How ‘Iron Man’ Bacteria Could Help Protect the Environment (Biology)

MSU researchers show how microbes stand up to a toxic metal, opening the door for applications in recycling and remediation.

When Michigan State University’s Gemma Reguera first proposed her new research project to the National Science Foundation, one grant reviewer responded that the idea was not “environmentally relevant.”

As other reviewers and the program manager didn’t share this sentiment, NSF funded the proposal. And, now, Reguera’s team has shown that microbes are capable of an incredible feat that could help reclaim a valuable natural resource and soak up toxic pollutants.

MSU Professor Gemma Reguera

“The lesson is that we really need to think outside the box, especially in biology. We just know the tip of the iceberg. Microbes have been on earth for billions of years, and to think that they can’t do something precludes us from so many ideas and applications,” said Reguera, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Reguera’s team works with bacteria found in soil and sediment known as Geobacter. In its latest project, the team investigated what happened to the bacteria when they encounter cobalt.

Cobalt is a valuable but increasingly scarce metal used in batteries for electric vehicles and alloys for spacecraft. It’s also highly toxic to livings things, including humans and bacteria.

“It kills a lot of microbes,” Reguera said. “Cobalt penetrates their cells and wreaks havoc.”

But the team suspected Geobacter might be able to escape that fate. These microbes are a hardy bunch. They can block uranium contaminants from getting into groundwater, and they can power themselves by pulling energy from minerals containing iron oxide. “They respire rust,” Reguera said.

Scientists know little about how microbes interact with cobalt in the environment, but many researchers — including one grant reviewer — believed that the toxic metal would be too much for the microbes.

But Reguera’s team challenged that thinking and found Geobacter to be effective cobalt “miners,” extracting the metal from rust without letting it penetrate their cells and kill them. Rather, the bacteria essentially coat themselves with the metal.

“They form cobalt nanoparticles on their surface. They metallize themselves and it’s like a shield that protects them,” Reguera said. “It’s like Iron Man when he puts on the suit.”

This Geobacter cell — which looks a bit like a gray peanut in this microscope image — is speckled with a dark coating of cobalt minerals that would be toxic to many organisms. © Hunter Dulay, MSU

The team published its discovery in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, with the research article first appearing online in late November, 2020. The Spartan team included Kazem Kashefi, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and graduate students Hunter Dulay and Marcela Tabares, who are “two amazing and relatively junior investigators,” Reguera said.

She sees this discovery as a proof-of-concept that opens the door to a number of exciting possibilities. For example, Geobacter could form the basis of new biotechnology built to reclaim and recycle cobalt from lithium-ion batteries, reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign cobalt mines.

It also invites researchers to study Geobacter as a means to soak up other toxic metals that were previously believed to be death sentences for the bacteria. Reguera is particularly interested in seeing if Geobacter could help clean up cadmium, a metal that’s found in industrial pollution that disproportionately affects America’s most disadvantaged communities.

“This is a reminder to be creative and not limited in the possibilities. Research is the freedom to explore, to search and search and search,” Reguera said. “We have textbook opinions about what microbes can and should do, but life is so diverse and colorful. There are other processes out there waiting to be discovered.”

This work was supported by the NSF’s Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry Program, as well as a Hatch project grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

(Note for media: Please include a link to the original paper in online coverage:

Provided by Michigan State University

Scientists Develop a Cheaper Method that Might Help Create Fuels from Plants (Chemistry)

Chemists, engineers create a key component of bioenergy production in lab.

Scientists have figured out a cheaper, more efficient way to conduct a chemical reaction at the heart of many biological processes, which may lead to better ways to create biofuels from plants.

A new discovery could make biofuel production more cost efficient. Photo: Science in HD via Unsplash

Scientists around the world have been trying for years to create biofuels and other bioproducts more cheaply; this study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that it is possible to do so.

“The process of converting sugar to alcohol has to be very efficient if you want to have the end product be competitive with fossil fuels,” said Venkat Gopalan, a senior author on the paper and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The Ohio State University. “The process of how to do that is well-established, but the cost makes it not competitive, even with significant government subsidies. This new development is likely to help lower the cost.”

At the heart of their discovery: A less expensive and simpler method to create the “helper molecules” that allow carbon in cells to be turned into energy. Those helper molecules (which chemists call cofactors) are nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and its derivative (NADPH). These cofactors in their reduced forms have long been known to be a key part of turning sugar from plants into butanol or ethanol for fuels. Both cofactors also play an important role in slowing the metabolism of cancer cells and have been a target of treatment for some cancers.

But NADH and NADPH are expensive.

Venkat Gopalan © Ohio State

“If you can cut the production cost in half, that would make biofuels a very attractive additive to make flex fuels with gasoline,” said Vish Subramaniam, a senior author on the paper and recently retired professor of engineering at Ohio State. “Butanol is often not used as an additive because it’s not cheap. But if you could make it cheaply, suddenly the calculus would change. You could cut the cost of butanol in half, because the cost is tied up in the use of this cofactor.”

To create these reduced cofactors in the lab, the researchers built an electrode by layering nickel and copper, two inexpensive elements. That electrode allowed them to recreate NADH and NADPH from their corresponding oxidized forms. In the lab, the researchers were able to use NADPH as a cofactor in producing an alcohol from another molecule, a test they did intentionally to show that ­the electrode they built could help convert biomass – plant cells – to biofuels. This work was performed by Jonathan Kadowaki and Travis Jones, two mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate students in the Subramaniam lab, and Anindita Sengupta, a postdoctoral researcher in the Gopalan lab.

But because NADH and NADPH are at the heart of so many energy conversion processes inside cells, this discovery could aid other synthetic applications.

Subramaniam’s previous work showed that electromagnetic fields can slow the spread of some breast cancers. He retired from Ohio State on Dec. 31.

This finding is connected, he said: It might be possible for scientists to more easily and affordably control the flow of electrons in some cancer cells, potentially slowing their growth and ability to metastasize.

Subramaniam also has spent much of his later scientific career exploring if scientists could create a synthetic plant, something that would use the energy of the sun to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. On a large enough scale, he thought, such a creation could potentially reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and help address climate change.

“I’ve always been interested in that question of, ‘Can we make a synthetic plant? Can we make something that can solve this global warming problem with carbon dioxide?’” Subramaniam said. “If it’s impractical to do it with plants because we keep destroying them via deforestation, are there other inorganic ways of doing this?”

This discovery could be a step toward that goal: Plants use NADPH to turn carbon dioxide into sugars, which eventually become oxygen through photosynthesis. Making NADPH more accessible and more affordable could make it possible to produce an artificial photosynthesis reaction.

But its most likely and most immediate application is for biofuels.

That the researchers came together for this scientific inquiry was rare: Biochemists and engineers don’t often conduct joint laboratory research.

Gopalan and Subramaniam met at a brainstorming session hosted by Ohio State’s Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS), where they were told to think about “big sky ideas” that might help solve some of society’s biggest problems. Subramaniam told Gopalan about his work with electrodes and cells, “and the next thing we knew, we were discussing this project,” Gopalan said. “We certainly would not have talked to each other if it were not for the CAPS workshop.”

Reference: Kadowaki, J.T., Jones, T.H., Sengupta, A. et al. Copper oxide-based cathode for direct NADPH regeneration. Sci Rep 11, 180 (2021).

Provided by Ohio State

Scientists Paint Multicolor Atlas of the Brain (Neuroscience)

A novel technique developed by Columbia researchers known as NeuroPAL helps tease out the dynamics of neural networks in the nervous system of microscopic worms.

The human brain contains approximately 86 billion neurons, or nerve cells, woven together by an estimated 100 trillion connections, or synapses. Each cell has a role that helps us to move muscles, process our environment, form memories, and much more.

A NeuroPAL worm coiled into an O-shape with the head and tail touching each other at the top of the ring. Every neuron (the colored dots) can be identified by its color. The colors are added with fluorescent proteins using a newly developed genetic engineering technique. Credit: Eviatar Yemini

Given the huge number of neurons and connections, there is still much we don’t know about how neurons work together to give rise to thought or behavior.

Now Columbia scientists have engineered a coloring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible—at least in experiments with Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a worm species commonly used in biological research—to identify every single neuron in the mind of a worm.

Their research appears in the Jan. 7 issue of the journal Cell.

NeuroPAL, which uses genetic methods to “paint” neurons with fluorescent colors, permits, for the first time ever, scientists to identify each neuron in an animal’s nervous system, all while recording a whole nervous system in action.

“It’s amazing to ‘watch’ a nervous system in its entirety and see what it does,” said Oliver Hobert, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia and a principal investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “The images created are stunning— brilliant spots of color appear in the worm’s body like Christmas lights on a dark night.”

To conduct their research, the scientists created two software programs: one that identifies all the neurons in colorful NeuroPAL worm images and a second that takes the NeuroPAL method beyond the worm by designing optimal coloring for potential methods of identification of any cell type or tissue in any organism that permits genetic manipulations.

 “We used NeuroPAL to record brainwide activity patterns in the worm and decode the nervous system at work,” said Eviatar Yemini, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia and lead author of the study.

Because the colors are painted into the neuron’s DNA and linked to specific genes, the colors can also be used to reveal whether these specific genes are present or absent from a cell.

The researchers said that the novelty of the technique may soon be overshadowed by the discoveries it makes possible. In advance of their Cell publication, Hobert and Yemini released NeuroPAL to the scientific community, and several studies already have been published showing the utility of the tool.

“Being able to identify neurons, or other types of cells, using color can help scientists visually understand the role of each part of a biological system,” Yemini said. “That means when something goes wrong with the system, it may help pinpoint where the breakdown occurred.”

Collaborators on the study include Liam Paninski, Columbia University; Vivek Venkatachalam, Northeastern University; and Aravinthan Samuel, Harvard University. Research funding was provided by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Harvard Data Science Initiative, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Reference: Eviatar Yemini, Albert Lin, Amin Nejatbakhsh, Liam Paninski, Vivek Venkatachalam, Oliver Hobert, “NeuroPAL: A Multicolor Atlas for Whole-Brain Neuronal Identification in C. elegans”, Cell, Vol. 184, issue 1, P272-288.E11, Jan 07, 2021

Provided by Columbia University

‘Invisible’ Stem Cells Evade Natural Killer Cells Using Immune ‘Off-Switch’ (Medicine)

Findings illuminate biology behind promising hypoimmune platform for regenerative Medicine.

UC San Francisco scientists have discovered a new way to control the immune system’s “natural killer” (NK) cells, a finding with implications for novel cell therapies and tissue implants that can evade immune rejection. The findings could also be used to enhance the ability of cancer immunotherapies to detect and destroy lurking tumors.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a natural killer cell from a human donor. Image by National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The study, published January 8, 2021 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, addresses a major challenge for the field of regenerative medicine, said lead author Tobias Deuse, MD, the Julien I.E. Hoffman, MD, Endowed Chair in Cardiac Surgery in the UCSF Department of Surgery.

“As a cardiac surgeon, I would love to put myself out of business by being able to implant healthy cardiac cells to repair heart disease,” said Deuse, who is interim chair and director of minimally invasive cardiac surgery in the Division of Adult Cardiothoracic Surgery. “And there are tremendous hopes to one day have the ability to implant insulin-producing cells in patients with diabetes or to inject cancer patients with immune cells engineered to seek and destroy tumors. The major obstacle is how to do this in a way that avoids immediate rejection by the immune system.”

Deuse and Sonja Schrepfer, MD, PhD, also a professor in the Department of Surgery’s Transplant and Stem Cell Immunobiology Laboratory, study the immunobiology of stem cells. They are world leaders in a growing scientific subfield working to produce “hypoimmune” lab-grown cells and tissues — capable of evading detection and rejection by the immune system. One of the key methods for doing this is to engineer cells with molecular passcodes that activate immune cell “off switches” called immune checkpoints, which normally help prevent the immune system from attacking the body’s own cells and modulate the intensity of immune responses to avoid excess collateral damage.

Schrepfer and Deuse recently used gene modification tools to engineer hypoimmune stem cells in the lab that are effectively invisible to the immune system. Notably, as well as avoiding the body’s learned or “adaptive” immune responses, these cells could also evade the body’s automatic “innate” immune response against potential pathogens. To achieve this, the researchers adapted a strategy used by cancer cells to keep innate immune cells at bay: They engineered their cells to express significant levels of a protein called CD47, which shuts down certain innate immune cells by avtivating a molecular switch found on these cells, called SIRPα. Their success became part of the founding technology of Sana Biotechnology, Inc, a company co-founded by Schrepfer, who now directs a team developing a platform based on these hypoimmune cells for clinical use.

But the researchers were left with a mystery on their hands — the technique was more successful than predicted. In particular, the field was puzzled that such engineered hypoimmune cells were able to deftly evade detection by NK cells, a type of innate immune cell that isn’t supposed to express a SIRPα checkpoint at all.

NK cells are a type of white blood cell that acts as an immunological first responder, quickly detecting and destroying any cells without proper molecular ID proving they are “self” — native body cells or at least permanent residents — which takes the form of highly individualized molecules called MHC class I (MHC-I). When MHC-I is artificially knocked out to prevent transplant rejection, the cells become susceptible to accelerated NK cell killing, an immunological rejection that no one in the field had yet succeeded in inhibiting fully. Deuse and Schrepfer’s 2019 data, published in Nature Biotechnology, suggested they might have stumbled upon an off switch that could be used for that purpose.

“All the literature said that NK cells don’t have this checkpoint, but when we looked at cells from human patients in the lab we found SIRPα there, clear as day,” Schrepfer recalled. “We can clearly demonstrate that stem cells we engineer to overexpress CD47 are able to shut down NK cells through this pathway.”

To explore their data, Deuse and Schrepfer approached Lewis Lanier, PhD, a world expert in NK cell biology. At first Lanier was sure there must be some mistake, because several groups had looked for SIRPα in NK cells already and it wasn’t there. But Schrepfer was confident in her team’s data.

“Finally it hit me,” Schrepfer said. “Most studies looking for checkpoints in NK cells were done in immortalized lab-grown cell lines, but we were studying primary cells directly from human patients. I knew that must be the difference.”

Further examination revealed that NK cells only begin to express SIRPα after they are activated by certain immune signaling molecules called cytokines. As a result, the researchers realized, this inducible immune checkpoint comes into effect only in already inflammatory environments and likely functions to modulate the intensity of NK cells’ attack on cells without proper MHC class I identification.

“NK cells have been a major barrier to the field’s growing interest in developing universal cell therapy products that can be transplanted “off the shelf” without rejection, so these results are extremely promising,” said Lanier, chair and J. Michael Bishop Distinguished Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

In collaboration with Lanier, Deuse and Schrepfer comprehensively documented how CD47-expressing cells can silence NK cells via SIRPα. While other approaches can silence some NK cells, this was the first time anyone has been able to inhibit them completely. Notably, the team found that NK cells’ sensitivity to inhibition by CD47 is highly species-specific, in line with its function in distinguishing “self” from potentially dangerous “other”.

As a demonstration of this principle, the team engineered adult human stem cells with the rhesus macaque version of CD47, then implanted them into rhesus monkeys, where they successfully activated SIRPα in the monkeys’ NK cells, and avoided killing the transplanted human cells. In the future the same procedure could be performed in reverse, expressing human CD47 in pig cardiac cells, for instance, to prevent them from activating NK cells when transplanted into human patients.

“Currently engineered CAR T cell therapies for cancer and fledgling forms of regenerative medicine all rely on being able to extract cells from the patient, modify them in the lab, and then put them back in the patient. This avoids rejection of foreign cells, but is extremely laborious and expensive,” Schrepfer said. “Our goal in establishing a hypoimmune cell platform is to create off-the shelf products that can be used to treat disease in all patients everywhere.”

The findings could also have implications for cancer immunotherapy, as a way of boosting existing therapies that attempt to overcoming the immune checkpoints cancers use to evade immune detection. “Many tumors have low levels of self-identifying MHC-I protein and some compensate by overexpressing CD47 to keep immune cells at bay,” said Lanier, who is director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This might be the sweet spot for antibody therapies that target CD47.”

Provided by University of California San Francisco

Detecting COVID-19 Antibodies in 10-12 Seconds (Nanotechnology)

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University report findings on an advanced nanomaterial-based biosensing platform that detects, within seconds, antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to testing, the platform will help to quantify patient immunological response to the new vaccines with precision.

An image of the COVID-19 test chip made by aerosol jet nanoparticle 3D printing. © Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Lab, College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

The results were published this week in the journal Advanced Materials. Carnegie Mellon’s collaborators included the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and the UPMC.

The testing platform identifies the presence of two of the virus’ antibodies, spike S1 protein and receptor binding domain (RBD), in a very small drop of blood (about 5 microliters). Antibody concentrations can be extremely low and still detected below one picomolar (0.15 nanograms per milliliter). This detection happens through an electrochemical reaction within a handheld microfluidic device which sends results almost immediately to a simple interface on a smart phone.

“We utilized the latest advances in materials and manufacturing such as nanoparticle 3D printing to create a device that rapidly detects COVID-19 antibodies,” said Rahul Panat, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who uses specialized additive manufacturing techniques for research ranging from brain-computer interfaces to biomonitoring devices.

An additive manufacturing technology called aerosol jet 3D printing is responsible for the efficiency and accuracy of the testing platform. Tiny, inexpensive gold micropillar electrodes are printed at nanoscale using aerosol droplets that are thermally sintered together. This causes a rough, irregular surface that provides increased surface area of the micropillars and an enhanced electrochemical reaction, where antibodies can latch on to antigens coated on the electrode. The specific geometry allows the micropillars to load more proteins for detection, resulting in very accurate, quick results.

The test has a very low error rate because the binding reaction between the antibody and antigen used in the device is highly selective. The researchers were able to exploit this natural design to their advantage.

The results come at an urgent time during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because our technique can quantify the immune response to vaccination, it is very relevant in the current environment,” Panat said.

Panat collaborated with Shou-Jiang Gao, leader of the cancer virology program at UPMC’s Hillman Cancer Center and professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Pitt. Azahar Ali, a researcher in Panat’s Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Lab, was the lead author of the study.

Rapid diagnosis for the treatment and prevention of communicable diseases is a public health issue that goes beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic. Because the proposed sensing platform is generic, it can be used for the rapid detection of biomarkers for other infectious agents such as Ebola, HIV, and Zika. Such a quick and effective test could be a game-changer for controlling the spread of diseases.

Reference: “Sensing of COVID-19 antibodies in seconds via aerosol jet nanoprinted reduced graphene oxide coated three dimensional electrodes,” Advanced Materials.

Provided by College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Which Came First, Sleep or the Brain? (Neuroscience)

Researchers find that, despite lacking a brain, Hydra exhibit characteristics at a molecular and genetic level associated with sleep in animals with central nervous systems.

Stay awake too long, and thinking straight can become extremely difficult. Thankfully, a few winks of sleep is often enough to get our brains functioning up to speed again. But just when and why did animals start to require sleep? And is having a brain even a prerequisite?

Hydra vulgaris is a tiny cnidarian with a simple anatomy but shares characteristics associated with sleep in more evolved animals. © Kyushu University

In a study that could help to understand the evolutional origin of sleep in animals, an international team of researchers has shown that tiny, water-dwelling hydras not only show signs of a sleep-like state despite lacking central nervous systems but also respond to molecules associated with sleep in more evolved animals.

“We now have strong evidence that animals must have acquired the need to sleep before acquiring a brain,” says Taichi Q. Itoh, assistant professor at Kyushu University’s Faculty of Arts and Science and leader of the research reported in Science Advances.

While sleeping behavior was also recently found in jellyfish, a relative of hydras and fellow member of the phylum Cnidaria, the new study from researchers at Kyushu University in Japan and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea found that several chemicals eliciting drowsiness and sleep even in humans had similar effects on the species Hydra vulgaris.

“Based on our findings and previous reports regarding jellyfish, we can say that sleep evolution is independent of brain evolution,” states Itoh.

“Many questions still remain regarding how sleep emerged in animals, but hydras provide an easy-to-handle creature for further investigating the detailed mechanisms producing sleep in brainless animals to help possibly one day answer these questions.”

Only a couple of centimeters long, hydras have a diffuse network of nerves but lack the centralization associated with a brain.

While sleep is often monitored based on the measurement of brain waves, this is not an option for tiny, brainless animals.

As an alternative, the researchers used a video system to track movement to determine when hydras were in a sleep-like state characterized by reduced movement—which could be disrupted with a flash of light.

Instead of repeating every 24 hours like a circadian rhythm, the researchers found that the hydras exhibit a four-hour cycle of active and sleep-like states.

More importantly, the researchers uncovered many similarities related to sleep regulation on a molecular and genetic level regardless of the possession of a brain.

Exposing the hydras to melatonin, a commonly used sleep aid, moderately increased the sleep amount and frequency, while the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, another chemical linked to sleep activity in many animals, greatly increased sleep activity.

Multiple sleep-regulatory components are evolutionarily conserved between brainless hydras and animals with central nervous systems. © Kyushu University

On the other hand, dopamine, which causes arousal in many animals, actually promoted sleep in the hydras.

“While some sleep mechanisms appear to have been conserved, others may have switched function during evolution of the brain,” suggests Itoh.

Furthermore, the researchers could use vibrations and temperature changes to disturb the hydras’ sleep and induce signs of sleep deprivation, causing the hydras to sleep longer during the following day and even suppressing cell proliferation.

Investigating more closely, the researchers found that sleep deprivation led to changes in the expression of 212 genes, including one related to PRKG, a protein involved in sleep regulation in the wide range of animals, including mice, fruit flies, and nematodes.

Disrupting other fruit fly genes appearing to share a common evolutional origin with the sleep-related ones in hydras altered sleep duration in fruit flies, and further investigation of such genes may help to identify currently unknown sleep-related genes in animals with brains.

“Taken all together, these experiments provide strong evidence that animals acquired sleep-related mechanisms before the evolutional development of the central nervous system and that many of these mechanisms were conserved as brains evolved,” says Itoh.

Reference: Hiroyuki J. Kanaya, Sungeon Park, Ji-hyung Kim, Junko Kusumi, Sofian Krenenou, Etsuko Sawatari, Aya Sato, Jongbin Lee, Hyunwoo Bang, Yoshitaka Kobayakawa, Chunghun Lim, and Taichi Q. Itoh, “A sleep-like state in Hydra unravels conserved sleep mechanisms during the evolutionary development of the central nervous system,” Science Advances (2020).

Provided by Kyushu University

Rendlesham UFO incident is Still A Mystery (Astronomy)

On 26 December 1980, several United States Air Force (USAF) security personnel, including deputy base commander Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt, stationed at RAF Woodbridge, reported that they investigated “lights” in the surrounding forest.

One of the USAF servicemen produced a picture of what they claimed to have seen © USAF

In 1983, a memo by deputy base commander Lt Col Charles Halt was released by the US government describing an encounter with an apparent UFO.

It made headline news in the UK which has ballooned into an industry of theories covered in books, dramas, documentaries and websites, suggesting it was either an actual alien visitation, a secret military aircraft, a misinterpretation of natural lights or the beam of Orfordness Lighthouse, or a hoax.

So what happened exactly on that day?

Around 03:00 on 26 December 1980 (reported as 27 December by Halt in his memo to the UK Ministry of Defence) a security patrol near the east gate of RAF Woodbridge saw lights apparently descending into nearby Rendlesham Forest. These lights have been attributed by astronomers to a piece of natural debris seen burning up as a fireball over southern England at that time. Servicemen initially thought it was a downed aircraft but, upon entering the forest to investigate they saw, according to Halt’s memo, what they described as a glowing object, metallic in appearance, with coloured lights (red and green). As they attempted to approach the object, it appeared to move through the trees, and “the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy”.

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt to the UK Ministry of Defence. ©uncoverreality

Shortly after 04:00 local police were called to the scene but reported that the only lights they could see were those from the Orford Ness lighthouse, some miles away on the coast.

After daybreak on the morning of 27 December, servicemen returned to a small clearing near the eastern edge of the forest and found three small impressions on the ground in a triangular pattern, as well as burn marks and broken branches on nearby trees. At 10:30 the local police were called out again, this time to see the impressions, which they thought could have been made by an animal. Georgina Bruni, in her book You Can’t Tell the People, published a photograph of the supposed landing site taken on the morning after the first sighting.

Then on 29 December 1980, deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, visited the site with several servicemen in the early hours. They took radiation readings in the triangle of depressions and in the surrounding area using an AN/PDR-27, a standard U.S. military radiation survey meter. Although they recorded 0.07 milliroentgens per hour, in other regions they detected 0.03 to 0.04 milliroentgens per hour, around the background level. Furthermore, they detected a similar small ‘burst’ over half a mile away from the landing site.

It was during this investigation that a flashing light was seen across the field to the east, almost in line with a farmhouse, as the witnesses had seen on the first night. The Orford Ness lighthouse is visible further to the east in the same line of sight. But, before you think that those lights came from lighthouse, let me tell you, experts already proved that lighthouse light didn’t had much intensity to reach to the place where all this incident happened. Lighthouse is 8 kms far.

Later, according to Halt’s memo, three sun-like lights were seen in the sky, two to the north and one to the south, about 10 degrees above the horizon. Halt said that the brightest of these hovered for two to three hours and seemed to beam down a stream of light from time to time.

Charles Halt told to discovery, “The lightbeam was right on top of me, around 2000-3000 ft above and suddenly it came at front of me, and was remain there till a minute. Then, it suddenly disappeared. We also saw mystery craft which explode into 5 big light balls and disappeared.” He also told to discovery, “Our radars catch something which was travelling around 90000 km/hr.”

Yeah right, even our fastest aircraft “Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird” travel at a speed of 3500 km/hr.

The incident occurred in the vicinity of two former military bases: RAF Bentwaters, which is just to the north of the forest, and RAF Woodbridge which extends into the forest from the west and is bounded by the forest on its northern and eastern edges.

The main events of the incident, including the supposed landing or landings, took place in the forest, which starts at the east end of the base runway or about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to the east of the East Gate of RAF Woodbridge, from where security guards first noticed mysterious lights appearing to descend into the forest. The forest extends east about one mile (1.6 km) beyond East Gate, ending at a farmer’s field at Capel Green, where additional events allegedly took place.

So guys, this is the whole story of close encounter at Rendlesham Forest. It is still unsolved. There are many claims but nothing proved it wrong. However, in December 2018, David Clarke, a British UFO researcher, reported a claim that the incident was a set-up by the SAS as a revenge plot on the USAF. According to this story, in August 1980, the SAS parachuted into RAF Woodbridge to test the security at the nuclear site. The USAF had recently upgraded their radar and detected the black parachutes of the SAS men as they descended to the base. The SAS troops were interrogated and beaten up, with the ultimate insult that they were called “unidentified aliens”.

But yes, it’s just a claim you can’t ignore facts told by Halt, i.e. possible high radiation signatures, that coloured lights and light beam. A new documentary about this sighting also concluded that the mystery has “legend” status like Loch Ness or King Arthur.

Copyright of this article totally belongs to our author S. Aman. One is allowed to reuse it only by giving proper credit either to him or to us.

What Happens When Your Brain Can’t Tell Which Way is Up or Down? (Neuroscience)

What feels like up may actually be some other direction depending on how our brains process our orientation, according to psychology researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health.

In a new study published in PLoS One, researchers at York University’s Centre for Vision Research found that an individual’s interpretation of the direction of gravity can be altered by how their brain responds to visual information. Laurence Harris, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health and Meaghan McManus, a graduate student in his lab, found, using virtual reality, that people differ in how much they are influenced by their visual environment.

Harris and McManus say that this difference can help us better understand how individuals use visual information to interpret their environment and how they respond when performing other tasks.

“These findings may also help us to better understand and predict why astronauts may misestimate how far they have moved in a given situation, especially in the microgravity of space,” says Harris.

In this virtual-reality-based study, McManus and Harris had their participants lie down in a virtual environment that was tilted so that the visual “up” was above their head and not aligned with gravity. They found that the participants could be divided into two groups: one group who perceived they were standing up vertically (aligned with the visual scene) even though they were actually lying down, and a second group who maintained a more realistic idea of their lying position.

The researchers called the first group, “Visual Reorientation Illusion vulnerable” (VRI-vulnerable). The two groups of participants, while in the same physical orientation and seeing the same scene, experienced simulated self-motion through the environment differently. Those that were VRI-vulnerable reported feeling that they were moving faster and further than those that were not. “Not only did the VRI-vulnerable group rely more on vision to tell them how they were oriented, but they also found visual motion to be more powerful in evoking the sensation of moving through the scene,” added Harris.

“On Earth, the brain has to constantly decide whether a given acceleration is due to a person’s movements or to gravity. This decision is helped by the fact that we normally move at right angles to gravity. But if a person’s perception of gravity is altered by the visual environment or by removing gravity, this distinction becomes much harder.”

“The findings reported in this paper could be helpful when we land people on the Moon again, on Mars, or on comets or asteroids, as low-gravity environments might lead some people to interpret their self-motion differently – with potentially catastrophic results,” says Harris.

The findings could also be helpful for virtual reality game designers, as certain virtual environments may lead to differences in how players interpret and move through the game. Researchers say that the findings may also inform models of how aging may affect the ability to move around and to balance.

Reference: McManus M, Harris LR (2021) When gravity is not where it should be: How perceived orientation affects visual self-motion processing. PLOS ONE 16(1): e0243381.

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Researchers Point to a New Mechanism Underlying Male Infertility (Biology)

One essential component of each eukaryotic cell is the cytoskeleton. Microtubules, tiny tubes consisting of a protein called tubulin, are part of this skeleton of cells. Cilia and flagella, which are antenna-like structures that protrude from most of the cells in our body, contain many microtubules. An example of flagell is the sperm tail, which is essential for male fertility and thus for sexual reproduction. The flagellum has to beat in a very precise and coordinated manner to allow progressive swimming of the sperm. Failure to do so can lead to male infertility. Researchers at the Institut Curie in Paris, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, the research center caesar in Bonn together with the University of Bonn, the Institut Cochin in Paris and the Human Technopole in Milan now show that one particular enzymatic modification of the protein tubulin, called glycylation, is essential to keep sperm swimming in a straight line. These findings imply that a perturbation of this modification could underlie some forms of male infertility in humans.

Computer-assisted analysis of light microscopy data showing the linear swimming path of a normal sperm (top) and the abnormal circular and diagonal swimming paths of the mutant sperms (middle and bottom) that lack tubulin glycylation. © Gadadhar et al. / Science 2021

Cells in our body make use of our DNA library to extract blueprints that contain the instructions to build structures and molecular machines called proteins. But the story does not end here: proteins can be modified by other proteins, called enzymes. That such modifications occur has been known for a long time, yet, surprisingly, their function is in many cases unknown. An excellent example of our lack of in-depth knowledge is the role of modifications of tubulin, the protein that forms microtubules. These are long filaments that are used to make scaffolds in cells. While microtubules are highly similar in all cells of our organism, they fulfil a wide variety of functions.

One of the most specialized functions of microtubules is found in the sperm tail or flagellum. Sperm flagella are essential for male fertility and thus for sexual reproduction. They have to beat in a very precise and coordinated manner to allow progressive swimming of the spermatozoids, and failure to do so can lead to male infertility. To keep sperm swimming in a straight line, the modification of the protein tubulin by enzymes is essential. One modification is called glycylation, and was so far among the least-explored modifications of tubulin.

Perturbed beat

Scientists at the Institut Curie in Paris, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden and the center of advanced european studies and research (caesar) in Bonn together with the University of Bonn, the Institut Cochin in Paris, and the Human Technopole in Milan took a closer look at glycylation. They found that in the absence of this tubulin modification, the way the flagella beat is perturbed, resulting in sperm that mostly swim in circles. The first author of the study, Sudarshan Gadadhar from the Institut Curie explains: “The core of the sperm flagellum is composed of microtubules, along with tens of thousands of tiny molecular motors, called dyneins, that make it possible to rhythmically bend these microtubules to produce waves for movement and steering. The activity of these dynein motor proteins must be tightly coordinated. In the absence of glycylation, they became uncoordinated, and as a result, we suddenly saw sperm swimming in circles.”

To find this out, the authors of the study had created a mouse line that lacks the genetic blueprints for the enzymes that glycylate microtubules. “We observed functional defects on sperm from mice lacking glycylation, which resulted in a reduction of fertility. Since mice as a model system are known to have robust fertility, a similar defect in humans, could lead to male sterility” says Carsten Janke, CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) researcher at the Institut Curie and one of the coordinators of the study.

Mutation interferes with coordinated activity of motor proteins

To find out why lack of glycylation led to perturbed sperm motility and male subfertility, the team used cryo-electron microscopy to visualize the molecular structure of the flagellum and of its molecular motors. Analysis of the mutant sperm flagella revealed that flagella were correctly built, but the mutation interfered with the coordinated activity of the axonemal dyneins – the motors that power the beating of the flagellum. This explains why the swimming of the sperm cells is perturbed.

Why is this discovery so important? The other coordinating authors, Gaia Pigino from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Human Technopole, and Luis Alvarez from the research center caesar, summarize: “This study, which shows how important glycylation is for the control of the dynein motors of the flagellum, is a prime example of how microtubule modifications directly affects the function of other proteins in cells. Our findings provide direct evidence that microtubules have an active role in regulating fundamental biological processes via a code of tubulin modifications.

Further, this study points to a new mechanism underlying male infertility. Since sperm flagella are one of many types of cilia in our bodies, we expect similar tubulin modifications to be important in various cilia-related functions. Hence, our work opens a door to a deeper understanding of multiple diseases, such as developmental disorders, cancer, kidney diseases, or respiratory and vision disorders.”

Provided by Max Planck Gesellschaft