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Regenerate, Rejuvenate and Reverse – Stem Cell Therapy and Heart Disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Many people that are living with damaged hearts find themselves easily fatigued and unable to perform simple everyday actions. This has warranted ongoing research into finding a cure for the condition. Recently, a study published in Nature has shown that stem cell technology may be used to reverse heart damage. Most patients that currently suffer from heart disease treat the condition with medication, but the stem cell therapy will enable a regrowth of healthy cells.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Shinshu University. The method they proposed would involve transplanting stem cells into the heart, encouraging it to repair itself. Stem cell transplants have already been used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s successfully. The process recommended by Shinshu has already been tried on primates, with good results. Some of the hearts with the transplanted cells began to beat irregularly, but there were no adverse effects of this and scientists are confident that the procedure will work well for humans.

One of the possible problems with transplanting stem cells is the risk of them being rejected by the body, as the immune system tries to protect it. This can be prevented by ensuring that the protein from the donor cells matches the recipient’s. Our immune system uses these proteins to identify harmful foreign bodies. In addition, taking mild immunosuppressants will ensure the stem cells survival for at least 12 weeks. This gives the body an adequate amount of time to accept the stem cells, and the damaged cells in the heart to begin repairing themselves.

After many years of research, Mayo Clinic has also developed a procedure that has allowed the successful transplant of stem cells into patients with heart disease. Their process involves harvesting these cells directly from the patient’s bone marrow, and then changing them into cardiac cells in a laboratory. These are then injected into the patient’s heart, where they will stimulate the growth of healthy tissue.

To refine this process, the heart was first examined at a subcellular level. During this assessment, the team discovered that there were hundreds of proteins present in cardiac tissue. They then used computer technology to separate the proteins, and found that eight of these were necessary for healthy cells in the heart. This led Mayo Clinic’s team to correctly create stem cells which would not be rejected by the immune system, creating the possibility of a more energetic way of life for those living with heart disease.

Climate Change To Wipe Out Half Of Ethiopia’s Coffee-Growing Area

June 30th, 2017 by James Ayre

The birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia, is likely to lose up to half of its total coffee-growing area by the end of the century as a result of anthropogenic climate change and its effects, according to a new study.

As it is, still nowhere near the end of the century, rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns in Ethiopia are already damaging coffee production in some parts of the country where “special” varieties are grown.

This may not sound as though it’s all that important but it’s probably worth realizing here that there are currently around 100 million people worldwide who are involved in coffee bean farming — so the industry is intimately involved in the economies of many regions around the world. If the coffee industry does end up collapsing in Ethiopia, as the study predicts, then there will no doubt be serious economic problems that follow.

The press release provides a bit more clarity: “Without major action both in the coffee industry and in slashing greenhouse gas emissions, coffee is predicted to become more expensive and worse-tasting. The research combined climate-change computer modelling with detailed measurements of current ground conditions, gathered in fieldwork that covered a total distance of 30,000 km within Ethiopia. It found that 40-60% of today’s coffee growing areas in Ethiopia would be unsuitable by the end of the century under a range of likely warming scenarios.”

There is a means of dealing with the effect of climate change on coffee production in the short term, though an expensive one: moving production uphill. Even this approach will have run its course by 2040, since it won’t be possible to move production any further uphill at that point.

Researcher Aaron Davis from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew noted: “It literally reaches the ceiling, because you don’t have any higher place to go.”

Commenting on the loss of production at the heritage site Harar, Davis stated: “In one area, there are hundreds if not thousands of hectares of dead trees. It is a world renowned name and has been grown in that area for many centuries. But under all (climate change) scenarios, it’s going to get worse.”

“Some of the origins, what you would call terroir in the wine industry, will disappear, unless serious intervention is undertaken,” he continued. “It would be like losing the Burgundy wine region. Those areas are found nowhere else but Ethiopia, and because of the genetic diversity, the diversity of flavor profiles is globally unique.”

Something that’s perhaps just as important as the loss of cultivated area will be the loss wild arabica and robusta coffee genetics — which could well result in the loss of genetics that would help to improve crop resistance against drought and disease. To improve resistance against the impending effects of climate change, in other words.

As explained by Prof Sebsebe Demissew from the University of Addis Ababa: “Coffee originates from the highland forests of Ethiopia, and it is our gift to the world. As Ethiopia is the main natural storehouse of arabica genetic diversity, what happens in Ethiopia could have long-term impacts for coffee farming globally.”

The new study is detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Plants.

Infinite Intelligence – Is the Universe Conscious?

Spiritual leaders have been claiming that the universe is a conscious being for many years. Physicist Gregory Matloff has recently published a paper which suggests that this theory is possible, and science may be able to prove it. Matloff is a veteran at the New York City College of Technology and, even though his paper is unable to confirm universal consciousness (panpsychism) he is encouraging more research into the theory. In his publication, Matloff suggests that humans may not only model the universe in substance, but in spirit as well. This would indicate that the universe is self-aware, and has a possible consciousness field that would extend through all of space.

The theory of ‘panpsychism,’ has already been suggested and explored by other scientists. Sir Roger Penrose, a British physicist, theorized that quantum physics holds the key to consciousness. His views, which were expressed more than 30 years ago, suggests that consciousness itself exists in the microscopic spaces between brain neurons. Bernard Haisch expanded on this theory by speculating that the quantum fields that permeate empty space, also known as quantum vacuums, can produce and transmit consciousness. This would then create a self-awareness in any physical structure which has an energy system running through it, including the universe.

Matloff attempted to test and expand these theories, by locating astronomical objects that unexpectedly adjust their behavior in response to stimuli. This led to his study of Paranego’s Discontinuity, which is a theory that demonstrates where cooler stars orbit our galaxy at a faster pace than hotter ones. Science has attributed this phenomena to the stars’ interactions with gas clouds. Matloff noted that these changes only occurred in stars that were cool enough to have molecules in their atmosphere and, therefore, a more complex chemical composition. He also noted that some stars emit jets that only point in a single direction, which caused them to move in a different way.

Matloff’s theory suggests that the way in which these stars move is being consciously changed. He claims that if the process was caused by outward elements, it would begin to vary depending on the star’s location in the galaxy. An internal response, such as consciousness, would result in the stars’ behavior being the same despite their locations. The physicist also noted that more detailed data will be available, to further test his theory, after scheduled information is received from Gaia Star Mapping Space Telescope in 2018.

Other researchers have been testing the possibility of the universe’s consciousness, by observing humans as they are made up of the same components. Scientists currently define consciousness as ‘the ability of a system to be influenced by its previous state and to influence its next state.’ This means that it is associated with the complexity of a system, and its ability to choose. Research has shown where this could also be true of simple systems, which are neither organic nor biological. Scientists are hopeful that the true complexity of the Universe will be revealed in the near future, and they can then confirm whether our conscious abilities are really just a small part of a greater mass consciousness.

The Sun – The Solar System’s Direct Source of Heat and Light

The planets in our Solar System all revolve around the Sun, and the Earth’s position in relation to it is one of the main reasons why it is habitable. Our sun is one of an infinite number of stars in the Universe, which are all large balls of fusion reactions that generate energy taking the forms of light and heat. This originally begins with the formation of the star, created through a process known as The Nebula Theory. This theory states that nuclear reactors inside stars begin when large clouds of gas and particles (nebulas), collapse under the pressure from their gravity. The collapse causes atoms to fuse together due to this excessive pressure and heat. The result is a ball of light, known as a ‘star’.

The size of the star determines the amount of energy that it can produce. Larger ones have more heat and pressure, and can fuse heavier elements in a process known as nuclear fusion. Our sun, and other stars that are similar in size, produces energy in the core when Hydrogen atoms are converted into Helium. During this fusion, matter is released from the nuclei and converted to photons. It is estimated that 620 million metric tons are fused in our sun’s core in a single second. This is enough energy to power a large city for approximately 100 years!

Each of the sun’s layers helps to distribute the energy created, so that it will extend beyond its surface and into The Solar System. Approximately 99% of its energy production takes place in the core. The other layers, The Radioactive Zone, The Convective Zone and The Photosphere, are heated by this energy as it expands outward. The layers get progressively cooler and facilitate the transfer of heat and energy, which escape into space as sunlight or particle energy.

This energy is essential to the survival of life on our planet. Once it arrives at our atmosphere, much of the UV radiation produced during nuclear fusion is filtered by The Ozone Layer, making it less harmful to our organisms. The benefits of the sun’s rays to our planet, are extensive and include warming our seas, generating weather patterns and providing energy for plants that in turn create food and oxygen for other lifeforms. Scientists have observed where the sun’s nuclear fusion patterns are relatively stable, even though there have been slight irregularities throughout many years. They are unsure of what has caused these short-lived changes, or the effects that the more drastic ones may have on our planet since the sun affects the way in which the entire Solar System functions.

Fighting HIV – Using the Cells it Affects

Methods to treat HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) have improved greatly since the virus first began to affect humans, in the late 1980s. A few of those infected never developed full-blown AIDS, but for the majority, the inevitable result would have been wasting away due to an inability to fight diseases. Treatment for HIV has improved continuously, and the disease is no longer considered to be fatal once the affected person receives treatment. These treatments have at least two disadvantages, however: they would need to be continued for the duration of the individual’s lifetime and there are also uncomfortable side effects. Researchers are confident that there will eventually be a cure for HIV, and they continue to do tests that may take us closer to finding one.

Scientists from The University of Massachusetts Medical School have published an article in Nature, which states the possibility of decreasing the spread of HIV using cells which occur naturally in our bodies. Ironically, these are the same cells which the virus attacks. HIV breaks down the immune system by infecting and destroying CD4 positive ‘helper’ T-cells.

These white blood cells are vital to fighting off infection, which is why HIV is so efficient at wrecking havoc in the immune system. After affecting some of the cells, the virus uses these to travel through the body and infect other CD4s. T-cells transport these by settling in between lymph nodes, and others areas, that the free virus would be unable to reach.

The researchers found that there are proteins in the T-cells in our immune system which naturally fight HIV. SERINC5 and SERINC3, two host cell proteins, are able to stifle HIV-1 by greater than 100-fold. The HIV-1 genome has nine genes which can be replicated in the host cell, which then produce virions (the infectious part of the virus). They begin a cycle of infection by looking for new cells to infect. One of these, NEF (which is a key part in the development of AIDS) helps the process by blocking the SERINC proteins, so that they are unable to reach the cell’s surface. This means that they will no longer become a part of the newly formed virions. Developing a drug to restrict NEFs would allow the system to fight HIV, as the virions would then include SERINC3 and SERINC5 making them unable to infect new cells. This process could then be applied to other infectious viruses with NEF proteins.

Improved Photosynthesis – Steps Towards Decreasing World Hunger

As the world’s population continues to increase, the United Nations has estimated that the amount of crops that are currently produced will be insufficient to meet the associated rising food demand. The organization has also speculated that by 2050, many of the world’s poorest nations will be unable to feed the majority of their citizens. A collaboration between scientists at The University of Illinois and The University of California, Berkeley, has shown that it may be possible to create plants that will produce a greater output, and help feed these populations. The researchers genetically modified organisms to improve the rate at which they photosynthesize, reducing their recovery time and increasing their yield.

Photosynthesis is the method by which plants use carbon dioxide and sunlight to produce sugars and oxygen. Like animals, they are susceptible to sun damage but are able to shield themselves using a process known as nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ). After ideal conditions for photosynthesis resume, these plants can take up to 1/2 an hour to relax the NPQ process. During this period, light energy is lost as heat. Depending on the temperature and the type of plant, this may result in a decrease in productivity by up to 30%. The researchers aimed to devise a method which would cause the plants to reduce the amount of time taken to relax NPQ and, therefore, increase their efficiency.

The team were able to identify three proteins that are responsible for stopping NPQ. They speculated that plants with increased numbers of these proteins would be able to relax the process faster. The theory was tested using tobacco, because of the ease with which these plants are transformed and their ability to produce the layers of leaves necessary. Those that had additional proteins added weighed between 14% and 20% more than other tobacco plants. Many crops such as rice, soybeans and wheat, also produce layers. This suggests that the same method can be applied to these foods, increasing their yield. Even though the crops would be more difficult to modify, researchers are confident that this next step in the experiment can be achieved fairly quickly.

Once it has accomplished, both lab tests and field experiments will need to be performed to determine how the modified plants will respond to stresses, such as droughts and floods. After this the technology will be ready for use on a large scale basis and may be given to farmers, and other agricultural producers. Researchers not associated with the experiment also believe that this modification may be the beginning of the second ‘green revolution,’ and would significantly reduce world hunger.