Snippets

Snippets

Causes of limited insulin secretion

Type 2 diabetes is a major public health issue with more than 400 million individuals affected globally. The main problem is insufficient secretion of insulin, which is produced by β-cells within the pancreas and secreted into the bloodstream after a meal. In a new study, researchers from Sweden show why insulin secretion is not working properly in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. The study - lead by Nikhil Gandasi and Sebastian Barg from Uppsala University - has now discovered that this is due to a defect that slows down the traffic of insulin packages out of the β-cell.

Insulin is released when small insulin-containing vesicles fuse with the cell membrane, which ejects the hormone into the bloodstream. For this to happen, each of the vesicles must first attach to the cell membrane and allow its secretion machinery to be assembled. By comparing β-cells from healthy and type 2 diabetic individuals, researchers found that the problem lies in the attachment of the insulin vesicles to the cell membrane. The study has been published in Cell Metabolism. The hope is now that the study can guide the development of new treatments for type 2 diabetes.

Stars around the Milky Way

An international team of astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has made a surprising discovery about the birthplace of groups of stars located in the halo of our Milky Way galaxy.

These halo stars are grouped together in giant structures that orbit the centre of our galaxy, above and below the flat disc of Milky Way. Researchers thought they may have formed from debris left behind by smaller galaxies that invaded Milky Way in the past. But in a study published in the journal  Nature, astronomers now have compelling evidence showing that some of these halo structures actually originate from the Milky Way's disc itself, but were kicked out.

Are There Other Earths?

The universe plays host to a surprising number of planets that appear quite similar to our own. Is it possible that humans could occupy any of these planets in the future? Recent astronomical discoveries have pinpointed thousands of potential candidates. The documentary Are There Other Earths? examines the probable conditions on a handful of these planets.

Directed by David Sky Brody, the documentary looks at the efforts of several observatories in the world, including NASA. Are there Other Earths? offers an intriguing glimpse into an alternate reality that might await humankind tens of thousands of years into the future. To watch the documentary, visit www.bit.ly/2Fb9WUa.

Developing alternative energy storage devices

Often, sourcing advanced materials to build the next best gadget ends up being unsustainable. In an attempt to fill two needs, scientists at the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Punjab, have devised a scalable and sustainable solution. Graphene is now evolving as an alternative to conventional energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors. High-quality graphene is currently fabricated by inefficient and unsustainable methods.

In this  study, the researchers describe a sustainable method to manufacture high-quality graphene nanosheets using waste peanut shells. The shells are 'carbonised' and processed to form small low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for chemical reactions.

The researchers then tested the electrochemical performance of the resulting material called 'peanut shell derived exfoliated few-layer graphene' (PS-FLG). They also tested PS-FLG by coating it onto sheets of indium tin oxide, and assembled with a gel electrolyte to form a solid state supercapacitor. After tests, the researchers found that the graphene from peanut shells had an extremely high specific surface area.

Light that shines ever so brightly

In the 1980s, researchers began discovering extremely bright sources of X-rays in the outer portions of galaxies, away from supermassive black holes that dominate their centres. At first, researchers thought these cosmic objects, called ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs, were hefty black holes with more than 10 times the sun's mass. But observations beginning in 2014 from NASA's NuSTAR and other telescopes are showing that some ULXs, which glow with X-ray light equal in energy to millions of suns, are actually neutron stars. Three ULXs have been identified as neutron stars so far. Now, a California Institute of Technology, USA-led team using data from Chandra X-ray Observatory has identified a fourth ULX as being a neutron star and found clues about how they can shine brightly.

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