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Category Archives: Research

Chart: Working from Home Is More Common in Big Cities in the U.S.

Source : WFH Research

Canadian Cities Like Vancouver and Hamilton Top L.A. and Chicago As More Expensive Places to Live

Tyler Durden wrote . . . . . . . . .

Canada’s most expensive cities to live are starting to officially overtake the U.S.’s most expensive cities to live.

In fact, Mississauga, Vancouver, and Hamilton are more expensive than well known expensive U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, according to a new study from Canadian insurance provider PolicyAdvisor.

The study looked at the “10 biggest cities by population in each of Canada and the US based on the average cost of eight items in each – a cinema ticket, a meal out, a bottle of water, a cappuccino, one month of gym membership, a one way ticket and a monthly ticket on public transport as well as a month’s rent”.

Topping the list remains New York, which is the most expensive city when “considering cost of living in relation with salary”. The combined cost of the basket of 8 items that the study looked at accounted for 57% of the average salary in New York, the study found.

New York was followed by Mississauga, Canada, at 56.4% of salary, and Vancouver, Canada, at 50% of salary. Both Hamilton and Toronto, Canada beat out well known expensive U.S. cities like Los Angeles and San Diego.

New York had the “highest price of rent, at an average of $3,381.88 per month, as well as the highest gym membership cost ($103.35), monthly transportation pass ($129.5) and cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant ($25),” the study found.

Toronto had the “second highest cost of monthly transport pass after New York” and Hamilton also a high monthly travel pass, at $85. Vancouver was toward the top of the list because of its far lower salary than other cities – people earned just $3,804.53 per month there.

“The impact of the pandemic has made a lot of people reconsider their priorities for both their careers and where they want to live. This data contains some surprising results, as even though some major cities in North America might be perceived as having lower living costs – when factoring in the average salary in the area, it’s not as clear cut,” a PolicyAdvisor spokesperson said.

Source : ZeroHedge

A Glucose Meter Could Soon Say Whether You Have SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies

Over-the-counter COVID tests can quickly show whether you are infected with SARS-CoV-2. But if you have a positive result, there’s no equivalent at-home test to assess how long you’re protected against reinfection. In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers now report a simple, accurate glucose-meter-based test incorporating a novel fusion protein. The researchers say that consumers could someday use this assay to monitor their own SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels.

Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and infection with the virus itself can guard against future infections for a while, but it’s unclear exactly how long that protection lasts. A good indication of immune protection is a person’s level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, but the gold standard measurement – the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) – requires expensive equipment and specialized technicians.

Enter glucose meters, which are readily available, easy to use and can be integrated with remote clinical services. Researchers have been adapting these devices to sense other target molecules, coupling detection with glucose production. For example, if a detection antibody in the test binds to an antibody in a patient’s blood, then a reaction occurs that produces glucose — something the device detects very well. Invertase is an attractive enzyme for this type of analysis because it converts sucrose into glucose, but it’s difficult to attach the enzyme to detection antibodies with chemical approaches. So, Netzahualcóyotl Arroyo-Currás, Jamie B. Spangler and colleagues wanted to see whether producing a fusion protein consisting of both invertase and a detection antibody would work in an assay that would allow SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels to be read with a glucose meter.

The researchers designed and produced a novel fusion protein containing both invertase and a mouse antibody that binds to human immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies. They showed that the fusion protein bound to human IgGs and successfully produced glucose from sucrose. Next, the team made test strips with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on them. When dipped in COVID-19 patient samples, the patients’ SARS-CoV-2 antibodies bound to the spike protein. Adding the invertase/IgG fusion protein, then sucrose, led to the production of glucose, which could be detected by a glucose meter. They validated the test by performing the analysis with glucose meters on a variety of patient samples, and found that the new assay worked as well as four different ELISAs. The researchers say that the method can also be adapted to test for SARS-CoV-2 variants and other infectious diseases.

Source: American Chemical Society

Scientists Make Paper Durable Like Plastic, Without the Pollution

Audrey Carleton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to waterproof paper with biodegradable materials that also destroy bacteria. They’re calling it Choetsu, and they think it could make a dent in the global plastics crisis.

Detailed in a paper published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the researchers developed a silica-resin coating that can “compensate for paper’s weaknesses,” turning paper products, like single-use straws or forks, into viable alternatives to plastic by making them waterproof and durable.

“Using coated paper instead of plastic products can help to cut down on harmful waste,” Dr. Zenji Hiroi, professor in solid state chemistry at the University of Tokyo and co-author on the study, told Motherboard in an email.

“We can change the liquid composition to accommodate most materials,” he added. “The Choetsu coating will keep these materials safe for a long time.”

Choetsu is made out of titanium dioxide nanoparticles that, when dispersed in a silica-based film with a thickness of a few micrometers, can be coated on paper and degrade environmental pollutants like certain bacteria when exposed to light.

The exact ingredients that went into it were the result of countless trials by the paper’s first author, Yoko Iwamiya, who worked on it independently before Hiroi came by her side. “She has been working on it for a long time, but society’s recognition was low” due to a “lack of scientific evidence,” he told Motherboard. The team published a paper last year about the silica-resin coating, but without the addition of titanium dioxide and its associated antimicrobial effects.

Besides titanium dioxide, the liquid coating agent is composed of a cocktail of chemicals, like methyltrimethoxysilane, isopropyl alcohol, and tetraisopropyl alcohol, that harden when applied to paper and left to dry. Once dry, a layer of silica forms atop the paper, protecting it. The coating is porous, and has absorptive properties, so it captures pollutants and decomposes them via photocatalysis—a reaction that occurs when an object absorbs light—protecting them from the elements better than a paper product would on its own.

“Paper cutlery may be the most straightforward application,” Hiroi said. “We have already created some prototypes in collaboration with industry. The paper package can be reinforced and used even in the rain. Agricultural mulch for weed control can be made from coated paper and degrade in nature without harming the environment. Any paper product will gain more application options.”

He added that the substance shouldn’t just be used for paper. Should Choetsu prove scalable, it can be applied to ceramic, glass, and even plastic, he said.

“Once the coating liquid’s ingredients are determined, simply brush it on the materials and allow it to dry,” Hiroi told Motherboard. “Because the process is so simple, it can be applied to a wide range of products.”

Source: VICE

A New Type of Charging Cable Could Charge Electric Cars in 5 minutes

Tim Levin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ford and Purdue University are working on a new cable that they say could help electric cars charge up in about the amount of time it takes to fill up a gas tank.

The technology is still patent-pending and the prototype cord hasn’t been tested with an electric vehicle yet. But Purdue’s research is a promising step toward making clean, battery-powered cars as convenient as ones that run on polluting fossil fuels.

As it stands now, charging electric cars can be a slow and painful process. Charging times vary, but even the best cars under optimal conditions need to stay plugged in for around 30 minutes to slurp up enough electricity to take them from a low battery to nearly full. With a slower charger, it can take hours or days.

Understandably, this is too much to bear for some people accustomed to quick fill-ups in their gas-powered cars. But Purdue engineers funded by Ford say they’ve made a breakthrough that could slash charging times to five minutes or less.

They’ve done this by addressing one of the key challenges hindering charging speed: overheating. The faster current flows through a charging system, the hotter everything gets, from the battery to the charging cable.

Cooling things down can allow for higher currents and faster charging — and that’s exactly what Purdue has done. Researchers developed a cable that uses liquid-and-vapor cooling to accommodate a current of over 2,400 amps, almost five times that of today’s most advanced EV chargers. Tesla Superchargers, Purdue says, deliver up to 520 amps.

Only 1,400 amps are needed to bring charging times for large EVs down below five minutes, the researchers said.

But a cool charging cable is just one piece of the puzzle, and ultra-quick charging is still a ways away. For five-minute charging to become reality, we’ll need charging stations that can deliver more power and cars that can accept it.

Source : Business Insider

Read more at Purdue University

Electric vehicles could fully recharge in under 5 minutes with new charging station cable design . . . . .

Research Shows the Role Empathy May Play in Music

Can people who understand the emotions of others better interpret emotions conveyed through music? A new study by an international team of researchers suggests the abilities are linked.

The study’s results provide a foundation for future research that could test the impact of socially engaged music listening on social cognitive ability, and whether listening to music can be added to therapeutic techniques used in social skills training for individuals with autism spectrum disorders or schizophrenia.

The findings were published recently in Emotion, a scientific journal of the American Psychological Association.

The study was led by Benjamin A. Tabak, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Social and Clinical Neuroscience Lab (SCN) at SMU (Southern Methodist University) and Zachary Wallmark, assistant professor of musicology and affiliated faculty at the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon.

“Empathy is most often thought of in the context of social interactions, but there are many other forms of social communication, including music,” Tabak said. “Music can convey meaning and emotion and also elicit emotional responses, but the mechanisms responsible for its emotional power are poorly understood.”

Tabak and his colleagues wanted to test their theory about empathy and music. For the purposes of this study, they measured the ability to correctly understand others’ thoughts and feelings (empathic accuracy) and the extent to which one feels the emotions that another feels (affect sharing).

“We thought it would be interesting to study whether people who more accurately understand others’ thoughts and feelings might also be more accurate in understanding what musicians are intending to convey through music,” Tabak said. “Similarly, we wanted to know whether people who tend to feel the emotions that others are experiencing also tend to feel the emotions conveyed through music.”

The initial set of findings found support for both hypotheses. In particular, the results suggest that empathic accuracy as a skill extends beyond interpersonal interactions into music. Researchers hope these results will provide a foundation for future studies regarding the impact active, engaged music listening may have on improving social cognition.

Tabak and Wallmark believe that the study provides tentative support for the theory that music is first and foremost a social behavior that evolved to help individuals connect with others and better understand and manage their social environment.

“This matters on several levels, including the potential to develop new music-based interventions that may assist individuals with difficulties in understanding how others think and feel,” Tabak added.

Tabak pointed to the interdisciplinary approach he and his colleagues used during their study as a template for future research projects in this area. In addition to Tabak and Wallmark, whose scholarly work falls in psychology and musicology, respectively, the research team also included two statisticians and another psychologist with expertise in social cognition in schizophrenia.

“When we came up with this idea several years ago at a coffee shop in Dallas, researchers had only conducted studies that indirectly addressed these research questions, few of the previous studies had included large samples, and none had included a replication study,” Tabak said.

“We also hope that our work will highlight the value of conducting interdisciplinary research that spans the sciences and humanities,” he added. “Work like this, that takes a well-known psychological construct like empathy and examines it in an unconventional way by asking what people think a musical composer is trying to convey through a piece of music, might propel others to ‘think outside of the box’ and ultimately gain a greater understanding of a process though interdisciplinary collaboration,” he said.

Source: Southern Methodist University

A Jump Through Time – New Technique Rewinds the Age of Skin Cells by 30 years

Research from the Babraham Institute has developed a method to ‘time jump’ human skin cells by 30 years, turning back the ageing clock for cells without losing their specialised function. Work by researchers in the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme has been able to partly restore the function of older cells, as well as rejuvenating the molecular measures of biological age. The research is published today in the journal eLife and whilst at an early stage of exploration, it could revolutionise regenerative medicine.

What is regenerative medicine?

As we age, our cells’ ability to function declines and the genome accumulates marks of ageing. Regenerative biology aims to repair or replace cells including old ones. One of the most important tools in regenerative biology is our ability to create ‘induced’ stem cells. The process is a result of several steps, each erasing some of the marks that make cells specialised. In theory, these stem cells have the potential to become any cell type, but scientists aren’t yet able to reliably recreate the conditions to re-differentiate stem cells into all cell types.

Turning back time

The new method, based on the Nobel Prize winning technique scientists use to make stem cells, overcomes the problem of entirely erasing cell identity by halting reprogramming part of the way through the process. This allowed researchers to find the precise balance between reprogramming cells, making them biologically younger, while still being able to regain their specialised cell function.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka was the first scientist to turn normal cells, which have a specific function, into stem cells which have the special ability to develop into any cell type. The full process of stem cell reprogramming takes around 50 days using four key molecules called the Yamanaka factors. The new method, called ‘maturation phase transient reprogramming’, exposes cells to Yamanaka factors for just 13 days. At this point, age-related changes are removed and the cells have temporarily lost their identity. The partly reprogrammed cells were given time to grow under normal conditions, to observe whether their specific skin cell function returned. Genome analysis showed that cells had regained markers characteristic of skin cells (fibroblasts), and this was confirmed by observing collagen production in the reprogrammed cells.

Age isn’t just a number

To show that the cells had been rejuvenated, the researchers looked for changes in the hallmarks of ageing. As explained by Dr Diljeet Gill, a postdoc in Wolf Reik’s lab at the Institute who conducted the work as a PhD student: “Our understanding of ageing on a molecular level has progressed over the last decade, giving rise to techniques that allow researchers to measure age-related biological changes in human cells. We were able to apply this to our experiment to determine the extent of reprogramming our new method achieved.”

Researchers looked at multiple measures of cellular age. The first is the epigenetic clock, where chemical tags present throughout the genome indicate age. The second is the transcriptome, all the gene readouts produced by the cell. By these two measures, the reprogrammed cells matched the profile of cells that were 30 years younger compared to reference data sets.

The potential applications of this technique are dependent on the cells not only appearing younger, but functioning like young cells too. Fibroblasts produce collagen, a molecule found in bones, skin tendons and ligaments, helping provide structure to tissues and heal wounds. The rejuvenated fibroblasts produced more collagen proteins compared to control cells that did not undergo the reprogramming process. Fibroblasts also move into areas that need repairing. Researchers tested the partially rejuvenated cells by creating an artificial cut in a layer of cells in a dish. They found that their treated fibroblasts moved into the gap faster than older cells. This is a promising sign that one day this research could eventually be used to create cells that are better at healing wounds.

In the future, this research may also open up other therapeutic possibilities; the researchers observed that their method also had an effect on other genes linked to age-related diseases and symptoms. The APBA2 gene, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and the MAF gene with a role in the development of cataracts, both showed changes towards youthful levels of transcription.

The mechanism behind the successful transient reprogramming is not yet fully understood, and is the next piece of the puzzle to explore. The researchers speculate that key areas of the genome involved in shaping cell identity might escape the reprogramming process.

Diljeet concluded: “Our results represent a big step forward in our understanding of cell reprogramming. We have proved that cells can be rejuvenated without losing their function and that rejuvenation looks to restore some function to old cells. The fact that we also saw a reverse of ageing indicators in genes associated with diseases is particularly promising for the future of this work.”

Professor Wolf Reik, who lead the research, said: “This work has very exciting implications. Eventually, we may be able to identify genes that rejuvenate without reprogramming, and specifically target those to reduce the effects of ageing. This approach holds promise for valuable discoveries that could open up an amazing therapeutic horizon.”

Source: Babraham Institute

Self-Spreading Vaccine Research Could Spin Out of Control, Experts Warn

George Dvorsky wrote . . . . . . . . .

Imagine a future scenario in which a dangerous new virus is detected in chimpanzees. To prevent this virus from spreading to humans, biologists decide to deliberately infect scores of wild chimps with a transmissible vaccine—an infectious, lab-grown virus that immunizes, rather than harms, its host. The chimps, now vaccinated, no longer pose a threat to humans.

That solution sounds too good to be true, which is exactly the problem, as scientists warn in a new Policy Forum published today in Science. Self-spreading vaccines are potentially dangerous and difficult to manage, and are “genetically too unstable to be used safely and predictably outside contained facilities,” write the authors, led by Filippa Lentzos from King’s College London and Guy Reeves from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

This is not just their opinion, the authors argue. Rather, it’s an “evidence-based norm” that’s been around for decades, but this “norm now seems to be challenged,” they write. The result is an increased potential for “risky research on lab-modified self-spreading viruses,” according to the report. This could lead to a normalization of the concept and eventual real-world use without the proper safeguards, the scientists argue.

“Self-spreading vaccine research continues to proceed despite a lack of new information that would compellingly refute long-standing evidence-based norms in virology, evolutionary biology, vaccine development, international law, public health, risk assessment, and other disciplines,” the biologists write.

Vaccines that spread like a disease are an unquestionably powerful concept. They could be used to protect animals from disease and/or prevent them from harboring viruses dangerous to humans. In 2020, biologists Scott Nuismer and James Bull, both at the University of Idaho, argued for this very approach in a paper titled “Self-disseminating vaccines to suppress zoonoses.” (By self-disseminating virus, scientists mean a virus that has been artificially modified to perform a desired function while retaining its ability to spread between hosts.)

By leveraging the spreading power of viruses, scientists could create biological agents that proliferate quickly through a target population, with the viruses performing specific tasks, such as delivering vaccines or sterilizing invasive species. In the late 1980s, Australian researchers dabbled with lab-modified, contagious viruses, using multiple approaches to exterminate foxes, mice, and rabbits, according to the paper.

More conceptually—and certainly more controversially—this strategy could also be used to spread vaccines among humans.

As the paper points out, interest in this biotechnology has increased significantly over the past several years, with the European Union (through its Horizon 2020 program), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency all currently running programs to explore a wide range of possible applications.

Lentzos, Reeves, and colleagues say it’s time to pump the brakes and consider the consequences of this research and all the moving parts needed to make such a thing work. It’s not immediately clear, they argue, that self-disseminating viruses can be contained or removed from an environment once released, or who would be responsible for the biocontrol agent, should the virus behave unexpectedly or cross national boundaries.

Advocates of the idea say these viruses could be modified to have short lifespans or be made incapable of mutating, but “it remains to be experimentally tested if [manipulations] could simultaneously limit viral replication transmissibility to the extent that they could be perceived as controllable while maintaining sufficient transmissibility to be considered useful as vaccines in continually dynamic environments,” according to the report.

As for using transmissible vaccines to limit the spread of diseases from animals to humans, the scientists say the “the vast majority of virus species that currently exist are undescribed by science,” making it “very difficult to imagine how the considerable effort necessary to develop and test self-spreading vaccines could identify and then prioritize single viral species circulating in wildlife.” That viruses are constantly mutating makes this task all the more onerous, they add.

In terms of what’s needed, the authors call for various safeguards, cost-benefit analyses, and measures such as regulatory oversight. This would involve “a concerted, global governance effort with coherent regional, national, and local implementation.” The essay suggests that national governments update their legislation and guidelines on the matter, while developers and funders of this research “articulate comprehensive and credible regulatory paths through which they believe the safety and efficacy of self-spreading approaches could be established.”

In an email, Bull, co-author of the 2020 paper advocating for research into this biotechnology, said the authors of the new report “raise several valid points,” and he agrees that “informed regulatory oversight is essential,” adding that “public acceptance is also essential.”

“Until we undertake preliminary studies of transmissible vaccines (in contained environments), we will have little evidence on which to base estimated risks and benefits,” Bull told Gizmodo. “It is to be expected that early papers on transmissible vaccines explore the theoretical possibilities, many of which will never be practical or, as further work may show, never be safe.”

In an effort to move ahead cautiously, Bull recommended conservative approaches, such as creating a vaccine from a benign virus that already exists in a target population, as opposed to modifying an otherwise harmful virus. Work into gene drives, a related technology in which modified organisms engineer an entire species, could also help. “Just as gene drive developers have responded to regulatory concerns and have invented new designs with limited potential for spread, it is expected that investment in laboratory studies of transmissible vaccines will also lead to methods that mitigate risks,” Bull argued.

The idea of transmissible vaccines might die on the vine, whether on account of technical issues, safety concerns, or lack of public acceptance. But, clearly, dedicated research attention is needed, since the potential benefits—and risks—are immense.

Source : GIZMODO

Read also at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Scientists are working on vaccines that spread like a disease. What could possibly go wrong? . . . . .

Infographic: 关于中國加强科技伦理治理的意见

China Sanctions Hundreds of Researchers Following Fraud Investigation

Dalmeet Singh Chawla wrote . . . . . . . . .

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has sanctioned hundreds of researchers after an investigation concluded that they had published studies using fraudulent practices.

On 1 December, MOST announced the outcome of its probe into 235 allegedly fake papers, with the agency concluding that 119 are definitely fraudulent.

‘That’s a very conservative number,’ concludes Xiaotian Chen, an information scientist at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Chen notes that microbiologist-turned-science integrity expert Elisabeth Bik based in San Francisco, California, has flagged hundreds more fake studies that are produced by so-called paper mills, which churn out fake but plausible papers for cash.

The announcement is the latest development in China’s crackdown on fake-paper factories in the country. In October, two other major research funders in China – the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NHC) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) – revealed that they had collectively punished at least 23 researchers for using paper mills.

In September 2020, MOST introduced new rules to target paper mills and other forms of research misconduct.

In the latest investigation, MOST says it has already penalised the 293 researchers who collectively claimed to have authored the 119 studies found to be fake, the agency said in its statement.

MOST temporarily banned 255 of those researchers from federal funding, while recovering bonuses from 42 academics to the tune of RMB460,000 (£54,500), and revoking the degrees of nine researchers caught up in the scandal.

MOST didn’t specify which degrees they revoked but Chen thinks they are likely to be doctorates. Additionally, 20 researchers had their professional titles revoked and 155 had their promotions temporarily revoked.

Chen is pleased by the latest announcement. ‘They have been slow in doing this, but a step forward is a good step,’ he says. ‘This is proof that progress is being made.’

But Chen notes that MOST and other funders should also go after those running the paper mills, who are open for business and advertising widely on the web including social media. ‘A lot of paper mills brag about their accomplishments on the internet.’

‘While punishments for the authors on these falsified papers will serve as a deterrent to people planning to do something similar in the future, it would be even better if the ministry would shut down the scientific paper mills themselves,’ agrees Bik. Dropping the requirement for trainee medical doctors to publish a peer-reviewed paper to secure a clinical position at a hospital will also help move away from widespread fraud, Bik adds.

‘It is this rule – which is very hard to fulfill for [medical doctors] who work long shifts in hospitals without time or facilities to do research – that has made a lot of these MDs “buy” an authorship on a fabricated paper, and it is this rule that has created paper mills who sell such papers to these doctors,’ Bik explains. ‘Forcing medical professionals without an interest or time to do research to write a paper was just not a great decision.’

Source : Chemistry World

Caixin reported recently China has named and shamed more than 600 medical workers linked to some 520 faked papers since June 2021 as part of a crackdown on plagiarism and other misconduct in the medical community that has dented the country’s scholarly reputation.

The faked papers were revealed in a string of statements published from last June to March this year on the website of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Investigations into research at more than 240 medical and educational institutions found that the production of the papers involved illegal activities such as trading, ghostwriting and falsifying research processes and data, according to the statements.