News Article | October 27, 2016
The mystery behind the extinction of the mighty cave lion has gotten a fresh twist. According to a new study, the hunting spree of Upper Paleolithic humans might have hastened the animal's extinction. The cave lion's pelt may have been used as home décor and also for ritualistic purposes. It may be recalled that the Eurasian cave lion (Panthera spelaea) was one of the largest lions to have walked the earth. It went extinct some 14,000 years ago. They were dreaded predators and roamed the forests of Europe all the way to Alaska. Hefty in size, at 11 feet in length and 700 pounds of weight, they would have made today's African lions look like pygmies. New findings obtained from Spain's La Garma cave are adding credence to such assumptions. The cave is known for sacred rituals. The researchers unearthed proof of cave lion pelt having been used as rugs or roof by the Paleolithic humans who inhabited these caves. The study was led by Edgard Camarós of Spain's Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution. The researchers found a treasure of cave lion fossils in northern Spain's cave called La Garma. The team discovered fossils of nine claw bones belonging to the extinct cave lion from a ritual site. The findings have now been published in the journal PLOS One. Since they could find only the cave lion's claws inside the cave, it is assumed that prehistoric people might have skinned the cave lions but kept their claws intact and placed their pelt over huts. The disintegration of the skin and fur spanning thousands of years might have left only the claw bones behind. The markings found on the claws looked similar to the scratches made by human tools, indicating the expertise of ancient men in skinning those huge lions. "The (cave) lion is a difficult and dangerous animal to hunt, and it probably played an important role as a trophy and for use in rituals," said lead author Marián Cueto, wife of Camarós and a zooarcheologist at the University of Cantabria in Spain. Numbering more than 4,000, they also bore evidence of human modification. It was special since it was the first time cave lion remains were found in La Garma. The claw bones belonging to the cave lions showed that not only were the cave lions hunted down; they were also hung in front of homes. Evidence in the past revealed that humans in the Middle Pleistocene period used to consume cave lions, while the Upper Paleolithic men used the teeth for making ornaments and tools. The signs of modification of cave lion claw bones bore vivid indications of techniques used by modern hunters in skinning the prey. However, there is the contention that it is hard to accept that prehistoric people were using the lion's fur for rituals, according to Hervé Bocherens, a paleobiologist at the University of Tubingen in Germany. Unlike what the study suggests, evidence exists that cave art or portable objects from other regions were also linked to cave lions. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 21, 2017
New Rochelle, February 21, 2017--Robotics researchers have developed a novel adaptive control approach based on online learning that allows for the correction of dynamics errors in real time using the data stream from the robot. The strategy is described in an article published in Big Data, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Big Data website until February x, 2017. In the article entitled "DOOMED: Direct Online Optimization of Modeling Errors in Dynamics," the authors and developers of the DOOMED algorithms, Nathan Ratliff, Franziska Meier, Daniel Kappler, and Stefan Schaal, Lula Robotics (Seattle, WA), MPI for Intelligent Systems (Tubingen, Germany), and University of Southern California (Los Angeles), present their approach for minimizing the error between desired and actual accelerations in complex real-world motion systems. Based on data streaming from the robot, the online learning algorithms correct the "inverse dynamics model," updating a correction model until correct acceleration is achieved. The article is part of a special issue of Big Data on "Big Data in Robotics" led by Guest Editors Jeannette Bohg, PhD, Matei Ciocarlie, PhD, Jaview Civera, PhD, and Lydia Kavraki, PhD. "A major challenge in robotics is designing systems that behave in predictable ways based on some analytical model of the process," says Big Data Editor-in-Chief Vasant Dhar, Professor at the Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science at New York University. "However, in reality, even if such analytical models exist, they are rarely accurate enough in situations that represent all combinations of heat, wear and tear, cable stretch, etc.; situations that a system encounters in reality. In such situations, it is useful to complement models with data collected as a result of real-world operation. Real-world robotic systems need to be robust enough to correct "errors" on the fly. Ratliff et al. combined model-based approaches with machine learning in a novel way to make systems error correcting robust in real time. We are seeing increasing interest in combining analytical model-based approaches with machine learning and big data to create more robust motion systems. This paper makes a very significant contribution in this respect." Big Data, published quarterly online with open access options and in print, facilitates and supports the efforts of researchers, analysts, statisticians, business leaders, and policymakers to improve operations, profitability, and communications within their organizations. Spanning a broad array of disciplines focusing on novel big data technologies, policies, and innovations, the Journal brings together the community to address the challenges and discover new breakthroughs and trends living within this information. Complete tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Big Data website. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative medical and biomedical peer-reviewed journals, including OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology, Journal of Computational Biology, New Space, and 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. Its biotechnology trade magazine, GEN (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's more than 80 journals, newsmagazines, and books is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website.
News Article | February 15, 2017
An experimental malaria vaccine strategy known as PfSPZ-CVac, together with antimalarial medication, protected all nine clinical trial volunteers given three high-dose vaccinations, according to study results published today in Nature. The study was supported in part by grants and technical assistance from scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The data add to a growing body of scientific evidence showing that vaccines created using live malaria parasites can be safe, well-tolerated, and potentially effective if used in mass vaccination programs to eradicate malaria from geographically defined areas, according to the authors. PfSPZ-CVac, developed by Sanaria Inc., of Rockville, Maryland, is administered intravenously to generate an immune response to protect against malaria infection. The vaccine introduces live Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites into the bloodstream; these parasites are ordinarily transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Oral antimalarial medication (chloroquine) is given simultaneously to prevent an actual malarial infection. The new study was conducted at the University of Tubingen, Germany. Forty-two healthy adult participants were randomly assigned to receive either three doses of PfSPZ-CVac at one of three dosage levels at 28-day intervals, or a placebo injection. All recipients were simultaneously given oral doses of chloroquine. Participants then underwent controlled exposure to infectious malaria parasites 10 weeks after the final vaccination. All nine participants who received three injections of the highest dose of PfSPZ-CVac (5.12x104) were protected against P. falciparum malaria 10 weeks after their last vaccine dose. Participants who received lower dosages exhibited less (but still statistically significant) immunity to malaria infection. The researchers also found that the highest dosages of vaccine administered three times at 5-day intervals protected 63 percent of participants (5 of 8). The authors suggest that in the field, high doses of the PfSPZ-CVac vaccine will likely be needed to protect against malaria infection. The researchers showed that PfSPZ-CVac induced a response from vaccine recipients' T cells--white blood cells that activate the rest of the immune system--which was proportional to the dosage of the vaccine. In addition, they determined that patients whose CD4+ T cells produced multiple kinds of signaling molecules to activate the immune system were more likely to be protected. Antigen Discovery Inc., based in Irvine, California, studied the antibody responses of the nine participants who had complete protection and identified 22 malaria parasite proteins that could be the targets of protective immune responses. A Phase 2 trial is planned to test PfSPZ-CVac in the African countries of Mali, Ghana, and Gabon to evaluate the optimal dose and schedule for protection in malaria-endemic areas. Through Small Business Innovation Research grants, NIAID supported the preclinical development and, in part, the manufacture of the PfSPZ-CVac Vaccine, as well as the antibody response analysis and the identification of the potential protective malaria protein. NIAID also provided cellular immune analysis. B. Mordmüller et al. Sterile protection against human malaria by chemoattenuated PfSPZ vaccine. Nature DOI 10.1038/nature21060 (2017). NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and Robert A. Seder, M.D., chief of the Cellular Immunology Section of NIAID's Vaccine Research Center and study co-author, are available for comment. NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website. About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www. .
News Article | February 21, 2017
Robotics researchers have developed a novel adaptive control approach based on online learning that allows for the correction of dynamics errors in real time using the data stream from the robot. The strategy is described in an article published in Big Data. In the article entitled "DOOMED: Direct Online Optimization of Modeling Errors in Dynamics," the authors and developers of the DOOMED algorithms, Nathan Ratliff, Franziska Meier, Daniel Kappler, and Stefan Schaal, Lula Robotics (Seattle, WA), MPI for Intelligent Systems (Tubingen, Germany), and University of Southern California (Los Angeles), present their approach for minimizing the error between desired and actual accelerations in complex real-world motion systems. Based on data streaming from the robot, the online learning algorithms correct the "inverse dynamics model," updating a correction model until correct acceleration is achieved. The article is part of a special issue of Big Data on "Big Data in Robotics" led by Guest Editors Jeannette Bohg, PhD, Matei Ciocarlie, PhD, Jaview Civera, PhD, and Lydia Kavraki, PhD. "A major challenge in robotics is designing systems that behave in predictable ways based on some analytical model of the process," says Big Data Editor-in-Chief Vasant Dhar, Professor at the Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science at New York University. "However, in reality, even if such analytical models exist, they are rarely accurate enough in situations that represent all combinations of heat, wear and tear, cable stretch, etc.; situations that a system encounters in reality. In such situations, it is useful to complement models with data collected as a result of real-world operation. Real-world robotic systems need to be robust enough to correct "errors" on the fly. Ratliff et al. combined model-based approaches with machine learning in a novel way to make systems error correcting robust in real time. We are seeing increasing interest in combining analytical model-based approaches with machine learning and big data to create more robust motion systems. This paper makes a very significant contribution in this respect." Explore further: A new open source dataset links human motion and language More information: Nathan Ratliff et al, DOOMED: Direct Online Optimization of Modeling Errors in Dynamics, Big Data (2016). DOI: 10.1089/big.2016.0041
News Article | September 2, 2016
The bacterium behind the infamous Black Death plague recently resurfaced: Last year, a small outbreak killed several people in Colorado, and a larger pandemic on the island nation of Madagascar claimed the lives of at least 40 people in 2014. Since then, virologists have been trying to understand how Yersinia pestis, the organism responsible for the infectious disease, can mutate into new strains. Thankfully, the remains of centuries-old victims have allowed scientists to investigate the disease, as if it were frozen in time. Now, new research published to Molecular Biology and Evolution sheds new light on how the lethal pathogen evolved over five-thousand years. History’s first recorded pandemic, an outbreak called Justinian’s Plague, swept across the Byzantine Empire in 541 CE. It took the lives of 25 million people over the course of 225 years. Nearly five centuries later, the same pathogen would kill 60 percent of Europe’s population, only this time, we’d know it as the Black Death. Two years ago, scientists unmasked the bacterium behind Justinian’s Plague as the same one that caused the Medieval pandemic. A team of German scientists has reconstructed the genome of Y. pestis, using genetic material taken from two sixth-century skeletons buried near Munich. According to the study, this particular strain first appeared at the onset of the Byzantine-era outbreak. In their analysis of the ancient bacterium, they discovered previously unknown mutations, allegedly associated with the plague’s ability to cause disease. “Our research confirms that the Justinianic plague reached far beyond the historically documented affected region and provides new insights into the evolutionary history of Yersinia pestis, illustrating the potential of ancient genomic reconstructions to broaden our understanding of pathogen evolution and of historical events,” co-author Michal Feldman, a researcher at Max Planck Institute and the University of Tubingen in Germany, said in a statement. These 30 mutations were located in the genes nrdE, fadJ and pcp—what the team referred to as virulence genes. As far as researchers know, they’re unique to the Justinianic strain, and indicate that Y. pestis was more diverse than anyone suspected. After the bacterium Y. pestis infects its host, it can result in bubonic, septicemic, or pneumonic plague. Rodents and fleas are some of the most common carriers of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, treatment involves an antibacterial regimen, and but sometimes victims are unable to recognize the plague’s symptoms until it has already progressed to a fatal stage. One thing that Feldman and his colleague haven’t been able to discern is why the Justinian Plague went dormant, only to be replaced by newer strains, centuries later. In an interview with CNN, he theorized that the first outbreak could have emerged in China, and traveled with merchants across Eurasia. “The exact trade routes that the disease traveled in are a subject of debate among scholars. It was transmitted either by people or by rats that were ‘traveling’ with cargo.” “We still do not know why the Justinian plague suddenly vanished,” he added. “The bacterium causing the Black Death and the Justinianic one is the same bacterium, Y. pestis, and this was already reported on in previous studies. However, the strains of the bacteria—you can also call them variations if you like—causing the two pandemics were different, and the Justinianic strain is extinct today.” The authors plan to draft new guidelines for analyzing the genome of Y. pestis. With a better understanding of how the plague evolves over time, medical professionals could develop more effective treatments.
Rasini V.,University of Modena and Reggio Emilia |
Dominici M.,University of Modena and Reggio Emilia |
Kluba T.,Tubingen |
Siegel G.,University of Tübingen |
And 5 more authors.
Cytotherapy | Year: 2013
Background aims. Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) can be isolated from human bone marrow (BM), expanded ex vivo and identified via numerous surface antigens. Despite the importance of these cells in regenerative therapy programs, it is unclear whether the cell membrane signature defining MSC preparations ex vivo is determined during culture or may reflect an in vivo counterpart. BM-MSC phenotype in vivo requires further investigation. Methods. To characterize cells in their natural BM environment, we performed multi-parametric immunohistochemistry on trabecular bone biopsy specimens from multiple donors and described cells by different morphology and micro-anatomic localization in relationship to a precise pattern of MSC antigen expression. Results. Microscopically examined high-power field marrow sections revealed an overlapping in vivo expression of antigens characterizing ex vivo expanded BM-MSCs, including CD10, CD73, CD140b, CD146, GD2 and CD271. Expanding this panel to proteins associated with pluripotency, such as Oct4, Nanog and SSEA-4, we were able to identify different cellular populations in the human trabecular bone and BM expressing different progenitor cell markers. Conclusions. Targeting several multipotency and pluripotency markers, we found that the BM contains identifiable and distinct progenitor cells further justifying their introduction for a wide range of applications in regenerative medicine. © 2013, International Society for Cellular Therapy.
Iatsenko I.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology |
Boichenko I.,Tubingen |
Sommer R.J.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Applied and Environmental Microbiology | Year: 2014
Bacillus thuringiensis has been widely used as a biopesticide, primarily for the control of insect pests, but some B. thuringiensis strains specifically target nematodes. However, nematicidal virulence factors of B. thuringiensis are poorly investigated. Here, we describe virulence factors of nematicidal B. thuringiensis DB27 using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model. We show that B. thuringiensis DB27 kills a number of free-living and animal-parasitic nematodes via intestinal damage. Its virulence factors are plasmid- encoded Cry protoxins, since plasmid-cured derivatives do not produce Cry proteins and are not toxic to nematodes. Whole-genome sequencing of B. thuringiensis DB27 revealed multiple potential nematicidal factors, including several Cry-like proteins encoded by different plasmids. Two of these proteins appear to be novel and show high similarity to Cry21Ba1. Named Cry21Fa1 and Cry21Ha1, they were expressed in Escherichia coli and fed to C. elegans, resulting in intoxication, intestinal damage, and death of nematodes. Interestingly, the effects of the two protoxins on C. elegans are synergistic (synergism factor, 1.8 to 2.5). Using purified proteins, we determined the 50% lethal concentrations (LC50s) for Cry21Fa1 and Cry21Ha1 to be 13.6 μg/ml and 23.9 μg/ml, respectively, which are comparable to the LC50 of nematicidal Cry5B. Finally, we found that signaling pathways which protect C. elegans against Cry5B toxin are also required for protection against Cry21Fa1. Thus, B. thuringiensis DB27 produces novel nematicidal protoxins Cry21Fa1 and Cry21Ha1 with synergistic action, which highlights the importance of naturally isolated strains as a source of novel toxins. © 2014, American Society for Microbiology.
News Article | November 22, 2016
The thought of 2.8 billion disposable coffee cups a year being dumped in landfill sites across Germany is enough to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of any consumer. With 320,000 "to go" coffees delivered over the country's counters every hour, according to the German environmental aid forum, the impact of this growing trend is extensive. To tackle the issue, the university city of Freiburg has come up with a pioneering scheme aimed at reducing waste. The "Freiburg Cup", made from dishwasher-proof plastic and obtained from cafes and bakeries for a deposit of one euro, can be reused hundreds of times ‒ or returned. The cups, which are provided by local councils, are washed in the cafes and bakeries that have signed up to the scheme before being reused or redistributed. Twitter user @josephkmh, who has embraced the move, said: "Today I got the first #FreiburgCup sold at Lienhart. Fits comfortably in your hand!" So far 16 outlets have agreed to take part in the "Freiburg Cup" experiment in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, including cafes in the university libraries. "The cafes and bakeries that participate, as well as the consumers, do not incur any costs," said Freiburg's environmental mayor Gerda Stuchlik. Germans, like Americans and Italians, are becoming a nation of caffeine addicts and the problem of waste is something relatively new - it did not exist a decade ago. The move follows an initiative implemented in recent months in the German city of Tubingen. Similar experiments are also taking place in Berlin and Rosenheim. The average use-time of a disposable cup is short ‒ about 15 minutes ‒ and takeaway drinks often also include plastic lids and straws. The takeout cups issued at global coffee giants such as Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Costa are currently almost impossible to recycle and contamination is a major cause of concern. For obvious reasons the cups have to be waterproof. To achieve this the card is fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot easily be separated in a standard recycling mill. The cups, which are not made from recycled material to begin with, are designed with a thin seam of card inside which comes into contact with the hot drink. As such they have to be made from virgin paper pulp.
News Article | January 18, 2016
The findings address the longstanding debate among scientists about whether or not the bacterium Yersinia pestis –responsible for the Black Death—remained within Europe for hundreds of years and was the principal cause of some of the worst re-emergences and subsequent plague epidemics in human history. Until now, some researchers believed repeated outbreaks were the result of the bacterium being re-introduced through major trade with China, a widely-known reservoir of the plague. Instead, it turns out the plague may never have left. "The more plague genomes we have from these disparate time periods, the better we are able to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this pathogen" says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of McMaster University's Ancient DNA Centre and a principal investigator at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. Poinar collaborated with Edward Holmes at the University of Sydney, Olivier Dutour of the École Pratique des Hautes Études in France, and Kirsti Bos and Johannes Krause at the University of Tubingen, and others, to map the complete genomes of Y.pestis which was harvested from five adult male victims of the 1722 Plague of Provence. To do so, they analyzed the dental pulp taken from the five bodies, originally buried in Marseille, France. Researchers were able to extract, purify and enrich specifically for the pathogen's DNA, and then compare the samples with over 150 plague genomes representing a world wide distribution as well as from other points in time, both modern and ancient. By comparing and contrasting the samples, researchers determined the Marseille strain is a direct descendant of the Black Death that devastated Europe nearly 400 years earlier and not a divergent strain that came, like the previous pandemic strains Justinian and Black Death, from separate emergences originating in Asia. More extensive sampling of modern rodent populations, in addition to ancient human and rodent remains from various regions in Asia, the Caucasus and Europe, may yield additional clues about past ecological niches for plague. "There are many unresolved questions that need to be answered: why did the plague erupt in these devastating waves and then lay dormant? Did it linger in the soil or did it re-emerge in rats? And ultimately why did it suddenly disappear and never come back? Sadly, we don't have the answer to this yet," says Poinar. "Understanding the evolution of the plague will be critically important as antibiotic resistance becomes a greater threat, particularly since we treat modern-day plague with standard antibiotics. Without methods of treatment, easily treatable infections can become devastating again," he says. The research was published online today in the bioarchive bioRXIV, and is under review at the journal eLife. Explore further: Researchers reconstruct genome of the Black Death
News Article | March 21, 2016
When you hold in mind a sentence you have just read or a phone number you’re about to dial, you’re engaging a critical brain system known as working memory. For the past several decades, neuroscientists have believed that as information is held in working memory, brain cells associated with that information fire continuously. However, a new study from MIT has upended that theory, instead finding that as information is held in working memory, neurons fire in sporadic, coordinated bursts. These cyclical bursts could help the brain to hold multiple items in working memory at the same time, according to the researchers. “By having these different bursts coming at different moments in time, you can keep different items in memory separate from one another,” said Earl Miller, the Picower Professor in MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Miller is the senior author of the study, which appears in the March 17 issue of Neuron. Mikael Lundqvist, a Picower Institute postdoc, and Jonas Rose, now at University of Tubingen in Germany, are the paper’s lead authors. Starting in the early 1970s, experiments showed that when an item is held in working memory, a subset of neurons fires continuously. However, these and subsequent studies of working memory averaged the brain’s activity over seconds or even minutes of performing the task, Miller said. “The problem with that is, that’s not the way the brain works,” he said. “We looked more closely at this activity, not by averaging across time, but from looking from moment to moment. That revealed that something way more complex is going on.” Miller and his colleagues recorded neuron activity in animals as they were shown a sequence of three colored squares, each in a different location. Then, the squares were shown again, but one of them had changed color. The animals were trained to respond when they noticed the square that had changed color — a task requiring them to hold all three squares in working memory for about two seconds. The researchers found that as items were held in working memory, ensembles of neurons in the prefrontal cortex were active in brief bursts, and these bursts only occurred in recording sites in which information about the squares was stored. The bursting was most frequent at the beginning of the task, when the information was encoded, and at the end, when the memories were read out. The findings fit well with a model that Lundqvist had developed as an alternative to the model of sustained activity as the neural basis of working memory. According to the new model, information is stored in rapid changes in the synaptic strength of the neurons. The brief bursts serve to “imprint” information in the synapses of these neurons, and the bursts reoccur periodically to reinforce the information as long as it is needed. The bursts create waves of coordinated activity in the gamma frequency (45 to 100 hertz), like the ones that were observed in the data. These waves occur sporadically, with gaps between them, and each ensemble of neurons, encoding a specific item, produces a different burst of gamma waves. “It’s like a fingerprint,” Lundqvist said. When this activity is averaged over several repeated trials, it appears as a smooth curve of continuous activity, just as the older models of working memory suggested. However, the MIT team’s new way of measuring and analyzing the data suggests that the full picture is much different. “It’s like for years you’ve been listening to music from your neighbor’s apartment and all you can hear is the thumping bass part. You’re missing all the details, but if you get close enough to it you see there’s a lot more going on,” Miller said. The findings suggest that it would be worthwhile to look for this kind of cyclical activity in other cognitive functions such as attention, the researchers say. Oscillations like those seen in this study may help the brain to package information and keep it separate so that different pieces of information don’t interfere with each other. “Your brain operates in a very sporadic, periodic way, with lots of gaps in between the information the brain represents,” Miller said. “The mind is papering over all the gaps and bubbly dynamics and giving us an impression that things are happening in a smooth way, when our brain is actually working in a very periodic fashion, sending packets of information around.” Robert Knight, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California at Berkeley, said the new study “provides compelling evidence that nonlinear oscillatory dynamics underlie prefrontal dependent working memory capacity.” “The work calls for a new view of the computational processes supporting goal-directed behavior,” adds Knight, who was not involved in the research. “The control processes supporting nonlinear dynamics are not understood, but this work provides a critical guidepost for future work aimed at understanding how the brain enables fluid cognition.”