SciTech

New branch found in European family tree

Researchers find new branch in European family tree

Genetic and archaeological research in the last 10 years revealed that almost all present-day Europeans descend from the mixing of two populations about 7,500 years ago. But it turns out that’s not the full story.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Germany’s University of Tubingen have documented a genetic contribution from a third ancestor: ancient North Eurasians. This group appears to have contributed DNA to present-day Europeans as well as to the people who traveled across the Bering Strait into the Americas more than 15,000 years ago.

“This also explains the recently discovered genetic connection between Europeans and Native Americans,” said David Reich, professor of genetics at HMS and co-senior author of the study. “The same ancient North Eurasian group contributed to both of them.” The researchers also discovered that ancient Near Eastern farmers and their European descendants can trace much of their ancestry to a previously unknown, even older lineage called the Basal Eurasians. The study was published Sept. 18 in Nature . hms.harvard.edu

Blue LED breakthrough could improve smartphones

In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen TVs, researchers at the University of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light-emitting diodes by a factor of 10.

Blue OLEDs are one of a trio of colors used in OLED displays such as smartphone screens and high-end TVs. The improvement means that the efficiencies of blue OLEDs in these devices could jump from about 5 percent to 20 percent or better in the near future. OLEDs are the latest and greatest in television technology, allowing screens to be extremely thin and even curved, with little blurring of moving objects and a wider range of viewing angles. In these displays, each pixel contains red, green and blue modules that shine at different relative brightness to produce any color desired.

Phosphorescent OLEDs, also known as PHOLEDs, produce light through a mechanism that is four times more efficient than fluorescent OLEDs. Green and red PHOLEDs are already used in these new TVs – as well as in Samsung and LG smartphones.

But the blues have been fluorescent. With their new results, engineering professor Stephen Forrest and his team hope that is about to change. Efficient blues will make a significant dent in power consumption for large-screen TVs and extend battery life in smartphones. The research is described in a study appearing in Nature Communications. umich.edu

Wriggly solution to symptoms of celiac disease

Australian researchers have achieved groundbreaking results in a clinical trial using hookworms to reduce the symptoms of celiac disease. The results are also good news for sufferers of other inflammatory conditions such as asthma and Crohn’s disease.

In the trial run over a year, 12 participants were each experimentally infected with 20 Necator americanus (hookworm) larvae. Participants were then given gradually increasing doses of gluten – beginning with just 0.10 grams per day (the equivalent of less than a 1-inch segment of spaghetti) and increasing in stages to a final daily dose of 3 grams (75 spaghetti straws).

“By the end of the trial, with worms onboard, the trial subjects were eating the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti, with no ill effects,” James Cook University immunologist Paul Giacomin said. “That’s a meal that would usually trigger a debilitating inflammatory response, leaving a celiac patient suffering symptoms like diarrhea, cramps and vomiting.”

The potential of parasitic worms in treating inflammatory diseases lies in their ability to dial back the human immune response. The findings have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. jcu.edu.au

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