Scientists Can Detect Brain Tumours Using A Simple Urine Or Blood Plasma Test (Medicine)

Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute have developed two tests that can detect the presence of glioma, a type of brain tumour, in patient urine or blood plasma.

The team say that a test for detecting glioma using urine is the first of its kind in the world.

Although the research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, is in its early stages and only a small number of patients were analysed, the team say their results are promising.

The researchers suggest that in the future, these tests could be used by GPs to monitor patients at high risk of brain tumours, which may be more convenient than having an MRI every three months, which is the standard method.

When people have a brain tumour removed, the likelihood of it returning can be high, so they are monitored with an MRI scan every three months, which is followed by biopsy.

Blood tests for detecting different cancer types are a major focus of research for teams across the world, and there are some in use in the clinic. These tests are mainly based on finding mutated DNA, shed by tumour cells when they die, known as cell-free DNA (cfDNA).

However, detecting brain tumour cfDNA in the blood has historically been difficult because of the blood-brain-barrier, which separates blood from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, preventing the passage of cells and other particles, such as cfDNA.

Researchers have previously looked at detecting cfDNA in CSF, but the spinal taps needed to obtain it can be dangerous for people with brain tumours so are not appropriate for patient monitoring.

Scientists have known that cfDNA with similar mutations to the original tumour can be found in blood and other bodily fluids such as urine in very low levels, but the challenge has been developing a test sensitive enough to detect these specific mutations.

The researchers, led by Dr Florent Mouliere who is based at the Rosenfeld Lab of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and at the Amsterdam UMC, and Dr Richard Mair, who is based at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the University of Cambridge developed two approaches in parallel to overcome the challenge of detecting brain tumour cfDNA.

The first approach works for patients who have previously had glioma removed and biopsied. The team designed a tumour-guided sequencing test that was able to look for the mutations found in the tumour tissue within the cfDNA in the patient’s urine, CSF, and blood plasma.

A total of eight patients who had suspected brain tumours based on MRIs were included in this part of the study. Samples were taken at their initial brain tumour biopsies, alongside CSF, blood and urine samples.

By knowing where in the DNA strand to look, the researchers found that it was possible to find mutations even in the tiny amounts of cfDNA found in the blood plasma and urine.

The test was able to detect cfDNA in 7 out of 8 CSF samples, 10 out of the 12 plasma blood samples and 10 out of the 16 urine samples.

For the second approach the researchers looked for other patterns in the cfDNA that could also indicate the presence of a tumour, without having to identify the mutations.

They analysed 35 samples from glioma patients, 27 people with non-malignant brain disorders, and 26 healthy people. They used whole genome sequencing, where all the cfDNA of the tumour is analysed, not just the mutations.

They found in the blood plasma and urine samples that fragments of cfDNA, which came from patients with brain tumours were different sizes than those from patients with no tumours in CSF. They then fed this data into a machine learning algorithm which was able to successfully differentiate between the urine samples of people with and without glioma.

The researchers say that while the machine learning test is cheaper and easier, and a tissue biopsy from the tumour is not needed, it is not as sensitive and is less specific than the first tumour-guided sequencing approach.

MRIs are not invasive or expensive, but they do require a trip to the hospital, and the three-month gap between checks can be a regular source of anxiety for patients.

The researchers suggest that their tests could be used between MRI scans, and could ultimately be able to detect a returning brain tumour earlier.

The next stage of this research will see the team comparing both tests against MRI scans in a trial with patients with brain tumours who are in remission to see if it can detect if their tumours are coming back at the same time or earlier than the MRI. If the tests prove that they can detect brain tumours earlier than an MRI, then the researchers will look at how they can adapt the tests so they could be offered in the clinic, which could be within the next ten years.

“We believe the tests we’ve developed could in the future be able to detect a returning glioma earlier and improve patient outcomes,” said Mair. “Talking to my patients, I know the three-month scan becomes a focal point for worry. If we could offer a regular blood or urine test, not only will you be picking up recurrence earlier, you can also be doing something positive for the patient’s mental health.”

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK said, “While this is early research, it’s opened up the possibility that within the next decade we could be able to detect the presence of a brain tumour with a simple urine or blood test. Liquid biopsies are a huge area of research interest right now because of the opportunities they create for improved patient care and early diagnosis. It’s great to see Cancer Research UK researchers making strides in this important field.”

Sue Humphreys, from Wallsall, a brain tumour patient, said: “If these tests are found to be as accurate as the standard MRI for monitoring brain tumours, it could be life changing.

If patients can be given a regular and simple test by their GP, it may help not only detect a returning brain tumour in its earliest stages, it can also provide the quick reassurance that nothing is going on which is the main problem we all suffer from, the dreaded Scanxiety.

The problem with three-monthly scans is that these procedures can get disrupted by other things going on, such as what we have seen with the Covid pandemic. As a patient, this causes worry as there is a risk that things may be missed, or delayed, and early intervention is the key to any successful treatment.”


Reference:
Florent Mouliere et al. ‘Fragmentation patterns and personalized sequencing of cell-free DNA in urine and plasma of glioma patients.’ EMBO Molecular Medicine (2021). DOI: 10.15252/emmm.202012881


Provided by University of Cambridge

Blushing Plants Reveal When Fungi Are Growing in Their Roots (Botany)

Scientists have created plants whose cells and tissues ‘blush’ with beetroot pigments when they are colonised by fungi that help them take up nutrients from the soil.

We can now follow how the relationship between the fungi and plant root develops, in real-time, from the moment they come into contact.

— Sebastian Schornack

This is the first time this vital, 400 million year old process has been visualised in real time in full root systems of living plants. Understanding the dynamics of plant colonisation by fungi could help to make food production more sustainable in the future.

Almost all crop plants form associations with a particular type of fungi – called arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi – in the soil, which greatly expand their root surface area. This mutually beneficial interaction boosts the plant’s ability to take up nutrients that are vital for growth. 

The more nutrients plants obtain naturally, the less artificial fertilisers are needed. Understanding this natural process, as the first step towards potentially enhancing it, is an ongoing research challenge. Progress is likely to pay huge dividends for agricultural productivity.

In a study published in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers used the bright red pigments of beetroot – called betalains – to visually track soil fungi as they colonised plant roots in a living plant. 

“We can now follow how the relationship between the fungi and plant root develops, in real-time, from the moment they come into contact. We previously had no idea about what happened because there was no way to visualise it in a living plant without the use of elaborate microscopy,” said Dr Sebastian Schornack, a researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Sainsbury Laboratory and joint senior author of the paper. 

To achieve their results, the researchers engineered two model plant species – a legume and a tobacco plant – so that they would produce the highly visible betalain pigments when arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi were present in their roots. This involved combining the control regions of two genes activated by mycorrhizal fungi with genes that synthesise red-coloured betalain pigments.

The plants were then grown in a transparent structure so that the root system was visible, and images of the roots could be taken with a flatbed scanner without disturbing the plants.

Using their technique, the researchers could select red pigmented parts of the root system to observe the fungus more closely as it entered individual plant cells and formed elaborate tree-like structures – called arbuscules – which grow inside the plant’s roots. Arbuscules take up nutrients from the soil that would otherwise be beyond the reach of the plant. 

Other methods exist to visualise this process, but these involve digging up and killing the plant and the use of chemicals or expensive microscopy. This work makes it possible for the first time to watch by eye and with simple imaging how symbiotic fungi start colonising living plant roots, and inhabit parts of the plant root system over time.

“This is an exciting new tool to visualise this, and other, important plant processes. Beetroot pigments are a distinctive colour, so they’re very easy to see. They also have the advantage of being natural plant pigments, so they are well tolerated by plants,” said Dr Sam Brockington, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, and joint senior author of the paper.

Mycorrhiza fungi are attracting growing interest in agriculture. This new technique provides the ability to ‘track and trace’ the presence of symbiotic fungi in soils from different sources and locations. The researchers say this will enable the selection of fungi that colonise plants fastest and provide the biggest benefits in agricultural scenarios.

Understanding and exploiting the dynamics of plant root system colonisation by fungi has potential to enhance future crop production in an environmentally sustainable way. If plants can take up more nutrients naturally, this will reduce the need for artificial fertilisers – saving money and reducing associated water pollution. 

This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Royal Society, and Natural Environment Research Council.

Featured image: Cells of roots colonised by fungi turn red © University of Cambridge


Reference
Timoneda, A. & Yunusov, T. et al: ‘MycoRed: Betalain pigments enable in vivo real-time visualisation of arbuscular mycorrhizal colonisation.’ PLOS Biology, July 2021. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001326


Provided by University of Cambridge

Study Finds Calcium Precisely Directs Blood Flow in the Brain (Neuroscience)

Unlike the rest of the body, there is not enough real estate in the brain for stored energy. Instead, the brain relies on the hundreds of miles of blood vessels within it to supply fresh energy via the blood. Yet, how the brain expresses a need for more energy during increased activity and then directs its blood supply to specific hot spots was, until now, poorly understood.

Now, University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Vermont researchers have shown how the brain communicates to blood vessels when in need of energy, and how these blood vessels respond by relaxing or constricting to direct blood flow to specific brain regions.

In their new paper, published on July 21 in Science Advances, the researchers say that understanding how the brain directs energy to itself in intricate detail can help determine what goes wrong in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, where faulty blood flow is a predictor for cognitive impairment. If the brain does not get blood to where it needs it when it needs it, the neurons become stressed, and over time they deteriorate, ultimately leading to cognitive decline and memory problems.

Large arteries feed medium-sized vessels known as arterioles that then feed even tinier capillaries—so small that only a single blood cell can pass through at once. In a 2017 Nature Neuroscience paper, the researchers showed that electrical pulses coursing through the capillaries direct blood flow from the medium-sized arterioles supplying large regions of the brain. For this latest paper, the team wanted to study the fine-tuning of blood as it flows through the capillaries to precisely regulate energy supply to tiny regions in the brain.

“There seem to be two mechanisms working in tandem to ensure that energy in the form of blood makes it to specific regions of the brain: one broad and the other precise,” says Thomas Longden, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physiology at University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The first electrical mechanism is like a sledgehammer approach to get more blood to the general vicinity of the increased brain activity by controlling the medium-sized arterioles, and then capillary calcium signals ensure exquisite fine-tuning to make sure the blood gets to exactly the right place at the right time through the tiny capillaries.”

Dr. Longden and his collaborators used a protein which emits green light when calcium increases in the cell. Due to the efforts of Michael Kotlikoff’s team at Cornell University, they were able to turn this tool on in the cells lining the blood vessels of mice. Researchers then made a small opening in the skull forming a window that allowed researchers to view the brains of these mice to investigate calcium’s role in controlling blood flow in the brain’s capillaries. When the cells lining the blood vessels received an influx of calcium, they glowed green. Researchers detected 5,000 calcium signals per second in the capillaries in the tiny section of brain visible through the window, which they say amounts to about 1,000,000 of these responses each second in the entire brain’s blood vessel system.

“Until we deployed this new technology, there was this wholly unseen world of calcium signaling in the brain hidden from view, and now we can see a ton of activity within the brains blood vessels – they are constantly firing,” says Dr. Longden.

Thomas Longden
Thomas Longden © University of Maryland

Dr. Longden and the research team then dissected the intricate cellular mechanism behind calcium’s role in directing blood branch by branch through the tiny vessels of the brain. They found that when neurons fire electrical signals, they cause an increase in calcium in the cells lining the blood vessels. Then enzymes detect this calcium and direct the cells to make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a hormone (and a gas) that causes muscle-like cells around blood vessels to relax, which then widens the vessels allowing more blood to flow in.

“Capillaries were traditionally thought as simple conduits for red blood cells, and the barrier between the blood and brain,” says co-senior author Mark T. Nelson, PhD, University of Vermont Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pharmacology. “Here, we revealed an unknown universe of calcium signaling in capillaries, and much like traffic lights, these calcium signals direct vital nutrients to nearby active neurons.”

“The first step towards figuring out what goes wrong in diseases is to determine how the system works as it normally should,” says E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Now that the researchers have a handle on how this process works, they can begin to investigate how the blood flow is disrupted in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in order to figure out ways to fix it.”

This study was supported by the American Heart Association, the Totman Medical Research Trust, Fondation Leducq, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, the National Institute of Heart, Lung, and Blood (P01HL095488, R01HL121706, 7UMHL1207704, R01HL131181, R24HL120847, R01HL120323, and R35HL140027), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (4P20GM103644/4-5, P20GM135007), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01NS110656), the National Institute on Aging (R01AG066645), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R37DK053832), the Vermont Center for Cardiovascular and Brain Health, the University of California Irvine TMF Center supported by the National Cancer Institute (P30CA062203), and the German Research foundation (DFG)-funded Research Unit.

Dr. Longden is a recent recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director (DP2OD02944801).

More information about the work ongoing in his lab can be found at www.longdenlab.org.

The authors have no financial conflicts to report.

Featured image: Calcium signals control blood flow in the brain © University of Maryland


Provided by University of Maryland School of Medicine

Why Are Narcissists So Easily Bored? (Psychology)

New research examines the tendencies of narcissists to become bored.

KEY POINTS

  • No one likes to be bored, but for people high in narcissism, it can be almost intolerable.
  • New research explores the connection between boredom, narcissism, and an excessive need for smartphone use.
  • By understanding the factors that lead narcissists to become bored, one can gain better insight into how to manage relationships with them.

With the many sources of stimulation in a highly digitized world, it may be difficult to imagine how anyone can become bored. After all, there’s always some new message or text to check, endless choices of streaming shows and movies, and a constant drumbeat of information about everything from the latest COVID-19 statistics to celebrity scandals. However, because they need a flow of constant attention and admiration, people high in narcissism would seem to be particularly likely to experience this “blah” mental state.

Perhaps you have a cousin who, for as long as you can remember, demanded extra attention and reassurance. This cousin would become enraged and upset when other relatives focused on the younger children in the family. At a recent wedding, with the entire family in attendance, this cousin appeared agitated and ran to the bathroom, remaining there for most of the night. This debacle was nothing new, as the cousin had a long history of upending events ranging from funerals to baby showers when being forced to remain still or quiet while other people stole the glory.

When most people are bored, they manage to find ways to entertain themselves, even if it just means twiddling their thumbs. For people like your cousin, filled with insecurity, a period of time requiring patience can border on mental torment. Left with their own thoughts or, worse, the feeling that other people are ignoring them, they find ways to try to make up the void.

The idea that people whose need for relief from boredom reflects a form of narcissism served as the inspiration for University of Kentucky’s Albert Ksinan and colleagues’ (2021) study on the compulsive use of smartphones. According to Ksinan and his fellow authors, previous research suggests that narcissists “might use smartphones to access social media, where they can curate and present their preferred self-image.” On the other hand, maybe they do so, the authors suggested, because they’re bored.

Testing the Boredom-Narcissism Relationship

Apart from the study’s goal of examining smartphone use by narcissists, the U. Kentucky-led research provides valuable insights into boredom as a feature of the daily life of people who need constant admiration and attention. Ksinan and his fellow researchers decided to focus on the age range they thought would be most likely to engage in problematic smartphone use. The online sample of 532 young adults (average age 23 years old), completed standard questionnaires assessing narcissism, compulsive smartphone use, and boredom.

The narcissism questionnaires assessed grandiose narcissism with items such as “I prefer to be the center of attention” vs. “I prefer to blend in with the crowd.” The measure of vulnerable narcissism included items such as “I dislike being with a group unless I know that I am appreciated by at least one of those present.”

The instrument assessing boredom proneness (rated on a 7-point scale) includes such sample items as:

  1. It is easy for me to concentrate on my activities.
  2. Time always seems to be passing slowly.
  3. It takes more stimulation to get me going than most people.
  4. In situations where I have to wait, such as a line, I get very restless.
  5. I am often trapped in situations where I have to do meaningless things.
  6. It takes a lot of change and variety to keep me really happy.

How did you score on these items? The average among the study sample was just 3.00, with most participants scoring between 2 and 4; a higher score than this would suggest that you’re constantly looking for excitement. In terms of the study’s purpose, you can also see how someone who feels that “vacuum” described by the authors would constantly be looking for ways to fill it up.article continues after advertisementnull

Turning now to the study’s findings, the authors reported that, as they predicted, people scoring high on both narcissism subscales had higher compulsive smartphone use scores (as indexed by items such as “Others complain about me using my mobile phone too much”). However, boredom served to play an important mediating role, at least for those high on the vulnerable narcissism scale. The link between smartphone use and vulnerable narcissism, in other words, was accounted for statistically by boredom scale scores. As the authors concluded, “vulnerable narcissists tend to suffer from feelings of boredom, and they seem to use smartphones as an easy fix to counter the negative feelings stemming from boredom.”

Based on the findings, smartphone use for grandiose narcissists seems to stem from a different need than an attempt to alleviate boredom. For these more gregarious individuals who like to show off on social media, the smartphone becomes an expression of their need to be in the limelight.

Beyond Boredom in Understanding Narcissism

Returning now to the case of that relative of yours, think back on what you believe causes all that distress when other people are the focus of attention. If you see this behavior as an outgrowth of vulnerable narcissism, you may have a better understanding of how to understand and manage your future interactions. Although you may still find the behavior to be annoying, if not upsetting, you can at least gain perspective on what’s behind it. Rather than trying to dominate others, this person is just trying to feel whole inside.

Consider, also, what it’s like when a vulnerable narcissist seeks that validation through constant checking of social media. It must be a tough process indeed when those “likes,” hearts, and comments don’t come flooding in with each post. Seeking validation when validation isn’t there can only become the source of even more insecurity.

To sum up, boredom alone can’t explain all the behavior of a narcissist, even a vulnerable one. However, you can gain important insights to help those in your life find greater fulfillment by allowing their true selves to shine through.

Featured image credit: Gettyimages


Reference

Ksinan, A. J., Mališ, J., & Vazsonyi, A. T. (2021). Swiping away the moments that make up a dull day: Narcissism, boredom, and compulsive smartphone use. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 40(6), 2917–2926. doi: 10.1007/s12144-019-00228-7


Provided by Psychology today


Text credit: Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Fast and Efficient New Human Cell Based Method for Studying “Forever Chemicals” (Biology)

Study in a Sentence: Researchers from Health Canada demonstrated that bioactivity exposure ratios derived through high-throughput transcriptomic analysis of human primary hepatocyte spheroids exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were comparable to those derived using the traditional rodent apical endpoints.

Healthy for Humans: PFAS chemicals are widely found throughout the environment because of their extensive use and persistence. Increased exposure to PFAS is associated with adverse liver outcomes in humans, including steatosis. Although several PFAS are well studied, most lack toxicity data to inform human health hazard and risk assessment. This study validated a screening method and produced a baseline transcriptomic dataset that can be used to study data-poor PFAS without the use of animals.

Redefining Research: High-throughput transcriptomics can be used to investigate biological perturbations induced by chemical exposures and to compare similarities and differences in biological potencies across chemicals, filling data gaps more quickly and at lower cost than animal testing. The bioactivity exposure ratio (BER) is the ratio of the safe human equivalent dose to the daily population exposure for a given chemical; a small BER indicates that biological perturbations occur at concentrations relevant to human exposure levels. These researchers found that perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was the most transcriptionally active and had a gene expression profile similar to that of perfluorodecane sulfonate (PFDS), while perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) was the least active and the least potent. This is consistent with reports that shorter chain PFAS cause less transcriptional perturbation and that PFOS causes hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease).

References

Rowan-Carroll A, Reardon A, Leingartner K, et al. High-throughput transcriptomic analysis of human primary hepatocyte spheroids exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as a platform for relative potency characterization. Toxicol. Sci. 2021;181:199-214. https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfab039


Provided by PCRM

Study Shows Diet Causes 84% Drop in Troublesome Menopausal Symptoms—without Drugs (Food)

A new study, published by the North American Menopause Society in the journal Menopause, found a plant-based diet rich in soy reduces moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84%, from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day. During the 12-week study, nearly 60% of women became totally free of moderate-to-severe hot flashes. Overall hot flashes (including mild ones) decreased by 79%.

Hot Flashes Completers

The study, called the WAVS trial—the Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms–shows that diet changes can be much more powerful for treating hot flashes than scientists had thought. Vasomotor symptoms refer to night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes.

The study used no hormone medications or extracts. Instead, the research team tested a combination of a low-fat plant-based diet plus 1/2 cup of ordinary soybeans added to a salad or soup each day.

“This is a game changer for women aged 45 and over, most of whom we now know can get prompt relief from the most severe and troubling menopause symptoms without drugs,” says lead researcher Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee and adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

As many as 80% of postmenopausal women suffer from hot flashes. Heat wells up from the chest, causing flushing, sweating, and chills. At night, hot flashes interfere with sleep. Estrogen-based medications were once routinely used to treat hot flashes but have been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and other serious problems. Isoflavoneextracts from soybeans work only modestly, leaving women and their doctors with few effective options.

Study Details

Postmenopausal women reporting two or more hot flashes per day were randomly assigned to either an intervention group—consisting of a low-fat, vegan diet, including half a cup of cooked soybeans daily—or to a control group that made no diet changes for 12 weeks. Frequency and severity of hot flashes were recorded using a mobile application, and vasomotor, psychosocial, physical, and sexual symptoms were assessed using the Menopause Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MENQOL).

Each participant was given a digital self-calibrating scale to track body weight day by day, a mobile app to track hot flashes in real time, and an Instant Pot to prepare soybeans at home. Each week, the group got together with the research team via Zoom.

“Previous studies have shown that soy could be beneficial, so we decided to put a diet change to the test,” says study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee. “We believe that the combination is what is important. By the end of the study, the majority of women on a plant-based diet rich in soy reported that they no longer experienced moderate-to-extreme hot flashes at all and that they experienced significant improvements in their quality of life.”

Key Findings

hot flashes graph

Total hot flashes decreased by 79% and moderate-to-severe hot flashes decreased by 84% in the intervention group. At the study’s conclusion, 59% of intervention-group participants reported becoming free of moderate and severe hot flashes. There was no change in this variable in the control group.

In previous randomized trials, soy products have been shown to modestly reduce the frequency of hot flashes. The researchers theorize that the effect may be a result of soy products containing isoflavones, which can be metabolized by gut bacteria into equol—a nonsteroidal compound that has been shown in some studies to reduce the incidence and severity of hot flashes. Previous studies have also shown that those following vegetarian or vegan diets produce higher levels of equol. The new study showed a more robust response, using the combination of a plant-based diet plus soy.

Many study participants also reported improvements in sexual symptoms, mood, and overall energy.

 “This was basically a lifesaver for me,” said one study participant. “I’ve got my quality of life back.” Another said, “I am sleeping better, and my hot flashes diminished tremendously.” Several participants also noticed significant weight loss and better digestion.
“Before you jump to any kind of medication, I would try this route, because it’s easy,” a study participant said. “Anybody can do it.” 

The study was based on the new approach to menopausal symptoms described by Dr. Barnard in his book Your Body in Balance. After the book was released in 2020, a reader contacted Dr. Barnard to let him know that his method eliminated her hot flashes within five days. Rather than using isoflavone extracts or soy foods such as soy milk or tofu, she used whole soybeans.

Featured image credit: Gettyimages, others: PCRM


Reference: Barnard, Neal D. MD, FACC1,2; Kahleova, Hana MD, PhD1; Holtz, Danielle N. BS1; del Aguila, Fabiola PhD1; Neola, Maggie BS, RD1; Crosby, Lelia M. BA, RD1; Holubkov, Richard PhD3 The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS), Menopause: July 12, 2021 – Volume – Issue –
doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001812


Provided by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Jupiter’s Super Polar Cyclones are Here to Stay (Planetary Science)

Weizmann Institute scientists reveal how gigantic cyclones remain stable at both of Jupiter’s poles

Until recently, before NASA’s Juno space probe entered its orbit around the planet Jupiter, no one knew that powerful cyclones, approximately the size of Australia, rage across its polar regions. Jupiter’s storms, as opposed to their earthly variety, do not disperse, hardly change, and are clearly not associated with flying rooftops and damp weather reporters. In an article published today in Nature Geoscience, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science reveal the mysteries of Jupiter’s cyclones: which forces are at work fixing these gargantuan storms to their polar locations, and why their numbers and locations remain more or less constant over time.

“We can think of Jupiter as an ideal climate laboratory,” says Prof. Yohai Kaspi of Weizmann’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. Earth is an intricate and multivariable system: it has oceans and an atmosphere, continents, biology – and of course, human activity. Jupiter, on the other hand, the largest planet in our solar system, is composed of gas and is therefore a far easier system to study, one that we can create predictions for and test hypotheses on. The data required for these predictions and hypotheses is collected by Juno – a research probe that was launched by NASA in 2011 and entered Jupiter’s orbit mid-2016. Kaspi, a NASA co-investigator on the Juno mission, witnessed one of its more exciting findings: the cyclone storms swirling around the planet’s poles.

“If we look at older images of Jupiter taken before 2016,” says Kaspi, “we see that the poles were commonly represented as large grey areas because no one knew then what they actually look like.” The reason for that lies in the fact that the solar system is organized on the same plane, which is very close to the plane of Jupiter’s equator. Therefore, past observations of the planet that were carried out from Earth, or from earlier space missions, could for the most part only capture Jupiter’s lower latitudes. Hence, one of the Juno mission’s noteworthy innovations is its polar orbit, which allowed researchers to observe in detail Jupiter’s tumultuous poles for the first time. This is exactly how the cyclones were exposed, surprisingly organized and resembling a round tray of cinnamon rolls, along latitude 84°N and S. Moreover, data gathered from Juno’s many orbits around Jupiter indicate that the number of cyclones remains fixed – eight are active around the north pole and five around the south. “This discovery was very surprising at the time,” says Kaspi, “because we expected the poles to be more or less symmetric.” In a previous study, Kaspi used the lack of symmetry in Jupiter’s gravitational field to determine the depth of the strong east-west wind belts that are characteristic of the planet’s atmosphere.

Kaspi: “The poles of Jupiter and the other gaseous planets are, perhaps, the last spots in the solar system that are still left to explore”

On Earth, tropical cyclonic storms form in areas where the water temperature exceeds 26 degrees Celsius – usually in the center of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – and they drift in a circular motion toward the poles, owing to a pull resulting from the planet’s spin. On Jupiter, on the other hand, strong jet streams prevent these storms from forming below latitude 60º – only above it are the currents weak enough to allow cyclones to rage on. What causes these particular storms on Jupiter to settle at latitude 84º? According to the new study, Jupiter’s cyclones are indeed attracted to the poles, but the polar storm located in the center of the ring of cyclones pushes them away, preventing them from reaching the pole itself.

“As long at the cyclones remain at a distance from the pole – they are attracted to it. But the nearer they venture – the more strongly they are repelled,” says doctoral student Nimrod Gavriel from Kaspi’s research group, whose thesis focuses on elucidating this phenomenon. “The question is whether the repulsion effect is strong enough to resist the pole’s attraction. Latitude 84º is where these forces even up.” Gavriel and Kaspi propose a mathematical model that considers the diameter of the polar cyclone (which is larger at the south pole than in the north), the possible minimal distance between each cyclone, the surface area around latitude 84º and the size of the cyclones and their spin, and that accurately predicts the presence of eight cyclones across the north pole. As for the south pole, based on their calculations, the number of cyclones should be 5.62. This number is consistent with the data collected by Juno: in reality this number cannot exist, but the five southern storms often separate into six storms, as observed during the probe’s eighteenth and thirty-fourth orbits around Jupiter. The proposed model also explains why this phenomenon is absent on Jupiter’s closest neighboring planet – Saturn.

“We are trying to understand atmospheric dynamics at a large scale, and providing a successful explanation for the phenomenon of Jupiter’s polar cyclones gives us the confidence that we truly know what’s going on there,” says Kaspi. This confidence may be paramount for us here on Earth, since a deeper understanding of cyclones could aid meteorologists to predict, for example, how the heating up of our planet will affect the movement of storms across it – a challenge that humanity will most likely face in the near future. But Kaspi’s fascination with the exploration of Jupiter is more straightforward: “There are no new islands to discover in the Pacific, and most planetary bodies in the solar system have already been mapped. The poles of Jupiter and the other gaseous planets are, perhaps, the last spots in the solar system that are still left to explore.”

Juno hovering above Jupiter’s south pole. In orbit around the solar system’s largest planet since 2016. Visualization: NASA

“We are expecting more valuable data to come in from Juno during the next couple of years,” Kaspi adds, following the recent extension of the Juno Mission to 2025. “Owing to gradual changes in the spacecraft’s polar orbit, it is now getting closer and closer to Jupiter’s north pole, allowing us to gain information about this polar region from several specialized instruments,” he concludes.

Science numbers: The diameter of each of Jupiter’s cyclones is about 4,000-5,000 kilometers, and they spin at velocities up to 360 kilometers per hour.

Featured image: Six cyclones in Jupiter’s south pole as captured by Juno’s infrared lens in February 2017. Surprisingly organized and resembling a round tray of cinnamon rolls. Photo credit: NASA


Reference: The number and location of Jupiter’s circumpolar cyclones explained by vorticity dynamics, Gavriel N. and Kaspi Y. (2021) Nature Geoscience.


Provided by Weizmann Institute of Science

Dalian Coherent Light Source Reveals Strong Isotope Effects in Photodissociation of Water Isotopolog (Chemistry)

Recently, a research group led by Prof. YUAN Kaijun and Prof. YANG Xueming from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed strong isotope effects in photodissociation of the water isotopologue (HOD) using the Dalian Coherent Light Source.

Their findings were published in Science Advances on July 23.

“Our experimental results illustrate dramatically different quantum state population distributions of OH and OD fragments from HOD photodissociation. The branching ratios of the H+OD and D+OH channels display large wavelength-dependent isotopic fractionation,” said Prof. YUAN.

Because water is one of the most abundant species in the solar nebula, photodissociation of water and its isotopologue by solar vacuum ultraviolet photons may be an alternative source of the D/H isotope heterogeneity, and this effect must be considered in photochemical models.

The photochemical processes identified in this work may vary the D/H isotopic ratios in the inner and outer regions, and/or in different periods of the solar nebula, which may cause the D/H isotope heterogeneity in the solar system.

This research was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chemical Dynamics Research Center, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Featured image: Dalian Coherent Light Source revealing strong isotope effects in water photochemistry © DICP


Reference: Zijie Luo, Yarui Zhao, Zhichao Chen, Yao Chang, Su-e Zhang, Yucheng Wu, Jiayue Yang, Yi Cheng, Li Che, Guorong Wu, Daiqian Xie, Xueming Yang, Kaijun Yuan, “Strong isotope effect in the VUV photodissociation of HOD: A possible origin of D/H isotope heterogeneity in the solar nebula”, Science Advances  21 Jul 2021: Vol. 7, no. 30, eabg7775 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg7775


Provided by DICP