Less sugar…More muscle!

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have shown that skeletal muscle satellite cells, key players in muscle repair, proliferate better in low glucose environments. This is contrary to conventional wisdom that says mammalian cells fare better when there is more sugar to fuel their activities. Because ultra-low glucose environments do not allow other cell types to proliferate, the team could produce pure cultures of satellite cells, potentially a significant boost for biomedical research.

Healthy muscles are an important part of a healthy life. With the wear and tear of everyday use, our muscles continuously repair themselves to keep them in top condition. In recent years, scientists have begun to understand how muscle repair works at the cellular level. Skeletal muscle satellite cells have been found to be particularly important, a special type of stem cell that resides between the two layers of sheathing, the sarcolemma and basal lamina, that envelopes myofiber cells in individual muscle fibers. When myofiber cells get damaged, the satellite cells go into overdrive, multiplying and finally fusing with myofiber cells. This not only helps repair damage, but also maintains muscle mass. To understand how we lose muscles due to illness, inactivity, or age, getting to grips with the specific mechanisms involved is a key challenge for medical science.

Click through to the original article. Even the unanswered questions are interesting. A topic worth tracking.

Staying in touch with Atlas

Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing. Atlas’ control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace. Atlas’ ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint.

The Atlas hardware takes advantage of 3D printing to save weight and space, resulting in a remarkable compact robot with high strength-to-weight ratio and a dramatically large workspace. Stereo vision, range sensing and other sensors give Atlas the ability to manipulate objects in its environment and to travel on rough terrain. Atlas keeps its balance when jostled or pushed and can get up if it tips over.

Boston Dynamics rocks. I almost went to work for a precursor, a firm that ended up merged or “blended” into Boston Dynamics – before I left Boston in 1986. The chance to come to the Southwest and the Rockies was too tempting to walk away from. Surely might have been an interesting road to follow if I’d stayed.

Future Hurricanes Likely To Be Worse Than Harvey

How powerful would Hurricane Harvey have been in 1880? How much stronger might it be in 2100?

❝ A single Hurricane Harvey has been more than anyone can bear. But to better prepare cities for future storms, researchers are preparing to re-watch Harvey thousands of times. They’ve already been studying earlier storms, and their conclusions don’t bode well for the decades to come.

❝ In the months and years after Superstorm Sandy’s 2012 assault on New Jersey and New York, Gary Lackmann, an atmospheric science professor at North Carolina State University, was asked how the event might be understood in light of human-driven global warming. He knew that the question everyone wants answered—did climate change cause the storm—wasn’t the right one. Hurricanes were around long before the industrial revolution. Two questions did, however, resonate:

How does climate change affect the frequency or intensity of huge storms?…

What would the weather pattern that sustained Sandy have spawned in a cooler past or a hotter future?…

RTFA for conclusions.

The body of Lackmann’s study ran before Hurricane Harvey. He’s adding that info to an ongoing evaluation. The more empirical data you have, the better. Especially in the political climate of crap “alternative facts” so loved by today’s conservatives.

Our Immigrants, Our Strength


Click to enlarge

Life jackets along the NYC waterfront — a reminder

❝ World leaders are gathering in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, and at the top of their agenda sits a refugee crisis that has reached a level of urgency not seen since World War II. The United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees represent a watershed moment that is putting a global spotlight on the need for an effective response to a growing humanitarian crisis…

❝ As the mayors of three great global cities — New York, Paris and London — we urge the world leaders assembling at the United Nations to take decisive action to provide relief and safe haven to refugees fleeing conflict and migrants fleeing economic hardship, and to support those who are already doing this work.

We will do our part, too. Our cities pledge to continue to stand for inclusivity, and that is why our cities support services and programs that help all residents, including our diverse immigrant communities, feel welcome, so that every resident feels part of our great cities…

❝ Investing in the integration of refugees and immigrants is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Refugees and other foreign-born residents bring needed skills and enhance the vitality and growth of local economies, and their presence has long benefited our three cities.

❝ Our cities are also on the front lines of helping those fleeing violence or persecution connect to critical, often lifesaving, services. Paris is one of the first major municipalities to open a refugee center in the heart of the city. Beginning in October, the center will provide services and basic necessities, as well as administrative support, to 400 refugees. New York has placed city representatives in immigration court to connect the thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America seeking asylum to crucial health, education and other social services. Last year London boroughs provided support to more than 1,000 unaccompanied, asylum-seeking children, and the city is now developing new ways of working with communities to offer support to resettled refugees.

❝ We know policies that embrace diversity and promote inclusion are successful. We call on world leaders to adopt a similar welcoming and collaborative spirit on behalf of the refugees all over the world during the summit meeting this week. Our cities stand united in the call for inclusivity. It is part of who we are as citizens of diverse and thriving cities.

RTFA for the details. This was published by the mayors of New York City, Paris and London. Not only cities for the successful – but, for the people of those cities trying to build anew.

Tornado strength, frequency, linked to climate change

New research by a Florida State University geography professor shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States.

…Professor James Elsner writes that though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. So, for example, instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring…

Elsner, an expert in climate and weather trends, said in the past, many researchers dismissed the impact of climate change on tornadoes because there was no distinct pattern in the number of tornado days per year. In 1971, there were 187 tornado days, but in 2013 there were only 79 days with tornadoes.

But a deeper dive into the data showed more severity in the types of storms and that more were happening on a given day than in previous years…

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country, and despite advances in technology and warning systems, they still remain a hazard to residents in storm-prone areas. The 2011 tornado season, for example, had nearly 1,700 storms and killed more than 550 people…

One bright spot of news in the research, Elsner added, was that the geographic areas impacted most regularly by tornadoes do not appear to be growing.

Interesting work and especially relevant in this period of climate change. Too bad politicians and other scatterbrains find it easier to focus on ideology and elections than actually developing a response to the changes we’re still analyzing and understanding.

Kudos to people like Professor Elsner for maintaining dedication to research even when there are know-nothings in the Florida legislature who would rather defund work like this than confront change.

Thanks, Mike

Popeye got it right! Spinach makes you strong

Popeye was right – not only does spinach make your muscles more efficient it also makes them stronger too.

Research has discovered that the nitrates found in the vegetable boost the production of the proteins in the muscles, making them stronger and more efficient.

The researchers, from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said the equivalent amount of nitrate given to the mice in the experiment each day can be found in a small bag of spinach…The same level could also be obtained from two to three beetroots…

Researcher Andres Hernandez told the Daily Mail…his team hopes to use the findings to pursue new treatments for people with weak or ageing muscles…”The really exciting part is to go ahead and look at people with muscle weakness, with muscle diseases, and even ageing, and see if this can improve their muscle function…”

Now what will we learn from Olive Oyl?

Egypt’s first elections absent Mubarak peaceful, high turnout

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Egyptians voted Monday in the first election since a popular revolt toppled Hosni Mubarak’s one-man rule, showing new-found faith in the ballot box that may sweep long-banned Islamists into parliament even as army generals cling to power…

The ruling army council, which has already extended polling to a second day, kept voting stations open an extra two hours until 9 p.m. “to accommodate the high voter turnout…”

Parliament’s lower house will be Egypt’s first nationally elected body since Mubarak’s fall and those credentials alone may enable it to dilute the military’s monopoly of power.

A high turnout throughout the election would give it legitimacy. Despite a host of reported electoral violations and lax supervision exploited by some groups, election monitors reported no systematic Mubarak-style campaign to rig the polls…

Oppressed under Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties have stood aloof from those challenging army rule in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, unwilling to let anything obstruct a vote that may bring them closer to power…

Nevertheless, the Brotherhood has formidable advantages that include a disciplined organization, name recognition among a welter of little-known parties and years of opposing Mubarak…

Many voters engaged in lively political debate as they waited patiently in long queues…

The world is closely watching the election, keen for stability in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, owns the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia, and which in Mubarak’s time was an ally in countering Islamist militants in the region…

Individual winners are to be announced Wednesday, but many contests will go to a run-off vote on December 5. List results will not be declared until after the election ends on January 11…

Egyptians seemed enthused by the novelty of a vote where the outcome was, for a change, not a foregone conclusion…

The army council has promised civilian rule by July after the parliamentary vote and a presidential poll, now expected in June — much sooner than previously envisaged.

It’s reasonable that many of those who fought to push Mubarak out the door are impatient about getting to a modern secular democracy. Perhaps they supported a boycott – as some did – because they felt the military was still too strong. Or perhaps they worried over their own inability to marshall an electoral struggle that would result in an appreciable voice in the new parliament. Not such a great reason.

As I’ve noted here in recent weeks, winning the revolution after the revolution is a lot more demanding than tearing down the walls of dictatorship. It may be less dangerous. It ain’t easier. The grunt work of building a democratic base is not only required – it’s how you guarantee democracy.

Prunes help prevent fractures and osteoporosis

When it comes to improving bone health in postmenopausal women — and people of all ages, actually — a Florida State University researcher has found a simple, proactive solution to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis: eating dried plums.

“Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,” said Bahram H. Arjmandi…”All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.”

Arjmandi and a group of researchers from Florida State and Oklahoma State University tested two groups of postmenopausal women. Over a 12-month period, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums (about 10 prunes) each day, while the second — a comparative control group of 45 women — was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples. All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units).

The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples. This, according to Arjmandi, was due in part to the ability of dried plums to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone, which tends to exceed the rate of new bone growth as people age…

In the United States, about 8 million women have osteoporosis because of the sudden cessation of ovarian hormone production at the onset of menopause. What’s more, about 2 million men also have osteoporosis.

Arjmandi encourages people who are interested in maintaining or improving their bone health to take note of the extraordinarily positive effect that dried plums have on bone density.

Don’t wait until you get a fracture or you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and have to have prescribed medicine,” Arjmandi said. “Do something meaningful and practical beforehand. People could start eating two to three dried plums per day and increase gradually to perhaps six to 10 per day. Prunes can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes.”

Proactive – as always – is better than sitting and waiting for an accident to happen. The FSU department chaired by Dr. Arjmandi – Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences – is pretty interesting btw. One of the 72 major schools I’d consider attending if I was a kid starting out all over again.