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But because these devices are placed inside the heart—as opposed to a cavity in the chest—tissue grows around them. As a result, retrieving these devices for a battery replacement might not always be possible. Instead, doctors may allow old pacemakers to pile up inside the heart while inserting new devices as needed. There is no known danger associated with this practice, but Hooman Ansari, a PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is working on a tidy solution. Working under the supervision of M. Amin Karami, assistant professor in UB's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the Intelligent Dynamic Energy and Sensing Systems Lab (IDEAS Lab), Ansari and colleagues are developing a piezoelectric system that converts the heart's vibrational energy into electricity to power pacemakers. The advancement, which would eliminate the need for pacemaker batteries, is described in papers published in the journals Smart Materials and Structures (May 2) and Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures (May 17). "What we're proposing would make receiving a pacemaker a one-and-done type procedure that could take as a little as 15 minutes," says Ansari. "In the United States alone, about 200,000 people receive battery replacements for their pacemakers every year. We could eliminate these procedures, saving the health care system untold amounts of money and limiting patient risk that occurs with these procedures." Unlike conventional pacemakers, leadless pacemakers are about the size of an AAA battery. They are delivered via a catheter through the leg to the heart, where they regulate the heart beat and blood flow. An initial device that the IDEAS Lab built and tested is roughly 1 centimeter cubed and shaped like the letter S. Results show it produces sufficient power (at least 10 microwatts) for heart rates from 20 to 100 beats per minute. It does not use magnetics, making it compatible with MRI machines. A new device they are working on is even smaller. It's a piezoelectric strip, about a half-centimeter long, that's designed to buckle as it absorbs vibrational energy from the heart. Simulations suggest it will be capable of generating enough energy to power a heart rate up to 150 beats per minute. The researcher's next step is to conduct physical experiments on the new device, and to develop a way to attach a backup power source to the device. Explore further: Next-gen pacemakers may be powered by unlikely source: the heart More information: MH Ansari et al. A sub-cc nonlinear piezoelectric energy harvester for powering leadless pacemakers, Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures (2017). DOI: 10.1177/1045389X17708344 M H Ansari et al. Experimental investigation of fan-folded piezoelectric energy harvesters for powering pacemakers, Smart Materials and Structures (2017). DOI: 10.1088/1361-665X/aa6cfd


News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

BUFFALO, N.Y. - New research from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions that explored the potential side effects of the stimulant drug Ritalin on those without ADHD showed changes in brain chemistry associated with risk-taking behavior, sleep disruption and other undesirable effects. Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a growing problem among college students who use it without a prescription as a so-called "study enhancer." The drug works by increasing the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that control reasoning, problem solving and other behaviors. "Although Ritalin's effectiveness in treating ADHD is well-documented, few studies have looked at the drug's effect on non-prescribed illicit use," says Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA. "We wanted to explore the effects of this stimulant drug on the brain, behavior and development on non-ADHD subjects." Recent studies put college students' nonprescription use of stimulant drugs (Ritalin and amphetamines such as Adderall and Dexedrine) at rates anywhere between 14 and 38 percent, depending on the type of college and age of student. The common belief is that these drugs can help students to focus and concentrate when studying and perform better on tests. Alarmingly, these drugs are finding their way into high schools, as well, for the same reasons. Thanos' team, which included many UB students he mentors, looked at changes in the brains of rats who received regular doses of methylphenidate during what would be equivalent to adolescence in humans, a time of significant brain growth and development. "We saw changes in the brain chemistry in ways that are known to have an impact on the reward pathway, locomotor activity, and other behaviors, as well as effects on body weight," Thanos says. "These changes in brain chemistry were associated with serious concerns such as risk-taking behaviors, disruptions in the sleep/wake cycle and problematic weight loss, as well as resulting in increased activity and anti-anxiety and antidepressive effects." Further research indicated that female subjects were more sensitive to the behavioral effects of methylphenidate than the males. Thanos hopes that studying the effects of methylphenidate on those without ADHD may lead to a greater understanding of how the drug works on the brain and behavior, and can help researchers understand the impact of the drug on young people throughout development. "Understanding more about the effects of methylphenidate is also important as people with ADHD show greater risk to be diagnosed with a drug dependency problem," Thanos says. "In addition, this study highlights the potential long-range risks college students take in using Ritalin for a quick study boost." Thanos' research was funded by the New York State Research Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His coauthors were David Komatsu, PhD, of Stony Brook University and Michael Hadjiargyrou, PhD, of the New York Institute of Technology. RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues. RIA's research programs, most of which have multiple-year funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation grants. Located on UB's Downtown Campus, RIA is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to UB's reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit buffalo.edu/ria.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

New research from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions that explored the potential side effects of the stimulant drug Ritalin on those without ADHD showed changes in brain chemistry associated with risk-taking behavior, sleep disruption and other undesirable effects. Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a growing problem among college students who use it without a prescription as a so-called "study enhancer." The drug works by increasing the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that control reasoning, problem solving and other behaviors. "Although Ritalin's effectiveness in treating ADHD is well-documented, few studies have looked at the drug's effect on non-prescribed illicit use," said Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, Ph.D., senior research scientist at RIA. "We wanted to explore the effects of this stimulant drug on the brain, behavior and development on non-ADHD subjects." Recent studies put college students' nonprescription use of stimulant drugs (Ritalin and amphetamines such as Adderall and Dexedrine) at rates anywhere between 14 and 38 percent, depending on the type of college and age of student. The common belief is that these drugs can help students to focus and concentrate when studying and perform better on tests. Alarmingly, these drugs are finding their way into high schools, as well, for the same reasons. Thanos' team, which included many UB students he mentors, looked at changes in the brains of rats who received regular doses of methylphenidate during what would be equivalent to adolescence in humans, a time of significant brain growth and development. "We saw changes in the brain chemistry in ways that are known to have an impact on the reward pathway, locomotor activity, and other behaviors, as well as effects on body weight," Thanos said. "These changes in brain chemistry were associated with serious concerns such as risk-taking behaviors, disruptions in the sleep/wake cycle and problematic weight loss, as well as resulting in increased activity and anti-anxiety and antidepressive effects." Further research indicated that female subjects were more sensitive to the behavioral effects of methylphenidate than the males. Thanos hopes that studying the effects of methylphenidate on those without ADHD may lead to a greater understanding of how the drug works on the brain and behavior, and can help researchers understand the impact of the drug on young people throughout development. "Understanding more about the effects of methylphenidate is also important as people with ADHD show greater risk to be diagnosed with a drug dependency problem," Thanos said. "In addition, this study highlights the potential long-range risks college students take in using Ritalin for a quick study boost."


News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

The carnivorous humped bladderwort plant is a sophisticated predator. Living in swamps and ponds, it uses vacuum pressure to suck prey into tiny traps at breathtaking speeds of under a millisecond. A new genomic analysis shows just how valuable this carnivorous lifestyle has been to the plant throughout its evolutionary history. Over millions of years, the species, Utricularia gibba, repeatedly retained and enhanced genetic material associated with its carnivorous nature -- despite tremendous evolutionary pressure to delete DNA, the research finds. The biological treasures that were nurtured include genes that facilitate the trapping of prey, the digestion of proteins, and the transport of small bits of protein (derived from the bladderwort's victims) from one cell to another. "What's exciting is that we didn't go in and cherry pick these genes," says Victor Albert, PhD, professor of biological sciences in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. "We used bioinformatics to identify genes that were preserved and enriched in the species, and when we did that, these genes related to a carnivorous lifestyle were the ones that stood out. They were screaming out at us, telling us to look at them." "Through careful analysis, we were able to uncover the genetic signatures of a carnivorous plant," says Stephan C. Schuster, PhD, professor of biological sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The findings will be published on May 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Albert and Schuster co-led the study along with Luis Herrera-Estrella of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in Mexico. Other researchers came from San Diego State University, El Instituto de Ecología in Mexico, the University of Ottawa in Canada and the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China. Albert, Schuster, Herrera-Estrella and colleagues first reported sequencing the bladderwort genome in 2013, an achievement described in the journal Nature. However, with new tools available in the field of genomics, the researchers joined forces again to create an even better version of the bladderwort genome for the 2016 study. The sequencing technique they chose was a single-molecule method developed by Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). Like other technologies, this one reads different sections of DNA in the genome, and then specialized software combines overlapping chunks to form bigger and bigger chains. But the PacBio method enabled the scientists to build a better genome by generating individual strings of bladderwort DNA more than 40 times longer than before. This new high-quality sequence allowed researchers to scrutinize the bladderwort genome in new ways. They were able, for instance, to identify important strings of gene copies known as tandem repeats. These are fragments of genetic material that were accidentally duplicated next to each other, sometimes more than once. Such repeated genes are often lost over time as a species evolves, so the ones that are retained are candidates for having leant their hosts an evolutionary advantage. That's especially true of the bladderwort, Albert and colleagues say. They note that the plant has a tiny, gene-rich genome, an indication that the species has had a history of rampant DNA deletion. Tandem repeats in the bladderwort genome included genes responsible for the creation of papain proteases -- "proteins that chew up other proteins," as Albert puts it -- as well as genes that promote peptide transport, in which chopped-up proteins (parts of victims) are shuttled from one bladderwort cell to another. Both groups of genes are highly active in the plant's vacuum traps, hinting at a role in the digestion of prey. Tandem repeats also included genes tied to traits such as the acidity of the traps and the elasticity of their cell walls -- qualities that may facilitate the plant's effectiveness as a predator. "The trap of Utricularia is only two cells thick, and the way it does its trapping is it creates a whole lot of negative pressure inside the trap to suck in the prey once triggered," Hererra-Estrella says. "The cell walls are under a lot of tension. So it's no shock at all that there seem to be some interesting clusters of tandem duplicates that deal with the cell wall dynamism."


News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

A new genomic analysis shows just how valuable this carnivorous lifestyle has been to the plant throughout its evolutionary history.Over millions of years, the species, Utricularia gibba, repeatedly retained and enhanced genetic material associated with its carnivorous nature—despite tremendous evolutionary pressure to delete DNA, the research finds. The biological treasures that were nurtured include genes that facilitate the trapping of prey, the digestion of proteins, and the transport of small bits of protein (derived from the bladderwort's victims) from one cell to another. "What's exciting is that we didn't go in and cherry pick these genes," says Victor Albert, PhD, professor of biological sciences in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. "We used bioinformatics to identify genes that were preserved and enriched in the species, and when we did that, these genes related to a carnivorous lifestyle were the ones that stood out. They were screaming out at us, telling us to look at them." "Through careful analysis, we were able to uncover the genetic signatures of a carnivorous plant," says Stephan C. Schuster, PhD, professor of biological sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The findings will be published on May 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Albert and Schuster co-led the study along with Luis Herrera-Estrella of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in Mexico. Other researchers came from San Diego State University, El Instituto de Ecología in Mexico, the University of Ottawa in Canada and the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China. Albert, Schuster, Herrera-Estrella and colleagues first reported sequencing the bladderwort genome in 2013, an achievement described in the journal Nature. However, with new tools available in the field of genomics, the researchers joined forces again to create an even better version of the bladderwort genome for the 2016 study. The sequencing technique they chose was a single-molecule method developed by Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). Like other technologies, this one reads different sections of DNA in the genome, and then specialized software combines overlapping chunks to form bigger and bigger chains. But the PacBio method enabled the scientists to build a better genome by generating individual strings of bladderwort DNA more than 40 times longer than before. This new high-quality sequence allowed researchers to scrutinize the bladderwort genome in new ways. They were able, for instance, to identify important strings of gene copies known as tandem repeats. These are fragments of genetic material that were accidentally duplicated next to each other, sometimes more than once. Such repeated genes are often lost over time as a species evolves, so the ones that are retained are candidates for having leant their hosts an evolutionary advantage. That's especially true of the bladderwort, Albert and colleagues say. They note that the plant has a tiny, gene-rich genome, an indication that the species has had a history of rampant DNA deletion. Tandem repeats in the bladderwort genome included genes responsible for the creation of papain proteases—"proteins that chew up other proteins," as Albert puts it—as well as genes that promote peptide transport, in which chopped-up proteins (parts of victims) are shuttled from one bladderwort cell to another. Both groups of genes are highly active in the plant's vacuum traps, hinting at a role in the digestion of prey. Tandem repeats also included genes tied to traits such as the acidity of the traps and the elasticity of their cell walls—qualities that may facilitate the plant's effectiveness as a predator. "The trap of Utricularia is only two cells thick, and the way it does its trapping is it creates a whole lot of negative pressure inside the trap to suck in the prey once triggered," Hererra-Estrella says. "The cell walls are under a lot of tension. So it's no shock at all that there seem to be some interesting clusters of tandem duplicates that deal with the cell wall dynamism." More information: Tianying Lan el al., "Long-read sequencing uncovers the adaptive topography of a carnivorous plant genome," PNAS (2017). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1702072114


A new study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined why private-land conservation data is sometimes inaccessible and found that limited capacity within some federal agencies as well as laws prohibiting others from disclosing certain information are to blame. "It's difficult or impossible to advance planning, monitoring and evaluation without good information about where private land conservation is happening," says lead author Adena Rissman, an associate professor of environmental policy and management in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology. The money Americans spend on private land conservation often takes the form of subsidies or tax breaks to landowners for stewardship practices, like conservation farming or saving habitat for wildlife. Without access to good data, it is harder for government agencies and nonprofits to target these public investments efficiently and ensure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck. "There is limited funding for conservation, so we want to use conservation dollars in the places where they can make the biggest difference," says Rissman. Additionally, says co-author Jessica Owley, the public often gives up the protection of environmental amenities, like wetlands, to allow development because it's told other lands are being protected in return. The research suggests it may be hard to confirm that such protection actually takes place. "When we forgo both tax dollars and ecosystem services, we should be able to understand what the tradeoffs are and make sure they are worthwhile," says Owley, a law professor at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York). The authors' own difficulty accessing data for previous research inspired their investigation, which examined four conservation programs focused on private land. For example, they found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Endangered Species Act, lacks the personnel and capacity to collect and maintain records on private lands set aside for endangered species as compensation for permitted development that harms habitat. "If they don't even know where mitigation lands are, how can they ensure the persistence of species and verify that the terms of those permit agreements are being upheld over time?" Rissman asks. The researchers also uncovered restricted access to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to convert highly erodible farmland into natural space to protect water and soil health. While the USDA has accurate data on the locations of CRP-enrolled land, a revision to the 2008 Farm Bill - following a court case where private-land geospatial records were released to an agricultural vendor - prohibits it from sharing those records, leaving no way for the public to know what land is entering or leaving the program. While it's important to balance the public's right to know with the privacy concerns of landowners, Rissman says, managers and researchers need such information to track trends in water quality and soil health, for example. The return of thousands of CRP-enrolled acres back to row crops in the past decade, spurred by farmers' desire to reap the benefits of high corn prices, highlights the need for the data to monitor the effects of these conversions. To solve the inaccessibility problem, Rissman says addressing capacity shortfalls in agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service with increases in funding for staffing, data collection and technical training could certainly help. She adds that, while it is still unclear what the next federal budget will mean for conservation programs, overall cuts will make it more difficult for agencies to have the capacity they need to be accountable to the public. Policy revisions can help in other cases. The next Farm Bill revision, set for 2018, presents an opportunity to re-examine the data-restricting language and make it easier for researchers, local governments and the public to access maps of CRP-enrolled lands. "Transparency can be complicated, because information can be used in sometimes unintended ways," says Rissman, acknowledging concerns raised by the agricultural industry over breaches of privacy and increased regulation. "On the other hand, access to this information can help us plan strategically to protect both agriculture and the environment, as well as account for the funds the federal government spends." The study was published in the journal Ecology and Society.


News Article | May 23, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

BestColleges.com, a leading provider of higher education information and resources, today announced a series of new rankings focused on degree opportunities in the Social Services. “The most rewarding work is having the opportunity to help others. We celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by releasing a new series of rankings that feature online education programs in the Social Services. Our goal is to inspire, grow, and expand the all-important workforce that specializes in mental health and social services,” said Stephanie Snider, General Manager, BestColleges.com The Rankings with the top ten schools from each list of twenty-five: Bachelor’s in Sociology 1. University of Central Florida 2. Arizona State University - Tempe 3. Central Washington University 4. Brandman University 5. University of Colorado Denver 6. University of Nebraska at Omaha 7. Fort Hays State University 8. Oregon State University 9. North Dakota State University 10. South Dakota State University Bachelor’s in Psychology 1. University of Central Florida 2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 3. Liberty University 4. University of North Dakota 5. University of Florida - Online 6. Trine University - Regional/Non-Traditional Campuses 7. LeTourneau University 8. University of Massachusetts - Lowell 9. Florida International University 10. Old Dominion University Bachelor’s in Counseling 1. John Wesley University 2. Johnson University 3. Indiana Wesleyan University - Marion 4. University of Cincinnati 5. University of South Dakota 6. Crown College 7. Northwestern State University of Louisiana 8. Oral Roberts University 9. Grace College and Theological Seminary 10. University of Central Arkansas Master’s in Psychology 1. Harvard University 2. University of Georgia 3. Touro University Worldwide 4. Nova Southeastern University 5. Adler Graduate School 6. Adler University 7. William James College 8. The University of Tennessee - Knoxville 9. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles 10. Carlos Albizu University - Miami Master’s in Social Work 1. Columbia University in the City of New York 2. University of Southern California 3. Case Western Reserve University 4. Boston University 5. University of Central Florida 6. Fordham University 7. University of Denver 8. University at Buffalo 9. Ohio State University 10. California State University - Long Beach Master’s in School Counseling 1. Lehigh University 2. New York University 3. Wake Forest University 4. Liberty University 5. University of Missouri - Columbia 6. University of North Dakota 7. University of West Alabama 8. Seton Hall University 9. Concordia University - Wisconsin 10. Missouri Baptist University Full rankings can be found on each subject page by following the hyperlink in the titles. The 2017 rankings reflect the most recent data compiled from IPEDS and the College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The goal is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities. Each school must meet the minimum criteria of being an accredited public or private, not-for-profit institution, and submit an annual report the the National Center for Education Statistics. More information on methodology can be found here: http://www.bestcolleges.com/subject-ranking-methodology/ About BestColleges.com: BestColleges.com helps prospective students find the school that best meets their needs through proprietary research, user-friendly guides, and hundreds of unique college rankings. They also provide a wide array of college planning, financial aid, and career resources to help all students get the most from their education and prepare them for the world after college.


News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

American taxpayers spend millions of dollars each year to conserve privately owned lands. These lands provide public benefits like timber, water quality protection and food. Yet, information about conserved private lands -- including where they are and what protections are in place -- can be hard to find, impeding the effectiveness of conservation efforts and taxpayer investments. A new study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined why private-land conservation data is sometimes inaccessible and found that limited capacity within some federal agencies as well as laws prohibiting others from disclosing certain information are to blame. "It's difficult or impossible to advance planning, monitoring and evaluation without good information about where private land conservation is happening," says lead author Adena Rissman, an associate professor of environmental policy and management in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology. The money Americans spend on private land conservation often takes the form of subsidies or tax breaks to landowners for stewardship practices, like conservation farming or saving habitat for wildlife. Without access to good data, it is harder for government agencies and nonprofits to target these public investments efficiently and ensure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck. "There is limited funding for conservation, so we want to use conservation dollars in the places where they can make the biggest difference," says Rissman. Additionally, says co-author Jessica Owley, the public often gives up the protection of environmental amenities, like wetlands, to allow development because it's told other lands are being protected in return. The research suggests it may be hard to confirm that such protection actually takes place. "When we forgo both tax dollars and ecosystem services, we should be able to understand what the tradeoffs are and make sure they are worthwhile," says Owley, a law professor at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York). The authors' own difficulty accessing data for previous research inspired their investigation, which examined four conservation programs focused on private land. For example, they found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Endangered Species Act, lacks the personnel and capacity to collect and maintain records on private lands set aside for endangered species as compensation for permitted development that harms habitat. "If they don't even know where mitigation lands are, how can they ensure the persistence of species and verify that the terms of those permit agreements are being upheld over time?" Rissman asks. The researchers also uncovered restricted access to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to convert highly erodible farmland into natural space to protect water and soil health. While the USDA has accurate data on the locations of CRP-enrolled land, a revision to the 2008 Farm Bill -- following a court case where private-land geospatial records were released to an agricultural vendor -- prohibits it from sharing those records, leaving no way for the public to know what land is entering or leaving the program. While it's important to balance the public's right to know with the privacy concerns of landowners, Rissman says, managers and researchers need such information to track trends in water quality and soil health, for example. The return of thousands of CRP-enrolled acres back to row crops in the past decade, spurred by farmers' desire to reap the benefits of high corn prices, highlights the need for the data to monitor the effects of these conversions. To solve the inaccessibility problem, Rissman says addressing capacity shortfalls in agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service with increases in funding for staffing, data collection and technical training could certainly help. She adds that, while it is still unclear what the next federal budget will mean for conservation programs, overall cuts will make it more difficult for agencies to have the capacity they need to be accountable to the public. Policy revisions can help in other cases. The next Farm Bill revision, set for 2018, presents an opportunity to re-examine the data-restricting language and make it easier for researchers, local governments and the public to access maps of CRP-enrolled lands. "Transparency can be complicated, because information can be used in sometimes unintended ways," says Rissman, acknowledging concerns raised by the agricultural industry over breaches of privacy and increased regulation. "On the other hand, access to this information can help us plan strategically to protect both agriculture and the environment, as well as account for the funds the federal government spends."

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