SciTech Briefs

Sweat-eating bacteria could be cure for acne

In a study presented at the American Society for Microbiology Conference on Beneficial Microbes in Washington, D.C., two groups of volunteers were asked to apply a topical cream on their skin.

The experimental group’s cream contained ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), which digest ammonia — a large component of sweat. In comparison with the control group, the experimental group showed significant improvements after three weeks. Additionally, volunteers who applied more of the bacteria experienced even greater improvements.

The experimental group did not experience any side effects associated with the treatment. AOB may be the solution to the Food and Drug Administration’s warnings of the rare but life-threatening side effects of current acne products, which contain active ingredients benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. More studies will be conducted to confirm the results of AOB.

Source: Discovery News

Canada opens first large-scale carbon capture plant

Last Wednesday, Canada launched the world’s first attempt at a large-scale carbon capture and storage plant. Located in Estevan, Saskatchewan, the Boundary Dam coal plant took five years and $1.4 billion to modify for the project. As it captures its emissions, most of the extracted carbon dioxide will be stored underground, while some of it will be piped to nearby oil fields to be used for oil recovery. Cenovus Energy, one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies, has already agreed to purchase the recovered carbon. The expected annual capture of this project is estimated to be the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road.

Skeptics of the agreement have argued that the public should focus on alternative energy needs, including wind and solar power. Ultimately, the project will be a test to see whether reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the usage of capture technology is economically viable.

Source: International Business Times UK

First domestic case of Ebola confirmed in Dallas hospital

After tests were run on samples taken from a patient in Dallas’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. It is believed that the patient may have contracted the virus while visitng relatives in Liberia.

Short for Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Ebola is a disease that arises from a viral infection. Ebola is only contagious if the person exhibits any symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea. The Dallas patient was reported to have symptoms several days after flying from West Africa to the U.S. Efforts are being made to monitor individuals who have recently been in contact with the patient, including a group of school-aged children.

While the case has brought about public concern, CDC Director Tom Frieden expressed his confidence that the virus will quickly be stopped in its tracks.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Student discovers method to study water on Mars

Kellie Wall, a senior at Washington State University (WSU), studied the potential effects of water on crystal formation in basalt, a dark volcanic rock found in much of eastern Washington and Oregon. Through her collaboration with other researchers, Wall established a way to measure the texture of volcanic rock, which utilizes an index called “groundmass crystallinity.”

On WSU’s campus, Wall used an X-ray diffraction machine to analyze rock samples from the various regions around the world. She then made comparisons with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’s Gale Crater, which also used an X-ray diffractometer.

While her results indicate that the samples of Mars volcanic rock did not erupt with water, Wall’s method may prove to be useful in the ongoing search for life outside of Earth. Wall’s research has been published in Nature Communications.

Source: Science Daily

New drug-delivery capsule may replace injections

On average, a patient would prefer taking a drug orally rather than receiving an injection. However, many drugs cannot be administered as a pill due to the pill’s potential to breakdown in the digestive system.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital are working to solve that issue. They have designed a novel drug capsule, which is covered in a layer of tiny needles. After a capsule is swallowed, the needles are designed to attach to the lining of the stomach and inject the drug into the system.

Through animal studies, the method has proved more efficient than typical skin injections and did not result in adverse side effects. In the future, the team intends to find additional techniques for enhancing the effectiveness of the drug-delivery capsule and hopes to diminish safety concerns about the needles.

Source: Science Daily

Backdoors to smartphones could be dangerous

While Apple and Google have toughened the encryption of their smartphones, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been making numerous complaints in response. On Thursday, FBI Director James B. Comey criticized the giant tech companies for making it harder for law enforcement officials to access information stored on a device. Police say such searches are essential to solve a wide range of serious crimes, such as murder and terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, while creating a backdoor for law enforcement could help the FBI solve more crimes, these backdoors are not possible without making new vulnerabilities in the device.

In the meantime, law enforcement have publicly urged companies to leave such backdoors embedded in their devices.

Source: The Washington Post