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Knowledge Update

Introduction & Purpose
Knowledge update and Industry update at Skyline University College (SUC) is an online platform for communicating knowledge with SUC stakeholders, industry, and the outside world about the current trends of business development, technology, and social changes. The platform helps in branding SUC as a leading institution of updated knowledge base and in encouraging faculties, students, and others to create and contribute under different streams of domain and application. The platform also acts as a catalyst for learning and sharing knowledge in various areas.

Social media used to exchange knowledge on rare diseases

London, March 22 (IANS) Using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be beneficial for helping people to exchange knowledge with rare medical diseases and build communities, says a new study.

According to researchers, people often seek medical knowledge from social media platforms rather than traditional medical sources to find information on and discuss health issues -- particularly where patient experiences and medical advice are both equally valued.

"This project shows the potential of online communication tools for isolated patient communities and the extent to which patients' experiential knowledge is becoming a point of reference for other patients, together with - or sometimes in isolation from - traditional medical sources,” said Stefania Vicari from University of Leicester's department of media and communication in the Britain.

"These forms of organisationally enabled connective action can help to build personal narratives that strengthen patient communities, the bottom-up production of health knowledge relevant to a wider public and the development of an informational and eventually cultural context that eases patients' political action,” added Vicari in the paper published in the journal Information, Communication and Society.

The study examined online interactions in rare disease patient organisations in order to interpret how and to what extent patient organisations exploit online networking structures to provide alternative platforms for people to find information on and discuss health issues.

The findings suggests that digital media eases one-way, two-way and crowd-sourced process of health knowledge sharing -- provides personalised routes to health-related public engagement, creates new ways to access health information - particularly where patient experiences and medical advice are both equally valued.

"Not only is patients' knowledge valuable for peer support within patient communities, it has the potential to add to traditional medical knowledge, especially in cases where this is limited - such as in the case of rare diseases," Vicari stated.​

City birds smarter than their rural counterparts!

Toronto, March 22 (IANS) Life in the city changes cognition, behaviour and physiology of birds to their advantage, making those living in urban environments far more superior than the ones from rural environments.

City birds have adapted to their urban environments enabling them to exploit new resources more favourably then their rural counterparts, the researchers said. 

The study that aimed to find clear cognitive differences in birds from urbanised compared to rural areas, reported key differences in problem-solving abilities such as opening drawers to access food, and temperament (bolder) among city birds versus country birds.

The team tested the two groups of birds using not only associative learning tasks, but innovative problem solving tasks. 

Innovativeness is considered to be useful in the "real life" of animals in the wild, more so than associative learning.

"We found that not only were birds from urbanised areas better at innovative problem-solving tasks than bullfinches from rural environments, but that surprisingly urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds," said first author of the study Jean-Nicolas Audet from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

The work was conducted using bullfinches captured from various parts of the Caribbean island.

The findings were published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

"Since urban birds were better at problem-solving, we expected that there would be a trade-off and that the immunity would be lower, just because we assumed that you can't be good at everything' (in fact, both traits are costly). It seems that in this case, the urban birds have it all," Audet said.​

Losing weight through low calorie diet can reverse diabetes

London, March 22 (IANS) If you have been diagnosed with diabetes for 10 years or even longer than that, don't give up hope as major improvement in blood sugar control is possible!

According to a new study, individuals who suffer from diabetes and successfully lose weight through a very low calorie diet, can reverse their condition and remain free of diabetes for the long term. 

In addition, even patients who had type 2 diabetes for up to 10 years can also reverse their condition.

The findings showed that the fat, which accumulated in their pancreas, gets removed as a result of a low calorie diet and thus leads to the normal production of insulin.

"What we have shown is that it is possible to reverse your diabetes, even if you have had the condition for a long time, up to around 10 years," said lead researcher Roy Taylor, professor at Newcastle University in Britain.

Individuals vary in how much weight they can carry without it seeming to affect their metabolism.

If a person gains more weight than what he or she personally can tolerate, then diabetes is triggered, but if they then lose that amount of weight then they go back to normal.

"The bottom line is that if a person really wants to get rid of their type 2 diabetes, they can lose weight, keep it off and return to normal," Taylor maintained.

For the research, published in the journal Diabetes Care, 30 volunteers having type 2 diabetes for between six months and 23 years embarked on a diet of 600 to 700 calories a day. 

Participants lost on average 14 kg. Over the next six months they did not regain any weight.

Overall 12 patients, who were having diabetes for less than 10 years, reversed their condition. Six months later they remained diabetes free.

Though the volunteers lost weight they remained overweight or obese but they had lost enough weight to remove the fat out of the pancreas and allow normal insulin production, the researchers pointed out.

The team was also able to identify in advance participants who would not respond to adequate weight loss by reversing their diabetes as at the start they had almost absent insulin production from the pancreas.

"This is good news for people who are very motivated to get rid of their diabetes. But it is too early to regard this as suitable for everyone," Taylor concluded.​

New model could help determine age of stars precisely

New York, March 23 (IANS) By looking at the physics behind the speeding up or slowing down of a stars rotation, its x-ray activity, and magnetic field generation, researchers have developed a new conceptual framework for understanding how stars similar to our Sun evolve.

The work could "ultimately help to determine the age of stars more precisely than is currently possible", said study first author Eric Blackman, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester in New York, US.

The new model, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, helps explain how stellar rotation, activity, magnetic field, and mass loss all mutually evolve with age, the researchers explained.

Using our Sun as the calibration point, the model accurately described the likely behaviour of the Sun in the past, and how it would be expected to behave in the future. 

"Our model shows that stars younger than our Sun can vary quite significantly in the intensity of their x-ray emission and mass loss," Blackman said. 

"But there is a convergence in the activity of the stars after a certain age, so you could say that our Sun is very typical for stars of its mass, radius, and its age. They get more predictable as they age," Blackman noted.

"We're not yet at the point where we can accurately predict a star's precise age, because there are simplifying assumptions that go into the model," Blackman said. 

"But in principle, by extending the work to relax some of these assumptions we could predict the age of for a wide range of stars based on their x-ray luminosity," Blackman explained.

At the moment, empirically determining the age of stars is most easily accomplished if a star is among a cluster of stars, from whose mutual properties astronomers can estimate the age.

But its age can then be estimated "to an accuracy not better than a factor of 25 percent of its actual age, which is typically billions of years", Blackman explained. 

The problem is worse for "field stars," alone in space such that the cluster method of dating cannot be used. 

The new model provides a physics explanation for how stellar rotation, activity, magnetic field, and mass loss all mutually evolve with age.

"Only by tackling the entire problem of how stellar rotation, x-ray activity, magnetic field and mass-loss mutually affect each other could we build a complete picture," study co-author James Owen, NASA Hubble fellow at Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, explained.​

Mindfulness meditation may ease chronic low back pain: Study

New York, March 23 (IANS) Many people endlessly treat themselves with medications for their low-back pain. A team of US researchers has found mindfulness meditation as an effective alternative that may help reduce chronic low-back pain.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBRS) involved training in observing, acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings including pain. The training also includes some easy yoga poses to help participants become more aware of their bodies. 

"The results were encouraging and we're constantly looking for new and innovative ways to help our patients," said study author Daniel Cherkin from Group Health Research Institute in the US.

"The research suggests that training the brain to respond differently to pain signals may be more effective -- and last longer -- than traditional physical therapy and medication," Cherkin added in the paper published in the journal JAMA.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a kind of talk therapy that helped people reframe how they think about their pain, so that they can manage it more successfully and change their behaviours.

Researchers compared MBSR along with CBT to see if these interventions might ease pain.

The study enrolled 342 participants aged 20 to 70 with low-back pain that had lasted at least three months and could not be attributed to a specific cause. 

The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One of these groups received training in MBSR and the other in CBT. The third group received only their usual care.

Training in MBSR led to meaningful improvements in functioning and chronic low-back pain at six months.

The results showed that compared to the group receiving usual care, participants in both the MBSR and CBT groups were significantly more likely to experience clinically meaningful (at least 30 percent) improvements. 

"We found that these approaches were as helpful for people with chronic back pain as are other effective treatments for back pain. They also had longer-lasting benefits and were safer than many other treatment options," the authors said.​

Soon, clothes that clean themselves with light

Sydney, March 23 (IANS) The day when you can look tidy even without washing your clothes does not seem too distant as researchers, including one of Indian origin, have developed a technology to make textiles clean themselves within less than six minutes when put them under a light bulb or out in the sun.

The researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient new way to grow special nanostructures -- which can degrade organic matter when exposed to light -- directly onto textiles.

"There's more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles," said researcher Rajesh Ramanathan.

The research paper was published in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.

The work paves the way towards nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under light.

The process developed by the team had a variety of applications for catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and natural products, and could be easily scaled up to industrial levels, Ramanathan said.

"The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter," he explained.

The researchers worked with copper and silver-based nanostructures, which are known for their ability to absorb visible light.

When the nanostructures are exposed to light, they receive an energy boost that creates "hot electrons". 

These "hot electrons" release a burst of energy that enables the nanostructures to degrade organic matter.

The challenge for researchers has been to bring the concept out of the lab by working out how to build these nanostructures on an industrial scale and permanently attach them to textiles.

The RMIT team's novel approach was to grow the nanostructures directly onto the textiles by dipping them into a few solutions, resulting in the development of stable nanostructures within 30 minutes.

When exposed to light, it took less than six minutes for some of the nano-enhanced textiles to spontaneously clean themselves.

"Our next step will be to test our nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine," Ramanathan said.​

Apple launches smaller, powerful 4-inch iPhone SE

​San Francisco, March 21 (IANS) Confirming leaked media reports, Apple on Monday launched its first-ever cheaper and smaller yet powerful iPhone SE especially for the emerging markets like India and China. The 64 GB version will come at $499 while the 16 GB model costs $399. As powerful as iPhone 6S, it has a 64-bit A9 processor and the M9 motion co-processor and will be available in sleek rose gold colour, the company announced as its special "spring lineup" at the packed auditorium at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters. The iPhone SE will be available in 100 countries including India by the end of May and will go on full sale on March 31. The company also dropped the price of it Apple Watch to $299 (Rs.19,295). Last year, Apple sold 30 million 4-inch iPhones.​

BMW to recall 6,109 vehicles in China

Beijing, March 21 (IANS) Beijing's top quality watchdog on Monday announced that German luxury car maker BMW will recall 6,109 vehicles of its imported Mini series in China starting from April 8. The recall was due to a fuel pump problem that could cause engine failure while driving, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement. The vehicles were produced between June 12 and November 19, 2015, Xinhua news agency reported. The BMW China Automotive Trading Co Ltd will fix the problem for recalled cars free of charge, it added.​

Naruto monkey files appeal to claim selfie

New York, March 21 (IANS) The animal right organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has reportedly filed an appeal against a lower court's decision in January this year that declined to give a macaque monkey the right to his famous selfie taken in Indonesia in 2011.

The appeal brief was filed at the northern district of California and the appeals court will now decide whether or not to uphold the earlier court ruling, Ubergizmo reported on Monday.

In an earlier ruling, a federal judge in San Francisco declined to give a macaque monkey the right to his famous selfie in Indonesia in 2011.

PETA had filed a lawsuit last September asking a US federal court in San Francisco to declare Naruto - a then six-year-old male, free-living crested macaque - the author and owner of the internationally famous monkey selfie photographs that he took himself a few years ago.

The organisation filed the lawsuit against photographer David J. Slater and his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd. - both of which claim copyright ownership of the photos that Naruto indisputably took.

Naruto is known to field researchers in Sulawesi who have observed and studied him for years as they work in the region.

In 2011 in Indonesia, Slater left an unattended camera on a tripod.

That was tempting for Naruto, a curious male crested black macaque, who took the camera and began taking photographs -- some of the forest floor, some of other macaques and several of himself one of which resulted in the now-famous "monkey selfie".

In an earlier statement, PETA said: "The US Copyright Act grants copyright ownership of a 'selfie' to the 'author' of the photograph, and there's nothing in the law limiting such ownership on the basis of species."

"Naruto has been accustomed to cameras throughout his life, saw himself in the reflection of the lens, made the connection between pressing the shutter and the change in his reflection, and posed for the pictures he took," PETA said in a statement.​

Fungus can lead to better rechargeable batteries

London, March 21 (IANS) In a first, researchers have shown that a fungus can transform manganese into a mineral composite with favourable electrochemical properties - paving the way for a better rechargeable battery in the near future.

The findings suggest that fungus Neurospora crassa present in a red bread mold could be the key to producing more sustainable electrochemical materials for use in rechargeable batteries

“We have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralisation process," said Geoffrey Gadd from the University of Dundee in Scotland. 

The electrochemical properties of the carbonised fungal biomass-mineral composite were tested in a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery.

The compound was found to have excellent electrochemical properties. This system, therefore, suggests a novel biotechnological method for the preparation of sustainable electrochemical materials.

Gadd and his colleagues have long studied the ability of fungi to transform metals and minerals in useful and surprising ways. 

In earlier studies, they showed that fungi could stabilise toxic lead and uranium. 

That led the researchers to wonder whether fungi could offer a useful alternative strategy for the preparation of novel electrochemical materials too.

“We had the idea that the decomposition of such biomineralised carbonates into oxides might provide a novel source of metal oxides that have significant electrochemical properties," Gadd added in a paper published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

“We were surprised that the prepared biomass-Mn oxide composite performed so well,” he noted. 

In comparison to other reported manganese oxides in lithium-ion batteries, the carbonised fungal biomass-mineral composite "showed an excellent cycling stability and more than 90 percent capacity was retained after 200 cycles," the authors noted.

The team will continue to explore the use of fungi in producing various potentially useful metal carbonates. ​