June 27, 2018

Royal Astronomical Society

Our galaxy is rich in grease-like molecules, according to new research. Astronomers used a laboratory to manufacture material with the same properties as interstellar dust and used their results to estimate the amount of ‘space grease’ found in the Milky Way.


Milky Way (stock image).
Credit: © passmil198216 / Fotolia



Our galaxy is rich in grease-like molecules, according to an Australian-Turkish team. Astronomers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney (UNSW), and Ege University in Turkey used a laboratory to manufacture material with the same properties as interstellar dust and used their results to estimate the amount of ‘space grease’ found in the Milky Way. Their results appear in a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Organic matter of different kinds contains carbon, an element considered essential for life. There is though real uncertainty over its abundance, and only half the carbon expected is found between the stars in its pure form. The rest is chemically bound in two main forms, grease-like (aliphatic) and mothball-like (aromatic).

The UNSW / Ege team used a laboratory to create material with the same properties as interstellar dust. They mimicked the process by which organic molecules are synthesised in the outflows of carbon stars, by expanding a carbon-containing plasma into a vacuum at low temperature. The material was collected and then analysed by a combination of techniques. Using magnetic resonance and spectroscopy (splitting light into its constituent wavelengths) they were able to determine how strongly the material absorbed light with a certain infrared wavelength, a marker for aliphatic carbon.

“Combining our lab results with observations from astronomical observatories allows us to measure the amount of aliphatic carbon between us and the stars,” explained Professor Tim Schmidt, from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science in the School of Chemistry at UNSW Sydney.

The researchers found that there are about 100 greasy carbon atoms for every million hydrogen atoms, accounting for between a quarter and a half of the available carbon. In the Milky Way Galaxy, this amounts to about 10 billion trillion trillion tonnes of greasy matter, or enough for 40 trillion trillion trillion packs of butter.

Schmidt is quick to dispel the comparison with anything edible: “This space grease is not the kind of thing you’d want to spread on a slice of toast! It’s dirty, likely toxic and only forms in the environment of interstellar space (and our laboratory). It’s also intriguing that organic material of this kind — material that gets incorporated into planetary systems — is so abundant.”

The team now wants to determine the abundance of the mothball-like carbon, which will involve yet more challenging work in the laboratory. By firmly establishing the amount of each type of carbon in the dust, they will know precisely how much of this element is available to create life.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Royal Astronomical SocietyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. B Günay, T W Schmidt, M G Burton, M Afşar, O Krechkivska, K Nauta, S H Kable, A Rawal. Aliphatic Hydrocarbon Content of Interstellar DustMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty1582


Source: Royal Astronomical Society. “Milky Way is rich in grease-like molecules.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2018. <>.


June 25, 2018

University of California – Santa Cruz

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will require not only reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, but also active removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This has prompted heightened interest in ‘negative emissions technologies.’ A new study evaluates the potential for recently described methods that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through an ‘electrogeochemical’ process that also generates hydrogen gas for use as fuel and creates by-products that can help counteract ocean acidification.


A new study evaluates the potential for recently described methods that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through an “electrogeochemical” process that also generates hydrogen gas for use as fuel and creates by-products that can help counteract ocean acidification.
Credit: © Francesco Scatena / Fotolia



Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will require not only reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, but also active removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This conclusion from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has prompted heightened interest in “negative emissions technologies.”

A new study published June 25 in Nature Climate Change evaluates the potential for recently described methods that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through an “electrogeochemical” process that also generates hydrogen gas for use as fuel and creates by-products that can help counteract ocean acidification.

First author Greg Rau, a researcher in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and visiting scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said this technology significantly expands the options for negative emissions energy production.

The process uses electricity from a renewable energy source for electrolysis of saline water to generate hydrogen and oxygen, coupled with reactions involving globally abundant minerals to produce a solution that strongly absorbs and retains carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Rau and other researchers have developed several related methods, all of which involve electrochemistry, saline water, and carbonate or silicate minerals.

“It not only reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide, it also adds alkalinity to the ocean, so it’s a two-pronged benefit,” Rau said. “The process simply converts carbon dioxide into a dissolved mineral bicarbonate, which is already abundant in the ocean and helps counter acidification.”

The negative emissions approach that has received the most attention so far is known as “biomass energy plus carbon capture and storage” (BECCS). This involves growing trees or other bioenergy crops (which absorb carbon dioxide as they grow), burning the biomass as fuel for power plants, capturing the emissions, and burying the concentrated carbon dioxide underground.

“BECCS is expensive and energetically costly. We think this electrochemical process of hydrogen generation provides a more efficient and higher capacity way of generating energy with negative emissions,” Rau said.

He and his coauthors estimated that electrogeochemical methods could, on average, increase energy generation and carbon removal by more than 50 times relative to BECCS, at equivalent or lower cost. He acknowledged that BECCS is farther along in terms of implementation, with some biomass energy plants already in operation. Also, BECCS produces electricity rather than less widely used hydrogen.

“The issues are how to supply enough biomass and the cost and risk associated with putting concentrated carbon dioxide in the ground and hoping it stays there,” Rau said.

The electrogeochemical methods have been demonstrated in the laboratory, but more research is needed to scale them up. The technology would probably be limited to sites on the coast or offshore with access to saltwater, abundant renewable energy, and minerals. Coauthor Heather Willauer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory leads the most advanced project of this type, an electrolytic-cation exchange module designed to produce hydrogen and remove carbon dioxide through electrolysis of seawater. Instead of then combining the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to make hydrocarbon fuels (the Navy’s primary interest), the process could be modified to transform and store the carbon dioxide as ocean bicarbonate, thus achieving negative emissions.

“It’s early days in negative emissions technology, and we need to keep an open mind about what options might emerge,” Rau said. “We also need policies that will foster the emergence of these technologies.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California – Santa Cruz. Original written by Tim Stephens. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Greg H. Rau, Heather D. Willauer, Zhiyong Jason Ren. The global potential for converting renewable electricity to negative-CO2-emissions hydrogenNature Climate Change, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0203-0


Source: University of California – Santa Cruz. “‘Electrogeochemistry’ captures carbon, produces fuel, offsets ocean acidification.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2018. <>.

June 26, 2018

Utah State University

Geologists identify the San Andreas Fault’s ‘Durmid Ladder’ structure, a a nearly 15.5-mile-long, sheared zone with two, nearly parallel master faults and hundreds of smaller, rung-like cross faults that could be the site of the region’s next major earthquake.


Map illustrates the Durmid Ladder, a fault structure newly identified by Utah State University geologists in California’s San Andreas Fault. BB=Bombay Beach; PS=Palm Springs.
Credit: Susanne Jänecke/USU



Back in 1905, the Colorado River, swollen with heavy rainfall and snowmelt, surged into a dry lake bed along California’s San Andreas Fault and formed the Salton Sea. The flood waters submerged most of the small town of Salton, along with nearby tribal lands. The inundation also covered a key, seismically active stretch of the San Andreas Fault’s southern tip in silt, hiding evidence of its potential volatility.

Utah State University geologist Susanne Jänecke began hypothesizing the location and geometry of the sediment-obscured fault zone more than a decade ago. After securing funding from the Southern California Earthquake Center in 2011, she, along with USU graduate student Dan Markowski and colleagues, embarked on the painstaking task of documenting the uplifted, highly folded and faulted area with geologic mapping and analysis.

The geologists’ persistence revealed a nearly 15.5-mile-long, sheared zone with two, nearly parallel master faults and hundreds of smaller, rung-like cross faults. Dubbed the “Durmid Ladder” by the team, the well-organized structure could be the site of the region’s next major earthquake. Jänecke, Markowski, USU colleague Jim Evans, Patricia Persaud of Louisiana State University and Miles Kenney of California’s Kenney GeoScience, reported findings in the June 19, 2018, online issue of Lithosphere, a publication of the Geological Society of America.

The discovery of the Durmid Ladder reveals the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault changes fairly gradually into the ladder-like Brawley Seismic zone. The structure trends northwest, extending from the well-known main trace of the San Andreas Fault along the Salton Sea’s northeastern shore, to the newly identified East Shoreline Fault Zone on the San Andreas’ opposite edge.

“We now have critical evidence about the possible nucleation site of the next major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault,” says Jänecke, professor in USU’s Department of Geology. “That possible nucleation site was thought to be a small area near Bombay Beach, California, but our work suggests there may be an additional, longer ‘fuse’ south of the Durmid Ladder within the 37-mile-long Brawley Seismic zone.”

Future earthquakes in that zone or near the San Andreas Fault could potentially trigger a cascade of earthquakes leading to the overdue major quake scientists expect along the southern San Andreas fault zone, she says.

“Fortunately, the northern continuation of the newly identified East Shoreline strand of the San Andreas Fault is farther away from major population centers than we first thought,” Jänecke says. “The fault lies along the eastern edge of Coachella Valley. In addition, the broken rock throughout the ladder structure could damped ground-shaking associated with the next large earthquake.”

On the other hand, she says the Durmid Ladder present an increase in the surface-rupture hazard in Durmid Hill and, if the Brawley Seismic Zone is involved, the next large earthquake might be slightly larger than scientists previously expected.

Among the tools Jänecke and her team used to identify the fault were high resolution aerial photography and false color imaging.

“Many months of fieldwork were critical to the research,” she says. “We relied on this imagery to integrate the field study into our map of the complex ladder structure.”

Geophysical imaging and drilling confirmed the northward extend and identified the tilted fault zone in the subsurface near Palm Springs.

“On the ground and to our eyes, all of the tan-colored sediment looks the same,” Jänecke says. “But further analysis with digital imaging tools highlighted the slight color differences of distinctive marker units.”

These markers, she says, allowed the team to recognize the hundreds of faults that displace the 3-0.2 million-year-old sedimentary rocks of the Durmid Ladder.

“The new maps and analysis revealed the ladder structure, which is a particular type of ‘step-over,’ where overlapping fault strands have many connecting cross faults,” Jänecke says. “It’s not clear now past earthquakes interacted with this structure and that makes its future behavior difficult to predict.”

Until now, the main trace of the San Andreas Fault has been the only well-studied active fault this area, she says. “We need further study of the Durmid Ladder, the East Shoreline Fault and other fault zones of this area to identify the potential for surface-faulting hazards, ground sharing and cascading ruptures, to determine how to mitigate the risk posed by these important structures.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Utah State UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Susanne U. Jänecke, Daniel K. Markowski, James P. Evans, Patricia Persaud, Miles Kenney. Durmid ladder structure and its implications for the nucleation sites of the next M >7.5 earthquake on the San Andreas fault or Brawley seismic zone in southern CaliforniaLithosphere, 2018; DOI: 10.1130/L629.1


Source: Utah State University. “Geologists detail likely site of San Andreas Fault’s next major quake.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2018. <>.

Technique could replace daily injections for diabetics

June 25, 2018

Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Researchers have developed an oral delivery method that could dramatically transform the way in which diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in check.


Oral delivery method could dramatically transform the way in which diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in check.
Credit: Harvard SEAS



Given the choice of taking a pill or injecting oneself with a needle, most of us would opt to regulate a chronic health condition by swallowing a pill. But for millions of people living with type 1 diabetes, a painful needle prick once or twice daily is the only option for delivering the insulin that their bodies cannot produce on their own.

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed an oral delivery method that could dramatically transform the way in which diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in check.

Not only does oral delivery of insulin promise to improve the quality of life for up to 40 million people with type 1 diabetes worldwide, it could also mitigate many of the disease’s life-threatening side effects that result from patients failing to give themselves required injections.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Insulin therapy, by injection just under the skin or delivered by an insulin pump, generally keeps the glucose levels of most diabetics in check. “But many people fail to adhere to that regimen due to pain, phobia of needles, and the interference with normal activities,” said senior author Samir Mitragotri, Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS. “The consequences of the resulting poor glycemic control can lead to serious health complications.”

Finding a way to deliver insulin orally has been elusive; the protein does not fare well when it encounters the stomach’s acidic environment and it is poorly absorbed out of the intestine. The key to the new approach is to carry insulin in an ionic liquid comprised of choline and geranic acid that is then put inside a capsule with an acid-resistant enteric coating. The formulation is biocompatible, easy to manufacture, and can be stored for up to two months at room temperature without degrading, which is longer than some injectable insulin products currently on the market.

“Once ingested, insulin must navigate a challenging obstacle course before it can be effectively absorbed into the bloodstream,” said Mitragotri, who is also a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. “Our approach is like a Swiss Army knife, where one pill has tools for addressing each of the obstacles that are encountered.”

By encapsulating the insulin-ionic liquid formulation in an enteric coating, the team overcame the first obstacle, resisting breakdown by gastric acids in the gut. This polymer coating dissolves when it reaches a more alkaline environment in the small intestine, where the ionic liquid carrying insulin is released.

“When a protein molecule such as insulin enters the intestine, there are many enzymes whose function is to degrade the proteins into smaller amino acids,” explained first author Amrita Banerjee, who conducted the research while working as a postdoctoral fellow in Mitragotri’s lab, and is now an assistant professor at North Dakota State University. “But the ionic liquid-borne insulin remains stable.”

The choline-geranic acid formulation also was shown to be adept at penetrating two final barriers — the layer of mucus lining the intestine and the tight cell junctions of the intestine wall, through which large-molecule drugs such as insulin cannot easily pass.

Other researchers have tried various means of surmounting these barriers — by re-engineering the insulin molecule, coating it in protective polymers, and introducing additives to inhibit breakdown by enzymes or to enhance absorption. However, no oral insulin delivery product is currently available in the clinic.

“It has been the holy grail of drug delivery to develop ways to give protein and peptide drugs like insulin by mouth, instead of injection,” said Mark Prausnitz, Regents’ Professor and J. Erskine Love, Jr. Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Prausnitz, who was not involved in the research, added: “This study shows remarkable results where insulin given by mouth in combination with an ionic liquid works about as well as a conventional injection. The implications of this work to medicine could be huge, if the findings can be translated into pills that safely and effectively administer insulin and other peptide drugs to humans.”

Orally ingested insulin would more closely mimic the way in which a healthy individual’s pancreas makes and delivers insulin to the liver, where up to 80 percent is extracted and the rest is circulated through the bloodstream. It could also mitigate the adverse effects of taking injections over long period of time.

Banerjee also noted that ionic liquid-borne insulin can be prepared in a one-step process that could be readily scaled up for inexpensive industrial production, making the cost of manufacturing the oral formulation easily manageable.

Mitragotri next plans to conduct more animal tests of the formulation as well as long-term toxicological and bioavailability studies. The researchers are optimistic that if all goes well, gaining approval for eventual clinical trials in humans will be made easier by the fact that the key ingredients in their ionic liquids — choline and geranic acid — are already considered safe. The Food and Drug Administration has established a daily recommended dose of choline, a vitamin-like essential nutrient; and geranic acid, a chemical that naturally occurs in cardamom and lemongrass, is widely used as a food additive.

If further research progresses as hoped, the approach could be used for oral delivery of other proteins.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development is actively pursuing commercialization opportunities for this technology, and is advancing its development through the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator.

Additional authors on the paper include Kelly Isben, Tyler Brown, Renwei Chen and Christian Agatemor.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant R01DK097379), the National Science Foundation (DGE-1144085 and DGE-1745303)

Story Source:

Materials provided by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Original written by Leah Burrows. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Amrita Banerjee, Kelly Ibsen, Tyler Brown, Renwei Chen, Christian Agatemor, Samir Mitragotri. Ionic liquids for oral insulin deliveryProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201722338 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1722338115


Source: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Delivering insulin in a pill: Technique could replace daily injections for diabetics.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2018. <>.

The Talented Mr. Farley

James Farley, photographer extraordinaire, friend and colleague, sent us some recent photos. Hard to choose, but we all agreed that one below was exceptional.


Here are the specs:

The camera perspective (on a tall tripod) was above the head. That’s how high-up the flowers were. They were at the height of my eyes, as I stood.

RShot on Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 17mm Tilt-shift lens using Lee Filters 0.6 standard filter.


Rhododendrons at Sunset on Roan Mountain, North Carolina, June 14, 2018. Jane Bald and Round Bald in view. © Copyright Advanced Fine Art 2018 / All Rights Reserved


For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website.


Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target

Jules Mitchel, Editor



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Epithelial Cells

Illustration of the dividing epithelium cell surrounded by epithelium tissue. Spindle apparatus rotates inside the cell. The rotation is a result of astral microtubules pulling towards tri-cellular-junctions (TCJ), signaling centers localized at the regions where three cells meet. Graphic credit: Margo. raichman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,



Epithelium is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. Epithelial tissues line the outer surfaces of organs and blood vessels throughout the body, as well as the inner surfaces of cavities in many internal organs. An example is the epidermis, the outermost layer of the1) ___. There are three principal shapes of epithelial cell: squamous, columnar, and cuboidal. These can be arranged in a single layer of cells as simple epithelium, either squamous, columnar, cuboidal, pseudo-stratified columnar or in layers of two or more cells deep as stratified (layered), either squamous, columnar or cuboidal. All glands are made up of epithelial 2) ___. Functions of epithelial cells include secretion, selective absorption, protection, transcellular transport, and sensing.


Epithelial layers contain no blood 3) ___, so they must receive nourishment via diffusion of substances from the underlying connective tissue, through the basement membrane. Cell junctions are well-employed in epithelial tissues. Epithelial tissues have as their primary functions:


1. Protect the tissues that lie beneath from radiation, desiccation, toxins, invasion by pathogens, and physical trauma

2. Regulation and exchange of chemicals between the underlying tissues and a body cavity

3. Secretion of hormones into the circulatory system, as well as the secretion of sweat, mucus, enzymes, and other products that are delivered by ducts

4. Provide sensation


Cells of epithelial tissue are tightly packed and form a continuous sheet. They have almost no intercellular spaces. All epithelia is usually separated from underlying tissues by an extracellular fibrous basement membrane. The lining of the mouth, lung alveoli and kidney tubules all are made of epithelial 4) ___. The lining of the blood and lymphatic vessels are of a specialized form of epithelium called endothelium. Epithelium lines both the outside (skin) and the inside cavities and lumina of bodies. The outermost layer of human skin is composed of dead stratified squamous, keratinized epithelial cells. Tissues that line the inside of the mouth, the esophagus, the vagina, and part of the rectum are composed of nonkeratinized stratified squamous epithelium. Other surfaces that separate body cavities from the outside environment are lined by simple squamous, columnar, or pseudostratified epithelial cells. Other 5) ___ cells line the insides of the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the reproductive and urinary tracts, and make up the exocrine and endocrine glands. The outer surface of the cornea is covered with fast-growing, easily regenerated epithelial cells. A specialized form of epithelium – endothelium forms the inner lining of blood vessels and the heart, and is known as vascular endothelium, and lining lymphatic vessels as lymphatic endothelium. Another type, mesothelium, forms the walls of the pericardium, pleurae, and peritoneum.


In arthropods, the integument, or external “skin“, consists of a single layer of epithelial ectoderm from which arises the cuticle, an outer covering of chitin the rigidity of which varies as per its chemical composition.


Epithelial tissue rests on a basement membrane, which acts as a scaffolding on which epithelium can grow and regenerate after injuries. Epithelial tissue has a nerve supply, but no 6) ___ supply and must be nourished by substances diffusing from the blood vessels in the underlying tissue. The basement membrane acts as a selectively permeable membrane that determines which substances will be able to enter the epithelium. It is known that some corneal diseases and degenerations have a significant heritable background. Because the density of the corneal endothelial cells is strongly 7) ___, this knowledge should stimulate future genetic studies to identify genes and pathways that are involved in determining corneal endothelial cell density (ECD) which might in turn lead to future treatments to prevent epithelial cell (EC) loss.


There is evidence that a major pressure driving evolution of CNS blood-tissue barriers was the selective advantage given by fine control (homeostasis) of the brain ionic microenvironment. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a diffusion barrier, which impedes influx of most compounds from blood to brain. Three cellular elements of the brain microvasculature compose the BBB-endothelial cells, astrocyte end-feet, and pericytes (PCs). Tight junctions (TJs), present between the cerebral endothelial cells, form a diffusion barrier, which selectively excludes most blood-borne substances from entering the 8) ___. At the blood brain 9) ___, the endothelial cells do not act alone, but function within a well organized ‘neurovascular unit’ (NVU), a modular structure integrating the local neuronal population and its associated astrocytic glia with the cells forming the microvascular tube providing blood flow, the endothelium and pericytes, and in arterioles also smooth muscle. Microglia, the resident immune cells of the CNS, are associated with the NVU, in quiescent state in normal physiology, but becoming activated in pathology.


When researchers today refer to HERS, they are including the studies, done over a century ago, of Oskar Hertwig. HERS stands for: Hertwig’s Epithelial Root Sheath. Today, NIH clinical reports in tandem with developmental and evolutionary studies re-introduce HERS as the ultimate governor of the periodontal ligament, the regulator of its width and homeostasis and the shield against resorption and ankylosis. From an evolutionary 10) ___ perspective, HERS appears to have evolved first to provide elastic anchorage for and mediate eruption of amphibian teeth and then may have evolved to facilitate the formation of a non-mineralized periodontal ligament in crocodiles and mammals and maintain its functional integrity. During development, HERS fenestration allows mesenchymal cells from the dental follicle to penetrate the epithelial barrier and deposit cementum. A part of this function may be related to the induction of acellular cementogenesis, and future studies will provide definitive answers to address this important issue.


ANSWERS: 1) skin; 2) cells; 3) vessels; 4) tissue; 5) epithelial; 6) blood; 7) heritable; 8) brain; 9) barrier; 10) biology


Sources:; /; Wikipedia


Oskar Hertwig, Developmental Biologist

Oskar Hertwig: Photo credit: Erik Nordenskiold, The history of biology: a survey. Knopf, New York, 1935, S. 594. Online:, Public Domain,


Oscar Hertwig (21 April 1849 – 25 October 1922) was a German zoologist and professor, who also wrote about the theory of evolution circa 1916, over 55 years after Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species. He was the elder brother of zoologist-professor Richard Hertwig (1850-1937). The Hertwig brothers were the most eminent scholars of Ernst Haeckel (and Carl Gegenbaur) from the University of Jena. They were independent of Haeckel’s philosophical speculations but took his ideas in a positive way to widen their concepts in zoology. Initially, between 1879-1883, they performed embryological studies, especially on the theory of the coelom (1881), the fluid-filled body cavity. These problems were based on the phylogenetic theorems of Haeckel, i.e. the biogenic theory (German = biogenetisches Grundgesetz), and the “gastraea theory”.


Within 10 years, the two brothers moved apart to the north and south of Germany. Oscar Hertwig later became a professor of anatomy in 1888 in Berlin; however, Richard Hertwig had moved 3 years prior, becoming a professor of zoology in Munich from 1885-1925, at Ludwig Maximilians Universitat, where he served the last 40 years of his 50-year career as a professor at 4 universities. Richard’s research focused on protists (the relationship between the nucleus and the plasm = “Kern-Plasma-Relation”), as well as on developmental physiological studies on sea urchins and frogs. He also wrote a leading Zoology textbook. He also discovered mitosis and meiosis.


Oscar Hertwig was a leader in the field of comparative and causal animal-developmental history. He also wrote a leading textbook. By studying sea urchins he proved that fertilization occurs due to the fusion of a sperm and egg cell. He recognized the role of the cell nucleus during inheritance and chromosome reduction during meiosis: in 1876, he published his findings that fertilization includes the penetration of a spermatozoon into an egg cell. Oscar Hertwig experiments with frog eggs revealed the ‘long axis rule’, or Hertwig rule. According to this rule cell divides along its long axis (1884). In 1885 Oscar wrote that nuclein (later called nucleic acid) is the substance responsible not only for fertilization but also for the transmission of hereditary characteristics. This early suggestion was proven correct much later in 1944 by the Avery – MacLeod – McCarty experiment which showed that this is indeed the role of the nucleic acid DNA. While Oscar was interested in developmental biology, he was opposed to chance as assumed in Charles Darwin?s theory. His most important theoretical book was: “Das Werden der Organismen, eine Widerlegung der Darwinschen Zufallslehre” (Jena, 1916) (translation: “The Origin of Organisms – a Refutation of Darwin’s Theory of Chance”).


Hertwig was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1903. Oscar Hertwig is known as Oscar Hedwig in the book “Who discovered what when” by David Ellyard. A history of the discovery of fertilization for mammals including scientists like Hertwig and other workers is given by the book “The Mammalian Egg” by Austin.

New Evidence that Viruses May Play a Role in Alzheimer’s Disease


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out simple tasks. More evidence is accumulating to indicate that this loss of cognitive functioning is a mix of many different disease processes in the brain, rather than just one, such as buildup of amyloid or tau proteins. Identifying links to viruses may help researchers learn more about the complicated biological interactions involved in AD, and potentially lead to new treatment strategies.


National Institute on Aging (NIA) study finds new evidence that viruses may play a role in AD.


According to an article published online in the journal Neuron Analysis (21 June 2018), large data sets from post-mortem brain samples of people with and without AD has revealed new evidence that viral species, particularly herpesviruses, may have a role in AD biology. The study harnessed data from brain banks and cohort studies participating in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership – Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) consortium. The authors emphasized that while their findings do not prove that the viruses cause the onset or progression of AD, the findings do show that viral DNA sequences and activation of biological networks — the interrelated systems of DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites — may interact with molecular, genetic and clinical aspects of AD.


The authors originally set out to find whether drugs used to treat other diseases can be repurposed for treating AD, and designed the study to map and compare biological networks underlying AD. What they found is that AD biology is likely impacted by a complex constellation of viral and host genetic factors, adding that there are specific testable pathways and biological networks. The authors used multiple layers of genomic and proteomic data from several NIA-supported brain banks and cohort studies. They began their direct investigation of viral sequences using data from the Mount Sinai Brain Bank and were able to verify their initial observations using datasets from the Religious Orders Study, the Memory and Aging Project and the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank. They were then able to incorporate additional data from the Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to understand viral impacts on protein abundance. Through the application of sophisticated computational modeling the authors made several key findings, including:

Human herpesvirus 6A and 7 were more abundant in Alzheimer’s disease samples than non-Alzheimer’s.


There are multiple points of overlap between virus-host interactions and genes associated with Alzheimer’s risk.


Multiple viruses impact the biology of Alzheimer’s disease across domains such as DNA, RNA and proteins.

Important roles for microbes and viruses in Alzheimer’s disease have been suggested and studied for decades. Since the 1980s, hundreds of reports have associated AD with bacteria and viruses. These studies combined suggest a viral contribution but have not explained how the connection works. While the current findings are more specific, they do not provide evidence to change how risk and susceptibility are assessed, nor the diagnosis and treatment of AD. Rather, the research gives scientists reason to revisit the old pathogen hypothesis and will be the basis for further work that will test whether herpes virus activity is one of the causes of AD.


More on this research is available in announcements from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiArizona State University and Cell Press, the publisher of Neuron.


PCIT-ED Shows Promise for Treating Depression in Preschool-Aged Children


Children as young as 3-years-old can be diagnosed with clinical depression, and although preschool-aged children are sometimes prescribed antidepressants, a psychotherapeutic intervention is greatly needed. According to a study published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry (20 June 208), it was shown that a therapy-based treatment for disruptive behavioral disorders can be adapted and used as an effective treatment option for early childhood depression. The authors adapted Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), which has been shown to be an effective way to treat disruptive behavioral disorders in young children. In standard PCIT treatment, parents are taught techniques for successfully interacting with their children. They then practice these techniques in controlled situations while being coached by a clinician.


In order to target the therapy for childhood depression, the authors adapted this standard intervention by adding a new emotional development (ED) module to the treatment. This extra material used the basic techniques of PCIT to train parents to be more effective at helping their children regulate emotions and to be better emotion coaches for their children. The training was designed to help enhance the children’s emotional competence and emotion regulation abilities. For the study, children ages 3-6 who met criteria for early childhood depression and their parents were randomly assigned to PCIT-ED treatment or a waitlist group. Children in the PCIT-ED group completed standard PCIT modules for a maximum of 12 treatment sessions, followed by an emotional development module lasting eight sessions. There are currently no empirically tested treatments that are widely used to treat early childhood depression; therefore, children in the waitlist group were monitored but received no active intervention. Children and their parents in the waitlist group were offered PCIT-ED treatment after completion of the study. The authors assessed before and after treatment or the waiting period (depending on group assignment), children’s psychiatric symptoms, their emotional self-regulation abilities, their level of impairment and functioning, and their tendency to experience guilt. Parents were assessed for depression severity, coping styles, and strategies they used in response to their child’s negative emotions, and for stress within the parent-child relationship.


Results showed that at the completion of treatment, children in the PCIT-ED group were less likely to meet criteria for depression, more likely to have achieved remission, and were more likely to score lower on depression severity than children in the waitlist group. Children in the PCIT-ED treatment group had improved functioning, fewer comorbid disorders, and were rated as having greater emotional regulation skills and greater “guilt reparation“ (e.g., spontaneously saying ”sorry” after having done something wrong, appropriate empathy with others, etc.) compared with children in the waitlist group. Parents in the PCIT-ED group also benefited. They were found to have decreased symptoms of depression, lower levels of parenting stress, and reported employing more parenting techniques that focused on emotion reflection and processing than parents in the waitlist group. Parents also overwhelmingly reported positive impressions of the therapeutic program.


According to the authors, the study provides very promising evidence that an early and brief psychotherapeutic intervention that focuses on the parent-child relationship and on enhancing emotion development may be a powerful and low-risk approach to the treatment of depression,“ and that it will be very important to determine if gains made in this early treatment are sustained over time and whether early intervention can change the course of the disorder.


FDA Approves Automated Insulin Delivery and Monitoring System for Use in Younger Pediatric Patients


The human pancreas naturally supplies a low, continuous rate of insulin, known as basal or background insulin. In patients with diabetes, the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired. Because the pancreas does not make insulin in people with type 1 diabetes, patients must consistently monitor their glucose levels throughout the day and inject insulin with a syringe, pen or pump to avoid becoming hyperglycemic (high glucose levels). In addition, management of type 1 diabetes includes following a healthy eating plan and physical activity. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is typically diagnosed in children and young adults.


The FDA has expanded the approval of the MiniMed 670G hybrid closed looped system, a diabetes management device that is intended to automatically monitor glucose (sugar) and provide appropriate basal insulin doses with little or no input from the user, to include individuals aged 7 to 13 with type 1 diabetes. The FDA originally approved this device in September 2017 for use in patients 14 years of age and older with type 1 diabetes.


The MiniMed 670G hybrid closed looped system works by measuring glucose levels in the body every five minutes and automatically adjusting insulin delivery by either administering or withholding insulin. The system includes: a sensor that attaches to the body to measure glucose levels under the skin; an insulin pump strapped to the body; and an infusion patch connected to the pump with a catheter that delivers insulin. While the device automatically adjusts insulin levels, users need to manually request insulin doses to counter carbohydrate consumption at mealtime.


The FDA evaluated data from a clinical trial of the MiniMed 670G hybrid closed looped system that included 105 individuals aged 7 to 11 years old. Study participants wore the device for approximately 3.5 months and participated in three phases of the study to evaluate both at-home use as well as remote use. The study found no serious adverse events associated with use of the MiniMed 670G and that the device is safe for use in people age 7 to 13 years with type 1 diabetes. Risks associated with use of the system may include hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, as well as skin irritation or redness around the device’s infusion patch. As part of this approval, the FDA is requiring the product developer to conduct a post-market study to evaluate device performance in real-world settings in children between the ages of 7 and 13. This device is not approved for use in children 6 years of age or younger and in individuals who require less than eight units of insulin per day.


The expanded approval of MiniMed 670G hybrid closed looped system was granted to Medtronic.


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