Science Reporting

Creating a single artificial intelligence algorithm emits as much carbon as 5 cars

A new study produced by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, surprises us with regard to the fact that the artificial intelligence industry is a contributor of environmental pollution.

According to the results achieved by the researchers, developing a single software based on artificial intelligence can lead to the emission of more than 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is the average material emitted into the air by five cars in the United States during their entire course of use.

What consumes the most, and therefore causes the most emissions in the environment, is the training phase of the software based on machine learning: the latter must in fact overcome a long initial phase during which are inserted in the program large sets of data, increasingly large and massive, to ensure that the same algorithm is “instructed” and then works properly when put into operation.

Obviously this phase needs a lot of hours and days of work, a period during which the energy consumed by the computers reaches the peaks. This is without counting the use of all kinds of hardware, for example by the robotics and automation industry, which involves even more expensive testing phases in this regard.

Naturally, thanks to artificial intelligence, very efficient neural networks have been created, very useful in many contexts and very advantageous also with regard to the context of pollution, but this analysis sensitizes and provides an answer to those who believe that automation through software is unassailable in this sense. And perhaps this data could be used in the future to push researchers to develop increasingly efficient software and algorithms.

Science Reporting

Mexican scorpion venom contains compounds that kill staphylococci and tuberculosis bacteria

A team of researchers found that the venom of a scorpion from Mexico contains two compounds that could help fight human bacterial infections. The researchers, who published their work on Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, also claim to have isolated these compounds and managed to synthesize them in the laboratory after analyzing them.

Even the laboratory-created versions were able to kill bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and drug-resistant bacteria for tuberculosis in tissue samples from mice. The discovery is, of course, interesting as regards possible attempts to create drugs based precisely on these two compounds found in the venom of the scorpion Diplocentrus melici.

Among other things, it is an animal that is difficult to find and identify because for most of the year, during the winter of dry seasons, “it is buried and we can only find it in the rainy season,” as reported by Lourival Possani, professor of molecular medicine at the National University of Mexico who signed the study with senior author Richard Zare.

Among other things, the fact that they were able to synthesize these compounds in the laboratory is a fundamental step: if these compounds should have been taken only from the venom of the scorpion, produce a gallon (less than four liters) would have cost 39 million dollars, as reported by Zare himself.

The compounds found in the venom of scorpions are two new benzoquinones, previously unknown, a class of molecules with a ring shape already known for its antimicrobial properties.

Science Reporting

Predicting seizures and epileptic seizures is possible according to researchers

A new discovery, the results of which have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows that it is possible to predict seizures before they occur by analyzing particular molecules that are fragments of RNA transfer (tRNA). The latter is a particular chemical substance, related to DNA, which makes it possible to construct proteins within cells.

When cells are “stressed,” the tRNAs are cut into small fragments. These fragments, present in the blood, can reach high concentrations and this reflects the fact that brain cells are under stress. This state, if detected, can be considered as a symptom of an impending epileptic attack. This information could lead to the creation of an early warning system, something that could be of strong help to all people suffering from epilepsy as they might know in advance when they are at high risk of attack.

As Marion Hogg, lead author of the study and researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), points out, “people with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when an attack will occur.”

On the basis of this research, scholars now hope to be able to create an alert system, similar to that of a trivial blood glucose meter, to predict seizures.

Science Reporting

Identified human protein that helps malaria parasite development

A group of Japanese researchers published a study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine stating that it was discovered that Plasmodium parasites responsible for malaria develop so easily in the human body thanks to a particular protein of liver cells that the human body itself produces and that these parasites exploit. The research could prove useful in developing new therapeutic plans that target precisely this human protein, called CXCR4.

Malaria is one of the most serious infectious diseases and, according to the WHO, in 2017 alone there were 219 million cases and the deaths of 435,000 people. Malaria is transmitted through mosquitoes infected with this parasite in the form of rods that, once in the human body, invades the liver cells, called hepatocytes, changing shape and giving rise to thousands of merozoites. The latter then spread in the blood and cause the disease known as “malaria.”

According to Masahiro Yamamoto, very little is known today about the factors that regulate the differentiation of sporozoites in infected hepatocytes within the human body. In the course of their research, however, scientists have realized that it is a special hepatocyte protein called CXCR4 that helps Plasmodium sporozoites to transform once inside liver cells.

Scientists have already carried out experiments on mice with a specific drug that inhibits its own protein CXCR4, the same mice have been shown to be more resistant to malaria and survival rates were significantly higher.

According to Yamamoto himself “most anti-malaria drugs that target Plasmodium molecules eventually lead to drug resistance in these parasites, however inhibitors that target human proteins such as CXCR4 could avoid this problem and could be used prophylactically to prevent the development of malaria. In addition, the CXCR4 inhibitor used in this study is already widely used in humans undergoing treatment for blood tumors, which could accelerate its reuse as a new way of combating malaria.”

Science Reporting

Strobe lights related to a risk of epileptic seizures

A new study highlights the potential negative influences of strobe lights, those that can be found for example in discos or dance halls, already targeted by several previous studies in relation to epilepsy. According to this new study, published in BMJ Open, stroboscopic lighting can be linked to a three-fold increased risk of epileptic seizures in individuals already sensitive in this respect.

This means that the organizers or managers of these rooms or premises must issue appropriate warnings or warn users so that those who are characterized by a history of epilepsy, especially the one that is most affected by flashing lights (photosensitive epilepsy), can take the necessary precautions.

The researchers were encouraged to do this study by the case of a twenty-year-old who collapsed in one of these rooms and suffered for the first time an epileptic attack. They then collected data from various incidents and more than 400,000 participants at 28 music festivals focusing on electronic dance in the Netherlands for the whole of 2015.

They discovered 200,776 occasions on which it was necessary to provide medical assistance and in 39 of these cases were involved individuals who had suffered an epileptic attack. 30 of these last cases had occurred during concerts or nocturnal gatherings; this means that the risk of an epileptic attack associated with night events was 3.5 times greater than that associated with similar but diurnal events.

“Regardless of whether stroboscopic lighting effects are the only ones responsible or whether sleep deprivation and/or substance abuse also play a role, the appropriate interpretation is that large electronic music festivals, especially during the night, probably lead to at least a number of people per event suffering from epileptic seizures,” the researchers add.

Science Reporting

Red and white meat equally bad for cholesterol according to a new study

New research by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) reverses the belief about the consumption of red and white meat. According to the “popular belief” consuming white meat has a lesser effect on the increase in cholesterol level than consuming red meat. However, the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was the first to surprise the researchers themselves.

According to their findings, there would be no difference between consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry. Both contributed to higher blood cholesterol levels than, for example, the consumption of a comparable amount of plant proteins during observations. And this regardless of the high levels of saturated fat in the diet of the patients examined: “Their effects on cholesterol are identical when the levels of saturated fat are equivalent,” reports Ronald Krauss, the senior author of the study and professor of medicine at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

According to the results, consuming large amounts of saturated fat increases the concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL (low-density lipoprotein) particles that still have a weaker connection with cardiovascular disease than smaller LDLs. Also according to the results, both red and white meat increased the quantities of large LDLs.

These results contrast with the various recommendations regarding the use of white meat compared to red meat, which has become quite unpopular in recent years among health professionals and those who are more attentive to nutrition. In any case, this “equality” between red meat and white meat can currently only be linked to their effects on blood cholesterol: other possible negative effects of eating red meat compared to white meat, such as a greater contribution to heart disease, would still be at stake.

Science Reporting

Six billion people may be at risk of dengue fever by the end of the century

A new study takes into account the great threat of dengue fever that is spreading alarmingly in various parts of the world. According to the research, which appeared in Nature Microbiology, the relevant virus could be a source of real risk for more than 6 billion people by the end of this century. Specifically, 20% of the world’s population could contract the virus in 2080 in the most terrible, but also the most pessimistic, hypothesis.

The areas where the spread could increase, and in a fairly massive way, are the southeastern United States, the coastal areas of China and Japan and the internal regions of Australia. These results were obtained by a research group that analyzed in particular data on climate change, urbanization and the planet’s resources to understand the indirect spread of the virus.

In any case, the major changes, at the level of spread, are expected in those areas where dengue fever is already a very real danger and where the disease can be defined as endemic. There is talk of various areas of the African continent, in particular the regions of the Sahel and southern Africa. Surprisingly, the data analyzed does not show a future greater spread of the disease in Europe compared to other areas further away from Africa and less subject to illegal immigration from the latter.

In fact, climate change will contribute to the expansion of dengue, as Oliver Brady, assistant to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and one of the authors of the study, points out, but other important factors will also be the increase of the human population and urbanization in tropical areas. All these factors will allow mosquitoes to spread and thrive and therefore the virus it carries will do the same.

Science Reporting

Scientists convert type A blood into universal blood by means of intestinal bacteria

The problem with blood donation very often does not lie in the lack of donors but in the lack of compatible blood. For a transfusion to be successful, the blood of the donor and the recipient must be compatible. The differentiations are established on the basis of particular sugar molecules on the surface of the red blood cells and if a person receives non-compatible blood special blood antigens are set in motion causing the immune system to eliminate it.

However, type O blood lacks these antigens and is therefore considered as “universal” because it can also be donated to patients with blood groups A, B and AB. It is in fact quite important in cases of first aid, that is in those cases in which it is not possible to use compatible blood but it is necessary to perform an emergency transfusion. Blood group O is, however, much rarer than the others.

Now, a new research group has tried to transform type A blood into universal blood by removing its own antigens using enzymes present in particular bacteria living in the human intestine.

These bacteria usually attach themselves to the internal walls of the intestine to feed on mucinae, particular substances coated with sugars and proteins. These sugars are very similar to those that differentiate blood groups.

Based on this knowledge, the research group of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, has cut pieces of DNA of the intestinal bacterium in question, the Flavonifractor plautii, performing laboratory tests to understand the feasibility of induced removal of these sugars.

The researchers were successful: the enzymes of the bacteria also performed their work in human blood. These results are very promising in relation to the possibility of creating universal blood from major blood groups, although much more work and research is needed to safely remove all antigens.