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News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

An international team of scientists has produced the world's first computerised tomography (CT) images of biological tissue using protons - a momentous step towards improving the quality and feasibility of Proton Therapy for cancer sufferers around the world. The ground-breaking work means that detailed three-dimensional images of a patient's anatomy can now be created using protons rather than x-rays, and this will make Proton Therapy a more viable option for millions of cancer patients. Proton Therapy is a new form of radiotherapy which is rapidly growing in importance as a means to treat difficult tumours and provide treatment for children and young people who have cancer. In the UK, two NHS Proton Therapy Centres are set to open within the next two years, in London and Manchester. By using protons to create CT images of a patient's anatomy and tumour, scientists and doctors will now be able to more accurately target the tumour itself and ensure that much less radiation is deposited in the surrounding healthy tissue. This major breakthrough was achieved by the international PRaVDA consortium, led by Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering Nigel Allinson MBE at the University of Lincoln, UK. His team has been working in the Proton Therapy facility at the iThemba LABS, South Africa, using the South African National Cyclotron - a type of particle accelerator - and they are the first in the world to produce clinical-quality Proton CT imagery. "To produce these Proton CT images, we built a unique medical imaging platform which uses the same high energy particles that are used to destroy a tumour during Proton Therapy treatment," explained Professor Allinson. "Like x-rays, protons can penetrate tissue to reach deep tumours. However, compared to x-rays, protons cause less damage to healthy tissue in front of the tumour, and no damage at all to healthy tissue lying behind, which greatly reduces the side effects of radiation therapy. "The images we have created are in fact of a humble lamb chop, but they highlight the fantastic potential for using Proton CT images to aid cancer treatment in the very near future - as part as the planning process, as well as during and after treatments. "Proton Therapy is likely to become the preferred radiotherapy method for most childhood cancers, as the unwanted exposure to radiation of healthy tissue is much reduced, and so therefore is the risk of second cancers later in life. Having the ability to administer a high dose in a small region is the main underlying advantage of Proton Therapy, however accurate planning is absolutely essential to ensure that the dose does not miss the target tumour." The team has compared their first Proton CT image with a conventional x-ray CT. Although the Proton CT is currently slightly blurrier than the x-ray image, it shows exactly how protons interact with tissues - the same way that the treatment protons do. Currently in Proton Therapy, there is a significant degree of uncertainty in the range and accuracy of protons during treatment. If planned using x-ray CT images, there could be a discrepancy of 3-5% in terms of where the proton beam hits and releases its energy, destroying cells. With proton CT images, this uncertainty is reduced to less than 1%. PRaVDA has recorded the lowest ever levels of uncertainty in the relative stopping power of protons when tested on a range of tissue surrogates. The relative stopping power of protons is the key parameter in being able to plan radiotherapy treatments accurately. In addition, the PRaVDA team has discovered that there are a number of measurable parameters of protons as they pass through the patient, which will produce a set of complementary CT images. This finding opens up a totally new medical imaging field - one that will be exploited in the next generation of PRaVDA's unique medical imaging instrument. This technology represents one of the most complex medical instruments ever developed, as imaging with protons is so challenging. Millions of protons make up a single image and each particle has to be individually tracked from the point it enters the patient to the point where it leaves. The PRaVDA consortium, funded by a £1.8 million translation grant from the Wellcome Trust and led by the University of Lincoln, consists of five UK universities, four UK NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, University of Cape Town and IThemba LABS, South Africa, and Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden.


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The nineteenth tropical cyclone of the Southern Pacific Ocean season formed and is now threatening Fiji. NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured an image of the storm shortly after it developed. Tropical Cyclone Ella was tropical storm strength at 1500 UTC (11 a.m. EDT) on May 9. It was located about 150 nautical miles west-southwest of Pago Pago, near 14.9 degrees south latitude and 173.6 degrees west longitude. Ella had maximum sustained winds near 45 knots (52 mph/83 kph), and is not expected to reach hurricane force. Ella was moving to the west-northwest at a crawl of 2 knots (2.3 mph/3.7 kph). On May 9 at 0354 UTC (May 8 at 11:54 p.m. EDT) NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured a visible image of newly developed Tropical Cyclone Ella northeast of the island of Fiji. The imagery showed a consolidating system with flaring thunderstorm development around the center of circulation. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that the environment is conducive for development with warm sea surface temperatures and low vertical wind shear. However, because Tropical Cyclone Donna is located to the west its outflow is impeding Ella's own outflow. A tropical cyclone needs outflow of air from the top of the system to maintain strength or strengthen. For updated forecasts and warnings from the Fiji Meteorological Service, visit: http://www. In three days, Ella is expected to move into an environment with high vertical wind shear which is expected to weaken the system as it approaches a landfall in Fiji.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The possibility of sending and receiving holographic messages has long tantalized sci-fi fans. Although we're not there yet, scientists have now created holograms that can change from one image to another as the materials used to generate them are stretched. The study detailing how they did it appears in ACS' journal Nano Letters. To make their holograms, Ritesh Agarwal and colleagues turned to metasurfaces, which are flat, ultra-thin nanostructured surfaces. Previous studies have already used such materials to create 3-D and multi-color holograms, and Agarwal's team has made them recently by embedding gold nanorods in a stretchable film of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Building on this work, Agarwal wanted to understand how a holographic image changes with stretching and to see if they could use this information to create a hologram that can switch between images. Using computational models and experiments, they calculated how much a holographic image expands as the material generating it stretches, and how far the image plane moves away from its original position. Based on these findings, they created multi-layered holograms made up of two or three different images. As the surface stretches, one image appears in the place of another. So, for example, a pentagon appears at 340 micrometers away from the film in its relaxed state. Pulling on the material by a certain amount makes a square appear, and stretching it even further replaces the square image with a triangle. The new method could have applications in virtual reality, flat displays and optical communications. The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation. Watch the hologram change shape in this Headline Science video. The paper's abstract will be available on May 10 here: http://pubs. . The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific Ocean season was already losing steam when the Suomi NPP satellite passed overhead the day it formed. By the next day, May 11, Tropical Storm Adrian weakened to a remnant low pressure area. After Tropical Storm Adrian reached tropical storm stage on May 10 the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible-light image of the storm. The VIIRS imagery showed a concentration of strong thunderstorms around the low-level circulation center. The center of Adrian was in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, off-shore from southwestern Mexico By 5 a.m. EDT on May 11, Adrian had weakened to a depression. At that time the depression was located about 385 miles (615 km) south-southeast of Salina Cruz Mexico. Five hours later, NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued the final advisory on Adrian as the storm weakened even further into a remnant low pressure area. At 11 a.m. EDT (1500 UTC), NHC noted that the center of Post-Tropical Cyclone Adrian was located near latitude 11.3 North and longitude 93.8 West. The post-tropical cyclone was moving toward the northwest near 7 mph (11 kph) and a gradual turn toward the west-northwest is expected over the next 48 hours. Maximum sustained winds dropped to near 30 mph (45 kph) with higher gusts. Some weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours. The estimated minimum central pressure is 1008 millibars. NHC forecaster Richard Pasch noted in a discussion that the "Adrian consists of a rather insignificant-looking swirl of low clouds with just a few isolated showers. The system has been devoid of significant deep convection since yesterday afternoon, so it is being declared a remnant low." Thus ends the life of the first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific Ocean hurricane season, just one day after it formed.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The first tropical storm in the Eastern Pacific Ocean has formed west of Costa Rica as NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP Satellite passed overhead. Tropical Storm Adrian's formation has already made a mark in hurricane history. Although Eastern Pacific hurricane season doesn't start officially until May 15, it's just a marker. We've already seen the first tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean form in early May. In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, that's unusual. The first Eastern Pacific Ocean tropical cyclone formed on Tuesday, May 9 around 4 p.m. EDT when the National Hurricane Center designated Tropical Depression 1E at about 335 miles (540 km) south-southwest of San Salvador, El Salvador Forecaster Stewart of NOAA's National Hurricane Center noted that when the depression strengthened into the first tropical storm of the season, it became the earliest tropical storm to ever form during the satellite era. On May 9 at 19:12 UTC 3:12 p.m. EDT) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite captured a visible light image of Tropical Depression 1E off the western coast of Central America. Strong thunderstorms appeared tightly wrapped around the center of circulation and in a thick band wrapping into the center from the north. At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC) on May 10 the center of Tropical Storm Adrian was located near latitude 10.0 north and longitude 92.7 west. That's about 460 miles (740 km) south-southeast of Salina Cruz, Mexico. Maximum sustained winds were near 45 mph (75 kph) with higher gusts, and the National Hurricane Center noted that some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours. The estimated minimum central pressure is 1004 millibars. Adrian was moving toward the northwest near 7 mph (11 kph), and this general motion is expected during the next couple of days. Adrian is moving over warm waters and the shear is low, gradual strengthening is still forecast. Adrian is expected to move west-northwest and turn to the north where it is forecast to approach the Gulf of Tehuantepec after 5 days.


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

This island of Fiji appears to be "bookended" by tropical cyclones in imagery from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite. Tropical Cyclone Donna is west of Fiji and newly developed Tropical Cyclone Ella has developed east of the island. On May 9 at 0354 UTC (May 8 at 11:54 p.m. EDT) ) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible-light image when it passed over Vanuatu NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured a visible image that showed Tropical Cyclones Donna west of Fiji and Ella northeast of the island in the South Pacific. Warnings are in effect in New Caledonia. New Caledonian warnings include a Cyclonic alert level 2 for the communities of Houaïlou, Kouaoua, Canala, Thio, Yaté, Ouvéa, Lifou and Maré, and Alert level 1 for the communities of Boulouparis, Païta, Dumbéa, Nouméa, du Mont-Dore, and the Île des Pins. For updated local forecasts, visit: http://www. . At 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT) on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Tropical Cyclone Donna's maximum sustained winds were near 103.6 mph (90 knots/166.7 kph) as it was moving to the southeast at 10.3 mph (9 knots/16.6 kph). It was centered near 20.5 degrees east latitude and 167.5 degrees east longitude, about 138 nautical miles north-northeast of Noumea, New Caledonia. Animated enhanced infrared satellite imagery depicts a rapidly weakening system with warming cloud tops. Satellite data showed a ragged eye. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that "Environmental conditions continue to deteriorate and will weaken the system significantly over the next 48 hours. An approaching trough (elongated area of low pressure) from the west is introducing strong westerly flow aloft, thus impeding the poleward exhaust channel and will steadily increase vertical wind shear throughout the forecast period. Donna is also drifting into cooler waters and this trend will continue along the forecast track." Donna is expected to begin transitioning into an extra-tropical system in the next day and is forecast to complete transition by sometime on May 11.


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

In people with photosensitive epilepsy, flashing lights are well known for their potential to trigger seizures. The results can be quite stunning. For instance, a particular episode of Pokémon sent 685 people in Japan to the hospital. But seizures can be triggered by certain still images, too. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on May 8 who have conducted an extensive review of the scientific literature think they know what it is about some static pictures that can trigger seizures. The key, they propose, is a particular repetitive pattern of neural activity in the brain known as gamma oscillations that occurs when people view certain images, such as black and white bar patterns, and not others. In fact, the researchers say, it's possible that those kinds of images are responsible for other problems, such as migraine headaches, particularly in people who are generally sensitive to light. "Our findings imply that in designing buildings, it may be important to avoid the types of visual patterns that can activate this circuit and cause discomfort, migraines, or seizures," says Dora Hermes of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands. "Even perfectly healthy people may feel modest discomfort from the images that are most likely to trigger seizures in photosensitive epilepsy." Gamma oscillations in the brain can be measured on an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures electrical activity in the brain using small electrodes attached to the scalp. Scientists have studied them since the 1980s, but there's no consensus yet on the significance of those patterns for thought, perception, or neural processing. "Some scientists argue that these oscillations are hugely important and essential for awareness, attention, and neuronal communication, while others say that they are more likely a byproduct of normal neuronal processing, like the exhaust coming out of a car--a potentially useful diagnostic signal, but not one that makes the neuronal machinery work," Hermes says. One argument against the idea that gamma oscillations are important for neural processing is that they are produced in the brain when viewing some images and not others. Grating patterns produce strong gamma oscillations while puffy clouds or many natural scenes typically do not for reasons that scientists don't fully understand. In the new report, Hermes and her colleagues, including Jonathan Winawer at New York University and Dorothée Kasteleijn-Nolst Trenité at UMC Utrecht, conclude that those gamma-oscillation-provoking images are also most likely to trigger seizures. There are simple ways to adjust an image so as to dampen that pattern of brain activity, they note. Those adjustments include reducing the contrast, adjusting the width of the bars, or shifting the image from a grate design to something more like plaid. "What we distinguish in this proposal is that the link between images that trigger photosensitive epilepsy and normal brain activity is particular to gamma oscillations, and not to other forms or neuronal responses like the overall rate of action potentials," Winawer says. The findings suggest that existing studies on gamma oscillations might offer important clues for understanding photosensitive epilepsy. Hermes and her colleagues are now designing studies to explore these patterns of brain response in patients with photosensitive epilepsy and those without. They're also working on a model to predict which natural images or scenes--a city scene, train station, or interior design, for instance--are most likely to provoke gamma oscillations and seizures. This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the EU program Marie Curie MEXCT-CT-2005-024224 "Visual Sensitivity." Current Biology (@CurrentBiology), published by Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that features papers across all areas of biology. Current Biology strives to foster communication across fields of biology, both by publishing important findings of general interest and through highly accessible front matter for non-specialists. Visit: http://www. . To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Tropical Cyclone Ella has large bands of thunderstorms wrapping around the center and from the east of center in imagery from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite. On May 11 at 0136 UTC (May 10 at 9:36 p.m. EDT) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible-light image of Tropical Cyclone Ella in the South Pacific. Although an eye wasn't visible in the VIIRS image, microwave satellite imagery revealed a well-defined eye about 20 nautical miles in diameter. In addition to visible imagery, animated multispectral satellite imagery showed developing thunderstorms with curved banding wrapping into the defined low level circulation center. At 0300 UTC on May 11 (11 p.m. EDT, May 10) Tropical Cyclone Ella's maximum sustained winds increased to near 63 mph (55 knots/102 kph) as it continued moving to the west at 2.3 mph (2 knots /3.7 kph). It was centered near 14.4 degrees east latitude and 177.0 degrees west longitude, about 358 nautical miles northeast of Suva, Fiji. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center said that "Environmental analysis indicates [Ella] is in an area of favorable sea surface temperatures and fair outflow, however, vertical wind shear is moderate (15 to 20 knots)." Ella has is expected to track to the southwest over the next 12 to 24 hours as an elongated area of low pressure or trough moves into the region and re-orients the steering flow. Ella is expected to weaken in three days as it approaches Fiji. Fiji Meteorological Service issued a gale warning remains for Vanua Levu, Taveuni and nearby smaller islands. A strong wind warning remains in effect for Lau and Lomaiviti group and the eastern part of Viti Levu.


PITTSBURGH, May 22, 2017 - The first known identification of two genes responsible for hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital heart defect, has been reported by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings are published today in the journal Nature Genetics. Congenital heart disease, or structural abnormalities in the heart that are present at birth, affect up to 1 percent of all live births. HLHS is a rare congenital heart disease where the left side of the heart is poorly developed, resulting in an inability to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body. It occurs in about 2 to 3 of every 10,000 live births in the United States, and is fatal if left untreated. Current treatment for HLHS involves multiple complex surgeries in the first few years of a child's life, and while effective in many patients, it does not improve heart function in many others. In those individuals, heart failure ensues and heart transplantation is required. The five-year survival rate for HLHS patients is approximately 50 to 70 percent. Though genetic risk factors are known to play a role in HLHS, specific genes have been hard to identify. "Studying diseases with complex genetics is extremely challenging. Our study has been made possible by leveraging findings from a large-scale analysis in mice to recover mutations causing congenital heart defects. This resulted in the recovery of the first mouse models of HLHS. Analysis of these mice with HLHS allowed us to identify for the first time two genes interacting in combination to cause HLHS," said Cecilia Lo, Ph.D., professor at Pitt's School of Medicine who also holds the F. Sargent Cheever Chair in Developmental Biology. "By understanding the genetics and biology of HLHS, this can facilitate development of new therapies to improve the prognosis for these patients." Lo and her team used fetal ultrasound imaging to screen mice with experimentally induced mutations, looking for structural heart defects. From this screen, they recovered eight different mouse strains with structural and functional heart defects indicative of HLHS. By comparing the genome of mice with the HLHS heart defects to the genome of normal mice, Lo and her team identified several hundred mutations in the HLHS mutant strains. Further analysis of these mutant mice indicated the genetic origins of HLHS likely involve many interacting genes. The relevance of these mutations was reinforced by the fact that many also were found in the same chromosomal regions previously shown to be associated with HLHS from human genetic studies. In one mouse strain, they discovered that mutations in two genes, named Sap130 and Pcdha9, were required for HLHS. "Interestingly, HLHS was found only in animals with mutations in both genes. However, animals that had mutations with Pcdha9, but not Sap130, can display defects in the aorta, but with normal-sized left ventricles, suggesting interaction between the two genes is needed to cause all the features of HLHS," said Xiaoqin Liu, M.D., Ph.D., the first author of the new study and a research instructor in Lo's lab. Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in mice, the researchers confirmed that mutations in these two genes can cause HLHS. Additionally, they sequenced 68 HLHS patient samples and found one individual with rare mutations in both SAP130 and PCDHA genes. Molecular analysis showed that heart cells in affected animals were poorly developed and had mitochondrial defects, indicating that Sap130-Pcdha9 gene interactions play a crucial role not only in heart development but also in regulating metabolic function of the cardiac muscle. These findings suggest HLHS may be associated with a fundamental cellular defect in the heart muscle that can compromise blood flow in patients. This has important therapeutic implications, as surgical repair will not be able to address the cellular muscle defect in HLHS patients, noted Lo. The researchers are investigating other mutations identified through the genetic screen and plan to undertake more genetic analysis of HLHS patients to better understand the molecular and genetic factors that cause the disease. Other study authors included researchers from Pitt, The Jackson Laboratory, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Children's National Medical Center, Boston Children's Hospital, University of San Diego School of Medicine and Medical College of Wisconsin. The study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants U01-HL098180, R01-HL132024, R01-GM104412, S10-OD010340, R01-MH094564, OD011185, the Children's Heart Foundation, and the Junior Cooperative Society. About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support. Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see http://www. .


News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Renal cell carcinoma is one of the most frequent and deadly urogenital cancers. Even if the tumors are treated, they ultimately end in metastasis in about half of the patients. 90 percent of these patients die within five years. Thanks to new kinds of immunotherapies, the outlook of this patient group has improved, but the treatment only works for a minority of patients. To find out more about the body`s own defense against cancer cells - and how it can be strengthened - researchers headed by Bernd Bodenmiller at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences of the University of Zurich have individually analyzed a total of 3.5 million immune cells in the tumor samples of 73 patients with renal cell carcinoma and in five healthy controls. "The previous picture of immune defense was correct, but coarse," says first author of the study, Stéphane Chevrier. "With our methods to analyze individual immune cells, we have been able to create an immunological atlas of the tumor environment for the first time with high resolution and in a large patient cohort. As a result, many more facets have now come to light." Whether a tumor can develop and persist at a certain point in the body mainly depends on the response of the immune system in the direct vicinity of the tumor. As the scientists report in the journal Cell, they have identified new relationships between the various immune cells thanks to the immune atlas. In particular, the researchers have defined so-called immune cell signatures connected to the prognosis of the patients. The type and number of protein structures on the surface of immune cells play an essential role in regard to how the disease proceeds and how a patient responds to immunotherapies. "Such information can help us better understand how these treatments can be adapted individually within the scope of personalized medicine," Bernd Bodenmiller concludes. In addition, Bodenmiller's team has shown that certain surface molecules with a therapeutic use (so-called checkpoints, such as PD-1 or CTLA-4) cannot be found on the immune cells of all patients. Substances that block these surface proteins prevent the immune cells from being inactivated during the defense against cancer. These results could explain why the new types of checkpoint inhibitors work only for a minority of patients. With complex bioinformatic analyses, the group also discovered an additional target molecule called CD38, which can be found on the surface of inactivated or exhausted T-cells. Whether more renal cell carcinoma patients could be helped by targeting this additional CD38 signalling pathway will become clear in the near future. Bodenmiller's research partners in Australia have already started to plan corresponding clinical testing.

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