P.M. NEWS Nigeria » Science and Technology http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com First with Nigeria News - Nigerian leading evening Newspaper - Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:42:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Ebola stricken Nigeria doctor in Liberia receives rare serum http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/08/17/ebola-stricken-nigeria-doctor-in-liberia-receives-rare-serum/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/08/17/ebola-stricken-nigeria-doctor-in-liberia-receives-rare-serum/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 06:40:27 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=207390 Health care workers in Liberia have administered three doses of the rare, experimental drug ZMapp to three doctors, one of them a Nigerian, suffering from Ebola, two medical workers in Monrovia told Reuters.

Liberia, the West African country with the highest death toll from the tropical virus at 413, received three doses of the rare serum in a special consignment this week.

Doctors Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor from Liberia and Dr. Aroh Cosmos Izuchukwu from Nigeria are the first Africans to receive the treatment. The drug has already been administered to two American healthcare workers and a Spanish priest, all previously working in Liberian hospitals.

The U.S. healthcare workers’ health has since improved but the Spanish priest died.

“Three doctors are currently being administered treatment with the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp. Treatment began on Thursday evening,” said Dr. Billy Johnson, chief medical officer of John F. Kennedy Medical Centre in Monrovia where two of the doctors served before contracting the deadly virus.

A second healthcare worker at the Elwa centre which is housing the sick doctors confirmed that they were on their third day of a six-day ZMapp treatment.

Details of their condition are not known.

The U.N. health agency said only around 10 to 12 doses of the drug have been made and this raises difficult ethical questions about who should get priority access.

The apparent improvement in the two U.S. healthcare workers’ condition has stoked popular pressure to make the drug available to Africans – a cause advocated by the Twitter hashtag group #giveustheserum.

There is currently no vaccine against the highly-contagious disease and other forms of treatment are only designed to relieve symptoms such as fever, vomiting and haemorrhaging.

Up to 90 percent of victims die – a fatality rate so high that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies the illness as a category A “bioterrorism agent” – although the current outbreak fatality rate is near 60 percent.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak, widely seen as the country’s biggest challenge since the 1989-2003 civil war.

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American Diplomats Highlight U.S./Nigeria Ties http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/07/07/american-diplomats-highlight-u-s-nigeria-ties/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/07/07/american-diplomats-highlight-u-s-nigeria-ties/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 14:58:34 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=201973 Simon Ateba

The United States and Nigeria are two exceptional countries in the world and share many values in common beyond just commercial and cultural ties, U.S. top diplomats in Nigeria said at a party to mark their country’s 238th anniversary.

The United States declared independence on 4 July 1776 from the Kingdom of Great Britain, now officially known as the United Kingdom, and the date is celebrated every year by Americans at home and abroad.

“I find Nigeria to be a truly fascinating country,” the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said at an American-style cookout held at the residence of Jeffrey Hawkins, the U.S. Consul General in Lagos, western Nigeria, on Saturday.

“As I travel around this country, and as I talk to Nigerians on any subject, it quickly becomes clear the depth and the breadth of the relationship between our two great democracies.”

•Americans during American and Nigerian national anthems at the independence anniversary party in Lagos on Saturday

•Americans during American and Nigerian national anthems at the independence anniversary party in Lagos on Saturday

Entwistle said the relationship between Nigeria and America has been ‘good and wonderful’ for many decades.

“Whether you’re talking about military assistance, commercial ties, cultural ties, the relationship between our two countries has been good, has been wonderful for many decades.”

Hawkins, the U.S. Consul General in Lagos, said apart from huge trade ties and the big Nigerian population in America, there are at least three values that make Nigeria and America exceptional in the world.

“Nigerians are really American and Americans are really Nigerian. The two countries are very very similar; they share a lot of values,” Hawkins told hundreds of American and Nigerian guests.

“Just three examples of that: We are both very forward looking people, we’re always looking ahead, we’re optimistic. (We) are people of great faith,” Hawkins said.

He said Nigeria and America are also two truly democratic countries and pledged America’s partnership for that democracy to be strengthened in the 2015 elections.

 “And as we go forward, and as we look at 2015 and the great electoral contest that is coming up here, we’re very interested in cementing those values further, and working with all sorts of partners to make sure that 2015 elections are peaceful and credible.”

Hawkins said Nigeria and America also believe they are called to play a greater role in the world affairs.

“The United States plays that role and Nigeria does too. You see that on the Security Council or the work that you do in peace keeping and engagements in the African Union. Those are the things that we share in common.”

Hawkins did not mention Boko Haram by name but said despite terrorist threats and other concerns, Nigeria and America will remain partners and will continue to play greater role in the world.

The event was attended by at least 500 Nigerians and Americans who defied the heavy rain, including the king of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, ex-governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, diplomats and other low and mighty residents in Nigeria. The guests were entertained by American band, Henhouse Prowlers.

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In Argentina, dinosaur hunters embark on next phase http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/07/05/in-argentina-dinosaur-hunters-embark-on-next-phase/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/07/05/in-argentina-dinosaur-hunters-embark-on-next-phase/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 06:30:23 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=201711 ARGENTINA-DINOSAUR-PALEONTOLOGY-EXHIBITION

A few months ago, Argentine scientists found the remains of a giant dinosaur. Now they look forward to digging up hundreds more fossils, but what they really want is the big one’s head.

In recent years, the discovery of fossils of such sauropods — giant plant-eaters with thin necks and a long tail — in Argentina’s Patagonia region confirmed that the remote area was once home to the largest dinosaurs to roam the Earth.

In May, scientists announced they had found the remains of a humongous 80-ton sauropod and bones of six other specimens of the creature.

It marked a milestone for paleontologists and prompted them to plan more digs for the southern hemispheric spring starting in September and summer starting in December.

ARGENTINA-DINOSAUR-PALEONTOLOGY-EXHIBITION

The goal is to find a sauropod skull, which could come up as diggers gingerly search amid the rocks for more fossils.

“All we have from the skull is a tooth,” said Jose Luis Carballido, a paleontologist from the Egidio Feruglio Museum in the city of Trelew, 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) south of Buenos Aires.

“Finding the skull is particularly important because there are not too many skulls from sauropods from this stage of the evolution we believe these animals went through,” he told AFP.

Until now scientists have seen skulls from an earlier evolutionary stage and then from a later one, said Carballido.

The remains found this year are from an animal that was “in the middle of that evolution, but we do not know what its head looked like,” he added.

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US, Japanese cancer researchers win Asian ‘Nobel’ Prize http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/06/19/us-japanese-cancer-researchers-win-asian-nobel-prize/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/06/19/us-japanese-cancer-researchers-win-asian-nobel-prize/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 06:46:14 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=199350 An American and a Japanese immunologists were Thursday named joint recipients of the Tang Prize, touted as Asia’s version of the Nobels, for their contributions in the fight against cancer.

James P. Allison of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University beat out some 100 nominees from around the world to take the inaugural prize in the category of biopharmaceutical sciences.

“This is an exciting time in our fight against cancer,” the Tang Prize Foundation said.

“Their pioneering research has led to a new field in the therapy of cancers, which are already the leading killers to mankind,” Chen Chien-jen, vice president of Taiwan’s top academic body Academia Sinica, told reporters.

Allison, currently chair of Immunology and director of Immunotherapy Platform at the University of Texas, was one of the two scientists to identify the ligand CTLA-4 as an inhibitory receptor on T-cells in 1995, and was the first to recognise it as a potential target for cancer therapy.

T-cells are a type of lymphocyte that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.

Research by Allison’s team has led to the development of a monoclonal antibody drug, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 for the treatment of melanoma.

Honjo discovered the ligand PD-1, also an inhibitory receptor on T-cells, in 1992. Antibodies against PD-1 have been approved by the FDA as an investigational new drug and developed for the treatment of cancer.

Yun Yen, president of Taipei Medical University, said that outlook for the related drugs are promising as combination therapy, a mixture of anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1, has been shown to enhance the long-term survival rates in cancer patients.

Named after China’s Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the Asian prize was founded by Taiwanese billionaire Samuel Yin in 2012 with a donation of Tw$3 billion.

Former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland was named Wednesday as the first recipient of the prize for her work as the “godmother” of sustainable development.

Winners in the last two categories — Sinology (the study of China) and “rule of law” — will be unveiled Friday and Saturday.

The winner in each category will receive Tw$50 million ($1.7 million), with Tw$40 million in cash and the remainder in a research grant — a richer purse than the eight million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million) that comes with a Nobel Prize.

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No driver needed: Google unveils a self-driving car http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/29/no-driver-needed-google-unveils-a-self-driving-car/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/29/no-driver-needed-google-unveils-a-self-driving-car/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 12:42:29 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=196468 The world has seen pilotless aircraft called drones. We have seen driverless trains.

Now Google is set to unveil a self-driving car.

It’s a car that will drive on its own — minus the steering wheel.

The internet giant said that it hopes to begin testing the car in the coming months.

“They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work,” Google’s Chris Urmson said in a blog post.

Google's own self-driving cars, no steering wheel

Google’s own self-driving cars, no steering wheel

Urmson said Google plans to build about 100 prototype vehicles, “and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls.”

He added, “If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years.”

For Google, the car marks a shift away from adapting vehicles made by others in its quest to pioneer individual transport that needs only a stop-and-go function.

“It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, ‘What should be different about this kind of vehicle?’” the post said.

The top speed of the battery-powered prototypes will be 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour and are designed for utility, not luxury.

“We’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route — and that’s about it,” Urmson said.

The blog post shows a photo of a prototype and an artist’s rendering — both rounded bug-looking vehicles.

“We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Re/code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (See the car in motion here:)

“The reason I’m so excited about these prototypes and the self-driving car project in general is the ability to change the world and the community around you,” Brin added.

Brin said Google is likely “to partner with a lot of companies” on the project, but declined to elaborate.

Until now Google has been re-fitting Lexus and Honda cars to work as self-driving ones.

In an interview with Re/code, Urmson said the new Google cars will have numerous safety features learned from the company’s research.

“In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities,” he said.

“So we have effectively two motors and they work so if one of them fails the other can steer, so the car can always control where it’s going, and similar with brakes.”

In addition to crash protection for the occupant, the car has features to avoid pedestrians and other road users.

“So the front end is a whole new approach where it’s compressible foam and a flexible windshield that should do a much better job of protecting people if an accident should occur,” Urmson told Re/code.

Several automakers have been working on autonomous or semi-autonomous features for cars, such as self-parking, but no fully autonomous car has come to market.

A study last year by KPMG said consumers would welcome these vehicles if companies “get the value proposition right.”

This might mean “mobility on demand,” or the ability to share a vehicle or order one as needed.

Google said recently it was making progress on its project. Prototype Google cars have driven more than 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) on public roads, always with someone ready to take the wheel.

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Leprosy Vaccine Scientist Dies At 100 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/13/leprosy-vaccine-scientist-dies-at-100/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/13/leprosy-vaccine-scientist-dies-at-100/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 19:15:28 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=194453 Jacinto Convit

Jacinto Convit

Venezuelan scientist and doctor Jacinto Convit, renowned for developing a vaccine against leprosy, has died at the age of 100, BBC said.

His family said the centenarian had dedicated his life to humanity via medicine.

Convit also discovered a vaccine against the tropical skin disease leishmaniasis.

He won many awards, including France’s Legion of Honour, but missed out on the 1988 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

According to BBC, Dr Barry Bloom, who collaborated with Dr Convit for 15 years, recalled his dedication to his work: “Dr Convit was a very special person. He was first and foremost a physician in the best sense – he knew his patients by name. And after a lifetime of work I think he still knew every patient he ever met.

“He had a passion to deal with two of the most stigmatised diseases in the world – leprosy and a parasite called leishmaniasis. And he devoted his life to finding ways to improve the health of people who, for much of the world and much of the world of science, had been forgotten.”

In his later years, Convit worked on finding a cure for cancer.

Born in 1913 of a Spanish immigrant family and educated at a university in Caracas, Convit was moved by the stigmatisation of leprosy patients and worked with them in the marginalised outskirts of the city as well as remote jungle areas.

Convit combined existing tuberculosis treatment and a bacteria found in armadillos to design a new vaccination against leprosy.

But scientists are still working to perfect a vaccine that could help eradicate leprosy for good.

Untreated, the disease, caused by a bacterium transmitted through coughs and sneezes, can render progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.

The global prevalence of leprosy has decreased considerably in recent years – the World Health Organization (WHO) target of reducing leprosy to less than one case per 10,000 people globally was met in 2000.

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Science and technology gets less than 1% of national budget – Minister http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/13/science-and-technology-gets-less-than-1-of-national-budget-minister/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/05/13/science-and-technology-gets-less-than-1-of-national-budget-minister/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 18:20:13 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=194447 Minister Omobola Johnson

Minister Omobola Johnson

The Supervising Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, on Tuesday decried the allocation of less than one per cent of the national budget to the ministry.

Johnson, who appeared before the National Conference Committee on Science, Technology and Development, said the amount was grossly inadequate.

She said the sector should be given topmost priority by government, if the country is to realise its aspiration of becoming one of the most industrialised countries by 2020.

“Of the budgetary allocation, only N35 billion is allocated to the 17 agencies under the ministry, while N1 billion is for the ministry.

“The 2014 budget that has been passed by the National Assembly for Mr President’s assent is N4.9 trillion, but only N36 billion is for science and technology.

“The amount may sound much to a layman, but when you look at it, that is less than one per cent of the national budget.

“I don’t think that, we are serious; talking about less than one per cent of the 2014 budget for such an important sector, it is very frustrating,”she said.

Johnson, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, said the Asian Tigers got to where they are due to diligent investment in science, engineering and technology.

She, therefore, called for the establishment of a pool of funds for the sector to enable Nigeria to transform into an industrialised country and realise the Vision 20: 2020.

“Nothing can be achieved if there is no serious determination of government to improve and streamline the issue of science and technology funds.

“There should be dedicated funds, which draws its sources from strategic avenues and this dedicated fund should be managed.

“We want to appeal to the committee that the National Policy on Science, Technology, Innovation, Research and Development should be captured as a constitutional matter.

“It should not just be a policy that has been passed or discussed at the Federal Executive Council; it should be captured in our constitution.

“Such that, it is not changed by any subsequent government or at the whims and caprices of some personal issues,” she said.

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First Earth-sized planet in star’s “habitable zone” found http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/18/first-earth-sized-planet-in-stars-habitable-zone-found/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/18/first-earth-sized-planet-in-stars-habitable-zone-found/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:57:48 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=191850 As­tro­no­mers said they have found an Earth-sized plan­et, out­side our own so­lar sys­tem, or­bit­ing a star at a dis­tance suit­a­ble to al­low liq­uid wa­ter on the plan­et’s sur­face. But do not dream yet of living in the planet designated as Kepler-186F: Kep­ler-186f is meas­ured to be so far away from us that even mov­ing at light speed, it would take al­most an es­ti­mat­ed five cen­turies to get there. Any radio or light signals reach­ing us from the plan­et would be that old also.

Still, “this is the first de­fin­i­tive Earth-sized plan­et found in the ‘hab­it­a­ble zone’ around an­oth­er star,” said Elisa Quin­tana of the SETI In­sti­tute at NASA Ames Re­search Cen­ter in Moun­tain View, Ca­lif. She is the lead au­thor of a re­port on the find­ings pub­lished in the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence.

“Find­ing such plan­ets is a pri­ma­ry goal of the Kep­ler space tele­scope,” she added. “The star is a main-sequence M-dwarf, a very com­mon type. More than 70 per­cent of the hun­dreds of bil­lions of stars in our gal­axy are M-dwarfs.”

The finding will surely shape fu­ture in­ves­ti­ga­t­ions of exoplan­ets, or plan­ets out­side our own so­lar sys­tem, with pos­si­ble Earth-like sur­faces, sci­en­tists said. The body is the fifth and out­er­most world to be de­tected in the plan­etary sys­tem of a red dwarf star known as Kep­ler-186. The star lies ap­prox­i­mate­ly in the dir­ect­ion of the con­stell­ation Cyg­nus, the Swan, in the north­ern sky on the plane of the Mil­ky Way.

Of the nearly 1,800 con­firmed exoplan­ets found in the past two dec­ades, about 20 are thought to or­bit their host star in the hab­it­a­ble zone—a range of or­bital dis­tances at which sur­face wa­ter on a plan­et with an at­mos­phere would nei­ther freeze nor boil. But all of these are larg­er than Earth, so they might be gas­e­ous plan­ets, like the larg­er plan­ets of our own so­lar sys­tem. The au­thors es­ti­mate the new­found plan­et is less then 10 per­cent wider than Earth, based on a meas­ured dim­ming of star­light from Kep­ler-186 as the plan­et passes in front of it.

The­o­ret­i­cal mod­els sug­gest that plan­ets up to about 1.5 times as wide as Earth “are un­likely to be swathed in at­mos­pheres of hy­dro­gen and he­li­um, the fate that’s be­fall­en the gas gi­ants of our own so­lar sys­tem,” ex­plained Thom­as Barc­lay, a staff sci­ent­ist for the Kep­ler mis­sion af­fil­i­at­ed with both NASA and the Bay Ar­ea En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­search In­sti­tute.

So “Kep­ler-186f is likely a rocky world, and in that sense si­m­i­lar to Ve­nus, Earth and Mars.”

.Written by SETI Institute and World Science Staff

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Brazil’s scientists clone goat to treat rare disease http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/15/brazils-scientists-clone-goat-to-treat-rare-disease/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/15/brazils-scientists-clone-goat-to-treat-rare-disease/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:21:57 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=191487 Scientists in Brazil have genetically modified a goat to produce milk with an enzyme to treat a rare genetic disorder, O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported Tuesday.

The goat, named “Gluca,” is the first of its kind in South America. It has been genetically modified to produce the enzyme glucocerebrosidase.

Gaucher’s disease is a rare human genetic condition caused by hereditary deficiency of that enzyme.

People with Gaucher’s — which can manifest itself with fatigue, bruising, anemia, low blood platelets and an enlarged liver and spleen — often are treated with drugs and bone marrow transplants but still face pain and often poor long-range health prospects.

Brazil, where about 600 patients are affected, imports $113 million a year in drugs to treat them, according to the newspaper.

“It is cheaper to feed goats than to feed cell lines. And purifying the protein (for use in treatment) is basically the same,” said researcher Luciana Bertolini at the University of Fortaleza in the northeast, where the goat was cloned.

Gluca was born March 27. She should start producing milk about four months from now. “We need to see how much of the protein she is producing and test its efectiveness,” said Bertolini.

If all goes well, and her milk has a high content of glucocerebrosidase, scientists plan to clone her so that identical animals can produce the protein on a larger scale.

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Chinese herb beats drug for arthritis http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/14/chinese-herb-beats-drug-for-arthritis/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/14/chinese-herb-beats-drug-for-arthritis/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 22:56:55 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=191349 A Chinese herb called thunder god vine works better than a widely-prescribed pharmaceutical drug at easing rheumatoid arthritis, a study published on Monday said.

The herb has long been used in China to treat this potentially crippling auto-immune disease, which typically strikes hand and foot joints.

It is known in Mandarin as lei gong teng and to botanists as Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F.

Extracts of the herb have already fired the interest of drug laboratories as they contain hundreds of compounds, including intriguing molecules called diterpenoids which are believed to ease inflammation and immune response.

In a study published in the British journal BMJ Open, Chinese researchers recruited 207 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and gave them either the herb; the drug methotrexate (marketed as Rheumatrex or Trexall); or a combination of the two.

The Chinese herb: Thunder god vine also used for cancer

The Chinese herb: Thunder god vine also used for cancer

After six months, the patients were given a doctor’s assessment and were also asked if they felt any change.

The benchmark for improvement is called the ACR 50 — named after the American College of Rheumatology — which indicates a 50-percent improvement in the tally of tender or swollen joints and other criteria such as pain and disability.

Of the 174 who completed the trial, 55 percent of those on the herb attained ACR 50, compared to 46 among those treated with methotrexate alone.

But the biggest gain was among the group which took the herb-methotrexate combination: nearly 77 percent of them achieved the ACR 50 measure of improvement.

Previous — but small-scale — trials involving thunder god vine have found it scored well against a harmless lookalike called a placebo and an anti-inflammatory called sulfasalazine.

But some of that research also flagged potential side effects from the herb.

The new study said that side effects this time were roughly similar among the herb and methodrexate users, being mainly gastrointestinal upsets. Among the herb group, some of the women experienced irregular menstruation.

The investigation, led by Xuan Zhang, a rheumatologist at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, acknowledged several limitations.

One was that the doctors who treated the patients, and the patients themselves, knew what medication was being taken, although outside assessors were brought in to verify the results.

Another was that the trial was too short to see if the herb arrested progression of the disease rather than eased the symptoms.

A third was that the dose of methotrexate was limited to 12.5 milligrams a week. “This is standard in Asia, although it is common in the West to use higher doses,” the paper said.

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21 distinct facial expressions we make http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/11/21-distinct-facial-expressions-we-make/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/11/21-distinct-facial-expressions-we-make/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 22:38:12 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=190885 U.S. researchers said they have identified 21 distinct facial expressions that could be used to track the origins of emotions in the human brain.

Aleix Martinez, a Cognitive Scientist and Computer Engineering at Ohio State University said “for centuries, researchers believed this number may be very small, maybe six; happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust and fear.

“Our work suggests there are at least 21. It is however possible we will identify other emotion categories,” Martinez said.

The scientist and his doctoral students, Shichuan Du and Yong Tao, were able to expand the library of expressions by combining elements of the six basic expressions to create “compound expressions’’ such as “happily surprised’’ or “fearfully disgusted.’’

facial expressions depicting various emotions

facial expressions depicting various emotions

The findings, published in the U.S. journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that people may express a broader range of emotions via uniquely identifiable facial expressions than previously thought.

In the study, the team photographed 230 volunteers, 130 females, 100 males and mostly college students, each making faces in response to verbal cues such as “you just got some great unexpected news as “happily surprised’’ or “you smell a bad odour’’ as “disgusted.’’

Happily surprised v Angrily surprised

Happily surprised v Angrily surprised

In the resulting 5,000 images, they painstakingly tagged prominent landmarks for facial muscles, such as the corners of the mouth or the outer edge of the eyebrow.

According to the research to determine whether the expressions are unique enough to be distinguished from others, the team analysed each expression with a Facial Action Coding System (FACS).

It is a standard tool in body language analysis that can identify which facial muscle groups are used to create expressions, the research said..

a combo of facial expressions

a combo of facial expressions


The FACS analysis revealed that the 21 expressions used a unique combination of muscles that was different from all other expressions.

For example, the expression for happy is nearly universal: 99 per cent of the time, study participants expressed happiness by drawing up the cheeks and stretching the mouth in a smile.

The research also said that surprise was also easily detected: 92 per cent of the time, surprised participants opened their eyes wide and dropped their mouth open.

“Happily surprised” turned out to be a compound of the expressions for “happy” and “surprised.”

About 93 per cent of the time, the participants expressed it the same way: with the wide- open eyes of surprise and the raised cheeks of happiness and a mouth that was a hybrid of the two, both open and stretched into a smile.

“This research suggests that our cognitive system uses at least 21 emotion categories to process internal thought and interpret internal and external input,”Martinez said.

“Research on emotion should use these 21 categories, for example, to better understand psychopathologies, where emotion processing deviates from the general population, sometimes resulting in traumatic behaviour as in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” the research.

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Swiss team scent breakthrough in nose implant surgery http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/11/swiss-team-scent-breakthrough-in-nose-implant-surgery/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/04/11/swiss-team-scent-breakthrough-in-nose-implant-surgery/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 00:44:57 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=190875 Surgeons in Switzerland on Friday said they had carried out the first-ever operations to repair cancer-ravaged noses using tissue grown from the patient’s own cartilage cells.

The technique involves reconstructing the so-called alar wings of the nose — the nostrils — after removal because of skin cancer.

At present, surgeons replace the “wings” with cartilage grafts taken from the ear, nasal septum or rib, which is an additional and often painful operation for the patient.

A team led by University of Basel professor Ivan Martin took tiny samples of cartilage cells, called chondrocytes, from five patients aged between 76 and 88.

Nose implant surgery

Nose implant surgery

They got the cells to multiply using a growth factor chemical and “seeded” them onto membranes made out of pig collagen, where the cells grew for a further two weeks.

Shaped according to the nose area they were destined to replace, the engineered grafts were then stitched in place and covered with a conventional skin graft.

In an assessment a year later, the implant was found to be stable and all the patients said they were happy with their appearance and ability to breathe.

“The engineered cartilage had clinical results comparable to the gold standard cartilage graft surgery,” Martin said.

“This new technique could help the body accept the new tissue more easily and improve the stability and functionality of the nostril.”

The study appears in the medical journal The Lancet, along with an update on another pioneering feat in tissue engineering.

Eight years ago, four teenagers underwent revolutionary treatment to correct Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuester-Hauser syndrome, a rare disorder that causes the vagina to be underdeveloped or absent.

Researchers in the United States and Mexico, using a sample of vulvular tissue from each patient, grew smooth muscle cells and vaginal lining cells on vagina-shaped scaffolds.

The long-term results of the implants are excellent, The Lancet reported.

The engineered vaginas grew as the girls grew and have a normal vaginal wall. The recipients are sexually active, report no pain and are satisfied with their sexual desire, lubrication and orgasm, it said.

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Yakov Sinai, Russian, wins Abel mathematics prize http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/26/yakov-sinai-russian-wins-abel-mathematics-prize/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/26/yakov-sinai-russian-wins-abel-mathematics-prize/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 15:33:41 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=189241 Yakov Grigorevich Sinai, Russian Mathematician, has won the prestigious Abel mathematics prize for his work in dynamical systems and mathematical physics, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters said Wednesday.

Yakov, 78, teaches at US Princeton University and at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow.

“Yakov Sinai is one of the most influential mathematicians of the twentieth century, the Norwegian academy said in a statement.

“He has achieved numerous groundbreaking results in the theory of dynamical systems, in mathematical physics and in probability theory.”

Yakov Sinai

Yakov Sinai

Crown Prince Haakon will hand Yakov the prize, worth six million kroner (720,000 euros, almost one million dollars) in Oslo on May 20.

The Abel prize was created by Norway’s government in 2002 to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, in order to make up for the absence of mathematics in the Nobel categories.

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Cybersecurity Framework http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/19/cybersecurity-framework/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/19/cybersecurity-framework/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:29:32 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=188601 Akunna Ejim/Washington DC

Developing a solid cybersecurity framework and securing critical IT infrastructure is imperative, now that governments and many organisations put their data in the clouds

The Symantec Government Symposium held on 11 March 2014 at the Renaissance Hotel Washington DC. It is the world’s largest annual information security event for government audiences. Even though the main focus of the event is on best practices to secure America’s critical infrastructure, other countries can also gain useful information from the issues raised by the country’s top IT experts.

•Carahsoft Technology Corp Reps, participants at  the conference

•Carahsoft Technology Corp Reps, participants at the conference

During the symposium, the experts examined some of the biggest challenges faced by governments today, such as the sharing of cybersecurity information between government and industry, securing cybersecurity infrastructure, leveraging new cybersecurity technology across government and industry, best cybersecurity policies, emerging opportunities and best practices.

With the rapid utilization and growth of IT globally, two of the new realities of the modern age are cyberwar and cybersecurity. Make no mistake about it; cyberwar is war on a whole new frontier – the vast expanse of cyberspace.  The war is continuous and requires a proactive, rather than reactive approach, to respond to the challenges, and to protect a nation’s cyber infrastructure. Hackers and foes constantly target whole countries with online attacks.

Nigeria is not left out of this growing menace and must actively engage in measures to effectively protect the country’s IT infrastructure. The development of a protection plan to safeguard against the numerous cyber-attacks is one of the new areas of national defense.

•DLT Solutions Reps, also at the conference

•DLT Solutions Reps, also at the conference

Two of the greatest challenges to ensuring security in government IT are the joint issues of mobility and Bring Your Own Device, BYOD.  Mobility simply means that government employees, and the employees of large firms with sensitive data, now have the ability to telecommute, or work from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. This poses a unique set of challenges for data protection, application security, and identity management.

While it is true that Nigeria is a mere fledgling when it comes to data collection and management, ensuring the protection of data within the various government agencies is still paramount, and also a matter of national security. Now that the storage of data is being moved more to the cloud, away from physical storage devices, the protection of this treasure trove of data is absolutely essential.  The theft of identities by cyber criminals, especially with the push for a cashless society ought to be prevented, while citizen data and information must be protected at all costs.

…Published in TheNEWS magazine

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Scientists detect waves of gravity, solving Big Bang puzzle http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/17/scientists-detect-waves-of-gravity-solving-big-bang-puzzle/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/03/17/scientists-detect-waves-of-gravity-solving-big-bang-puzzle/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 20:07:58 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=188458 Waves of gravity that rippled through space right after the Big Bang have been detected for the first time, in a landmark discovery that adds to our understanding of how the universe was born, US scientists said Monday.

The waves were produced in a rapid growth spurt 14 billion years ago, and were predicted in Albert Einstein’s nearly century-old theory of general relativity but were never found until now.

The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a theory that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in barely the blink of an eye — was announced by experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The detection was made with the help of a telescope called BICEP2, stationed at the South Pole, that measures the oldest light in the universe.

NASA's Bicep2 telescope at the South Pole

NASA’s Bicep2 telescope at the South Pole

If confirmed by other experts, some said the work could be a contender for the Nobel Prize.

The waves that move through space and time have been described as the “first tremors of the Big Bang.”

Their detection confirms an integral connection between Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the stranger conceptual realm of quantum mechanics.

NASA said the findings “not only help confirm that the universe inflated dramatically, but are providing theorists with the first clues about the exotic forces that drove space and time apart.”

John Kovac, leader of the BICEP2 collaboration at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said years of observations using the telescope at the South Pole preceded Monday’s announcement.

“Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a lot of people has led up to this point.”

- ‘Mind-boggling’ find -

The telescope targeted a specific area of sky known as the “Southern Hole” outside the galaxy where there is little dust or extra galactic material to interfere with what humans could see with the potent sky-peering tool.

By observing the cosmic microwave background, or a faint glow left over from the Big Bang, small fluctuations gave scientists new clues about the conditions in the early universe.

The gravitational waves rippled through the universe 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and these images were captured by the telescope.

“It’s mind-boggling to go looking for something like this and actually find it,” Clem Pryke, associate professor at the University of Minnesota, told reporters at an event in Boston to announce the findings.

Rumors of a major discovery began to circulate Friday, when the press conference was first announced.

However, scientists said they spent three years analyzing their data to rule out any errors.

“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” said Pryke.

- New insights to why we exist -

Harvard theorist Avi Loeb said the findings provide “new insights into some of our most basic questions: Why do we exist? How did the universe begin?

“These results are not only a smoking gun for inflation, they also tell us when inflation took place and how powerful the process was,” Loeb said.

John Womersley, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which funds British research into cosmology, said the advance adds to our knowledge of one of the three key pillars of modern cosmology — inflation, dark matter and dark energy.

“Without inflation we would not be here,” he said.

According to theoretical physicist Alan Guth, who proposed the idea of inflation in 1980, described the latest study as “definitely worthy of a Nobel Prize.”

Chris Lintott, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford, said that finding evidence of this super-fast inflation the would be considered “most significant cosmological discovery in nearly two decades, and a huge triumph for physics.”

“It’s like all our Christmases at once,” he said.

“I doubt many cosmologists will get much sleep tonight.”

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China opens Taishan, its 4th Antarctic research station http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/02/10/china-opens-taishan-its-4th-antarctic-research-station/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/02/10/china-opens-taishan-its-4th-antarctic-research-station/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 07:11:10 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=185815 China’s fourth Antarctic research station — the flying saucer-shaped Taishan — has officially opened, in another step for the country’s exploration ambitions in both earth and space.

The station, named for one of China’s five sacred mountains, sits at an altitude of 2,600 metres (8,530 feet) between China’s Zhongshan and Kunlun stations, according to the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

The site’s average annual temperature is minus 36.6 degrees Celsius (minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit) and construction began on December 28.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported at the weekend that President Xi Jinping offered written congratulations, calling scientific research in the frozen continent important for exploring nature and developing mankind.

State media announced in December that workers were on their way to construct the facility to be used during summer for research into “geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science”, saying its main building would be shaped “like a Chinese lantern”. A fifth station is also being planned, reports said.

China's Antarctic station

China’s Antarctic station

Pictures of the Taishan facility released by Xinhua show a 12-sided structure raised on stilts above the ice.

China is a relative latecomer to Antarctic exploration, sending its first exploration team to the remote continent in 1984 and establishing its first research base a year later.

Approximately 30 nations operate permanent research stations in Antarctica including the US, China, Russia, Australia, Britain, France and Argentina.

Argentina, one of the closest countries to Antarctica, has 13 facilities on the continent, more than any other country, according to 2012 data from the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP).

The US maintains six facilities, while Russia has 12 and Japan five, according to COMNAP.

China also is pursuing an ambitious space programme. It most recently garnered global headlines with its first moon rover — Jade Rabbit — deployed on the lunar surface in December from the Chang’e-3 probe.

Late last month, however, state media reported it had experienced a “mechanical control abnormality”, leading to speculation the device was in serious trouble.

The landing — the third such soft-landing in history, and the first of its kind since a Soviet Union mission nearly four decades ago — has been a huge source of pride in China, where millions across the country have been charting the rover’s accomplishments.

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pmnewsnigeria.com comes under brutal attack http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/02/01/pmnewsnigeria-com-comes-under-brutal-attack/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/02/01/pmnewsnigeria-com-comes-under-brutal-attack/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 09:06:05 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=184325 The management of pmnewsnigeria.com wishes to inform loggers to our site that the difficulties they have been experiencing in accessing the site the past two weeks were caused by hackers who launched some “Brute Force” attacks against us.

We do not know for sure why these cyber-crazy heads chose the popular Nigerian site.

But what we found suddenly was the deleterious effect of the attack: that they made it difficult for us to even do the simplest of tasks: upload stories and photographs. They were also responsible for the near crash of the site.

“Unlike some attacks that focus on software vulnerabilities, brute-force points directly to the simplest method to access a site by using usernames and passwords, repeatedly, until it gets inside the security of the website. Such attacks are actually directed, towards the weakest link of the site by attacking admin login repeatedly until they can enter or cause the server to crash,”, explained our technical team, based in Germany

“Due to the nature of these attacks, the server would often have high memory consumption thereby causing performance problems. This is because the amount of http requests (the number of times someone visits your site) is so high that the server would exhaust memory.”pmnewslogo

“This sort of attack is not endemic to our site, it happens with every web app out there, but our site is is popular and thus a frequent target”, he added.

The technical team have been able so far to exorcise the demons the hackers implanted on the site and taken several security measures to avoid a repeat.

We hope that the worst is over as we make efforts to offer our loggers breaking and useful news.

We thank you all for your endurance and patience.

Management.

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Scientists record game-changer stem cells discovery http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/29/scientists-record-game-changer-stem-cells-discovery/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/29/scientists-record-game-changer-stem-cells-discovery/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:33:03 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=183566 PARIS (AFP) – Scientists Wednesday reported a simple way to turn animal cells back to a youthful, neutral state, a feat hailed as a “game-changer” in the quest to grow transplant tissue in the lab.

The research, reported in the journal Nature, could be the third great advance in stem cells — a futuristic field that aims to reverse Alzheimer’s, cancer and other crippling or lethal diseases.

The latest breakthrough comes from Japan, as did its predecessor which earned its inventor a Nobel Prize.

The new approach — provided it overcomes safety hurdles — could smash cost and technical barriers in stem-cell research, said independent commentators.

“If it works in man, this could be the game-changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material,” said Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London.

“The age of personalised medicine will have arrived.”

Stem cells are primitive cells that, as they grow, differentiate into the various specialised cells that make up the different organs — the brain, the heart, kidney and so on.

The goal is to create stem cells in the lab and nudge them to grow into these differentiated cells, thus replenishing organs damaged by disease or accident.

One of the obstacles, though, is ensuring that these transplanted cells are not attacked as alien by the body’s immune system.

To achieve that, the stem cells would have to carry the patient’s own genetic code, to identify them as friendly.

In 1998 came the first gain: the use of cloning technology — pioneered with Dolly the sheep — to harvest stem cells from early-stage embryos grown from the donor’s own DNA.

Hugely versatile, these “pluripotent” stem cells are controversial as the method entails destroying the embryo, something opposed by religious conservatives and others.

In 2006, a team led by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, who was a co-recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine, created so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).

With this, the team took mature cells and coded them with four genes, “rewinding” the cells’ genetic programmes to return them to a juvenile state.

The technique had to overcome an early hurdle of causing tumours in cells and still faces problems with efficiency — less than one percent of adult cells typically are reprogrammed successfully.

The latest breakthrough, pioneered by Haruko Obokata at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, takes an entirely different and surprisingly low-tech approach.

‘Hallmarks of pluripotency’

White blood cells in newborn mice were returned to a versatile state by incubating them in a solution with high acidity for 25 minutes, followed by a five minute spin in a centrifuge and a seven-day spell of immersion in a growth culture.

Called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells, the innovation breaks new ground.

Until now, only plant cells, and not mammal cells, have been found to reprogramme back to a youthful state through simple environmental factors.

“These STAP cells show all the hallmarks of pluripotency,” Obokata said Tuesday in an Internet briefing with journalists.

STAP cells appear to have a limited ability to self-renew, and it has yet to be seen if they can be acquired from humans.

Only much later may trials in humans follow.

It took 13 years before the first trials with embryonic stem cells, and six years before the first iPS trials.

Dusko Ilic, a stem-cell scientist at Kings College London, said the approach “is indeed revolutionary.”

But he cautioned: “It does not bring stem cell-based therapy closer.”

“We will need to use the same precautions for the cells generated in this way as for the cells isolated from embryos or reprogrammed with a standard method,” he said in comments reported by London’s Science Media Centre.

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Pmnewsnigeria.com glitches: Our apology http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/27/pmnewsnigeria-com-glitches-our-apology/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/27/pmnewsnigeria-com-glitches-our-apology/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 11:23:54 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=183504 We sincerely apologise to all our readers/loggers trying to reach our www.pmnewsnigeria.com for news updates, for the glitches being experienced since last week.

Our technical team are battling to restore the site to a seamless performance, with new features to
make file delivery faster.

Please bear with us as we try to make the site better.

Management

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Not wet season yet, says Meteorological agency http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/25/not-wet-season-yet-says-meteorological-agency/ http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/01/25/not-wet-season-yet-says-meteorological-agency/#comments Sat, 25 Jan 2014 12:55:46 +0000 http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/?p=183420 The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), said on Saturday that the rain which fell on Friday evening in FCT and its environs was not the beginning of rainy season.

A statement from the agency said “a sudden weather change occurred over Abuja around 4 p.m. due to a rapid northward movement of the line of demarcation between the south-westerly winds.

“The winds brought moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and the dry north-easterly winds from the Sahara Desert’’, the statement quoted the Director-General of the agency, Dr Anthony Anuforom, as explaining.

Anuforom noted that this led to the influx of moisture to the inland, resulting in the thunderstorms with strong winds.

a flooded street after a rain

a flooded street after a rain

“This type of weather occasionally occurs in January when the atmosphere becomes unstable and there is enough moisture in the atmosphere.

“The unusual heat experienced in Abuja and environs in the last couple of days was connected with the moisture build-up in the atmosphere

“It is important to state that this is not the beginning of 2014 rainy season in Abuja as the condition is only temporary and is expected to return to normal very soon.

“The development was not as a result of climate change; the usual January weather will still prevail over the area’’, Anuforom said in the statement.

The statement explained that the thunderstorm was forecast by NiMet at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as early as 4 a.m on Friday and the information was disseminated to airline operators.

It also said the updates were issued periodically and transmitted to pilots via the appropriate channels in accordance with standard procedures.

According to the statement, the agency will closely monitor the weather developments continuously and provide further update as it evolves.

It said NiMet had concluded preparation of the Seasonal Weather Outlook for 2014 to be presented to the public soon.

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