Quantum Collaboration Gives New Gravity to the Mysteries of the Universe (Quantum)

Scientists have used cutting-edge research in quantum computation and quantum technology to pioneer a radical new approach to determining how our Universe works at its most fundamental level.

An international team of experts, led by the University of Nottingham, have demonstrated that only quantum and not classical gravity could be used to create a certain informatic ingredient that is needed for quantum computation. Their research “Non-Gaussianity as a signature of a quantum theory of gravity” has been published today in PRX Quantum.

Dr Richard Howl led the research during his time at the University of Nottingham’s School of Mathematics, he said: “For more than a hundred years, physicists have struggled to determine how the two foundational theories of science, quantum theory and general relativity, which respectively describe microscopic and macroscopic phenomena, are unified into a single overarching theory of nature.

During this time, they have come up with two fundamentally contrasting approaches, called ‘quantum gravity’ and ‘classical gravity’. However, a complete lack of experimental evidence means that physicists do not know which approach the overarching theory actually takes, our research provides an experimental approach to solving this.”

This new research, which is a collaboration between experts in quantum computing, quantum gravity, and quantum experiments finds an unexpected connection between the fields of quantum computing and quantum gravity and uses this to propose a way to test experimentally that there is quantum not classical gravity. The suggested experiment would involve cooling billions of atoms in a millimetre-sized spherical trap to extremely low temperatures such that they enter a new phase of matter, called a Bose-Einstein condensate, and start to behave like a single large, quantum atom. A magnetic field is then applied to this “atom” so that it feels only its own gravitational pull. With this all in place, if the single gravitating atom demonstrates the key ingredient needed for quantum computation, which is curiously associated with “negative probability”, nature must take the quantum gravity approach.

This proposed experiment uses current technology, involves just a single quantum system, the gravitating “atom”, and does not rely on assumptions concerning the locality of the interaction, making it simpler than previous approaches and potentially expediating the delivery of the first experimental test of quantum gravity. Physicists would then, after more than a hundred years of research, finally have information on the true overarching, fundamental theory of nature.

Dr Marios Christodoulou, from the University of Hong Kong who was part of the collaboration, added: “This research is particularly exciting as the experiment proposed would also connect with the more philosophical idea that the universe is behaving as an immense quantum computer that is calculating itself, by demonstrating that quantum fluctuations of spacetime are a vast natural resource for quantum computation.”

The research brought together experimental and theoretical physicists from a range of disciplines and international research institutions. The other authors are: Richard Howl, Vlatko Vedral (Oxford and Singapore), Devang Naik (CNRS, Bordeaux), Marios Christodoulou (Hong Kong and Oxford), Carlo Rovelli (Marseille) and Aditya Iyer (Oxford).


Reference: Richard Howl, Vlatko Vedral, Devang Naik, Marios Christodoulou, Carlo Rovelli, and Aditya Iyer, “Non-Gaussianity as a Signature of a Quantum Theory of Gravity”, PRX Quantum 2, 010325 – Published 17 February 2021. https://journals.aps.org/prxquantum/abstract/10.1103/PRXQuantum.2.010325


Provided by University of Nottingham

Self-healing Concrete For Regions With High Moisture and Seismic Activity (Civil Engineering)

Preparing regular concrete scientists replaced ordinary water with water concentrate of bacteria Bacillus cohnii, which survived in the pores of cement stone. The cured concrete was tested for compression until it cracked, then researchers observed how the bacteria fixed the gaps restoring the strength of the concrete. The engineers of the Polytechnic Institute of Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), together with colleagues from Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia, reported the results in Sustainability journal.

During the experiment, bacteria activated when gained access to oxygen and moisture, which occurred after the concrete cracked under the pressure of the setup. The “awakened” bacteria completely repaired fissures with a width of 0.2 to 0.6 mm within 28 days. That is due to microorganisms released a calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a product of their life that crystallized under the influence of moisture. After 28 days of self-healing experimental concrete slabs retrieved their original compressive strength. In the renewed concrete, the bacteria “fell asleep” again.

“Concrete remains the world’s number one construction material because it is cheap, durable, and versatile. However, any concrete gets cracked over time because of various external factors, including moisture and repetitive freezing/thawing cycles, the quantity of which in the Far East of Russia, for example, is more than a hundred per year. Concrete fissuring is almost irreversible process that can jeopardize the entire structure.” Says engineer Roman Fediuk, FEFU professor. “What we have accomplished in our experiment aligns with international trends in construction. There is pressing demand for such “living” materials with the ability to self-diagnose and self-repair. It’s very important that bacteria healed small fissures-forerunners of serious deep cracks that would be impossible to recover. Thanks to bacteria working in the concrete, one can reduce or avoid at all technically complex and expensive repair procedures.”

Spores of Bacillus cohnii capable of staying alive in concrete for up to two hundred years and, theoretically, can extend the lifespan of the structure for the same period. This is almost 4 times more than the 50-70 years of conventional concrete service life.

Self-healing concrete is most relevant for construction in seismically risky areas, where small fissures appear in buildings after earthquakes of a modest magnitude, and in areas with high humidity and high rainfall where a lot of oblique rain falls on the vertical surfaces of buildings. Bacteria in concrete also fill the pores of the cement stone making them smaller and less water gets inside the concrete structure.

Scientists have cultivated the bacteria Bacillus cohnii in the laboratory using a simple agar pad and culture medium, forcing them to survive in the conditions of the pores of the cement stone and to release the desired “repair” composition. Fissures healing was assessed using a microscope. The chemical composition of the bacteria repairing life product was studied via electron microscopy and X-ray images.

Next, the scientists plan to develop reinforced concrete, further enhancing its properties with the help of different types of bacteria. That should speed up the processes of material self-recovery.

A scientific school of the scientific school of geomimetics run at FEFU. Engineers follow the principle of nature mimicking in the development of composites for special structures and civil engineering. Concrete, as conceived by the developers, should have the strength and properties of natural stone. The foundations of geomimetics were laid by Professor Valery Lesovik from V.G. Shukhov BSTU, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences.

Featured image: The slab of self-healing concrete is measured for its compressive strength. © FEFU press office


Reference: Sumathi, Arunachalam; Murali, Gunasekaran; Gowdhaman, Dharmalingam; Amran, Mugahed; Fediuk, Roman; Vatin, Nikolai I.; Deeba Laxme, Ramamurthy; Gowsika, Thillai S. 2020. “Development of Bacterium for Crack Healing and Improving Properties of Concrete under Wet–Dry and Full-Wet Curing” Sustainability 12, no. 24: 10346. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410346


Provided by Far Eastern Federal University

University of Limerick Research Finds New Link Between Personality and Risk of Death (Psychology)

Ground-breaking research led by University of Limerick has revealed for the first time that the immune system directly links personality to long-term risk of death.

The study sheds new light on why people who are more conscientious tend to live longer.

Results from the new international study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity have found that the immune system plays a previously unknown role in the link between personality traits and long-term risk of death.

“Personality is known to be associated with long-term risk of death, it is a well replicated finding observed across numerous research studies internationally,” explained Principal Investigator on the study Dr Páraic Ó Súilleabháin, from the Department of Psychology and Health Research Institute at University of Limerick.

“The critical question is ‘how’. We wanted to find out if a biological pathway such as our immune system may explain why this happens.

“Our personality is critically important throughout our lives, from early stages in our development, to the accumulation of the impact of how we think, feel, and behave across our lives, and in the years preceding our death. It is also becoming increasingly apparent how important personality actually is for our long-term health and resulting longevity. For instance, it has been shown that people scoring lower on the personality trait of conscientiousness (a tendency to be responsible, organized, and capable of self-control) can be at a 40% increased risk of future death compared to their higher scoring counterparts. What is not clear is how this could happen, and importantly, what biological pathway might be responsible for this link,” added Dr Ó Súilleabháin, a Lecturer in Psychology and Research Coordinator on the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology at UL.

Led by Dr Ó Súilleabháin, this study was conducted with a team of collaborators from the Department of Psychology at UL, the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University, the Department of Psychology at Humboldt University Berlin, and the College of Medicine at Florida State University.

The researchers wanted to investigate if two biological markers which are central to the immune system may explain why personality traits are associated with long-term mortality risk. Specifically, they wanted to test if interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein which are known to play an important role in age-related morbidity may explain how our personality traits are related to how long we live. The study was drawing on data from the Midlife in the United States Longitudinal Study carried out on 957 adults who were examined over a 14-year period.

Dr Ó Súilleabháin explained: “We found that part of the reason why people who score higher on the personality trait of conscientiousness live longer is as a result of their immune system, specifically due to lower levels of a biological marker called interleukin-6. There are likely further biological mechanisms that are yet to be discovered which will give a clearer picture of all the different ways that our personalities are so critical to our long-term health.

“These findings are very important and identify for the first time that an underlying biological marker directly links personality to long-term mortality risk. With replication, these findings provide an opportunity for future interventions to increase our longevity and health across the lifespan,” Dr Ó Súilleabháin added.

Featured image: Dr Páraic Ó Súilleabháin, from the Department of Psychology and Health Research Institute at University of Limerick, who was principal investigator on the study © University of Limerick


Reference: Páraic S. O’Súilleabháin, Nicholas A. Turiano, Denis Gerstorf, Martina Luchetti, Stephen Gallagher, Amanda A. Sesker, Antonio Terracciano, Angelina R. Sutin, Personality pathways to mortality: Interleukin-6 links conscientiousness to mortality risk, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2021, , ISSN 0889-1591, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2021.01.032. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159121000362)


Provided by University of Limerick

Researchers Have Proved That Ozone is Effective in Disinfecting Coronavirus (Chemistry)

New research conducted by Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University and the Azrieli College

Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 remains active on aerosols and surfaces for between several hours and several days, depending on the nature of the surface and environmental conditions. Presently, researchers from Tel Aviv University have demonstrated that ozone, which has already long been used as an antibacterial and antiviral agent in water treatment, effectively sanitizes surfaces against Coronavirus after short exposure to low concentrations of ozone. The research team was led by Dr. Ines Zucker from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the Ivy and Eldar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at the Tel Aviv University. Dr. Zucker collaborated with Dr. Moshe Dessau from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar Ilan University in the Galilee and Dr. Yaal Lester from the Azrieli College in Jerusalem in order to investigate the feasibility of ozone for indoor inactivation of SARSCoV-2.

The preliminary findings of the study were published in the Journal: Environmental Chemistry Letters.

Dr. Ines Zucker. © Tel Aviv University.

Most people recognize ozone as a thin layer of the Earth’s atmosphere that guards us against the harmful effects of UV radiation. However, ozone is also known as a strong oxidant and disinfectant employed in water and wastewater treatment schemes. Within the study framework, the research team decided to adapt the mechanisms whereby they use ozone to break down organic pollutants from contaminated waters and demonstrate the expected efficacy of the ozone in neutralizing Coronavirus.

Ozone gas is generated by electrical discharge (the breakdown of chemical compounds into their elements using electric current), in the course of which oxygen molecules are reconstructed in the form of ozone molecules. In the course of their study, the researchers demonstrated the inactivation from various infected surfaces, even in hard-to-reach locations. They demonstrated a high level of disinfection within minutes, even on surfaces not typically disinfected with manually-applied liquid disinfectants with a statistical success rate of above 90%. According to Dr. Ines Zucker, the method involves inexpensive and readily available technology, which can be utilized to disinfect hospitals, schools, hotels, and even aircraft and entertainment halls.

“Gaseous ozone is generated from oxygen gas by electrical discharge. Now, for the first time, we have managed to prove that it is highly efficient in combating Coronavirus as well”, stresses Dr. Zucker. “Its advantage over common disinfectants (such as alcohol and bleach) is its ability to disinfect objects and aerosols within a room, and not just exposed surfaces, rapidly and with no danger to public health”. Dr. Zucker estimates that, since the gas can be produced relatively cheaply and easily, it should be possible to introduce ozone disinfecting systems on an industrial scale to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Featured image: Placing drops of virus suspension on sterile surfaces prior to ozone exposure. © Tel Aviv University


Reference: Zucker, I., Lester, Y., Alter, J. et al. Pseudoviruses for the assessment of coronavirus disinfection by ozone. Environ Chem Lett (2021). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10311-020-01160-0 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10311-020-01160-0


Provided by Tel-Aviv University

Columbia Researchers Uncover Altered Brain Connectivity After Prolonged Anesthesia (Medicine)

The findings support reports of neuro-cognitive changes after medically induced comas, a procedure that has been relied upon in treating many COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

Prolonged anesthesia, also known as medically induced coma, is a life-saving procedure carried out across the globe on millions of patients in intensive medical care units every year.

But following prolonged anesthesia—which takes the brain to a state of deep unconsciousness beyond short-term anesthesia for surgical procedures—it is common for family members to report that after hospital discharge their loved ones were not quite the same.

“It is long known that ICU survivors suffer lasting cognitive impairment, such as confusion and memory loss, that can languish for months and, in some cases, years,” said Michael Wenzel, MD, lead author of a study published in PNAS this month that documents changes associated with prolonged anesthesia in the brains of mice.

Wenzel, a former postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University with experience as a physician in neuro-intensive care in Germany, said reports of post-hospital cognitive dysfunction will likely become even more prevalent because of the significant number of coronavirus patients dependent on ventilators who have taken days or weeks to awake from medically induced comas.

First Study to Quantify Brain Effects

Until now, despite the body of evidence that supports the association between prolonged anesthesia and cognition, the direct effects on neural connections have not been studied, said Rafael Yuste, a professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia and senior author of the paper.

 “This is because it is difficult to examine the brains of patients at a resolution high enough to monitor connections between individual neurons,” Yuste said.

To circumvent the problem, Yuste and Wenzel developed an experimental platform in mice to investigate the connections between neurons, or synapses, and related cognitive effects of prolonged anesthesia.

Inspired by Wenzel’s experience in neuro-intensive care, the researchers established a miniature ICU-like platform for mice. They performed continuous anesthesia for up to 40 hours, many times longer than the longest animal study to date (only six hours).

The researchers performed in vivo two-photon microscopy, a type of neuro-imaging that Yuste helped pioneer and that can visualize live brain structures at micrometer resolution. The technique enabled them to monitor cortical synapses in the sensory cortex, the area of the brain responsible for processing bodily sensations, an approach they combined with repeated assessment of behavior in the cortex.

Contrary to the notion that the connections between neurons in the adult brain remain stable during short-term anesthesia, the researchers found that prolonged anesthesia significantly alters the synaptic architecture of the brain regardless of age.

Tailoring Treatment to Patients

“Our results should ring an alarm bell in the medical community, as they document a physical link between cognitive impairment and prolonged medically induced coma,” Wenzel said.

As this study is only a pilot in mice, further study is needed, the researchers said. They added that it will be important to test different, widely used anesthetics, as well as the combination of anesthetics administered to patients. Currently, anesthetics are not individually tailored to patients in a systematic fashion.

“We are well aware that anesthesia is a life-saving procedure,” Wenzel said. “Refining treatment plans for patients and developing supportive therapies that keep the brain in shape during prolonged anesthesia would substantially improve clinical outcomes for those whose lives are saved, but whose quality of life has been compromised.”  

Featured image: A body of evidence supports the association between prolonged anesthesia and cognitive impairment, but the Columbia study is first to address the effect of the procedure on neural connections. Image: Michael Wenzel


Reference: Michael Wenzel, Alexander Leunig, Shuting Han, Darcy S. Peterka, Rafael Yuste, “Prolonged anesthesia alters brain synaptic architecture”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Feb 2021, 118 (7) e2023676118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023676118


Provided by Columbia University

Foreign Language Learners Should Be Exposed to Slang In the Classroom And Here’s Why…. (Language)

Experts say English slang and regional dialect should not be banned from classrooms but when you’re getting to grips with a second language how helpful is it to learn non-standard lingo?

Very, says Sascha Stollhans, of the Department of Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University, who argues that standardised language norms are artificial and language learners should learn about all aspects of language, even the controversial ones.

In his policy paper, just published in the Languages, Society & Policy Journal, he says:

  • There are concerns among professionals that introducing learners to ‘non-standard’ language could lead to ambiguity and confusion and that students might be penalised for using it in assessments.
  • Linguistic variation is a rich area of study that can appeal to language learners and have a positive impact on motivation.  
  • Attitudes to language norms and variation in language teaching vary widely, and current textbooks deal with language variation in very different ways

 “Language learners will need to be able to understand slang and dialect when mixing with so-called ‘native’ speakers – which is easier than ever in this digital age – just take a look at the language used on Twitter,” says Mr Stollhans, a Senior Teaching Associate in German Studies at Lancaster.

“More than that, in the UK, where school-based language learning has been in crisis mode for a while now, learning more about the varied ways in which ‘native speakers’ in different places and contexts communicate could be just the way to get students motivated and interested.

“This process can be extremely creative and tell us a lot about other cultures. It can also be an important step towards a more diverse and inclusive curriculum. After all, language norms are often political and historical, and there are a variety of speakers of a language.”

The paper makes concrete recommendations for policy-makers, publishers, authors of learning materials, examination boards and teacher training providers.

It urges:

  • Curriculum leaders and teachers in the UK to make it their mission to enlighten learners about the rich and dynamic forms of variation a language entails when learning their first language – the first step to learning the complexity of other languages
  • Examination boards to accept the use of non-standard variations in tests and examinations, in appropriate contexts
  • Teacher training to include appropriate linguistics elements to sensitise teachers to issues around variation and equip them with the means to be able to make informed decisions about the inclusion of language varieties in their teaching. This is something Mr Stollhans has been campaigning for with the national “Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages” network.

The policy paper is part of a special collection of policy papers on “Language inequality in education, law and citizenship” that follows on from a meeting which brought together academics with practitioners – teachers, examiners, dictionary-makers, speech therapists, legislators, translators, lobbyists, policy-makers, and others – to examine how assumptions and beliefs about correct, acceptable or standard languages impact on everyday life in a multilingual world.

The meeting, for which Mr Stollhans was invited to chair the education panel, was part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded MEITS project.

Featured image: Computer screen showing the word “hello” in different languages © Lancaster University


Provided by Lancaster University

Having Too Much Fatty Tissue Accumulated in the Neck Increases the Chances of Suffering Heart Problems (Medicine)

Researchers from the University of Granada warn that an accumulation of fatty tissue in the neck (both the double chin and the deeper deposits, located between muscles and around the cervical vertebrae) is a predictor of central and overall adiposity, cardiometabolic risk, and a pro-inflammatory profile in sedentary young adults

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) has revealed that an accumulation of fatty tissue in the neck is a predictor of central and overall adiposity, cardiometabolic risk (heart problems), and a pro-inflammatory profile in sedentary young adults.

Traditionally, the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue has been considered one of the factors most strongly related to cardiometabolic risk and chronic (low-grade) inflammation in humans. However, this well-established association has led researchers to neglect, to some degree, the study of other fatty deposits and their clinical/biological relevance.

“Curiously, several studies have demonstrated that the accumulation of fat in the neck (both superficial deposits such as the double chin or jowls and the deeper deposits, located between the muscles and around the cervical vertebrae) increases in direct proportion to the weight or adiposity of the individual and that it follows specific accumulation patterns, according to gender,” explains María José Arias Téllez, a researcher at the UGR and one of the main authors of this work. In fact, a greater accumulation of fat in certain neck tissue compartments, particularly the deeper ones, is linked to a greater likelihood of cardiometabolic risk. Arias Téllez continues: “However, the evidence accumulated to date has been based on experiments performed on patients with benign/malignant tumours or other chronic conditions, and it remains to be seen whether it can be generalised to relatively healthy adults.”

The ACTIBATE project

The study carried out at the UGR is part of the ACTIBATE project (Activating Brown Adipose Tissue through Exercise—see http://profith.ugr.es/actibate). The project is financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the Health Research Fund of the Carlos III Health Institute (PI13/01393). The research was led by Jonatan Ruiz Ruiz and its results have been published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Figure 1: This figure shows the accumulation of fat in different neck deposits (subcutaneous, intermuscular, and paravertebral) in a person of healthy weight, an overweight person, and an obese person. It can be observed that accumulation of fat in the different deposits of the neck increases as overall adiposity increases in the participants. © Universität de Granada

The study shows that the accumulation of fat in the neck—measured with computed tomography scanning—as well as its distribution in different compartments, is associated with greater overall and central adiposity, greater cardiometabolic risk, and a greater inflammatory status among healthy young adults, regardless of the amount of total and visceral fat. In addition, among the most relevant findings, it was observed that this accumulation of fat in the neck was as powerful a factor (in terms of direction and magnitude) as the accumulation of visceral fat in the prediction of cardiometabolic risk and inflammatory status, especially in men.

“Therefore, these results underline the need for further research in this new direction, to better understand the effect of fat accumulation in the upper part of the trunk (including the neck) and its clinical repercussions, especially in cardiometabolic risk and inflammation,” explains Francisco Miguel Acosta Manzano, also among the main authors of the research.

Figure 2 (original neck image): This simplified illustration demonstrates the researchers’ hypothesis about the morphological and cellular characteristics of the fat deposits in the neck, in a person of a normal weight who is relatively healthy vs. a person with obesity and associated comorbidities. This image is reproduced from the doctoral thesis published by Maria Jose Arias-Tellez on the Biomedicine programme of the University of Granada, entitled ‘Neck adipose tissue and neck circumference as predictors of cardiometabolic risk in sedentary adults’. © Universität de Granada

“We still have much work to do. We need to investigate the adipose tissue of the neck in greater depth, to understand its pathogenic role in obesity and associated comorbidities, as well as its biological importance. Furthermore, we only have scant knowledge about the morphological or molecular characteristics of the adipocytes in these deposits, and here basic studies are required. As we increase our knowledge of this deposit, we can also determine whether specific interventions (for example, physical exercise and/or restricted calorie intake) could help reduce the accumulation of fat in the neck (as well as total fat) and implement them clinically,” explain Arias Téllez and Francisco Miguel Acosta Manzano, both PhDs students on the Biomedicine programme of the UGR’s International School for Postgraduate Studies and members of the PROFITH-CTS977 Research group (http://profith.ugr.es).

The UGR researchers María José Arias Téllez and Francisco Miguel Acosta Manzano, authors of this work © University of Granada

Featured image: Neck adipose tissue © University of Granada


Bibliography:

Arias-Tellez MJ, Acosta FM, Garcia-Rivero Y, Pascual-Gamarra JM, Merchan-Ramirez E, Martinez-Tellez B, Silva AM, Lopez JA, Llamas-Elvira JM, & Ruiz JR (2020) ‘Neck adipose tissue accumulation is associated with higher overall and central adiposity, a higher cardiometabolic risk, and a pro-inflammatory profile in young adults’, Int J Ob Nov 2. doi: 10.1038/s41366-020-00701-5. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33139886.


Provided by University of Granada

Scientists Able to See How Potential Cancer Treatment Reacts in Single Cell (Medicine)

· Osmium is a rare precious metal that could be used to treat cancer with fewer side effects when compared to Platinum, currently used in nearly half of chemotherapies

· How exactly Osmium reacts in a single cancer cell has been tracked by researchers from the University of Warwick

· Using a 185 metre synchrotron beamline, the researchers found that Osmium reacts in the cytoplasm rather than the nucleus of a human lung cancer cell, which may reduce side effects

Using a 185 metre beamline at the Diamond synchrotron, researchers could see how Osmium, a rare precious metal that could be used for cancer treatments, reacts in a single human lung cancer cell. This is a major step forward in discovering new anti-cancer drugs for researchers at the University of Warwick.

Currently half of anti-cancer drugs used in chemotherapy contain the metal platinum, which when once inside the cancer cell reacts in the nucleus, which may lead to undesirable side effects of the treatment. However, Osmium is a rare metal that has not been researched widely, and might be used as a new cancer treatment with fewer side effects.

In the paper, ‘Tracking Reactions of Asymmetric Organo-Osmium Transfer Hydrogenation Catalysts in Cancer Cells’, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers from the University of Warwick have, for the first time, used the new 185 m beamline to track Osmium in a single cancer cell at a scale of 100 nanometers.

They used two techniques to track potential treatments in cancer cells, the first, ICP-MS, which stands for Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry, can quantify a wide range of natural and drug elements in millions of cells. However, to investigate a single cancer cell, researchers used synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) imaging.

Using a hard-x-ray nanoprobe beamline, researchers from the University of Warwick observed how Osmium reacted in a single lung cancer cell. However, the reactivity of Osmium is determined by its coating (its ligands), so they monitored the ligands too in the same XRF experiment by labelling them with Bromine.

Once the Osmium was in the cell researchers observed that Osmium stays in the cytoplasm, whereas the ligands entered the nucleus, potentially indicative of dual attack on the cancer cell.

Professor Peter Sadler, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick comments:
“With one in two people getting cancer in their lifetime, the need to find new drugs has never been more urgent. Part of drug discovery is seeing exactly how they react and work in cells.”

Detection of an anticancer compound in a cancer cell, the pink is the Bromine and orange in Osmium Credit: University of Warwick

“Osmium is a rare precious metal, however, since it can act as a catalyst, a very little amount is needed for reactions in the cancer cell, therefore it could be a sustainable treatment going forward. We wanted to see how exactly it worked in a single cancer cell, which involved a variety of novel techniques, including taking water molecules out of the cell and rapidly flash-freezing it. Whereas usually cells are chemically altered to see the reactions, in our method they are close to their natural state, making our results more authentic.”

Dr Elizabeth Bolitho, from the Department of Chemistry and Diamond adds:
“We worked 24 hours a day, 5 days a week to collect these exciting data, allowing us to see inside cancer cells to a nanoscale resolution. This has provided crucial insights into potential cellular targets of such Osmium catalysts.

“Not only were we able to track the Osmium in a lung cancer cell, but more widely in breast cancer, ovarian and prostate cancer cells, for example, which provides hope that in the future Osmium could be used to treat a range of different cancers.”

Professor Sadler added: “Our team hopes to progress their discoveries through pre-clinical development towards new Osmium drugs for cancer treatment, although this typically takes several years. If we succeed, then the days and sleepless nights spent collecting XRF data at the Diamond synchrotron will certainly have been worthwhile.”

Paul Quinn, Imaging group leader at Diamond Light Source added:
“The collaboration between Warwick and the I14 beamline is very exciting. Our research has exploited the advanced nano-imaging methods we’ve developed and built at Diamond to neatly image the location of these drugs within cancer cells and gain significant insights into how they interact.”

Featured image: X-ray fluorescence images taken at the I14 beamline at Diamond Light Source, the green is Zinc, Blue is Potassium, Orange is Osmium and Pink is Bromine Credit: University of Warwick


Reference: Bolitho, E.M., Coverdale, J.P.C., Bridgewater, H.E., Clarkson, G.J., Quinn, P.D., Sanchez‐Cano, C. and Sadler, P.J. (2021), Tracking Reactions of Asymmetric Organo‐Osmium Transfer Hydrogenation Catalysts in Cancer Cells. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.202016456 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/anie.202016456


Provided by University of Warwick

RUDN University Physicists Analyzed The Role of Gravity in Elementary Particles Formation (Planetary Science)

Gravity might play a bigger role in the formation of elementary particles than scientists used to believe. A team of physicists from RUDN University obtained some solutions of semi-classical models that describe particle-like waves. They also calculated the ratio between the gravitational interaction of particles and the interaction of their charges. The results of the study were published in the Universe journal.

Due to their small size, the gravitational interaction between elementary particles (electrons, protons, and neutrons) is weak compared to Coulomb forces–attraction and repulsion determined by charge. For example, negatively charged electrons move around the atomic nucleus that contains positively charged protons. Therefore, the ratio of Newtonian attraction to Coulomb repulsion (or γ,) is negligible. However, on the Planck scale, i.e. at distances around 1.6?10?35 m, these forces become comparable. A team of physicists from RUDN University found solutions of existing models that correspond to particles in the Planck’s range.

“Gravity can potentially play an important role in the microworld, and this assumption is confirmed by certain data. γ is considered a ‘magical’ dimensionless number, and we are unaware of any serious attempts to theoretically obtain such a small value of γ — 10-40. We presented a simple model that allowed for obtaining this particular value in a natural way,” said Vladimir Kassandrov, PhD, and an Assistant Professor of the Institute of Gravitation and Cosmology, RUDN University.

The team used semi-classical models based on electromagnetic field equations. They have several solutions for particles as well as solitons (stable solitary waves). In equations like this, gravity is usually not taken into consideration and is replaced with a nonlinear correction that is chosen almost arbitrarily. This is where the main issue with these models lies. However, it can be solved by adding the equations of three fundamental fields to the system. Then, following the requirements of gauge invariance (that prevent physical values from changing simultaneously with the transformation of the fields), the form of nonlinearity becomes strictly defined. The team from RUDN University used this approach to find solutions that matched the characteristics of typical elementary particles. The existence of such solutions would confirm the fundamental role of gravity in the formation of particles.

The team failed to find solutions in which the charge and mass matched elementary particles at γ<0.9, and the very possibility of their existence remains questionable. However, the scientists managed to obtain solutions to the model for γ~1. They describe charged semi-quantum objects in the Planck range (i.e. with a mass around 10?5 g and size in the order of 10?33 cm). The physicists are still unsure what these solutions correspond to. Hypothetical particles with these parameters are called maximons or planckeons. The team from RUDN University was the first to obtain a discreet energy spectrum for objects with γ tending to infinity (i.e. with electric field excluded from the model). In this case, the solution describes objects with near-solar mass.

“Although our attempt to calculate probability characteristics at γ<0.9 was not successful, the model still could have such particle-like solutions. In the future, we would like to shed light on this problem that is intriguing for physicists by extremely complex from the point of view of mathematics. We want to find out if solutions for elementary particles really exist in the three-field model”, added Vladimir Kassandrov from RUDN University.

Featured image: Gravity might play a bigger role in the formation of elementary particles than scientists used to believe. A team of physicists from RUDN University obtained some solutions of semi-classical models that describe particle-like waves. They also calculated the ratio between the gravitational interaction of particles and the interaction of their charges. © RUDN University


Reference: Alharthy, Ahmed; Kassandrov, Vladimir V. 2020. “On a Crucial Role of Gravity in the Formation of Elementary Particles” Universe 6, no. 11: 193. https://doi.org/10.3390/universe6110193


Provided by RUDN University