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A Romantic Comedy About a Gay Teenager? What Took So Long?

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:33
“Love, Simon” is the rare major studio movie revolving around a gay teenager, and hopes are high that it will pass the box office test.

Drug delivery gel can heal without the drugs

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:30

Researchers were surprised to learn that a hydrogel they developed as a synthetic scaffold to deliver drugs has its own therapeutic qualities, even without its cargo.

During development, the researchers often tested the hydrogels by infusing them with bioactive small molecules, cells, or proteins before injection. The researchers report in the journal Biomaterials that a particular hydrogel, a self-assembling multidomain peptide (MDP) with the amino acid sequence K2(SL)6K2, is indeed bioactive.

Tests show that subcutaneous implants, left, of a hydrogel encouraged blood vessel and cell growth as new tissue replaced the degrading gel. (Credit: Hartgerink Research Group)

Once the researchers started to investigate the phenomenon, they found that even without additives their MDP:

  • is rapidly infiltrated by host cells,
  • provokes a temporary inflammatory response,
  • does not develop a fibrous capsule,
  • supports the infiltration of a mature vascular network,
  • and recruits nerve fibers.

“We were surprised to find this strong effect in what we had previously considered to be a control peptide,” says Jeffrey Hartgerink, a professor of chemistry and of bioengineering at Rice University. “As it turned out, the inherent structure and chemistry of this peptide, despite being quite simple, results in a strong biological response.”

Researchers designed the hydrogel, which they can deliver through a syringe, to degrade over six weeks and leave behind healthy tissue. Because the researchers designed the peptides from the bottom up to mimic their natural counterparts, the lab found they create an optimal environment for the body’s own systems to encourage healing.

The researchers report that the natural inflammatory response when a foreign substance like a hydrogel is introduced into a system and draws cells that secrete proteins involved in cellular infiltration, scaffold degradation, vascularization, and innervation.

Tests on injected hydrogel showed a “statistically significant” increase in the presence of cytokines known to provoke an inflammatory response, as well as an increase in anti-inflammatory agents, both of which remained steady after day three and through two weeks.

Slow-release hydrogel doses tumors with drugs

That, Hartgerink says, indicates the hydrogel appears to harness the body’s innate capacity to heal as it transitions from a pro-inflammatory to a pro-healing environment.

“As we eventually discovered, this exceptional peptide allows the body to carry out healing on its own, but with a significant boost,” he says. “We believe the key step is the initial, and very rapid, cell infiltration. Once these cells are on location, they produce everything they need for an impressive regenerative response, including angiogenesis and neurogenesis.”

Hartgerink says the lab is pursuing application of the peptide for wound-healing in diabetic ulcers.

The National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology, and a Stauffer-Rothrock Fellowship supported the research.

Source: Rice University

The post Drug delivery gel can heal without the drugs appeared first on Futurity.

'The Crown' stirs royal pay disparity controversy

CNN - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:30
In the future, the Queen will reign in pay on "The Crown." That is, of course, according to producers from the show, who admitted at the INTV conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday that star Claire Foy was paid less than co-star Matt Smith during the first two seasons of the award-winning Netflix drama.

How lips move is key to speech perception

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:25

The motion and configuration of the lips are key to how people gather information when distinguishing vowels in speech, new research suggests.

For all talkers, except perhaps the very best ventriloquists, speech is accompanied by visible facial movements. Because speech is more than just sound, researchers wanted to find out the exact visual information people look for when distinguishing vowel sounds.

“An important and highly debated issue in our field concerns what is it that we are attending to in speech—what’s the object of perception?” says lead author Matthew Masapollo, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral scholar at Brown University and is a now at Boston University. “Another question that’s debated is whether speech processing is special and distinct from other kinds of auditory processing since it is not purely an acoustic signal.”

Resolving these questions would improve the scientific understanding of how we perceive speech, Masapollo says. That, in turn, could apply to the design of more intelligible online avatars and physical robots, and could even improve computer recognition of human speech and enhance communication devices for the hearing impaired.

In this case the difference is the position of the lips when making the “oo” sound, as in goose, in English and in French.
(Credit: Masapollo et. al.)

While scads of studies have investigated which audible features of speech are important, Masapollo says, far fewer have looked at which visual components are essential, despite evidence from phenomena as intuitive as lip reading that the sights of speech matter, too.

As reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, when people perceive speech, they closely watch the form and motion of the lips. If either of those cues is missing, their ability to make subtle distinctions between vowel sounds suffers measurably.

“The findings demonstrate that adults are sensitive to the observable shape and movement patterns that occur when a person talks,” says Masapollo, who did the work as a researcher in the lab of senior author James Morgan, a professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences.

‘Directional asymmetry’

Earlier this year, Masapollo set the table for the new study when he and coauthors Linda Polka and Lucie Ménard showed in the journal Cognition that people exhibit the same “directional asymmetry” in visually perceiving vowels that they do when hearing vowels: They are better at distinguishing between two versions of the “oo” sound, as in the word “loose,” if the less extremely articulated version occurs first and then the more extreme version second.

If the order is switched, they are much less likely to discriminate them—by sight or sound. While these directional effects may seem like a quirky instinct, they reflect a universal bias favoring vowels produced with extreme articulatory maneuvers. Current research focuses on uncovering what salient features or properties of extreme vowels give rise to these perceptual asymmetries.

Researchers employed many visual representations of lip motion to see which essential features really mattered. (Credit: Masapollo et. al.)

It turns out that this asymmetry plays out between French and English, being manifest in the bilingual speech of many Canadians. When speaking French, their articulation of “oo” is produced with more visible lip protrusion and tongue positioning than when making the same vowel sound in English.

For the new study, Masapollo realized that this asymmetry in vowel production and perception provided a great opportunity to determine which visual features matter in distinguishing subtle speech differences. He devised and led five experiments to ferret out exactly what visual information was pertinent to this asymmetry.

Watching the eyes watch the lips

In the first, with help from Brown graduate student and coauthor Lauren Franklin, he employed eye-tracking technology to measure where student volunteers looked when watching videos of a bilingual Canadian woman make “oo” sounds in both French and English. Definitively, people watched the mouth, far more, for instance than the eyes.

But what about the mouth mattered? To determine if motion, rather than simply a particular position, was important, the next experiment presented students with a still frame rather than video.

Brain ‘tunes in’ to rhythm in sign language and speech

In experiment two, volunteers at McGill University tried to distinguish “oo” speech using just still images of the same speaker. Without the cue of motion, the results showed, the asymmetry of French-English or English-French ordering no longer occurred, suggesting that motion is a key component in this instinct of vowel perception.

In the next three experiments, the team continued to investigate which visual aspects of speech perception mattered among groups of student volunteers. In experiment three, the subjects saw not a face, but an array of four dots in a diamond pattern that moved just like the speaker’s lips did. When the speaker pursed her lips to make the “oo,” the dots moved closer together, for example.

Masapollo’s hypothesis was that position and motion might matter together, even if the face isn’t actually represented. In this experiment, people returned to showing the asymmetry suggesting that he was on the right track.

Experiment four was exactly the same but the dot pattern was rotated 45 degrees clockwise, showing more of a square than a diamond. Here the asymmetry didn’t occur, suggesting that the orientation of the dots to represent a speech-making mouth matter.

In experiment five, the motion was represented by a sideways figure eight that would move in a manner analogous to the speaker’s lips. There, too, without even an essential form of a mouth, people didn’t show their instinctual asymmetry of vowel perception. Mere motion, without the form and position of a mouth, was not enough.

“Overall, the picture that emerges is that perceptual asymmetries appear to be elicited by optical stimuli that depict both lip motion and configural information,” the authors write.

Brain signal shows when you understand what you hear

To Masapollo, the results demonstrate that vision makes specific contributions to perceiving speech.

“The findings of the present research suggest that the information we are attending to in speech is multimodal, and perhaps gestural, in nature. Our perceptual system appears to treat auditory and visual speech information similarly.”

In addition to Masapollo, Morgan, and Franklin, the paper’s other authors are Linda Polka, Lucie Ménard, and Mark Tiede.

The US National Institutes of Health, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funded the study.

Source: Brown University

The post How lips move is key to speech perception appeared first on Futurity.

Rick Saccone's accusation that the left hates God may be more alienating than compelling

Washington Post - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:15
Faith exists in the American electorate outside of the GOP.

Citing Parkland shooting, anti-gun-violence activist is running for Congress in Georgia

Washington Post - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:15
Lucy McBath, whose 16-year-old son was fatally shot by a man complaining about loud music, says she wants to go to Washington to help find solutions to reducing gun violence.

Senate votes to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank banking law

CNN - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:09
The Senate on Wednesday passed sweeping changes to a swath of rules adopted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Senator: House Intel outcome gift to Putin

CNN - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:03
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut slammed Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee for ending their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that this conclusion was a gift to both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Why Pennsylvania should make Democrats feel good about their chances of taking back the House

Washington Post - Wed, 2018-03-14 18:00
If they can come close in this pro-Trump district, the 23 GOP-held seats that Clinton won are almost certainly in play.

BlackBerry to announce Q4 and Fiscal Year 2018 results on March 28, 2018

CrackBerry - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:59

Keeping in line their investor schedule, BlackBerry has now officially let it be known they will be announcing their Q4 and Fiscal Year 2018 results on March 28, 2018.

Keeping in line with their investor schedule, BlackBerry has now officially let it be known they will be announcing their Q4 and Fiscal Year 2018 results on March 28, 2018.

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Key Question in Pulse Trial for Orlando Gunman’s Wife: How Much Did She Know?

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:53
Prosecutors said Noor Salman, the wife of Omar Mateen, helped him choose his target for murder and martyrdom. Her lawyers said she could not have known his plans.

Pedometer++ Developer Shares Data on Apple Watch Adoption Rates Across All Models

MacRumors - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:51
David Smith, the developer behind the popular Pedometer++ app for iPhone and Apple Watch, today shared some interesting user data that offers insight into Apple Watch adoption rates, and specifically, how quickly he's seen Apple Watch Series 3 adoption grow.

Smith looked at data collected from August 1, 2017 (a month before the debut of the Apple Watch Series 3) to March 14, 2018. During that time, he's seen rapid growth in the number of active Pedometer++ users who have an Apple Watch Series 3, and a steady decline in users who have an Apple Watch Series 0 or an Apple Watch Series 2, both of which are now discontinued.

Just under 35 percent of Pedometer++ users now have an Apple Watch Series 3, while around 24 percent have an Apple Watch Series 0, down from more than 40 percent in August of 2017.

According to Smith, he's been keeping a close eye on Apple Watch Series 0 usage rates because he's hoping that Apple will soon drop support for the original Apple Watch, which he describes as a "bit painful" to develop for.It is just slow and honestly a bit painful to develop for. Even basic things like deploying your application to the watch can take uncomfortably long amounts of time. In daily use the Series 0 is probably "good enough" for many customers, especially with the speed/stability improvements added in watchOS 4, but as a developer I can't wait until I no longer have to support it.By contrast, Smith says the new Apple Watch Series 3 is "a delight to work with" because it's fast, capable, and has LTE functionality that allows for new kinds applications. Smith is hoping watchOS 5 will drop support for the original Apple Watch, which is why he tracks falling Series 0 usage rates, but he does admit that the device is still adequate for many users who just need basic functionality.

When watchOS 5 launches, presumably this September, the original Apple Watch will be more than three years old, and Smith believes, that based on current trends, Series 0 usage could be as low as 15 to 20 percent in his Pedometer++ app, which presumably is reflective of overall usage rates.

For comparison's sake, Apple ended support for the original iPhone, released in 2007, in 2010 when the fourth-generation version of iOS was released. Support for the first-generation iPod touch, also released in 2007, ended with the same operating system update.

Apple ended support for the first-generation iPad, released in 2010, with the launch of iOS 6 in 2013.

Apple clearly has a history of ending support for first-generation devices after a few years, but it's not yet clear if the company will do the same for the original Apple Watch. Some of the original Apple Watch models, which were offered in 18-Karat gold, were priced at up to $17,000, so Apple could have unhappy customers when support for the device eventually ends.

For more of Smith's Apple Watch adoption analysis, make sure to check out his full blog post.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Editorial: Having a Torturer Lead the C.I.A.

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:51
Few American officials were so directly involved in the frenzy of abuse after 9/11 as Gina Haspel, President Trump’s choice to head the agency.

What finches with pink eye teach us about disease

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:45

Most pathogens try not to make their hosts too sick, too fast, so they don’t kill them off before they can replicate and spread—or at least that’s the conventional wisdom among epidemiologists. In the case of conjunctivitis among house finches, however, the bacteria Mycoplasma gallisepticum takes a different tack: ramp up the virulence and give the birds a severely nasty case of pink eye.

It’s all part of a pathogen strategy to overcome the immune systems of these common rosy backyard birds, according to a new study that appears in Science. The findings show that this strategy strengthens the pathogen and makes it more dangerous for its next victim.

Faulty memory

The high-virulence strategy aims to exploit the incomplete memory of natural immune systems and create a pathway for re-infection. Unlike humans, wild birds don’t receive vaccines and must rely on their natural immune systems to protect them from pathogen attacks.

Epidemiologists explain that natural immune systems have the capacity for so-called memory to recognize past abusers and ward them off. Sometimes those memories aren’t perfect, however, granting only incomplete immunity—and leaving the door open a crack for reinfection.

In this study, bacteria causing more severe disease barged their way in to re-infect the house finches, because higher virulence overcame the host’s imperfect immunity.

Over time, the studied environment of the house finches’ incomplete immunity to mycoplasmal conjunctivitis favored the evolution of more virulent pathogen strains that caused more severe disease to previously unexposed house finches.

The study then modeled this pathogen-host environment and found that the pathogen strains that came to dominate were almost twice as deadly to hosts.

Why it matters for people

“Our results are not just important for finches. Many human pathogens and other animal pathogens also cause only incomplete protection against reinfection,” says senior author Dana Hawley, associate professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech. “In this case, imperfection can be deadly.”

The study is built on a body of research about house finch eye disease started by André Dhondt of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology two decades ago.

“When we started the study of a new disease in house finches in 1994, we had no idea where this would lead. We were able to follow the expansion of the epidemic across North America thanks to the citizen-science network of the Cornell Lab, and funded by the visionary new federal Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program.”

The link between house finches with pink eye and diseases that threaten humans is a key to this research funding, says Samuel Scheiner, an NSF program officer.

‘Toolbox’ creates custom phages for killing pathogens

“The outbreak of Zika [was] due to some kind of mutation that occurred somewhere in Asia and suddenly made Zika more virulent. The idea is that you can use things like the house finch project as a way to study those processes, and then you can apply that knowledge to things like the Zika outbreak.”

The new study is another piece in the puzzle of how house finch eye disease works, Dhondt says.

“The experiments reported in the Science paper explain elegantly why pathogen virulence increased once the disease had become established. And it’s more evidence of how curiosity-driven research on birds can generate insights that are relevant for human health.”

Other researchers from Cornell; Virginia Tech; Princeton University; the University of California, San Diego; and North Carolina State are coauthors of the study. The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health funded the work.

Source: Cornell University

The post What finches with pink eye teach us about disease appeared first on Futurity.

Op-Ed Columnist: Dictators Love Trump, and He Loves Them

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:43
The United States used to stand up for human rights, but that was before the Trump administration.

Student walkouts point the way

CNN - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:41
One month ago, America watched in horror as yet another school shooting unfolded, claiming 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Oklahoma plans to use new execution method

CNN - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:41
Unable to obtain drugs to use for its lethal injections, Oklahoma will use inert gas inhalation as the primary method for death penalty executions once a protocol is developed and finalized, the state's attorney general announced Wednesday.

Oklahoma Turns to Gas for Executions Amid Turmoil Over Lethal Injection

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:40
If the plan is approved, it will be the first state to put prisoners to death using nitrogen gas, which starves the body of oxygen.

Phys Ed: How Exercise Can Keep Aging Muscles and Immune Systems ‘Young’

NY Times - Wed, 2018-03-14 17:38
Older cyclists are not like most of the rest of us. They are healthier. They are, biologically, younger.
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