Italian Family With Gene Mutation May Hold The Key To Pain Relief

A gene mutation made an Italian family impervious to pain.

A genetic mutation found in six members of an Italian family may hold the key to effective pain relief medication.

British researchers have found a gene mutation that suppresses pain in a family from Italy.

Researchers focused on six members of an Italian family who couldn’t feel pain regardless if they burned themselves or suffered bone fractures. While the phenomenon may suggest a lack of nerve development, that isn’t the case, according to Dr. James Cox, lead study author with the University College of London.

“They have normal intraepidermal nerve fiber density, which means their nerves are all there, they’re just no working how they should be,” said the doctor.

The study authors explained that an estimated 10 percent of people experience moderate to severe chronic pain, which causes them to seek relief in opioid medication. The Marsilis might shed some light on potential new drugs that can offer pain relief, according to Cox.

As part of the study, the family members underwent a series of trials which included being poked at sensitive points, having their hands submerged in ice water and touching surfaces that ranged from 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

The final part of the experiment had researchers sequence the family’s genomes which revealed a new mutation in the ZFHX2 gene. This gene alters how nociceptors, which are the part of the nerve cells that sense pain and convert sensory inputs into stimuli in the brain, interpret DNA code into making proteins.

Previous studies involved breeding mice without the ZFHX2 gene in order for them to be resilient against pain. However, those researchers noticed the mice were more hyperactive and even displayed signs of mouse depression. The study was published in the journal, Brain.

For this experiment, the team of researchers bred mice with the ZFHX2 gene mutation. The mice with the altered DNA appeared to be resistant to heat and cold, which would suggest that the mutation was the reason why the Marsili family lacked the ability to feel pain.

Anna Maria Aloisi, the co-author of the study and professor at the University of Siena in Italy, echoes Dr. Cox, by saying the mutation’s discovery has paved the way for new advancements in pain relief medication.

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Isle Of Skye Was Hit By A Meteorite 60 Million Years Ago, According To Geologists

Isle of Skye hit by meteorite millions of years ago.

The Isle of Skye in Scotland was supposedly hit by a meteorite 60 million years ago.

Geologists from the University of London have discovered fragments of a 60 million-year-old meteorite on the Isle of Skye. While exploring volcanic rocks on the Scottish island, they stumbled upon several rocks that had otherworldly origins.

The fragments discovered contained minerals such as vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite, which Earth is not known to have. These meteoric minerals were found under layers of lava, which dated back to over 60 million years ago, according to the geologists. Previous rocks of this type have been collected by Nasa’s 2006 Stardust mission as space dust in the wake of the Wild 2 comet.

The minerals were from a previously unknown meteorite impact, one which will shed light on the ancient Paleogene volcanic activity which occurred across the North Atlantic all those millions of years ago. When looking closer, the geologists found that the osbornite was unmelted, which points to it being an original piece of the meteorite.

The geologists later discovered a second site, a mere seven kilometers away, that contained the same minerals. More, so the site was a two-meter-thick layer of ejecta, which is material ejected from a crater.

“We have found evidence of the impact at two sites and at another potential two sites on the Isle of Skye, at the moment.” Said Dr. Simon Drake, from Birkbeck, University of London, who made the find along with his colleague, Dr. Andrew Beard.

According to Drake, the volcanological evolution of the Isle of Skye has been previously considered to have occurred due to a volcanic plume that came up under the crust that the island was on. Now, however, they suggest that a meteorite might have been partially responsible for the volcanic event. The team of geologists published their findings in the journal, Geology.

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Key Personality Traits May Be Responsible For Longer Lives (Study)

Personality traits of older people.

Specific personality traits may be the key to living a life over 90, scientists suggest.

A new study may shed light on how to achieve long life and, believe it or not, the key to reaching 100 has nothing to do with eating healthy or avoiding alcohol. Researchers went to the Cilento region in southern Italy to investigate something truly bizarre: hundreds of residents from that area are older than 90. The study, however, focused on 29 of them, whose age ranged from 90 to 101.

The elders in question were reported to have poorer physical health than their younger family members, yet their mental health was very strong, researchers pointed out. Senior author of the study, Dr. Dilip Jeste, acknowledged that there have been numerous studies that focused on the genetics of the elderly, however, none of them looked at their mental health or personalities.

The study, which was published in the journal, International Psychogeriatrics, suggests that genes aren’t enough for longer lives but personality traits may also be an important factor.

“They have less Alzheimer’s, they have less cataracts, they have less bone fractures,” notes Alan Maisel, from the University of California, who studied the elder people in the region.

The 29 people were asked a series of questions which included topics such as migrations, belief, and traumatic events. Their younger family relatives were also interviewed in a similar manner, however, they were then asked to describe the personality traits of their older relatives.

According to the researchers, a common theme in their answers was their love of the land. In addition, the participants presented high self-confidence and decision making skills.

“We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn and needed a sense of control,” said Anna Scelzo, first author of the study with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Chiavarese, Italy.

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Man Flu Is Real And Needs To Be Taken Seriously, According to Researcher

a man with man flu

A researcher went through numerous studies to prove that man flu exists.

Kyle Sue, a Canadian scientist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland took it upon himself to prove the existence of the mythical man flu. His paper, published in the journal, BMJ, suggests that the ailment is indeed very real and should be treated as such.

Sue confessed he was “tired of being accused of over-reacting” when telling people of his flu symptoms which appeared to be way worse than what women perceive when they’re down.

The Oxford Dictionary defines man flu as “a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.”

Kyle, however, wanted to eliminate the “exaggerating” part and proceeded in analyzing previous studies to see whether men experience worse flu symptoms than women. He found evidence of this which points to an immunity gap between the two genders.

According to Sue, this immunity gap may be due to a hormonal difference, where the masculine hormone testosterone smothers the immune system while the feminine hormone estradiol protects it.

The researcher first pointed out that women respond differently to vaccines that protect against the flu, in that they are more responsive to vaccination than men.

Sue then emphasized on men’s higher risk of hospitalization due to the flu and their higher rate of influenza-related deaths compared with women. The results remained constant regardless of underlying heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory system disease, and renal disease, according to him.

The Canadian scientist urges researchers to conduct more studies into men’s responses to the symptoms. He believes they are caused by a survival instinct meant to conserve energy. He then adds as a sort of tongue-in-cheek comparison, that this survival instinct replaced avoiding predators with lying on the couch for increased chances of survivability.

Sue concludes his research by calling the term ‘man flu’ “unjust” and calls for additional research on the subject.

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E-cigarettes Can Be A Gateway to Smoking For Young People

A series of e-cigarettes

People who start smoking e-cigarettes at an early age are likely to become regular smokers, a new study suggests.

Many people can’t go cold turkey when trying to quit smoking and instead resort to e-cigarettes which can deliver nicotine into the system without damaging the lungs. That’s all well and good for those avid smokers who want a safer way of getting a quick nicotine fix. But what about the youngsters?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, young people who start smoking e-cigarettes from an early age have a higher chance of becoming regular smokers. The study monitored a group of 18- to 30-year-old non-smokers in March 2013 and then picked up 18 months later.

The 915 participants who took both surveys, with only 16 having previously tried smoking e-cigarettes. Six of those later became full-fledged smokers. 80 participants of the remaining 899 took up smoking 18 months later.

Researchers revealed that 47.7 percent of those who started using e-cigarettes went on to try smoking, as opposed to 10.2 percent of those who did not indulge in the smoking substitute.

„There have been a lot of studies and in short, they make us concerned that people who experiment with e-cigarettes… we do believe that that experience puts them at a higher risk of later transitioning,” said Dr. Brian Primack, lead author of the study and a directors of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.

According to Dr. Primach, one of the key factors which set aside the results of the study were sensation-seeking behavior and rebelliousness. While rebellion was taken into account, it did not pose any significance when associating e-cigarette smoking to regular smoking.

This observation was made as a response from Bill Godshall, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, who criticised the study by saying it is nothing more than a „witch hunts”. In Godshall’s opinion, e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking only if the person’s regular use of e-cigarettes must cause later cigarette smoking and not merely precede it. Dr. Primack addressed Godshall’s criticism by pointing out he wanted to isolate causation by taking into account other variables such as the ones described above.

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Bernie Sanders Renews His Support For President Trump’s Impeachment

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders suggested that President Trump follow in Al Franken’s footsteps and resign.

Vermont Senator and former 2016 presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, suggested on Sunday that President Donald Trump should resign over his sexual misconduct allegations. Sanders talked about Al Franken, who stepped down from the position of the senator of Minnesota after several women accused him of sexual harassment and noted that the President should do the same.

Bernie Sanders urged Trump to step down earlier this month due to the President acknowledging on tape that he assaulted women. However, the Vermont Senator does not think this is the right time for an impeachment campaign, as there isn’t enough evidence supporting Trump’s other nefarious activities. Sanders said that the majority of people want Trump to be impeached only if the president colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

Even if Sanders told Democrats to abstain, that didn’t stop 58 of them to vote to impeach Trump this week. The campaign was short-lived, however, as it eventually was overturned by the majority (364 to 58).

The Vermont Senator commended Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who is conducting the Russia investigation, and believes that solid evidence on that front is the only way for a potential impeachment.

“If Mueller brings forth the clear evidence that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think you have grounds for impeachment,” Sanders told NBC.

Sanders had upped his anti-Trump stance following Franken’s resignation over sexual misconduct allegations from several women. His voice wasn’t the only one prevalent in the Democratic circle, however. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey also urged the president to follow Franken and resign from the presidency. Senator, Jeff Merkley, of Oregon called on Alabama GOP candidate, Roy Moore, and President Trump to step down, emphasizing on sexual allegations against both men.

Trump has no plans on resigning, however, as he is already running an aggressive campaign for his reelection in 2020.

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‘Little Foot’ Is Humanity’s Earliest Ancestor To Date

Professor Ron Clarke and the skull of Little Foot

Little Foot is thought to be the oldest human ancestor to date.

It turns out that humanity’s roots are older than what’s been previously established. South African researchers have revealed an Australopithecus skeleton believed by them to be the older than 1.5 million years. It is also the oldest fossil of a human ancestor found in southern Africa, dating back 3.67 million years.

The University of Witwatersrand unveiled the complete skeleton on Wednesday. Its discovery sheds new light on mankind’s evolution, especially on our early appearance and movement.

The fossil was first discovered by Professor Ron Clarke from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in South Africa. Professor Phillip Tobias named the fossil ‘Little Foot’ due to the skeleton’s four small foot bones. ‘Little Foot’ is believed to be a close ancestor of mankind and displays a combination of ape and human characteristics. While it was previously thought that the mammal walked on its hands and feet, in-depth studies revealed the skeleton resembled humans to a greater degree.

“This is the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research and it is a privilege to unveil a finding of this importance today,” states Clarke.

Researchers have said that it took 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyze the fossil. ‘Little Foot’ was found in the Sterkfontein caves, which are 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg. Lime miners first spotted the small foot bones in blasted rock. Along with the foot bones, Clarke later found lower leg bone fragments which prompted him to send his assistants, Stephen Motsumi, and Nkwane Molege into the caves to retrieve any broken bone surfaces that might fit with what they discovered.

For 20 years since the bones’ discovery, Clarke and his team have been working hard to excavate and prepare the full skeleton. A series of full scientific studies are expected to be conducted on the ‘Little Foot’ fossil. This is the first time when a complete skeleton of a human ancestor from a South African cave has been excavated and kept in perfect condition.

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Moon-Sized Planetesimals To Have Filled Earth With Precious Metals Billions Of Years Ago

Planetesimals hitting a planet

Moon-sized Planetesimals are said to have collided with Earth in the past.

We still don’t know much about Earth’s evolution, especially how so many metals came to be on the blue rock. Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute, and the University of Maryland partnered up with the space agency, NASA, to answer this very question. It has to do with the moon.

According to the scientists, a large moon-sized planetary bodied smashed into Earth and then penetrated all the way to its core right after the moon’s formation approximately 3.8 billion years ago. When it occurred, large quantities of metals that chemically bond to metal were planted in the Earth’s mantle. These metals include gold, platinum, and iridium.

The team of researchers created high-resolution impact simulations to show how large celestial bodies could affect the Earth if they were to reach its core. They also focused on how these massive rocks would react if they’d ricochet off Earth’s surface, changing the physical make-up of the planet.

In the beginning, there were several celestial bodies in the Solar System called planetesimals.  Their size did not allow them to become planets so instead, they ended up floating in space. Planetesimals are said to have been the size of the Moon, but not big enough to be labeled as planets. According to NASA, some of these collisions were crucial to the formation of the mantle and crust of planets.

The Earth was hit by numerous planetesimals in the beginning, some of which were the size of the moon. These collisions make up for 0.5 percent of matter to the Earth’s total mass, and a lot of these fragments were carried all the way into the Earth’s core, according to the report.

“We modeled the massive collision and how metals and silicates were integrated into Earth during this ‘ late accretion state,’ which lasted for hundreds of millions of years,” states Simone Marchi, a scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Colorado and head author of the paper.

The late accretion describes the period where Earth experienced numerous collision with planetesimals.

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The Flight Patterns of Peregrine Falcons May Hold The Key To Taking Down Rogue Drones

Two Peregrine falcons in-flight

Peregrine falcons target their prey like guided missiles, according to the study.

A recent study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the movement of a Peregrine falcon may hold the key to taking out rogue drones. According to the research, Peregrine falcons can modify their trajectory in accordance with their prey, without any discernable pattern. The birds use their eyes to line up parallel to a moving target akin to a guided missile.

Researchers from Oxford University attached GPS units and cameras to eight Peregrine falcons as well as on a number of fake prey decoys.

„We spent four field seasons flying falcons in the Welsh hills, working with an experienced falconer and a qualified drone pilot,” said Caroline Brighton from Oxford University’s Department of Zoology and co-author of the study.

The flight patterns and falcon attacks were captured on video, and the results were eye-opening.  Researchers used data from 23 attacks on stationary targets and 22 attacks on moving targets to accurately pinpoint how the Peregrine falcons adjusted their dives. Instead of trying to guess where their prey might be going and setting and intercept course, Peregrine falcons maintain a line of sight while making adjustments depending on the prey’s movement.

According to the study, the bird’s trajectory follows a law known as proportional navigation, which is most commonly used in visually guided missiles. Researchers believe that such movements can be implemented in small drones that could take out other drones from protected airspace.

The report said that the method does not require any information on a target’s speed or distance but, instead, it relies on the rotation of the attacker’s line of sight to the target. The US Air Force Research Laboratory financed the study.

„Falcons are classic aerial predators, synonymous with agility and speed.”Said Graham Taylor, principal investigator professor, Graham Taylor, of the Oxford Flight Group in Oxford University’s Department of Zoology.

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Astronauts To Spacewalk A Little Safer Thanks To The “Take Me Home” Button

Two astronauts on a space walk.

A new navigational system will help astronauts orient themselves in space.

When astronauts get lost in space, they don’t get to orientate themselves in the same way a drunk person would down a street. They’d float and float until the last trace of oxygen runs out, and then a simple spacewalk turns into a deathtrap. However,  a new type of technology is set to eliminate the threat of getting lost in the cold vacuum.

Engineering firm, Draper, has come up with a new type of spacesuit which is equipped with autonomous thrusters, however, the technological setpiece comes in the form of the „Take Me Home” button. The suit is designed to automatically guide astronauts back to their home base during an emergency in space. NASA is partially funding the project, while Draper is set to develop it.

Currently, NASA astronauts on board the ISS station have a lot of fail-safes during spacewalks. One of them is that they always have to stay connected to the space station when they’re outside in space suits. However, if they do get detached, they would use their SAFER jet backpacks. These backpacks are equipped with small thrusters that are capable of propelling an astronaut in the desired direction. One thing that sets Draper’s technology apart from NASA’s current equipment is its user-friendliness. The SAFER backpack is manually operated by the astronaut and he or she would have to undergo lots of hours of training in virtual reality to become proficient.

„You see how difficult it is to complete those operations and how much time it takes to become proficient at it,” said Kevin Duda, a space systems engineer at Draper.

This prompted Draper to automatize an astronaut’s orientation system and make the SAFER backpack obsolete.

According to Duda, the „Take Me Home” button uses a high-resolution camera to form points of reference around the astronaut as well as a unit to measure how a person is moving through space. The engineer said the system would also need a guidance system to point the astronaut in the right direction. Draper has been working on an algorithm to solve just that.

The exact mechanics have yet to be explained, as Draper just recently filed a patent for the „Take Me Home” button. As of now, the firm demonstrated how the technology might work in simulations.

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