Archive for the ‘food’ category

Sep 15, 2022

The Entire Food Chain Has Started Collapsing, Scientists Warn

Posted by in categories: food, robotics/AI, sustainability

According to 130,000 years’ worth of data on what mammals have been eating, we’re in the midst of a mass biodiversity crisis. Not great!

This revelation was borne of a new study, conducted by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Science, that used machine learning to paint a detailed past — and harrowing future — of what happens to food webs when land mammals go extinct. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty grim stuff.

“While about 6 percent of land mammals have gone extinct in that time, we estimate that more than 50 percent of mammal food web links have disappeared,” Evan Fricke, ecologist and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “And the mammals most likely to decline, both in the past and now, are key for mammal food web complexity.”

Sep 14, 2022

Prime Movers Lab Raises A $500 Million Early Growth Fund To Invest In Breakthrough Science

Posted by in categories: energy, food, satellites, science

The new fund will be focused on startups in energy, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, satellites and more.

Sep 14, 2022

New insights revealed through century-old photochemistry technique

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy, food

As the poet Dylan Thomas once explained, it is “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

Organic photochemistry brings life to Earth, allowing plants to “eat” sunlight. Using this power of light to make new molecules in the lab instead of the leaf, from fuel to pharmaceuticals, is one of the grand challenges of photochemical research.

What is old is new again. Sometimes gaining new insight requires a return to old tools, with a modern twist. Now, a collaborative team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Princeton University has resurrected a century-old microwave technique to reveal a surprising feature of well-established light-driven chemistry.

Sep 13, 2022

Simple animal model reveals how environment and state are integrated to control behavior

Posted by in categories: food, neuroscience

Say you live across from a bakery. Sometimes you are hungry and therefore tempted when odors waft through your window, but other times satiety makes you indifferent. Sometimes popping over for a popover seems trouble-free but sometimes your spiteful ex is there. Your brain balances many influences in determining what you’ll do. A new MIT study details an example of this working in a much simpler animal, highlighting a potentially fundamental principle of how nervous systems integrate multiple factors to guide food-seeking behavior.

All animals share the challenge of weighing diverse sensory cues and internal states when formulating behaviors, but scientists know little about how this actually occurs. To gain deep insight, the research team based at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory turned to the C. elegans worm, whose well-defined behavioral states and 302-cell nervous system make the complex problem at least tractable. They emerged with a of how in a crucial olfactory neuron called AWA, many sources of state and converge to independently throttle the expression of a key smell receptor. The integration of their influence on that receptor’s abundance then determines how AWA guides roaming around for food.

“In this study, we dissected the mechanisms that control the levels of a single olfactory receptor in a single olfactory neuron, based on the ongoing state and stimuli the animal experiences,” said senior author Steven Flavell, Lister Brothers Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. “Understanding how the integration happens in one cell will point the way for how it may happen in general, in other worm neurons and in other animals.”

Sep 13, 2022

Synthetic Milk Is Coming, And It Could Radically Shake Up Dairy

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, food

The global dairy industry is changing. Among the disruptions is competition from food alternatives not produced using animals – including potential challenges posed by synthetic milk.

Synthetic milk does not require cows or other animals. It can have the same biochemical make up as animal milk, but is grown using an emerging biotechnology technique know as “precision fermentation” that produces biomass cultured from cells.

More than 80 percent of the world’s population regularly consume dairy products. There have been increasing calls to move beyond animal-based food systems to more sustainable forms of food production.

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Sep 12, 2022

Scientists search for new methods to cure neurodegenerative diseases

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, food, neuroscience

Most neurons in the human brain are generated from neural stem cells during embryonic development. After birth, a small reservoir of stem cells remains in the brain that keeps on producing new neurons throughout life. However, the question arises as to whether these new neurons really support brain function? And if so, can we improve brain capacity by increasing the number of neurons? The research group of Prof. Federico Calegari at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) of TU Dresden has answered these questions, now published in the EMBO Journal.

In their latest study, the scientists analysed healthy adult mice in which the small reservoir of stem cells was manipulated in order to increase in number. As a result, the number of neurons, generated from these stem cells, also increased. In mice, these neurons mainly populate the brain area responsible for interpreting odours. In fact, olfaction is one to the most powerful senses in mice, fundamental for finding food and escape from predators. As powerful as the sense of smell naturally is in mice, in the following behavioural experiments the scientists found that mice with more neurons were able to distinguish extremely similar odours that normal mice failed to. Hence, this study is fundamental in proving that stem cells can be used to improve brain function.

“Evolution gave mice an extremely sensitive olfactory system. It is amazing that by adding few neurons we could improve something that seemed already close to perfection,” states Prof. Federico Calegari. “This study sets the basis for our research, which now is focused on finding out whether we could apply our strategy as a therapeutic approach in neurodegenerative models.”

Sep 12, 2022

Are we ready for our Uber Eats orders to arrive via robot?

Posted by in categories: food, robotics/AI, space

Nuro makes autonomous vehicles that can delivery groceries and food and have no space for humans on them. It reached a recent deal with Uber.

Sep 12, 2022

Self-assembling molecules suffocate cancer cells within hours

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, food

The technology at the heart of this research takes aim at one of the key metabolic functions of cells in all living things called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate. This molecule is the primary energy carrier in cells, capturing chemical energy from the breakdown of food molecules and distributing it to power other cellular processes.

Among those cellular processes is the proliferation of cancerous cells, and because of this we have seen ATP implicated in previous anti-cancer breakthroughs. The authors of the new study sought to cut off the supply of ATP, which is generated as mitochondria soak up oxygen and convert it into the molecule.

Sep 10, 2022

Scientists Discover Plastic-Eating Worms That Digest Styrofoam

Posted by in categories: biological, food, sustainability

Humanity has left its mark on the Earth, from cities of steel to mountains of styrofoam. The latter is proving to be a problem, as many of the synthetic materials we produce don’t degrade in anything approaching a human timescale. Scientists have long sought to develop better plastic recycling methods, and the answer might be crawling around in the wild. Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia say that a beetle larvae (it looks like a worm in larval form) may hold the key to eliminating polystyrene from the environment.

Styrofoam, technically known as polystyrene, is one of the most common types of plastic, accounting for 7–10 percent of all the non-fibrous plastics produced. You probably encounter it frequently in packing materials where the material’s foam conformation is adept at absorbing impacts. The solid version of polystyrene can be used to make transparent containers, disposable utensils, and more. However, polystyrene carries a recycling ID of 6, meaning it’s difficult to process and is not accepted at most curbside pickups.

Scientists have long searched for microbes or insect enzymes that could help break down durable plastics like polystyrene, and a beetle known as Zophobas morio might have it. It’s a species of darkling beetle, and the larval form is more commonly known as a superworm. They look like larger mealworms and are often used as a food source for insectivorous animals. In addition to being a high-protein, low-carb snack, this creature’s gut carries a unique mixture of bacterial enzymes that can digest polystyrene. The researchers reported that darkling beetle larva can subsist entirely on a diet of polystyrene — they can even grow while eating a pile of plastic.

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Sep 10, 2022

Rheumatoid arthritis could be treated by eating probiotic bacteria

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food

Experiments in rats hint that an immune-suppressing drug that can be taken by eating a probiotic may relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis more effectively than injections.

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