SciTech Briefs

New Alzheimer’s drug slows cognitive decline

A new, experimental drug developed by Biogen Indec sharply slowed decline in cognitive function in a small, clinical trial of Alzheimer’s patients. The drug, called aducanumab or BIIB037, is designed to rid the brain of amyloid plaque, which is widely believed to be the cause of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients.

The trial consisted of 166 patients randomly assigned to get either the drug or a placebo; the drug not only slowed cognitive decline but also substantially reduced plaque in the brain. Higher doses were more effective than lower doses. The results were presented in Nice, France, at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and Related Neurological Disorders. Biogen hopes to begin larger trials sometime this year.

Source: New York Times

Crocodile ancestor was top predator before dinosaurs

A newly discovered crocodilian ancestor, Carnufex carolinensis, is believed to have been North America’s top predator before dinosaurs arrived on the continent. Carnufex was a 9-foot long, land-dwelling crocodylomorph that walked on its hind legs, preying upon armored reptiles and early mammal relatives.

Paleontologists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences recovered parts of Carnufex’s skull, spine, and upper forelimb from the Pekin Formation in Chatham County, North Carolina. A complete image of the skull was produced using a high-resolution surface scanner after scanning the pieces. A paper entitled “Early crocodylomorph increases top tier predator diversity during rise of dinosaurs” was published in Scientific Reports.

Source: Science Daily

Stars forming in dust cloud in nearby galaxy

An international team of researchers have discovered that over one million stars are forming in a dust cloud buried within a supernebula in a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5253, in the constellation Centaurus. The dust surrounding these stars is approximately 15,000 times larger than the mass of our sun, and is around 3 million years old — relatively young in astronomical terms.

“I’ve been searching for the gas cloud that is forming the supernebula and its star cluster for years. Now we have detected it,” said Jean Turner, a professor of physics and astronomy in the University of California, Los Angeles College and lead author of the research. The research was part of the Submillimeter Array project, and was published last Thursday in the journal Nature.

Source: Science Daily

New 3-D printer inspired by Terminator 2

A new 3-D printing technique works 100 times faster than conventional 3-D printers by lifting objects out of a pool of resin. The technique was derived from a scene in Terminator 2, in which the T-1000 robot rises from a pot of molten metal. The idea was to have “an object rise out of a puddle in real time with essentially no waste,” explained Joseph DeSimone, a professor of chemistry at University of North Carolina and a founder of the company Carbon3D.

The technique, called Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP), uses a moving platform to lift printed objects out of a reservoir of liquid resin. The technique combines pulses of light, solidifying the resin, and oxygen, which prevents parts of the resin from solidifying, to craft intricate three-dimensional objects.

Source: The Guardian

Mushrooms found to glow in order to attract insects

The luminous fungus Neonothopanus gardneri, which grows at the base of palm trees in Brazilian forests, lights up to attract insects that will spread its spores, according to a recent study. To find the reason for the glow, scientists placed mushroom decoys at tree bases and lit some of the decoys with green LEDs to mimic the real mushroom’s bioluminescencewhile leaving the others without LEDs.

After five nights, the scientists found the luminescent decoys had more insects. They collected 12 insects from the dark mushrooms and 42 insects from the glowing ones, concluding that the purpose of the glow was to attract insects. It was also determined that the mushrooms follow a rhythm, which allows them to only light up at night. The study was published online in Current Biology.

Source: Science Mag

Solar eclipse witnessed by millions in the UK

This past Friday, millions of people across the United Kingdom and Northern Europe witnessed a solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun. BBC footage revealed interesting features regarding the eclipse, namely a clear view of “Baily’s beads,” the light at the edge of the Moon.

In all parts of the UK, the eclipse reached 83 percent, with the darkness peaking at about 09:35 GMT. The period of greatest darkness lasted nearly three minutes and occurred over a spot in the Norwegian Sea at 09:46 GMT. Researchers at the National Eclipse Weather Experiment asked the public to record weather conditions during the eclipse in order to improve future weather forecasting. The UK will not experience a solar eclipse of this magnitude again until 2026.

Source: The BBC