Friday, October 31, 2014

Plastic Chemical Linked to Changes in Baby Boy's Genitals

Boys exposed in the womb to high levels of a chemical found in vinyl products are born with slightly altered genital development, according to research published today.

di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP)

The study of nearly 200 Swedish babies is the first to link the chemical di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) to changes in the development of the human male reproductive tract.
Previous studies of baby boys in three countries found that a similar plastics chemical, DEHP, was associated with the same type of changes in their genitalia.

The Role of vinyl toys, flooring and packaging

Less is known about the reproductive risks of DiNP, a chemical which scientists say may be replacing DEHP in many products such as vinyl toys, flooring and packaging. In mice, high levels block testosterone and alter testicular development.
child development
A study of nearly 200 Swedish babies is the first to link the chemical di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) to changes in the development of the human male reproductive tract. 

“Our data suggest that this substitute phthalate may not be safer than the chemical it is replacing,” wrote the researchers, led by Carl-Gustaf Bornehag at Sweden’s Karlstad University, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Levels of DiNP in U.S. adults and children more than doubled in the past decade.
“This study raises concern about DiNP, which is being used in increased amounts in products that contain vinyl plastics, and the impact on the developing fetus,” said Dr. Russ Hauser, a professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health who is not involved in the new study.
The researchers measured metabolites of five phthalates in the urine of pregnant women during the first trimester. Development of male reproductive organs begins during that period, said senior study author Shanna Swan, a professor of reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
The researchers then measured the anogenital distance – the length between the anus and the genitals – when the boys were on average 21 months old. Boys who had been exposed to the highest levels of DiNP in the womb averaged a distance that was slightly shorter – about seven-hundredths of an inch – than the boys with the lowest exposures.
“These were really subtle changes,” Swan said.

Effect On Fertility

Considered a sign of incomplete masculinization, shortened anogenital distance in men has been associated with abnormal testicular development and reduced semen quality and fertility. In men, this measurement is typically 50 to 100 percent longer than in women.
But it’s unknown whether a slightly shorter distance in infants corresponds with any fertility problems later in life.
“More research is needed to understand the extent to which shorter anogenital distance at birth is associated with impaired reproductive function later in life in humans,” said Emily Barrett, a reproductive health scientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
For other phthalates, the study found shorter anogenital distance with higher concentrations, but the findings were not statistically significant, meaning they may have been due to chance. The Swedish women in the new study had phthalate levels similar to U.S. women in Swan's previous studies. Those studies, published in 2005and 2008, linked several phthalates to shorter anogenital distance.
A spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, a group representing chemical manufacturers, said the study "reports small changes that are associated with exposure to DiNP" but does not prove that the chemical caused the changes. 
The spokesperson said the new findings "seem to contradict" the authors' earlier findings as well as two other studies that found no association between DiNP and men's anogenital distance. In addition, the study is based on a single urine sample from the mothers. As a result, the "plausibility is low," the industry group said. "To demonstrate causal associations in the field of epidemiology, there are criteria that should be evaluated and considered...We found that this study scores low for many important considerations."
The industry group did not answer questions about what types of products DiNP is used in. The scientists said exposures to the chemical can come from food or through skin contact with home furnishings or child-care articles.
In 2008, the United States temporarily banned use of DiNP and two other phthalate plasticizers in toys and other children's products. “This ban does nothing to protect the developing fetus,” Swan said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended in July to make the ban permanent and urged that “U.S. agencies responsible for dealing with DiNP exposures from food and other products conduct the necessary risk assessments.”

The Role of Packed Food , Plastic Containers

While it’s nearly impossible to eliminate exposure to phthalates, Swan suggested that pregnant women may be able to reduce their exposures by incorporating unprocessed, unpackaged foods into the diet and by avoiding heating or storing foods in plastic containers.

Plastic Chemical Linked to Changes in Baby Boy's Genitals

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tiny human stomachs grown in the lab

Scientists have successfully grown miniature stomachs in the lab from human stem cells, guiding them through the stages of development seen in an embryo. The lumps of living tissue, which are no bigger than a sesame seed, have a gland structure that is similar to human stomachs and can even harbour gut bacteria.

The feat, reported in this week's Nature1, offers a window to how cells in human embryos morph into organs. Scientists say that these 'gastric organoids' could also be used to understand diseases such as cancer, and to test the stomach's response to drugs.
“This is extremely exciting,” says Calvin Kuo, a stem-cell biologist at Stanford University in California. “To be able to recapitulate that in a dish is quite a technical achievement.”
The stem cells used to grow the mini stomachs are pluripotent, or plastic: given the right environment, they can mature into any type of cell. But to coax them down a specific path in the lab requires recreating the precise sequence and timing of environmental cues in the womb — the signals from proteins and hormones that tell cells what kind of tissue to become. Bits of kidney, liver, brain and intestine have previously been grown in a lab dish using this technique.

Stomach switch- Cancer Research , Drug REaction

The key to turning pluripotent stem cells into stomach cells was a pathway of interactions that acts as a switch between growing tissues in the intestine and in the antrum, a part of the stomach near its outlet to the small intestine.
When the stem cells were around three days old, researchers added a cocktail of proteins including Noggin, which suppresses that pathway, and timed doses of retinoic acid, a compound in vitamin A. After nine days, the cells were left to grow in a protein bath.
At 34 days, the resulting organoids were only a few millimetres in diameter and had no blood cells, immune cells, nor the ability to process food or secrete bile. But their gland structures and each marker of their development paralleled development in their control tissues, which the team obtained from mice. In that sense, they “are remarkably similar to an actual stomach”, says study leader James Wells, a developmental biologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
That similarity allowed the researchers to use the tiny stomachs as test subjects for human disease by injecting them with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that targets the antrum and can cause ulcers and stomach cancer. Within 24 hours, the team found that H. pylori was causing the organoid cells to divide twice as fast as normal, and activating a particular gene, c-Met, that can cause tumours. These effects are also seen in human stomachs infected with H. pylori.
The researchers say that they can grow the stomach organoids from both embryonic stem cells and skin cells induced to pluripotency. Jason Mills, a gastrointestinal pathologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, envisions growing thousands of such organoids, each from a different person’s cells, and infecting them with a pathogen to study the role of individual genetics.
Wells says that his team's long-term goal is to be able to grow personal stomach tissue to patch up ulcers in humans. He and some colleagues are already attempting to use human organoids to plug stomach holes in mice.

Artificial Human Stomach Grown In Lab

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Googles New Inbox

On 22nd October Google announced  something new. It’s called Inbox. Years in the making, Inbox is by the same people who brought you Gmail, but it’s not Gmail: it’s a completely different type of inbox, designed to focus on what really matters. 

Email started simply as a way to send digital notes around the office. But fast-forward 30 years and with just the phone in your pocket, you can use email to contact virtually anyone in the world…from your best friend to the owner of that bagel shop you discovered last week. 

With this evolution comes new challenges: we get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done.

If this all sounds familiar, then Inbox is for you. Or more accurately, Inbox works for you. Here are some of the ways Inbox is at your service:

Bundles: stay organized automatically 
Inbox expands upon the categories we introduced in Gmail last year, making it easy to deal with similar types of mail all at once. For example, all your purchase receipts or bank statements are neatly grouped together so that you can quickly review and then swipe them out of the way. You can even teach Inbox to adapt to the way you work by choosing which emails you’d like to see grouped together. 

Highlights: the important info at a glance
Inbox highlights the key information from important messages, such as flight itineraries, event information, and photos and documents emailed to you by friends and family. Inbox will even display useful information from the web that wasn’t in the original email, such as the real-time status of your flights and package deliveries. Highlights and Bundles work together to give you just the information you need at a glance.

Reminders, Assists, and Snooze: your to-do’s on your own terms

Inbox makes it easy to focus on your priorities by letting you add your own Reminders, from picking up the dry cleaning to giving your parents a call. No matter what you need to remember, your inbox becomes a centralized place to keep track of the things you need to get back to. 

A sampling of Assists

And speaking of to-do’s, Inbox helps you cross those off your list by providing Assists—handy pieces of information you may need to get the job done. For example, if you write a Reminder to call the hardware store, Inbox will supply the store’s phone number and tell you if it's open. Assists work for your email, too. If you make a restaurant reservation online, Inbox adds a map to your confirmation email. Book a flight online, and Inbox gives a link to check-in.

Of course, not everything needs to be done right now. Whether you’re in an inconvenient place or simply need to focus on something else first, Inbox lets you Snooze away emails and Reminders. You can set them to come back at another time or when you get to a specific location, like your home or your office.

Get started with Inbox
Starting today, we’re sending out the first round of invitations to give Inbox a try, and each new user will be able to invite their friends. If Inbox can’t arrive soon enough for you, you can email us at to get an invitation as soon as more become available. 

When you start using Inbox, you’ll quickly see that it doesn’t feel the same as Gmail—and that’s the point. Gmail’s still there for you, butInbox is something new. It’s a better way to get back to what matters, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

New Google product: Inbox

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Else An Eggs Can Say?

The number of eggs in a woman's ovaries could tell a lot more than just how fertile she is. It may provide a window onto how fast her cells are ageing and, in particular, reflect her risk of developing heart disease.

Number of Eggs and Disease Risks

Women are born with all of their eggs and, throughout their life, the number they have declines. The onset of menopause is triggered by this decline.

Several factors that coincide with menopause compound this risk, including a shift in the type of cholesterol the body produces, the redistribution of body fat and increased blood pressure. The drop in oestrogen levels is also thought to play a role as the hormone helps keeps blood vessels elastic. ButMarcelle Cedars at the University of California, San Francisco, wondered if the increased risk to women who experience early menopause might have a more fundamental cause. "Perhaps women who go through menopause early are intrinsically aging at a different rate," says Cedars.

Telling telomeres

To find out, Cedars' team took blood samples from 1100 non-menopausal women aged 25 to 45 and measured their amount of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), an indicator of how many eggs are in the ovaries. They confirmed the number of eggs by counting the pockets of fluid, called follicles, around each egg using an ultrasound.
To measure the women's biological age, the researchers looked at the length of telomeres in their white blood cells. Telomeres are the dangly bits at the end of chromosomes that shorten every time a cell divides. Their length is considered a measure of cellular age.
Between three and five years later, 250 of the women came back so researchers could calculate their risk of developing heart disease in the next decade – known as their Framington score. This takes account of risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight.
As expected, the team found that women with lower egg counts had higher Framington scores, but they also had shorter telomeres. Previous studies have suggested that shorter telomeres are linked with heart disease,dementia and cancer, and also with a shorter lifespan. So women with fewer eggs may also be at higher risk of other age-related diseases, although epidemiological studies will be needed to bolster this link.

Early warning

"We think the ovary may be more sensitive to the processes of aging," says Cedars, making it like a canary in a coal mine for a general state of accelerated aging.
"It is a very promising hypothesis that reproductive ageing could serve as a window into cardiovascular health and the cellular aging process," says JoAnn Manson, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

Confirming that number of eggs, as well as age at menopause, is associated with risk of cardiovascular disease is important because heart disease is thenumber one cause of death for women around the world. Women are often diagnosed later than men and also tend to have a worse prognosis after being diagnosed, so finding ways to identify those at higher risk is crucial, says Cedars. Many women undergo AMH testing for fertility purposes and those with low egg counts could be monitored for cardiovascular health and advised to make lifestyle changes at a relatively young age, she says.
The researchers presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Number of eggs a woman has predicts heart attack risk

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Technology Inspired By Nature : New Medical Device

Dialysis and implanted arteries widely used in medical industry to keep people alive. The major concern with these devices are blood clotting and infection due to adhered pathogens. Clotting of blood was  handled by treating blood with anticlotinng agents like Heparin. But this method have its own risk;by interfering with clotting, they can cause potentially deadly bleeding.

The New Dialysis Device

Recently, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University looked to the carnivorous pitcher plant for guidance. The plant’s structure includes wells with surfaces too slippery for insects to crawl out of. Those surfaces inspired the development of a coating so slippery that it prevents blood and bacteria from sticking.

The team tested the coating on the interiors of tubes and catheters attached to pigs. They demonstrated that the coating did not degrade, and that blood kept flowing without clotting, for eight hours. Blood usually starts to clot in tubes in an hour. The study is in the journal Nature Biotechnology. [Daniel C. Leslie et al, A bioinspired omniphobic surface coating on medical devices prevents thrombosis and biofouling]

The researchers also tested whether a gecko could latch onto the coating with its notoriously sticky footpads. But not even the gecko could get a grip. 

Liquid-infused, Porous Surface (SLIPS) approach

SLIPS was inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant, which uses a layer of liquid water to create a low friction surface that prevents attachment of insects. The SLIPS technology creates omniphobic slippery surfaces by infiltrating porous or roughened substrates with various liquid perfluorocarbons (LPs) that prevent adhesion to the underlying substrate through formation of a stably immobilized, molecularly smooth, liquid overlayer. However, existing medical-grade materials, such as polycarbonate, polysulfone and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), have highly smooth surfaces. Thus, to create nonadhesive, antithrombogenic surfaces that might be useful for clinical medicine in the near-term, we set out to modify the SLIPS technology so that it can be applied to these smooth surfaces. This was accomplished by covalently binding a flexible molecular perfluorocarbon layer, or tethered perfluorocarbon (TP), on the material surface and then coating it with a mobile layer of an LP (perfluorodecalin) that has been used extensively in medicine for applications such as liquid ventilation, ophthalmic surgery and as an US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved blood substitute.

Anticlotting Medical Device : Inspired By Pitcher Plant


Google researchers announced  that it has discovered a vulnerability (referred to as POODLE) in SSL version 3.0. Bodo Möller of the Google Security Team found the issue along with fellow Googlers Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz. Makers of web browsers, including Google, are working on a fix.
The exploit first allows attackers to initiate a “downgrade dance” that tells the client that the server doesn’t support the more secure TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol and forces it to connect via SSL 3.0. From there a man-in-the-middle attack can decrypt secure HTTP cookies. Google calls this the POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption) attack.
In other words, your data is no longer encrypted. Google researchers Bodo Möller, Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz recommend disabling SSL 3.0 on servers and in clients. The server and client will default to the more secure TSL and the exploit won’t be possible.

TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV And Chromium Patcha

For end users, if your browser supports it, disable SSL 3.0 support or better yet use tools that support TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV (Transport Layer Security Signalling Cipher Suite Value), it prevents downgrade attacks. Google says that it will begin testing Chrome changes that disable using SSL 3.0 fallback and it will remove SSL 3.0 support completely from all its products in the coming months. In fact, there’s already a Chromium patch available that disables SSL 3.0 fallback.

Mozilla's Plan

In response to today’s news, Mozilla plans to turn off SSL 3.0 in Firefox. “SSLv3 will be disabled by default in Firefox 34, which will be released on Nov 25,” said Mozilla in a post. The code to disable the protocol will be available tonight via Nightly.

SSL Version Control

Anyone interested in disabling SSL 3.0 right now can do so with the SSL Version Control add on for Firefox.
Introduced in 1996, SSL protocol is supposed to allow for communication without fear of eavesdropping because the information being shared is encrypted. When a client (browser, apps etc,) pings a server they engage in a security handshake that creates keys to encrypt and decrypt information sent back and forth.

Microsoft had this to say:

Microsoft is aware of detailed information that has been published describing a new method to exploit a vulnerability in SSL 3.0. This is an industry-wide vulnerability affecting the SSL 3.0 protocol itself and is not specific to the Windows operating system. All supported versions of Microsoft Windows implement this protocol and are affected by this vulnerability. Microsoft is not aware of attacks that try to use the reported vulnerability at this time. Considering the attack scenario, this vulnerability is not considered high risk to customers.
We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers.
Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs.

This POODLE bites: exploiting the SSL 3.0 fallback [Google]

SSL 3.0 The 18 year Old Vulnarebility : The POODLE

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ebola The Deadly Virus

In a podcast on today 13th Oct 2014 on Scientific America by David Biello, stating the possibility of preventing Ebola outbreaks in Human by vaccinating Gorilla against Ebola. The first line of statement is little odd but on continue listening, I understood the meaning behind the statement.

Vaccination For Ebola

Humans are not only the victim of deadly Ebola virus. Chimps and Gorillas are also susceptible to the disease.  He stated that, the current Ebola epidemic may have started with the butchering of an infected          fruit bat.  But we cannot avoid the possibility from Chimpanzee, which found dead in the forest and eaten by people, who cannot afford to pass up a free meat.

Connection Between Ebola And Apes

Ebola has killed thousands of great apes. Some 95 percent of gorillas who become infected die. Several previous outbreaks of Ebola in central Africa stemmed from dead gorillas or chimps found in the forest and butchered for food. All it takes to start an epidemic is infected blood getting in a person’s eye, mouth or open wound.

That's why veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other conservation organizations may prove to be the front line for defending humans against Ebola.
Like their physician counterparts, vets are hoping to develop a vaccine, perhaps to be administered orally. At the very least, monitoring Ebola outbreaks in apes could provide early warning for potential human outbreaks. By saving the apes we may be saving ourselves.

Ebola Gorilla Vaccine Could Prevent Human Outbreak

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