Drexel University to open research center on racism and health

Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health announced plans Thursday to launch a center to further research on racial inequity and disparities in health.



a group of people standing on a sidewalk: Ana Diez Roux (left), dean of Drexel's School of Public Health, greets David and Dana Dornsife in 2018. The school was named after the couple in honor of their donation. Dana Dornsife, who grew up in Yardley, is a 1983 graduate.


© ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS
Ana Diez Roux (left), dean of Drexel’s School of Public Health, greets David and Dana Dornsife in 2018. The school was named after the couple in honor of their donation. Dana Dornsife, who grew up in Yardley, is a 1983 graduate.

Established with a $9 million gift from philanthropist and alumna Dana Dornsife and her husband, David, the Center on Racism and Health will aim to advance anti-racist public health research and train students and professionals to combat racism in public health.

“All over the world there are renewed calls to address racism as the public health crisis that it is,” said Ana Diez Roux, dean of the Dornsife School, said in a news release. “The Dornsife School has a responsibility to respond to this crisis. We are thrilled that this gift will allow us to elevate and expand critically needed research, training and policy work.”

The university did not say when the center would open.

Across the nation and in Philadelphia, the coronavirus pandemic has further exposed longstanding racial gaps in health, particularly in Black and Latino communities — a trend oft reflective of larger social, economic, and health inequalities. It’s prompted calls from municipalities and medical groups, including Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to declare racism a public health crisis.

A report from the National Urban League in August found Black individuals to be nearly three times as likely to contract COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from the virus, compared with white individuals. In Philadelphia, Black individuals are more than twice as likely as white individuals to contract the virus, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. And a report in September found that Black patients in Pennsylvania are more than twice as likely to die prematurely of treatable health conditions when compared with white patients.



a person standing in front of a blackboard: An entrance to Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions.


© TOM GRALISH/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS
An entrance to Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Drexel said the new center will “focus on structural racism and racial inequities in urban contexts,” looking at the health challenges related to police brutality and climate change among other issues. It will also work to link challenges facing Philadelphia to those in other cities worldwide, as well as form partnerships across the university, including with the school’s Center for Black Culture.

The new center will “provide an opportunity for innovation and impact in addressing the root causes of racial health inequities in Philadelphia and beyond,” said Sharrelle Barber, a social epidemiologist and professor who chaired the planning group to launch the center.

This year, Barber said, “has brought into sharp focus the deadly consequences of racism.”

The Dornsifes’ $9 million donation will allow the university to hire two faculty members to focus on racial inequity and health. The couple are the largest individual benefactors in Drexel’s history, the school said, having donated

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University of Utah launches crowdfunding campaign to support COVID-19 long-hauler research

As the number of Utahns experiencing long-term effects from the coronavirus continues to grow, there are still more questions than answers about why some people become “long-haulers,” how long they’ll be sick or how to treat their symptoms.



a woman standing in front of a brick building: (Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lisa O'Brien is the creator of the Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers group, a support group for people who say they have experienced long-term impacts as a result of the coronavirus. O'Brien began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after a trip to Hawaii in early March but never got tested because she didn't have the usual symptoms required for testing at that time. While doctors consider people who have survived for three weeks following a diagnosis as "recovered," O'Brien says she continues to experience excessive fatigue as well as blood clots and tachycardia months later.


© Francisco Kjolseth
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lisa O’Brien is the creator of the Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers group, a support group for people who say they have experienced long-term impacts as a result of the coronavirus. O’Brien began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after a trip to Hawaii in early March but never got tested because she didn’t have the usual symptoms required for testing at that time. While doctors consider people who have survived for three weeks following a diagnosis as “recovered,” O’Brien says she continues to experience excessive fatigue as well as blood clots and tachycardia months later.

In an effort to resolve some of those questions, the University of Utah launched a crowdfunding campaign this week to raise $25,000 for research “to better understand the effects and evaluate best treatment options” for people with prolonged coronavirus symptoms.

“Many people experience long-term effects after having COVID-19,” the organization notes on its online donation portal. “For some, these effects may be worse than original symptoms with no end in sight. Little is known about COVID-19 long-hauler symptoms, the impact on health, or how best to treat. University of Utah Health is working hard to provide answers.”

Donors had chipped in just over $1,000 to the Giving Tuesday campaign as of Tuesday afternoon.

Nicole Frank, associate director of the University of Utah’s Immunology, Inflammation, & Infectious Disease Initiative (3i), said conversations about how to treat the state’s long-haulers have been ongoing since earlier this summer. But the effort to create a crowdfunding campaign kicked into gear after the organization received an anonymous $50,000 donation to support research on the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Frank said the U. hopes to raise an additional $25,000 to $50,000 through this donation push to fund a full-time research coordinator who would be dedicated to the long-hauler study.

And with research showing that a “significant portion” of the population could face long-term effects from the coronavirus, she said, “it’s in all of our best interest to figure out why that happens and how we can treat their symptoms.”

Utah’s best-known long-hauler is Lt. Gov.-elect Deidre Henderson, who tested positive for the coronavirus in August and has documented her uphill battle to recovery on Twitter.

The promise of a deep dive into the challenges long-haulers face gives “a lot of hope” to the Utahns who are experiencing symptoms that can range from extreme fatigue and shortness of breath to

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DOD Awards $50 Million in University Research Equipment Awards > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Release

The Department of Defense (DOD) has announced awards to 150 university researchers totaling $50 million under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).  These grants will be provided to 85 institutions across 33 states in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. 

DOD has long championed the country’s scientific ecosystem.  Through DURIP, the department supports purchases of major research equipment to augment current and develop new capabilities.  This effort enables universities to perform state-of-the-art research that boosts the United States’ technological edge, while ensuring that our future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce remains second to none.  This year, the awards will support equipment and instrumentation to accelerate basic research, which is relevant across the department to include quantum sciences, materials design, development, and characterization, machine learning, hypersonics, and more.  

“DURIP awards help maintain the cutting-edge capabilities of our universities and provide research infrastructure to enable the most creative scientific minds in the country to extend the boundaries of science and technology,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, Director, Basic Research Office, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.  “The awards will facilitate scientific advances that will drive unparalleled military capabilities for our country and help train our future STEM workforce.”

The annual DURIP award process is highly competitive.  The program is administered through a merit competition jointly by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, and Office of Naval Research.  The Department seeks specific proposals from university investigators conducting foundational science and engineering research relevant to national defense. 

For the FY 2021 competition, the Service research offices received 742 proposals requesting $297 million in total funding.  Selections made by the Service research offices are subject to successful completion of negotiations with the academic institutions. 

The list of winning proposals can be downloaded here.

About OUSD(R&E)

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense.  OUSD(R&E) fosters technological dominance across the DOD ensuring the unquestioned superiority of the American joint force.  Learn more at www.cto.mil or follow us on Twitter:  @DoDCTO.

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Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses, Ending An Era Of World-Class Research : NPR

Arecibo Observatory’s mammoth telescope collapsed overnight. It’s seen here in November, after a cable damaged its dish.

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University of Central Florida

Arecibo Observatory’s mammoth telescope collapsed overnight. It’s seen here in November, after a cable damaged its dish.

University of Central Florida

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed, after weeks of concern from scientists over the fate of what was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Arecibo’s 900-ton equipment platform, suspended 500 above the dish, fell overnight after the last of its healthy support cables failed to keep it in place.

No injuries were reported, according to the National Science Foundation, which oversees the renowned research facility.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency said. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

The Arecibo Observatory had been slated last month to be withdrawn from service, with the NSF citing the risk of an “uncontrolled collapse” due to failures in the cables that suspended the platform and its huge Gregorian Dome above the 1,000-foot reflector dish.

Arecibo Observatory collapsed when its 900-ton receiver platform fell hundreds of feet, smashing through the radio dish below.

Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images


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Arecibo Observatory collapsed when its 900-ton receiver platform fell hundreds of feet, smashing through the radio dish below.

Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

The telescope’s trademark dish, nestled amid thick tropical forest, was left with a huge gash in August, after a cable fell and slashed through its panels. After a main cable snapped in early November, officials said they saw no way to safely preserve the unstable structure.

Instead, they were hoping to keep the visitors’ center and other buildings operational. But they also noted it would take weeks to work out the technical details of a plan.

Ángel Vázquez, the observatory’s director of telescope operations, says he was in the control room area when equipment began to plummet to the ground. In an interview that was posted to Twitter by scientist Wilbert Andrés Ruperto, Vázquez says he and other staff members had been in the process of removing valuable equipment when they heard a loud bang outside.

“When we looked outside the control room, we started to see the eventual downfall of the observatory,” Vázquez said. He added that strands of the remaining three cables had been unraveling in recent days, increasing the strain. And because two of the support towers maintained tension as the collapse occurred, some of the falling equipment was yanked across the side of the dish rather than falling straight down through its focal point.

“This whole process took 30 seconds,” Vázquez said, “and an unfortunate icon in radio astronomy was done.”

Vázquez said he has worked at the facility for 43 years, starting soon after college.

The massive reflector dish is made of perforated aluminum

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$62-Million Applied Science Hub Opens for Research on Concordia University’s Loyola Campus

‘A major nexus of transdisciplinary collaboration’: University leaders and elected officials celebrate new era of research at Concordia’s new Applied Science Hub

Concordia University’s Applied Science Hub was officially opened today on the university’s Loyola Campus, in the Montreal neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

The $62-million state-of-the-art facility — built thanks to $52.75 million in support from the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec — was strategically designed to enable interdisciplinary collaboration and research between faculty and students in the Faculty of Arts and Science, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science as well as the District 3 Innovation Centre.

The virtual opening ceremony included remarks from both William Amos, Parliamentary Secretary for the Government of Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Danielle McCann, Minister of Higher Education for the Government of Quebec.

Please click here to download a high resolution image of the Applied Science Hub.

“Not only will this facility encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and foster innovation,” says Amos. “It will also help train a generation of Canadian workers, a workforce able to tackle real-world challenges in our communities.”

McCann spoke of the Quebec government’s pride in contributing to the creation of the Applied Science Hub and added, “The credit goes entirely to your team, which has set up a structuring and stimulating project and which will become, I am sure, a model of its kind for all Quebec universities.”

  • WATCH: A 70-second, five-floor visit of the LEED Gold-certified Applied Science Hub, the fourth high-performance green building at Concordia, whose footprint also includes a public sculpture by renowned Quebec City artist Marc-Antoine Côté.

“This opening marks a big step in the evolution of our research capacity,” says Concordia President Graham Carr. “The Applied Science Hub will be a major nexus of transdisciplinary collaboration, where industry actors, startups and entrepreneurs partner with our graduate students and faculty on next-generation research. This is a decisive moment for Concordia as a research university engaged in innovative work for the benefit of society.”

Paula Wood-Adams, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies at Concordia says partnerships were key in bringing this project from blueprint to building. “Without the assistance of the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, this milestone for our university would not have been possible. We thank our federal and provincial partners who generously invested $52.75 million in support of our students and researchers.”

“These new facilities are the result of extraordinary collaboration between departments within Concordia and experts outside the institution,” says Michael Di Grappa, vice-president, Services and Sustainability at Concordia. “The resulting construction of a fourth LEED-certified building on campus is a fitting setting for the innovative research that will be conducted within the Hub.”

Roger Côté, outgoing vice-president, Services, concurs. “The opening of the Applied Science Hub comes as a retirement gift of sorts,” says Côté. “I want to thank the many team members who successfully transformed the vision of our researchers to create spaces that facilitate collaborative work on research

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$11M NIH grant will fund biomedical research at University of Delaware

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IMAGE: University of Delaware Professor Joe Fox (top right) leads the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence that has won a second phase of funding from the NIH. Newly added to the…
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Credit: Composite image by Jeffrey C. Chase

Biomedical research at the University of Delaware has fresh fuel for the next five years, as the National Institutes of Health has renewed a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant for a second phase, worth more than $11 million.

This COBRE grant is focused on Discovery of Chemical Probes and Therapeutic Leads and is led by Joseph Fox, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The work of this team of scientists is focused on discovery of new molecules that can be used to study and treat diseases such as breast cancer, renal cancer, Crohn’s disease, tuberculosis and Legionnaires disease.

“Interdisciplinary collaboration is a hallmark of UD research, and this renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health recognizes the successful track record and the continued excellence of an exceptional team of biomedical researchers and its leader, Professor Joe Fox,” said University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis. “Their work will advance the development of new therapies for treating diseases that have afflicted so many. We congratulate this team and look forward to the exciting developments to come.”

The research team will be based at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

“By locating aspects of this program in the Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center at STAR Campus, UD will coalesce a vibrant community of researchers working in drug discovery, development and manufacturing further cementing UD’s leadership in pharmaceutical innovation,” said Charles G. Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation.

Five new researchers have been added to the grant in this phase, including Catherine Fromen (chemical and biomolecular engineering); Jeff Mugridge and Juan Perilla (chemistry and biochemistry); and Ramona Neunuebel and Karl Schmitz (biological sciences).

The grant extension also will further expand the center’s capabilities with development of a Proteomics Core to allow custom synthetic chemistry, Fox said.

The first phase of the grant produced many advances, including 11 major NIH grants, and led to new techniques now used for drug-discovery work by major pharmaceutical companies and research groups around the world.

“This has had an impact on science and human health,” said Fox. “It is exciting for the outstanding cohort of colleagues who will benefit from this grant. Some of our most successful faculty were hired and supported during Phase 1. There are some real rock stars in there. It has been great. And the idea that we’ll be able to do this again is exciting to me.”

The first-phase grant cohort included Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes, Joel Rosenthal, Donald Watson and Mary Watson (chemistry and biochemistry); April Kloxin (chemical and biomolecular engineering); and Edward Lyman (physics and astronomy and chemistry and biochemistry). The first phase also supported pilot project funding to nine additional research groups and supported the

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Waste Milk Could Be Used to Reduce Power Plant CO2 Emissions, Says Clarkson University Research

Clarkson University research is featured on the front cover of the November issue of Advanced Sustainable Systems. The stylized cover artwork (above) features a North Country landmark, the surge tank of a Raquette River hydroelectric plant in nearby Hannawa Falls, where both of the paper’s authors reside. (Photo credit: J. Pokrzywinski, D. Aulakh, W. Verdegaal, V.H. Pham, H. Bilan, S. Marble, D. Mitlin, M. Wriedt: “Dry and Wet CO2 Capture from Milk-Derived Microporous Carbons with Tuned Hydrophobicity.” Advanced Sustainable Systems. 2020. Volume 4. Issue 11. Pages 207022. Copyright Wiley-VCH GmbH. Reproduced with permission.)

Clarkson University research is featured on the front cover of the November issue of Advanced Sustainable Systems. The stylized cover artwork (above) features a North Country landmark, the surge tank of a Raquette River hydroelectric plant in nearby Hannawa Falls, where both of the paper’s authors reside. (Photo credit: J. Pokrzywinski, D. Aulakh, W. Verdegaal, V.H. Pham, H. Bilan, S. Marble, D. Mitlin, M. Wriedt: “Dry and Wet CO2 Capture from Milk-Derived Microporous Carbons with Tuned Hydrophobicity.” Advanced Sustainable Systems. 2020. Volume 4. Issue 11. Pages 207022. Copyright Wiley-VCH GmbH. Reproduced with permission.)

Potsdam, NY, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Clarkson University research, which shows how surplus milk may be used to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil‐fuel based power plant emissions, is featured on the front cover of the November issue of  Advanced Sustainable Systems.

The stylized cover artwork features a North Country landmark, the surge tank of a Raquette River hydroelectric plant in nearby Hannawa Falls, where two of the paper’s authors reside.

Two major sources of greenhouse gases are CO2 emissions from fossil-based power plants and methane emissions from cattle. There is a strong scientific consensus that emissions like these are causing human-induced climate change.

The article, “CO2 Capture: Dry and Wet CO2 Capture from Milk‐Derived Microporous Carbons with Tuned Hydrophobicity,” explains that it is possible to greatly reduce power plant CO2 emissions by using surplus or waste milk from cows to create activated carbons, which will adsorb or scrub the CO2 from the output.

“Our challenge was to create an inexpensive ‘green’ activated carbon,” says co-author Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science and Kodak CAMP Distinguished Professor Mario Wriedt. “Powdered milk can be converted into advanced activated carbons with the right porosity and surface chemistry to adsorb the CO2, allowing much better control than with the current materials used for this process, like coconut shells or coal.”

This is the first report of state-of-the-art performance for an activated carbon derived from a natural compound. The process for making the sorbents is similar to what is done to roast coffee, but with a secondary agent that etches nanoscale holes onto the material.

“Think of extremely dark roast holey coffee beans,” says co-author University of Texas at Austin and former Clarkson Professor David Mitlin. “The nanoscale holes, because of their strict sizes and surface chemistry, are very effective in trapping CO2 while keeping out water vapor. The CO2 is trapped reversibly in the

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Gain Therapeutics and University of Maryland School of Medicine Announce Research Collaboration

BETHESDA, Md. and BALTIMORE, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Gain Therapeutics, Inc. (“Gain”), today announced a research collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), to investigate Gain’s structurally targeted allosteric regulators (STARs) in cellular models of neuronopathic Gaucher disease (nGD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). STARs are proprietary small molecules targeting novel allosteric binding sites on enzymes. These small molecule drug candidates are designed to cross the blood brain barrier and penetrate other hard to treat organs such as bone and cartilage, stabilize the effective enzyme to restore function and reduce toxic substrate. Research will be led by Ricardo A. Feldman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, of Microbiology and Immunology in UMSOM.

Under the terms of the collaboration, UMSOM will investigate Gain’s STAR candidates in macrophage and neuronal models of nGD and GBA -associated PD. These diseases are characterized by mutations in the GBA gene, where misfolding of the enzyme encoded by GBA (beta-glucocerebrosidase (GCase)) interferes with its normal transport to the lysosome. The research program will aim to further elucidate the mechanism of action of Gain’s STAR candidates by studying their effect on GCase, including GCase’s enzyme activity and transport to the lysosome. Additionally, other effects such as prevention of alpha-synuclein aggregation in PD dopaminergic neurons will be evaluated.

“We are exceedingly proud to be advancing our work in nGD and Parkinson’s in close collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” said Eric Richman, Chief Executive Officer at Gain. “The expertise and experience of UMSOM and Dr. Feldman will be instrumental as we work to further validate the exciting potential of Gain’s STAR candidate for these devastating diseases. I am confident these foundational studies will bring us closer to a potential new treatment option for those with these disorders.”

Dr. Feldman added, “Our laboratory has used human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models of GD and GBA -associated PD to uncover the molecular mechanisms leading to these diseases. We have also developed very sensitive assays to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of small molecules in reversing the phenotypic abnormalities caused by mutant GBA in the cell types affected by these diseases, including macrophages and neuronal cells. I have been impressed by Gain’s initial results evaluating the potential of STARs in correcting enzyme misfolding and restoring function, and look forward to working with Gain’s team to further advance its program to treat these diseases.”

Gain and UMSOM intend to report initial data from the collaboration in the first half of 2021.

About Gain Therapeutics, Inc.
Gain Therapeutics is redefining drug discovery with its SEE-Tx™ target identification platform. By identifying and optimizing allosteric binding sites that have never before been targeted, Gain is unlocking new treatment options for difficult-to-treat disorders characterized by protein misfolding. Gain was originally established in 2017 with the support of its founders and institutional investors such as TiVenture, 3B Future Health Fund (previously known as Helsinn Investment Fund) and VitaTech. It has been awarded funding support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

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Okayama University research: Friend to Foe–When Harmless Bacteria Turn Toxic

(MENAFN – PR Newswire) OKAYAMA, Japan, Nov. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In a study recently published in PLoS Pathogens, researchers at Okayama University reveal novel mutations which transform bacteria into infectious bugs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Not all bacteria are naturally infectious. Several strains of innocuous bacteria turn infectious over their lifespan. However, the mechanisms by which such bacteria acquire pathogenic properties (known as virulence in microbiology terms) are still a mystery. Now, a research team led by Professor KAITO Chikara from Okayama University has identified specific gene mutations which drive this deadly switch in the microorganisms.

The researchers employed a non-pathogenic strain of Escherichia coli, bacteria commonly used in the laboratory, and exposed them to mutation-inducing processes. The bacteria were subsequently injected into silkworms. After multiple rounds of mutagen exposure, the E.coli started swiftly killing the worms, turning 500 times more lethal at a certain point. A closer look at the DNA of this dangerous strain revealed mutations in a protein known as the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) transporter. The LPS transporter resides on the bacterial membrane and funnels LPS, a bacterial toxin, from within the cell onto its surface. To understand how these mutations were linked to bacterial toxicity, the mutant E.coli were treated with host antimicrobial peptides or antibiotics. These antimicrobial molecules, however, did not hamper the growth of the mutant bacteria suggesting that the mutants had developed resistance against host immune response and antibiotics.

Bacteria store an arsenal of chemicals on their surface within small vesicles. The mutant E.coli had an abundance of such vesicles which were also rich in LPS. It thus seemed that the bugs had developed a clever mechanism to expel toxins and chemicals out of the cell. The team then analysed the LPS transporter to investigate whether its mutations played a role in this regard. Indeed, the structure of the LPS transporter was found altered in the mutant strains. A plug which keeps the channel of the transporter closed, appeared defective. Lastly, to see whether similar mutations in the LPS transporter occur naturally, the team examined bacterial samples taken from patients. As expected, these samples contained similar mutants of E.coli which were also resistant to antimicrobials. Mutations in the LPS transporter were thus conferring bacteria with crafty mechanisms to stay alive and infect host cells.

“These findings suggest that non-pathogenic bacteria can gain virulence traits by changing the functions of essential genes, and provide new insight to bacterial evolution in a host environment,” conclude the researchers. Information on such toxic mutations in bacteria are vital for diagnosing infections and developing appropriate antibacterial drugs.

Background

Virulence – A microorganism’s ability to infect a host cell is known as virulence. Organisms have varying mechanisms of virulence known as virulence factors. Common virulence factors driving bacterial toxicity are chemicals that help bacteria invade and adhere to host cells or poisons that damage host cells. A thorough understanding of these factors is key to developing strategies for combatting bacterial toxicity.

Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) – LPS is a chemical

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Rollercoaster research landed, next flight: Moon and Mars

Rollercoaster research landed, next flight: moon and Mars
Air Zero G parabolic aircraft at Padeborn-Lippstadt airport. Credit: Novespace

It was a difficult campaign to organize, but the scientific results are some of the best ever. Earlier this month, over 60 researchers ran 11 experiments in an Airbus aircraft with no less than three pilots. This was no ordinary flight: the A310 “Air Zero G’ flew in repeated arcs 600 m up and down, providing ‘weightlessness’ in freefall conditions for all passengers and their experiments, 20 seconds at a time.


With flights prepared and operated by contractor Novespace, ESA runs regular parabolic campaigns to conduct scientific research and to test hardware for future space missions.

“Usually our ‘home base’ for parabolic flights is Merignac airport in Bordeaux, France,” says ESA’s Parabolic Flight coordinator Neil Melville, “but to minimize risk due to COVID-19 infection rates and maximize participation despite travel restrictions, we relocated to Padeborn-Lippstadt airport in Germany.

“Changing our plans and getting all of the equipment and personnel to the new location was a logistical challenge, especially at short notice, but with the great work of Novespace and the support of our new hosts we got it done.

“I would say it was probably the most scientifically successful campaign we’ve ever had, since all the experiments got near-perfect data from nearly all parabolas.”

As in all human spaceflight, safety is paramount and many measures were taken to ensure COVID-19 was kept at bay. All participants were tested before leaving high-risk areas, temperatures were checked regularly, strict social distancing was in place in the hangar where experiments were prepared, masks were obligatory at all times, only a limited number of experimenters were allowed on the aircraft, and the plane’s seating arrangement was changed to ensure social distancing.

Rollercoaster research landed, next flight: moon and Mars
Test subjects in a parabolic flight conducting “The Influence of Gravity on the Perception of Self-Motion SMUG (Self-Motion Under Gravity)” experiment. It was a difficult campaign to organise, but the scientific results are some of the best ever. In November 2020 over 60 researchers run 11 experiments in an Airbus aircraft with no less than three pilots. This was no ordinary flight: the A310 ‘Air Zero G’ flew in parabolic arcs, repeatedly free-falling 600m up and back down again, providing weightlessness for all passengers and their experiments, 20 seconds at a time. Credit: Novespace
ESA is taking advantage of Novespace’s latest ‘Zero-G’ aircraft to perform a number of experiments in microgravity. Twelve experiments – which include six by professional scientists and six by students as part of ESA’s Fly Your Thesis programme – took to the skies for three series of 31 parabolas off the coast of France. Conditions of microgravity, or weightlessness, are unique for research ranging from fundamental physics, testing Einstein’s weak equivalence principle, to psychology, neuroscience and the deployment of a balloon that may one day make measurements while falling through Mars’ atmosphere. Credit: European Space Agency
Rollercoaster research landed, next flight: moon and Mars
Science with(out) gravity – parabolic flights. Credit: European Space Agency

The diverse experiments focused on how humans perceive motion without gravity as reference,

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