News Article | November 1, 2016
Study indicates PCI of NIRS-defined lipid-rich plaque is safe and not associated with a greater incidence of adverse outcomes compared to PCI of non lipid-rich plaque WASHINGTON - November 1, 2016 - Two-year results from COLOR, the first large-scale multicenter prospective study of its kind, found that PCI on coronary artery lipid-rich plaque (LRP) detected by near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was not associated with subsequent major adverse cardiac events (MACE) compared to PCI of non-LRPs. Findings were reported today at the 28th annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) scientific symposium. Sponsored by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF), TCT is the world's premier educational meeting specializing in interventional cardiovascular medicine. The clinical impact of lipid-rich plaque (LRP) in patients with coronary atherosclerosis undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is poorly understood. Autopsy-based studies have suggested that LRP may be associated with increased PCI risk and subsequent events. Catheter-based near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) can identify the presence and extent of LRP in the coronary artery. Previous case reports, as well as small studies, have suggested an association between LRP as assessed by NIRS and peri-procedural outcomes after PCI. The COLOR registry was a prospective, multicenter, observational study designed to determine whether LRP detected by NIRS is associated with subsequent major adverse cardiac events (MACE). LRP was detected using an intracoronary NIRS imaging catheter that provides an assessment of coronary lipid distribution. Lipid core burden index (LCBI) was calculated as the fraction of yellow pixels within a scanned region multiplied by 1000. A total of 1,899 patients at 22 sites in the United States underwent NIRS during a clinically indicated catheterization procedure. The primary endpoint was MACE (a composite of cardiac death, myocardial infarction, stent thrombosis, revascularization and hospitalization) at two years. MACE occurring within two years were adjudicated by an independent clinical events committee and further classified as to whether they arose from the originally treated coronary segments (culprit) or untreated segments (non-culprit). The relationship between baseline LCBI and MACE at two years was also evaluated. Pre-intervention NIRS of treated coronary segment(s) was available in 1,168 patients (1,265 lesions), and NIRS of untreated segment(s) was available in 927 patients (1,072 lesions). The overall rate of MACE at two years was 14.1% for all patients, 6.0% related to the culprit lesion, 8.3% related to the non-culprit lesion related, and 2.4% indeterminate. Culprit lesion related MACE at two years was 6.3% for maxLCBI4mm "In this large-scale registry, non-culprit lesion related events were a little more common than culprit lesion post-PCI related events during two-year follow-up," said Giora Weisz, MD, Chairman of Cardiology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel. "The results also indicate that PCI of NIRS-defined lipid rich plaques was safe, and was not associated with increased peri-procedural or long-term adverse outcomes compared to PCI of non-LRPs. Additional studies are needed to determine the clinical significance of NIRS-defined non-culprit LPRs." The COLOR trial was funded by InfraReDx, Inc. Dr. Weisz reported being a medical advisory board member for AngioSlide, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Calore, Corindus, Medtronic, Medivisor, MI Medical Incentives, TriSol, and Vectorius. He also disclosed grant/research support from AngioSlide, Boehringer Ingelheim, Corindus, and Matrizyme, as well as ownership in Filterlex. The results of the COLOR Trial will be presented on Tuesday, November 1 at 12:30 PM ET in the Main Arena (Ballroom, Level 3) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to helping doctors improve survival and quality of life for people suffering from heart and vascular disease. For over 25 years, CRF has helped pioneer innovations in interventional cardiology and has educated doctors on the latest treatments for heart disease. Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) is the annual scientific symposium of CRF and the world's premier educational meeting specializing in interventional cardiovascular medicine. Now in its 28th year, TCT features major medical research breakthroughs and gathers leading researchers and clinicians from around the world to present and discuss the latest evidence-based research in the field. For more information, visit http://www. and http://www. .
News Article | February 15, 2017
Paralysed people have communicated with their families by thought alone, thanks to a technique that learns to recognise brain activity associated with “yes” or “no”. The method is non-invasive and has enabled completely “locked-in” people to describe their lives as “wonderful”. The four people involved in the study all have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a degenerative disorder that causes people to stop being able to control their muscles, until they are unable even to move their eyes. It has been impossible to know what such completely locked-in people are thinking. “It is assumed that being cut off from communication is one of the worst states a human can be in,” says Niels Birbaumer at the Wyss Center in Geneva. To find out, Birbaumer and his colleagues have combined two devices that record brain activity. The first, called NIRS, measures blood in active brain regions by passing a beam of light through the head. Alongside this, the team used EEG electrode caps to record brainwave activity, to tell if a person was awake or asleep. The group trained their device to recognise the brain activity associated with “yes” and “no” by posing simple statements. “We might say, ‘your name is this, you did that in your past’,” says team member Ujwal Chaudhary at the University of Tübingen. It took up to three weeks to train the device to detect “yes” and “no” with 70 per cent accuracy. At that point, they started asking the four patients questions the team didn’t know the answer to. “We might ask them if they were in pain, or if they wanted to visit a certain place or meet a certain person,” says Chaudhary. Each question was asked 10 times. If the team’s device recorded a “yes” seven or more times, then they took that as the person’s answer. “One of our patients is a young woman, only 23 years old,” says Birbaumer. “She told us that she wanted to see New York, so now her family is making preparations to take her there. Another woman wanted to visit her brother in Spain.” “I believe this is very useful,” says Nick Ramsey at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. The team used the device to ask the four people if they were happy. “They say that life is wonderful,” says Birbaumer. Many people, including some medical professionals, assume that paralysed people have a low quality of life. Birbaumer says that in his experience, this isn’t true. Some research suggests locked-in people are unable to process negative emotions, says Chaudhary. “They’re only processing positive emotions, and if that happens, you’re basically happy all the time,” he says. “We don’t know why that is, but it seems as though the brain is trying to protect itself.” The people also gave opinions, for better or worse. One man was asked by his granddaughter if he would give her his blessing to marry a younger man. “Eight times, his answer was no,” says Chaudhary. Read more: Most ‘locked-in’ people are happy, survey finds
News Article | November 4, 2015
Baby Ezra is sitting on his mother's lap and staring at the computer screen with the amazement of someone still new to the world. The five-month-old's eyes rest on a series of pictures: three dancing women, four black circles, then a face among random objects. Ezra studies the screen with fascination — although now and then, his attention wanders. He lets out a gurgle, and moments later, a short cry. He is chewing a sock. Below the screen, a box is shining infrared light at his cornea, and then capturing and processing the reflected light to work out the direction of his gaze. Behind a curtain, postdoc Jannath Begum Ali checks the data streaming in on her monitor. This set-up is part of a sophisticated experiment to understand the early development of the human mind in the Babylab at Birkbeck, University of London. The scientists here will closely monitor Ezra's brain and behaviour at visits over the next two and a half years. Oblivious to his important role in science, Ezra furrows his brow into a frown. What happens next is apparent only to his mother, who turns him around and checks his behind. With just half of a planned 15-minute observation complete, Ezra has defecated. At that point, everyone takes a break. How do you get into the mind of a human being who cannot speak, does not follow instructions and rudely interrupts your experiments? That is the challenge embraced by scientists at the Babylab. The brain undergoes more change during the first two years of life than at any other time: consciousness, traits of personality, temperament and ability all become apparent, as do the first signs that development could be drifting off course. But this period is also the most difficult to explore, because many of the standard tools of human neuroscience are useless: babies will not lie awake and still in an imaging machine, and they cannot answer questions or do as they are told. Researchers have measured infants' interest and attention mostly by tracking their gaze — but even this method has been criticized as crude. “There are many studies where someone tries to prove that the baby understands goals, causality, number — and in 99% of those studies the only measure they look at is a change in looking time,” says Jerome Kagan, a psychologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The field is now becoming more sophisticated, thanks in part to the Birkbeck lab. Scientists there have pioneered techniques such as infant near-infrared spectrometry (NIRS), which measures brain activity by recording the colour, and therefore the oxygenation, of blood. They are also trying to strengthen conclusions by combining multiple techniques. Among the handful of baby labs around the world, this makes the London one stand out. “They are doing research on babies using every single technique you could imagine,” says Richard Aslin, an infant-behaviour researcher and director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging in New York. The lab has used such tools to reveal a series of 'firsts' about the infant mind: that babies prefer to look at faces that are looking directly at them, rather than away from them; that they respond to such direct gaze with enhanced neural processing1; and that changes in this brain response may be associated with the later emergence of autism — the first evidence that a measure of brain function might be used to predict the condition2. In 2013, the Babylab started the flagship project of which Ezra is part: an effort to study infants from 12 weeks old who are at high risk of autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alongside a control group, in order to detect more early signs of these conditions and find behavioural therapies that might help. “It's an exciting, and emerging, field,” says Mark Johnson, director of the Babylab. And, like its subjects, the London lab is growing up. In 2014, Johnson received £2.3 million (US$3.5 million) from a trio of foundations to establish a toddler lab at Birkbeck, in which children aged 18 months to 3 or 4 years old will be attached to wireless forms of electroencephalography (EEG), NIRS and eye-tracking technology as they walk around, play and interact with other children. The aim is to understand the brain during toddlerhood, the time when children start to appreciate the difference between self and other, complex language develops and long-term memories are first laid down. “In child development in general, but also in our brain-development work, the terrible twos are a major black hole,” Johnson says. There is a well-worn adage in show business that you should never work with children or animals. Johnson built his career doing both. For his PhD project in the 1980s, he investigated whether day-old chicks formed social attachments to any object placed in their pen, or if they preferred ones that resembled a mother hen. (The chicks were particularly drawn to objects with hen-like necks and faces, but weren't too fussy about the rest of their looks3.) But Johnson was more interested in human development, so after his PhD he took a research-scientist position in London to begin studying infants. “In some ways that's not as big a jump as it sounds,” he says. “In both cases you're trying to develop tasks and get information from non-verbal creatures.” Scientists have been attempting practical research with babies since the middle of the twentieth century. One of the first to do so was Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist who used detailed observations of infants and older children to gain insight into how they understand the world — including, famously, by hiding an object to see whether infants try to find it. He concluded that babies cannot grasp the concept that an object still exists when it is out of sight until they are around eight months old. Piaget went on to develop the theory that babies are essentially born as blank slates, but possess the machinery that motivates them to explore the world and allows them to assimilate knowledge. Infant neuroscience leapt forward in the early 1960s, when the US developmental psychologist Robert Fantz started measuring the amount of time babies spent looking at something as a way to gauge how interested in it they were. Fantz reported that a two-month-old baby spent twice as long looking at a sketch of the human face as at a bullseye, for instance. Experiments based on gaze measurements have been the field's workhorse ever since. “It is no exaggeration to say that without looking-time measures, we would know very little about nearly any aspect of infant development,” says Aslin. Gaze experiments have led some researchers to conclude that, far from being blank slates, babies are born with an innate appreciation of number and human faces, as well as the ability to recognize when their mother's native language is being spoken — a familiarity proposed to develop through hearing speech while in the womb. “There have been literally thousands of experiments done with these looking-time methods,” Aslin says, “and by and large it is a pretty reliable technique; you can have two labs running the same experiment and you get the same results.” But Aslin and Kagan are two of a growing number of researchers who think that such infant studies should be viewed with caution: it can be dangerous to infer too much about the workings of a baby's mind from just their fleeting glance — and they worry that some labs do not control for confounding factors as well as they should. “Looking time is under the control of so many conditions,” Kagan says. “What are the physical features of the stimulus? Are its lines mainly curved or straight? What colours are present? How much contrast in lighting is there?” Babies' brains are growing and developing at an extraordinary pace, which makes comparisons between different ages difficult: a newborn's gaze might reflect innate abilities, but a seven-month-old's will also be influenced by what he or she is starting to learn and remember about the world. “An infant may look longer in order to relate the event to what it already knows,” says Kagan. “The main point is that no single measure is able to supply all the evidence required for conclusions about what infants know.” That was the opinion that Johnson quickly reached when he began infant research: the reliance on looking time and observations alone were unsatisfying. He established a baby lab at University College London (UCL) in 1993, and it moved to more spacious premises at Birkbeck in 1998. From the start, Johnson wanted to take a more high-tech approach to investigating brain development than were the handful of other similar labs. In 2005, Johnson and his colleagues combined observations of looking time with electrical measurements of brain activity to investigate Piaget's claim that infants younger than nine months do not understand the permanence of an object that has vanished. When adults view an object disappearing, they tend to show an increase in a particular type of neural oscillation over the right temporal cortex. Johnson, working with colleagues Gergely Csibra and Jordy Kaufman, showed that six-month-old babies show a similar pattern — suggesting that they do keep hidden objects in mind. The same pattern was not observed when the object disintegrated instead of being hidden4. Studies such as these have convinced Johnson that babies are not born blank slates, but neither do they possess adult-like concepts about things like number. “My work, I think, goes for a middle ground,” he says. He argues that the newborn has basic attention preferences for things such as faces and speech, and that these preferences shape the brain as it develops5. Johnson's observation that young babies prefer direct eye contact is one such example; this sets them up to focus on socially relevant parts of their surroundings, which in turn enables them to learn about language and other social cues such as facial expressions. Working with babies requires specialized kit — particularly for a laboratory that can see as many as 14 in a day. The Babylab kitchen hosts a bottle-warmer, and bathrooms are well stocked with wet-wipes. The waiting room is brightly decorated and scattered with easy-to-clean toys. The laboratories, however, are largely empty and painted a dull battleship grey — a deliberate choice, because babies are easily distracted. “We try to make it as boring as possible, except for the thing we need them to focus on,” says Leslie Tucker, coordinator of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, of which the Babylab is part. Hungry or tired babies do not make for good experiments, so everything is carefully planned around meals and naps. In the waiting room, Caitlin — a four-month-old in stripy blue dungarees — is receiving a last-minute breastfeed before being ushered into a lab. She is participating in a study to assess the development of mimicry in babies: the unconscious tendency of people to frown when someone else frowns, or smile when they smile. “Mimicry serves important social functions in adults and has even been suggested to be the 'social glue' that binds us together,” says Carina de Klerk, who is leading that study at Birkbeck. But very little is known about how, and when, it develops. Some researchers think that it is something babies are born with — newborns have been observed to stick their tongues out in response to an adult doing the same6. But “it's not clear if the baby is actually copying, or perhaps they just stick out their tongue whenever something exciting happens”, de Klerk says. She sings to baby Caitlin while sticking electrodes on her temples, cheeks and under her chin. The baby seems unsure, so a research assistant appears, brandishing a garish musical telephone. The art of distraction is a fundamental skill that anyone working in a baby lab must quickly master. “Researchers from other fields come down here and are often horrified at the lack of controls,” says Tucker. “You're going to interrupt the experiment if you have to, or make noises to distract them if they look like they're going to cry.” It works: Caitlin is now cooing and smiling. The researchers pause for a moment, while Caitlin's mother takes a photo of her “science baby” on her phone. Then Caitlin is shown a series of video sequences of a woman raising her eyebrows or opening and closing her mouth, interspersed with static pictures of farm animals. The mimicry experiment is a prime example of the Babylab's mixed-methods approach. Baby Caitlin stares intently at the screen; she does not seem to be copying the woman's actions. But the electrodes on her face may tell a different story: the technique, called electromyography (EMG), picks up electrical activity in her facial muscles, which will indicate if Caitlin is activating her eyebrow area — even if she is not overtly moving it — in response to the woman raising hers. Later in the day, Caitlin is shown the same video sequence while hooked up to NIRS. NIRS is transforming the ability of researchers to peer into the minds of babies. It was originally adopted by medical physicists at UCL as a technique to help predict the risk of stroke in premature babies. They then began working with Birkbeck researchers to adapt it to answer more fundamental questions7. By tracking the flow of oxygenated blood, NIRS allows scientists to see which brain areas become more active in response to external events. For instance, a 2009 study from the Babylab revealed that the brains of five-month-olds already show an adult-like pattern of activation in response to social stimuli, such as a woman playing peek-a-boo with them8. In the mimicry study, the researchers want to see if the babies' brains show a similar pattern to those of adults who are mimicking others, which should help to explain if mimicry is partly innate. But NIRS is not perfect, in part because it cannot measure what is happening in important inner brain regions such as the hippocampus or the amygdala. “The brain is a complex connected circuit. If you only measure a superficial part of that circuit, you can come to the wrong conclusions,” Kagan says. To assess these deeper areas, researchers need a technique such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which has yielded huge insight into the adult brain. But fMRI is highly sensitive to movement, so babies can be scanned only if they are sedated or asleep, which has severely limited the technique's use. Looking time remains an important tool at Birkbeck and elsewhere — although these days, it is assessed not by human observation but by precise eye-tracking technology, such as that being used on baby Ezra. Ezra is a control for the autism and ADHD study: he does not have an older sibling with one of the disorders, so is not considered at high risk. As his attention flits between the apparently random objects on the screen, the reflected infrared light allows psychologist Emily Jones — who directs the project — to gauge precisely what he is looking at, and in which order. “What we tend to find is that typically developing babies will always look first, and longer, at the face, before looking at the other objects,” she says. Autism and ADHD have become a major focus of the Babylab as the prevalence and awareness of the conditions have risen in the past two decades — they are now believed to affect around 4% of the UK population. Last year, in a study of 104 infants, the Birkbeck team showed that infants at high risk of autism were drawn towards the face first, but they seemed to spend less time overall than 'neurotypical' babies in looking at any of the objects — and those that went on to develop autism had the shortest looking time of all9. A separate eye-tracking study published by the group earlier this year revealed that nine-month-olds who went on to develop symptoms of autism were more likely to spot the odd-one-out among a group of letters on a screen10. It is not completely clear why this is, but the working hypothesis is that these infants are more attentive to the details of what they see, says Teodora Gliga, who led the odd-one-out study. The downside of this could be that children who go on to develop autism find it harder to draw general conclusions about what they are seeing, she says. The study of which Ezra is part aims to extend this work by collecting more-detailed measures from over 400 families — and to identify those features that are strongly associated with the later onset of a developmental disorder. During the five visits that Ezra will make to the Babylab as he grows up, he will be tested using EEG, NIRS and EMG, and his parents will be given extensive questionnaires to assess his language skills, social development, temperament and sleeping patterns. The team hopes that early brain differences could some day provide indicators — or biomarkers — of autism, which isn't usually diagnosed until close to a child's third birthday. They also hope to find ways to steer brain development back towards a more typical course. One clinical trial at the Babylab already suggests that early intervention can have an effect. Babies in 28 families with an older sibling with autism were randomly assigned to a group in which they were visited by a therapist at least six times between the ages of seven and ten months, and were compared with a group of high-risk babies who received no therapy. The therapist showed parents videos of them interacting with their child to help understand how their baby was trying to communicate with them, and how to respond. After five months, the team saw hints of improvements in the babies' engagement, attention and social behaviour, compared with controls. But the team acknowledged that many of the results had wide confidence intervals and that it is too early to say whether the intervention will have long-term effects11. Johnson hopes that investigations in the toddler lab, when they start, might also eventually find a practical use, helping researchers to devise ways to boost cognitive, attention and memory skills. “I believe we are now at a unique point of convergence between this basic science and the clinical science,” he says. Meanwhile, the techniques continue to evolve. Jones is currently piloting 'gaze-contingent' tasks, which enable babies to become active participants in experiments. “If they can focus their attention on a butterfly flying across the screen, and not get distracted by other things that are happening, then the butterfly keeps flying, so they get rewarded for controlling their attention,” Jones says. A more distant goal is to develop ways of using fMRI so that it could be used on awake babies. And there are still so many questions that demand answers. How do differences in the temperaments of babies develop into more complex personality traits as children age? And why can't people remember their earliest months and years? Baby Ezra will certainly not remember his day in the lab. By late afternoon, his mother is tucking him into the pushchair for his journey home — a 1-hour 45-minute journey to Bristol by train. The trip was worth it, she says, because she was curious to learn what goes on at the Babylab. “I was interested in how Ezra would respond, but also in why those tasks were being done,” she says. Ezra and his mother now have souvenirs of their day: some photos, a certificate of participation and a baby-sized T-shirt. “I'm an infant scientist,” it reads.
News Article | December 20, 2016
The concept of the PANIC mission envisions a tetrahedron-shaped lander with an edge length of just 13.78 inch (35 centimeters) and a total mass of some 26.5 lbs. (12 kilograms). The spacecraft's size and structure will allow it to host four scientific instruments. The lander itself will be delivered to an asteroid aboard an interplanetary probe, and once on the surface of a space rock, will utilize hopping as a locomotion mechanism in microgravity. According to the authors of the paper describing the PANIC mission concept, one of the biggest advantages of the project would be its simplicity and cost effectiveness. "We aimed at a simple and low-cost concept, mitigating potential risks. I believe it is possible to build a PANIC lander within a cost budget of $5 to $10 million, also given that the lander would be powered solely by non-rechargeable primary cells providing a life time of 24 to 36 hours," Karsten Schindler of the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) in Germany and lead author of the paper, told Astrowatch.net. The authors of the study believe that PANIC would be a great alternative to complex and expensive traditional landers. It could be a real milestone in the history of asteroid research as no landing attempt of a dedicated lander has so far been successful on an asteroid. NASA's NEAR Shoemaker probe's landing at the end of its mission in 2001 on the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) Eros and the two touchdowns of Japan's Hayabusa on the NEA Itokawa in 2005 provided only very limited information. "Both probes touched the surface, but they did not have instruments on board for an in situ analysis. A dedicated lander would be an important addition to any future asteroid exploration mission as it allows us to measure the 'ground truth' that is required to calibrate remote sensing data; a problem that each spacecraft mission faces, no matter which celestial body it explores, either remotely from orbit or during a fly-by," Schindler said. The researchers argue that it is feasible to acquire this "ground truth" data with very modest expenses in spacecraft weight, cost and operations in the micro-gravity environment of a small body. They note that the idea of the PANIC lander is to sample the surface at multiple locations, something a sample return mission would likely not be able to do. "All this information will contribute to our understanding of the composition and structure of asteroids, which is also vital in terms of the impact hazard of NEAs, and any potential countermeasures that might need to be taken one day," Schindler noted. Four instruments were proposed by the authors as the PANIC lander's scientific payload. According to the researchers, in order to get the most out of the craft, it should carry two spectrometers, one microscopic imager and one camera. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) will be used to directly determine elemental abundances at the landing site, while the Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRS) will be used to study the mineralogy and optical properties at wavelengths of 0.8 – 2.5 µm. With a spatial resolution of 6 µm/pixel, the Microscopic Imager (MIC) will investigate the grain size distribution and search for evidence of rims formed by nano-phase. The stereo camera (SC) system will enable imaging of the surrounding terrain in one direction from the lander using its wide-angular optics and measure the distance and size of geological surface features. "We feel the minimum payload should be a combination of a near-infrared spectrometer and a microscopic imager. Why? Spectral properties are significantly influenced by particle size, surface temperature, phase angle and irradiation," Schindler said. For instance, NIRS using a calibrated light source and a well defined viewing geometry close to the surface, would help to interpret remotely acquired spectra. "To validate various techniques to model spectra, we need an information about the average particle size that can only be obtained from microscopic images. Likewise, these images could allow us to see changes in the optical characteristics that result from space weathering," Schindler added. The concept of PANIC lander was inspired by Hayabusa's MINERVA lander as well as by CubeSats. MINERVA was a model to follow for them, as it was built entirely from commercial, off-the-shelf components on an extremely low budget. This Japanese mini-spacecraft demonstrated a life time of 18 hours at Itokawa, despite its fate of escaping the asteroid's gravity field. In 2008, during NASA's summer study workshop known as the Small Spacecraft Summer Study Project (S4P), the idea of the PANIC lander evolved. The workshop, aimed at designing missions to near Earth objects (NEOs), resulted in the "Didymos Explorer" binary rendezvous mission concept and PANIC was included in this study, boosting the interest in this low-cost small asteroid characterizer. "After the end of the program, we continued with an in-depth study of the lander as a stand-alone instrument, whose science objectives apply to any mission to an asteroid, independent of the final target selection. We finished our study in September 2009, and published all findings subsequently in Acta Astronautica. We had interested parties at NASA, DLR (German Aerospace Center), the Max Planck Society and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), all studying missions to near-Earth asteroids at that time, and presented this concept at various meetings (e.g. the European Planetary Science Congress and the Planetary Defense Conference), receiving multiple inquiries from different sides," Schindler revealed. Although the PANIC concept is currently in early stages of development, it can be seen as a finished Phase 0 study that can be easily transformed into the basis for a proposal to acquire funding and build hardware for a future flight opportunity. Notably, a similar concept, the MASCOT lander, was studied independently and has eventually been realized for the Hayabusa 2 mission launched in December 2014. It proves that such an idea can be implemented relatively quickly.
News Article | December 5, 2016
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new issue brief offers the first detailed analysis for U.S. audiences on the U.K.’s new retirement policy initiatives. Faced with a daunting retirement savings shortfall, U.K. policymakers instituted a series of reforms that has expanded retirement plan coverage for workers. The United Kingdom’s New Retirement Savings Program is the latest issue brief from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS). It is co-authored by John A. Turner, director of the Pension Policy Center, and Jennifer Erin Brown, NIRS manager of research. A webinar is scheduled for Monday, December 5, 2016, at 2 PM ET to review the findings. Register at no charge here. Download the research brief here. As outlined in the research brief, the U.K. reforms require all employers to automatically enroll their employees in retirement savings account. Also, employers are required to contribute to the retirement plan if an employee participates, although individuals can opt-out. The U.K. also sponsors its own retirement plan – the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) – so that all employers are able to offer their employees a plan. The new reforms are being phased in over time and will be fully implemented by 2018. During the remainder of 2016 and in 2017, U.K. employers with 30 or fewer employees will enroll their employees in a plan. Already, the U.K. has expanded coverage by six million workers. The total increase in coverage of nine million workers is expected when the program is fully implemented in 2017. “U.S. policymakers would be wise to examine the reforms the U.K. has implemented. We have a deep and serious retirement savings shortfall in the U.S., and legislative efforts that attempted to move the needle on retirement savings and coverage have failed,” said Jennifer Brown, report co-author. In the United States, nearly 40 million – or 45 percent – of working-age households do not have a retirement account, such as a 401(k) plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This shortfall in retirement savings means that the typical working household has virtually no retirement savings, and more than more than three out of five near-retirement households have less than one times their income saved for retirement. “Ten years ago, Congress clarified that employers could use automatic enrollment features to nudge employees to save for retirement. But sadly, the rate of retirement plan coverage is lower today than it was in 2006,” said Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. “The experience across the pond is proof for policymakers of the power of auto-enrollment when it’s working at full capacity. In fact, many U.S states that are taking steps to help working Americans have a financial stability in retirement are considering similar automatic enrollment practices,” she explained. Brown added, “As evidenced by the recent elections, middle class Americans are angry about their economic security, and retirement is a big part of that equation. If newly-elected policymakers are going to deliver the economic security that they promised on the campaign trail, they will take action to address America’s retirement crisis. We hope this research contributes to a serious examination of policies in other nations that are working and making real progress towards closing the savings and coverage gaps.” The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers and the economy. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS’ diverse membership includes financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations and other retirement service providers. More information is available at www.nirsonline.org. Follow NIRS on Twitter @nirsonline.
News Article | October 26, 2016
We have it easier than cows. When we want to know how much fat, sodium, or carbohydrates are in the food we are eating, we can usually check the nutrition label on the food's package. But cows haven't had access to detailed nutrition facts about their forage. Until recently. Just as it is important for humans to watch what they eat, it is also important for farmers to watch what their cows are eating. Farmers need to make sure their cows are getting the right amounts of grass and legumes. But when the grass and legumes are grown together, it's difficult to accurately measure how much of each is in the mixture. Jerry Cherney, professor of agriculture at Cornell University, says commercial laboratories can only tell if samples are "mostly grass" or "mostly legume." This type of crude estimate just doesn't cut it. Farmers need to know what percentage of their mixture is legume and what percentage is grass, so they can make sure their cows are getting a healthy, balanced diet. To more accurately measure the composition of these forage mixtures, researchers have started using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS). Legume and grass molecules vibrate at different frequencies, emitting invisible energy known as infrared. Scientists can use instruments to measure specific near infrared wavelengths. Then, based on the measurements of near infrared, they can determine what percentage of a mixture is legume and what percentage is grass. But even NIRS has its challenges. Mainly, in order to provide accurate measurements, the instruments need to be calibrated. "In the past, NIRS calibrations were typically instrument-specific. They only worked with the instrument used to develop the calibration," explains Cherney. So Cherney and his team of researchers worked to develop a single calibration that could be used with many different NIRS instruments. The research team collected samples from mixed forage fields of alfalfa and grass at 91 sites throughout eight counties in New York. They collected three years of samples to develop their calibration. They collected another year of samples to use later, to verify their calibration. After collecting the samples, they separated the alfalfa from the grass. Then they made over 500 samples that were mixtures with known percentages of alfalfa and grass. Next, Cherney worked with Dairy One, a commercial forage testing lab, to scan all of the samples. All of the samples were scanned twice, and then the researchers used three different instruments to analyze the scans. With the analyses from the three instruments, the researchers developed four calibrations -- one for each instrument individually and one for all three instruments combined. Finally, the team tested whether the calibrations worked. They took the final year's samples and combined them into random known proportions. They scanned and analyzed these 98 samples to see if the calibration from the three instruments combined was still accurately measuring the amounts of alfalfa and grass. Ultimately, Cherney was able to show that a single calibration can measure alfalfa and grass percentages across instruments. This is great news for farmers, and cows, in the Northeast United States. Farmers now have more accurate information about what's in the food their cows are eating. But some cows may still be left guessing. "While we're confident that the calibration should work for sites in the Northeastern USA, we are not sure if it works for Midwestern grown mixtures," Cherney explained. Calibrations for other parts of the country, like the Midwest, can be developed using the same process Cherney followed in the Northeast. Read more about Cherney's work in Crop Science.
News Article | November 3, 2016
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nuclear power started out in the United States with the promise it would be "too cheap to meter," but may end up being "too big to bail out." A new report by the nonprofit Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) finds that a...
News Article | February 28, 2017
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--America faces a deep political divide, but not when it comes to economic security in retirement. A new report finds that 76 percent of Americans are concerned about their ability to achieve a secure retirement, with that level of worry at 78 percent for Democrats and 76 percent for Republicans. Some 88 percent of Americans agree that the nation faces a retirement crisis, and the concern is high across party lines. These findings are contained in a new study, Retirement Security 2017: America’s View of the Retirement Crisis and Solutions available here. The research is published by the National Institute on Retirement (NIRS) and is based on a poll of 800 Americans conducted by Greenwald & Associates. The findings will be reviewed today at the NIRS annual retirement policy conference in Washington, D.C. “If we learned anything from the recent elections, it’s that Americans are beyond angry about their economic insecurity. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – are highly anxious about economic security in retirement,” said Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. “We also find that across party lines, Americans strongly support state efforts to help Americans save for retirement. Yet, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that will hinder these state plans. Some 72 percent of Republicans support these state retirement plans, while 83 percent of Democrats are supportive,” Oakley explained. “If the new Congress and Administration are serious about addressing Americans’ economic anxiety, a bold first step would be to make a long-term fix to private sector pension funding rules and to strengthen Social Security. Our poll finds that 77 percent of Americans say that the disappearance of pensions is killing the American dream, and they are strongly opposed to cutting Social Security for current and future retirees,” Oakley explained. The key research findings are as follows: 1. Across party lines, Americans are worried about economic insecurity in retirement. Three-fourths (76 percent) of Americans are concerned about economic conditions affecting their ability to achieve a secure retirement. For respondents that identified themselves as Democrats, the level of concern was at 78 percent compared to 76 percent for Republicans. 2. Americans in overwhelming numbers continue to believe the nation faces a retirement crisis. Some 88 percent of Americans agree that the nation faces a retirement crisis. The level of concern is high across gender, income, age and party affiliation. Importantly, more than half (55 percent) strongly agree that there is a crisis. To ensure a secure retirement, three-fourths of Americans plan to work longer and to spend less in retirement. 3. Americans regard pensions as a route to economic security in retirement, and see these retirement plans as better than 401(k) accounts. We find that some 82 percent of Americans have a favorable view of pensions. A full 85 percent say all workers should have access to a pension plan so they can be independent and self-reliant in retirement. More than three-fourths of Americans (77 percent) say the disappearance of pensions has made it harder to achieve the American Dream. Some 71 percent of Americans say that pensions do more to help workers achieve a secure retirement as compared to 401(k) plans, and 65 percent say pensions are safer than 401(k) plans. 4. Americans say national leaders still don’t understand their retirement struggle, and they remain highly supportive of state efforts to address the retirement crisis. An overwhelming majority of Americans (85 percent) say leaders in Washington do not understand how hard it is to prepare for retirement, which held steady from 87 percent in 2015. Similarly, 86 percent say leaders in Washington need to give a higher priority to ensuring that Americans have a secure retirement. In terms of solutions, 82 percent of Americans say government should make it easier for employers to offer pensions. Action at the state level to expand access to retirement savings get a favorable nod, Americans believe that state-sponsored retirement savings programs for workers not covered by their employers’ a plans are a good idea (75 percent), and 81 percent say they would consider participating in a state plan. 5. Protecting Social Security remains important to Americans. Some 76 percent of Americans say it is a mistake to cut government spending to reduce Social Security benefits for current retirees, up from 73 percent in 2015. When it comes to adjusting benefits for future generations, 73 percent oppose cutting government spending that reduces Social Security benefits. 6. Americans strongly support pensions for public sector workers and see these retirement plans as a strong recruitment and retention tool. Americans strongly support pensions for police officers and firefighters (90 percent), and teachers (81 percent). Some 81 percent say these benefits are deserved because public employees help finance the cost from every paycheck, up from 77 percent in 2015. The survey was conducted as a nationwide telephone interview of 800 Americans age 25 or older in to assess their sentiment regarding retirement and actions policymakers could take to strength retirement. Greenwald & Associates balanced the data to reflect the demographics of the United States for age, gender and income. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent. The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers and the economy as a whole. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS’ diverse membership includes financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers. More information is available at www.nirsonline.org. Follow NIRS on Twitter @nirsonline.
News Article | February 21, 2017
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The National Institute on Retirement Security will host its eighth annual retirement policy conference, Retirement Policy Game Changers: Tackling Retirement Readiness, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, from 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM at The Liaison Capitol Hill, 415 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. The event will feature the release of a new report, Retirement Security 2017: Americans’ View of the Retirement Crisis. This biennial report monitors how Americans feel about their economic security in retirement and assesses their views on policies that could improve retirement. Media can register for the conference here or by calling 202.457.8190. WHO: Hosted by the National Institute on Retirement Security WHEN: Tuesday, February, 28, 2017; 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM ET WHERE: The Liaison Capitol Hill, 415 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 REGISTRATION: Media interested in attending can register here, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202.457.8190. The National Institute on Retirement Security is a not-for-profit organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers, and the economy through national research and education programs. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS has a diverse membership of organizations interested in retirement security including financial services firms, retirement plan sponsors and service providers, and trade associations among others. More information is available at http://www.nirsonline.org.
News Article | December 22, 2016
According to a new market research report "Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market by Component (Hyperspectral Cameras, Accessories), Application (Military Surveillance, Remote Sensing, Machine Vision/Optical Sorting, Life Sciences & Medical Diagnostics) - Global Forecast to 2021" published by MarketsandMarkets, the global market is projected to reach USD 12.71 Billion by 2021 from USD 7.41 Billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 11.4% during the forecast period (2016-2021). Browse 67 market data Tables and 28 Figures spread through 109 Pages and in-depth TOC on "Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market" Early buyers will receive 10% customization on this report. The report provides a detailed overview of the major drivers, restraints, challenges, opportunities, current market trends, and strategies impacting the Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market along with the estimates and forecasts of the revenue. Growth of this market can be attributed to technological innovation in sensor design, increasing number of research projects using hyperspectral imaging systems, widening industrial applications of HSI, and manufacturing of low-cost cameras that are lightweight and compact. However, increased cost of hyperspectral cameras and the complexity in processing and analyzing the high amounts of imaging data generated are restraints for the growth of this market. The Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market is segmented on the basis of component, application, and region. Based on component, the market is categorized into hyperspectral cameras and accessories. In 2016, the hyperspectral cameras segment is expected to account for the largest share of the market. Increasing adoption for new applications and development of low-cost hyperspectral cameras have significantly boosted the adoption of hyperspectral cameras. On the basis of application, the market is categorized into military surveillance, remote sensing, machine vision/ optical sorting, life sciences & medical diagnostics, and other applications (colorimetry, meteorology, thin film manufacturing, and night vision). In 2016, military surveillance segment is expected to account for the largest share of the Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market. The life sciences and medical diagnostics segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Growth of the life sciences and medical diagnostics segment can be attributed to recent advances in hyperspectral cameras, image analysis methods, and computational power providing opportunities in medical applications. In 2016, North America is expected to account for the largest share of the Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market, primarily due to the high adoption of hyperspectral imaging systems in research, growth in research funding, technological advancements, and increasing awareness on the benefits of hyperspectral imaging in commercial industries in this region. The Asia-Pacific region is estimated to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Major players in Hyperspectral Imaging Systems Market include Headwall Photonics, Inc. (U.S.), Corning Incorporated (U.S.), SPECIM, Spectral Imaging Ltd. (Finland), Resonon (U.S.), Telops Inc. (Canada), Norsk Elektro Optikk AS (Norway), Applied Spectral Imaging (U.S.), BaySpec Inc. (U.S.), Surface Optics Corporation (U.S.), and ChemImage Corporation (U.S.). Optical Imaging Market by Technique (OCT, NIRS, HSI, PAT) by Product (Imaging System, Camera, Lens, Software) by Therapeutic Area (Ophthalmology, Oncology, Neurology, Dermatology), by Application (Pathological, Intra-operative) - Global Forecast to 2020 MarketsandMarkets is the largest market research firm worldwide in terms of annually published premium market research reports. Serving 1700 global fortune enterprises with more than 1200 premium studies in a year, M&M is catering to a multitude of clients across 8 different industrial verticals. We specialize in consulting assignments and business research across high growth markets, cutting edge technologies and newer applications. Our 850 fulltime analyst and SMEs at MarketsandMarkets are tracking global high growth markets following the "Growth Engagement Model - GEM". 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