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  • richardmitnick 2:46 pm on January 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bone morphogenetic proteins, Embryonic stem cells, Scientists make cells that enable the sense of touch, UCLA   

    From UCLA Newsroom: “UCLA scientists make cells that enable the sense of touch” 


    UCLA Newsroom

    January 11, 2018
    Sarah C.P. Williams

    1
    Human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons (green) showing nuclei in blue. Left: with retinoic acid added. Right: with retinoic acid and BMP4 added, creating proprioceptive sensory interneurons (pink).

    Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have, for the first time, coaxed human stem cells to become sensory interneurons — the cells that give us our sense of touch. The new protocol could be a step toward stem cell–based therapies to restore sensation in paralyzed people who have lost feeling in parts of their body.

    The study, which was led by Samantha Butler, a UCLA associate professor of neurobiology and member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, was published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports.Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have, for the first time, coaxed human stem cells to become sensory interneurons — the cells that give us our sense of touch. The new protocol could be a step toward stem cell–based therapies to restore sensation in paralyzed people who have lost feeling in parts of their body.

    The study, which was led by Samantha Butler, a UCLA associate professor of neurobiology and member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, was published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

    Sensory interneurons, a class of neurons in the spinal cord, are responsible for relaying information from throughout the body to the central nervous system, which enables the sense of touch. The lack of a sense of touch greatly affects people who are paralyzed. For example, they often cannot feel the touch of another person, and the inability to feel pain leaves them susceptible to burns from inadvertent contact with a hot surface.

    “The field has for a long time focused on making people walk again,” said Butler, the study’s senior author. “‘Making people feel again doesn’t have quite the same ring. But to walk, you need to be able to feel and to sense your body in space; the two processes really go hand in glove.”

    In a separate study, published in September by the journal eLife, Butler and her colleagues discovered how signals from a family of proteins called bone morphogenetic proteins, or BMPs, influence the development of sensory interneurons in chicken embryos. The Stem Cell Reports research applies those findings to human stem cells in the lab.

    When the researchers added a specific bone morphogenetic protein called BMP4, as well as another signaling molecule called retinoic acid, to human embryonic stem cells, they got a mixture of two types of sensory interneurons. DI1 sensory interneurons give people proprioception — a sense of where their body is in space — and dI3 sensory interneurons enable them to feel a sense of pressure.

    The researchers found the identical mixture of sensory interneurons developed when they added the same signaling molecules to induced pluripotent stem cells, which are produced by reprogramming a patient’s own mature cells such as skin cells. This reprogramming method creates stem cells that can create any cell type while also maintaining the genetic code of the person they originated from. The ability to create sensory interneurons with a patient’s own reprogrammed cells holds significant potential for the creation of a cell-based treatment that restores the sense of touch without immune suppression.

    Butler hopes to be able to create one type of interneuron at a time, which would make it easier to define the separate roles of each cell type and allow scientists to start the process of using these cells in clinical applications for people who are paralyzed. However, her research group has not yet identified how to make stem cells yield entirely dI1 or entirely dI3 cells — perhaps because another signaling pathway is involved, she said.

    The researchers also have yet to determine the specific recipe of growth factors that would coax stem cells to create other types of sensory interneurons.

    The group is currently implanting the new dI1 and dI3 sensory interneurons into the spinal cords of mice to understand whether the cells integrate into the nervous system and become fully functional. This is a critical step toward defining the clinical potential of the cells.

    “This is a long path,” Butler said. “We haven’t solved how to restore touch but we’ve made a major first step by working out some of these protocols to create sensory interneurons.”

    The research was supported by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and its Cal State Northridge–UCLA Bridges to Stem Cell Research program, the National Institutes of Health and the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

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  • richardmitnick 12:52 pm on December 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , J. William Schopf, John Valley, , , Oldest fossils ever found show life on Earth began before 3.5 billion years ago, SIMS-secondary ion mass spectrometer, Some represent now-extinct bacteria and microbes from a domain of life called Archaea, The study describes 11 microbial specimens from five separate taxa, , UCLA   

    From U Wisconsin Madison and UCLA: “Oldest fossils ever found show life on Earth began before 3.5 billion years ago” 

    U Wisconsin

    University of Wisconsin

    UCLA bloc

    UCLA

    December 18, 2017
    Kelly April Tyrrell
    ktyrrell2@wisc.edu

    1
    Geoscience Professor John Valley, left, and research scientist Kouki Kitajima collaborate in the Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Lab (WiscSIMS) in Weeks Hall. Photo: Jeff Miller

    Researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin–Madison have confirmed that microscopic fossils discovered in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old piece of rock in Western Australia are the oldest fossils ever found and indeed the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth.

    2
    An epoxy mount containing a sliver of a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old rock from the Apex chert deposit in Western Australia is pictured at the Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Lab (WiscSIMS) in Weeks Hall. Photo: Jeff Miller

    The study, published Dec. 18, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by J. William Schopf, professor of paleobiology at UCLA, and John W. Valley, professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The research relied on new technology and scientific expertise developed by researchers in the UW–Madison WiscSIMS Laboratory.

    4
    J. William Schopf, U Wisconsin Madison

    5
    John Valley, UCLA

    2
    An example of one of the microfossils discovered in a sample of rock recovered from the Apex Chert. A new study used sophisticated chemical analysis to confirm the microscopic structures found in the rock are biological. Courtesy of J. William Schopf

    The study describes 11 microbial specimens from five separate taxa, linking their morphologies to chemical signatures that are characteristic of life. Some represent now-extinct bacteria and microbes from a domain of life called Archaea, while others are similar to microbial species still found today. The findings also suggest how each may have survived on an oxygen-free planet.

    The microfossils — so called because they are not evident to the naked eye — were first described in the journal Science in 1993 by Schopf and his team, which identified them based largely on the fossils’ unique, cylindrical and filamentous shapes. Schopf, director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, published further supporting evidence of their biological identities in 2002.

    He collected the rock in which the fossils were found in 1982 from the Apex chert deposit of Western Australia, one of the few places on the planet where geological evidence of early Earth has been preserved, largely because it has not been subjected to geological processes that would have altered it, like burial and extreme heating due to plate-tectonic activity.

    But Schopf’s earlier interpretations have been disputed. Critics argued they are just odd minerals that only look like biological specimens. However, Valley says, the new findings put these doubts to rest; the microfossils are indeed biological.

    “I think it’s settled,” he says.

    Using a secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) at UW–Madison called IMS 1280 — one of just a handful of such instruments in the world — Valley and his team, including department geoscientists Kouki Kitajima and Michael Spicuzza, were able to separate the carbon composing each fossil into its constituent isotopes and measure their ratios.

    Isotopes are different versions of the same chemical element that vary in their masses. Different organic substances — whether in rock, microbe or animal ­— contain characteristic ratios of their stable carbon isotopes.

    Using SIMS, Valley’s team was able to tease apart the carbon-12 from the carbon-13 within each fossil and measure the ratio of the two compared to a known carbon isotope standard and a fossil-less section of the rock in which they were found.

    “The differences in carbon isotope ratios correlate with their shapes,” Valley says. “If they’re not biological there is no reason for such a correlation. Their C-13-to-C-12 ratios are characteristic of biology and metabolic function.”

    Based on this information, the researchers were also able to assign identities and likely physiological behaviors to the fossils locked inside the rock, Valley says. The results show that “these are a primitive, but diverse group of organisms,” says Schopf.

    The team identified a complex group of microbes: phototrophic bacteria that would have relied on the sun to produce energy, Archaea that produced methane, and gammaproteobacteria that consumed methane, a gas believed to be an important constituent of Earth’s early atmosphere before oxygen was present.

    3
    UW–Madison geoscience researchers on a 2010 field trip to the Apex Chert, a rock formation in western Australia that is among the oldest and best-preserved rock deposits in the world. Courtesy of John Valley

    It took Valley’s team nearly 10 years to develop the processes to accurately analyze the microfossils — fossils this old and rare have never been subjected to SIMS analysis before. The study builds on earlier achievements at WiscSIMS to modify the SIMS instrument, to develop protocols for sample preparation and analysis, and to calibrate necessary standards to match as closely as possible the hydrocarbon content to the samples of interest.

    In preparation for SIMS analysis, the team needed to painstakingly grind the original sample down as slowly as possible to expose the delicate fossils themselves — all suspended at different levels within the rock and encased in a hard layer of quartz — without actually destroying them. Spicuzza describes making countless trips up and down the stairs in the department as geoscience technician Brian Hess ground and polished each microfossil in the sample, one micrometer at a time.

    Each microfossil is about 10 micrometers wide; eight of them could fit along the width of a human hair.

    Valley and Schopf are part of the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium, funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which exists to study and understand the origins, the future and the nature of life on Earth and throughout the universe.

    Studies such as this one, Schopf says, indicate life could be common throughout the universe. But importantly, here on Earth, because several different types of microbes were shown to be already present by 3.5 billion years ago, it tells us that “life had to have begun substantially earlier — nobody knows how much earlier — and confirms it is not difficult for primitive life to form and to evolve into more advanced microorganisms,” says Schopf.

    Earlier studies by Valley and his team, dating to 2001, have shown that liquid water oceans existed on Earth as early as 4.3 billion years ago, more than 800 million years before the fossils of the present study would have been alive, and just 250 million years after the Earth formed.

    “We have no direct evidence that life existed 4.3 billion years ago but there is no reason why it couldn’t have,” says Valley. “This is something we all would like to find out.”

    UW–Madison has a legacy of pushing back the accepted dates of early life on Earth. In 1953, the late Stanley Tyler, a geologist at the university who passed away in 1963 at the age of 57, was the first person to discover microfossils in Precambrian rocks. This pushed the origins of life back more than a billion years, from 540 million to 1.8 billion years ago.

    “People are really interested in when life on Earth first emerged,” Valley says. “This study was 10 times more time-consuming and more difficult than I first imagined, but it came to fruition because of many dedicated people who have been excited about this since day one … I think a lot more microfossil analyses will be made on samples of Earth and possibly from other planetary bodies.”

    See the full U Wisconsin article here .
    See the full uCLA article by Stuart Wolpert here.
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

    In achievement and prestige, the University of Wisconsin–Madison has long been recognized as one of America’s great universities. A public, land-grant institution, UW–Madison offers a complete spectrum of liberal arts studies, professional programs and student activities. Spanning 936 acres along the southern shore of Lake Mendota, the campus is located in the city of Madison.

     
    • stewarthoughblog 1:44 am on December 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Schopf’s wishful speculation that what was discovered indicates life must be common is intellectually insulting with his failure that somehow live emerged rapidly, which strains the slow, methodical Darwinian theory of how life developed, given the relative complexity of the microorganisms. This is a wonderful discovery, but does nothing to solve the origin of life and raises serious questions about the power of naturalism to explain the origin of life as well as the rapid development of higher order complex organisms.

      The only extraterrestrial organisms that will be found will be those of Earth origin.

      Like

  • richardmitnick 9:53 am on December 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, , At least half of sea level rise from Greenland is from melting ice, , , Extreme fieldwork drones and climate modeling yield new insights about Greenland’s melting ice sheet, , UCLA   

    From UCLA Newsroom: “Extreme fieldwork, drones, climate modeling yield new insights about Greenland’s melting ice sheet” 


    UCLA Newsroom

    December 05, 2017
    Jessica Wolf

    1
    A UCLA-led team was the first to measure Greenland’s melting glaciers from the top of the ice sheet. Their discoveries could help scientists better predict sea level rise. Matthew Cooper

    A new UCLA-led study reinforces the importance of collaboration in assessing the effects of climate change.

    The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers new insights about previously unknown factors affecting Greenland’s melting ice sheet, and it could ultimately help scientists more accurately predict how the phenomenon could cause sea levels to rise.

    Greenland is the single largest melting ice sheet in terms of meltwater runoff contributing to rising sea levels — and at least half of sea level rise from Greenland is from melting ice, said Laurence C. Smith, a UCLA professor of geography. (That’s even more than the amount caused by ice calving, when large blocks of ice separate from the ice sheet, forming icebergs, which eventually melt into the sea.)

    Since 2012, a team led by Smith has visited Greenland’s ice sheet several times, using satellites, drones and sophisticated sensors to track flow rates of meltwater rivers atop the glaciers, and to map their watersheds, which include the surface areas between the rivers.

    In 2015, Smith and a group of UCLA graduate students and collaborators focused on a 27-square-mile watershed, and they discovered an important process that had previously been left out of climate-model calculations. Some of the meltwater from the lakes and rivers atop the region’s glaciers, which end in large sinkholes called “moulins” and barrel down through the glacier, is being stored and trapped on top of the glacier inside a low-density, porous “rotten ice.”

    “Ours is the first independent data-gathering effort to directly measure rates of meltwater runoff from the top of the ice,” Smith said. The team’s research was funded by NASA. “Researchers, including us, have attempted gather information using flows from the edge of the ice, but those measurements are problematic for testing climate models.”

    Smith’s team found a discrepancy between its data and the calculations of meltwater runoff from five climate models. Those models’ estimates were 21 to 58 percent higher than what Smith’s team measured on the ice.

    So Smith invited the scientists who created those models to collaborate with him. Together, they checked real-time statistics from weather stations on the ice to confirm that the data in the climate models were correct — and they found the models’ calculations were accurate. Which meant that the meltwater’s journey over the ice surface was more complex than previously imagined: The scientists recognized that before the water passes through the ice via moulins, it can pool, sit indefinitely or refreeze in porous ice at the surface, Smith said.

    “After eliminating all other possibilities, we deduced that the disagreement in our data is because of sunlight penetrating into the ice, causing subsurface melting and meltwater storage,” said Dirk van As, a co-author of the study and a senior researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “And now we know this is happening in the higher reaches of the bare ice zone that cover large regions of the ice sheet.

    “We now know that calculation of meltwater retention in porous ice should be included somehow,” he said.

    To measure river discharge on the ice, Smith and his team adapted a technique normally used on land. Working in shifts, they collected data hourly, around the clock, for three days in July 2015, braving the cold, wind and 20 hours a day of blazing sunshine. The researchers used safety gear to anchor themselves to the ice and protect themselves from the swift-moving water flowing into dangerous moulins, where surface water plummets into the ice sheet interior.

    Among the many logistical challenges was determining how to set up equipment to measure river flow in a way that researchers didn’t need to be positioned on both sides of a river.

    “Unless you have a helicopter, you can’t station people on both sides of a large river on top of the ice,” said Lincoln Pitcher, a UCLA doctoral student in geography, who figured out a way to keep sensors in place after trial and error on land and ice. They needed to come up with a stable and strong system that would stay in place even though the ice surface around them was melting.

    Study co-author, Asa Rennermalm, professor of geography at Rutgers University-New Brunswick was part of the field team.

    “We used a device called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, which tracks discharge based on sound,” she said. “We attached it to a floatable platform, and then attached that to ropes, which were attached to poles on either side of the ice river. We moved the platform back and forth across the river every hour for 72 hours. No one has ever done that before on the Greenland ice sheet.”

    Van As said the project proved that combining expertise from multiple disciplines — among them meteorology, oceanography and hydrology (the study of the properties and movement of water over land) — is essential for fully understanding how glaciers and ice sheets respond to the climate system.

    “It is important that hydrologists like Larry bring their extensive knowledge into the field of glaciology, using approaches that are new to our discipline,” he said.

    In general, glaciologists are not accustomed to thinking about watersheds on top of the ice, Smith said. The irregularities those watersheds impart on the timing and amount of meltwater penetrating the ice are not currently considered in geophysical models of “ice dynamics,” meaning the speed and spatial pattern of sliding glacial ice as it moves toward the sea.

    “We’re taking the very mature field of land surface hydrology, which deals with river flow and watersheds on land, and applying it to the ice sheet, which has typically been the scientific domain of solid-ice geophysics,” he said. “We have to borrow from hydrology because the ice surface is becoming more of a hydrologic phenomenon. And we can take these tools from another discipline and apply them and actually have a conceptual breakthrough.”

    Smith and his team now are working on a study based on data from a 2016 trip to Greenland, when they spent a week tracking watersheds and digging into the rotten ice.

    Led by UCLA graduate student Matthew Cooper, the researchers are attempting to better explain how rotten ice traps water. They have tracked the rotten ice to a depth of nearly 3 feet below the surface — a finding that could help scientists who develop climate models to better understand how ice sheets are losing mass.

    Part of Smith’s mission in Greenland is empowering a new generation of hydrologists who are eager to join the front lines of tracking global climate change.

    “Climate change is not remote news for me anymore,” said Kang Yang, a former UCLA postdoctoral scholar, who was part of the field team for this study. Now a professor at China’s Nanjing University, Yang will continue to work with Smith on mapping the rivers on Greenland’s ice sheet.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:37 am on November 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Dnm1 proteins, , , , UCLA, UCLA bioengineers discover mechanism that regulates cells’ ‘powerhouses’   

    From UCLA Newsroom: “UCLA bioengineers discover mechanism that regulates cells’ ‘powerhouses’” 


    UCLA Newsroom

    November 27, 2017
    Matthew Chin

    1
    In this artist’s rendering, Dnm1 proteins surrounding a mitochondrion are breaking it up into two. Jaime de Anda/ACS Central Science.

    UCLA bioengineers and their colleagues have discovered a new perspective on how cells regulate the sizes of mitochondria, the parts of cells that provide energy, by cutting them into smaller units.

    The researchers wrote that this finding, demonstrated with yeast proteins, could eventually be used to help address human diseases associated with an imbalanced regulation of mitochondria size — for example, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. In addition, since having mitochondria that are too small or too large can potentially lead to incurable diseases, it is conceivable that the proteins responsible for this process could be potential targets for future therapies.

    The study was published in ACS Central Science and was led by UCLA bioengineering professor Gerard Wong.

    Inside the cell, mitochondria resemble the long balloons used to create balloon animals. If the mitochondria are too long, they can get tangled. Their sizes are known to be primarily regulated by two proteins, one of which breaks up longer mitochondria into smaller sizes. They are known as cells’ “powerhouses” as they convert chemical energy from food into a form useful for cells to perform all their functions.

    Keeping mitochondria at optimal sizes is important to cells’ health. An insufficient amount of the regulating protein, known as Dnm1, results in the mitochondria getting too long and tangled. Too much Dnm1 results in too many short mitochondria. In both cases, the mitochondria are rendered essentially ineffective as power providers for the cell. This situation could lead to neurodevelopmental disorders or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

    To better understand this mechanism, the researchers used a machine-learning approach they developed in 2016 to figure out exactly how the proteins break up one mitrochondrion into two smaller ones. They also used a powerful technique called “synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering” at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility, to see how these proteins deform mitochondrial membranes during this process.

    SLAC/SSRL

    Before this study, it was thought that these proteins encircled the mitochondria, then cut it in two by simply squeezing tightly. The process, the team discovered, is more subtle.

    “When Dnm1 wraps around mitochondria, it has been previously shown that the protein physically tightens and pinches,” said Michelle Lee, a recent UCLA bioengineering doctoral graduate who was advised by Wong and is one of two lead authors of the study. “What we found is that when Dnm1 contacts the mitochondrial surface, it also makes that area of the mitochondrion itself more moldable and easier to undergo cleavage. These two effects work hand in hand to make the process of mitochondrial division efficient.”

    The other lead author is Ernest Lee, a graduate student in the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program and a bioengineering graduate student also advised by Wong. He carried out the computational analyses for the experiment.

    “Using our machine-learning tool, we were able to discover hidden membrane-remodeling activity in Dnm1, consistent with our X-ray studies,” Lee said. “Interestingly, by analyzing distant relatives of Dnm1, we found that the protein gradually evolved this ability over time.”

    “This is a very unexpected result — no one thought these molecules would have a split personality, with both personalities necessary for the biological function,” said Wong, who is also a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry and is a member of the California NanoSystems Institute. “The multifunctional behavior we identified may be the rule rather than the exception for proteins.”

    Other authors include Andy Ferguson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Blake Hill from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

    The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, with additional support from the Department of Energy for imaging experiments.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:41 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Hydrogen cars for the masses one step closer to reality thanks to UCLA invention, UCLA   

    From UCLA: “Hydrogen cars for the masses one step closer to reality, thanks to UCLA invention” 


    UCLA Newsroom

    November 20, 2017
    Stuart Wolpert

    1
    Richard Kaner and Maher El-Kady with a replica of a new device that can use solar power to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy. Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

    UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.

    The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt — elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel.

    “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water,” said Richard Kaner, the study’s senior author and a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering. “And this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars.”

    The technology, described in a paper in the journal Energy Storage Materials, could be especially useful in rural areas, or to military units serving in remote locations.

    2
    A replica of the device. Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

    “People need fuel to run their vehicles and electricity to run their devices,” Kaner said. “Now you can make both electricity and fuel with a single device.”

    It could also be part of a solution for large cities that need ways to store surplus electricity from their electrical grids.

    “If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it indefinitely,” said Kaner, who also is a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.

    Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device’s power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen.

    The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen — a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research.

    “Hydrogen energy is not ‘green’ unless it is produced from renewable sources,” El-Kady said. He added that using solar cells and abundantly available elements to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has enormous potential for reducing the cost of hydrogen production and that the approach could eventually replace the current method, which relies on fossil fuels.

    Combining a supercapacitor and the water-splitting technology into a single unit, Kaner said, is an advance similar to the first time a phone, web browser and camera were combined on a smartphone. The new technology may eventually lead to new applications that even the researchers haven’t considered yet, Kaner said.

    The researchers designed the electrodes at the nanoscale — thousands of times thinner than the thickness of a human hair — to ensure the greatest surface area would be exposed to water, which increases the amount of hydrogen the device can produce and also stores more charge in the supercapacitor. Although the device the researchers made would fit in the palm of your hand, Kaner said it would be possible to make larger versions because the components are inexpensive.

    “For hydrogen cars to be widely used, there remains a need for a technology that safely stores large quantities of hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature, instead of the pressurized cylinders that are currently in use,” said Mir Mousavi, a co-author of the paper and a professor of chemistry at Iran’s Tarbiat Modares University.

    The paper’s other co-authors are graduate student Yasin Shabangoli and postdoctoral scholars Abolhassan Noori and Mohammad Rahmanifar, all of Tarbiat Modares.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:20 pm on October 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Big Bang Theory scholars meet their benefactors, UCLA   

    From UCLA Newsrooom: “UCLA Big Bang Theory scholars meet their benefactors” 


    UCLA Newsrooom

    October 06, 2017
    Alison Hewitt
    Michelle Reardon

    Five UCLA freshmen visited with the cast and crew of “The Big Bang Theory” on Oct. 5 and joined in an eight-clap with actress, neuroscientist and alumna Mayim Bialik, on a trip to thank their Hollywood benefactors for their scholarships to UCLA.

    The students are the latest recipients of the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment, which provides need-based support to UCLA students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They are Darren Ait Kaci Azzou, a biophysics major; Janice Cheng, a bioengineering major; Steve Lopez, a mechanical engineering major; Andy Muratalla, a chemical engineering major; and Khang Vinh, a computer science and engineering major.

    “I really like the TV show’s concept because growing up I didn’t see much of science and math on TV,” said Cheng. “And it’s nice to see it being represented on television.”

    The scholarships are awarded based on financial need to students who have earned admission to UCLA, but who need additional support.

    “I chose UCLA because of the scholarship,” said Ait Kaci Azzou. “I was already considering, but this scholarship reinforced it.”

    Now in its 11th season – on air since the current freshmen were in elementary school – the popular CBS sitcom follows the lives of young academic researchers who work in various scientific fields. The endowment began with an initial donation from the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation and gifts from nearly 50 people associated with the show. The show is produced at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California.

    Donations came from all the lead actors, including Bialik, who earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA; Johnny Galecki; Jim Parsons; Kaley Cuoco; Simon Helberg; Kunal Nayyar; and Melissa Rauch. Gifts also came from executive producers Bill Prady and Steven Molaro, crew members, Warner Bros. Television, CBS, other corporate partners and UCLA physics professor David Saltzberg, the show’s science consultant since its inception.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:14 pm on October 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antiretroviral therapy, But the medications do not actually rid the body of the virus which has the ability to elude medications by lying dormant in cells called CD4+ T cells which signal another type of T cell the CD8 to de, , Scientists call the technique “kick and kill.”, SUW133 is based on bryostatin 1 a natural compound extracted from a marine animal called Bugula neritina, The technique could lower the viral reservoir enough for people with HIV to be able to discontinue their anti-viral therapy, UCLA   

    From UCLA Newsroom: “Researchers create molecule that could ‘kick and kill’ HIV” 


    UCLA Newsrooom

    October 05, 2017
    Enrique Rivero

    1
    The scientists’ approach sends an agent to “wake up” the dormant virus, causing it to begin replicating so that either the immune system or the virus itself would kill the cell harboring HIV.

    Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at making HIV undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly reduce the chance of transmission from person to person.

    But the medications do not actually rid the body of the virus, which has the ability to elude medications by lying dormant in cells called CD4+ T cells, which signal another type of T cell, the CD8, to destroy HIV-infected cells. When a person with HIV stops treatment, the virus emerges and replicates in the body, weakening the immune system and raising the likelihood of opportunistic infections or cancers that can sicken or kill the patient.

    Researchers have been looking for ways to eliminate the “reservoirs” where the virus hides, and researchers from UCLA, Stanford University and the National Institutes of Health may have developed a solution. Their approach involves sending an agent to “wake up” the dormant virus, which causes it to begin replicating so that either the immune system or the virus itself would kill the cell harboring HIV.

    Scientists call the technique “kick and kill.”

    Destroying the reservoir cells could rid some or all of the HIV virus from people who are infected. And although the scientists’ approach has not been tested in humans yet, a synthetic molecule they developed has been effective at kicking and killing HIV in lab animals, according to a study published Sept. 21 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Pathogens.

    “The latent HIV reservoir is very stable and can reactivate virus replication if a patient stops taking antiretroviral drugs for any reason,” said Matthew Marsden, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the study’s lead author. “Our study suggests that there may be means of activating latent virus in the body while the patient is on antiretroviral drugs to prevent the virus from spreading, and that this may eliminate at least some of the latent reservoir.”

    To test the approach, the researchers gave antiretroviral drugs to mice that had been infected with HIV, and then administered a synthetic compound called SUW133, which was developed at Stanford, to activate the mice’s dormant HIV. Up to 25 percent of the previously dormant cells that began expressing HIV died within 24 hours of activation.

    With further development, the technique could lower the viral reservoir enough for people with HIV to be able to discontinue their anti-viral therapy, Marsden said.

    SUW133 is based on bryostatin 1, a natural compound extracted from a marine animal called Bugula neritina. The research determined that the new compound is less toxic than the naturally occurring version.

    “The findings are significant because several previous attempts to activate latent virus have had only limited success,” said senior author Jerome Zack, professor and chair of the UCLA department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the Geffen School, and director of the UCLA Center for AIDS Research. “Most studies showed weak activation of the virus, or severe toxicity, with little effect on the reservoir.”

    Marsden said results in mice will not necessarily translate to humans. In further studies, the scientists plan to learn how to make SUW133’s less toxic, and to evaluate its effectiveness in larger animals, before it could be tested in humans.

    The study’s other authors are Xiaomeng Wu and Christina Ramirez of UCLA; Brian Loy, Adam Schrier, Akira Shimizu, Steven Ryckbosch, Katherine Near and Paul Wender of Stanford; and Danielle Murray and Tae-Wook Chun of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    The research was funded by the NIH, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Explorations grant, the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust and the UCLA Center for AIDS Research.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:16 am on September 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: $8.3 million grant from National Science Foundation will help UCLA spread technology behind mini microscope, , , UCLA   

    From UCLA: “$8.3 million grant from National Science Foundation will help UCLA spread technology behind mini microscope” 


    UCLA Newsrooom

    September 27, 2017
    Leigh Hopper

    Open-source device for brain research has already been adopted by 200 labs worldwide.

    1
    Dr. Peyman Golshani, Daniel Aharoni and UCLA colleagues are making detailed instructions for building the device available to other scientists around the world. Leigh Hopper/UCLA Health

    A tiny, do-it-yourself microscope — which can be built from instructions posted online — has opened a new universe to brain scientists in at least 200 labs worldwide, and the device has earned its creators at UCLA an $8.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

    When mounted on an animal’s head, the “miniscope” enables scientists to observe neurons firing, and even the creation of memories. The five-year grant will allow the scientists to further refine their design to combine electrical and optical recordings, which will give them the ability to visualize how brain regions and large groups of brain cells work together as the brain senses, learns, plans and executes actions.

    A key feature of the team’s grant proposal was that the researchers are making information about how to build and use the device available for free to other scientists.

    “Other research groups have taken our base model and added to it and are starting to publish papers based on what they’re discovering with it,” said Dr. Peyman Golshani, an associate professor of neurology at UCLA and the grant’s principal investigator. “It’s really taking off.”

    Using the device, scientists can compare the brains of healthy mice with mice that have certain neurological conditions. UCLA scientists, for example, are especially interested in using the miniscope to study why chronic seizures interfere with memory and which circuits malfunction in autism.

    2
    Miniscope developed by UCLA researchers. Leigh Hopper/UCLA Health

    In addition to Golshani, other researchers working on the grant are professors Tad Blair, Jason Cong and Alcino Silva, Sotiris Masmanidis and Daniel Aharoni, all of UCLA; and Alipasha Vaziri, a professor at Rockefeller University.

    The project was born in 2011, when Golshani read about a miniaturized microscope developed at Stanford University that was light enough to be worn by a laboratory mouse. Typically, microscopes used to observe neuronal activity in animals are heavy and could only be used while fixed in place; a mobile version opened the door to all sorts of possible research, including the prospect of watching the neurons in a mouse’s brain as it explored its environment or interacted with other animals.

    But a commercialized version of the Stanford microscope system costs about $150,000. Golshani wondered if his lab could build a cheaper model that could be shared with other researchers, and he asked Aharoni to make one from scratch. Within four months, researchers from Golshani’s and Silva’s labs and other UCLA collaborators had produced their own version, made mostly from off-the-shelf parts that collectively cost about $1,000.

    The device they built is 1 inch tall and weighs just 4 grams, about the same as four cotton balls. It snaps onto a baseplate that is implanted atop a mouse’s head. Through a small window, the miniscope captures fluorescent light emitted by thousands of neurons as they fire, and a thin wire carries data from the device’s lens to a computer for analysis.

    The UCLA scientists posted parts lists and instructions for building and using the device, as well as links to video tutorials, on their own wiki page, which has become a forum for conversations with other scientists from around the world. One researcher posted a note to say that a 2 gram model would be helpful for recording brain activity in songbirds, which prompted the UCLA team to produce a lighter version of the microscope. Another request from a scientist who studies bats prompted Golshani’s lab to create a battery-powered wireless version that saves data onto a micro SD card.

    Blair and Cong are currently refining the wireless miniscope to give it built-in, energy-efficient computing capability for real-time feedback and analysis. Masmanidis is developing silicon-based electrodes that can record electrical signals from the brain while the miniscope records imaging data.

    The NSF grant comes from the organization’s Neuronex program, which is intended to help create an ecosystem of new tools, resources, and theories and spread them throughout the neuroscience community, said Jim Olds, NSF assistant director for biological sciences, in an NSF news release.

    Golshani said, “We’ve given this to the community and the community is using it. If you build a tool and let a lot of people use it for their own research, the impact is much, much larger than if you keep it to yourself.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:05 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , atom by atom, ’ physicists create a new type of molecule, , Experiments like these pave the way for developing new methods for controlling chemistry, Help scientists understand how certain complex molecules including some that could be precursors to life came to exist in space, In step toward ‘controlling chemistry, Integrated ion-trap-time-of-flight mass spectrometer, Ion traps, , Narrow the gap between physics and chemistry, Octet Rule - each atom in a molecule that is produced by a chemical reaction will have eight outer orbiting electrons, , UCLA, Ultra-cold atom traps   

    From UCLA: “In step toward ‘controlling chemistry,’ physicists create a new type of molecule, atom by atom” 


    UCLA Newsrooom

    September 13, 2017
    Stuart Wolpert

    1
    By working in extremely controlled conditions, Eric Hudson and his colleagues could observe properties of atoms and molecules that have previously been hidden from view. Stuart Wolpert/UCLA

    UCLA physicists have pioneered a method for creating a unique new molecule that could eventually have applications in medicine, food science and other fields. Their research, which also shows how chemical reactions can be studied on a microscopic scale using tools of physics, is reported in the journal Science.

    For the past 200 years, scientists have developed rules to describe chemical reactions that they’ve observed, including reactions in food, vitamins, medications and living organisms. One of the most ubiquitous is the “octet rule,” which states that each atom in a molecule that is produced by a chemical reaction will have eight outer orbiting electrons. (Scientists have found exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are rare.)

    But the molecule created by UCLA professor Eric Hudson and colleagues violates that rule. Barium-oxygen-calcium, or BaOCa+, is the first molecule ever observed by scientists that is composed of an oxygen atom bonded to two different metal atoms.

    Normally, one metal atom (either barium or calcium) can react with an oxygen atom to produce a stable molecule. However, when the UCLA scientists added a second metal atom to the mix, a new molecule, BaOCa+, which no longer satisfied the octet rule, had been formed.

    2
    Michael Mills, Prateek Puri, Eric Hudson and Christian Schneider. Stuart Wolpert/UCLA

    Other molecules that violate the octet rule have been observed before, but the UCLA study is among the first to observe such a molecule using tools from physics — namely lasers, ion traps and ultra-cold atom traps.

    Hudson’s laboratory used laser light to cool tiny amounts of the reactant atoms and molecules to an extremely low temperature — one one-thousandth of a degree above absolute zero — and then levitate them in a space smaller than the width of a human hair, inside of a vacuum chamber. Under these highly controlled conditions, the scientists could observe properties of the atoms and molecules that are otherwise hidden from view, and the “physics tools” they used enabled them to hold a sample of atoms and observe chemical reactions one molecule at a time.

    The ultra-cold temperatures used in the experiment can also be used to simulate the reaction as it would occur in outer space. That could help scientists understand how certain complex molecules, including some that could be precursors to life, came to exist in space, Hudson said.

    The researchers found that when they brought together calcium and barium methoxide inside of their system under normal conditions, they would not react because the atoms could not find a way to rearrange themselves to form a stable molecule. However, when the scientists used a laser to change the distribution of the electrons in the calcium atom, the reaction quickly proceeded, producing a new molecule, CaOBa+.

    The approach is part of a new physics-inspired subfield of chemistry that uses the tools of ultra-cold physics, such as lasers and electromagnetism, to observe and control how and when single-particle reactions occur.

    UCLA graduate student Prateek Puri, the project’s lead researcher, said the experiment demonstrates not only how these techniques can be used to create exotic molecules, but also how they can be used to engineer important reactions. The discovery could ultimately be used to create new methods for preserving food (by preventing unwanted chemical reactions between food and the environment) or developing safer medications (by eliminating the chemical reactions that cause negative side effects).

    “Experiments like these pave the way for developing new methods for controlling chemistry,” Puri said. “We’re essentially creating ‘on buttons’ for reactions.”

    Hudson said he hopes the work will encourage other scientists to further narrow the gap between physics and chemistry, and to demonstrate that increasingly complex molecules can be studied and controlled. He added that one key to the success of the new study was the involvement of experts from various fields: experimental physicists, theoretical physicists and a physical chemist.

    A key player in the research is already making a name for itself in Hollywood. A device called the integrated ion-trap-time-of-flight mass spectrometer, which was invented by Hudson’s lab and which was used to discover the reaction — was featured on a recent episode of the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

    “The device enables us to detect and identify the products of reactions on the single-particle level, and for us, it has really been a bridge between chemistry and physics,” said Michael Mills, a UCLA graduate student who worked on the project. “We were delighted to see it picked up by the show.”

    Co-authors of the study are Christian Schneider, a UCLA research scientist; Ionel Simbotin, a University of Connecticut physics postdoctoral scholar; John Montgomery Jr., a University of Connecticut research professor of physics; Robin Côté, a University of Connecticut professor of physics; and Arthur Suits, a University of Missouri professor of chemistry.

    The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and Army Research Office.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:56 am on September 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , UCLA, UCLA physicists propose new theories of black holes from the very early universe   

    From UCLA: “UCLA physicists propose new theories of black holes from the very early universe” 


    UCLA Newsrooom

    September 01, 2017
    Katherine Kornei

    1
    The theory that primordial black holes collide with neutron stars to create heavy elements explains the lack of neutron stars in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, a long-standing mystery. den-belitsky/iStock

    UCLA physicists have proposed new theories for how the universe’s first black holes might have formed and the role they might play in the production of heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium.

    Two papers on their work were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.031103

    https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.061101

    A long-standing question in astrophysics is whether the universe’s very first black holes came into existence less than a second after the Big Bang or whether they formed only millions of years later during the deaths of the earliest stars.

    Alexander Kusenko, a UCLA professor of physics, and Eric Cotner, a UCLA graduate student, developed a compellingly simple new theory suggesting that black holes could have formed very shortly after the Big Bang, long before stars began to shine. Astronomers have previously suggested that these so-called primordial black holes could account for all or some of the universe’s mysterious dark matter and that they might have seeded the formation of supermassive black holes that exist at the centers of galaxies. The new theory proposes that primordial black holes might help create many of the heavier elements found in nature.

    The researchers began by considering that a uniform field of energy pervaded the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Scientists expect that such fields existed in the distant past. After the universe rapidly expanded, this energy field would have separated into clumps. Gravity would cause these clumps to attract one another and merge together. The UCLA researchers proposed that some small fraction of these growing clumps became dense enough to become black holes.

    Their hypothesis is fairly generic, Kusenko said, and it doesn’t rely on what he called the “unlikely coincidences” that underpin other theories explaining primordial black holes.

    2
    A black hole captured by a neutron star. Alexander Kusenko/UCLA

    The paper suggests that it’s possible to search for these primordial black holes using astronomical observations. One method involves measuring the very tiny changes in a star’s brightness that result from the gravitational effects of a primordial black hole passing between Earth and that star. Earlier this year, U.S. and Japanese astronomers published a paper on their discovery of one star in a nearby galaxy that brightened and dimmed precisely as if a primordial black hole was passing in front of it.

    In a separate study, Kusenko, Volodymyr Takhistov, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher, and George Fuller, a professor at UC San Diego, proposed that primordial black holes might play an important role in the formation of heavy elements such as gold, silver, platinum and uranium, which could be ongoing in our galaxy and others.

    The origin of those heavy elements has long been a mystery to researchers.

    “Scientists know that these heavy elements exist, but they’re not sure where these elements are being formed,” Kusenko said. “This has been really embarrassing.”

    The UCLA research suggests that a primordial black hole occasionally collides with a neutron star — the city-sized, spinning remnant of a star that remains after some supernova explosions — and sinks into its depths.

    When that happens, Kusenko said, the primordial black hole consumes the neutron star from the inside, a process that takes about 10,000 years. As the neutron star shrinks, it spins even faster, eventually causing small fragments to detach and fly off. Those fragments of neutron-rich material may be the sites in which neutrons fuse into heavier and heavier elements, Kusenko said.

    However, the probability of a neutron star capturing a black hole is rather low, said Kusenko, which is consistent with observations of only some galaxies being enriched in heavy elements. The theory that primordial black holes collide with neutron stars to create heavy elements also explains the observed lack of neutron stars in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, a long-standing mystery in astrophysics.

    This winter, Kusenko and his colleagues will collaborate with scientists at Princeton University on computer simulations of the heavy elements produced by a neutron star–black hole interaction. By comparing the results of those simulations with observations of heavy elements in nearby galaxies, the researchers hope to determine whether primordial black holes are indeed responsible for Earth’s gold, platinum and uranium.

    The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and Japan’s World Premier International Research Center Initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
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