How Did Life Started On The Earth? PART 21: Existence Of Consciousness Without Brain (Neuroscience)

PREVIOUSLY ON HDLSOE: PART 20, We saw how communication evolved with time. If you haven’t read that article yet. Don’t forget to visit and read it first. Today, we are going to see does consciousness exists without brain? Guys, in Neuroscience the prevailing consensus is that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and its metabolism. i.e. When the brain dies, the mind and consciousness of the being to whom that brain belonged ceases to exist. In other words, without a brain there can be no consciousness. But what if i say, consciousness persists after death.

©Shutterstock

Yeah, it exists independently and outside of the brain as an inherent property of the universe itself like dark matter and dark energy or gravity. Thus, the brain does not create or produce consciousness; rather, it filters it. You might be thinking, I may have gone mad.. But as odd as this idea might seem at first, there are some analogies that bring this concept into sharper focus.

Let’s take an example the eye filters and interprets only a very small sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum and the ear registers only a narrow range of sonic frequencies. Similarly, the brain filters and perceives only a tiny part of the cosmos’ intrinsic ‘consciousness.” Indeed, the eye can see only the wavelengths of electromagnetic energy that correspond to visible light.

But the entire EM spectrum is vast and extends from extremely low energy, long wavelength radio waves to incredibly energetic, ultrashort-wavelength gamma rays. So, while we can’t actually “see” much of the EM spectrum, we know things like X-rays, IR exists because we have instruments for detecting them.

Similarly, our ears can register only a narrow range of sonic frequencies but we know a huge amount of others imperceptible to the human ear exist nevertheless.

When the eye dies, the EM spectrum does not vanish or cease to be; it’s just that the eye is no longer viable and therefore can no longer filter, be stimulated by, and react to light energy. But the energy it previously interacted with remains nonetheless. And so too when the ear dies, or stops transducing the sound waves, energies that the living ear normally respond to still exist.

So it is with consciousness. Just because the organ that filters, perceives, and interprets it dies does not mean the phenomenon itself ceases to exist. It only ceases to be in the now-dead brain but continues to exist independently of the brain as an external property of the universe itself. Guys, our consciousness tricks us into perceiving a false duality of self and other when in fact there is only unity.

We are not special, we are not separate from other aspects of the universe but an integral and inextricable part of them. And when we die, we transcend the human experience of consciousness, and its illusion of duality, and merge with the universe’s entire and unified property of consciousness. So, ironically, only in death can we be fully conscious.

But yes, don’t take this as joining God or a creator because the cosmic consciousness that I am talking about did not create the universe but is simply a “property” of it. So, friends for now we have to stop here.. But i will be back with LAST AND FINAL episodic part of HDLSOE very soon..

Reference: Peter Fenwick, Elizabeth Fenwick, “The Art of Dying”, Bloomsbury Academic, 2008 ISBN 0826499236, 9780826499233 Length 264 pages. https://books.google.co.in/books/about/The_Art_of_Dying.html?id=5LDkJwAACAAJ&source=kp_book_description&redir_esc=y

About the author

Dr Peter Fenwick is an internationally renowned neuropsychiatrist and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is Britain’s leading clinical authority on near-death experiences and is president of the British branch of The International Association for Near-Death Studies. He also holds appointments at the Maudsley Hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the Broadmoor Special Hospital for Violent Offenders.

Elizabeth Fenwick has written a number of books on health and family issues. She has produced books on pregnancy and child care, worked as an agony aunt advising on sexual problems on radio and in Company magazine and has been involved in sex education in two London schools. She also worked for three years as a counsellor for Childline.

© Copyright S. Aman 2020.

Newly Discovered Toxin-antitoxin System Abundant in One-cell Organisms (Biology)

Bacteria are always hungry, according to Thomas Wood, Biotechnology Endowed Chair and professor of chemical engineering in the Penn State College of Engineering. If you gave a single bacterium all the food it wanted, it would obtain the mass of the Earth in about two days.

A bacterial cell poisons itself with an antitoxin to prevent a virus from taking over, which is one important function of toxin-antitoxin systems discovered by Thomas Wood, Biotechnology Endowed Chair and professor of chemical engineering at Penn State. ©Ellie Jamison

To survive periods of starvation, bacteria must slow down their activity, or “go to sleep,” according to Wood. Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems, or small genetic elements found in the chromosomes of bacteria, allow bacteria to either speed up growth — using antitoxins — or slow down growth — using toxins — in order to thrive in periods where food is either plentiful or scarce.

Wood and his colleagues detail their discovery of a TA system that they named the HEPN/MNT system — higher?eukaryotes and prokaryotes nucleotide-binding and minimal nucleotidyltransferase — in Nucleic Acids Research.

“If you eat three meals a day, bacteria in your stomach starve between each of the meals,” Wood said. “If bacteria did not have toxins to slow their metabolism and save their resources, they would run out of energy and die during each starvation period.”

In the HEPN/MNT system, the MNT antitoxin “bites” the HEPN toxin to inactivate and block it. More specifically, adenosine triphosphate?(ATP) is transferred near the active site of the toxin protein, inhibiting the toxin.

“The easiest way for a bacterial cell to turn off a toxin is to bear-hug and hold on to it,” Wood said. “We found in this specific system that the antitoxin acts as an enzyme to inactivate the toxin.”

The HEPN/MNT system is the most abundant system found in prokaryotes, or one-cell organisms like bacteria, according to Wood.

Wood’s latest discovery is the third type of TA system he has helped to discover and name. In 2008, with follow-up studies published in 2016, Wood discovered a new type of antitoxin that functions to oxidize?the toxin sulfur. Wood named the system “TomB” after Tom, his nickname.

In 2012, Wood published on a TA system known as GhoST, the first known TA system in which the antitoxin functions as an enzyme. In the system, the antitoxin GhoS consumes the genetic material, or mRNA, to remove the toxin, GhoT, from a bacterial cell. Otherwise, the toxin GhoT punches a hole in the cell membrane and puts the cell to sleep, giving it a ghost-like appearance.

“All antitoxins inactivate toxins and prevent them from slowing cell growth,” Wood said. “The difference lies in how each antitoxin interacts with the?toxin.”

TA systems are important both to conserve healthy bacteria and to fight off viruses.

“We have a love-hate relationship with bacteria, but we need them, especially in our digestive systems,” he said.

Wood discovered in 1996 that TA systems slow down bacteria growth when a virus attacks in order to prevent the virus from killing the cell.

“TA systems prevent viruses from propagating to a hundred neighbors and taking control of a bacterial population,” Wood said. “A virus has no way to kill a bacterium if it is asleep.”

Reference: Jianyun Yao, Xiangkai Zhen, Kaihao Tang, Tianlang Liu, Xiaolong Xu, Zhe Chen, Yunxue Guo, Xiaoxiao Liu, Thomas K Wood, Songying Ouyang, Xiaoxue Wang, Novel polyadenylylation-dependent neutralization mechanism of the HEPN/MNT toxin/antitoxin system, Nucleic Acids Research, Volume 48, Issue 19, 4 November 2020, Pages 11054–11067, https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkaa855 https://academic.oup.com/nar/article/48/19/11054/5921292

Provided by Penn State

Researchers Find Why ‘Lab-made’ Proteins Have Unusually High Temperature Stability (Chemistry)

Bioengineers have found why proteins that are designed from scratch tend to be more tolerant to high temperatures than proteins found in nature.

Structure of the de novo protein with most of the core filled with valine residues (green). Ten hydrophobic residues were mutated to smaller valine residues. This de novo protein still shows high thermal stability above 100 ºC. ©NINS/IMS

Natural proteins with high ‘thermostability’ are prized for their wide range of applications, from baking and paper-making to chemical production. Efforts to enhance protein thermostability–and to discover the principles behind this–is one of the hottest topics in biotech.

The latest discoveries, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 23, 2020, open up the possibility of lab-made proteins with even better industrial applicability.

Researchers in the relatively young field of protein design have attempted to come up with new types of proteins for myriad medical, pharmaceutical and industrial applications. Until recently, protein engineers have focused on manipulating existing natural proteins. However, these natural proteins are difficult to alter without also distorting the general functioning of the protein–much like adding a fifth wheel to a car.

To avoid this, some protein engineers have begun to build novel proteins entirely from scratch, or what is called de novo protein design.

However, this quest has its own set of issues. For example, building proteins from scratch is much harder computationally, and requires a complete understanding of the principles of protein folding–the multiple levels of how a protein literally folds itself into a particular structure.

In biology, structure determines function, much like how a key fits into a keyhole or a cog into a sprocket. The shape of a biological entity is what allows it to do its job within an organism. And upon their production by cells, proteins just fall into their shape, simply as a result of physical laws.

But the principles that govern the interaction of these physical laws during the folding process are frustratingly complex–hence the computational difficulty. They are also still largely unknown. This is why a great deal of effort in protein engineering in recent years has focused on attempting to discover these protein design principles that emerge from physical laws.

And one of the mysteries facing protein designers has been the high thermostability of these ‘lab-made’ proteins.

“For some reason, de novo proteins have repeatedly shown increased tolerance in the face of quite high temperatures compared to natural proteins,” said Nobuyasu Koga, associate professor at Institute for Molecular Science, and an author of the study. “Where others would ‘denature’, the lab-made proteins are still working just fine well above 100 ºC.”

The design principles that have been discovered so far emphasize the importance of the backbone structure of proteins–the chain of nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

On the other hand, these principles have also held that the tight packing of the fatty, hydrophobic (water-resistant) core of naturally occurring proteins–or rather the molecular interactions that allow them to sit together as snugly as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle–is the dominant force that drives protein folding. Just as how oil and water don’t mix, the fattier part of the protein when surrounded by water will naturally pull itself together without any need for an external ‘push’.

“Indeed, according to our design principles, protein cores were engineered specifically to be as tightly packed and as fatty as possible,” Nobuyasu Koga said. “So the question was: Which is more important for high thermostability, backbone structure or the fat and tight core packing?”

So the researchers took the de novo proteins they had designed that had shown the highest thermal stability, and began to tweak them with ten amino acids involved with the hydrophobic core packing. As they did this, they saw still folding ability and little reduction in overall thermal stability, suggesting that it is instead the backbone structure, not the hydrophobic core packing, that contributes the most to high thermostability. “It is surprising that the protein can fold with high thermal stability, even the loose core packing,” said Naohiro Kobayashi, coauthor and a senior research fellow at RIKEN.

“Hydrophobic tight core packing may not even be very important for designed proteins,” added Rie Koga, coauthor and a researcher at Exploratory Research Center on Life and Living Systems (ExCELLS). “We can create an exceptionally stable protein even if the core packing is not so optimized.”

The next step for the researchers is to further develop rational principles for protein design, especially with respect to what extent that substructures of the backbone, especially loops within it, can be altered without endangering its folding ability and high thermostability.

Reference: Rie Koga, Mami Yamamoto, Takahiro Kosugi, Naohiro Kobayashi, Toshihiko Sugiki, Toshimichi Fujiwara, Nobuyasu Koga, “Robust folding of a de novo designed ideal protein even with most of the core mutated to valine”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2020, 117 (49) 31149-31156; https://www.pnas.org/content/117/49/31149 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2002120117

Provided by National Institute of Natural Science

Gut Microbiota Plays a Role In Brain Function And Mood Regulation (Neuroscience)

Depression is a mental disorder that affects more than 264 million people of all ages worldwide. Understanding its mechanisms is vital for the development of effective therapeutic strategies. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur, Inserm and the CNRS recently conducted a study showing that an imbalance in the gut bacterial community can cause a reduction in some metabolites, resulting in depressive-like behaviors. These findings, which show that a healthy gut microbiota contributes to normal brain function, were published in Nature Communications on December 11, 2020.

Credit: Pascal Marseaud

The bacterial population in the gut, known as the gut microbiota, is the largest reservoir of bacteria in the body. Research has increasingly shown that the host and the gut microbiota are an excellent example of systems with mutually beneficial interactions. Recent observations also revealed a link between mood disorders and damage to the gut microbiota. This was demonstrated by a consortium of scientists from the Institut Pasteur, the CNRS and Inserm, who identified a correlation between the gut microbiota and the efficacy of fluoxetine, a molecule frequently used as an antidepressant. But some of the mechanisms governing depression, the leading cause of disability worldwide, remained unknown.

Using animal models, scientists recently discovered that a change to the gut microbiota brought about by chronic stress can lead to depressive-like behaviors, in particular by causing a reduction in lipid metabolites (small molecules resulting from metabolism) in the blood and the brain.

These lipid metabolites, known as endogenous cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids), coordinate a communication system in the body which is significantly hindered by the reduction in metabolites. Gut microbiota plays a role in brain function and mood regulation

Endocannabinoids bind to receptors that are also the main target of THC, the most widely known active component of cannabis. The scientists discovered that an absence of endocannabinoids in the hippocampus, a key brain region involved in the formation of memories and emotions, resulted in depressive-like behaviors.

The scientists obtained these results by studying the microbiotas of healthy animals and animals with mood disorders. As Pierre-Marie Lledo, Head of the Perception and Memory Unit at the Institut Pasteur (CNRS/Institut Pasteur) and joint last author of the study, explains: “Surprisingly, simply transferring the microbiota from an animal with mood disorders to an animal in good health was enough to bring about biochemical changes and confer depressive-like behaviors in the latter.”

The scientists identified some bacterial species that are significantly reduced in animals with mood disorders. They then demonstrated that an oral treatment with the same bacteria restored normal levels of lipid derivatives, thereby alleviating the depressive-like behaviors. These bacteria could therefore serve as an antidepressant. Such treatments are known as “psychobiotics”.

“This discovery shows the role played by the gut microbiota in normal brain function,” continues Gérard Eberl, Head of the Microenvironment and Immunity Unit (Institut Pasteur/Inserm) and joint last author of the study. If there is an imbalance in the gut bacterial community, some lipids that are vital for brain function disappear, encouraging the emergence of depressive-like behaviors. In this particular case, the use of specific bacteria could be a promising method for restoring a healthy microbiota and treating mood disorders more effectively.

References: Grégoire Chevalier et al, Effect of gut microbiota on depressive-like behaviors in mice is mediated by the endocannabinoid system, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19931-2

Provided by Pasteur Institute

Black Holes Gain New Powers When They Spin Fast Enough (Astronomy)

General relativity is a profoundly complex mathematical theory, but its description of black holes is amazingly simple. A stable black hole can be described by just three properties: its mass, its electric charge and its rotation or spin. Since black holes aren’t likely to have much charge, it really takes just two properties. If you know a black hole’s mass and spin, you know all there is to know about the black hole.

The conflict between relativity and quantum theory leads to the firewall paradox. Credit: Jeremy Perkins / Unsplash

This property is often summarized as the no-hair theorem. Specifically, the theorem asserts that once matter falls into a black hole, the only characteristic that remains is mass. You could make a black hole out of a sun’s worth of hydrogen, chairs or those old copies of National Geographic from Grandma’s attic, and there would be no difference. Mass is mass as far as general relativity is concerned. In every case, the event horizon of a black hole is perfectly smooth, with no extra features. As Jacob Bekenstein said, “black holes have no hair.”

But with all its predictive power, general relativity has a problem with quantum theory. This is particularly true with black holes. If the no-hair theorem is correct, the information within an object is destroyed when it crosses the event horizon. Quantum theory says that information can never be destroyed. So the valid theory of gravity is contradicted by the valid theory of the quanta. This leads to problems such as the firewall paradox, which can’t decide whether an event horizon should be hot or cold.

The temperature within a room is an example of a scalar field. Credit: Lucas Vieira

Several theories have been proposed to solve this contradiction, often involving extensions to relativity. The difference between standard relativity and these modified theories can only be seen in extreme situations, making them difficult to study observationally. But a new paper in Physical Review Letters shows how they might be studied through the spin of a black hole.

Many modified relativity theories have an extra parameter not seen in the standard theory. Known as a massless scalar field, it allows Einstein’s model to connect with quantum theory in a way that isn’t contradictory. In this new work, the team looked at how such a scalar field connects to the rotation of a black hole. They found that at low spins, a modified black hole is indistinguishable from the standard model, but at high rotations, the scalar field allows a black hole to have extra features. In other words, in these alternative models, rapidly rotating black holes can have hair.

The hairy aspects of rotating black holes would only be seen near the event horizon itself, but they would also affect merging black holes. As the authors point out, future gravitational wave observatories should be able to use rapidly rotating black holes to determine whether an alternative to general relativity is valid.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity has passed every observational challenge so far, but it will likely break down in the most extreme environments of the universe. Studies such as this show how we might be able to discover the theory that comes next.

Reference: Alexandru Dima et al. Spin-Induced Black Hole Spontaneous Scalarization, Physical Review Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.125.231101

This article is originally written by Brian Koberlein and is republished here from universe today under common creative licenses

A Protein Has Been Identified As a Potential Therapeutic Target For Leishmaniasis Vaccines (Medicine)

According to the results of research led by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), one the various strategies deployed by the Leishmania parasite to avoid triggering the human immune system is to activate the SHP-1 protein.

The parasite does this by secreting a molecule capable of interacting with the Mincle receptor expressed by antigen-presenting dendritic cells that help induce T-lymphocytes to trigger an immune response.

“For dendritic cells to be able to present antigens to T-lymphocytes, they must also have been infected by the pathogen, or must acquire ‘remains’ from another infected cell. This latter process is called ‘cross-antigen presentation’ and requires specialized enzymatic machinery,” explained Salvador Iborra, a researcher in the Department of Immunology, Ophthalmology and ENT at the UCM.

Besides helping to control physiological cell processes such as growth and proliferation, the newly discovered function of SHP-1 presented in Cell Reports is to limit the capacity of dendritic cells to cross-present antigens in order to prevent autoimmune disorders, i.e. to prevent lymphocytes from attacking healthy body tissue. The parasite masks its presence by activating this aspect of immune response control.

SHP-1 inhibitors, key to vaccination

This study, conducted jointly with the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (Spanish initials: CNIC) and the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, was conducted using genetically modified mice as an experimental model that lacks the Mincle receptor or the SHP-1 enzyme in dendritic cells.

“In addition, we have been able to test the usefulness of chemical compounds that block SHP-1 activation, such as NSC-87877. Among our results, we have shown that vaccination with dendritic cells treated with this inhibitor and loaded with parasite lysates induced a response in cytotoxic lymphocytes that protected the mice against infection,” Iborra reported.

The UCM researcher added that SHP-1 not only inhibits cross-presentation of Leishmania antigens, but also of virus-infected and irradiated cells; consequently, “SHP-1 is a potential target that could limit the effectiveness of a vaccine based on inactivated viruses or parasites and intended to induce a cellular response mediated by cytotoxic lymphocytes.”

Although vaccines against canine leishmaniasis exist for dogs, which act as reservoirs of the disease, there are still no vaccines against the disease in humans, so “any advance in our knowledge of immunity to the parasite is useful for the development of an effective vaccine,” Iborra concluded.

Reference: Sofía C. Khouili et al, SHP-1 Regulates Antigen Cross-Presentation and Is Exploited by Leishmania to Evade Immunity, Cell Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108468

Provided by Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Signs of Healthy Aging Found in Ergothioneine Telomere Study (Biology)

An in vitro study published in theJournal of Dietary Supplements, demonstrated Blue California’s ErgoActive ergothioneine helped to preserve telomere length and reduced the rate of telomere shortening under oxidative stress.

A potent antioxidant, Ergothioneine helps fight oxidative stress and cellular imbalance that contribute to cell damage associated with aging and several health-related issues.** Emerging science shows potential cognitive, immune, prostate and cardiovascular health benefits.Blue California’s ErgoActive Ergothioneine is: Not synthetic and GMO free. It’s made by fermentation through a proprietary technology and manufacturing process.No-Objection Letter from the US FDA to its GRAS notification, GRN 734. Credit: Blue California

The in vitro study is the first time ergothioneine has been studied for its effect on telomere length. Blue California provided its ErgoActive ergothioneine, which is produced by a proprietary fermentation process.

“Our results suggest that ergothioneine as part of a healthy diet could potentially mitigate the negative effects of oxidative stress and support healthy aging by helping to preserve telomere length and reduce the rate of shortening,” said Chief Science Officer, Dr. Priscilla Samuel.

Telomeres are complex protein structures located at the end of each DNA strand, protecting chromosomes from becoming damaged. When DNA strands are frayed or worn down, cells are challenged with performing specialized functions, thus making the protection offered by telomeres critical for the life of cells.

Shortened telomeres are associated with many chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. “Many areas of health are impacted by oxidative stress during aging, including longevity, bone health, cardiovascular health, cognition and skin vitality,” said Samuel. “As oxidative stress accelerates the shortening of telomeres, antioxidants such as ergothioneine may help to decelerate it.”

Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring amino acid with potent antioxidant properties that the body does not make but obtains from dietary sources such as specific species of mushrooms, beans and oat bran. However, for most people, the dietary consumption of foods rich in ergothioneine tends to be low.

Moreover, humans produce a highly specific ergothioneine transporter (ETT), leading many to reason its importance, and suggest its essentiality to human health. Renowned scientist Dr. Bruce Ames has proposed classifying ergothioneine as a “longevity vitamin.”

In the in vitro study, human neonatal dermal fibroblast cells were used to observe the effect of ergothioneine on telomerase activity and telomeres under standard and oxidative stress conditions over an 8-week period.

Under oxidative conditions, at week 8 across all four tested concentrations (0.04 to 1.0 mg/ml) of ergothioneine, median telomere length was significantly longer than control and a significantly reduced percent of short telomeres was also observed, demonstrating a protective effect of ergothioneine.

“Blue California actively invests in clinical studies to advance the science and impact of our ErgoActive ergothioneine on overall health and wellness and look forward to investigating these effects in human clinical studies as well,” said Samuel. “We are committed to furthering research for substantiating functional benefits and claims associated with ingredients for use in dietary supplements, functional foods and beverages, personal care products, cosmetics and pet nutrition.”

Early in February 2020, Blue California filed a patent application reporting the discovery of ErgoActive ergothioneine’s impact on telomere shortening associated with oxidative stress.

Reference: Priscilla Samuel et al, Ergothioneine Mitigates Telomere Shortening under Oxidative Stress Conditions, Journal of Dietary Supplements (2020). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919 DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919

Provided by Blue California

Pizza Can Help Address the Dark Matter Mystery? (Physics)

A cavity partitioned into multiple identical cells provides a highly efficient path to high-frequency axion dark matter searches.

Despite its vanishingly tiny mass, the existence of the axion, once proven, may point to new physics beyond the Standard Model. Born to explain a fundamental symmetry problem in the strong nuclear force associated with the matter-antimatter imbalance in our Universe, this hypothetical particle also makes an attractive dark matter candidate. Though axions would exist in vast enough numbers to be able to account for the “missing” mass from the Universe, the search for this dark matter has been quite challenging so far.

(Left to right) ? single large cavity, ? single small cavity, ? multiple small cavities ?multiple-cell cavity (pizza cavity) ? multiple-cell cavity with a gap. ©IBS

Scientists believe that when an axion interacts with a magnetic field, its energy would be converted into a photon. The resulting photon is expected to be somewhere in the microwave-frequency range. Hoping to hit the right match for the axion, experimentalists use a microwave detector, a cavity haloscope. Having a cylindrical resonator placed in a solenoid, the magnetic field filling the cavity enhances the signal. The haloscope also allows scientists to continually adjust the resonant frequency of the cavity. However, the most sensitive axion-search experiment, the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX) at the University of Washington has been searching low frequency regions, below 1 GHz, as scanning higher frequency regions requires a smaller cavity radius, resulting in significant volume loss and hence less signal. (Figure 1-?)

A research team, led by Dr. YOUN SungWoo at the Center for Axion and Precision Physics Research (CAPP) within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in South Korea, has developed a novel multiple-cell cavity design, dubbed “pizza cavity”. Just like pizzas are cut into several slices, multiple partitions vertically divide the cavity volume into identical pieces (cells). With almost no volume to be lost, this multiple-cell haloscope enables the meaningful output of high-frequency region scanning. (Figure 1-?). Though there were endeavors to bundle smaller cavities together and combine individual signals with all the cavities tuned at the same frequency, its complicated setup and non-trivial frequency matching mechanism have been bottlenecks. (Figure 1-?). “The pizza cavity haloscope features a simpler detector setup and a unique phase-matching mechanism as well as a larger detection volume compared to the conventional multi-cavity design,” notes Dr. YOUN SungWoo, the corresponding author of the study.

Cross-sectional view of various multiple-cell (double-, quadruple- and octuple-cell) cavities with the expected distribution of the axion-induced electric field (from simulation). ©IBS

The researchers proved that the multiple-cell cavity was able to detect high-frequency signals with improved efficiency and reliability. In an experiment using a 9T-superconducting magnet at a temperature of 2 kelvin (?271 °C), the team quickly scanned a frequency range of > 200 MHz above 3 GHz, which is 4~5 times higher region than that of ADMX yielding higher sensitivity to theoretical models than the previous results made by other experiments. Also this new cavity design enabled the researchers to explore a given frequency range four times faster than a conventional experiment could. “Getting things done four times faster.” Dr. Youn jokingly adds, “Using this multiple-cell cavity design, our Ph.D. students should be able to graduate faster than those in other labs.”

What makes this multiple-cell design simple to operate is the gap between partitions in the middle. Having all of the cells spatially connected, a single antenna picks up the signal from the entire volume. “As a pizza saver keeps pizza slices intact with its original toppings, the gap in between helps the cells to be up to the job,” says Dr. Youn. The single antenna also allows researchers to assess whether the axion-induced electromagnetic fields are evenly distributed throughout the cavity, which is found to be critical to achieve the maximum effective volume. “Still, the inaccuracy and misalignment in cavity construction could hamper the sensitivity. For that, this multiple-cell design enables to relieve it by adjusting the size of the gap in the middle, leaving no volume to go to waste,” explains Dr. Youn.

The two-year extensive efforts of the research team resulted in an optimal design for long-sought search of axion dark matter in high-frequency regions. The team is looking into incorporating several multiple-cell cavities onto the existing systems at CAPP to extend the axion search band to higher-frequency regions than currently explored.

Reference: Junu Jeong, SungWoo Youn, Sungjae Bae, Jihngeun Kim, Taehyeon Seong, Jihn E. Kim, and Yannis K. Semertzidis, “Search for Invisible Axion Dark Matter with a Multiple-Cell Haloscope”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 221302 – Published 25 November 2020. https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.125.221302

Provided by Institute for Basic Science

VRK1: A Protein that Reduces The Survival of Patients With Neuroblastoma (Medicine)

Inhibiting this protein may be a new strategy for cancer therapy in neuroblastoma.

Researchers from the Departments of Cell Biology and Medical Physiology at the University of Seville have identified that a high expression of the human protein VRK1 is associated with tumour aggressiveness and low survival among neuroblastoma patients. Aggressive neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid childhood cancers and causes disproportionately high mortality in affected children. Although advances have been made in recent years, the outlook for recovery in children affected by aggressive neuroblastoma remains low and a better understanding of this tumour’s biology is needed in order to create new treatments and prognostic tools.

Neuroblastoma © wikipedia

Researchers have characterised the function of VRK1 in neuroblastoma tumour cells and have determined that this protein is essential for tumour cell growth and proliferation. “By studying the expression of this protein in tumours, we were able to identify a priori patients where tumour progression is going to be worse, even in groups where current tools do not predict that behaviour,” notes Francisco M. Vega.

This study suggests that VRK1 works in conjunction with other oncogenes such as MYCN, which is heavily affected in this cancer, to boost tumour progression and make it more aggressive. Therefore, the researchers suggest that inhibiting VRK1 could be a new strategy for cancer therapy in neuroblastoma. “VRK1 is a protein kinase. These are some of the best targets for targeted cancer treatment, as we can potentially produce inhibitors in the laboratory that override their activity,” explains Professor Vega.

This study was made possible thanks to funding from the Ministry of Science and the Andalusian Regional Government. In addition, the authors are especially grateful to family members and patients with this type of cancer for their cooperation through the Association of Family and Friends of Patients with Neuroblastoma (NEN).

This study is part of the doctoral thesis of Dr. Ana Colmenero-Repiso and was carried out at the Institute of Biomedicine of Seville (IBiS) by researchers from the Department of Cell Biology and the Department of Medical Physiology of the University of Seville, directed by Dr. Francisco M. Vega and Dr. Ricardo Pardal. In addition, it benefited from the international collaboration of researchers from the German Cancer Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany.

Reference: Colmenero-Repiso, A.; Gómez-Muñoz, M.A.; Rodríguez-Prieto, I.; Amador-Álvarez, A.; Henrich, K.-O.; Pascual-Vaca, D.; Okonechnikov, K.; Rivas, E.; Westermann, F.; Pardal, R.; Vega, F.M. Identification of VRK1 as a New Neuroblastoma Tumor Progression Marker Regulating Cell Proliferation. Cancers 2020, 12, 3465. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/12/11/3465

Provided by University of Seville