Flexible Implant Restores Rodent Mobility To Paralyzed Rats

It’s many small steps for rats, but a huge step for people with spinal injuries; a flexible implant has been shown to circumvent damage to the spinal cord of rats.

The last few years have seen rapid progress in efforts to restore the capacity to walk in people with spinal injuries. One man, Darek Fidyka, is actually walking after two years of paralysis, while rats in harnesses are climbing stairs.

However, none of these projects are yet ready for widespread application. Fidyka had special circumstances that made him a far more promising candidate than most paraplegics, and the techniques that work on rats often prove temporary. One reason for the latter is that electronic devices tend to lack the flexibility of human body parts, and when fitted to the spinal cord can do damage that eventually blocks the implant from the nerves with which it needs to communicate.

“The spinal cord can stretch and relax,” says Professor Stéphanie Lacour of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “If the implant doesn’t accommodate this deformation then there will be a lot of sheering and rubbing at the interface which will create inflammation.” She adds that even materials that are flexible on the scale we see them at are often still microscopically rigid.

The Institute was also responsible for the previous stair-climbing rat announcement, but the researchers there knew that for transference to humans something better was required.

Their answer is a device they call “e-dura” in reference to the dura mater, one of the membranes that protects the spinal cord from damage. When implanted within the dura mater, the e-dura passes electrical signals across the damaged part of the spinal cord directly to the nerves. It also releases drugs to stimulate serotonin release, which besides keeping us happy also helps to maintain neurons.

The e-dura uses a flexible polymer for the structure and gold as the conductor. Gold is highly ductile and bends well, but does not normally stretch, a key requirement here. The gold was applied in layers just 35 nanometers thick, with tiny cracks between that allow the material as a whole to stretch and compress while still conducting electricity.

Credit: © EPFL. Tiny cracks in the gold layering make it elastic while still transmitting energy.

The capacity to pass signals is no use if the wrong messages are sent. Lacour’s team tracked the signals in healthy rats associated with different motions and programmed the implant to be able to recognize the ones needed to walk.

Lacour has published the six-week success of the e-dura in Science, announcing it can “sustain millions of mechanical stretch cycles, electrical stimulation pulses and chemical injections.”

Besides treating spinal injuries, the work is being hailed as having potential for patients with Parkinson’s disease and even in pain management.



H/T Live Science

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/flexible-implant-restores-rodent-mobility

560,000-Year-Old Baby Tooth Unearthed In France Could Yield Answers About European Ancient Humans

Do you know where your baby teeth are right now? If you’re from one of the many countries with the tradition of a tooth fairy or tooth mouse (he’s a dapper fellow named Raton Perez in Spanish-speaking regions), there’s a good chance that they are languishing at the bottom of one of your mom or dad’s drawers, having long ago been exchanged for a sweet treat or bit of money.

While the so-called milk teeth of modern humans may not serve many purposes after they fall out, one discarded in southeast France hundreds of thousands of years ago may soon yield fresh insights into the lifestyle of ancient human populations in Europe.

As described in a press release from researchers from the University of Perpignan and the European Centre for Prehistoric Research (CERP), a single fossilized tooth estimated to be about 560,000 years old was unearthed by volunteer excavators on Monday night at the famous Arago Cave – one of the earliest known sites of human inhabitation in Europe. (The record goes to the 1.85 million-year-old site in Dmanisi, Georgia).

“The tooth likely belonged to a child aged five or six, who still had their milk teeth but had used them a fair amount,” stated palaeoanthropologist Tony Chevalier. His lab believes that the child belonged to the species Homo heidelbergensis, an extinct lineage of humans that lived throughout Africa and western Eurasia about 700,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Previous excavations in the large grotto during the 1960s and 70s yielded nearly 60,000 stone tools and processed animal bones dated between 600,000 and 400,000 years before present, and more than 100 hominid skeletal fragments that are approximately 450,000 years old.

Reconstruction using bones from two individuals has revealed that the cave-dwellers, dubbed ‘Tautavel Man’ after the nearby village, had a cranial volume 21 percent smaller than modern humans, a prominent brow ridge, a strong jaw but a weak chin, and stood at about 1.65 meters (5 feet 5 inches) tall. Tautavel Man is thought by some palaeoanthropologists to be a subspecies of Homo erectus, the first hominin to have left Africa – at least, according to our current understanding – and a close relative of us Homo sapiens. Others disagree, pointing out similarities to H. heidelbergensis.

In 2015, an adult tooth also dated to between 550,000 to 580,000 years old and attributed to H. heidelbergensis was discovered in Arago Cave, meaning that both recent dental specimens predate the site’s other human remains by more than 100,000 years.

An image of the fossilized adult hominin tooth found in Arago Cave in 2015. Denis Dainat/EPCC-CERP 

Though the milk tooth may not be able to settle the debate about Tautavel’s Homo species, according to Chevalier, it could help researchers finally answer the question of whether the local humans used the caves like Arago as permanent homes or simply as convenient temporary shelters.

“[It will] teach us lots of things about man’s behavior” at the time, he concluded.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/560000yearold-baby-tooth-unearthed-in-france-could-yield-answers-about-european-ancient-humans/

Crows Hug It Out To Apologize After Fighting Over Food

Ornithologists have observed that crows, members of the incredibly intelligent corvid bird family, will kiss and make up after fighting with fellow flockmates. The birds are also more inclined to forgive and seek forgiveness from their close pals than from passing chums.

The research, led by the Max Planck Institute in Germany, followed the social interactions within an artificially created group unit, or murder, composed of 12 hand-raised juvenile carrion crows. During special food monopolization experiments, the team introduced only one or two pieces of meat to the caged crows, causing them to squabble with one another in order to get a bite. This process was repeated over a 6-month period so that the humans could gather data on each bird’s relationships with the other crows.

The findings, published in the journal Ethology, showed that the crows engaged in more affiliative behavior – grooming and physical contact – after experiencing tense feeding sessions than they did during non-experimental parts of the day. This suggests that crows, just like humans, seek to reassure and confirm relationships with one another after getting into tiffs.

The act of a victim receiving affiliation from individuals not involved in the dispute is called “consolation”, whereas “reconciliation” occurs when the aggressor affiliates with their victim and vice versa. Both are types of post-conflict behavior that help maintain social harmony in groups of animals.

Reports of consolation among corvids are abundant, but reconciliation was previously limited to ravens.

“We thus provide the first evidence that a corvid species, crows, flexibly engage in both third-party affiliation and reconciliation,” the paper states.

Interestingly, the authors found that conflicts were more frequent when the flock was presented with two pieces of meat rather than one. After physical altercations in the two-piece feedings, crows who received aggression cuddled with, groomed, and were groomed by individuals not involved in the fight. The instigators, perhaps justly, did not receive affiliative behavior.

The researchers hypothesize that spacing out food resources between two locations allowed the birds to avoid directly competing with their closest allies. Instead, the crows could relegate unpleasant competition to individuals that they were not as closely bonded with. Translation? The crows played nice when packed together, trying to get some quality meat alongside their besties. But they let their tempers flare when jostling beak-to-beak next to mere acquaintances.

“In contrast, after non-contact aggression in the one-piece condition, aggressors affiliated and former victims received affiliation [from one another],” the authors wrote.

In addition to revealing further emotional depth in these already brilliant birds, the research offers practical advice on how humans can ruffle each other’s (metaphorical) feathers less, like apologizing for the things you do and say when hangry.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/crows-hug-it-out-to-apologize-after-fighting-over-food/

helloU’s Ten Daily

These are the ten images that are trending online today

1 – Chris Rock telling it how it is.


2 – Bear meets boy dressed as bear



3 – Oh deer



4 – #ChipotleSwag



5 – The 9 stages of a clean slate


6 – Bachelor Pad



7 – Dinosaurs Cosplay



8 – The Loch Ness Monster has been spotted in the Lake District – it’s on the Internet so it must be true



9 – An abandoned house was discovered to contain more than 100 lethal spiders, warehouse party anyone?



10 – Zack Snyder, director of Batman v Superman, has revealed the first picture of the Batmobible foe the upcoming movie.


Read more: http://www.hellou.co.uk/2014/09/trending-pictures-17967/

David Axelrod credits Obama’s ‘credible’ threat for possible Syria deal


It’s been weeks, so it’s difficult to pin down exactly which part of President Obama’s threat of a strike on Syria finally wore down Bashar al-Assad to the point where he’d consider giving up his chemical weapons to Vladimir Putin. Was it Secretary of State John Kerry’s promise that any strike on the country would be “unbelievably small”? The White House official saying it would be “just muscular enough not to get mocked“? Maybe it was Kerry’s air quotes around the word “war” and the emphatic promise that no U.S. troops would touch Syrian soil.

Nah … it was definitely Obama’s masterful psy op campaign, saying that any military response wasn’t “time sensitive” and then going golfing.


Read more: http://twitchy.com/2013/09/09/david-axelrod-credits-obamas-credible-but-unbelievably-small-threat-for-possible-syria-deal/