Curating the Internet: Science and technology micro-summaries for October 28, 2019

in rsslog •  7 months ago 

A new technique for DNA tagging could speed drug discovery; A six-year study by a Google organization suggests shifting security earlier in the design process and combining engineering and security functions; A new method for clearing tissues could improve neuron-mapping; Vitamin D may improve cognitive functions in Alzheimer's patients; and a Steem essay says "eat less to stay warm."

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  1. A new combination of DNA, metal, and light could revolutionize drug discovery - A February paper from the University of Pennsylvania describes a new way to make changes to a particular piece of DNA through a procedure that makes use of nickel and light. This is important because drug development researchers conduct screening for new medicines by searching for useful properties in large libraries of possible candidate compounds. Once useful compounds have been identified, they are tagged with a sort-of DNA bar code for future recognition. Historically, this tagging mechanism has been very difficult, but the new nickel/light method may make it much easier, which may speed the drug development process, and also lower its cost. At a more detailed layer, the technique works by making use of a photocatalyst that reacts to light, and causes the tagging molecule to attach itself to nickel. Once attached to nickel, it is easier for chemists to attach the tag to the actual candidate compounds, and also to reuse the labeling molecule. The work was carried out and published by Gary Molander and his lab. Although the method may sound complex, the article says that the implementation is "ridiculously simple". In addition to ease of implementation, the method also has other advantages over the traditional methods because it uses light, instead of heat, for energy; it occurs at room temperature; and does not require highly pressurized gases. h/t RealClear Science

  2. Google Cloud's study of 31,000 tech pros shows how working smarter and addressing burnout makes for better cybersecurity and higher productivity - In December, Google acquired DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA). Led by CEO and now Google employee, Dr. Nicole Forsgren, the organization has been carrying out a six year research endeavor, which found that security best practices are "shifting left", i.e. moving to an earlier location in the software development timeline. Predicting that the traditional split between security and engineering will be abandoned, her research suggests that security needs to be incorporated into the development process, instead of separating security and development functions. The research also notes the need to streamline and automate tasks like answering repetitive questions and maintaining config files in order to prevent burnout among development and security workers.

  3. New Tissue Clearing Methods Offer a Window into the Brain - In order to determine how the brain works, detailed 3D maps of the brain's neural networks are being developed, but the process is very difficult because of tissues that scatter light as it passes through. Now, Dan Zhu and her team from China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology have created a technique to clear the obstructive tissues and enable more effective mapping. The technique, Rapid clearing method based on Triethanolamine and Formamide (RTF), makes use of a solution comprised of "water, formamide, and a high refractive index chemical known as triethanolamine". The team demonstrated the tecnhique in mice, but identified drawbacks, including that it cannot clear layers of tissue that are more than a milimeter thick, and that it created shrinkage in the amount of 2 to 5%. The RTF solution is not commercially available, but the components are inexpensive, and can be purchased "off the shelf". h/t RealClear Science

  4. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on cognitive function and blood Aβ-related biomarkers in older adults with Alzheimer's disease: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. - A study was carried out by Fei Ma and a team of researchers from Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China. It concludes: "Daily oral vitamin D supplementation (800 IU/day) for 12 months may improve cognitive function and decrease Aβ-related biomarkers in elderly patients with AD. Larger scale longer term randomised trials of vitamin D are needed." h/t Daniel Lemire

  5. STEEM Winter is coming: Lower your food intake to stay warm! - In this post, @chappertron discusses a recent paper by Salvatore Fabbiano and colleagues. The widely held belief is that people can stay warm for winter by increasing their caloric intake, but according to this post, that's not necessarily true. In order for the body to produce heat, we also need our bodies to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in its mitochondria. The paper reveals five ways that people can induce our bodies to increase the production of ATP by improving the ratio between white fat and beige fat tissues, because beige fat tissues have a higher metabolic rate: (i) Caloric restriction or intermittent fasting to increase the quality of the gut's microbiome; (ii) Exposure to cold temperatures; (iii) Exercise; (iv) Drugs like Viagra; and (v) Experiencing happiness. So, according to this counter-intuitive article, one of the ways to stay warm in winter is to impose caloric restrictions in our diets. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @chappertron.)

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I note that intermittent fasting is not related to actual caloric intake. One of the reasons I do it is that it is far easier to just not eat until I have a satisfying meal than to eat unsatisfying portions for me. I may not be eating less calories than someone on a diet, but there are other benefits, as you point out here, from controlling when you consume those calories.


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