South Indian frog oozes molecule that inexplicably decimates flu viruses

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Hydrophylax bahuvistara

From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses.

A compound in the frog’s mucus—long known to have germ-killing properties—can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don’t know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way.

The study authors, led by researchers at Emory University, note that the peptide appears uniquely nontoxic—something that can’t be said of many other frog-based compounds. Thus, the peptide on its own holds promise of being a potential therapy someday. But simply figuring out how it works could move researchers closer to a vaccine or therapy that could take out all flus, ditching the need for yearly vaccinations for each season’s flavor of flu.

With those annual waves of flu, the occasional pandemic, plus the rise of drug-resistant varieties of flu, “there is a pressing need to develop new antivirals” the authors write. They’re hopeful that their new peptide may be just that.

On the hunt for new flu killers, the researchers considered the mucus of Hydrophylax bahuvistara, which is known to have antimicrobial secretions. After catching some of the amphibians from the wild and applying “mild electrical stimulation,” they got the frogs to leak out some of their germ-killing goo. The researchers then released the frogs back into the wild, unharmed.

The researchers picked out four peptides in the mucus that seemed to kill off viruses. Of those, only one was also nontoxic to human red blood cells. They dubbed the peptide urumin, based on the word urumi, which is an Indian whip-like sword.

Flu slashing

In lab experiments, the researchers found that urumin could knock back flu in the mice. And it seemed to do so by targeting the virus’ hemagglutinin (HA), a lollypop-shaped protein that juts out from the virus particles’ surface. This protein is critical for the virus’ ability to invade human cells because it’s what the virus uses to latch onto them. There are eighteen different types of HA in flu viruses—they’re the H in virus codes like H5N1 or H1N1 swine flu. (The N stands for another viral protein, neuraminidase, which lets the virus bust out of human cells after it has used them to replicate itself. There are 11 different types of these.)

Urumin seemed to specifically target HA1. In tests, it could take out all the H1NX viruses that the researchers threw at it. But not other viruses, influenza or otherwise.

from Ars Technica

Baidu Will Release a Free Operating System for Self-Driving Cars

Baidu is releasing much of the technology behind its self-driving car, a move that it hopes will fast-track the technology’s progress while cementing the company’s role in supplying key elements such as mapping and machine-learning systems.

Most of the companies developing automated driving carefully guard the technology and expertise behind their systems, as a series of legal battles between competitors highlight. Baidu’s move could perhaps lead to a more open effort and lower the bar for developing advanced driver-assist systems as well as self-driving prototypes.

“We see a lot of reinventing the wheel,” says Qi Lu, president and chief operating officer of Baidu and general manager of the company’s Intelligent Driving Group. “Let’s innovate at a higher level.”

Baidu will release its self-driving platform—known as “Apollo,” in honor of the U.S. moon missions—this July. While much of the technology required to develop a self-driving car will be made freely available, certain features, which Lu says will include some mapping and machine-learning services, will be accessible through an application programming interface that Baidu will control.

It remains to be seen whether Baidu’s move will blow open the market for automated-driving technology. As important as control and sensor software are, the most valuable component of any self-driving system may be the data amassed through testing on real roads. And Baidu has done less testing than some other companies, especially Google.

But the decision makes sense given the nature of China’s domestic car market, which is also the largest auto market in the world. Besides established foreign companies, there are dozens of small carmakers in China, and they lack the resources to develop their own self-driving vehicles. By providing the technology for these manufacturers, Baidu could establish itself as the supplier of the brains for these rapidly growing companies, and it might be able to benefit from the data they collect through testing.

Baidu’s move is somewhat reminiscent of Google’s decision to release Android, a free operating system for smartphones, starting in 2008. Android is now the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, and although Google makes it available for free, it serves to drive users to the company’s various mobile apps and services.

Baidu is one of China’s leading tech companies, with a deep bench of AI and machine-learning talent in China and Silicon Valley. The company invested heavily in AI after hiring Andrew Ng, then a leading AI researcher at Google, to lead the effort in 2014. Ng recently announced he was leaving the company to explore new opportunities. 

Baidu began developing self-driving vehicles in 2015, and it gave MIT Technology Review an exclusive sneak peek shortly before publicly announcing the project (see “Baidu’s Self-Driving Car Takes on Beijing Traffic”). The company has been testing autonomous vehicles since then on the streets of Beijing and in Wuzhen, a town not far from Shanghai.

The company hopes that giving away some of its technology will help it cement its position. “The fundamental motivation is [to create] an open ecosystem that will accelerate the pace of innovation toward fully autonomous driving, which will have profound changes to our society,” Lu says.

from Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

Google’s Massive Health Study Seeks 10,000 Volunteers to Give Up Their Medical Secrets

Google knows all about your habits and interests online. Now the search company’s health spinout, Verily, is asking 10,000 Americans for intimate knowledge of their bodies.

Verily today published a website that marks the launch of its founding idea, the Baseline Project, a four-year study expected to cost more than $100 million that it says will search for clues to predicting heart disease and cancer.

Volunteers are being asked to submit to an unprecedented regimen of tests and physical monitoring. They’ll be asked to wear a heart-tracking watch that follows their pulse and movements in real time and will undergo a detailed workup of x-rays and heart scans, in addition to having their genomes deciphered and their blood tested in so-called liquid biopsies, which might be able to catch cancer early.

“No one has done this kind of deep dive on so many individuals. This depth has never been attempted,” says Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, a physician researcher at Stanford University who is one of Baseline’s investigators. “It’s to enable generations to come to mine it, to ask questions, without presupposing what the questions are.”

Baseline was the initial project of Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences. But the effort, which was first announced in 2014, proved so complex that it took two and a half years to fully organize. The hope is to discover new biological predictors of disease, beyond the familiar ones like the relationship of glucose to diabetes.

Jessica Mega, chief medical officer of Verily

“We need to continue to look for signals that may be actionable,” says Jessica Mega, Verily’s chief medical officer. “And we need to build out infrastructure to be able to do that. Those tools will be important for the health-care ecosystem. We are creating the infrastructure to deal with large health data sets.”

Mega declined to say how much the study will cost, but it’s likely to be extraordinarily expensive. Existing agreements involve payments of at least $41.5 million to Stanford and $33 million to Duke University, two of the sites that will be recruiting patients. Verily itself will carry out much of the molecular testing, including the sequencing of participants’ DNA.

The study calls for collecting volunteers’ stool, saliva, and even tears. An initial workup of scans and x-ray will last two full days. “We not allowed to talk about the costs. But it’s one of the things that make this hard to so for anyone else to do, and why it hasn’t been done,” says Gambhir.

Verily will ask volunteers for unprecedented levels of personal disclosure. In addition to a watch, participants are given an electronic loop to place under their mattresses to record their sleep patterns. A router-sized device in a person’s home would then relay a record of their tossing and turning to Google’s servers. Joining the study also requires volunteers to give Verily access to their health records.

Experts say comprehensive data on so many people could be valuable but that real-time measurements on volunteers at home may prove hard to collect. “The question is why should people continue to give you data. You need a reason,” says Eric Hekler, a professor at Arizona State University who works with activity trackers. “People wear a wrist tracker for a few months, but even the burden of charging one will make them stop. There is a lot of hounding involved.”

Verily and Duke, which coördinates the study, declined to provide a copy of the consent form participants will sign, leaving it unclear what will be asked of them, exactly how their data might be used and protected, or how commercial conflicts of interest are described.

A separate consent form, used for volunteers expressing interest through the website, says the study will operate via a company called Baseline Study LLC, and that Verily may sell volunteers’ data—for instance, to drug companies for their own research—with names, addresses, and phone numbers removed.

“You will not share in any revenues or profits, or receive any financial compensation,” the document notes.

Doctors involved say data collected from volunteers will remain closely held by Verily for two years, but after that the study design calls for making it available to other researchers. Mega says the final terms of the data release have not been agreed upon.

Volunteers can sign up on the Web, but to participate fully they will need to live close to the study sites at Stanford in California, Duke in North Carolina, or a private clinic near Los Angeles, the California Health & Longevity Institute. That institute, a posh wellness center offering crackling fireplaces and gourmet food, was founded by Verily’s CEO, Andrew Conrad, and ran a preliminary study involving 200 patients.

That arrangement came under criticism for steering Google business to a company owned by one of its executives. Verily spokeswoman Carolyn Wang said that Conrad has since sold off his ownership in the center, but in the meantime some early employees went to work for Grail, a competitor developing liquid biopsy tests, which has its own long-term study of volunteers under way.

Baseline is a “longitudinal cohort study,” meaning it will track a large group of people for a period of years, amassing measurements that scientists can later mine to discover causes of disease. Other such studies include the Rotterdam Study in the Netherlands, the U.S. Million Veteran Program, and most famously, the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, since 1948 and established the link between smoking and heart disease.

However, the Google study is different because it envisions such extensive molecular tests and attempts to get inside people’s lives, homes, and bedrooms to track them as they move and sleep.

According to Adrian Hernandez, a Baseline study leader at Duke, the 10,000 participants will include healthy people as well as those who, for genetic or other reasons, are at higher risk for heart disease and lung, breast, or ovarian cancer. “We expect several hundred to develop clinically significant heart disease or cancer. We’ll have people who have a heart attack, but we will also have people who develop risk factors,” says Hernandez. That could help reveal new ways to predict disease—say, from activity levels measured by the watch, or through combinations of genetic and physical measurements.

Although volunteers will be helping Verily and scientists study disease, they won’t learn much about themselves. Says Gambhir, “Anyone going into it asking, ‘How will it help me?”—that is the wrong question.”

from Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

StarCraft is Now Free for Windows and Mac Gamers

Blizzard has announced that StarCraft is now free to download and play for the PC and Mac computers. This is the first game in the StarCraft franchise and is the full game. The expansion pack for the game called Brood War is also free to download. These free downloads do come with a patch to make the games play better on modern computers.

If you download and play the game, you will have to keep in mind that it is 19 years old and you get the sort of graphics that you would expect from such a ripe title. The free original version of StarCraft is landing to get people hooked ahead of the new launch of StarCraft Remastered that is due to land this summer.

If you love reliving the gameplay, but long for much better graphics, Remastered will deliver full 4K graphics. Blizzard says that if you download the original version for free, you will be able to play online against people who purchase the Remastered version when it launches.

The original launch for StarCraft was 1998 and found particular success in South Korea where tournaments, pro teams, and even TV shows focused on the game turned up. The StarCraft II sequel launched in 2010. The new patch to make the game run smoother on modern hardware is 1.18 and improves compatibility with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. It also allows the game to support Mac Beta 10.11 and higher. The game has observer mode and UPnP support along with new full screen windowed mode and better anti-cheat features reports TheVerge.

from Legit Reviews Hardware Articles

Apple’s iWork, GarageBand and iMovie are now free

If you’ve bought an iOS or Mac device in the past few years, Apple’s suite of creativity and productivity apps was effectively free for you. Sure, you had to pay for that expensive tablet or laptop, but the apps themselves were included in the purchase, even if you didn’t download them until later. Starting today, however, Apple is simplifying things and making Keynote, Numbers, Pages, iMovie and GarageBand all free in the App Store for anyone in their ecosystem.

As MacRumors notes, the change in pricing is meant to make it easier for businesses and educational institutions to get the iWork suite through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program. That said, this is still a great opportunity for anyone still running older hardware to give Apple’s in-house apps a try. You’ll certainly never find a better price on GarageBand.

iWork apps require macOS Sierra to run, but GarageBand is available for machines running Yosemite or later and iMovie will run as long as you’re up to El Capitan or higher. On mobile devices, iWork requires at least iOS 10.0, while iMovie and GarageBand require at least iOS 9.3 and iOS 10.2 respectively.

Via: MacRumors

from Engadget

PowerUp FPV – Paper Airplane VR Drone Model Kit

FPV Powerup

We love to experience the world in new and exciting ways, and have no problem spending a little money to do it. Some people, with big wallets, like playing with the latest and greatest toys and gadgets, while others don’t mind waiting for the price to drop or build it themselves. If you aren’t adept in the waiting or building department though, it might just be better to save and pay up.

While you could definitely build yourself a paper airplane at home and have a modicum of fun, it won’t compare to the PowerUp FPV Paper Airplane. You’ll still have to build the paper airplane part, but this kit will let it fly for 10 minutes, and give you a bird’s eye view of the flight. On top of that, using the included Google cardboard FPV viewer, you’ll be able to control the direction of the plane with your head movements alone.

This uses a micro USB for charging, comes with 2 spare propellers, has 8 template sheets for making your plane, a spare rubber bumper, sense cleaning swab, 550 mAh Lipo battery, and a smartphone protection strap. You’ll be able to live stream and record your flight through your iOS or Android smartphones, where you’ll also be able to steer manually if you prefer. This isn’t a cheap toy at $199.99, but you’re an adult, and you can spend your money how you want.

Available for purchase on Amazon
[ PowerUp FPV – Paper Airplane VR Drone Model Kit copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]

from Coolest Gadgets

Trans fat bans link to fewer heart attacks, deaths—and they’re going national

Banishing trans fats from foods links to reductions in the number of heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths in the years after the bans are implemented, according to data from cities and counties in New York that have made the cut.

After three years, the areas banning trans fats from eateries seemed to have an extra  6.2 percent reduction in heart attacks and strokes compared with those that didn’t, researchers report in JAMA Cardiology. Last year, other researchers reported in the Journal of Health Economics that the New York bans appeared to cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by 4.5 percent—that is, they spared about 13 lives from cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people each year.

While the decade of bans that have gone into effect in the state offer “natural experiments” on how cutting out trans fat may affect health, the results back up a slew of older studies—animal, controlled trial, and observational studies—that found harms of trans fats, plus benefits of ousting them from people’s diets.

from Ars Technica