of consciousness.

According to Professor Laureys, “We confirm that a small but substantial proportion of behaviorally unresponsive patients retain brain activity compatible with awareness. Repeated testing with the CRS–R complemented with a cerebral FDG-PET examination provides a simple and reliable diagnostic tool with high sensitivity towards unresponsive but aware patients. fMRI during mental tasks might complement the assessment with information about preserved cognitive capability, but should not be the main or sole diagnostic imaging method.”

The authors point out that the study was done in a specialist unit focusing on the diagnostic neuroimaging of disorders of consciousness, so getting it used in less specialist units might be more challenging.

Commenting on the study, Sleigh and Warnaby add, “From these data, it would be hard to sustain a confident diagnosis of unresponsive wakefulness syndrome solely on behavioral grounds, without PET imaging for confirmation…[This] work serves as a signpost for future studies. Functional brain imaging is expensive and technically challenging, but it will almost certainly become cheaper and easier. In the future, we will probably look back in amazement at how we were ever able to practice without it.”

Abstract of The Lancet paper

Background – Bedside clinical examinations can have high rates of misdiagnosis of unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (vegetative state) or minimally conscious state. The diagnostic and prognostic usefulness of neuroimaging-based approaches has not been established in a clinical setting. We did a validation study of two neuroimaging-based diagnostic methods: PET imaging and functional MRI (fMRI).
Methods – For this clinical validation study, we included patients referred to the University Hospital of Liège, Belgium, between January, 2008, and June, 2012, who were diagnosed by our unit with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, locked-in syndrome, or minimally conscious state with traumatic or non-traumatic causes. We did repeated standardised clinical assessments with the Coma Recovery Scale—Revised (CRS—R), cerebral 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET, and fMRI during mental activation tasks. We calculated the diagnostic accuracy of both imaging methods with CRS—R diagnosis as reference. We assessed outcome after 12 months with the Glasgow Outcome Scale—Extended.
Findings – We included 41 patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, four with locked-in syndrome, and 81 in a minimally conscious state (48=traumatic, 78=non-traumatic; 110=chronic, 16=subacute). 18F-FDG PET had high sensitivity for identification of patients in a minimally conscious state (93%, 95% CI 85—98) and high congruence (85%, 77—90) with behavioural CRS—R scores. The active fMRI method was less sensitive at diagnosis of a minimally conscious state (45%, 30—61) and had lower overall congruence with behavioural scores (63%, 51—73) than PET imaging. 18F-FDG PET correctly predicted outcome in 75 of 102 patients (74%, 64—81), and fMRI in 36 of 65 patients (56%, 43—67). 13 of 42 (32%) of the behaviourally unresponsive patients (ie, diagnosed as unresponsive with CRS—R) showed brain activity compatible with (minimal) consciousness (ie, activity associated with consciousness, but diminished compared with fully conscious individuals) on at least one neuroimaging test; 69% of these (9 of 13) patients subsequently recovered consciousness.
Interpretation – Cerebral 18F-FDG PET could be used to complement bedside examinations and predict long-term recovery of patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome. Active fMRI might also be useful for differential diagnosis, but seems to be less accurate.
Funding – The Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research (FNRS), Fonds Léon Fredericq, the European Commission, the James McDonnell Foundation, the Mind Science Foundation, the French Speaking Community Concerted Research Action, the University of Copenhagen, and the University of Liège.

Categories: Science

Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:54pm
We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word, and that's in large part thanks to the success of the OpenOffice family of word processors. "Family," because the OpenOffice name has been attached to several branches of a codebase that's gone through some serious evolution over the years, starting from its roots in closed-source StarOffice, acquired and open-sourced by Sun to become OpenOffice.org. The same software has led (via some hamfisted moves by Oracle after its acquisition of Sun) to the also-excellent LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org's direct descendant is Apache OpenOffice, and an anonymous reader writes with this excellent news from that project: "The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of more than 170 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded 100 million times. Over 100 million downloads, over 750 extensions, over 2,800 templates. But what does the community at Apache need to do to get the next 100 million?" If you want to play along, you can get the latest version of OpenOffice from SourceForge (Slashdot's corporate cousin). I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

NASA Will Unveil New Discovery from Planet-Hunting Kepler Telescope Today @ 2pm ET

Space.com - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:24pm
NASA will announce a new discovery by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope today, and you can following the unveiling live online. Space agency officials and scientists will host a live news teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).
Categories: Science

Fighting malaria drug resistance: Scientists find new way

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:15pm
An anti-malarial treatment that lost its status as the leading weapon against the deadly disease could be given a new lease of life, with new research indicating it simply needs to be administered differently. The findings could revive the use of the cheap anti-malarial drug chloroquine in treating and preventing the mosquito-bourne disease, which claims the lives of more than half a million people each year around the world.
Categories: Science

Some immune cells defend only one organ

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:14pm
Some organs have the immunological equivalent of 'neighborhood police' -- specialized squads of defenders that patrol only one area, a single organ, instead of an entire city, the body, scientists have discovered. The liver, skin and uterus each has dedicated immune cells, which the researchers call tissue-resident natural killer cells. Other organs may have similar arrangements.
Categories: Science

Biologists help solve fungal mysteries, inform studies on climate change

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:14pm
A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change. Huge populations of fungi are churning away in the soil in pine forests, decomposing organic matter and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
Categories: Science

Radiation therapy for cervical cancer increases risk for colorectal cancer

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:14pm
Young women treated with radiation for cervical cancer should begin colorectal cancer screening earlier than traditionally recommended, researchers are recommending for the first time. After finding a high incidence of secondary colorectal cancers among cervical cancer survivors treated with radiation, these researchers off new recommendations that the younger women in this group begin colorectal cancer screening about eight years after their initial cervical cancer diagnosis.
Categories: Science

RCMP Arrest Canadian Teen For Heartbleed Exploit

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:13pm
According to PC Mag, a "19-year-old Canadian was arrested on Tuesday for his alleged role in the breach of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, the first known arrest for exploiting the Heartbleed bug. Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes (pictured) of London, Ontario faces one count of Unauthorized Use of Computer and one count of Mischief in Relation to Data." That exploit led to a deadline extension for some Canadian taxpayers in getting in their returns this year. The Register has the story as well. The Montreal Gazette has some pointed questions about how much the Canadian tax authorities knew about the breach, and when.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

More effective kidney stone treatment, from macroscopic to nanoscale

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:11pm
Researchers have hit on a novel method to help kidney stone sufferers ensure they receive the correct and most effective treatment possible. Kidney stones represent a major medical problem in the western and developing world. If left untreated, apart from being particularly painful, they can lead to renal failure and other complications. In many patients treated successfully, stone recurrence is also a major problem. Clearly a more effective pathological approach to diagnosis and treatment needs to be identified to ensure successful eradication of stones.
Categories: Science

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:11pm
A statistical analysis of the gift 'fulfillments' at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the happy couple. The study suggests that most people hope to garner social benefits of buying an expensive gift that somehow enhances their relationship with the newlyweds while at the same time they wish to limit monetary cost and save money.
Categories: Science

Methane climate change risk suggested by proof of redox cycling of humic substances

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:11pm
Disruption of natural methane-binding process may worsen climate change, scientists have suggested, painting a stark warning on the possible effects of gases such as methane -- which has a greenhouse effect 32 times that of carbon dioxide. Researchers have shown that humic substances act as fully regenerable electron acceptors which helps explain why large amount of methane are held in wetlands instead of being released to the atmosphere.
Categories: Science

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Science Daily - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 2:11pm
Little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives have been discovered by researchers. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but related species in the genus Neotrogla, are the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia.
Categories: Science