from the world's big
A new technique could eliminate heart disease with a single injection
Northwestern scientists believe they may have a way of wiping out heart disease for good.
Heart disease is the topmost killer in the world. In the US, it’s second only to cancer. In most cases, problems stem from what’s called atherosclerosis or a hardening of the arteries. This is when plaque, a hard, waxy detritus made up mostly of cholesterol, clings to artery walls and begins to build up.
Having a thinner avenue for circulating blood, the heart pumps harder to compensate, leading to high blood pressure. The arteries themselves may also become less flexible, making it more difficult for them to pump blood, meaning the body’s cells may receive less oxygen. As plaque buildup increases, the presence of blood clots become more likely. As such, atherosclerosis can also cause deep vein thrombosis, a heart attack, or stroke.
Other conditions caused by atherosclerosis include angina, chronic kidney disease, or periphery artery disease. There are drugs, such as statins, which can control so-called “bad” or LDL cholesterol. In truth, LDL and HDL cholesterol must be in balance inside the body in order to maintain proper health. Some people are even genetically predisposed to a high LDL level.
Coronary artery disease. Fatty deposits in such arteries can lead to a heart attack. Image credit: Bruce Blaus, Wikipedia Commons.
LDL cholesterol and lipids (or fat) contribute primarily to atherosclerosis. Besides drugs, procedures such as stenting and bypass surgery can help avoid a major cardiac event. Yet, each can cause damage to artery walls. Bottom line, there’s no cure for atherosclerosis, since there’s no way to reverse the process, until now.
Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, have developed an injection filled with synthetic nanofibers that can scrub arteries clean. Vascular surgery fellow Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani led this research, which was presented at a recent American Heart Association conference. The event was called, “Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine Scientific Sessions 2018.”
Dr. Mansukhani said in a press release, “Our aim was to develop a non-invasive, non-surgical, novel therapy to halt and reverse the disease by actually targeting the vessel wall with peptide-based nanofibers developed in the laboratory.“ The nanofibers are made from special amino acids that breakdown cholesterol.
A clear artery versus a clogged one. Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons.
Next, they acquired mice who had been genetically engineered to develop atherosclerosis. The mice were kept on a high fat diet for 14 weeks. Then, half of them were injected with a solution containing the microfibers, while the other half received a saline solution. Each received injections twice a week for eight weeks. “It was important that we were able to achieve reproducible results in this model in the lab,” Dr. Mansukhani said, “so first we wanted to confirm that the therapy actually targeted areas of atherosclerosis.”
Turns out, the “self-assembling peptide amphile nanofibers,” made a significant impact in reversing plaque buildup. Using imaging techniques called fluorescent microscopy and pixel quantification, researchers recorded a noticeable difference within just 24 hours, in those who had received the microfiber injections. The change lasted 72 hours total. Over the eight week trial period, male mice saw an 11% decrease in plaque, while female mice had a 9% decrease. What’s more, the nanofiber cleared the system completely in 7-10 days.
According to Dr. Mansukhani, the findings "demonstrate that a novel targeted nanofiber binds specifically to atherosclerotic lesions and reduces plaque burden after a short treatment duration." Keep in mind these are preliminary results. Many more trials lay ahead for this technique, including, if all goes well, in our species.
To learn more about atherosclerosis, click here:
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
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Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?