Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The New Way to Combat Memory Loss

We all wonder how to do it.  Whether it be for exams or anything else, we all want to try and figure out how to remember things easier and to not forget them.  Well, a research team located within The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VA) and University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine recently discovered that by increasing a crucial cholesterol-binding membrane protein in nerve cells within the brain, learning and memory functions were greatly improved within mice.

Granted this is mice that were used in this study.  However, mice and humans do share similar molecular structure and function to one another.  If anything, testing on mice can provide a fantastic outlook on what a drug or a medical technique would do to a human.  Therefore, it could become way easier to remember all kinds of things in the future, including your girlfriend's or wife's anniversary (heaven forbid that you forget that date).

"By bringing back this protein, you're actually bringing cholesterol back to the cell membrane, which is very important for forming new synaptic contacts" said author Brian Head, a research scientist with the VA and associate professor at UC San Diego.  By doing so, scientists have a much greater understanding of neuroplasticity (the ability of neural pathways to grow in response to new stimuli).  This was all observed when the membrane protein called caveolin-1 (Cav-1) was injected directly into a region of the brain known as the hippocampus in adult and "aged" mice (older mice).  As a result, there was improved neuron growth within the mice and a better retrieval of contextual memories (responding to past stimuli like freezing in place in fear in a location where they had received electrical shocks before).  As a result, the scientists are also looking into other ways that Cav-1 could be used.  "We're very interested in studying whether we can manipulate Cav-1 in other areas of the brain," Mandyam, associate professor at TSRI and co-first author of the study with Jan M. Schilling of UC San Diego and the VA, said.

So above all, be on the lookout for a new drug on the shelves in your local CVS hopefully within the next decade or so, cause Cav-1 looks like it really works.  Just think, improved memory and learning all through the injection of Cav-1 into your brain.

Check out the story at this link below:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/sri-sdt102015.php

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Weirdest Star in the Galaxy

Between two constellations in the sky, there's an old star that we cannot see with a naked eye.  It lies between the constellations of "Cygnus the swan" and Lyra "the harp".  Now where it sits, there normally isn't a lot going on in terms of other stars, events in the galaxy, or really anything.  In addition, this is one of the many stars that the Kepler Space Telescope (which has been viewing this star for the past 4 years) has been watching to view tiny dips in the light emitted by this star, indicating that a planet had transitioned in front of this star.  However, over the past couple of years, one particular star has been emitting some strange light patterns.  Not necessarily one dip of light, or two.  Or ten.  Or a hundred.  In fact, it would seem that this star has in its orbit a massive collection of objects, constantly circling the star.  Now this pattern is completely normal for a young star, as it would have dust and debris spinning around the star while it is forming.  There's just one problem about this situation.

The star under question, is an old mature star, not a young one.

And no other star viewed by the Kepler Space Telescope, out of the 150,000 stars viewed, has experienced the same event.

This amount of material orbiting around the star is large enough to block out numerous photons that the telescope could see, meaning they aren't small objects at all.  And what's more interesting, is that if nature just blindly set the mass around the star, it would have consolidated by now.  Unless this is a recent event, gravity normally would have condensed the material by pulling it into the star.  Since the materials are there, and this is a mature star, something doesn't add up. 

Scientists have been trying to come up with theories and explanations as to why this is happening, or what is causing this event.  One theory, for example, is that the debris could be the remains of comets dragged into that star's area by another star that came exceptionally close, according to researchers.  Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, has been working recently on this extraordinary event.  Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.  “When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

Does this not sound like a completely bizarre circumstance?

Now I'm not saying aliens are real or are not real, we have no idea what is going on at this star.  The next step in this endeavor is to determine if any other signals are being emitted from the star or the objects, like a radio signal.  In fact, the researchers want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star around January, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.  If anything crazy or unknown happens, a follow-up would happen almost instantly on the event.  “If we saw something exciting, we could ask the director for special allotted time on the VLA,” Wright told me. “And in that case, we’d be asking to go on right away.”  For now, however, we are left to look at the stars and wonder what mystery awaits at this unusual star.

For more information, check out the story at this link:

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/the-most-interesting-star-in-our-galaxy/410023/