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  • richardmitnick 7:43 am on November 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Introducing Titin - the Protein That Rules Our Hearts, , U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Introducing Titin, the Protein That Rules Our Hearts” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Nov. 13, 2017
    Emily Walla

    UA scientists have solved a muscle mystery by proving that the protein titin acts as a molecular ruler, determining the length of muscle fibers and influencing the strength of the muscles that make our hearts beat and bodies move.

    1
    Henk Granzier: “Biologists have always wondered what makes (muscles) so precisely structured.” No image credit.

    Although scientists have long speculated that a protein named titin measures thick filaments — the proteins that make muscles contract — no one has been able to provide evidence to support their theories.

    No one, that is, until a team of researchers in the University of Arizona’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine took on the case. In a recent study published in Nature Communications, the team presented definitive proof that titin acts as a molecular ruler for the muscle’s thick filament.

    Throughout the muscles of the heart and body, the thick filaments have precise, uniform lengths.

    “Functionally and clinically, it is very important to regulate the thick filament precisely, otherwise muscles would not function well,” said Henk Granzier, senior author of the study and professor of molecular and cellular medicine. “Biologists have always wondered what makes them so precisely structured.”

    Studying mice with certain mutations in the gene encoding the blueprint for the titin protein, the researchers found that when titin was shortened, so were the thick filaments, resulting in weakened muscles and dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that leads to heart failure.

    “We genetically engineered a mouse that doesn’t have normal titin,” said Granzier, a member of the BIO5 Institute. “It has a piece from titin deleted. Since titin is involved in somehow regulating the thick filament, then you expect if you make titin shorter, the thick filament length will be altered as well. And, lo and behold, that is the case.”

    A typical protein is made of a few hundred amino acids linked in a chain. Though still microscopically small, titin is gigantic compared to other proteins. Comprised of more than 30,000 amino acids, the supersize protein is made from super-repeated structures. The amino acid super-repeats of titin are like tick marks on a yardstick, measuring out uniform sections of the thick filament.

    By altering the gene for titin, Granzier’s team was able to make a mouse whose titin was missing several of its super-repeats.

    The resulting mice showed symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. This condition stretches out the muscle in the heart and prevents it from pumping efficiently. While the heart still contracts, the muscle is weak, so each contraction only moves a fraction of the blood pumped by a normal heart.

    In humans, the most frequent cause of DCM is a mutation in titin that shortens the protein. DCM affects 1 in 500 people, and often patients must undergo a heart transplant to survive. Understanding the cause of the condition can better arm researchers as they search for novel ways to combat it.

    Methods of Discovery

    “In science, if you want to do conclusive work, you have to test your hypothesis multiple ways and get consistent results,” Granzier said. This meant that any abnormalities detected in the genetically engineered mice had to be deeply investigated.

    After testing the strength of the mice, his team removed the muscles of interest to inspect them in a setting they controlled, instead of a setting controlled by the complex biological systems of the mice. To make certain that differences in the mice were caused by titin, the muscle tissues were observed in vitro by removing them from the animals and artificially stimulating them to show that they produced less force. In the body, muscles contract when activated by calcium; under the microscope, flooding the isolated muscle tissue with a calcium solution mimics this activation process.

    Using ultrasound, the team showed that the hearts of the engineered mice were larger than those of mice with normal titin. The next step was to investigate how this enlargement weakened the heart.

    How Titin Controls Strength

    “The sarcomere is the smallest muscle unit you can tease out and still have all the properties of muscle: force development and shortening,” Granzier said.

    The sarcomeres are linked end-to-end in a chain that spans the entirety of a muscle. Just as a strong chain is made from links that are well made and uniform, sarcomere health and uniformity is vital to muscle strength.

    Each sarcomere is comprised of three filaments: thick, thin and titin filaments. The motor driving contraction — myosin — is held at precise points within the thick filament, and it pulls the thick filament across the thin filament, causing muscle contraction. Muscles are strongest when the thick and thin filaments overlap at an optimal length — around 2 micrometers, or one ten-thousandth of an inch. Stretch out the muscle, and the filaments cannot reach the point of optimum overlap, so the muscle is weakened. Overstretch the muscle, and the filaments do not overlap at all; the muscle cannot exert any force.

    When titin is mutated and short, the resulting shortened fibers cannot reach the optimal point of overlap, and the muscle cannot exert much force. The muscle is further weakened because shorter thick filaments cannot hold the optimal number of myosin motors. The thin and thick filaments do not overlap properly nor contract effectively when the thick filament is short.

    Paula Tonino and Balazs Kiss, lead authors of the study and scientific investigators in Granzier’s lab, observed the muscle fibers under electron and super-resolution microscopes. They determined that in the muscles of engineered mice, not only were the thick filaments shortened, but also that they were shortened by precise, uniform lengths that corresponded to the size of the super-repeats removed from titin.

    “We showed that titin is the regulator of the thick filament,” Granzier said, confirming that titin determines the strength of muscles and health of hearts.

    “You might say titin rules.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

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  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “After Farewell Kiss, Cassini Takes the Plunge” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Sept. 13, 2017
    Daniel Stolte

    1
    In the upper reaches of Saturn’s atmosphere, the Cassini spacecraft will use its thrusters to point its antenna toward Earth until it breaks up. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    For UA scientists who contributed to NASA’s Cassini-Huygens mission, the Grand Finale of humanity’s tour of the Saturn system marks the end of an era.

    When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft careens to its final destination, the upper atmosphere of Saturn, it will take with it a sizable chunk of University of Arizona space research history. After a journey of 4.9 billion miles, and one month shy of 20 years in space, the probe is programmed to end its voyage exploring the Saturnian system through a deliberate plunge into the second-largest planet of the solar system.

    The spacecraft’s fateful dive on Friday will be the final beat in the mission’s Grand Finale — 22 weekly dives, begun in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings. According to NASA, no spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

    “Cassini-Huygens is a classic example of a ‘flagship’ mission, accomplishing tremendous science in many disciplines over many years,” said Alfred McEwen, a UA professor of planetary sciences, on Monday as he prepared to leave for Pasadena, California. There, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he would attend the final moments of the mission, along with other UA planetary scientists who have participated in the project.

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    NASA’s Cassini spacecraft delivered this glorious view of Saturn on Dec. 18, 2012, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

    NASA chose to end the mission by safely disposing of the spacecraft, burning it up in Saturn’s atmosphere rather than allowing it to run out of fuel and committing its fate to an aimless tumble and potential crash onto one of Saturn’s moons. Mission scientists were especially concerned about contaminating Titan or Enceladus, the two Saturnian moons where life as we know it might be possible — a possibility discovered by Cassini’s multiple flybys.

    When it launched, Cassini-Huygens was the biggest, most complex interplanetary spacecraft ever flown. In 2004, it arrived in the Saturn system, carrying with it a robotic passenger in form of the Huygens probe, contributed to the mission by the European Space Agency, or ESA. On Jan. 14, 2005, Huygens would make history as the first — and, so far, only — humanmade object to touch down on a world in the outer solar system. Through the eyes of Huygens, an instrument built by UA scientists and engineers, people on Earth could watch as the probe hurtled through the opaque and hazy atmosphere enshrouding Titan.

    The probe was equipped with an instrument called DISR, short for Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer. Led by Martin Tomasko, a now-retired research professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA scientists joined their ESA colleagues in Germany to follow Huygens with six science experiments as it descended through Titan’s thick atmosphere until it touched down on a virtually unseen surface. In addition to images taken with DISR, the lander recorded data that enabled LPL staff scientist Erich Karkoschka to gather surprising clues about Titan’s surface many years after the event.

    3
    Cassini-Huygens is a “flagship mission” and has the track record to show it. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Monitoring the Moon Titan

    During many flybys, Cassini monitored the dynamic Titan using its camera suite and an instrument called VIMS, a Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. Built at Jet Propulsion Laboratory under the leadership of Robert Brown, operations for VIMS moved to the UA when Brown assumed a position as professor at LPL. According to Brown, VIMS has been taking spectra over areas of Saturn, its rings and moons so scientists can discover what these objects are made of.

    Those observations revealed details about the cycle of methane, which on Titan takes the role of water on Earth — forming clouds, raining down and forming lakes, as well as freezing into ice. In all those observations, Cassini’s cameras played an important role, said McEwen, who is a team member of the craft’s imaging science subsystem. Those cameras, over the years of photographing Saturn, its rings and moons, created some of the most visually beautiful images of the solar system.

    Cassini’s imaging team leader Carolyn Porco was appointed to the mission while on the faculty at LPL, where she had been working on NASA’s Voyager mission, and was a co-originator of the idea to use Voyager-1 to take portraits of the planets, including the famous Pale Blue Dot image of Earth.

    4
    Earthrise. Credit: NASA/JPL. https://www.wessexscene.co.uk/science/2017/01/29/the-pale-blue-dot/

    Surface observations on Titan are planned at LPL, and then sent to the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations, or CICLOPS, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which Porco heads as director.

    “From there, the necessary commands are sent to JPL and then to the spacecraft,” McEwen explains.

    Another one of Saturn’s moons, ice-clad Enceladus, rose to stardom during several flybys over the course of the mission. Enceladus plows along the orbit of the E Ring, Saturn’s second-from-outermost ring, which reaches extremely far out into space, brushing up against the orbit of Titan.

    “There was speculation that the moon had something to do with the E Ring,” McEwen says.

    During multiple close flybys, Cassini used its full science payload to detect and analyze water-rich plumes erupting from the moon’s south pole far into space, a spectacular discovery that McEwen considers one of the highlights of the entire mission.

    “We saw that these plumes are quite large and extensive,” he recalls. “Because we were able to measure their composition with Cassini’s instruments, we could show that (tiny particles from those eruptions) are the source of the E Ring.”

    The Last Closest Approach

    Evidence for subsurface oceans of water were discovered by Cassini inside both Enceladus and Titan, making them prime targets for future NASA missions.

    Cassini made its last closest approach to Titan on Sept. 11 at 12:04 p.m. PDT, at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon’s surface, causing the spacecraft to slingshot into its final approach to Saturn — but not before it would send final images from Titan to Earth, eagerly awaited by scientists, including McEwen.

    “Previously, we saw thunderstorms in Titan’s southern hemisphere when it was summer there,” he says, “and because it’s now the northern summer solstice, we are hoping to see cloud activity and perhaps thunderstorms in the northern hemisphere.”

    Cassini will be doing science even after being gripped by Saturn’s gravity, pulling it into destruction, by measuring the composition, temperature and other properties of Saturn’s atmosphere.

    “The spacecraft will be transmitting data until the very end, and we’ll be there when it stops,” McEwen says. “It won’t go very deep, because it is not a probe designed to go deep, but still deeper than anything else.”

    When Cassini arrived at Saturn, where one “year” lasts 29.5 Earth years, the gas giant went through northern winter, and Cassini was there to witness the planet’s change of seasons.

    The end of the mission, McEwen says, is “not unexpected,” adding that the plan to end with a solstice mission, followed by a plunge into Saturn, was put in place about seven years ago.

    Still, “this mission has been going for so long, it’s a little hard to believe that it’s over,” he says.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:39 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Crustacean diseases, Histopathology, , , Shrimp studies, U Arizona, Zoology   

    From U Arizona: “Global Shrimp Industry Depends on UA” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Sept. 11, 2017
    Susan McGinley
    UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

    1
    Shrimp at the wet lab (live animal) facility at the West Campus Agricultural Center (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

    The Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory tests shrimp samples, identifies diseases and certifies disease-free stock to help the nearly $40 billion farmed shrimp industry provide a safe food supply.

    A world-renowned laboratory in Tucson has a quiet presence at the University of Arizona, but within the global farmed shrimp and aquaculture industry it exerts a tremendous influence.

    The Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory, housed within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, works with commercial shrimp farming enterprises, research institutions and nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, from across the world to diagnose infectious diseases of penaeid shrimp and other crustaceans in samples delivered to the UA, certify pathogen-free stock, test feed ingredients, conduct research and train shrimp disease specialists.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Extra Info

    Facts About the Shrimp Industry

    About 75 percent of world shrimp production is Penaeus vannamei (Pacific white shrimp or king prawn).
    Total world shrimp production in 2014 was approximately 4 million metric tons.
    The shrimp industry has a projected annual growth rate of 4.2 percent.
    The top shrimp producers worldwide are China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Ecuador.
    EMS (early mortality syndrome) disease was detected for the first time in the U.S. in Texas in July, with the research work carried out in the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory at the UA: http://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public/wahid.php/Reviewreport/Review?page_refer=MapFullEventReport&reportid=24597.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Clients pay for these services, which in turn help them maintain the biosecurity of their products and ultimately the health and profitability of their industry. For example, baby and adult stocker shrimp can’t be sold to large shrimp operations around the world — in the U.S., Mexico, South America, the Middle East and Asia — unless they are certified. The laboratory conducts certification testing and validation.

    The laboratory can do this because it is a reference laboratory, the only one in North America, certified for crustacean diseases by the Office International des Epizooties in Paris. It is also an approved laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

    “This lab has done a wonderful job of addressing the needs of the shrimp industry in terms of disease diagnosis and disease prevention worldwide,” said Arun K. Dhar, associate professor of shrimp and other crustacean aquaculture and director of the lab since January. He succeeded longtime professor and founding director Donald V. Lightner, who developed and guided the lab for more than 30 years as it became a facility recognized around the world.

    “We identify the pathogen, we get the specifics,” Dhar said. “When a disease emerges, we jump on it to determine the etiology (cause), the methods to detect it and the tools to prevent the spread of the disease. Then we tell that story to various audiences.”

    Wet Lab and Diagnostics Lab

    The UA laboratory includes a wet lab (live animal) facility at the West Campus Agricultural Center and a diagnostics lab of histology (tissue diagnostics) and molecular detection on the main campus.

    A staff of three in the center maintains tanks of specific pathogen-free (SPF) or specific pathogen-resistant quarantined stocks at the wet lab for companies and agencies, and they evaluate live shrimp samples from across the world to detect (or rule out) diseases so virulent that they can’t be tested anywhere near coastal waters. The risk of contamination to commercial shrimp beds would be too great.

    “Because of this, our lab is in the desert. We deal with the worst of the worst in emerging pathogens,” said senior research specialist Brenda Noble, who dips her boots in water when entering and exiting the quarantined areas. “Acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease, also called EMS — early mortality syndrome — is big now, killing a lot of animals on farms in Asia and Latin America. EMS is bacterial and kills up to 100 percent in a day at the lab, although not on farms, where it is spread out.”

    White spot disease, or WSD, is another highly contagious and lethal viral disease. Shrimp diseases do not infect humans.

    The staff conducts challenge studies on animals (mainly crustaceans) brought in from all over the world to find family lines that are resistant to disease, and also product challenges on SPF animals to find out if ingredients in those products — probiotics, for example — enhance their survival. Two shrimp species form the bulk of the commercial farmed shrimp supply: Penaeus vannamei, Pacific white shrimp or king prawn, and Penaeus monodon, giant tiger prawn or Asian tiger shrimp.

    At the dry lab on campus, a team of seven tests tissue samples sent from the wet lab and from national and international companies and agencies. Most are from Hawaii, Florida and Latin America. Clients specify the tests they want: viral, bacterial, fungus, prokaryote or protozoa.

    In the histology lab, a team of two works on diagnosis via histopathology. Each sample is dissected into pieces, put into a cassette, processed overnight and embedded in wax blocks that cool and harden. The blocks are cut into thin sections, put on racks, cooked in a tissue oven to affix them and then stained. Each section is put into a slide folder to be read and diagnosed.

    These tests are conducted for regular surveillance of a company’s stock, or as a general health check on shrimp to make sure the shrimp population is safe.

    “Our department consists of different labs, but we are a team of lab technicians, scientists and specialists who help diagnose diseases and send results to clients in an ongoing relationship,” research specialist Jasmine Millabas said.

    In the PCR lab, extracts of shrimp feed are run in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines to note any presence of disease. Each report includes a picture of the PCR result as a proof of testing.

    “We have run samples from 461 clinical cases so far this year in this lab,” postdoctoral research associate Siddhartha Kanrar said.

    Shrimp Pathology Short Course

    Along with diagnostics, treatment and biosecurity, faculty and staff in the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory teach an intensive one-week shrimp pathology short course plus several workshops annually, in Tucson and in various countries. The class is for professionals who conduct testing for companies and institutions dealing mainly with farm-raised shrimp.

    Dhar recently taught classes at the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute in Bangladesh and at Yangon University in Myanmar. He said shrimp is dubbed “white gold” in Bangladesh because it is the country’s third-largest export in revenue.

    In addition to methods for detecting and diagnosing diseases in farmed shrimp, the hands-on course takes participants through the steps of preparing tissue samples precisely to ensure accurate results when the samples are sent to the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory. The participants learn about what to look for in cells in diseased animals and how to follow the proper procedures to get the detection correct. The West Campus experimental lab has inoculum for all Office International des Epizooties pathogens, kept in freezer at minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 Fahrenheit) from diseased shrimp to use for testing the real thing in class.

    Nearly every shrimp pathologist in the world has taken the course. In July, the class included 19 participants from nine countries on four continents, mainly from commercial aquaculture businesses.

    While students prepared slides, senior research specialist Luis Fernando Aranguren Caro pointed out areas of slides projected on a screen that showed diseases or abnormalities, noting that “the degree of infection depends on the extent of the disease revealed.” Jessica Fox, director of veterinary services and biosecurity for Tru-Shrimp, a freshwater shrimp production facility in Minnesota, brought three employees to the UA who will prepare the histology samples that are sent to Arizona.

    “We wanted to learn more about the shrimp diseases to help us understand what to watch for, what screening measures we need to do and to help us develop other biosecurity protocols,” Fox said. “Our whole group understands more together. There’s quite a bit of hands-on here. We know what to look for and have done this before in-house, but it’s good to have experts checking your work.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on August 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A trial will look at whether a naturally occurring compound known as angiotensin 1-7 relieves cognitive deficits after heart bypass, Angiotensin 1-7, , , Some patients have a profound response to this procedure others a minor one, The human heart is not cut out for bypass surgery, U Arizona, UA Team Tackles Better Brain Health   

    From U Arizona: “UA Team Tackles Better Brain Health” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Aug. 30, 2017
    Robin Tricoles

    The human heart is not cut out for bypass surgery. It beats and it moves. So, it must be quieted beforehand.

    1
    Shutterstock

    To accomplish this, a surgeon puts a patient in circulatory arrest — that is, the heart is stopped and the patient placed on a bypass machine. The machine takes the patient’s blood and circulates it through a pump and an oxygenator and then returns it to the patient. Instead of the heart and lungs doing the pumping and the oxygenating, the machine is doing the work.

    However, the human body is “incredibly sensitive,” says Dr. Nancy Sweitzer, director of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center and chief of cardiology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

    “As the blood re-enters the body after passing through the machine, the body knows that the blood has been exposed to the plastic and the tubing and the metal,” Sweitzer says. “It senses something about that blood being different and then activates the body’s inflammatory mechanisms.”

    A trial will look at whether a naturally occurring compound, known as angiotensin 1-7, relieves cognitive deficits after heart bypass. The UA collaborators include a cardiologist, a physiologist and a psychologist.

    Some patients have a profound response to this procedure, others a minor one.

    “After bypass surgery, some people tell us that they feel different, they think differently and things have changed for them even though their heart is better,” Sweitzer says.

    Some people don’t notice anything all. Studies have shown, however, that if cognition and memory are carefully evaluated, tests detect cognitive deficits in a substantial number of people after bypass surgery, says Sweitzer, an expert in heart failure.

    The cognitive deficits may be so subtle that people don’t notice them, but some do, and so do their families. Other times, studies have shown significant or even permanent memory loss in patients who have undergone bypass surgery, says Meredith Hay, professor of physiology at the College of Medicine – Tucson.

    As it stands now, there are no effective treatments for cognitive impairments, including memory loss.

    Introducing: Angiotensin 1-7

    That’s why Sweitzer is collaborating with Hay and Lee Ryan, a UA professor of psychology and department head, on the Phase 2 trial to determine whether a particular peptide administered before and after coronary bypass surgery mitigates — or even reverses — cognitive deficits thought to be connected to the procedure.

    The peptide is known as angiotensin 1-7 — or ang 1-7, for short. A derivative of angiotensin 2, it is a naturally occurring compound that relaxes vascular tone, diminishes the dilation of blood vessels, decreases inflammation and is considered safe in normal amounts.

    “Our body makes angiotensin, which is cleaved to angiotensin 2,” Hay explains.

    Angiotensin 2 is involved in the body’s water balance, an important matter. Many patients with high blood pressure have too much angiotensin 2. However, our bodies have the ability to break down angiotensin 2 into angiotensin 1-7.

    “It was discovered around 20 years ago that there’s this beautiful yin-yang relationship between angiotensin 2 (a vasoconstrictor that raises blood pressure and increases inflammation) and angiotensin 1-7 (which decreases inflammation),” Hay says.

    “People who have studied cardiovascular sciences have studied angiotensin 2 for years,” she says. “We know that angiotensin 1-7 is anti-inflammatory, and we know that it’s protective of the brain. People have studied it in the kidneys, in the heart, in the blood vessels, but nobody has studied its effect on memory function.”

    Until very recently, that is.

    The UA researchers are just starting the Phase 2 clinical trial, involving patients who come to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson in need of bypass surgery. Last month, the researchers enrolled their first participant.


    John Konhilas, UA associate professor of physiology; Carol Barnes, director of the UA Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and Regents’ Professor of Psychology, and Hay previously conducted preclinical studies in mice with heart failure that laid the foundation for the human trial. These pivotal studies showed that angiotensin 1-7 reversed memory loss in mice with heart failure.

    “Important to our understanding of why disease in the heart results in memory loss requires scientists and doctors from different disciplines to work together,” Hay says.

    Generally speaking, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons make sure the heart is working, so careful evaluation for brain function may not occur. Meanwhile, neurologists are concentrating on the brain and not the heart.

    “We want to see what happens when we bring these two important areas of science and medicine together — the brain and the heart — and study the patient as a whole,” Hay says.

    Quality of Patient Health at Stake

    Researchers know that when patients have cognitive impairment, it can significantly affect the quality of their health, says Ryan, a clinical neuropsychologist and expert in neuroimaging and the aging brain.

    “Patients who have cognitive impairment after bypass surgery are less likely to maintain their regimens of medication, to engage in self-care, are more likely to be re-hospitalized, and have a higher mortality rate,” says Ryan, who is heading up the study’s cognitive testing and brain imaging.

    “We think ang 1-7 has a specific impact on an area of the brain called the hippocampus,” she says.

    Based on animal studies, researchers know the kinds of memories that should be most affected by damage to the hippocampus. Ryan will use targeted neurological tests that will tap into what the researchers think ang 1-7 might be doing.

    In the double-blind, clinical trial, participants will be given ang 1-7 or a placebo two hours before bypass surgery and will take the drug or placebo every day for 21 days thereafter.

    “The drug has got to be onboard and dispersed throughout the body before the patient goes on cardiopulmonary bypass,” notes Dr. David Bull, chief of cardiothoracic surgery in the College of Medicine – Tucson. Bull and Dr. Zain Khalpey, associate professor of surgery in the College of Medicine – Tucson, are the partner surgeons in the Phase 2 study.

    “Participants in the trial are going to be patients whose bypass is elective because there are requirements for certain lab tests and imaging,” Bull says. “With someone who needs urgent surgery, there isn’t going to be enough time to get the testing done before they have to have surgery.”

    In fact, participants will undergo a series of tests to evaluate their memory before surgery and periodically following surgery, with the last test administered one year after bypass. Imaging of the brain with MRI scans also will take place before and after surgery.

    Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

    “We don’t know if the drug is going to work in humans,” Hay says. “But if we don’t do a study like this, we won’t know if it will work or not.”

    But even if it doesn’t work, Ryan says, “we’re going to have a really strong dataset, and a broad and in-depth analysis of these participants pre- to post-surgery. The whole connection between cardiovascular health and brain health is relatively new, but it’s a major focus of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the study.”

    Says Sweitzer: “I’ve never done anything with memory and heart disease. But right after I moved to Arizona, Lee and Meredith came to my office and said, ‘We have this compound, and we think it’s ready to move into humans, but we don’t have any expertise in doing human clinical trial studies.’ And that’s what I do.

    “I think it’s a great Arizona story that we had this confluence of expertise across very different and complementary disciplines. This isn’t one of those situations where if we don’t hurry somebody else will do this. Nobody else can do this. We have this unique combination of expertise right here in Tucson.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:12 am on August 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , LCOGT Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, SN 2017cbv, , U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “In Hunting Supernovae, ‘Get Them While They’re Young'” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    1
    Bright blue dot: Supernovae such as SN 2017cbv appear as “stars that weren’t there before,” which is why multiple images taken over time are necessary to reveal their true identity. SN 2017cbv lies in the outskirts of a spiral galaxy called NGC 5643 that lies about 55 million light-years away and has about the same diameter as the Milky Way (~100,000 light-years). Data are from the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Supernova Project and the Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey. (Credit: B.J. Fulton/Caltech).

    Thanks to a global network of telescopes, astronomers have caught the fleeting explosion of a Type Ia supernova in unprecedented detail. Because this type of supernova is commonly used as a cosmic yardstick, a better understanding of how they form could have implications for future dark energy measurements.

    8
    The Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network map.

    Not many people can say they have watched a star explode before their eyes, but David Sand can.

    On the evening of March 10, the astronomer happened to be on duty to monitor results coming in from an automated survey scanning faraway galaxies for evidence of such events. Sand was about to go to bed, when the software algorithm alerted him to a point of light where none had been just a few hours earlier, in a galaxy called NGC 5643, located in the constellation Lupus, 55 million light-years from Earth.

    “As I was looking at this image, it was clear to me a supernova had just gone off,” said Sand, who joined the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory just this month as a new assistant professor. “I took another image right away to get a confirmation.”

    2
    Smoking gun: Unlike “regular” supernovae, whose change in ultraviolet brightness follows the gray curve, this one increased in brightness faster over the first two days, before slowing down (blue curve). This bump in the light curve likely reflects the slamming of material from the exploding white dwarf into a companion star. (Credit: Griffin Hosseinzadeh)

    Because some blips of light that show up unexpectedly in the observations turn out to be asteroids passing in front of the star-studded background and not stellar cataclysms, Sand sent a remote command to the telescope, located at the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile, to snap another image. The blip was still there.

    Within minutes of discovery, Sand activated observations with the global network of 18 robotic telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory.

    LCOGT Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Haleakala Hawaii, USA

    3
    Las Cumbres Observatory site at the SAAO observing station at Sutherland, South Africa

    They are spaced around the globe so that there is always one on the night side of the Earth, ready to conduct astronomical observations. This allowed the team to take immediate and near-continuous observations.

    “In a galaxy like our Milky Way, a supernova goes off, on average, about once per century,” Sand said. “We were fortunate to see this phenomenon that never had been observed before.”

    Sand’s discovery, designated SN 2017cbv, likely marks the first detailed observation of a cosmic event that astronomers only had glimpses of before: a supernova and its explosive ejecta slamming into a nearby companion star. The discovery was made possible by a specialized survey taking advantage of recent advances in linking telescopes across the globe into a robotic network.

    At 55 million light-years, SN 2017cbv was one of the closest supernovae discovered in recent years. It was found by the DLT40 survey, which stands for “Distance Less Than 40 Megaparsecs” or 120 million light-years. The survey uses the PROMPT telescope in Chile, which monitors roughly 500 galaxies nightly.

    55
    PROMPT telescope in Chile

    “This was one of the earliest catches ever — within a day, perhaps even hours, of its explosion,” said Sand, who created the DLT40 survey together with Stefano Valenti, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis. Both were previously postdoctoral researchers at Las Cumbres Observatory, or LCO.

    Dead Stars Go Thermonuclear

    SN 2017cbv is a thermonuclear (Type Ia) supernova, the type astronomers use to measure the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Type Ia supernovae are known to be the explosions of white dwarfs, the dead cores of what used to be normal stars.

    Across the cosmic abyss, a supernova tells of its existence by appearing like a star that wasn’t there before. Its brightness peaks within a matter of days to weeks and then slowly fades over weeks or months.

    “To turn into a Type Ia supernova, a white dwarf can’t be by itself,” explained Sand, who serves as the principal investigator of the DLT40 survey. “It has to have some kind of companion, and we are trying to figure out what that companion is.”

    The identity of this companion has been hotly debated for more than 50 years.

    6
    In one of two possible scenarios leading to a Type Ia supernova, two white dwarf stars orbit each other and lose energy via gravitational radiation, eventually resulting in a merger between the two stars. Because the total mass of this merger exceeds the weight limit for a white dwarf, the merged star is unstable and explodes as a Type Ia supernova. (Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

    7
    In the second scenario, which is likely the one that triggered the supernova described in this study, gas is being pulled from a sunlike star onto a white dwarf via a red disk. When the amount of material accreted onto the white dwarf causes the weight limit for this star to be exceeded, it explodes as a Type Ia supernova. (Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

    The prevailing theory over the last few years is that the supernovae happen when two white dwarfs spiral in toward each other and merge in a cataclysmic explosion. The other scenario involves a normal star that is not a white dwarf.

    Key to the observations reported in this study is a small bump in the light curve emitted by SN 2017cbv within the first three to four days, a feature that would have been missed were it not for the almost instantaneous reaction times that are the hallmark of the DLT40 survey: a fleeting blue glow from the interaction at an unprecedented level of detail, revealing the surprising identity of the mysterious companion star.

    “We think what happened here was likely scenario number two,” Sand said. “The bump in the light curve could be caused by material from the exploding white dwarf as it slams into the companion star.”

    This study infers that the white dwarf was stealing matter from a much larger companion star, approximately 20 times the radius of the sun. This caused the white dwarf to explode, and the collision of the supernova with the companion star shocked the supernova material, heating it to a blue glow that was heavy in ultraviolet light. Such a shock could not have been produced if the companion were another white dwarf star, the study’s authors say.

    “We’ve been looking for this effect — a supernova crashing into its companion star — since it was predicted in 2010,” said Griffin Hosseinzadeh, a doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the study, which is soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Hints have been seen before, but this time the evidence is overwhelming. The data are beautiful!

    “With Las Cumbres Observatory’s ability to monitor the supernova every few hours, we were able to see the full extent of the rise and fall of the blue glow for the first time,” he added. “Conventional telescopes would have had only a data point or two and missed it.”

    Eighteen telescopes, spread over eight sites around the world, form the heart of the Las Cumbres Observatory. At any given moment, it is nighttime somewhere in the network, which ensures that a supernova can be observed without interruption.

    Cosmology’s ’60-Watt Lightbulb’

    Because of their uniform brightness, Type Ia supernovae are akin to a “standard 60-watt lightbulb for cosmology,” and scientists use them as yardsticks to measure distances across the universe.

    Because of their rare and fleeting appearance, a targeted observational campaign such as the DLT40 survey and an automated network of observatories such as the LCO are critical to the discovery and study of Type Ia supernovae. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the DLT40 survey started in October 2016 and is scheduled to continue over the next three years.

    “The secret sauce to this are the connected telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory,” Sand said, adding that the survey is not about quantity. “We’d rather focus on a precious few than hundreds of them.”

    It is likely that Type Ia supernovae come from both types of progenitor systems — two white dwarfs or one white dwarf and a “normal” interacting star — and the goal of these studies is to figure out which of the two processes is more common, Sand explained.

    “Observing supernovae such as SN 2017cbv is an important step in this direction,” he said. “If we get them really young, we can get a better idea of these processes, which hold implications for our understanding of the cosmos, including dark energy.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:25 pm on July 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Project POEM - Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students With Visual Impairments in STEM, U Arizona, U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HIRISE Camera, UA Trains Visually Impaired Youth for STEM   

    From U Arizona: “UA Trains Visually Impaired Youth for STEM” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    July 5, 2017
    La Monica Everett-Haynes

    1
    Images and data from the UA’s Mars HiRISE camera are being used to help visually impaired students gain interest in scientific exploration and study. No image credit.

    U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HIRISE Camera

    The NSF-funded Project POEM was launched to better understand and advance the awareness and persistence toward STEM-related careers by middle and high school students with visual impairments.

    Using images and data from the University of Arizona’s Mars HiRISE camera, Sunggye Hong and Stephen Kortenkamp are creating educational experiences and tactile tools about the Red Planet to help students gain insight and interest in scientific exploration and study — and motivate students to imagine their future as scientists.

    Their interdisciplinary work at the UA has gained the attention of the National Science Foundation, which has provided a grant at more than $1 million to fund a research and engagement project.

    “Opening up STEM careers through better awareness among pre-college-age students is a real need,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “I very much admire that UA faculty in the College of Education are helping create this awareness for students with visual impairments through their engaging approach to learning. This project and the NSF’s support for it are outstanding examples of what the UA can do for students through collaboration and the creativity of our faculty members.”

    Called Project POEM, short for Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students With Visual Impairments in STEM, the effort will involve 35 middle and high school students with visual impairments in a 14-month program meant to train them toward the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

    “Mars is one of the most fascinating topics in the world of science today. If a student has an opportunity to study and to analyze data collected from Mars, that would be a very exciting and motivational component to helping students’ interest in science,” said Hong, associate professor in the UA College of Education’s Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies and principal investigator on the NSF grant.

    Other Project POEM collaborators are the UA Sky School, the UA Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, the UCAR Center for Science Education, the American Printing House for the Blind and Denver-based educational consultant McREL International.

    In developing the program, Hong and his partners were attentive and responsive to the Next Generation Science Standards, a multistate effort developed by a team of researchers commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation.

    Mentors to Lend Support

    As such, the program will be project-based, rich in content and complemented by the support of mentors — UA undergraduate and graduate students and also STEM industry professionals who have visual impairments.

    The educational tools being designed also address the problem of students with visual impairments having too little access to the types of resources that can help them understand complex scientific topics and drive their interests in science.

    “Much of the STEM curricula is so visual, so you must make appropriate adaptations and modifications for the materials to be used,” Hong said.

    “We know that there are these difficulties, but there are also techniques we can use to navigate such barriers,” he said. “If students are frustrated with not having properly modified materials, they can talk through problems with people who have gone through the same frustrations, and students with visual impairments can figure out ways to overcome those difficulties.”

    Using images and data from Mars sourced by the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the team led by Hong is also creating tactile, 3-D models of the surface of Mars that students can use to study the planet’s physical characteristics.

    Over the course of the program, the middle and high school students will learn about STEM concepts and Mars through learning models and other forms of engagement. They then will work alongside their mentors to develop and execute a research project about Mars, relying on adapted images and also data from the UA’s HiRISE camera currently operating on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    The project draws heavily on the child education expertise of Kortenkamp, associate professor of practice in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the College of Science, who also written and published children’s books on topical issues related to science.

    Kortenkamp also said he is especially dedicated to improving resources for students with visual impairments after having worked early in his UA career with a student who was blind.

    “Astronomy is such a visual field, so it became a challenge for me in how I was teaching the course,” Kortenkamp said. He began to more readily employ audio components and also introduced tactile tools — resources he would use for years.

    “Finding other ways of presenting the material, rather than just lecturing, is so fascinating. And putting that extra effort of finding materials and presenting them — whether your student can see them or not — helps to show that you are truly invested in learning,” Kortenkamp said.

    Also motivating Hong and Kortenkamp is the need for improved STEM-related educational resources and the problem of underemployment among individuals with disabilities, especially in STEM fields.

    Creating a ‘Set of Experiences’

    Individuals with visual impairments are highly underemployed, with the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Foundation for the Blind reporting that only 30 to 38 percent of that adult population is employed.

    “When you see 70 percent of a population unemployed, that is a huge problem,” Hong said. “Our idea was that if we could create a set of experiences for students with visual impairments to give them knowledge about STEM fields and find ways to keep them motivated in considering the STEM field as a potential occupation, we could raise their persistence toward STEM.”

    Ultimately, the team plans to develop curricula that K-12 teachers may use to replicate the program in other parts of Arizona and the nation.

    “Students with visual impairments are capable of becoming successful scientists — if all the pieces of the puzzle are given appropriately,” Hong said. “It is not the limitation of an individual, it is more about awareness of the public and working to bring STEM experiences to people with visual impairments.”

    Also, a research initiative is embedded within the project, and the team will be evaluating best approaches and methods for designing the effective and immersive experience to actively engage students.

    “Not everyone will become a scientist. But if they can gain interest in these technical areas, they may take a different route in life or have a deeper appreciation for the field and become more technologically savvy,” Kortenkamp said. “It never hurts to have some of that background, or at least be comfortable around science and math.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:23 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Age-related macular degeneration, , L-dopa, , RPE - retinal pigment epithelium, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Quest to End Macular Degeneration Continues With $1.7M Grant” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    6.27.17
    Jean Spinelli

    1
    Age-related macular degeneration is more common in people with light-colored eyes, according to Prevent Blindness. No image credit.

    The UA’s Brian McKay will continue his work showing that l-dopa — used to treat Parkinson’s disease — can delay or prevent the sight-destroying eye disease.

    1
    Brian S. McKay (Photo: Kris Hanning/UAHS BioCommunications)

    After showing that individuals who take levodopa, or l-dopa, for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are protected from developing macular degeneration, University of Arizona researcher Brian S. McKay is taking the next step in his quest to prevent the blinding eye disease, thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

    Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a degenerative disease of the retina that causes loss of central vision. L-dopa is a naturally occurring molecule made in all pigmented tissues, including the retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE, of the eye, where it has a role in maintaining a healthy macula — the part of the eye’s retina that provides the most high-acuity color vision.

    McKay’s discovery that the RPE expresses a receptor for l-dopa, and that this signaling pathway fosters the survival of the retina, led to a collaborative observational study that found that patients who take a synthesized form of l-dopa, a common treatment for Parkinson’s, were far less likely to develop macular degeneration. And if they did develop the disease, the onset was delayed by nearly 10 years.

    “We will follow up this critical observation with cell biological studies to determine how l-dopa’s effect occurs,” said McKay, associate professor of ophthalmology and vision science at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. “This grant will help us determine whether we can repurpose l-dopa to halt the epidemic that age-related macular degeneration has become.”

    AMD is the most common cause of blindness in individuals older than 55 in developed countries, and more than 10 million people in the United States have AMD, according to the Foundation Fighting Blindness. AMD is particularly prevalent in the Southwest with its large retired population.

    “The cause of AMD isn’t known, so it’s difficult to develop strategies to prevent it,” McKay said. “There is no cure, and there are no treatments for early AMD, also known as ‘dry’ AMD. For the roughly 10 percent of AMD patients who develop ‘wet’ AMD, where abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, there is an effective treatment. However, it requires repeated intraocular injections, which are expensive and associated with risks — and don’t stop the progression of the underlying disease.”

    McKay will test whether intersecting pathways related to dopamine signaling may be the actual driving force behind l-dopa’s protective effect rather than l-dopa itself.

    “This is a critical set of experiments because l-dopa is converted to dopamine in neurons and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells,” McKay said. “Both RPE cells and the retinal neurons have dopamine receptors. We identified a signaling molecule, GPR143, that controls two RPE activities likely to protect from AMD, and showed that l-dopa could drive both activities.

    “The research will test whether GPR143 or other dopamine-related receptors bring about the protection from AMD in those taking l-dopa. Once the responsible receptors are identified, they can be targeted to develop new drugs or combination therapies to protect people from developing AMD.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:10 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Develop effective interventions for age-related cognitive decline or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, , Reduced capacity refers to what can happen in organ systems throughout the body when they are deprived of exercise, The link between exercise and the brain is a product of our evolutionary history and our past as hunter-gatherers, U Arizona, UA Research: Brains Evolved to Need Exercise   

    From U Arizona- “UA Research: Brains Evolved to Need Exercise” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    6.27.17
    Alexis Blue

    1
    No image caption or credit

    Exercise significantly benefits brain structure and function, likely because of how we evolved as physically active hunter-gatherers, according to a new model proposed by UA researchers.

    In a new article published in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, University of Arizona researchers suggest that the link between exercise and the brain is a product of our evolutionary history and our past as hunter-gatherers.

    UA anthropologist David Raichlen and UA psychologist Gene Alexander, who together run a research program on exercise and the brain, propose an “adaptive capacity model” for understanding, from an evolutionary neuroscience perspective, how physical activity impacts brain structure and function.

    Their argument: As humans transitioned from a relatively sedentary apelike existence to a more physically demanding hunter-gatherer lifestyle, starting around 2 million years ago, we began to engage in complex foraging tasks that were simultaneously physically and mentally demanding, and that may explain how physical activity and the brain came to be so connected.

    “We think our physiology evolved to respond to those increases in physical activity levels, and those physiological adaptations go from your bones and your muscles, apparently all the way to your brain,” said Raichlen, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    “It’s very odd to think that moving your body should affect your brain in this way — that exercise should have some beneficial impact on brain structure and function — but if you start thinking about it from an evolutionary perspective, you can start to piece together why that system would adaptively respond to exercise challenges and stresses,” he said.

    Having this underlying understanding of the exercise-brain connection could help researchers come up with ways to enhance the benefits of exercise even further, and to develop effective interventions for age-related cognitive decline or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    Notably, the parts of the brain most taxed during a complex activity such as foraging — areas that play a key role in memory and executive functions such as problem solving and planning — are the same areas that seem to benefit from exercise in studies.

    “Foraging is an incredibly complex cognitive behavior,” Raichlen said. “You’re moving on a landscape, you’re using memory not only to know where to go but also to navigate your way back, you’re paying attention to your surroundings. You’re multitasking the entire time because you’re making decisions while you’re paying attention to the environment, while you are also monitoring your motor systems over complex terrain. Putting all that together creates a very complex multitasking effort.”

    The adaptive capacity model could help explain research findings such as those published by Raichlen and Alexander last year showing that runners’ brains appear to be more connected than brains of non-runners.

    The model also could help inform interventions for the cognitive decline that often accompanies aging — in a period in life when physical activity levels tend to decline as well.

    “What we’re proposing is, if you’re not sufficiently engaged in this kind of cognitively challenging aerobic activity, then this may be responsible for what we often see as healthy brain aging, where people start to show some diminished cognitive abilities,” said Alexander, a UA professor of psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and physiological sciences. “So the natural aging process might really be part of a reduced capacity in response to not being engaged enough.”

    Reduced capacity refers to what can happen in organ systems throughout the body when they are deprived of exercise.

    “Our organ systems adapt to the stresses they undergo,” said Raichlen, an avid runner and expert on running. “For example, if you engage in exercise, your cardiovascular system has to adapt to expand capacity, be it through enlarging your heart or increasing your vasculature, and that takes energy. So if you’re not challenging it in that way — if you’re not engaging in aerobic exercise — to save energy, your body simply reduces that capacity.”

    In the case of the brain, if it is not being stressed enough it may begin to atrophy. This may be especially concerning, considering how much more sedentary humans’ lifestyles have become.

    “Our evolutionary history suggests that we are, fundamentally, cognitively engaged endurance athletes, and that if we don’t remain active we’re going to have this loss of capacity in response to that,” said Alexander, who studies brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease as a member of the UA’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute. “So there really may be a mismatch between our relatively sedentary lifestyles of today and how we evolved.”

    Alexander and Raichlen say future research should look at how different levels of exercise intensity, as well as different types of exercise, or exercise paired specifically with cognitive tasks, affect the brain.

    For example, exercising in a novel environment that poses a new mental challenge, may prove to be especially beneficial, Raichlen said.

    “Most of the research in this area puts people in a cognitively impoverished environment. They put people in a lab and have them run on a treadmill or exercise bike, and you don’t really have to do as much, so it’s possible that we’re missing something by not increasing novelty,” he said.

    Alexander and Raichlen say they hope the adaptive capacity model will help advance research on exercise and the brain.

    “This evolutionary neuroscience perspective is something that’s been generally lacking in the field,” Alexander said. “And we think this might be helpful to advance research and help develop some new specific hypotheses and ways to identify more universally effective interventions that could be helpful to everyone.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on June 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Arizona, UA Research Says H. Pylori Needs Much Closer Attention   

    From U Arizona: “UA Research Says H. Pylori Needs Much Closer Attention” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    June 6, 2017
    Robin Tricoles

    1
    Gastritis resulting from infection by the H. pylori bacterium. No image credit.

    If the bacterium involved in a host of digestive maladies isn’t eradicated after treatment, that could indicate a resistance to antibiotics — and that’s worrisome.

    It was long thought that gastric ulcers and other digestive woes were brought about by stress. But in 2005, clinical fellow Barry J. Marshall and pathologist J. Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for recognizing the role of Helicobacter pylori in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

    Now physicians can point their collective fingers at H. pylori when it comes to a host of gastric maladies in their patients.

    With this in mind, researchers from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health at the University of Arizona conducted a study into whether U.S. physicians consistently adhere to American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for caring for and managing patients with H. pylori infections. Guidelines include when and how to test for H. pylori, as well as when and how to treat the pathogen once someone has been infected.

    Caring for and managing these patients is important not only because of the serious potential morbidity associated with H. pylori infections, but also because these infections are linked to gastric cancer.

    Through an online survey of gastroenterologists in the U.S., the researchers found that physicians’ adherence to a number of the current ACG guidelines was low. The results were published online April 27 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

    Eyal Oren, UA assistant professor of epidemiology and one of the senior authors of the study, says that most physicians followed the guidelines for testing patients they suspected of having H. pylori infection when the patients came to them with likely risk factors, such as a previously diagnosed peptic ulcer or dyspepsia.

    “You shouldn’t be testing everybody, but if there are reasons to believe that a test for H. pylori may come back positive, and it does come back positive, you should go on to treat,” says Dr. Traci Murakami, previous gastroenterology fellow at the UA and graduate of the clinical and translational research graduate certificate at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health, now an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and lead author of the study.

    In fact, the researchers found that a higher proportion of physicians than in years past treat patients after a positive H. pylori test, with 84 percent of the respondents indicating they would do so, Oren says.

    However, only 58 percent of physicians checked to ensure that the bacterium has been eradicated after treatment, according to the study. This finding is of particular concern, Murakami says, because if the bacterium is not eradicated after the recommended therapy, it could indicate potential resistance to drugs of choice.

    “Only half of gastroenterology physicians check for eradication,” Murakami says. “I think that’s key because knowing if a patient eradicated the H. pylori versus whether they still have the infection may indicate that they may have a more resistant type of H. pylori that didn’t respond to the initial antibiotic and would require different antibiotics to eradicate it.”

    Also of concern, the study found that 6 percent of physicians weren’t asking patients about antibiotics that they previously had taken. That information could alert the clinician to the potential for drug resistance. Nor were physicians testing for resistance, according to the study. However, testing for drug resistance is not cheap or simple, so it’s not routinely done, Oren says.

    Given that H. pylori is a human pathogen and linked to an increase in gastric cancer risk, some have called for its global eradication. However, some people are colonized with H. pylori from birth and experience no ill effects from it until much later in life, if at all.

    No matter, the researchers concluded that the “adaptation of a ‘test, treat and retest strategy’ to confirm eradication after treatment is an area that could be improved.”

    H. pylori is a risk factor and designated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

    “If we could identify it early and identify it in more people, we might be able to reduce the risk of people developing stomach cancer in the future,” Murakami says.

    The research was funded by the Art Chapa Foundation for Gastric Cancer Prevention.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:16 am on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , or, TEM-Hitachi transmission electron microscope, U Arizona, UA Has the Tools to Analyze Asteroid's Dirt   

    From U Arizona: “UA Has the Tools to Analyze Asteroid’s Dirt” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    May 26, 2017
    Emily Litvack

    1
    In the basement of a building constructed with NASA funds in the early 1960s, scientists already are preparing to study the sample from OSIRIS-REx, a first-of-its-kind mission.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    NASA OSIRIS REX FEROS

    NASA OSIRIS REX OTES

    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS

    NASA OSIRIS REX OLA

    In the year 2023, priceless property will land somewhere in the Utah desert. And when it does, a team of engineers and scientists will be waiting on the ground. Thousands will watch the landing with eyes glued to smartphones and televisions. Headlines around the world will tell of the journey.

    The property? Between 2 and 70 ounces of asteroid dirt.

    This 4.5-billion-year-old sample, formally known as regolith, will look like a small pile of dusty rubble, gleaned in the five-second moment during which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft vacuumed the surface of a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

    The sample’s encapsulated landing at the Utah Test and Training Range, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, will begin a new phase in its existence: analysis. After being transported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the dirt will be removed from its capsule and allocated to scientists for study.

    1
    Tom Zega sits at the Hitachi transmission electron microscope, or TEM, in the Kuiper Space Sciences Building. The TEM was funded jointly by the National Science Foundation and NASA. (Photo: Mari Cleven/UA Office of Research, Discovery and Innovation)

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth, but for scientists such as Tom Zega, the return is just the beginning. Zega is a sample scientist at the University of Arizona. As a collaborator on the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission, he will be one of the first scientists to analyze regolith from Bennu.

    One of the main goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, Zega says, is understanding the earliest history of our solar system and the origins of life. Pristine regolith from an asteroid might be our best shot, untouched and uncontaminated by our atmosphere.

    “Sample return is great because otherwise you’re at the mercy of what falls from the sky,” Zega said. “Sample return is a treasure trove of information. You’re getting samples that are older than Earth. I can literally hold in my hand a piece of the origins of our solar system that predated Earth, predated human beings, predated everything we know.

    “These are atoms that assembled four and a half billion years ago and became the building blocks of our planet.”

    The question, then, is what to do with such a scientifically valuable pile of dirt.

    Building a Lab Fit for Analysis

    Analysis means two things — both of which require large equipment in a stable environment. The first: high-resolution imaging. The second: measuring chemistry. Respectively, those answer the questions “What does it look like?” and “What is it made of?”

    “We’re sort of like forensic scientists,” Zega says. “Nature grew these materials, and we’re analyzing it at a fundamental level to figure out under what conditions.”

    Zega does his work in the 5,000-square-foot basement of the Kuiper Space Sciences Building, constructed at the UA in 1964 with funds from NASA. The basement once was a mirror lab for telescopes and a publications vault. Telescopes got bigger, and so did the lab, which now lives beneath Arizona Stadium. Publications went online. Now the UA’s collection of high-tech electron microscopes — to be used for studying the returned asteroid dirt — lives here.

    Sensitive to stimulus, electron microscopes need a place with minimal vibrations, minimal electromagnetic interference and good acoustics. As it turns out, basements make good places for these microscopes. As of today, the lab is “ready to hit the ground running” when the sample from OSIRIS-REx shows up, according to Zega.

    In fact, the lab is in the process of studying a sample from Hayabusa 1, an asteroid sample return mission by JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA. Like OSIRIS-REx, Hayabusa 2 is now cruising toward its target, which is the asteroid Ryugu.

    Zega opens the two frosted doors of the laboratory, revealing a long, clean, fluorescent-lit corridor.

    At the end of the corridor in a room on the left is where the asteroid sample’s time in the lab will truly begin. After it’s mounted on a glass slide and polished smooth, Zega will place the sample in an electron microprobe.

    “The microprobe gives us the most context, and a lay of the land,” Zega says.

    It allows him to photograph the entire sample in high resolution and map out its chemistry, element by element. Those elements, such as iron and nickel and magnesium, show up as colors on a computer screen.

    “You want to sit down and really process that data,” Zega says. “You might want to play around with the maps and overlay them onto the high-res images that you also created before you decide what the next step is. That can take some time.

    “You really want to take your time here before going on to a more detailed level of analysis.”

    Then, all the way at the other end of the corridor, near the doorway, there are two scanning electron microscopes. Like the microprobe, they also image and chemically map the sample, but at an even more detailed level. Here, Zega can look at the dirt in micrometers and nanometers — a billionth of a meter. A single sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

    In the room next door, a focused-ion-beam scanning-electron microscope can look at the sample in even greater detail. It also can drill a hole in a piece of dust from the asteroid by shooting gallium ions at it, like tiny bullets.

    Atoms With Stories to Tell

    “Every atom has something to tell us,” says Zega, walking toward the final destination for the asteroid sample: the transmission electron microscope, or TEM. It’s a towering box of off-white and blue, about 12 feet tall. There’s an innate humor in its size, because a TEM is the only machine in the world that can see something as tiny as an individual atom.

    The TEM, purchased from Hitachi High Technologies in 2016, was shipped by boat from Japan months ago. A team of engineers from the company’s headquarters outside of Tokyo have been here since November, installing and calibrating the microscope. They are expected to head home in June.

    “Looking at microstructures is useful for figuring out origins,” Zega explains.

    Which atoms of an element are next to, or layered on top of, which other atoms is critically important when you want to determine how something formed.

    In the best-case scenario, analyzing the asteroid dirt means “we rewrite the textbooks on our understanding of the origins of our solar system,” Zega says. “I think that’s the neatest thing about a mission like this. It can be full of surprises.

    “Scientist or not, we all look to the stars and ask ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ We wonder how it all came to be,” he says. “The work that we do here at the University of Arizona contributes to answering those questions.”

    TEM and FIB analyses are carried out at the University of Arizona Kuiper Core Imaging and Characterization Facility supported in part by NSF Grant 1531243 and NASA Grants NNX15AJ22G and NNX12AL47G.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
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