Multiple Sclerosis & Ancient Comet | SciByte 106

Multiple Sclerosis & Ancient Comet | SciByte 106

We take a look at a possible new Multiple Sclerosis treatment, an ancient comet strike, a reality show that might win you a trip to space, an update on the meteorite that hit Ruia last year, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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— Show Notes —

New Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

  • Scientists have identified a set of compounds that may be used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) in a new way
  • The newly identified compounds, a Parkinson\’s disease drug called benztropine, was highly effective in treating a standard model of MS in mice, both alone and in combination with existing MS therapies
  • The compounds boost a population of progenitor cells that can in turn repair MS-damaged nerve fibers
  • Another Study SciByte Recently Looked At
  • In trial, a MS patients\’ own specially processed white blood cells were used to stealthily deliver billions of myelin antigens into their bodies so their immune systems would recognize them as harmless and develop tolerance to them
  • SciByte 97 | CoQ10 & Smart LEGO – Multiple Sclerosis Treatment | June 11, 2013
  • SciByte Does Not Approve Self Medicating
  • Benztropine is a drug with dose-related adverse side effects, and has yet to be proven effective at a safe dose in human MS patients
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • MS currently affects more than half a million people in North America and Europe, and more than two million worldwide
  • The precise cause isunknown, but certain infections and a lack of vitamin D are thought to be risk factors
  • In MS, immune cells known as T cells infiltrate the upper spinal cord and brain, which causes inflammation and ultimately the loss of an insulating coating called myelin on some nerve fibers
  • As nerve fibers lose this myelin coating, they lose their ability to transmit signals efficiently, and in time may begin to degenerate
  • Current therapies aim to suppress the immune attack that demyelinated nerve fibers. But they are only partially effective and are apt to have significant adverse side effects
  • The New Study
  • Aims at restoring a population of progenitor cells called oligodendrocytes
  • These cells normally keep the myelin sheaths of nerve fibers in good repair and in principle could fix these coatings after MS damages them
  • In MS oligodendrocyte decline sharply in number, due to a still-mysterious problem with the stem-like precursor cells that produce them
  • The team screened a library of about 100,000 diverse compounds for any that could potently induce OPCs to mature or \”differentiate.\”
  • Several compounds scored well but benztropine, had already been well characterized and was already FDA-approved for treating Parkinson\’s disease
  • Tests show benztropine had a powerful ability to prevent autoimmune disease and also was effective in treating it after symptoms had arisen
  • Benztropine on its own worked about as well as existing treatments, it also showed a remarkable ability to complement these existing treatments
  • In Conjunction With Current Therapies
  • The two first-line immunosuppressive therapies are interferon-beta and fingolimod
  • Adding even a suboptimal level of benztropine allowed to cut the dose of fingolimod by 90% for the same effect as a normal dose
  • The reduction could translate into a big reduction in potentially serious side effects
  • The Test
  • Researchers confirmed that benztropine works against disease in this mouse model by boosting the population of mature oligodendrocytes
  • This allowed the oligodendrocytes to restore the myelin sheaths of damaged nerves even while the immune continues to attack
  • The benztropine-treated mice showed no change in the usual signs of inflammation, yet their myelin was mostly intact, suggesting that it was probably being repaired as rapidly as it was being destroyed
  • Researchers hope to learn more about how its molecular structure might be optimized for this purpose
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Multiple Sclerosis | AsapSCIENCE
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • New strategy to treat multiple sclerosis shows promise in mice
  • Multiple sclerosis breakthrough: Trial safely resets patients\’ immune systems and reduces attack on myelin protein|


Ancient Comet Strike Evidence

  • Comet fragments have not been found on Earth before except as microscopic sized dust particles in the upper atmosphere and some carbon-rich dust in the Antarctic ice.
  • Now the first ever evidence of a comet entering Earth\’s atmosphere and exploding, raining down a shock wave of fire which obliterated every life form in its path, has been discovered
  • Comet Strike?
  • The comet entered Earth\’s atmosphere above Egypt about 28 million years ago
  • As it entered the atmosphere, it exploded, heating up the sand beneath it to a temperature of about 2,000C [3,632F]
  • That resulted in the formation of a huge amount of yellow silica glass which lies scattered over a 6,000 sq km [2,316 sq mi] area in the Sahara
  • One specimen of the glass, polished by ancient jewellers, is in Tutankhamun\’s brooch with its striking yellow-brown scarab
  • Impact Produced Microscopic Diamonds
  • The impact of the explosion also produced microscopic diamonds
  • A mysterious black pebble found years earlier by an Egyptian geologist in the area of the silica glass
  • After conducting highly sophisticated chemical analyses on this pebble it was concluded that it represented the very first known hand specimen of a comet nucleus
  • The team have named the diamond-bearing pebble \”Hypatia\” in honour of the first well known female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • First ever evidence of a comet striking Earth |


Reality TV Meets Space!?!?!?

— Updates —

Russian Meteor


  • Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA\’s Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet
  • Exact Measurements
  • A key new measurement of the inert gas argon in Mars\’ atmosphere by Curiosity\’s laboratory provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origin of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origin of other meteorites
  • The new measurement is a high-precision count of two forms of argon — argon-36 and argon-38 — accomplished by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument inside the rover.
  • These lighter and heavier forms, or isotopes, of argon exist naturally throughout the solar system
  • On Mars the ratio of light to heavy argon is skewed because much of that planet\’s original atmosphere was lost to space
  • The lighter form of argon was taken away more readily because it rises to the top of the atmosphere more easily and requires less energy to escape
  • That left the Martian atmosphere relatively enriched in the heavier isotope, argon-38
  • Past analyses by Earth-bound scientists of gas bubbles trapped inside Martian meteorites had already narrowed the Martian argon ratio to between 3.6 and 4.5
  • Measurements by NASA\’s Viking landers in the 1970s put the Martian atmospheric ratio in the range of four to seven
  • The new SAM direct measurement on Mars now pins down the correct argon ratio at 4.2
  • What\’s Next?
  • The Curiosity measurements do not directly measure the current rate of atmospheric escape
  • NASA\’s next mission to Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), is designed to do so, which is being prepared for a launch-opportunity period that begins on Nov. 18
  • Multimedia
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite | NASA
  • Mars Science Laboratory: NASA Rover Confirms Mars Origin of Some Meteorites |


Looking back

  • October 27, 1780 : 233 years ago : First U.S. astronomy expedition views eclipse : The first U.S. astronomical expedition to record an eclipse of the sun observed the event which lasted from 11:11 am to 1:50 pm. The observers left about three weeks earlier, on 9 Oct from Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., for Penobscot Bay, led by Samuel Williams. A boat was supplied by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the four professors and six students. Although the U.S. was at war with Britain, the British officer in charge of Penobscot Bay permitted the expedition to land and set up equipment to observe the predicted total eclipse of the sun. The expedition was shocked to find itself outside the path of totality. They saw a thin arc of the sun instead of its complete obscuration by the moon

Looking up this week

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